Connect with us

Technology

Why the industry should heed China’s crackdown on video game players | Alex Hern

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Being a parent can feel, at times, like leading an authoritarian nation of one. You control what your subject can read, who they can speak to and what they can do; you deal with periodic revolts against your rule and occasionally engage in a simulacrum of democratic decision-making while knowing that you control the outcome.

But for all that authoritarian leaders like to present themselves as a parental figure for the country at large, it’s rare that they actually get involved with the day-to-day work of, well, parenting. Which is why the news that China is taking on the job of limiting gaming time caught the attention of so many parents I know.

According to state news outlets, online gaming companies will be required to limit under-18s to just three hours of playtime a week, between the hours of eight and nine in the evening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The regulation has teeth: companies will be required to ensure they put in place real-name verification systems or go further and take their cue from companies such as Tencent, which recently implemented a facial recognition system that asks users to play on camera to prove they’re over 18.

The Chinese state has been exhibiting growing opposition towards video games over the past few years. Tencent’s age verification system wasn’t implemented out of the goodness of the company’s heart and last month a state media editorial attacked the gaming industry for peddling “spiritual opium”. But even against that background, the limits seem excessive. Shares in leading gaming companies such as NetEase plummeted, while commentators around the world predicted the effects would do as much to trigger a new generation of teen hackers, adept at circumventing technical blocks, as they would to encourage kids to get out the house and take on more productive hobbies.

At the same time, I know some western parents found themselves looking at the new rules wistfully. Imposing limits on surly children is hard and being able to – truthfully – tell a kid to stop playing video games on a weekday night because it’s against the law can sometimes feel like it would be a parenting superpower versus simply cajoling, pleading or threatening.

Ultimately, the Chinese state and British parents are tackling the same beast: a gaming industry that has, over the past 40 years, honed its product to such fine ends that it is sometimes plausible to talk about the output using the language of addiction and compulsion. I’m a huge gaming fan, but even I get uncomfortable when I look at the business models – and revenue – of some of the industry’s largest players.

From collectible card game Hearthstone to Zelda-esque hit Genshin Impact, a Chinese-made blockbuster on both sides of the Great Firewall, it’s all too common for games to be free to play, attracting huge audiences, and then funded by what is effectively a casino. Even games without that fundamentally exploitative underpinning can be all too manipulative. Daily and weekly use-it-or-lose-it quests, login rewards for continuous streaks of play, season passes that ask a player to grind out enough playtime over a couple of months to unlock everything: all are habit-forming practices that are explicitly designed to override a player’s sense of what a normal amount of play actually is.

The video game world’s understanding of regulation was shaped by bruising conflicts in the 90s and 00s over whether violent games begat violent children. As clear a moral panic as one would ever see, the experience has taught too many in the industry that all concerns over its effects on children are overblown and all approaches to regulation are to be fought tooth and nail.

Western nations won’t follow China’s lead too closely and as much as some western parents might wish they could, such a tight restriction would be a tough sell in a youth culture where games have a much stronger hold on the attention than anything so pedestrian as broadcast TV or music radio. But the fact that so many are looking with green eyes at the prospect should give developers around the world pause for thought.

What I’ve been reading

Noir perfect
To say Estonian crime drama Disco Elysium, in which an amnesiac detective and his inner demons struggle to uncover a political conspiracy, is the best-written game ever is to do it a disservice. It is a game with very little to it save its prose – but god, what prose.

Dungeons and dissertations
Sticking with words and pictures – so much better than words on their own – Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans’s comic Die comes to a close next month. Once described by Gillen as “Goth Jumanji”, the book has grown to encompass formalist explorations of RPGs, meditations on gender identity and riffs on fantasy literature.

Faking in plain sight
How do we account for the mainstream media in a conceptual framework of “disinformation”? Most of the time the answer is simple: we don’t. Joseph Bernstein, in an essay for Harper’s, suggests the answer is more complex. From the “red-baiting, ultra-rightwing radio preachers” of the 1950s onwards, disinformation has always been there.

Source link

Technology

TrueLayer achieves unicorn status after $130m round involving Stripe

Voice Of EU

Published

on

The British start-up plans to use the funds to expand after it announced the opening of a European HQ in Dublin last month.

TrueLayer has raised $130m in a funding round that saw participation from Stripe and gives the fintech start-up a post-money valuation of over $1bn.

The British company, which develops APIs to securely connect fintech platforms directly to banks, announced last month that it’s opening a European HQ in Dublin, hiring 25 people. TrueLayer has received authorisation from the Central Bank to operate in Ireland.

The round was led by Tiger Global Management, and comes after TrueLayer’s $70m Series D round in April of this year. The company has now raised about $272m in total.

Alex Cook, partner at Tiger Global Management, commented: “The shift to alternative payment methods is accelerating with the global growth of online commerce, and we believe TrueLayer will play a central role in making these payment methods more accessible.

“We’re excited to partner with Francesco, Luca and the TrueLayer team as they help customers increase conversion and continue to grow the network.”

Stripe, which last week announced its intention to grow its Dublin presence significantly, was already an investor in TrueLayer. The Irish-founded payments giant has invested numerous up-and-coming fintech ventures across the US and Europe, such as a renewed interest in Ramp in late August.

Speaking to the Irish Times, TrueLayer Ireland CEO and general manager for Europe Joe Morley said: “The fundraise allows us to commit even further to our markets in Europe…and allows us to start thinking about broader expansion.

“But our focus in the short to medium term is to make sure we win in Europe so we’re really doubling down on what we had already initiated with our last funding round.”

Morley formerly worked as an executive at Facebook and WhatsApp, and is joined by fellow Facebook alum Leigh-Anne Cotter as TrueLayer Ireland COO.

TrueLayer says that, during 2021, it has so far seen a 400pc increase in volume of payments and 800pc increase in total payment valuation through its APIs. It also claims to have “millions of customers” and more than 10,000 developers using its systems.

The company plans to use the fresh funding to expand into new markets and to increase the penetration of open banking services in regions in which it already operates.

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

Big tech’s pro-climate rhetoric is not matched by policy action, report finds | Environment

Voice Of EU

Published

on

The world’s biggest tech companies are coming out with bold commitments to tackle their climate impact but when it comes to using their corporate muscle to advocate for stronger climate policies, their engagement is almost nonexistent, according to a new report.

Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Facebook and Microsoft poured about $65m into lobbying in 2020, but an average of only 6% of their lobbying activity between July 2020 and June 2021 was related to climate policy, according to an analysis from the thinktank InfluenceMap, which tracked companies’ self-reported lobbying on federal legislation.

The report also sought to capture tech companies’ overall engagement with climate policy by analyzing activities including their top-level communications as well as lobbying on specific legislation. It found that climate-related engagement levels of three of the five companies – Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft – had declined compared to the previous year.

Tech companies, which have some of the deepest pockets in corporate America, have been racing to come out with increasingly ambitious climate pledges. Amazon has a target to be net zero by 2040 and to power its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025, and Facebook has a target of net zero emissions for its entire supply chain by 2030.

In 2020, Microsoft pledged to become carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 to have removed all the carbon the company has ever emitted. Apple has committed to become carbon neutral across its whole supply chain by 2030.

And Google has pledged to power its operations with 100% carbon-free energy by 2030, without using renewable certificates to offset any fossil-generated power. “The science is clear, we have until 2030 to chart a sustainable course for our planet or face the worst consequences of climate change,” the Google and Alphabet CEO, Sundar Pichai, said in a video announcing the policy.

Yet this strong pro-climate rhetoric is not being matched by action at a policy level, according to the report. “These gigantic companies that completely dominate the stock market are not really deploying that political capital at all,” said the InfluenceMap executive director, Dylan Tanner.

Tech companies have not been entirely silent. Apple, for example, has expressed support for the Biden administration’s proposed clean energy standard, which aims for all US-generated electricity to be renewable by 2035.

But these efforts are significantly outweighed by those of big oil and gas companies, which have ramped up their climate lobbying over the same timeframe, according to the report. “Most of their political advocacy is devoted to climate change and it’s negative,” said Tanner.

A lack of engagement is especially disappointing given the new momentum around climate action under the Biden administration, said Bill Weihl, a former Facebook and Google sustainability executive and now executive director of Climate Voice, which mobilizes tech workers to lobby their companies on climate action. “The dominant business voice on these issues is advocating against the kind of policies that we need,” he said.

Joe Biden’s $3.5tn budget reconciliation bill, which includes large investments for climate action, is facing fierce opposition from some industry groups. The US Chamber of Commerce, the country’s most powerful business lobbying group, has said it will “do everything we can to prevent this tax raising, job killing reconciliation bill from becoming law”. All of the tech companies, with the exception of Apple, are members of the Chamber.

“Our best chance to lead the planet to safety in the race against climate change is through this reconciliation bill, yet InfluenceMap has shown that big tech is still MIA on climate in Congress,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat and longtime advocate for climate legislation.

Microsoft and Apple declined to comment on the report and Alphabet did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Amazon said the company engages at local, state and international levels to “actively advocate for policies that promote clean energy, increase access to renewable electricity, and decarbonize the transportation system”.

A Facebook spokesperson said “we’re committed to fighting climate change and are taking substantive steps without waiting for any legislative action”, adding that the company supports the Paris climate agreement goals and helped found the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance.

But these actions are not enough given the scale of the crisis, said Tanner. The UN warned in a report published on Friday that even if current climate emissions targets are met, the world is still on a “catastrophic pathway” for 2.7C of heating by the end of the century. “We’re running out of time,” Tanner said, “physically on climate but also on a public policy level.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

Some of you have dirty green credentials • The Register

Voice Of EU

Published

on

TechUK – the UK’s digital trade association representing computer giants and start-ups alike – has called on firms to check their green credentials and make sure they stand up to scrutiny.

The warning comes as UK businesses were told to brush up on their eco-claims or risk public humiliation and enforcement action by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Businesses have until the New Year to make sure their environmental claims – such as those regarding energy consumption, packaging, recycling, and product lifecycle assessments – comply with the law and are not simply an exercise in greenwashing.

As part of its efforts to steer companies, the CMA has published a six-point Green Claims Code in a bid to make it clear that anyone spouting eco-friendly claims “must not omit or hide important information” and “must consider the full life cycle of the product.”

The CMA is targeting sectors that some onlookers may regard as low hanging fruit including textiles and fashion, energy-hungry travel and transport, and fast-moving consumer goods.

However, any sector and the companies that operate within it – including tech – could fall within the CMA’s crosshairs.

In a statement, Andrea Coscelli, chief exec of the CMA, said: “We’re concerned that too many businesses are falsely taking credit for being green, while genuinely eco-friendly firms don’t get the recognition they deserve. Any business that fails to comply with the law risks damaging its reputation with customers and could face action from the CMA.”

However, there are worries the new rules may lead to confusion. In its evidence to the CMA, techUK said the six principles set out in the guidance were “not specific enough” and also called for more information to help tech firms. It also warned that different variables made in lifecycle assessments could lead to misleading results [PDF].

In a statement, Susanne Baker, associate director for Climate, Environment and Sustainability, techUK, told us: “The CMA’s guidance is important for any company making a green claim about their services, products and company. With more green claims being made by the tech sector than ever before, it’s absolutely vital that these aren’t deemed to be greenwashing.

“Firms have until the new year to address this and will need to think carefully about any green claim they make, be sure they can substantiate them, that they aren’t misleading, and are truthful and accurate,” she said.

The CMA announced that it was investigating the impact of green marketing on consumers last year when it found that 40 per cent of green claims made online could be misleading – suggesting that thousands of businesses could be breaking the law.

In June, The Register reported how a shortage of plastics – rather than a desire to protect the planet — could be one reason why recycled plastics may be working their way into laptops and other gadgetry.

Amazon recently found itself fending off a whistle-blower’s claims alleging it dumped unsold goods to landfill, and later bragged that it had achieved lower carbon “intensity” in its business practices. The latter claim was shot down by an unimpressed scientist close to The Reg who remarked that the fact Amazon’s business was growing was not “helpful to Earth”, and the fact it polluted less per unit of activity didn’t change the bottom line “which is that they are polluting more this year than they did last year.”

Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently announced the electric car maker will stop accepting Bitcoin payments for its vehicles, due to the “increasing use” of fossil fuels, particularly coal, to support Bitcoin’s electricity-hungry mining and transaction processing.

An Intel sponsored report by non-profit Resilience First, highlighted in June the role of tech in reaching net-zero carbon emission goals. However, making chips has been a dirty business, with a 2002 study concluding that a single 2g semiconductor chip required a whopping 1.6kg of secondary fossil fuels and 72g of chemical inputs to be put into production. ®

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!