iGF Shorts 7.0 — Metaverse, Netflix, Musk and More

Metaverse Stories.

Facebook/Meta will open its first real-world store in Burlingame, California (where else?) this Monday, May 9.

Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg believes the metaverse is the future of tech and he plans to hire 10,000 more staff to shape his version of a virtual world.

The pathway to online heaven is still paved with good old bricks-and-mortar, it seems.

Averse to the Metaverse

Yet, continuing our Metaverse stories, it’s troubling to hear that many of our Old World ailments—racism, sexism, sexual harassment, even rape, et al—have also transitioned to virtual reality.

This is the disturbing conclusion of a recent documentary, “Inside the Metaverse: Are you Safe?”, on British TV’s Channel 4 Dispatches strand.

Reporter Yinka Bokinni encountered a barrage of virtual assault, racism and rape jokes when she explored the future for the show.

Within the first 10 minutes of putting on a VR headset and entering a chat room, Bokinni reported she saw underage kids simulating oral sex on each other.

“I experienced sexual harassment, racism and rape jokes. At one point, I heard someone say: ‘I like little girls from the age of nine to 12, that’s just my thing.’”

“Wherever you move your head, the world travels with you. It tricks your brain into thinking you’re really experiencing it. You forget it’s not real. It’s just so intimidating,” said Bokinni.

Keep Your Shirt On.

As they chase an unprecedented quadruple of Champion’s League, English Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup, Liverpool FC are betting their shirts on a new sponsorship deal with one of several cryptocurrency companies.

The Reds’ existing front-of-shirt sponsorship with Standard Chartered, worth some £40 million a year, expires at the end of next season.

But reports suggest that the 19 times English champions and six times European champions are now looking for cutting edge sponsorship, no doubt spurred on by their intransigent rivalry with Manchester United, who have just signed a multi-year ad deal with blockchain Tezos.

Elon Musk Twittered

Like rich men throughout history, Elon Musk wants to own the narrative — and not just commonplace wealth.

While his closest earthly and space rival Jeff Bezos, of Amazon fame, has bought the storied Washington Post, Musk wants to go one better and buy up Twitter.

Musk, currently the world’s richest man, has over 80 million social media followers.

He’s put together a US$46.5 billion package to buy the micro-blogging platform, in pursuit, he says, of protecting free speech – even if this means allowing former US President Donald Trump back on the channel to bump and grind.

For all their superficial opposition, it’s difficult to see the Twitter board and stakeholders saying no to all that dosh.

Forget antitrust laws, it would appear that both money and BS, in this case, talks.

Now You CNN It, Now You Don’t

In surely the most spectacular media failure of recent times, CNN’s new US$300 million steaming service, CNN+, has shut down after barely a fortnight.

According to reports, fewer than 10,000 viewers were watching at any given time so new owners Warner Bros. Discovery decided to shut it down.

Pasta and ice cream was little recompense for shell-shocked staff.

Netflix (also) Dives

CNN+’s fate is a natural segue into the troubles also affecting Netflix, which has lost 200,000 subscribers in Q1 and expects to lose another two million by the end of this current quarter.

Netflix stock has now plunged some two-thirds, from US$700 in November to around US$250.

“We’re definitely feeling higher levels of market penetration … and heightened competition,” said Ted Sarandos, Co-Chief Executive.

Surely the understatement of the year to date, excluding Russian president Putin’s description of the invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation.”

Russian Cyber Criminals

Which leads us, penultimately, to Russia’s Conti ransomware gang.

According to Wired magazine, they extorted US$180 million from international companies last year.

The cybercriminals have developed their own social network and blockchain-based cryptocurrency platform. And they are even planning to open an online casino, revealed a Ukrainian cybersecurity mole, who infiltrated the organisation.

Apparently the 100-strong Conti gang are inspired by the Ethereum code library Nethereum, blockchain platform Polkadot and cryptocurrency trading company Binance.

Sometimes you just can’t chose your friends.

Video Gaming Industry Diversifies

And finally, amid all the fascinating negativity, some positive news from the University of Southern California (USC), which has launched a new scholarship dedicated to diversifying the video game industry.

The scholarship is named after Gerald A, Lawson, an electrical engineer, game company founder and video game technology pioneer, who invented the commercial swappable cartridge.

Scholarships will initially be offered to two students of Black or indigenous descent.

USC is ranked as the top university in the USA for video game design.

Successful applicants will be named in July.