From Periscope search pains to China's discomfort with free speech, mobile livestreaming challenges grow

Periscope, the Twitter-owned live streaming mobile app, is continuing to add features such as GoPro compatibility and default archiving. But correctly curating live streams as they're in progress is still a challenge, making it tough sometimes for users to find content through a text or tag search. So Periscope is working with Cortex, Twitter's machine learning R&D unit, on a livestream scanning system.

According to MIT Technology Review, the team demonstrated scanning and categorizing 24 live Periscope feeds at once.

While identifying objects in a video stream isn't new technology, doing so on a live stream that's quality keeps shifting takes a lot of computing power. Cortex said Twitter built a supercomputer "made entirely of graphics processing units (GPUs) to perform the video classification and serve up the results," the Review said.

The technology is needed: In addition to improved search and recommendation for Periscope users, the service must chase copyright violation reports, such as live streams of events like the Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match last year or the Game of Thrones season premiere. And other incidents are causing concern. A recent suicide that was reportedly broadcast over Periscope is being investigated by officials in France.

Of course, there's always the possibility that a livestream scanning and curation system won't be used simply to prevent pirated or objectionable content. The technology has implications for censorship as well.

In China, livestreaming mobile apps are giving citizens a tenuous outlet for expression in a country where media is rigidly controlled. Apps like Ingkee and Douyou are among "dozens" of livestreaming services popping up since Meerkat and Periscope first popularized the mobile technology, The Wall Street Journal reports. Interestingly, some are already directly monetizing their services: Ingkee, for example, enables users to buy tokens that then can be converted into virtual gifts such as flower bouquets or hugs.

However, the Chinese government is keeping a close eye on such services. While it seems that mundane videos of people eating dinner is fine, officials have already cracked down on more than 50 livestreaming providers for content deemed pornographic or otherwise "low-taste."

Implementing content identification technology on livestreaming apps could ease the friction between China's new mobile app moguls and its government, but could also shut down a budding source of free speech, too.

For more:
- see this WSJ article
- see this The Next Web article
- see this MIT Technology Review article

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