social media

Facebook’s latest experiment is a meme creation app, Whale

Facebook’s NPE Team, a division inside the social networking giant that will build experimental consumer-facing social apps, has now added a third app to its lineup with the launch of meme creation app Whale. Currently, the app allows users to decorate photos with text and stickers in order to create memes that can be shared to social media or texted to friends. The app isn’t all that original, given the plethora of image-editing apps on the App Store today with similar feature sets. But it does have the advantage of being free to use without in-app purchases or subscriptions. In Whale, users can take a photo, select a picture from their camera roll, or browse the app’s library of stock images in order to create a meme. Blank, 2-grid, 3-grid, and 4-grid canvas layouts are...

Social network for motherhood Peanut raises $5M, expands to include women trying to conceive

Peanut, an app that began its life as a match-maker for finding new mom friends but has since evolved into a social network of more than a million women, announced today it has closed on $5 million in new funding and is expanding its focus to reach women who are trying to conceive. The round was led by San Francisco and London-based VC firm Index Ventures, also backers of Dropbox, Facebook and Glossier, among others. Other Peanut investors include Sweet Capital, Greycroft, Aston Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, Female Founders Fund, Felix Capital and Partech. To date, Peanut has raised $9.8 million. The idea for Peanut arose from co-founder Michelle Kennedy’s personal understanding of how difficult it was to forge female friendships after motherhood. As the former deputy CEO at dating...

A US federal court finds suspicionless searches of phones at the border is illegal

A federal court in Boston has ruled that the government is not allowed to search travelers’ phones or other electronic devices at the U.S. border without first having reasonable suspicion of a crime. That’s a significant victory for civil liberties advocates, who say the government’s own rules allowing its border agents to search electronic devices at the border without a warrant are unconstitutional. The court said the government’s policies on warrantless searches of devices without reasonable suspicion “violate the Fourth Amendment,” which provides constitutional protections against warrantless searches and seizures. The case was brought by 11 travelers — 10 of whom are U.S. citizens — with support from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electr...

Dutch court orders Facebook to ban celebrity crypto scam ads after another lawsuit

A Dutch court has ruled that Facebook can be required to use filter technologies to identify and pre-emptively take down fake ads linked to crypto currency scams that carry the image of a media personality, John de Mol, and other well known celebrities. The Dutch celerity filed a lawsuit against Facebook in April over the misappropriation of his and other celebrities’ likeness to shill Bitcoin scams via fake ads run on its platform. In an immediately enforceable preliminary judgement today the court has ordered Facebook to remove all offending ads within five days, and provide data on the accounts running them within a week. Per the judgement, victims of the crypto scams had reported a total of €1.7 million (~$1.8M) in damages to the Dutch government at the time of the court summons....

Instagram to hide like counts in the US beginning next week

Instagram will begin hiding like counts for most US-based users, and the change may come as soon as next week. Adam Mosseri, the CEO of Instagram, announced this news at the Wired25 event in San Francisco on Friday. Users will still see how many of their followers interacted with a post, but that information will no longer be public. The change is part of a broader push to “reduce anxiety” and “reduce social comparison,” (via TechCrunch). Mosseri explained, “The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and things that inspire them.” Instagram first experimented with hiding like counts in Canada earlier this year, and the change was lated implemented in Austral...

Facebook’s first experimental apps from its ‘NPE Team’ division focus on students, chat & music

This July, Facebook announced a new division called NPE Team which would build experimental consumer-facing apps, allowing the company to try out new ideas and features to see how people would react. It soon thereafter tapped former Vine GM Jason Toff to join the team as a product manager. The first apps to emerge from the NPE Team have now quietly launched. One, Bump, is a chat app that aims to help people make new friends through conversations, not appearances. Another, Aux, is a social music listening app. Aux seems a bit reminiscent of an older startup, Turntable.fm, that closed its doors in 2013. As in Turntable.fm, the idea with Aux is that of a virtual DJ’ing experience where people instead of algorithms are programming the music. This concept of crowdsourced DJ’ing also...

Banning digital political ads gives extremists a distinct advantage

Jessica Alter Contributor Share on Twitter Jessica Alter is co-founder and chairman of Tech for Campaigns, an organization building the lasting tech and digital arm for Democrats and has helped over 200 campaigns on this front since 2017. Jack Dorsey’s announcement that Twitter will no longer run political ads because “political messages reach should be earned, not bought” has been welcomed as a thoughtful and statesmanlike contrast to Mark Zuckerberg’s and Facebook’s greedy acceptance of “political ads that lie.” While the 240-character policy sounds compelling, it’s both flawed in principle and, I fear, counterproductive in practice.  First: like it or hate it, the U.S. political system is drowning in money. In 2018, a non-presidential year, it is estimated that over $9B was spent on the...

California accuses Facebook of ignoring subpoenas in state’s Cambridge Analytica investigation

California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra has accused Facebook of “continuing to drag its feet” by failing to provide documents to the state’s investigation into Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The attorney general said in a court filing Wednesday that Facebook had provided a “patently deficient” response to two sets of subpoenas for the previously undisclosed investigation started more than a year ago. “Facebook has provided no answers for nineteen interrogatories and produced no documents in response to six document requests,” the filing said. Among the documents sought are communications by executives, including chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, and documentation relating to the company’...

The Cop-Attacking Chilean Dog Who Became a Worldwide Symbol of Protest

Negro Matapacos in 2012 (photo by Mario Téllez) The streets of Santiago are once again alive with the spirit of revolution. For weeks now, working-class Chileans have occupied national monuments, blocked major intersections, and torched subway cars in protest of widespread inequality. They desire full reform  a request so long in the making that it is practically tradition. The country’s floundering political elite offer half measures while dispatching riot police and the military. Protestors stand their ground nonetheless, harnessing the raw energy of previous movements. The image of a black dog in a red bandana appears throughout the crowds and on social media, commemorating the bravery of a stray who once marched with rioters and defended them from authorities. This canine rebel, named ...

Twitter suspends accounts affiliated with Hamas and Hezbollah

Twitter suspended several accounts affiliated with Hamas and Hezbollah over the weekend after being repeatedly asked to do so by a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives. The lawmakers—Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Tom Reed (R-NY), Max Rose (D-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)—criticized the company for allowing the accounts to stay up even though Hamas and Hezbollah are designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the United States government. The accounts suspended include Hamas’ English and Arabic-language accounts and ones belonging to Al-Manar, a television station linked to Hezbollah, and Hamas-affiliated news service Quds News Network. Hamas’ suspended English-language Twitter account Twitter initially told the congressmen that it distinguishes between political and military fa...

Disinformation ‘works better than censorship,’ warns internet freedom report

A rise in social media surveillance, warrantless searches of travelers’ devices at the border, and the continued spread of disinformation are among the reasons why the U.S. has declined in internet freedom rankings, according to a leading non-profit watchdog. Although Freedom House said that the U.S. enjoys some of the greatest internet freedoms in the world, its placement in the worldwide rankings declined for the third year in a row. Last year’s single-point drop was blamed on the repeal of net neutrality. Iceland and Estonia remained at the top of the charts, according to the rankings, with China and Iran ranking with the least free internet. The report said that digital platforms, including social media, have emerged as the “new battleground” for democracy, wher...

Twitter’s political ads ban is a distraction from the real problem with platforms

Sometimes it feels as if Internet platforms are turning everything upside down, from politics to publishing, culture to commerce, and of course swapping truth for lies. This week’s bizarro reversal was the vista of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, a tech CEO famed for being entirely behind the moral curve of understanding what his product is platforming (i.e. nazis), providing an impromptu ‘tweet storm’ in political speech ethics. Actually he was schooling Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — another techbro renowned for his special disconnect with the real world, despite running a massive free propaganda empire with vast power to influence other people’s lives — in taking a stand for the good of democracy and society. So not exactly a full reverse then. In short,...

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