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Sony PlayStation Suspends Ads on Facebook & Instagram to Protest Hate Speech

The Sony PlayStation Logo. (Reuters)

The Sony PlayStation Logo. (Reuters)

The call to boycott ads on Facebook started after the social networking giant decided to allow controversial posts by US President Donald Trump to stay up.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: July 3, 2020, 12:40 PM IST

Sony Playstation has joined over 400 advertisers who have decided to pull out ads from Facebook and Instagram over its failure to curb hate speech and misinformation. The #StopHateForProfit boycott has more than 400 participants and the civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League on June 17, are now calling for a global expansion of Facebook ad boycott.

“In support of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, we have globally suspended our Facebook and Instagram activity, including advertising and non-paid content, until the end of July,” PlayStation said in a statement to GamesIndustry.biz on Thursday. As hundreds of companies halt advertising on Facebook and Instagram, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is confident the brands would soon return on the platform.

According to a report in The Information, Zuckerberg told employees he was reluctant to bow to the threats of a growing ad boycott, saying “my guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.” The social networking giant said it was getting better at removing harmful content and that the platform does not in any way profit from hate speech.

The call to boycott ads on Facebook started after the social networking giant decided to allow controversial posts by US President Donald Trump to stay up. American food company Chobani, drugmaker Pfizer and software major SAP were among the latest brands pulling who joined Coca Cola, Adidas, cleaning supply firm Clorox, Conagra (the maker of Slim Jim, Duncan Hines and Pam), fast-food chain Denny’s, Ford and Starbucks to pull their ads from the platform. Facebook’s digital advertising accounted for over 98 per cent of the company’s nearly $70 billion in revenue last year.


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Tech

Facebook, Instagram to Advice Users in US to Wear Masks to Prevent Spread of Covid-19

Both Facebook and Instagram will now show an alert on top of the News Feed to encourage users to wear face masks in the US. The social network said that with the rise in COVID-19 cases in the US, they will put an alert at the top of Facebook and Instagram to remind everyone to wear face coverings and find more prevention tips from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Facebook will direct users to the COVID-19 Information Centre. Instagram will also have a similar notification with CDC links. Facebook said it is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed during the coronavirus public health crisis.

“We’re also working to address the long-term impacts by supporting industries in need and making it easier for people to find and offer help in their communities,” the company said in a statement on Thursday. The CDC has reported a new single-day record of COVID-19 cases across the country at 54,357.

According to the update of the CDC website, there are 54,357 new cases and 725 new deaths on Thursday compared to the previous day, Xinhua news agency reported. The recent surge of the pandemic also led to record positive rates and hospitalizations. Hospitals and ICUs are being stretched to capacity in states such as Arizona, Texas and Alabama. According to the CDC, 90,626 cases and 500 deaths of COVID-19 among healthcare personnel have been reported across the country.


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Tech

Facebook to Shut Down Its Pinterest-like Experimental App Hobbi From July 10

Image for Representation. (Reuters)

Image for Representation. (Reuters)

Facebook has said that its NPE Team keeps experimenting with apps and shut down those which do not get traction among the users.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: July 1, 2020, 10:28 AM IST

Facebook has reportedly decided to shut down its short-form content creation app Hobbi on July 10. Hobbi took cues from Pinterest and let users organise photos in a visual diary of sorts. The app first arrived on iOS in February from Facebook’s internal R&D group, the NPE Team. “Hobbi users have now been notified by way of push notification that the app is shutting down on July 10, 2020. The app allows users to export their data from its settings,” reports TechCrunch. Hobbi gained just 7,000 downloads on the US App Store, according to data from Sensor Tower.

Facebook has said that its NPE Team keeps experimenting with apps and shut down those which do not get traction among the users. Google has also joined the race to launch short-video making apps with unveiling Tangi which is focused on creativity and Do It Yourself (DIY) space. The app is a product from Google’s in-house incubator titled Area 120.

Unlike TikTok, Tangi wants people to learn new things. Dom Hofmann, the co-founder of the now-defunct six-second video platform Vine, has announced the release of its successor called Byte. Instagram has launched a new video-music remix feature called ‘Reels’ and YouTube is testing ‘Shorts’. In November last year, Facebook quietly released a stand-alone app called ‘Lasso’ to compete with TikTok.


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With TikTok Banned in India, Is It The Perfect Time to Launch Facebook Lasso & Instagram Reels?

Just a few hours ago, the Government of India issued an order banning as many as 59 Chinese owned smartphone apps in the country. The notification issued by The Ministry of Information Technology of the Government of India derived powers under the section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 citing the concerns about the security, integrity and defense of India. The apps that now stand banned in India, across all platforms now include TikTok, Shareit, WeChat, Helo, Likee, UC News, Bigo Live, UC Browser, ES File Explorer and Mi Community. All big names, but one does truly stand out.

But does this open up the door for Facebook to take advantage of the situation and introduce the Facebook Lasso and Instagram Reels products in India. At this time, with TikTok inaccessible, all the creators and influencers on the platform are searching for a viable alternative to ply their trade. And show their creative side. This could be a good time for Facebook to simply bring their TikTok alternatives, because people need to switch. And fast. Never has there been a more ready-made demographic of users, just waiting to sign up.

Facebook Lasso and Instagram Reels, With WhatsApp as the secret ingredient

Facebook Lasso also has similar set of features as TikTok, including the ability to shoot and post 15-second videos. You can overlay these with popular music tracks, filters, effects, hashtags, the ability to directly share to Facebook and more. At this time, Lasso has pretty limited availability around the world, including the US, though it has already seen more than 5,000,000 downloads just on the Google Play Store till now. Facebook, which also owns Instagram, has a similar product for that photo sharing social media platform as well. It is called Instagram Reels and that’s also all about the magic of 15-second videos, dressed up with a variety of music tracks, filters and editing tools. This app also has limited availability right now, including Brazil, Germany and France.

In India, WhatsApp could prove to be the secret ingredient for Lasso or Reels, whichever one Facebook does eventually decide to launch in India. If at all. A simple integration in the most popular instant messaging app could make all the difference in terms of popularizing the new video sharing platform and give it the sort of adoption push that would otherwise be unimaginable.

TikTok’s numbers must have worried Facebook

TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has climbed the popularity charts rapidly. The ability to showcase creativity and talent in quick 15-second videos had caught the attention of the masses. And that is truer in India than anywhere else in the world. According to data analytics firm App Annie, India accounted for 323 million, which is 44%, of the total 740 million TikTok app downloads in 2019 across all platforms. They also suggest that Indians spent 5.5 billion hours on the TikTok app last year. In fact, at the beginning of this year, it was reported that ByteDance was targeting Rs 100 crore in revenue in India, banking on new quick advert formats for brands as well.

While TikTok’s revenue targets were still no match for Facebook, TikTok’s active user base was proving to be a headache for the world’s largest social media platform, Facebook. According to regulatory filings by Facebook, they clocked Rs 892 crore in revenue in India in 2018-19.

Does TikTok still have a future?

TikTok has confirmed that they have been invited to meet with the Government to respond to the order and submit clarifications. TikTok, a popular social media platform owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, is on the list of banned apps. At this time, TikTok is also not available for download on the Google Play Store for Android phones and the Apple App Store for the iPhone. “The Government of India has issued an interim order for the blocking of 59 apps, including TikTok and we are in the process of complying with it. We have been invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications,” says Nikhil Gandhi, Head of TikTok, India, in a statement. The company says they continue to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government. Gandhi insists that even if they are requested to do so in the future, they would not. “We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity,” says Gandhi.


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Tech

Microsoft Joins Growing Facebook, Instagram Ad Boycott Over Concerns of Inappropriate Content

Image for Representation
(Photo: Associated Press)

Image for Representation
(Photo: Associated Press)

Microsoft, however, has not announced its participation in the broader advertisement boycott campaign joined by over 100 brands.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 30, 2020, 10:44 AM IST

Microsoft which spent more than $115 million on Facebook ads last year is reportedly pausing advertising on both Facebook and Instagram. According to a report in Axios on Tuesday, the Windows maker is concerned about ads running alongside “inappropriate content” such as hate speech and pornography.

The software giant, however, has not announced its participation in the broader ad boycott campaign joined by over 100 brands. Microsoft had suspended its advertising on Facebook and Instagram in the US in May. “Microsoft is concerned about where its ads are shown, not Facebook’s policies. But the move still means yet another big advertiser is not spending on Facebook right now,” said the report citing internal Microsoft posts. Microsoft was yet to make the move official.

“Based on concerns we had back in May we suspended all media spending on Facebook/Instagram in the US and we’ve subsequently suspended all spending on Facebook/Instagram worldwide,” Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela reportedly said in an internal post on enterprise social network Yammer. “The timeline on resuming our media spending is dependent on the positive actions they take, but I expect our pause will continue through August,” Capossela added. Microsoft earlier paused spending on Google’s YouTube over similar concerns.


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What Is Happening Between Facebook & Advertisers As Mark Zuckerberg Is Losing Out On Millions?

Over the past few days, one big name advertiser after another has come out and confirmed that they will no longer be giving Facebook any advertisements. At least for the time being. That potentially means millions in advertising revenue lost for the social media company. This comes as part of the Stop Hate For Profit campaign in an attempt to protest Facebook’s perceived failure at controlling, curbing and eliminating hate speech on the social platforms that it owns, including Facebook and Instagram. At this time, Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks, Coca Cola, Unilever, Diageo, Honda, Levi’s, Mozilla, Pepsi, The North Face, The Hershey Company, Viber and Verizon are just some of the global brands on a revolt list that is growing by the day.

The Stop Hate For Profit campaign was set up after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody, something that was captured on video. Facebook had probably seen this revolt coming, but the measures Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook announced, clearly aren’t enough. At the time, Facebook had said that it would prohibit any and all hate speech in advertisements on the platform and also restrict posts that protects vulnerable groups from attacks on social media, such as immigrants. Facebook also said they would label posts that violate its content moderation policies—yet these posts would remain visible on the network.

Facebook had clocked $17.7 billion in advertising revenue in the previous quarter

The Stop Hate For Profit isn’t at best pleased. “Faced with this tidal wave, Mark Zuckerberg responded today with a small number of small changes. He stated that Facebook would apply their hate policy to ads as if it was some new revelation, while not addressing hate more broadly in groups and posts. Voter misinformation may be a bit harder to spread the day of the election (but still will run rampant the rest of the time). And posts that call for violence will still be allowed if they come from someone “newsworthy” but they will now be labeled. None of this will be vetted or verified – or make a dent in the problem on the largest social media platform on the plane,” they say in an official statement. The organizers also point to how Facebook named Breitbart News a “trusted news source” and made The Daily Caller a “fact checker” despite both publications having records of working with known white nationalists.

Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks, Coca Cola, Unilever, Diageo, Honda, Levi’s, Mozilla, Pepsi, The North Face, The Hershey Company, Viber and Verizon are just some of the global brands on a revolt list that is growing by the day

This circles us back to the whole issue of what really is freedom of speech and what really is public interest. A few weeks ago, Twitter tried to take the high ground by labeling some posts by US President Donald Trump for misinformation. Yet, for a social network to take high ground by saying they have suddenly started to pretend to put their house in order, is a bit rich.

The advertiser revolt is hurting Facebook a lot as far as the money bit is concerned. At the end of trading on Friday, Facebook stocks were down 8%. When markets reopen Monday, the shares are expected to trade at $212.50, down from $235 on Thursday. Estimates are that it has wiped out around $56 billion from Facebook’s market value. Facebook had clocked $17.7 billion in advertising revenue in the previous quarter.

The revolt against Facebook is also dragging other social media platforms, including Twitter, Snap, TikTok and YouTube, into the debate. It is absolutely not to say that these social media platforms are immune to criticism, because they must take their own share of the blame for letting hate speech flourish on their networks—Twitter allowing tweets that bordered on hate speech from politicians, for years, is an example.

A few weeks ago, Twitter tried to take the high ground by labeling some posts by US President Donald Trump for misinformation

The latest to join the advertiser revolt is Starbucks, which makes its reasons for pulling all the advertisements and the millions that go with it, from Facebook and in fact, all social media platforms. “We believe in bringing communities together, both in person and online, and we stand against hate speech. We believe more must be done to create welcoming and inclusive online communities, and we believe both business leaders and policy makers need to come together to affect real change,” they say. “We will pause advertising on all social media platforms while we continue discussions internally, with our media partners and with civil rights organizations in the effort to stop the spread of hate speech,” says Starbucks.

Unilever spent around $42.4 million advertising on Facebook just in the US last year

One of the largest advertisers on the planet, Unilever has also confirmed that it will not give any advertising to social media networks. “We have taken the decision to stop advertising on @Facebook, @Instagram & @Twitter in the US. The polarized atmosphere places an increased responsibility on brands to build a trusted & safe digital ecosystem. Our action starts now until the end of 2020,” they say. Unilever’s brands include Dove, Lifebuoy, Lipton, Lux, Rexona, Blueair, Pond’s, Pears, Wall’s, Tresemme and more. Unilever spent around $42.4 million advertising on Facebook just in the US last year, according to the advertising analytics platform Pathmatics.

“There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media. The Coca-Cola Company will pause paid advertising on all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days. We will take this time to reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed. We also expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners,” says James Quincey, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. Coca-Cola spent $22.1 million on Facebook ads last year and more than $18 million on Twitter, according to data by Pathmatics.

Coca-Cola spent $22.1 million on Facebook ads last year and more than $18 million on Twitter

British multinational beverage alcohol company Diageo has also confirmed that from 1 July, they will pause all paid advertising globally on major social media platforms. “We will continue to discuss with media partners how they will deal with unacceptable content,” they say.

It is still early days of the revolt. Expect more companies to join in, but for social media companies, the real impact will be felt on the financials and the balance sheets in the coming months. A single advertiser pulling back may not have made a lot of difference, but this movement can put pressure on social media giants to finally clean up their platforms.

The revolt against Facebook is also dragging other social media platforms, including Twitter, Snap, TikTok and YouTube, into the debate

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Tech

Instagram Video Note Will Add Live Captions to All Chats on 'Threads' App

Instagram is working on a new feature called video note for its standalone messaging app Threads that helps users stay connected to close or smaller circle of friends. The new feature, reported by mobile developer and leaker Alessandro Paluzzi, will automatically turn audio in videos to live captions. “Instagram is working on a new feature for the Threads app: video note. This feature will turn the audio of the video into live captions that will be shown in time with the recording,” Paluzzi tweeted.

This feature is especially helpful for users with hearing disabilities. The video note feature would also help Threads users understand what their friends are actually meant to say, and respond clearly. Facebook in October last year launched the Snap-clone app for Instagram users. Threads lets you share photos, videos, messages, Stories and more with Instagram close friends list.

“You are in control of who can reach you on Threads, and you can customise the experience around the people who matter most,” said Robby Stein, Director of Product, Instagram. You can use Threads to message close friends on Instagram and you’ll have a dedicated inbox and notifications just for them. Threads app opens directly to the camera and allows you to add shortcuts, so you can share what you are doing in just two taps.


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Here Is More Info About The OnePlus Nord Or OnePlus Z Or OnePlus 8 Lite, And You'll Love It

The much-awaited affordable Android phone from OnePlus is arriving in July, at least that is what the indications seem to suggest. We still do not know what it’ll be called, with everything from OnePlus Nord to OnePlus Z to OnePlus 8 Lite being touted as possible names for the phone. Nevertheless, as we get closer to a possible unveiling date, we are hearing more about the potential specs. There are reports that this as-yet-unnamed OnePlus phone will get dual front facing cameras, which means you will have a 32-megapixel main sensor and an 8-megapixel wide angle lens looking in your direction, for your selfies and video calls. The dual camera system will sit in the cut-out in the top-left corner of the display and should theoretically be a significant upgrade over most rivals.

OnePlus has kept the suspense going with a new Instagram channel called OnePlusLiteZThing, where they have been teasing the new phone. The upcoming affordable Android phone from OnePlus will be, in a way, a return to the roots for the company. This would take us back to the days of the OnePlus One, which around the Rs 20,000 price point, replicated the sort of Android smartphone experience that flagship Android phones upwards of Rs 40,000 in that day and age attempted to deliver. The last time OnePlus made a truly affordable Android phone was the OnePlus X, back in 2015, and that was priced around Rs 16,000, depending on which variant you picked.

“For more than 6 years, that has meant working hard to always deliver the best experience for flagship smartphone users. However, as we’ve grown together with our community, we know that there are many people who want a really solid smartphone that meets their everyday needs, and for a more accessible price,” said Pete Lau, CEO, OnePlus in an official post a few days ago.

The OnePlus Nord or OnePlus Z or OnePlus 8 Lite is expected to be launched in India and some European countries first, and the company indicates it’ll also be sold in the US market a bit later. Earlier reports have also suggested that the OnePlus Nord or OnePlus Z or OnePlus Lite will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor and will have an AMOLED display with the 90Hz refresh rate.


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Facebook to Start Flagging Problematic Posts from Politicians as Ad Boycott Grows

As more advertisers pull out of its platform over poor handling of hate speech and misinformation, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Saturday that the social network will put warning labels on all posts that break its rules but are deemed newsworthy. The announcement came after several top-notch advertisers like Coca-Cola, Hershey and Honda joined over 100 brands who have decided to boycott advertising on Facebook.

Facebook’s decision now opens the door to label controversial posts by US President Donald Trump. Twitter has already flagged a couple of his controversial tweets while Facebook is facing widespread criticism for its inaction over Trump posts that glorified violence in the aftermath of the death of African-American George Floyd.

Zuckerberg said that they will soon start labelling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case. “We’ll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content because this is an important part of how we discuss what’s acceptable in our society — but we’ll add a prompt to tell people that the content they’re sharing may violate our policies,” he explained.

There is no newsworthiness exemption to content that incites violence or suppresses voting. “Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down,” Zuckerberg said adding that there are no exceptions for “politicians in any of the policies I’m announcing here today”.

Earlier, telecom carrier Verizon announced to pull ads from Facebook and Instagram, joining advertisers like apparel brand North Face, ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, outdoor apparel stores REI and Patagonia, freelancing platform Upwork, shipping company Local Postal, password manager Dashlane and outwear company Arc’teryx to boycott the social network. Facebook makes about 98 per cent of its $70 billion annual revenue from advertising. Zuckerberg also detailed plans to tighten policies ahead of the 2020 elections.

“Since the most dangerous voter suppression campaigns can be local and run in the days immediately before an election, we’re going to use our Elections Operations Center to quickly respond and remove false claims about polling conditions in the 72 hours leading into election day,” announced the Facebook CEO. He said that Facebook will also ban posts that make false claims saying ICE agents are checking for immigration papers at polling places, which is a tactic used to discourage voting.


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Instagram Takes on TikTok, Expands Its Short Video Service Reels to France and Germany

Facebook-owned Instagram has expanded its new video-music remix feature Reels, which takes inspiration from the Chinese short video making app TikTok, to France and Germany. Instagram Reels was first launched in Brazil last year as a pilot. According to a TechCrunch report, Instagram will now enable users to share Reels to their main Instagram feed, in addition to Stories.

Instagram Reels allows users to record short, 15-second video clips set to music or other audio and share those on the platform. Just like TikTok, users can soundtrack their ‘Reels’ with a huge catalog of music, or borrow the audio from anyone else’s video to create a remix of their meme or joke. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said that in India, TikTok has gone ahead of Instagram. He also mentioned that TikTok works much like Instagram’s Explore feature.

Facebook’s experimental app division has also introduced a new iOS app called Collab for making and mixing music with friends. The social network also has a stand-alone app called ‘Lasso’. Currently available in the US, users can record themselves dancing and lip-syncing to music, similar to what they can do on TikTok. Google-owned YouTube is reportedly working on a TikTok rival called Shorts, to be introduced by the end of this year.


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