Tag Archives: TC

YouTube is closing its private messages feature…and many kids are outraged

People love to share YouTube videos among their friends, which is why in mid-2017 YouTube launched a new in-app messaging feature that would allow YouTube users to private send their friends videos and chat within a dedicated tab in the YouTube mobile app. That feature is now being shut down, the company says. After September 18, the ability to direct message friends on YouTube itself will be removed.

The change was first spotted by 9to5Google, which noted that YouTube Messages came to the web in May of last year.

YouTube, in its announcement about the closure, doesn’t offer much insight into its decision.

While the company says that its more recent work has been focused on public conversations with updates to comments, posts, and Stories, it doesn’t explain why Messages is no longer a priority.

A likely reason, of course, is that the feature was under-utilized. Most people today are heavily invested in their own preferred messaging apps — whether that’s Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, iMessage or others.

Google, meanwhile, can’t seem to stop itself from building messaging apps and experiences. When YouTube Messages launched, Google was also invested in Allo (RIP), Duo, Hangouts, Meet, Google Voice, Android Messages/RCS, and was poised to transition users from Gchat (aka Google Talk) in Gmail to Hangouts Chat.

However, based on the nearly 500 angry comments replying to Google’s post about the closure, it seems that YouTube Messages may have been preferred by many young users.

Young…as in children.

 

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A sizable number of commenters are complaining that YouTube was the “only place” they could message their friends because they didn’t have a phone or weren’t allowed to give out their phone number.

Some said they used the feature to “talk to their mom” or because they weren’t allowed to use social media.

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It appears that many children had been using YouTube Messages as a sort of workaround to their parents’ block on messaging apps on their own phones, or as a way to communicate from their tablets or via web, likely without parents’ knowledge.

That’s not a good look for YouTube at this time, given its issues around inappropriate videos aimed at children, child exploitation, child predators, and regulatory issues.

The video platform in February came under fire for putting kids at risk of child predators. The company had to shut off comments on videos featuring minors, after the discovery of a pedophile ring that had been communicating via YouTube’s comments section.

Notably, the FTC is also now following up on complaints about YouTube’s possible violations of COPPA, a U.S. Children’s Privacy law. Child advocacy and consumers groups complain that YouTube has lured children under 13 into its digital playground, where it collects their data and targets them with ads, without parental consent.

Though some people may have used YouTube Messages to promote their channel or to share videos with family members and friends, it’s clear this usage hadn’t gone mainstream. Otherwise, YouTube wouldn’t be walking away from a popular product.

The feature also had issues with spam — much like Google+ did —  as there were unwelcome requests from strangers, at times.

YouTube says users will still be able to share videos through the “Share” feature which connects to other social networks.

The company declined to comment beyond what it shared on the forum post.

‘This is Your Life in Silicon Valley’: The League founder and CEO Amanda Bradford on modern dating, and whether Bumble is a ‘real’ startup

Welcome to this week’s transcribed edition of This is Your Life in Silicon Valley. We’re running an experiment for Extra Crunch members that puts This is Your Life in Silicon Valley in words – so you can read from wherever you are.

This is your Life in Silicon Valley was originally started by Sunil Rajaraman and Jascha Kaykas-Wolff in 2018. Rajaraman is a serial entrepreneur and writer (Co-Founded Scripted.com, and is currently an EIR at Foundation Capital), Kaykas-Wolff is the current CMO at Mozilla and ran marketing at BitTorrent.

Rajaraman and Kaykas-Wolff started the podcast after a series of blog posts that Sunil wrote for The Bold Italic went viral. The goal of the podcast is to cover issues at the intersection of technology and culture – sharing a different perspective of life in the Bay Area. Their guests include entrepreneurs like Sam Lessin, journalists like Kara Swisher and Mike Isaac, politicians like Mayor Libby Schaaf and local business owners like David White of Flour + Water.

This week’s edition of This is Your Life in Silicon Valley features Amanda Bradford – Founder/CEO of The League. Amanda talks about modern dating, its limitations, its flaws, why ‘The League’ will win. Amanda provides her candid perspective on other dating startups in a can’t-miss portion of the podcast.

Amanda talks about her days at Salesforce and how it influenced her decision to build a dating tech product that focused on data, and funnels. Amanda walks through her own process of finding her current boyfriend on ‘The League’ and how it came down to meeting more people. And that the flaw with most online dating is that people do not meet enough people due to filter bubbles, and lack of open criteria.

Amanda goes in on all of the popular dating sites, including Bumble and others, providing her take on what’s wrong with them. She even dishes on Raya and Tinder – sharing what she believes are how they should be perceived by prospective daters. The fast-response portion of this podcast where we ask Amanda about the various dating sites really raised some eyebrows and got some attention.

We ask Amanda about the incentives of online dating sites, and how in a way they are created to keep members online as long as possible. Amanda provides her perspective on how she addresses this inherent conflict at The League, and how many marriages have been shared among League members to date.

We ask Amanda about AR/VR dating and what the future will look like. Will people actually meet in person in the future? Will it be more like online worlds where we wear headsets and don’t actually interact face to face anymore? The answers may surprise you. We learn how this influences The League’s product roadmap.

The podcast eventually goes into dating stories from audience members – including some pretty wild online dating stories from people who are not as they seem. We picked two audience members at random to talk about their entertaining online dating stories and where they led. The second story really raised eyebrows and got into the notion that people go at great lengths to hide their real identities.

Ultimately, we get at the heart of what online dating is, and what the future holds for it.   If you care about the future of relationships, online dating, data, and what it all means this episode is for you.

For access to the full transcription, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

Sunil Rajaraman: I just want to check, are we recording? Because that’s the most important question. We’re recording, so this is actually a podcast and not just three people talking randomly into microphones.

I’m Sunil Rajaraman, I’m co-host of this podcast, This is Your Life in Silicon Valley, and Jascha Kaykas-Wolff is my co-host, we’ve been doing this for about a year now, we’ve done 30 shows, and we’re pleased today to welcome a very special guest, Jascha.

Jascha Kaykas-Wolff: Amanda.

Amanda Bradford: Hello everyone.

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Amanda Bradford. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Kaykas-Wolff: We’re just going to stare at you and make it uncomfortable.

Bradford: Like Madonna.

Kaykas-Wolff: Yeah, so the kind of backstory and what’s important for everybody that’s in the audience to know is that this podcast is not a pitch for a product, it’s not about a company, it’s about the Bay Area. And the Bay Area is kind of special, but it’s also a little bit fucked up. I think we all kind of understand that, being here.

So what we want to do in the podcast is talk to people who have a very special, unique relationship with the Bay Area, no matter creators that are company builders, that are awesome entrepreneurs, that are just really cool and interesting people, and today we are really, really lucky to have an absolutely amazing entrepreneur, and also pretty heavy hitter in the technology scene. In a very specific and very special category of technology that Sunil really, really likes. The world of dating.

Rajaraman: Yeah, so it’s funny, the backstory to this is, Jascha have both been married, what, long time-

Kaykas-Wolff: Long time.

Rajaraman: And we have this weird fascination with online dating because we see a lot of people going through it, and it’s a baffling world, and so I want to demystify it a bit with Amanda Bradford today, the founder CEO of The League.

Bradford: You guys are like all of the married people looking at the single people in the petri dishes.

Rajaraman: So, I’ve done the thing where we went through it with the single friends who have the app, swiping through on their behalf, so it’s sort of like a weird thing.

Bradford: I know, we’re like a different species, aren’t we?

Twitter blocks state-controlled media outlets from advertising on its social network

Twitter is now blocking state-run media outlets from advertising on its platform.

The new policy was announced just hours after the company identified an information operation involving hundreds of accounts linked to China as part of an effort to “sow political discord” around events in Hong Kong after weeks of protests in the region. Over the weekend more than 1 million Hong Kong residents took to the streets to protest what they see as an encroachment by the mainland Chinese government over their rights.

State-funded media enterprises that do not rely on taxpayer dollars for their financing and don’t operate independently of the governments that finance them will no longer be allowed to advertise on the platform, Twitter said in a statement. That leaves a big exception for outlets like the Associated Press, the British Broadcasting Corp., Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio, according to reporting from BBC reporter, Dave Lee.

The affected accounts will be able to use Twitter, but can’t access the company’s advertising products, Twitter said in a statement.

“We believe that there is a difference between engaging in conversation with accounts you choose to follow and the content you see from advertisers in your Twitter experience which may be from accounts you’re not currently following. We have policies for both but we have higher standards for our advertisers,” Twitter said in its statement.

The policy applies to news media outlets that are financially or editorially controlled by the state, Twitter said. The company said it will make its policy determinations on the basis of media freedom and independence, including editorial control over articles and video, the financial ownership of the publication, the influence or interference governments may exert over editors, broadcasters and journalists, and political pressure or control over the production and distribution process.

Twitter said the advertising rules wouldn’t apply to entities that are focused on entertainment, sports or travel, but if there’s news in the mix, the company will block advertising access.

Affected outlets have 30 days before they’re removed from Twitter and the company is halting all existing campaigns.

State media has long been a source of disinformation and was cited as part of the Russian campaign to influence the 2016 election. Indeed, Twitter has booted state-financed news organizations before. In October 2017, the company banned Russia Today and Sputnik from advertising on its platform (although a representative from RT claimed that Twitter encouraged it to advertise ahead of the election).

 

US legislator, David Cicilline, joins international push to interrogate platform power

US legislator David Cicilline will be joining the next meeting of the International Grand Committee on Disinformation and ‘Fake News’, it has been announced. The meeting will be held in Dublin on November 7.

Chair of the committee, the Irish Fine Gael politician Hildegarde Naughton, announced Cicilline’s inclusion today.

The congressman — who is chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee — will attend as an “ex officio member” which will allow him to question witnesses, she added.

Exactly who the witnesses in front of the grand committee will be is tbc. But the inclusion of a US legislator in the ranks of a non-US committee that’s been seeking answers about reining in online disinformation will certainly make any invitations that get extended to senior executives at US-based tech giants much harder to ignore.

Naughton points out that the addition of American legislators also means the International Grand Committee represents ~730 million citizens — and “their right to online privacy and security”.

“The Dublin meeting will be really significant in that it will be the first time that US legislators will participate,” she said in a statement. “As all the major social media/tech giants were founded and are headquartered in the United States it is very welcome that Congressman Cicilline has agreed to participate. His own Committee is presently conducting investigations into Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple and so his attendance will greatly enhance our deliberations.”

“Greater regulation of social media and tech giants is fast becoming a priority for many countries throughout the world,” she added. “The International Grand Committee is a gathering of international parliamentarians who have a particular responsibility in this area. We will coordinate actions to tackle online election interference, ‘fake news’, and harmful online communications, amongst other issues while at the same time respecting freedom of speech.”

The international committee met for its first session in London last November — when it was forced to empty-chair Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who had declined to attend in person, sending UK policy VP Richard Allan in his stead.

Lawmakers from nine countries spent several hours taking Allan to task over Facebook’s lack of accountability for problems generated by the content it distributes and amplifies, raising myriad examples of ongoing failure to tackle the democracy-denting, society-damaging disinformation — from election interference to hate speech whipping up genocide.

A second meeting of the grand committee was held earlier this year in Canada — taking place over three days in May.

Again Zuckerberg failed to show. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also gave international legislators zero facetime, with the company opting to send local head of policy, Kevin Chan, and global head of policy, Neil Potts, as stand ins.

Lawmakers were not amused. Canadian MPs voted to serve Zuckerberg and Sandberg with an open summons — meaning they’ll be required to appear before it the next time they step foot in the country.

Parliamentarians in the UK also issued a summons for Zuckerberg last year after repeat snubs to testify to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee’s enquiry into fake news — a decision that essentially gave birth to the international grand committee, as legislators in multiple jurisdictions united around a common cause of trying to find ways to hold social media giants to accounts.

While it’s not clear who the grand committee will invite to the next session, Facebook’s founder seems highly unlikely to have dropped off their list. And this time Zuckerberg and Sandberg may find it harder to turn down an invite to Dublin, given the committee’s ranks will include a homegrown lawmaker.

In a statement on joining the next meeting, Cicilline said: “We are living in a critical moment for privacy rights and competition online, both in the United States and around the world.  As people become increasingly connected by what seem to be free technology platforms, many remain unaware of the costs they are actually paying.

“The Internet has also become concentrated, less open, and growingly hostile to innovation. This is a problem that transcends borders, and it requires multinational cooperation to craft solutions that foster competition and safeguard privacy online. I look forward to joining the International Grand Committee as part of its historic effort to identify problems in digital markets and chart a path forward that leads to a better online experience for everyone.”

Multiple tech giants (including Facebook) have their international headquarters in Ireland — making the committee’s choice of location for their next meeting a strategic one. Should any tech CEOs thus choose to snub an invite to testify to the committee they might find themselves being served with an open summons to testify by Irish parliamentarians — and not being able to set foot in a country where their international HQ is located would be more than a reputational irritant.

Ireland’s privacy regulator is also sitting on a stack of open investigations against tech giants — again with Facebook and Facebook owned companies producing the fattest file (some 11 investigations). But there are plenty of privacy and security concerns to go around, with the DPC’s current case file also touching tech giants including Apple, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter.

What will Tumblr become under the ownership of tech’s only Goldilocks founder?

This week, Automattic revealed it has signed all the paperwork to acquire Tumblr from Verizon, including its full staff of 200. Tumblr has undergone quite a journey since its headline-grabbing acquisition by Marissa Mayer’s Yahoo in 2013 for $1.1 billion, but after six years of neglect, its latest move is its first real start since it stopped being an independent company. Now, it’s in the hands of Matt Mullenweg, the only founder of a major tech company who has repeatedly demonstrated a talent for measured responses, moderation and a willingness to forego reckless explosive growth in favor of getting things ‘just right.’

There’s never been a better acquisition for all parties involved, or at least one in which every party should walk away feeling they got exactly what they needed out of the deal. Yes, that’s in spite of the reported $3 million-ish asking price.

Verizon Media acquired Tumblr through a deal made to buy Yahoo, under a previous media unit strategy and leadership team. Verizon Media has no stake in the company, and so headlines talking about the bath it apparently took relative to the original $1.1 billion acquisition price are either willfully ignorant or just plain dumb.

Six years after another company made that bad deal for a company it clearly didn’t have the right business focus to correctly operate, Verizon made a good one to recoup some money.

Aligned leadership and complementary offerings drive a win-win

‘Private’ and ‘hidden’ mean different things to Facebook

Facebook’s leadership made a pretty heavy-handed indication this year that it believes Facebook Groups are the future of the app. They announced all of this alongside their odd declaration that “The future is private.” Now, Facebook is changing the language describing the visibility of privacy of groups.

As the Groups feature has come front-and-center in recent redesigns, Facebook has decided that the language they have been using to describe the visibility of “Public,” “Closed” and “Secret” Groups isn’t as clear as it should be, so the company is switching it up. Groups will now be labeled either “Public” or “Private.”

That means that groups that were previously “Closed” or “Secret” will now share the designation of “Private,” meaning that only members of the group can see who’s in the group or what has been posted. The distinction is that there’s now a second metric — whether or not the group is “Visible,” which denoted if the group can be found via search. For groups that were previously “Closed,” the migration to the classification will leave them “Visible” while “Secret” groups will remain “Hidden.”

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In a way, this is kind of just Facebook throwing more privacy-related labels in their app to change perceptions while the feature sets stay the same, but denoting the visibility of a “closed” group in search was probably the biggest point of confusion here that Facebook was aiming to rectify. There’s a clear editorial message with Facebook conveying that there are shades and nuances to what “Private” means on Facebook compared to “Public,” which is unwavering and defaulted.

The point of the previous labels was to make privacy settings easier to grasp with a single word. Facebook didn’t hit a home run with those labels, but it kind of feels like you really need to see this graphic to fully get the differentiations to Groups now, which probably isn’t the best sign.

Twitter exec says edit button isn’t ‘anywhere near the top of our priorities’

At a press event in San Francisco, Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour talked about a number of product changes coming to the company’s service; he also addressed the oft-memed user request for an edit button. Long story, short, you shouldn’t expect to see the button anytime soon.

“Honestly, it’s a feature that I think we should build at some point, but it’s not anywhere near the top of our priorities,” Beykpour said. “That’s the honest answer.”

The executive said that there were some obvious risk factors but that he felt the company would eventually be able to build a feature to address user needs like correcting a typo or clarifying what they meant to say.

Twitter announced earlier in the event that the company is testing the ability to let users follow topics the same way they would ordinarily follow accounts.

Twitter tests ways for users to follow and snooze specific topics

You may soon be able to organize Twitter’s web of hashtags and handles in a smarter way — that is, if the company can pull off its ambitious new rethinking of the app’s timelines.

The company isn’t getting rid of the process of following users, but at a press event in SF, company execs announced they are planning to push users to start following “topics” that bring in well-engaged tweets from a variety of accounts that the user might not necessarily follow. Twitter is currently testing the feature on Android with topics focused around sports, “from MMA to Formula 1” to specific professional franchises.

The company plans to greatly expand the scope of these topics so that fans will be able to have timelines devoted to BTS and skincare routines. The feature is focused on helping users find new accounts and communities into which they can dive deeper.

The company is curating the overall topics manually, but Twitter will be relying on machine learning to intelligently populate the topics themselves so that the tweets can stay up to date. The company is also testing the ability to not only follow topics in your central timeline, but create your own secondary timelines into which you can bring multiple topics, accounts and hashtags.

A feature that Twitter says it is also starting to experiment with is the ability to temporarily unfollow a topic so you can keep certain tweets out of your timeline, like tweets chronicling an ongoing finale of a TV show or a football game. You can currently mute specific words and accounts indefinitely or for a finite amount of time.

PopBase launches its platform for social media stars to share and monetize their work

It’s been almost a year since PopBase first launched on the Battlefield Stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018.

In the ensuing months the company has been working hard to sign up influencers and get its platform for social media stars ready for prime time. The company is launching its early access release today… enabling social media stars of all stripes to use PopBase as a new tool for exclusive distribution and monetization.

The company has already signed up an impressive roster of talent. The list includes YouTube entertainers like Snarled, Caleb Hyles and Mr. Creepy Pasta, who collectively have around 4.3 million followers, and emerging TikTok stars like Leanne Bailey and Mihaiu Dania, who have 6.5 million followers between them.

Snarled

Logo for Snarled

Social media entertainers today have very few channels available to them to monetize their following. YouTube doesn’t pay that well, they say, and other, newer platforms like TikTok are still ironing out the kinks of how to monetize their incredible reach.

As we reported at the time of its launch, PopBase is designed to take the relationship between a social media celebrity and their audience beyond videos and encourage a more interactive experience.

As we reported at the time of the company’s launch, that means interactive quizzes and exclusive video clips, but the company plans to enable games, augmented reality experiences, collectibles and more.

For Binary Bubbles, the Los Angeles-based company behind PopBase, it’s a chance to help creative users of social media monetize their work.

Creators take a 60% cut of all revenue with the remainder going to Binary Bubbles. But creators who really succeed in generating revenue through the channel could see their share of the proceeds rise to 70%, according to chief executive Lisa Wong.

“PopBase is all about brand expansion,” said Wong, in a statement. “The platform was built to allow creators to expand their brand into new mediums. Our tools were built by creators, for creators. We believe that creators today are special, building their brands on personality, responsiveness, and playfulness. And we’re designing our tools and tech to leverage that.”

Wong, who spent over 25 years working in the video game industry for companies like Sony PlayStation and Activision, started Binary Bubbles in January 2017 alongside CTO Richard Weeks and CBDO Amit Tishler. Wong reconnected with Weeks — a programmer whose past employers include Lucas Art — when they both worked on an AR project, and the addition of Tishler, who is an artist/animator, rounded out the founding team.

Reports say White House has drafted an order putting the FCC in charge of monitoring social media

The White House is contemplating issuing an executive order that would widen its attack on the operations of social media companies.

The White House has prepared an executive order called “Protecting Americans from Online Censorship” that would give the Federal Communications Commission oversight of how Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies monitor and manage their social networks, according to a CNN report.

Under the order, which has not yet been announced and could be revised, the FCC would be tasked with developing new regulations that would determine when and how social media companies filter posts, videos or articles on their platforms.

The draft order also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to take those new policies into account when investigating or filing lawsuits against technology companies, according to the CNN report.

Social media censorship has been a perennial talking point for President Donald Trump and his administration. In May, the White House set up a tip line for people to provide evidence of social media censorship and a systemic bias against conservative media.

In the executive order, the White House says it received more than 15,000 complaints about censorship by the technology platforms. The order also includes an offer to share the complaints with the Federal Trade Commission.

As part of the order, the Federal Trade Commission would be required to open a public complaint docket and coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission on investigations of how technology companies curate their platforms — and whether that curation is politically agnostic.

Under the proposed rule, any company whose monthly user base includes more than one-eighth of the U.S. population would be subject to oversight by the regulatory agencies. A roster of companies subject to the new scrutiny would include Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Snap and Pinterest .

At issue is how broadly or narrowly companies are protected under the Communications Decency Act, which was part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Social media companies use the Act to shield against liability for the posts, videos or articles that are uploaded from individual users or third parties.

The Trump administration aren’t the only politicians in Washington are focused on the laws that shield social media platforms from legal liability. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took technology companies to task earlier this year in an interview with Recode.

The criticisms may come from different sides of the political spectrum, but their focus on the ways in which tech companies could use Section 230 of the Act is the same.

The White House’s executive order would ask the FCC to disqualify social media companies from immunity if they remove or limit the dissemination of posts without first notifying the user or third party that posted the material, or if the decision from the companies is deemed anti-competitive or unfair.

The FTC and FCC had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.