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Tag Archives: social

With its goofy video loops, YC backed Splish wants to be the ‘anti-Instagram’

Is there any space on kids’ homescreens for another social sharing app to poke in? Y Combinator backed  Splish wants to have a splash at it ( ) — with a super-short-form video and photo sharing app aimed at the under-25s. The SF-based startup began bootstrapping out of their college dorm rooms last July, playing around with app ideas before settling on goofy video loops to be their social sharing steed of choice. The Splish app pops content into video loops of between 1-5 seconds. Photos can be uploaded too but motion must be added in the form of an animated effect of your choice. So basically nothing on Splish stays still. (Hence its watery name.) But while wobbly, content on Splish is intended to stick around — rather than ephemerally pass away (a la snaps). Here are a few examples of Splishes (embedded below as GIFs… but you can see them on its platform here , here and here ):   It’s the first startup for the four college buddy co-founders: Drake Rehfeld, Alex Pareto, Jackson Berry and Zac Denham, though between them they’ve also clocked up engineering hours working for Snapchat, Facebook and Team 10. Their initial  web product  went up in March and they landed a place on YC’s program at the start of May —  when they also released their  iOS app . An Android app is pending, and they’ll be on the hunt for funding come YC demo day. The gap in the social sharing market this young team reckons it’s spotted is a sort of ‘anti- Instagram’ — offering a playful contrast to the photo sharing platform’s polished (and at times preening) performances. The idea is that sharing stuff on Splish is a bonding experience; part of an ongoing smartphone-enabled conversation between mates, rather than a selectively manicured photoshoot which also has to be carefully packaged for public ‘gram consumption. Splish does have a public feed, though, so it’s not a pure messaging app — but the co-founders say the focus is friend group sharing rather than public grandstanding. “Splish is a social app for sharing casual looping videos with close friends,” says Rehfeld, giving the team’s elevator pitch. “It came out of our own experience, and we’re building for ourselves because we noticed that the way you socialize right now in real life is you do activities with your friends

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Facebook, Google and more unite to let you transfer data between apps

The Data Transfer Project is a new team-up between tech giants to let you move your content, contacts, and more across apps. Founded by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft, the DTP today revealed its plans for an open source data portability platform any online service can join. While many companies already let you download your information, that’s not very helpful if you can’t easily upload and use it elsewhere — whether you want to evacuate a social network you hate, back up your data somewhere different, or bring your digital identity along when you try a new app. The DTP’s tool isn’t ready for use yet, but the group today laid out a white paper for how it will work. Creating an industry standard for data portability could force companies to compete on utility instead of being protected by data lock-in that traps users because it’s tough to switch services. The DTP could potentially offer a solution to a major problem with social networks I detailed in April: you can’t find your friends from one app on another . We’ve asked Facebook for details on if and how you’ll be able to transfer your social connections and friends’ contact info which it’s historically hoarded. Facebook shouldn’t block you from finding friends on competitors From porting playlists in music streaming services to health data from fitness trackers to our reams of photos and videos, the DTP could be a boon for startups. Incumbent tech giants maintain a huge advantage in popularizing new functionality because they instantly interoperate with a user’s existing data rather than making them start from scratch. Even if a social networking startup builds a better location sharing feature, personalized avatar, or payment system, it might be a lot easier to use Facebook’s clone of it because that’s where your profile, friends, and photos live. If the DTP gains industry-wide momentum and its founding partners cooperate in good faith rather than at some bare minimum level of involvement, it could lower the barrier for people to experiment with new apps. Meanwhile, the tech giants could argue that the government shouldn’t step in to regulate them or break them up because DTP means users are free to choose whichever app best competes for their data and attention.

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Instagram adds a status indicator dot so people know when you’re ignoring them

In a blog post today , Instagram announced a new feature: a green status dot that indicates when a user is active on the app. If you’re cruising around Instagram, you can expect to see a green dot next to the profile pics of friends who also are Instagramming right then and there. The dot will show up in the direct messaging part of the app but also on your friend’s list when you go to share a post with someone. Instagram clarifies that “You will only see status for friends who follow you or people who you have talked to in Direct,” so it’s meant to get you talking more to the people you’re already talking to. You can disable the status info in the “Activity Status” bit of the app’s Settings menu, where it’s set to “on” by default. Prior to the advent of the green dot, Instagram already displayed how long ago someone was active by including information like “Active 23m ago” or “Active Now” in grey text next to their account info where your direct messages live. For those of us who prefer a calm, less real-time experience, the fact that features like these come on by default is a bummer. Given the grey activity status text, the status dot may not seem like that much of a change. Still, it’s one opt-out design choice closer to making Instagram a compulsive real-time social media nightmare like Facebook or Facebook Messenger. The quiet, incremental rollout of features like the grey status text is often so subtle that users don’t notice it — as a daily Instagram user, I barely did. Making major shifts very gradually is the same game Facebook always plays with its products, layering slight design changes that alter user behavior until one day you wake up and aren’t using the same app you used to love, but somehow you can’t seem to stop using it. Instagram is working on a feature for in-app time management , but stuff like this negates Facebook’s broader supposed efforts to make our relationship with its attention-hungry platforms less of a compulsive tic. It’s not like users will be relieved that they can now see who is “online” in the app

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Here’s what Facebook employees were saying about Holocaust denial … in 2009

Mark Zuckerberg has been in hot water this week thanks to comments he made during  an interview with Kara Swisher  about the kinds of content that should and shouldn’t be removed from the platform. Zuckerberg brought up Holocaust deniers as an example, saying he found them “deeply offensive,” then added, “But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.” (In a follow-up email , Zuckerberg repeated that he found Holocaust denial to be “deeply offensive” and said, “I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”) In light of the ensuing controversy, it seems worth bringing up some old posts by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington — from all the way back in 2009, when Arrington highlighted an effort by Brian Cuban to get Holocaust denial groups removed from the social network. Those posts drew comments from a number of Facebook employees, including Adam Mosseri, who’s currently the  VP of product management in charge of the Facebook News Feed , and Andrew Bosworth, who took over the company’s hardware efforts last year . We’re exhuming these old comments not as a “gotcha!” moment, but simply as a reminder that this is a longstanding debate, one in which senior Facebook figures (some of whom took pains to emphasize that they were speaking for themselves, not the company) have articulated a pretty consistent position. Here’s Mosseri, for example: I don’t understand how one can rationalize censorship, no matter how wrong or evil the message. It’s not the place of government, news media or communication platforms to tell anyone what they can or cannot say. And here’s Bosworth: Yelling fire in a crowded building isn’t protected (legally or morally) because it directly infringes on the physical safety of others, something they have a right to in our moral judgement. I think it is pretty clear that these groups pose no such imminent threat. They are distasteful and ignorant to all of us, but they should not be shut down unless they pose a credible threat to the physical safety of others, such as through threats of violence. And here’s Ezra Callahan, who was then on the PR team: You do not combat ignorance by trying to cover up that ignorance exists. You confront it head on. Facebook will do the world no good by trying to become its thought police. There’s a lot more discussion in the original post .

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Facebook and Instagram change to crack down on underage children

Facebook and Instagram will more proactively lock the accounts of users its moderators suspect are below the age of 13. Its former policy was to only investigate accounts if they were reported specifically for being potentially underage. But Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that an ‘operational’ change to its policy for reviewers made this week will see them lock the accounts of any underage user they come across, even if they were reported for something else, such as objectionable content, or are otherwise discovered by reviewers. Facebook will require the users to provide proof that they’re over 13 such a government issued photo ID to regain access. The problem stems from Facebook not requiring any proof of age upon signup. Facebook Messenger Kids is purposefully aimed at users under age 13 A tougher stance here could reduce Facebook and Instagram’s user counts and advertising revenue. The apps’ formerly more hands-off approach allowed them to hook young users so by the time they turned 13, they had already invested in building a social graph and history of content that tethers them to the Facebook corporation. While Facebook has lost cache with the youth over time and as their parents joined, Instagram is still wildly popular with them and likely counts many tweens or even younger children as users. The change comes in response to an undercover documentary report by the UK’s Channel 4 and Firecrest Films that saw a journalist become a Facebook content reviewer through a third-party firm called CPL Resources in Dublin, Ireland. A reviewer there claims they were instructed to ignore users who appeared under 13, saying “We have to have an admission that the person is underage. If not, we just like pretend that we are blind and that we don’t know what underage looks like.” The report also outlined how far-right political groups are subject to different threshholds for deletion than other Pages or accounts if they post hateful content in violation of Facebook’s policies. In response, Facebook published a blog post on July 16th claiming that that high-profile Pages and registered political groups may receive a second layer of review from Facebook employees. But in an update on July 17th, Facebook noted that “Since the program, we have been working to update the guidance for reviewers to put a hold on any account they encounter if they have a strong indication it is underage, even if the report was for something else.” Now a Facebook spokesperson confirms to TechCrunch that this is a change to how reviewers are trained to enforce its age policy for both Facebook and Instagram.

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Reddit expands chat rooms to more subreddits

If you’d rather spend time chatting with strangers who share a hyper-specific interest instead of keeping up with your co-workers’ stale memes on Slack, Reddit is ready for you. The platform has quietly been working on a chat room feature for months now, and today it expands beyond its early days as a very limited closed beta. Plenty of subreddits already make use of a chat room feature, but these live outside of Reddit, usually on Slack or Discord. Given that, it makes sense for Reddit to lure those users back into the engaging on Reddit itself by offering its own chat feature. I spent a little time hanging out in the /r/bjj (brazilian jiu jitsu) chat as well as the psychedelics chat affiliated with r/weed to see how things went across the spectrum, and it was pretty chill — mostly people asking for general advice or seeking answers to specific questions. In a Reddit chat linked to the r/community_chat subreddit — the hub for the new chat feature — redditors discussed if the rooms would lead to more or less harassment and if the team should add upvotes, downvotes and karma to chat to make it more like Reddit’s normal threads. Of course, what I saw is probably a far cry from what chat will look like if and when some of its more inflammatory subreddits get their hands on the new feature. We’ve reached out to Reddit with questions about if all subreddits, even the ones hidden behind content warnings, will be offered the new chat functionality. Chat rooms are meant as a supplement to already active subreddits, not a standalone community, so it’s basically like watching a Reddit thread unfold in real time. On the Reddit blog , u/thunderemoji writes about why Reddit is optimistic that chat rooms won’t just be another trolling tool: I was initially afraid that most people would bring out the pitchforks and… unkind words. I was pleasantly surprised to find that most people are actually quite nice. The nature of real-time, direct chat seems to be especially disarming. Even when people initially lash out in frustration or to troll, I found that if you talk to them and show them you’re a regular human like them, they almost always chill out.

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World Cup tweets were viewed 115 billion times

Twitter had high hopes that the World Cup would be a big hit on its platform. The previous games in 2014 happened before the platform released video features, but this time around, it secured a deal with the event's US rights holder Fox Sports, as we...

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Twitter is holding off on fixing verification policy to focus on election integrity

Twitter is pausing its work on overhauling its verification process, which provides a blue checkmark to public figures, in favor of election integrity, Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour tweeted today. That’s because, as we enter another election season, “updating our verification program isn’t a top priority for us right now (election integrity is),” he wrote on Twitter this afternoon . Last November, Twitter paused its account verifications as it tried to figure out a way to address confusion around what it means to be verified. That decision came shortly after people criticized Twitter for having verified the account of Jason Keller, the person who organized the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Fast forward to today, and Twitter still verifies accounts “ad hoc when we think it serves the public conversation & is in line with our policy,” Beykpour wrote. “But this has led to frustration b/c our process remains opaque & inconsistent with our intented sic pause.” While Twitter recognizes its job isn’t done, the company is not prioritizing the work at this time — at least for the next few weeks, he said. In an email addressed to Twitter’s health leadership team last week, Beykpour said his team simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to focus on verification “without coming at the cost of other priorities and distracting the team.” The highest priority, Beykpour said, is election integrity. Specifically, Twitter’s team will be looking at the product “with a specific lens towards the upcoming elections and some of the ‘election integrity’ workstreams we’ve discussed.” Once that’s done “after ~4 weeks,” he said, the product team will be in a better place to address verification.   We've heard some questions recently about the status of Verification on Twitter, so wanted to address directly. Updating our verification program isn’t a top priority for us right now (election integrity is). Here’s some history & context, and how we plan to put it on our roadmap — Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz) July 17, 2018

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Instagram is building non-SMS 2-factor auth to thwart SIM hackers

Hackers can steal your phone number by reassigning it to a different SIM card, use it to reset your passwords, steal your Instagram and other accounts, and sell them for Bitcoin. As detailed in a harrowing Motherboard article today, Instagram accounts are especially vulnerable because the app only offers two-factor authentication through SMS that delivers a password reset or login code via text message. But now Instagram has confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s building non-SMS two-factor authentication system that works with security apps like Google Authenticator or Duo. They generate a special code that you need to login that can’t be generated on a different phone in case your number is ported to a hacker’s SIM card. Buried in the Instagram Android app’s APK code is a prototype of the upgraded 2FA feature, discovered by frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong . Her work has led to confirmed TechCrunch scoops on Instagram Video Calling , Usage Insights , soundtracks for Stories , and more. When presented with the screenshots, an Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch that yes, it is working on the non-SMS 2FA feature, saying “We’re continuing to improve the security of Instagram accounts, including strengthening 2-factor authentication.” Instagram actually lacked any two-factor protection until 2016 when it already had 400 million users. In November 2015, I wrote a story titled “ Seriously. Instagram needs two-factor authentication. ” A friend and star Instagram stop-motion animation creator Rachel Ryle had been hacked, costing up a lucrative sponsorship deal. The company listened

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It’s official: Brexit campaign broke the law — with social media’s help

The UK’s Electoral Commission has published the results of a near nine-month-long investigation into Brexit referendum spending and has found that the official Vote Leave campaign broke the law by breaching election campaign spending limits. Vote Leave broke the law including by channeling money to a Canadian data firm, AggregateIQ, to use for targeting political advertising on Facebook’s platform, via undeclared joint working with another Brexit campaign, BeLeave, it found. Aggregate IQ remains the subject of a  separate joint investigation by privacy watchdogs in Canada and British Columbia. The Electoral Commission’s investigation found evidence that BeLeave spent more than £675,000 with AggregateIQ under a common arrangement with Vote Leave. Yet the two campaigns had failed to disclose on their referendum spending returns that they had a common plan. As the designated lead leave campaign, Vote Leave had a £7M spending limit under UK law. But via its joint spending with BeLeave the Commission determined it actually spent £7,449,079 — exceeding the legal spending limit by almost half a million pounds. The June 2016 referendum in the UK resulted in a narrow 52:48 majority for the UK to leave the European Union. Two years on from the vote, the government has yet to agree a coherent policy strategy to move forward in negotiations with the EU, leaving businesses to suck up ongoing uncertainty and society and citizens to remain riven and divided. Vote Leave cheated. The country was cheated.

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