The days of the naive user, clouded by technology and fearful of artificial intelligence are over. As he discovered that everything that seemed free was paid for with data and privacy, he decided to make a living. He learned, or is learning, to deal with algorithms, circumvent content curation policies, take advantage of all the free trial periods, share users and multiply welcome offers. It’s okay? That’s wrong? Well, he has also decided to put ethics aside and take advantage of something that he still doesn’t fully understand and that changes so fast that he may never fully understand it.
The eternal new users
MA (29 years old) is a zombie from the MyTaxi app, now FreeNow. Although he has not been officially banned, the user of him is permanently disabled. FreeNow is an application to order and book taxis. In its beginnings it had a very aggressive policy of discounts and promotions for new users. MA is what is called in technological jargon an early adopter, the first who dare to try a technology. Not only was he one of the first to launch the application, but he quickly began to take advantage of promotional campaigns that rewarded the arrival of new customers. His method was efficient but laborious. He created new users with their respective e-mails, registered them and earned five euros for each one. His father, his mother, his siblings, his friends with a car, his anti-taxi friends…, they all opened an account from their phone to take advantage of the welcome offers and the continuous discounts, sometimes very generous, of the application. MA estimates that he spent three years with all of his active users. “That had its job, but each discount tasted like glory to me,” he recalls. Although he is not proud of his method —he asks that his identity be hidden in this report—, he is not ashamed either and retains a certain pride of having outwitted the programmers and the MyTaxi algorithm for a while. “Suddenly one day one of my users was rejected, they asked me for an e-mail and a password, but I had so many that I couldn’t remember them, I tried to fix it, but there was no way. I have not been able to use it again, and every time I try it, a message appears: ‘User disabled due to having many associated names’. I don’t think they sent me an explicit expulsion, but I couldn’t get back in. I was like three years sucking from the boat. From here I ask your forgiveness and that you accept me again. Please,” he says.
Netflix reported at its last shareholders’ meeting that its income statement was losing strength due to the war in Ukraine and shared passwords. The data provided by the company reveals that about 100 million users, 30 million in the United States and Canada alone, share their keys. After an unrepresentative but reliable survey among multiple Netflix users in Spanish territory, we could add that the passwords are not only shared, but also exchanged for those of another platform. The practice is to offer a Netflix password in exchange for one from HBO or Amazon Prime. In this brief survey we find a certain respect towards modest and more careful platforms such as Filmin. But in this feraling Internet users suffer I don’t know how long that modesty could last. Netflix executives announce once again that they will put an end to this state of affairs, they assure that they are doing secret tests to test a system that definitively ends the practice of sharing accounts, but they say that it will take at least a year.
Mercenaries of streaming
The user has learned to play his cards in platform capitalism. And that card is one called mobility. We continually jump from one platform to another because, due to some hidden law of the system, the series we want to see is never on the site we have hired. The practice is so overwhelming that the companies’ sophisticated flowcharts detect these temporary migrations of users behind each high-end release. A paradigmatic case happened on Disney +. When the musical Hamilton premiered in July 2020, the platform gained thousands of new subscribers. By the next month, 30% had unsubscribed, and according to data from subscription tracker Antenna, half were gone within six months. A year and a half later, Disney+ brought back many of its prodigal sons, this time with the premiere of Get Back, the Beatles documentary. Fast Company magazine recalls that a similar movement was experienced on HBO Max when Wonder Woman 1984 was released and on Apple TV with Greyhound.
In subscription models there is nostalgia for that sedentary user, who paid his monthly payment on autopilot and forgot. But that passive subject no longer exists, he has become attentive and hyperactive, and the war between platforms seduces him, but does not hold him for long. The same thing happens on travel platforms or on newspaper paywalls. To mark the date on which the 30-day free trial ends, Google calendar alarms or applications such as Free Trial Surfing, still in beta in the US, which cancels subscriptions just before they start charging you. The willingness to abandon subscription services in the first month and the abandonment of automation when paying are some of the most profound changes in the consumer in the last decade. Even though canceling an account is sometimes a difficult task by design. According to Fast Company magazine, the 2022 consumer has been stripping away for a decade and loves it.
Speak in code to beat the algorithm
A newspeak has been born on the internet. In English they call it alspeak (a term that arises from combining the words algorithm and speak), and names the jargon that is being created in social networks to circumvent the moderation of content by words that punishes the use of certain terms. For example, since TikTok penalizes the word hate (hate), it has begun to talk about “the opposite of love”, seggg is used to refer to sex, or becoming unalive (becoming non-alive) to avoid another prohibited word: suicide. .
On YouTube, Instagram and TikTok these codes flourish to prevent the algorithm from kicking you out of conversations or closing your account. Unfortunately, it is a strategy that was initiated by very radicalized communities, such as proanorexia and anti-vaccines. The latter called themselves dance-party (dance party) or dinner-party (dinner party) and called the vaccinated swimmers (swimmers). They changed the word vaccine to vachscene or wax seen. And on Instagram they talked about the CDC and the FDA, the American health agencies, like Seedy Sea and Eff Dee Aye.
According to an investigation by the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Interactive Computing, the complexity of this newspeak is increasing and its use has been spreading as the penalization of content for words has become the routine of social networks.
The dark side of this practice is that it favors the circulation of false news. The authorities in charge of fighting disinformation see this attitude of users as a real challenge. Nina Jankowicz, who leads the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Board, has called these practices “evil creativity” and defines them as the use of coded language, with memes and contextualized content, that prevents the controls of platforms detect toxic posts.
Two Linguistic Anthropology students from California —from UCLA and the University of Santa Barbara— compiled part of these codes in their doctoral thesis, and concluded that there was a full-fledged jargon made up of emergent words arising from the desire to escape the control of the algorithm. Many experts believe that the creation of this newspeak is the definitive proof that aggressive content moderation by words does not work because it is very naive to believe that millions of people are going to speak literally so as not to alter the semantic hypersensitivity of the machines. What is clear is that the one who had his Instagram account closed for writing the word “faggot” after his punishment was not daunted and tried it with m$r%c8n. And everyone understands. All but one, the surveillance algorithm.
#Zombies #apps #mercenaries #streaming #password #brothers #rebellion #users
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