All posts in “Gifs”

Snapchat brings back GIPHY after removal due to racist GIF

After a racial slur GIF caused Snapchat to remove its GIPHY sticker feature, Snapchat confirms to TechCrunch it’s reinstated its integration. GIPHY has apologized, fixed the bug that let the objectionable GIF slip through, and reviewed its GIF sticker library four times in an effort to guarantee that offensive content won’t end up in apps that embed it. Instagram had also removed GIPHY, but reinstated it last week with Snapchat saying it had nothing to share yet.

A Snap spokesperson told TechCrunch that over the past several weeks, the Snap team worked with GIPHY to revamp its moderation systems. Now Snap is confident that the fresh approach will protect users, so its brought the GIF stickers back. They let people embellish their photos and videos with overlaid animated illustrations and video clips.

So ends a month-long ordeal that started when a U.K. user spotted a GIF containing a racial slur for people of color. Snapchat removed the GIPHY feature as press backlash in the U.K. mounted. Instagram wasn’t aware of the issue until informed by TechCrunch, leading it to remove the GIPHY feature within an hour.

Warning: We’ve shared a censored version of the GIF below, but it still includes graphic content that may be offensive to some users.

The situation highlights the risks of working with outside developers that aren’t entirely under a platform’s control. Piping in external utilities lets apps quickly expand their offering to users. But if developers misuse people’s data, deliver broken functionality, or let objectionable content through, it can reflect poorly on the app hosting them. Facebook is currently dealing with this backlash surrounding Cambridge Analytica. Meanwhile, Instagram just severely restricted its APIs without warning, breaking many developers’ apps in what’s believed to be part of Facebook’s push to shore up data privacy.

Favoring news publishers, Snapchat historically never actively embraced developers, banning use of outside apps that require your Snapchat credentials. It’s more recently started letting devs build and promote their own augmented reality lenses. But after this set-back, we’ll have to see if Snapchat becomes any more reluctant to work with partners.

Instagram reenables GIF sharing after GIPHY promises no more racism

A racial slur GIF slipped into GIPHY’s sticker library earlier this month, prompting Instagram and Snapchat to drop their GIPHY integrations. Now Instagram is reactivating after GIPHY confirmed its reviewed its GIF library four times and will preemptively review any new GIFs it adds. Snapchat said it had nothing to share right now about whether it’s going to reactivate GIPHY.

“We’ve been in close contact with GIPHY throughout this process and we’re confident that they have put measures in place to ensure that Instagram users have a good experience” an Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch. GIPHY told TechCrunch in a statement that “To anyone who was affected: we’re sorry. We take full responsibility for this recent event and under no circumstances does
GIPHY condone or support this kind of content . . . We have also finished a full investigation into our content moderations systems and processes and have made specific changes to our process to ensure soemthing like this does not happen again.”

We first reported Instagram was building a GIPHY integration back in January before it launched a week later, with Snapchat adding a similar feature in February. But it wasn’t long before things went wrong. First spotted by a user in the U.K. around March 8th, the GIF included a racial slur. We’ve shared a censored version of the image below, but warning, it still includes graphic content that may be offensive to some users.

When asked, Snapchat told TechCrunch ““We have removed GIPHY from our application until we can be assured that this will never happen again.” Instagram wasn’t aware that the racist GIF was available in its GIPHY integration until informed by TechCrunch, leading to a shut down of the feature within an hour. An Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch “This type of content has no place on Instagram.” After 12 hours of silence, GIPHY responded the next morning, telling us “After investigation of the incident, this sticker was available due to a bug in our content moderation filters specifically affecting GIF stickers.”

The fiasco highlights the risks of major platforms working with third-party developers to brings outside and crowdsourced content into their apps. Snapchat historically resisted working with established developers, but recently has struck more partnerships particularly around augmented reality lenses and marketing service providers. While it’s an easy way to provide more entertainment and creative expression tools, developer integrations also force companies to rely on the quality and safety of things they don’t fully control. As Instagram and Snapchat race for users around the world, they’ll have to weigh the risks and rewards of letting developers into their gardens.

GIPHY’s full statement is below.

CHANGES TO GIPHY’S STICKER MODERATION
Before we get into the details, we wanted to take a moment and sincerely apologize for the
deeply offensive sticker discovered by a user on March 8, 2018. To anyone who was affected:
we’re sorry. We take full responsibility for this recent event and under no circumstances does
GIPHY condone or support this kind of content.
The content was immediately removed and after investigation a bug was found in our content
moderation filters affecting stickers. This bug was immediately fixed and all stickers were re-
moderated.
We have also finished a full investigation into our content moderation systems and processes
and have made specific changes to our process to ensure something like this does not happen
again.

THE CHANGES
After fixing the bug in our content moderation filters and confirming that the sticker was
successfully detected, we re-moderated our entire sticker library 4x.
We have also added another level of GIPHY moderation before each sticker is approved into
the library. This is now a permanent addition to our moderation process.
We hope this will ensure that GIPHY stickers will always be fun and safe no matter where you
see them.

THE FUTURE AND BEYOND
GIFs and Stickers are supposed to make the Internet a better, more entertaining place.
GIPHY is committed to making sure that’s always the case. As GIPHY continues to grow, we’re
going to continue looking for ways to improve our user experience. Please let us know how we
can help at: support@giphy.com.
Team Giphy.

Giphy held talks to raise a massive new funding round


We’re hearing from a number of sources that Giphy, the big platform for hosting GIFs that also runs a GIF keyboard, set out to raise huge new financing round — though it’s not clear if it ever crossed the finish line.

Sources pegged the round at something as high as around $100 million, but that may have changed over time. We’ve been hearing about this attempted round for some time now, and whispers of this seem to have started a few months ago. As always, it’s possible that the talks  may have changed over time — or in the end, Giphy may have not have gone with financing at all for the time being. Giphy last raised $72 million at a reported $600 million valuation at the end of 2016.

But the consumer investing environment isn’t necessarily dead, or even in purgatory, right now. HQ Trivia, for example, was able to raise $15 million at a $100 million valuation. This comes amid a time when the GIF space at large seems to be heating up. Given that the space seems to be growing quickly, it makes sense to try to raise additional capital in order to secure the right partnerships — and also get the right talent on board to optimize the experience so users are getting the right GIFs at the right moments and keep coming back to the platform over and over again. Given the growth, and that the business model isn’t fully fleshed out, it makes sense that Giphy could use some additional cash.

The apps in the space clearly have momentum. Giphy says it has 300 million daily active users — which, depending on who you ask in the Valley, could have a number of different interpretations. One of Giphy’s competitors, Tenor, points to searches on its platform as a success metric — saying that it hit 12 billion GIF searches in February. Gfycat, meanwhile, is positioning itself as a company geared around creator tools with mechanisms that optimize the fidelity of the inbound GIF, which also says it has around 130 million monthly active users. Gfycat raised $10 million in 2016, while Tenor (formerly Riffsy) raised $10 million in 2015.

It also presents a unique opportunity for all these platforms to start thinking about sponsored content. For example, if you open up a GIF search engine inside of a keyboard, one of these companies could plant a sponsored GIF right inside the search rail. Should it be sticky enough and hit the right sweet spot, it could get incredibly high share counts, and as a result offer a lot of reach for those companies looking to make GIFs.

This kind of branded content model is usually tied in with messaging, but GIFs could offer leagues more engagement than the average ad — which is what advertisers are looking for.

You’ll find a lot of Gfycat links around the Internet, but some of the most fertile ground for these platforms exists within the various messenger platforms. Facebook Messenger, for example, uses these platforms more or less indiscriminately — switching between services relatively easy as it looks to just optimize the user experience and give them the best content. But for iMessage, for example, users install a specific keyboard. Neither of these apps are exactly blockbusters (nor should they be compared to apps like Facebook).

Here’s the Giphy app, where you can search for GIFs and copy them and such, for the last 90 days:

GIFs are increasingly popular, partly thanks to their ability to compress a ton of information into a short clip. This compression allows for punchy, memorable communication, which is great for messaging but also great for ads.

While you could easily write out a text that tries to translate that information, searching for a GIF that translates not just the text but also the kind of subtext offers a ton of value. It’s thanks to that these platforms have risen to such prominence — both with Giphy’s own 300 million daily active user number and Tenor’s 12 billion monthly searches number. They take different approaches to measuring their success, but the point remains that this represents a pretty massive opportunity.

We reached out to Giphy several times for comment, but did not hear back. We’ll update the story when we hear back from them.

Kano’s latest gadget: a build-it-yourself camera for custom photo filters and GIFs


After raising $28 million last November to add more firepower to its growth, Kano is unveiling the newest addition to its range of build-it-yourself gadgets that you use to learn to code: a camera.

London-based Kano is using this week’s CES in Las Vegas to show off a full prototype of the new Camera Kit — designed to work with Kano’s existing suite of gadgets, which include a computer kit, a motion sensor and the Pixel animated lightbox.

The camera is launching at an unspecified date later this year, so there’s no official price attached to it yet (although a Kickstarter page giving a sneak peak of it last year said it would cost $129.99). You can register your interest for ordering one here.

As with its previous hardware — which has been used by around 200,000 people globally, who have coded and posted to Kano’s community over more than 380,000 apps, artworks, songs and games that they’ve created using that hardware — the idea behind the Kano’s camera is two-fold.

First, the company aims to make tech and the use of it more accessible by demystifying how it works by giving people the components and instructions to assemble the camera themselves. Second, it then carries on the step-by-step nature by gradually introducing different functions and showing users how to use them to build software for their newly-assembled hardware.

While the lightbox, for example, let you create light-based artwork and games, the camera gives users the ability to “code” it to make different photo filters, GIFs, and to modify the settings for how the image is captured in the first place.

Adding a camera into the mix is an important step for Kano.

With the rise of smartphones and mobile phones in general — and their move into becoming a near-ubiquitous computing and communications device for younger people — the camera has become one of the most significant and used features of these devices. These days, having a device for capturing and manipulating images would feel like something important is missing, not just for users but for Kano itself as part of its mission.

“What we are doing here has not really been attempted for several decades,” CEO and co-founder Alex Klein told me last year. “We are building a computing company end to end.” 

What this also means is that having one as part of the Kano suite gives the whole platform a new profile with a new group of users. There will always be those who are happy tinkering with any gadget and learning how it works, but potentially, those who may be less interested in building games, might be more interested in figuring out how a digital camera works and customising it.

“Our goal is to open up technology, so that anyone can understand and shape it,” said Klein in a statement today. “We are thrilled to bring simple, playful, creative computing to CES for the first time.”

Part of that mission has been also to use different channels to appeal to a wider audience. That’s included revealing new devices and uses in YouTube videos, and sneak-peaks on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter. The page where Kano had first unveiled the camera among other new gadgets last year has already picked up more than $643,000 in backing.

Kano also, of course, also uses more traditional routes to sell products. Its devices are sold in Best Buys and Targets in North America, selected Walmart stores, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Indigo, Microsoft, The Source and Toys R Us — some 4,500 retailers in all.

Indonesia wanted to block WhatsApp because people are sending ‘obscene GIFs’

Image: RITCHIE B. TONGO/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

WhatsApp appears to be the latest social media platform to run afoul of Indonesia’s censorship rules.

The populous Southeast Asian nation on Monday vowed to block WhatsApp within 48 hours, if it did not ensure that “obscene” GIFs were removed from the platform.

Indonesia later dropped its threat after Tenor, WhatsApp’s third party GIF provider, appeared to have fixed the issue.

“We see now that they have done what we asked. Therefore we won’t block them,” the director general from Indonesia’s communication and informatics ministry, Semuel Pangerapan told Reuters on Tuesday.

WhatsApp relies on both Tenor and Giphy to provide GIFs to users, and randomly assigns users to either GIF database. Giphy didn’t appear to have the issue, because it offers its clients the option to filter sensitive content.

According to Reuters, iPhone users were unable to access Tenor GIFs on Tuesday, with Tenor saying that it had “already implemented a fix for the content issues.”

Tenor is one of WhatsApp's third-party GIF providers

Tenor is one of WhatsApp’s third-party GIF providers

Image: mashable

WhatsApp is the country’s fourth most popular messaging app, with approximately 39 million users on it, according to research site eMarketer.

Initially, Indonesian authorities were alarmed by reports of “obscene” content circulating on the platform.

“If there is no response [by] Wednesday, we are blocking [WhatsApp],” Pangerapan had told local news outlet Detik on Monday.

But WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, had said that it could not monitor content because communications were encrypted and GIFs were run by third-party providers.

“We’ve directed the Indonesia government to work with these third-party providers to review their content,” Facebook spokeswoman Charlene Chian had told news outlet ABC.

Clamping down on Google too

It doesn’t end there.

Indonesia on Tuesday added that they were also calling on Google to “clean up” its network.

The Muslim-majority country said it would summon representatives of messaging services and search engines, including Alphabet Inc — Google’s parent company.

“We will call all providers, including Google to clean up their network,” said Pangerapan.

Indonesia has strict anti-pornography laws and authorities have been increasingly tightening its grip on the internet.

Earlier this year, Indonesia briefly blocked popular messaging service Telegram, fearing that it was being used by terror groups.

The country also placed a temporary block on Netflix earlier last year, saying that they displayed “violence and adult content.”

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