Infopost | 2023.10.27

Stray game RIP humans graffiti

Elonbank, the SBF trial, two AI panics, and that Google memo about yayo.
Twitter/X, a financial services company

Me
Me
One purpose of installing Linda Yaccarino as the chief executive officer of Twitter (now called X) is that she can have basically normal conversations with investors as the banks try to sell the debt; investors will say things like "how's business?" and she will say things like "oh good, good, advertisers coming back, really good." As opposed to sending Elon Musk to those meetings and having him get bored and start trouble. "How's business," investors would ask, and he'd be like "you know what I've decided that debt isn't real".
(Quoting Matt Levine, forwarded by Rob)
Haha Cattle
Cattle
When will they stop saying, "now called X" or "formally known as Twitter"
The Boondocks Twitter a pimp names slickback
https://twitter.com/TheBoondocks/status/464445727067099137
They'll stop when it eventually is bought out and called twitter again Anonymous
Anonymous
What would be hilarious is if they let the Twitter domain name lapse because hubris and it brings down the entire site because of hardcoded references
Me
Me
Your disdain for free speech is offensive.
Haha
Emoji saluting North Korean flag

The key takeaway for the rest of this post is Cattle's annoyance with how the media is still clarifying that X used to be called Twitter.

BankX, formerly known as BankTwitter

FTX Twitter X Wechat Paypal logo mashup

Last year we talked about Elon's master plan for Twitter - renaming it X, instituting absolute-ish free speech, and eventually making it a western version of WeChat. At a 'leaked' all-hands, he said that the financial services aspect of the would-be megacorp would go live in late 2024 (I'll refrain from commenting about Elon and deadlines).

The Verge He previously said the platform would offer high-yield money market accounts, debit cards, checks, and loan services, with the goal of letting users "send money anywhere in the world instantly and in real-time."

How disruptive. While it's not hard to understand the appeal of a business model that amounts to "have everybody's money", banking is a pretty crowded space. And as a consumer I'm not begging for innovation; it's remarkably not difficult to store, invest, borrow, and send money.

Perhaps he'll convince his financiers to let him buy Sofi and Robinhood so he can carry a sink around some more.

The Verge Musk faces major challenges to get there, though. Convincing people why they need such a platform is one. Getting them to trust X with their entire financial life is another.

Crucially, you'll notice that The Verge just referred to the company as X. Also they raise a reasonable concern about how trustworthy the company is. Let's explore...

"Getting them to trust X with their entire financial life"

Possibly relevant to a discussion about Elon opening a bank:

Elon Musk SEC, three letter acronym, middle word is Elon's

I might not be XBank's target customer, but here are a few reasons I wouldn't give them all of my money:
FTX, formerly known as FTTwitter

I'm going to keep this X/Twitter gag going and when I'm done writing I might just do a replace-all on the letter x (formerly known as the letter Twitter).

SBF Caroline Ellison courtroom sketch

I enjoy a good scam/meltdown, see my watchlist, Lordstown, and Hindenburg posts. Other than a few mentions, I've largely ignored the FTX/Alameda/SBF/weasel saga since crypto scams aren't really my thing. It's growing on me though.

Madoff's paper trading algorithms were great, mark-to-market accounting was amazing, FTX's cocktail napkin bookkeeping? Chef's kiss.

Fly on the wall

SBF FTX small group chat eyes emoji
Source. The linked tweet was some crypto bro wondering if he'd get rewarded for not pulling his money out of the exchange.

Almost as compelling as the above bullets is the tranche of FTX exec chats released by the prosecution (from the secret, encrypted app Signal - CNBC). Reading and loling led me to the Vox interview (this time over Twitter, currently known as X) that occurred shortly before SBF was taken into custody:

SBF Verge interview CZ ethics

Like Elon and Gavin Belson and most other Silicon Valley celebrities, SBF projected an air of righteousness and vision that survived only as long as his ostensible financial success.

Advice of counsel

Apparently SBF was in court today dry-running his testimony before the judge (and no jury). One sticking point appears to be an 'advice of counsel' defense, something that's familiar to anyone following the various Trump prosecutions. The defense amounts to blaming one's lawyers for providing bad legal advice, like "sure you can maintain your balance sheet on a cocktail napkin" and "if you rally people to disrupt a vote count SCOTUS will let you off the hook.

Anyway, it's funny to see these two things in the news together: Elon announcing at timeline for his social media bank and SBF explaining to a judge why he's not to blame for a losing $8 billion.
Literal skynet

Tweet NewsGuild Gannett AI Reviewed

WaPo did a story about a product review site called Reviewed whose parent company is USA Today and/or a media company called Gannett. The tldr is that writers for Reviewed noticed articles published on their site penned by authors they didn't know. The content appeared to them to be extremely generic and SEO-y, hallmarks of AI-generated text. The story isn't surprising or anything but the response has been funny and sad.

Washington Post Gannett insists the articles weren't AI-generated. In a statement to The Post, a spokesperson said the articles - many of which have now been deleted - were created through a deal with a marketing firm to generate paid search-engine traffic. While Gannett concedes the original articles "did not meet our affiliate standards," officials deny they were written by AI.

To paraphrase, "we published marketing content designed to look like organic staff reviews but we assure you that the deceptive advertisements were created by a human and not a robot." I can see the issue with an art gallery displaying machine-generated works, but does anyone really care if a robot paints a billboard?

I glanced at the site to see if any articles were marked 'Ad' or 'Sponsored'. Nothing. So either Reviewed doesn't identify their embedded ads or they don't have any and the outsourcing was purely to improve their search rank.

Gannett's response continues:

Washington Post "We expect all our vendors to comply with our ethical standards and have been assured by the marketing agency the content was NOT AI generated," the spokesperson said in an email.

Door number 1: Gannett's ad/review vendor has been instructed to fall on its sword.
Door number 2: The content is AI-assisted which is a split-hair's distance from "AI-generated".
Door number 3: Authoring the fake reviews is gig work (cause why wouldn't it be) and the contractors independently used AI to increase productivity.

Washington Post Meanwhile, AdVon Commerce is open about its use of AI. On its LinkedIn page, the company says it uses "AI solutions for E Commerce."

A Gannett spokesperson took issue with the Guild claim that the writers weren't real people, pointing to the LinkedIn page of one AdVon Commerce writer whose name appeared on a Reviewed article. At the top of his account, that writer touted his experience in "polishing AI generative text."

Could be all three doors tbqh.
Since we're talking ads and AI

Malwarebytes Bing AI malware ad

From last month:

Malwarebytes Ads can be inserted into a Bing Chat conversation in various ways. One of those is when a user hovers over a link and an ad is displayed first before the organic result. In the example below, we asked where we could download a program called Advanced IP Scanner used by network administrators.

Reviewed posts fake articles for referral/ad revenue and SEO but they're not alone, Microsoft's searchbot also links to paid content based on keywords. Since everything on the internet is an ad this shouldn't be all that concerning, though you'd expect Microsoft to have some standards in who they sell ad space to.

I won't clutch my pearls over this but I won't contest that AI assistants change the discussion about blurred lines between sponsored content and authentic content. AI has the potential to make embedded advertising much worse than hovertext with a tiny 'ad' icon next to it, e.g. Blenderbot.
More search and more litigation

Google trial memo cigarettes drugs exec

Also from last month, in its antitrust trial against Google, the Justice Department released a memo where a company exec said the quiet part loud.

Ars Technica Beyond likening Google's search advertising business to illicit drug markets, Roszak's notes also said that because users got hooked on Google's search engine, Google was able to "mostly ignore the demand side" of "fundamental laws of economics" and "only focus on the supply side of advertisers, ad formats, and sales." This was likely the bit that actually interested the DOJ.

"We could essentially tear the economics textbook in half," Roszak's notes said.

Silicon Valley and transcending economics, name a more iconic duo. The defense's response was that despite its truth, the document was simply a thought experiment. Some comments from the peanut gallery:

lsedgwick They're saying these were notes for a speech for a "communcations class" where he was cosplaying Gorden Gecko and not presenting his true beliefs? That so hard to believe. These notes could not more obviously be an internal memo, filled with clear reasoning about balancing the needs and visions of different internal departments, meant to persuade and stimulate conversation about Google's strategy. I don't see how this "it was for a speech and I was being hyperbolic on purpose" thing isn't getting laughed out of the water.

giantrobot Yeah their defense being "...in Minecraft" smells very much of bullshit.

(Ref.)

Another observation

Cory Doctorow In the enshittification cycle, companies first lure in users with surpluses - like providing the best search results rather than the most profitable ones - with an eye to locking them in. In Google's case, that lock-in has multiple facets, but the big one is spending billions of dollars - enough to buy a whole Twitter, every single year - to be the default search everywhere.

Google doesn't buy its way to dominance because it has the very best search results and it wants to shield you from inferior competitors. The economically rational case for buying default position is that preventing competition is more profitable than succeeding by outperforming competitors. The best reason to buy the default everywhere is that it lets you lower quality without losing business. You can "ignore the demand side, and only focus on advertisers."

For a lot of people, the analysis stops here. "If you're not paying for the product, you're the product." Google locks in users and sells them to advertisers, who are their co-conspirators in a scheme to screw the rest of us.

But that's not right. For one thing, paying for a product doesn't mean you won't be the product. Apple charges a thousand bucks for an iPhone and then nonconsensually spies on every iOS user in order to target ads to them (and lies about it).



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