Category Archives: Social Media

Twitter explores interest in paid version of TweetDeck with more analytics

Twitter is testing the waters to see if highly engaged users would be interested in a paid subscription version of TweetDeck. There’s no indication to suggest that such a service will be available soon, but the idea could be to give power users and brands the tools to maximize reach on the service and showcase its real potential.

“We’re conducting a survey to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version of Tweetdeck,” a company spokesperson told VentureBeat in a statement. “We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people’s Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we’re exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals.”

Journalist Andrew Tavani spotted the survey and flagged it on (where else?) Twitter. In the survey, people are asked whether they would like an “advanced TweetDeck experience,” one that would help them keep track of what’s happening in the world, get more insights, and “see the broadest range of what people are saying on Twitter.” If brought to life, this version would be available for an undetermined monthly fee and would provide features to post, view, and receive alerts, trends, and more analytics than the rest of the 319 million monthly active users on the platform receive.

If you’re not familiar with TweetDeck, it’s a social media management tool similar to Hootsuite and was acquired by Twitter in 2011. And while Twitter has rolled out a host of changes and updates, it has done little to really update the TweetDeck experience. So this premium subscription version could be significant, transforming the tool into a more robust command center that lets brands and highly active users manage their presence, especially around how to communicate with followers and handle promoted tweets, livestreams through Periscope, and more.

One of Jack Dorsey’s priorities as Twitter chief executive has been to make the service easier to use, and while there’s a focus on bringing new users onboard, there’s also a need to help existing users optimize their time on the service. An advanced version of TweetDeck could alleviate some of these issues, while also opening up a new revenue stream for Twitter.

Social – VentureBeat

Coffee Meets Bagel launches premium membership for $35 per month


Dating app Coffee Meets Bagel today launched a premium membership for $ 35 per month. The option is rolling out to Android users today and to iOS users “in the next few weeks.”

Coffee Meets Bagel has offered in-app purchases from the very start (coffee beans are the in-app currency to unlock various features), but “the introduction of premium membership is our first step toward a freemium subscription model,” Coffee Meets Bagel cofounder Dawoon Kang told VentureBeat. The desire to monetize a dating app isn’t exactly daring, but the service is trying to set itself apart by offering users behind-the-scenes data “so we can put an end to ghosting.”

That’s a very bold claim to make, given that online dating is plagued with singles responding selectively (or not at all). Unless the app has read receipts or shows when the user was last active, there is no way of knowing if you’re being actively ignored or if your message was even read. Coffee Meets Bagel wants to empower users so they can “tell apart ghosters and flakes from those who actually engage in real conversations.”


Premium membership includes three features:

  1. Activity Reports: Four stats about each “bagel” — the percentage of times they engage in chats with their connections, percentage of time they send the first message, whether they have opened the app within the past 72 hours, and their average response time to messages.
  2. Read Receipts: For messages you’ve sent, you can see whether your connection read it and at what time (similar in design to Facebook Messenger).
  3. 6,000 Beans: A replenishment of the in-app currency every month. Given that 3,000 beans cost about $ 25, this is a great bonus.

There is a very fine line between giving users data to make informed decisions (I’m not going to pay beans to “take” the below bagel because that’s basically a dead account) and telling them so much that they get frustrated and lash out (“you read my message and still haven’t answered… why?”). The former is awesome: I was thrilled to discover that the data is available for everyone you check out in the app, not just those you have connected with.


The latter, meanwhile, can quickly spiral out of control if multiple matches seem to be ignoring you, as other dating services have discovered. Because Activity Reports and Read Receipts are limited to paying members, however, Coffee Meets Bagel may get away with only minimal issues. The other danger for the company is in the feature exposing that many of the app’s users are largely inactive — I was shocked that more than half of the bagels I looked at hadn’t been active in the last 72 hours and had a 0 percent response rate. On to the next!

The premium membership is certainly a nice addition, but it’s expensive. The beans make the subscription more worthwhile, and I’m not surprised they were included. The company can charge more and expect paying users to contribute more, resulting in more connections and chats in the overall ecosystem. Unsurprisingly, Coffee Meets Bagel doesn’t think its subscription is overpriced.

“Our most engaged users who are serious about finding someone already pay more than $ 35 a month on CMB,” Kang told VentureBeat. “They do it because making a meaningful connection is important to them. Is $ 35 really so much if you can find someone special?”

Still, in a world where Tinder Plus and Bumble Boost cost $ 10 per month each, you must really believe in Coffee Meets Bagel to pay more than triple that for a subscription.

Social – VentureBeat

Blackstorm Labs seizes the HTML5 instant games opportunity

Blackstorm Labs' EverWing on Facebook Messenger.

Facebook opened up a new gaming platform with Instant Games for Messenger in November. And Blackstorm Labs seized the chance to launch its own HTML5-based title called EverWing.

The creators of Instant Games hope that it will bring virality back to the social-mobile games business and offer a chance for breakout hits on messenger platforms. Those hits can spread on social, bypassing the app stores.

“We call ourselves the post-app-store company,” said Ernestine Fu, the cofounder of Blackstorm, in an interview with GamesBeat at the recent Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. “There’s a change in how software developers are creating apps and how consumers are consuming. You don’t have to develop an iOS or Android app to just play a game or consume a service.”

Ernestine Fu, co-founder of Blackstorm Labs.

Above: Ernestine Fu, cofounder of Blackstorm Labs.

Image Credit: Blackstorm Labs

HTML5 instant games are based on HTML5, the lingua franca of the web. They run in a browser and do not require a download. Such games are being built into social media and messenger systems so that the games are instantly available to play.

Bypassing apps can be disruptive because apps come with a lot of friction. Apps have to be advertised heavily because it’s hard to find them amid millions of other apps in the stores. Then they have to be downloaded and installed. Then the user has to open the app and play. Each one of those points is a source of friction where some of the potential users will drop off.

HTML5 games had problems for a long time, with the first games based on the HTML5 standard launching way back in 2008. Initial games were slow and didn’t perform well. But as smartphone hardware improved over time, the performance problems went away.

Blackstorm Labs' EverWing.

Above: Blackstorm Labs’ EverWing.

Image Credit: Blackstorm Labs

And now the games have a big advantage: If you distribute them on social platforms, you don’t have to give your 30 percent cut to the app stores. And most of the mobile browsers now have one-click payment platforms that make it easy to pay for games or items within the games.

In EverWing, you assume control of a fairy and then fly through various vertical-scrolling levels. You constantly shoot upward and try to take out monsters coming down on you. Blackstorm recently launched a Boss Raids feature in EverWing, where players can team up to fight a single boss. The players fight in real time in a player-versus-environment battle.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Blackstorm launched in the past year, with some of the team coming from Stanford University. It also picked up a number of former Storm8 employees after that company had a layoff. And it focused on making games for Facebook’s Messenger platform.

Blackstorm Labs in Mountain View, Calif.

Above: Blackstorm Labs in Mountain View, Calif.

Image Credit: Blackstorm Labs

“We’re huge believers in HTML5 apps and the new distribution platforms,” Fu said. “There’s only going to be a dozen really important super apps in the future, like messenger platforms like Facebook. They’re not going to completely wipe the app stores away, but the app store as we know it today is going to be completely different.”

Blackstorm is taking on the role of a publisher for instant games, so it will adapt games from other developers for the Messenger format. A couple of new games are coming soon.

“We’re open to considering other formats, but right now we are focused on HTML5,” Fu said.

Others in the market include Softgames, Big Viking Games, Mag Interactive, and various other casual game companies.

“There’s a lot of large and small companies looking at providing games in HTML5 and pushing it to the limits,” Fu said. “It’s time for the new billion-dollar disruption on top of the app stores.”

Social – VentureBeat

Facebook bars developers from using data to create surveillance tools

Facebook Mobile App

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc barred software developers on Monday from using the massive social network’s data to create surveillance tools, closing off a process that had been exploited by U.S. police departments to track protesters

Facebook, its Instagram unit and rival Twitter Inc came under fire last year from privacy advocates after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a report that police were using location data and other user information to spy on protesters in places such as Ferguson, Missouri.

In response to the ACLU report, the companies shut off the data access of Geofeedia, a Chicago-based data vendor that said it works with organizations to “leverage social media,” but Facebook policy had not explicitly barred such use of data in the future.

“Our goal is to make our policy explicit,” Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, said in a post on the social network on Monday. He was not immediately available for an interview.

The change would help build “a community where people can feel safe making their voices heard,” Sherman said.

Racially charged protests broke out in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in the aftermath of the August 2014 shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

In a 2015 email message, a Geofeedia employee touted its “great success” covering the protests, according to the ACLU report based on government records.

Representatives of Geofeedia could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. The company has worked with more than 500 law enforcement agencies, the ACLU said.

Geofeedia Chief Executive Officer Phil Harris said in October that the company was committed to privacy and would work to build on civil rights protections.

Major social media platforms including Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube have taken action or implemented policies similar to Facebook’s, said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of Northern California.

Ozer praised the companies’ action but said they should have stopped such use of data earlier. “It shouldn’t take a public records request from the ACLU for these companies to know what their developers are doing,” she said.

It was also unclear how the companies would enforce their policies, said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, a nonprofit that opposes government use of social media for surveillance.

Inside corporations, “is the will there, without constant activist pressure, to enforce these rules?” Cyril said.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Bernard Orr)


Social – VentureBeat

Facebook’s video strategy nets 1,055% higher share rate than YouTube


Native video is becoming hugely important. With 25 percent of U.S. users adopting an ad blocker last year, native content is how marketers are avoiding the cut.

And native video is one of the reasons influencer marketing and user-generated content has become so important.

In a study released today by social media analytics company Quintly  — that took in data from 6.2 million posts from 167,000 Facebook profiles throughout 2016 — one thing is clear. Native video has not only taken over Facebook, it has done so by design.

Facebook is determined to catch and pass YouTube in the video wars. In 2015, VB Insight studied both platforms and found that YouTube was still 11X bigger than Facebook. At the time, Americans spent an aggregate of 8,061 years on YouTube, compared to 713 years watching video on Facebook.

But with automatic video plays in the feed by default, and a design that downplays the importance of other video platforms, Facebook has been clawing away at YouTube’s dominant position.

“Our last video study already showed that Facebook native videos have been dominating the social network,” Nils Herrmann, digital communications manager at Quintly, told me. “But this study gives a more detailed understanding of this trend and just how substantial it is. It might not come as such a surprise that Facebook’s native videos are outperforming other formats, but what’s interesting is how those native videos performed on average 109 percent better than even YouTube videos. And that number rose as high as 186 percent in December 2016. Also that same month, we found that FB native videos held a 1055 percent higher share rate than YouTube videos. Given how popular YouTube remains on its own outside of Facebook, these numbers raised a few eyebrows!”

Facebook’s tactic of downplaying other formats has seen Vimeo shares almost disappear from the network entirely — only 2 percent of profiles included a Vimeo link in their feeds. And video is now so prevalent on Facebook that 53 percent of all Facebook profiles share video content on their feed.


The performance of native videos suggests that influencer marketing could be a big winner for marketers who want to win on Facebook. However, that is a double-edged sword for Mark Zuckerberg’s social network, since it isn’t monetizing these videos in the same way YouTube does.

“At the moment, Facebook native videos simply increase your share of voice through a higher reach than other formats based on the results of our study,” Herrmann said. “This is a good start for both companies and influencers to optimize their strategies, to measure and then adjust. After professional Facebook users build a more grown-up video strategy, Facebook is very likely to do something comparable as YouTube.”

The study includes a few other surprises and further indications that Facebook’s strategy around video-sharing and viewing is allowing the company to catch up with Google’s YouTube.

“For starters, over 90 percent of the analyzed profiles used Facebook native videos — that is 3X more than the use of YouTube videos,” Herrmann said. “And it’s consistent in nearly every analyzed group of different profile sizes that FB native videos were a strong player. We also found that the biggest profiles (with 10 million+ followers) are increasingly likely to use Facebook native videos — a 35 percent growth rate in usage was detected for this profile group alone between July and December 2016.”

With Facebook now pushing video to Samsung and Apple TVs via its new app, the message is clear — video is important.

“Facebook really has succeeded in having their native video format take precedent on their own social network,” Herrmann said. “While it would likely never fully replace the use and shares of YouTube and other formats, in the long run, we might see those become even more rarely used, while Facebook native videos will continue to dominate users’ news feeds everywhere.”

The full study, which also details video performance, share rates, and growth statistics, is available today.

Social – VentureBeat

Snap’s Evan Spiegel is now worth more than two Oprahs

Evan Spiegel in gold tie.

Media tycoon Sumner Redstone turned his ownership of theaters into an empire that controls MTV, Nickelodeon, and the movie studio that put out last year’s Arrival, Fences, and Zoolander 2. And he’s worth nearly $ 2.5 billion less than Evan Spiegel, the 26-year-old who founded Snapchat six years ago, when Redstone was 87.

On Thursday, investors bid up shares of Snapchat’s owner Snap Inc. from its IPO price of $ 17, to nearly $ 25. That gives Snap Inc a market value of $ 33 billion. All for a company that lost $ 515 million last year, leading some to suggest that Snap buyers should take the rose-colored filter off their investments. (Signs of a bubble? This Uber driver bought a single Snap share for $ 25. He’s already nearly $ 2 richer!)

Shares of Snap rose to just under $ 27 on Friday.

Snap Inc.’s booming IPO made a number of people quite a bit wealthier, including a number of venture capitalists and at least one high school. Perhaps the best measure of how well the IPO did, and perhaps a commentary on how exuberant investors are for the company, is just how much it boosted Spiegel’s net worth. Here’s 5 really, really wealthy people who are now poorer than Snapchat’s co-founder. (The net worth figures besides Spiegel’s are from Bloomberg, unless otherwise noted.)

Evan Spiegel
Net Worth: $ 6.0 billion

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 08: Bloomberg LP Founder Michael Bloomberg and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel speak onstage during "Disrupting Information and Communication" at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 8, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

Above: SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 08: Bloomberg LP Founder Michael Bloomberg and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel speak onstage during “Disrupting Information and Communication” at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 8, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

Image Credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Spiegel cashed in $ 272 million worth of stock in Snap’s IPO. Most of his net worth is tied up in the photo sharing company. At $ 27, that stake is worth nearly $ 5.7 billion.

Ralph Lauren
Net Worth:
$ 5.4 billion

Ralph Lauren greets the crowd after presenting his Spring/Summer 2016 collection during New York Fashion Week in September.

Above: Ralph Lauren greets the crowd after presenting his Spring/Summer 2016 collection during New York Fashion Week in September.

Image Credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The fashion designer has spent decades building an iconic brand that will likely outlive him. He’s got a very nice house, and he’s worth $ 600 million less than Spiegel.

Richard Branson
Net Worth:
$ 5.1 billion

Sir Richard Branson conducts a television interview at Perth Airport on May 7, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Virgin Australia purchased Perth-based regional airline, Skywest adding another 32 planes to it's fleet to expand the airlines regional operations in Australia.

Above: Sir Richard Branson conducts a television interview at Perth Airport on May 7, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Virgin Australia purchased Perth-based regional airline, Skywest adding another 32 planes to it’s fleet to expand the airlines regional operations in Australia.

Image Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Branson is buds with Obama, and working on getting people into space. He’s worth $ 900 million less than Spiegel.

Donald Trump
Net Worth:
$ 3.9 billion

President Trump.

Above: President Trump.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Trump says he’s worth “over $ 10 billion,” but the last time Fortune computed the figure we came up with a number that is now $ 2.1 billion less than what Spiegel is worth.

Oprah Winfrey
Net Worth:
$ 3.0 billion

Oprah Winfrey on stage during her An Evening With Oprah tour on December 2, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.

Above: Oprah Winfrey on stage during her An Evening With Oprah tour on December 2, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.

Image Credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Oprah, who is rich enough to give away garages full of cars, had a good day in the market on Thursday as well. Shares of Weight Watchers, which Oprah now owns 10 percent of, rose 36 percent on Thursday. Oprah’s stake in the company, which she paid roughly $ 40 million for, is now worth nearly $ 115 million. That’s not enough to keep up with Snapchat’s co-founder, though. The queen of media is worth $ 3 billion less than Spiegel.

Tim Cook
Net worth:
$ 785 million

Apple CEO Timothy Cook testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Investigations Subcommittee about the company's offshore profit shifting and tax avoidance in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill May 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. A Congressional report released Monday said that Apple, America's most profitable technology company, used a complex system of international subsidiaries and tax avoidance efforts to shift at least $ 74 billion from the reach of the Internal Revenue Service between 2009 and 2012.

Above: Apple CEO Timothy Cook testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Investigations Subcommittee about the company’s offshore profit shifting and tax avoidance in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill May 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. A Congressional report released Monday said that Apple, America’s most profitable technology company, used a complex system of international subsidiaries and tax avoidance efforts to shift at least $ 74 billion from the reach of the Internal Revenue Service between 2009 and 2012.

Image Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Cook is the CEO of Apple, which is the most valuable company in the world, worth nearly $ 700 billion more than Snapchat’s owner. It is also the maker of the devices on which most Snapchat user take their pictures. Cook, however, is worth over $ 5.2 billion less than Spiegel.

This story originally appeared on Copyright 2017

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Social – VentureBeat

NBCUniversal is betting $500 million on Snap

Snap IPO Snapchat NYSE New York Stock Exchange

(Reuters) – Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal said on Friday it had invested $ 500 million in Snap as it continues to spend heavily on digital media companies.

Snap’s shares jumped 8.6 percent to $ 26.59 in early trading. The company finished its first day of trading with a 44 percent gain compared to its IPO price of $ 17.00.

The investment was made as a part of the Snapchat owner’s initial public offering, NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke said in a memo to employees.

Earlier, CNBC reported that Snap’s stock allocation to NBCUniversal seems to be the only one made to a new strategic investor, making NBCUniversal the lone U.S. media company with a stake.

Comcast has invested heavily in digital-native companies such as BuzzFeed and Vox Media, partly in an effort to better service existing advertisers.

“With the Snap investment, we have invested over $ 1.5 billion in promising digital businesses in the last eighteen months,” Burke said in the memo.

NBCUniversal has already launched entertainment programs such as The Voice, SNL and E! News’ The Rundown on Snapchat. The media company said it expects to launch more Snapchat shows in the coming weeks.

NBCUniversal has agreed to hold Snap’s shares for at least a year, according to the CNBC report.

Snap disclosed last month that it expected investors buying up to a quarter of its shares in the company’s $ 3.4 billion initial public offering to agree not to sell them for a year.

Lock-up periods help companies moderate stock volatility by preventing company insiders from selling their shares within an allotted time.

NBCUniversal courted Snap co-founder Evan Spiegel for the past year, CNBC said, and both companies have been working on deepening their relationship.

Snap declined to comment beyond details noted in its prospectus and other U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Comcast’s shares were marginally lower.

(Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Anya George Tharakan; Editing by Maju Samuel)

snapchat IPO bannerforjordan

Social – VentureBeat

Hands-on with Facebook’s new video app for TVs: photos and first impressions

Facebook for Samsung TVs

A little more than two weeks after Facebook first revealed plans to launch a dedicated video app for TV screens, the company has finally started rolling it out, kicking off this week with Samsung TVs and Apple TV.

Though the company had given a hint as to what to expect from the app, we can now see what it looks like and how users are expected to engage with videos on the big screen.

Here’s a quick look at how Facebook’s shiny new app has shaped up, using the Samsung incarnation for the test.

Facebook video on the big screen

First, you’ll need to head to the relevant Apps section of your TV device and install the app. When you open it, Facebook asks you to visit “” from a PC or mobile device, through which you enter the code that’s given on your TV screen. This, essentially, is to save you having to manually type in your username / password through the TV remote — which could be pretty fiddly.

That said, in the case of Samsung, you can normally use your phone’s keypad to enter information and control things through the Samsung Smart View app — that doesn’t appear to be an option with the Facebook video app.

Facebook for Samsung TVs: Install

Above: Facebook for Samsung TVs: Install

Once you’re logged in, you’re presented with a horizontal carousel of videos that automatically play in sequence, though you can navigate to the next one using the arrow keys on the remote control.

The first category of videos you’ll see are those that have been shared to Facebook by your friends.

Facebook: Shared by Friends

Above: Shared by Friends

To go full screen on a video, just hit the “Enter” button on the remote.

Facebook Video: Full Screen

Above: Full Screen

Using the “Up” and “Down” arrows on your remote, you can then navigate between the various categories that Facebook has divided the videos into.

There is “Following,” which includes videos from Pages and people you follow on Facebook.


Above: Following

Then Facebook flexes its algorithmic muscles with videos it thinks you’ll like based on your various activities across the Facebook-connected ecosystem.


Above: Recommended

Next up is “Top Live Videos,” which again sees Facebook using signals from across the social network to identify which livestreams are proving popular at the moment.

Top Live

Above: Top Live

Those who spend a lot of time watching videos on Facebook, or who simply flag videos to watch later, will like the “Saved Videos” category, which places all your personally bookmarked clips in their own library.

Saved Videos

Above: Saved Videos

But if you don’t remember to save videos, the “Recently Watched” section is a good way to revisit everything you’ve viewed recently on Facebook.

Recently Watched

Above: Recently Watched

Given that people interact with their TV screens differently from the way they interact with a mobile phone or tablet, Facebook has had to redesign the experience to accommodate what is typically the primary input device — the TV remote control.

Those who prefer to use their mobile phone as the primary controller can actually do that already — last October, Facebook announced support for Apple TV through AirPlay and for Google’s Chromecast.

The TV app itself is intuitive enough and well-designed, and for those who don’t have a clue what to watch while slumped in front of the TV, the way it autoplays through each category is useful — it mirrors how YouTube works, in terms of how playing the next video without the user having to do anything.

Indeed, the video app launch represents the latest in a long-standing battle between Facebook and Google-owned YouTube, which has offered TV apps for many years already. Twitter is also embracing video-streaming, having recently launched its own live video app for Xbox One, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.

Video opens up a host of new advertising channels for companies — just last week, Facebook announced that it would start inserting mid-roll video ads, while celebrities and brands will soon be able to include 20-second ad breaks in their live broadcasts.

Social – VentureBeat

Google harnesses machine learning to help publishers thwart abusive comments online


Google and its early-stage incubator, Jigsaw, have launched a new tool that uses machine learning to help publishers combat online abuse.

With Perspective, Google is offering online publishers an API they can integrate into any of their platforms that facilitate user comments. Perspective taps a human-generated database of comments that have already been tagged as abusive or toxic. Through the API, publishers can connect their own comments with the hundreds of thousands on Google’s database, and Perspective then rates them based on how similar they are to those previously flagged. Perspective facilities corrections from users, too, so it should improve as it receives more feedback from people using it.

The Perspective API essentially provides the data, and publishers can elect to use this data in different ways. Comments could be flagged by publishers to be manually reviewed by moderators or by members of the community, alternatively, a publisher could decide to illustrate to a commenter in real time that what they’re writing is abusive:


Above: Perspective

Online abuse has been a problem since the advent of the web, with many publishers ultimately ditching comments sections due to the difficulties in policing them. Earlier this month, Amazon-owned IMDb shuttered its comments section after years of battling toxicity. The IMDb board has now resurfaced on Reddit (good luck with that).

While most comments sections have a community-led approach for flagging abuse, and many are already able to filter out comments that contain profanities, being able to tap a gargantuan database of pre-flagged comments should prove helpful. And as more publishers pick up on it, Perspective will gain access to additional comments, which should accelerate improvement. Perspective is also now part of Google’s open-source software library, TensorFlow, and its cloud Machine Learning platform.

Google’s latest initiative comes at a time when technology companies are increasingly investing in anti-abuse smarts. Just last week, Twitter unveiled a slew of new tools to battle trolls, while back in August Microsoft announced a similar initiative.

Google says it has been testing Perspective with the New York Times, which has a team dedicated to sifting through comments before they go live — manually fielding some 11,000 comments daily.

“This problem doesn’t just impact online readers,” explained Jigsaw president Jared Cohen, in a blog post. “News organizations want to encourage engagement and discussion around their content but find that sorting through millions of comments to find those that are trolling or abusive takes a lot of money, labor, and time. As a result, many sites have shut down comments altogether. But they tell us that isn’t the solution they want. We think technology can help.”

Though the focus of Perspective is on abuse, for now, the technology could also be appropriated for other types of comments. “Over the next year we’re keen to partner and deliver new models that work in languages other than English ,as well as models that can identify other perspectives, such as when comments are unsubstantial or off-topic,” added Cohen.

Social – VentureBeat

Google and Facebook to help French newsrooms combat ‘fake news’ ahead of presidential election

Google / Google France

Google and Facebook are to help a host of French news organizations combat the growing scourge of fake news ahead of the upcoming French presidential election campaign.

With CrossCheck, Google has partnered with First Draft and Facebook to support a coalition of notable newsrooms — including Le Monde, Agence France-Presse (AFP), France Télévisions, BuzzFeed, Global Voices, and Les Echos — to help the French electorate “make sense of what and who to trust in their social media feeds, web searches, and general online news consumption,” according to David Dieudonné, Google’s News Lab lead in France.

“With combined expertise from across media and technology, CrossCheck aims to ensure hoaxes, rumours, and false claims are swiftly debunked, and misleading or confusing stories are accurately reported,” said Dieudonné. “With the French presidential election approaching, journalists from across France and beyond will work together to find and verify content circulating publicly online, whether it is photographs, videos, memes, comment threads, or news sites.”

Though it’s far from a new phenomenon, the “fake news” problem has received renewed attention in the wake of two notable political events in the past twelve months — Brexit and the U.S. presidency. The extent to which hoaxes and fake news articles influenced the outcome of those political campaigns is up for debate, but technology companies and news organizations are embracing new tools as concerns grow over the online spread of false information, or “alternative facts.”

Already this year, Le Monde has launched an anti-fake news platform constituting a suite of fact-checking products powered by a database of hundreds of “unreliable” source websites. And Facebook, for its part, has already introduced fake-news thwarting tools in some countries, including Germany. Moreover, back in November, Facebook acquired CrowdTangle, an analytics tool that tracks how links are shared on social media services — which could help measure the spread of viral content. Facebook’s support of CrossCheck will also include broader “media literacy efforts that will help to explain the [news] verification process” while keeping “relevant audiences up to date with confirmed and disputed information relating to the election,” according to First Draft.

Google too has been pushing to help stymie the spread of false information online, and last September it partnered with First Draft and other news organizations to launch Electionland ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

The French presidential election takes place on April 23, 2017, and if no candidate wins a majority, a follow-up election between the top two candidates will take place two weeks later. Now with CrossCheck, news organizations will be able to tap collectively fact-checked sources for their own articles and broadcasts.

However, it’s not entirely clear whether any of this will ultimately make much difference, given the belief held by some that people don’t make decision based on facts.

Social – VentureBeat