All posts in “Social”

Twitter says its fighting the ‘targeted abuse and harassment’ of Parkland survivors

Lorenzo Prado, a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks at the Florida State Capitol building on February 21, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida.
Lorenzo Prado, a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks at the Florida State Capitol building on February 21, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Image: Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)Getty Images

Twitter is stepping in to deal with the “targeted abuse and harassment” facing many of the survivors of the Parkland shooting.

Since the teens have emerged as powerful voices on social media following last week’s shooting, they’ve had to face what many other high profile Twitter users before them have dealt with: abuse and harassment. 

This time, the social media platform is wasting no time in addressing the issue which “goes against everything we stand for at Twitter.” The company says it’s “actively working on” responding to reports of abuse and harassment.

It’s also using its anti-spam tools “to weed out malicious automation” targeting Parkland survivors and “the topics they are raising.” (Earlier in the day, Twitter announced new rules meant to crack down on bots.)

Twitter also confirmed that it had verified “a number of” accounts of Parkland survivors. The company previously announced plans for a new verification system earlier in the year, after it paused the program following widespread criticism

Twitter’s updates come as the Parkland survivors have morphed into very vocal and public faces leading a new debate about gun control in the country. That role has quickly made them targets for harassment and conspiracy theories, which have also cropped up on Facebook and YouTube.

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Snapchat responds to the Change.org petition complaining about the app’s redesign


Snapchat has posted an official response to users who signed a petition on Change.org asking the company to reverse its controversial update, which people say makes the app more difficult to use. In the response, Snapchat promises to make a few more changes to the Friends and Discover section in order to address user complaints.

These changes were announced yesterday, along with GIF stickers from Giphy.

The backlash against Snapchat has been growing in the months since the company rolled out a major revamp, which aimed to make the social app more accessible to a mainstream audience. Snapchat users have left the app bad reviews, complained on social media, turned to rival Instagram, and they signed a Change.org petition entitled, “Remove the new Snapchat update.”

Users are upset over a number of things in the new design, including the mixing of Stories in a single “Friends” page, increased difficulties with finding friends and rewatching Stories, and a revamped Discover section which combines content from professional creators, big news outlets, video makers, and social media stars.

Tweets complaining about the update have gone viral.

Celebrities, like Chrissy Teigen, and YouTuber Marques Brownlee (MKBHD), have also weighed in.

The Change.org petition didn’t delve into the specifics regarding the changes Snapchat users hate, but says the update is “annoying,” and has made “many features more difficult.” It asks Snap, Inc. to “change the app back to the basics.”

To date, Snapchat has been vigorously standing behind the update, with Snap CEO Evan Spiegel saying earlier this month that, basically, people just need time to get used to it.

“It’ll take time for people to adjust, but for me using it for a couple months I feel way more attached to the service,” said Spiegel.

The user backlash is reminiscent of the one Facebook had faced years ago, when users rebelled over the addition of News Feed which radically changed the Facebook experience. News Feed was ultimately a success; whether Snapchat can pull through is still unknown.

Snap’s earnings, however, pointed to the redesign’s potential to positively impact the company’s numbers. Publisher Stories on Discover grew 40 percent compared to the old design, and users older than 35 were engaging with the app more, the company said, when posting its first earnings beat. 

But many users, right now, are not happy. As of February 13, 2018, the Change.org petition had grown to over 800,000 signatures. Today, it stands at 1,223,722, as of the time of writing.

Last night, Snapchat posted an official response to the petition, reiterating its stance but also promising a few tweaks that may help to address users’ concerns.

Specifically, the company said that “beginning soon on iOS and with Android in the coming weeks” it will introduce tabs in the Friends section and in Discover, which it says will make it easier for users to find the Stories they want. This update will let users sort things like Stories, Group Chats, and Subscriptions. (You can read more about this here.)

Whether these tabs will placate users who just want the old Snapchat back remains to be seen.

Snapchat’s full response is below:

FEB 20, 2018 — To Nic and all of the Snapchatters who signed this petition,

We hear you, and appreciate that you took the time to let us know how you feel. We completely understand the new Snapchat has felt uncomfortable for many.

By putting everything from your friends in one place, our goal was to make it easier to connect with the people you care about most. The new Friends page will adapt to you and get smarter over time, reflecting who you’re most likely to be Snapping with at that moment. This same personalization is also true of the new Discover, which will adapt to you the more that you use it.

Beginning soon on iOS, and with Android in the coming weeks, we are introducing tabs in Friends and Discover, which will make it easier to find the Stories that you want, when you want them. Once you receive the update, you’ll be able to sort things like Stories, Group Chats, and Subscriptions, allowing you to further customize your own experience on the app.

This new foundation is just the beginning, and we will always listen closely to find new ways to make the service better for everyone. We are grateful for your enthusiasm and creativity. We are very excited for what’s ahead.

Love,
Team Snapchat

Facebook Messenger now lets you add more people to in-progress calls


Facebook Messenger now lets you add more people to a voice or video call without hanging up first. The new feature is available with the latest Android and iOS Messenger update.

Previously, users who wanted to turn a one-on-one call into a group call needed to end the call, then go through the process of starting another call. In Messenger, this meant they needed to create a new group chat first or look in their inbox for an existing chat to launch the call from. The new feature saves time by showing users an “add person” icon when they tap the screen during an in-progress call. As with other group calls on Facebook Messenger, after everyone hangs up, they remain part of an automatically created group chat.

Facebook Messenger launched group audio and video calls in 2016. At that time, it was the first of the top Western messaging apps to offer group video calls (WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, introduced the feature in December 2015). While a relatively small update, letting people add more friends to in-progress calls better positions Facebook Messenger to compete against Skype, Google Hangout, Line and other VoIP call providers that already give users the option, as well as group calling apps like Houseparty.

Featured Image: Nur Photo/Getty Images

Facebook inks music licensing deal with ICE covering 160 territories, 290K rightsholders on FB, Insta, Oculus and Messenger


Facebook today took its latest step towards making good on paying out royalties to music rightsholders around tracks that are used across its multiple platforms and networks. The company has signed a deal with ICE Services — a licensing group and copyright database of some 31 million works that represents PRS in the UK, STIM in Sweden and GEMA in Germany — to provide music licensing and royalty collection for works and artists represented by the group, when their music is used on Facebook, Instagram, Oculus and Messenger.

WhatsApp is not included because “We understand that WhatsApp is currently used as a pure communication tool akin to private email / messaging,” a spokesperson for ICE told TechCrunch. “This will be kept under review.”

The deal is significant because, as ICE describes it, it’s the first multi-territorial license Facebook has signed with an online licensing hub: it will cover 160 territories and 290,000 rightsholders.

So what will this be used for? Facebook has moved into a lot of different services over the years, but a streaming music operation to compete with the likes of (soon-to-be public) Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music has not been one of them.

However, in recent times it has been laying the groundwork to sign deals with record labels and others to make sure that the music that is used in videos and other items posted to its sites is legit and paid for to avoid lawsuits, takedown requests, and — yes — potentially the creation of new music-based services down the road, as it starts to tap into the opportunities that music affords it.

These days, music is particularly an interesting turn for Facebook. The social network has run into a lot of controversy for its prominent role in aggregating and distributing news to the world — with a significant part of that news turning out to be misleading and potentially damaging to public opinions and larger issues like the democratic process. Facebook, in turn, is looking for new and alternative content to continue driving people to its platform, and music could help it strike the right note, so to speak.

There are no financial terms being announced today by ICE and Facebook — we’ve asked Facebook, and an ICE spokesperson tells us that “ICE is one of a number of licensors of publishing rights and therefore the commercial terms associated with the deal must remain confidential. There is a robust and detailed governance process which operates to assess the detail of major ICE licence deals and includes representation from writers and publishers of ICE’s customers.”

For some context, a report in September alleged that the social network is cutting deals in the hundreds of millions of dollars to set this right.

Other deals that Facebook has cut in the past several months have included an agreement with Universal Music Group over user-generated videos; another with Sony/ATV; and a third with Kobalt, HFA/Rumblefish and Global Music Rights. Facebook also has also pursued a secondary route of giving creators access to “no-name” music via a new service it’s launched called Sound Collection. ICE represents a number of artists and labels who would fall outside of those agreements either because of territorial coverage and/or label and licensing ties.

The deal will not only cover videos and the like that are uploaded by its 2.1 billion registered users (1.4 billion daily users) to Facebook, Instagram, Oculus and Messenger, but will also be added in a catalogue that people can tap into when they are creating and adding them to those platforms from scratch. Sound Collection isn’t cited by name in the press release from ICE but it sounds like it could be a part of that effort, meaning that this could be the first time that Facebook will be adding premium music to Sound Collection.

“We are delighted to continue deepening our relationship with music by partnering with ICE in a first-of-its-kind licensing deal,” said Anjali Southward, Head of International Music Publishing Business Development at Facebook, in a statement. “Facebook’s journey with music is just beginning and we look forward to working with ICE and songwriters to build a community together around music.”

ICE says that it will provide will be working with Facebook to build a royalties reporting system as part of the deal. The company already has similar arrangements in place with 40 other streaming platforms and has distributed 300 million euros in royalties to its members since it was established in 2016. (Why only 2016? Previously the three organizations worked independently and saw they could get much better bargaining power if they worked collectively).

Indeed, royalty collecting is a potentially lucrative business as streaming services continue to grow and overtake other formats for music consumption, with startups like Kobalt building services that it claims are better and faster at tracking even the smallest samples to make sure that those who are making their music are getting their due.

“We are excited to work with Facebook to ensure we are delivering value back to creators for the use of their works on Facebook platforms. The future of music depends on our industries working together to enable the development of new models for music consumption in the digital age, to ensure a healthy future for songwriters and composers.” said Ben McEwen, Commercial Director at ICE Services, in a statement.

Updated with further comment from ICE.

Twitter updates its policy on tweets that encourage self-harm and suicide


Twitter, which is constantly criticized for not doing enough to prevent harassment, has updated its guidelines with more information on how it handles tweets or accounts that encourage other people to hurt themselves or commit suicide.

The update follows an announcement by Twitter Safety last week that users can now report profiles, tweets and direct messages that encourage self-harm and suicide.

In a new section on its Help Center titled “Glorifying self-harm and suicide,” Twitter outlined its approach to tweets or accounts that promote or encourage self-harm and suicide. The company says its policy against encouraging other people to hurt themselves is meant to work in tandem with its self-harm prevention measures as part of a “two-pronged approach” that involves “supporting people who are undergoing experiences with self-harm or suicidal thoughts, but prohibiting the promotion or encouragement of self-harming behaviors.” Twitter already has a form that lets users report threats of self-harm or suicide and a team that assesses tweets and reaches out to users they believe are at risk.

Twitter says offenders may be temporarily locked out of their account the first time they violate the policy and their tweets encouraging self-harm or suicide removed. Repeat offenders may have their accounts suspended.

Last fall, Twitter published a new version of its policies toward abuse, spam, self-harm and other issues, following a promise by chief executive officer Jack Dorsey that it would be more aggressive about preventing harassment. Publishing stricter guidelines and putting them into practice, however, are two different things. Many of Twitter’s critics still believe the platform doesn’t do enough to enforce its anti-harassment measures and must provide more information about exactly what kind of content results in a suspension. For example, telling someone to “kill yourself” arguably violates its guidelines, but a quick search of #killyourself returns many recent results, including tweets aimed at specific people.

Featured Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images