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Last Week Online #62 – How much is your face worth?

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
2 min read

Is the value of your face more or less than the hassle of filing your taxes offline? Soon we will know.

Hiding poor customer reviews can become an expensive habit

On Tuesday, the United States Federal Trade Commission decided that the popular online retailer Fashion Nova would be required to pay $4.2 million in settlement for allegations that it had suppressed customer reviews that ranked products less than four out of five stars.

According to the complaint, Fashion Nova used a third-party product review system that held lower-starred reviews for approval before they could be posted. As a result, between 2015 and 2019, Fashion Nova automatically posted four- and five-star reviews while it did not approve or publish hundreds of thousands of lower-starred, more negative reviews.

A Fashion Nova spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company was "highly confident that it would have won in court and only agreed to settle the case to avoid the distraction and legal fees that it would incur in litigation."

Regulation related to online reviews is relatively crude. There have been attempts to police companies, like the skin-care brand Sunday Riley, who post fake reviews online, though this is the first instance of the FTC challenging "review suppression."

YouTube and Spotify choose different routes of dealing with Covid-19 disinformation on their platforms

This week, YouTube permanently banned prominent conservative media figure Dan Bongino from the site after repeatedly breaking its rules on posting coronavirus misinformation.

In addition to his youtube channel, Bongino hosts a show on Fox News and radio talk shows. He had been given a strike and a week-long suspension from YouTube earlier this month for saying that masks were useless in one of his videos. Later in the month, he uploaded another video that broke YouTube's rules on coronavirus misinformation, and when he tried to upload a third video, the company banned him permanently.

This decision comes at a time when another content streaming platform, Spotify, is in massive trouble because of its popular podcast personality Joe Rogan, who has repeatedly faced public criticism for COVID-19 misinformation. This week, the criticism peaked when Neil Young and Joni Mitchell removed their music from the platform in protest.

YouTube has previously been criticised for pursuing its policies around misinformation and similar types of harmful content. So, while Bongino had a large audience, he was operating on the platform like any YouTuber. However, the situation for Spotify is much more delicate since Rogan has reportedly been paid up to $100 million for Spotify to exclusively license his show.

Millions of Americans are required to scan their faces if they want to file their taxes online

The United States Tax Authorities IRS has implemented facial recognition software that requires millions of Americans to scan their faces to access their IRS tax accounts online. So, if you do not want to share your face with the IRS, your only option would be to file your taxes offline.

By recording a video of their face with their computer or smartphone, users are identified by the private contractor ID.me, allowing them to access the website. ID.me have so far collected images of tens of millions of Americans' faces, and there has faced growing criticism over its software and its use of facial recognition technology.

After heavy criticism, the Treasury and the IRS are now looking for alternatives to ID.me. However, the US government also employs ID.me to verify people's identity for Social Security, state benefits, and Veterans Affairs. In 2021, several people who used ID.me to verify their state benefits reported having their benefits denied or applications put on hold due to possible issues with the software.

A podcast episode worth a listen:

Offline: Monica Lewinsky on the Internet's Culture of Humiliation

Monica Lewinsky sits down with Jon Favreau to talk about the rise of public shaming, what happens when your life is upended by the internet, and what we can do to push against our worst instincts when we're on social media.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.


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