Pages Navigation Menu

The blog of DataDiggers

Categories Navigation Menu

After Christchurch, Reddit bans communities infamous for sharing graphic videos of death

Posted by on Mar 15, 2019 in Reddit, Social, TC | 0 comments

In the aftermath of the tragic mosque massacre that claimed 49 lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, tech companies scrambled to purge their platforms of promotional materials that the shooter left behind. As most of the internet is now unfortunately aware, the event was broadcast live on Facebook, making it one of the most horrific incidents of violence to spread through online communities in realtime.

As Twitter users cautioned others from sharing the extraordinarily graphic video, some Reddit users actively sought the video and knew exactly where to look. The infamous subreddit r/watchpeopledie was quarantined (making it unsearchable) in September 2018 but until today remained active for anyone to visit directly. The subreddit has a long history of sharing extremely graphic videos following tragic events and acts of violence, like the 2018 murder of two female tourists in Morocco.

After Thursday’s shooting, the subreddit became extremely active with users seeking out a copy of the video, which was shot in first-person perspective from a head-mounted camera.

After the flurry of interest, one the subreddit’s moderators locked the a thread about the video and posted this statement:

“Sorry guys but we’re locking the thread out of necessity here. The video stays up until someone censors us. This video is being scrubbed from major social media platforms but hopefully Reddit believes in letting you decide for yourself whether or not you want to see unfiltered reality. Regardless of what you believe, this is an objective look into a terrible incident like this.

Remember to love each other.”

Late Thursday, the subreddit’s members were actively sharing mirrored links to the Christchurch video, though they did so largely via direct messaging. After watching the footage, many users returned to the thread to express that the content was extremely disturbing and to caution even their most violence-hardened peers from seeking the video.

The subreddit remained active until some time late Friday morning Pacific Time, when Reddit banned the controversial community.

Reddit declined to provide details about its decision to ban the long-running community after this particular act of violence. “We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites or glorifies violence will get users and communities banned from Reddit,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Subreddits that fail to adhere to those site-wide rules will be banned.”

The subreddit’s many detractors consider the act of seeking and sharing such graphic depictions of death both inherently disturbing and disrespectful to victims and their families.

The subreddit is unquestionably grisly but remains surprisingly well-loved by some devotees, who insist that its graphic depictions of death are in fact life-affirming.

“Definitely saved me and helped me figure out I didn’t necessarily have tomorrow to get my shit in order,” one former member said in a thread discussing the since-banned community.

“Don’t think it is the kind of place to spend too much time in but, we all need reminders.”

Reddit banned the adjacent subreddits r/gore and r/wpdtalk (“watch people die talk”) on Friday as well.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Startups Weekly: Spotify gets acquisitive and Instacart screws up

Posted by on Feb 9, 2019 in alex wilhelm, anchor, Bessemer Venture Partners, consumer reports, CrunchBase, funding, Fundings & Exits, Fusion Fund, gimlet, gimlet media, Instacart, josh constine, lime, Mark Suster, Megan Rose Dickey, Mike McNamara, Reddit, Sanjay Jha, Spotify, Startups, steve huffman, TC, Uber, upfront ventures, Venture Capital, web summit, Y Combinator | 0 comments

Did anyone else listen to season one of StartUp, Alex Blumberg’s OG Gimlet podcast? I did, and I felt like a proud mom this week reading stories of the major, first-of-its-kind Spotify acquisition of his podcast production company, Gimlet. Spotify also bought Anchor, a podcast monetization platform, signaling a new era for the podcasting industry.

On top of that, Himalaya Media, a free podcast app I’d never heard of until this week, raised a whopping $100 million in venture capital funding to “establish itself as a new force in the podcast distribution space,” per Variety.

The podcasting business definitely took center stage, but Lime and Bird made headlines, as usual, a new unicorn emerged in the mental health space and Instacart, it turns out, has been screwing its independent contractors.

As mentioned, Spotify, or shall we say Spodify, gobbled up Gimlet and Anchor. More on that here and a full analysis of the deal here. Key takeaway: it’s the dawn of podcasting; expect a whole lot more venture investment and M&A activity in the next few years.

This week’s biggest “yikes” moment was when reports emerged that Instacart was offsetting its wages with tips from customers. An independent contractor has filed a class-action lawsuit against the food delivery business, claiming it “intentionally and maliciously misappropriated gratuities in order to pay plaintiff’s wages even though Instacart maintained that 100 percent of customer tips went directly to shoppers.” TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey has the full story here, as well as Instacart CEO’s apology here.

Slack confidentially filed to go public this week, its first public step toward either an IPO or a direct listing. If it chooses the latter, like Spotify did in 2018, it won’t issue any new shares. Instead, it will sell existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors, a move that will allow it to bypass a roadshow and some of Wall Street’s exorbitant IPO fees. Postmates confidentially filed, too. The 8-year-old company has tapped JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America to lead its upcoming float.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman delivers remarks on “Redesigning Reddit” during the third day of Web Summit in Altice Arena on November 08, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Horacio Villalobos-Corbis/Contributor)

It was particularly tough to decide which deal was the most notable this week… But the winner is Reddit, the online platform for chit-chatting about niche topics — r/ProgMetal if you’re Crunchbase editor Alex Wilhelm . The company is raising up to $300 million at a $3 billion valuation, according to TechCrunch’s Josh Constine. Reddit has been around since 2005 and has raised a total of $250 million in equity funding. The forthcoming Series D round is said to be led by Chinese tech giant Tencent at a $2.7 billion pre-money valuation.

Runner up for deal of the week is Calm, the app that helps users reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier. The startup brought in an $88 million Series B at a $1 billion valuation. With 40 million downloads worldwide and more than one million paying subscribers, the company says it quadrupled revenue in 2018 from $20 million to $80 million and is now profitable — not a word you hear every day in Silicon Valley.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

I listened to the Bird CEO’s chat with Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster last week and wrote down some key takeaways, including the challenges of seasonality and safety in the scooter business. I also wrote about an investigation by Consumer Reports that found electric scooters to be the cause of more than 1,500 accidents in the U.S. I’m also required to mention that e-scooter unicorn Lime finally closed its highly anticipated round at a $2.4 billion valuation. The news came just a few days after the company beefed up its executive team with a CTO and CMO hire.

Databricks raises $250M at a $2.75B valuation for its analytics platform
Retail technology platform Relex raises $200M from TCV
Raisin raises $114M for its pan-European marketplace for savings and investment products
Self-driving truck startup Ike raises $52M
Signal Sciences secures $35M to protect web apps
Ritual raises $25M for its subscription-based women’s daily vitamin
Little Spoon gets $7M for its organic baby food delivery service
By Humankind picks up $4M to rid your morning routine of single-use plastic

We don’t spend a ton of time talking about the growing, venture-funded, tech-enabled logistics sector, but one startup in the space garnered significant attention this week. Turvo poached three key Uber Freight employees, including two of the unit’s co-founders. What’s that mean for Uber Freight? Well, probably not a ton… Based on my conversation with Turvo’s newest employees, Uber Freight is a rocket ship waiting to take off.

Who knew that investing in female-focused brands could turn a profit for investors? Just kidding, I knew that and this week I have even more proof! This is L., a direct-to-consumer, subscription-based retailer of pads, tampons and condoms made with organic materials sold to P&G for $100 million. The company, founded by Talia Frenkel, launched out of Y Combinator in August 2015. According to PitchBook, it was backed by Halogen Ventures, 500 Startups, Fusion Fund and a few others.

Speaking of ladies getting stuff done, Bessemer Venture Partners promoted Talia Goldberg to partner this week, making the 28-year-old one of the youngest investing partners at the Silicon Valley venture fund. Plus, Palo Alto’s Eclipse Ventures, hot off the heels of a $500 million fundraise, added two general partners: former Flex CEO Mike McNamara and former Global Foundries CEO Sanjay Jha.

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I chat about the expanding podcast industry, Reddit’s big round and scooter accidents.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Reddit is raising a huge round near a $3 billion valuation

Posted by on Feb 5, 2019 in Apps, funding, Fundings & Exits, Recent Funding, Reddit, Social, Startups, steve huffman, TC, Tencent, Venture Capital | 0 comments

Reddit is raising $150 million to $300 million to keep the front page of the internet running, multiple sources tell TechCrunch. The forthcoming Series D round is said to be led by Chinese tech giant Tencent at a $2.7 billion pre-money valuation. Depending on how much follow-on cash Reddit drums up from Silicon Valley investors and beyond, its post-money valuation could reach an epic $3 billion.

As more people seek esoteric community and off-kilter entertainment online, Reddit continues to grow its link-sharing forums. Indeed, 330 million monthly active users now frequent its 150,000 Subreddits. That warrants the boost to its valuation, which previously reached $1.8 billion when it raised $200 million in July 2017. As of then, Reddit’s majority stake was still held by publisher Conde Nast, which bought in back in 2006 just a year after the site launched. Reddit had raised $250 million previously, so the new round will push it to $400 million to $550 million in total funding.

It should have been clear that Reddit was on the prowl after a month of pitching its growth to the press and beating its own drum. In December Reddit announced it had reached 1.4 billion video views per month, up a staggering 40 percent from just two months earlier after first launching a native video player in August 2017. And it made a big deal out of starting to sell cost-per-click ads in addition to promoted posts, cost per impression and video ads. A 22 percent increase in engagement and 30 percent rise in total view in 2018 pushed it past $100 million in revenue for the year, CNBC reported.

The exact details of the Series D could fluctuate before it’s formally announced, and Reddit and Tencent declined to comment. But supporting and moderating all that content isn’t cheap. The company had 350 employees just under a year ago, and is headquartered in pricey San Francisco — though in one of its cheaper but troubled neighborhoods. Until Reddit’s newer ad products rev up, it’s still relying on venture capital.

Tencent’s money will give Reddit time to hit its stride. It’s said to be kicking in the first $150 million of the round. The Chinese conglomerate owns all-in-one messaging app WeChat and is the biggest gaming company in the world thanks to ownership of League of Legends and stakes in Clash of Clans-maker Supercell and Fortnite developer Epic. But China’s crackdown on gaming addiction has been rough for Tencent’s valuation and Chinese competitor ByteDance’s news reader app Toutiao has grown enormous. Both of those facts make investing in American newsboard Reddit a savvy diversification, even if Reddit isn’t accessible in China.

Reddit could seek to fill out its round with up to $150 million in additional cash from previous investors like Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, Y Combinator or YC’s president Sam Altman. They could see potential in one of the web’s most unique and internet-native content communities. Reddit is where the real world is hashed out and laughed about by a tech-savvy audience that often produces memes that cross over into mainstream culture. And with all those amateur curators toiling away for internet points, casual users are flocking in for an edgier look at what will be the center of attention tomorrow.

Reddit has recently avoided much of the backlash hitting fellow social site Facebook, despite having to remove 1,000 Russian trolls pushing political propaganda. But in the past, the anonymous site has had plenty of problems with racist, misogynistic and homophobic content. In 2015 it finally implemented quarantines and shut down some of the most offensive Subreddits. But harassment by users contributed to the departure of CEO Ellen Pao, who was replaced by Steve Huffman, Reddit’s co-founder. Huffman went on to abuse that power, secretly editing some user comments on Reddit to frame them for insulting the heads of their own Subreddits. He escaped the debacle with a slap on the wrist and an apology, claiming “I spent my formative years as a young troll on the Internet.”

Investors will have to hope Huffman has the composure to lead Reddit as it inevitably encounters more scrutiny as its valuation scales up. Its policy choice about what constitutes hate speech and harassment, its own company culture and its influence on public opinion will all come under the microscope. Reddit has the potential to give a voice to great ideas at a time when flashy visuals rule the web. And as local journalism wanes, the site’s breed of vigilante web sleuths could be more in demand, for better or worse. But that all hinges on Reddit defining clear, consistent, empathetic policy that will help it surf atop the sewage swirling around the internet.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

The nation-state of the internet

Posted by on Dec 8, 2018 in blockchain, Book Review, Community, Developer, Facebook, Google, Government, Media, Reddit, Uber | 0 comments

The internet is a community, but can it be a nation-state? It’s a question that I have been pondering on and off this year, what with the rise of digital nomads and the deeply libertarian ethos baked into parts of the blockchain community. It’s clearly on a lot of other people’s minds as well: when we interviewed Matt Howard of Norwest on Equity a few weeks back, he noted (unprompted) that Uber is one of the few companies that could reach “nation-state” status when it IPOs.

Clearly, the internet is home to many, diverse communities of similar-minded people, but how do those communities transmute from disparate bands into a nation-state?

That question led me to Imagined Communities, a book from 1983 and one of the most lauded (and debated) social science works ever published. Certainly it is among the most heavily cited: Google Scholar pegs it at almost 93,000 citations.

Benedict Anderson, a political scientist and historian, ponders over a simple question: where does nationalism come from? How do we come to form a common bond with others under symbols like a flag, even though we have never — and will almost never — meet all of our comrades-in-arms? Why does every country consider itself “special,” yet for all intents and purposes they all look identical (heads of state, colors and flags, etc.) Also, why is the nation-state invented so late?

Anderson’s answer is his title: people come to form nations when they can imagine their community and the values and people it holds, and thus can demarcate the borders (physical and cognitive) of who is a member of that hypothetical club and who is not.

In order to imagine a community though, there needs to be media that actually links that community together. The printing press is the necessary invention, but Anderson tracks the rise of nation-states to the development of vernacular media — French language as opposed to the Latin of the Catholic Church. Lexicographers researched and published dictionaries and thesauruses, and the printing presses — under pressure from capitalism’s dictates — created rich shelves of books filled with the stories and myths of peoples who just a few decades ago didn’t “exist” in the mind’s eye.

The nation-state itself was developed first in South America in the decline and aftermath of the Spanish and Portuguese empires. Anderson argues for a sociological perspective on where these states originate from. Intense circulation among local elites — the bureaucrats, lawyers, and professionals of these states — and their lack of mobility back to their empires’ capitals created a community of people who realized they had more in common with each other than the people on the other side of the Atlantic.

As other communities globally start to understand their unique place in the world, they import these early models of nation-states through the rich print culture of books and newspapers. We aren’t looking at convergent evolution, but rather clones of one model for organizing the nation implemented across the world.

That’s effectively the heart of the thesis of this petite book, which numbers just over 200 pages of eminently readable if occasionally turgid writing. There are dozens of other epiphanies and thoughts roaming throughout those pages, and so the best way to get the full flavor is just to pick up a used copy and dive in.

For my purposes though, I was curious to see how well Anderson’s thesis could be applied to the nation-state of the internet. Certainly, the concept that the internet is its own sovereign entity has been with us almost since its invention (just take a look at John Perry Barlow’s original manifesto on the independence of cyberspace if you haven’t).

Isn’t the internet nothing but a series of imagined communities? Aren’t subreddits literally the seeds of nation-states? Every time Anderson mentioned the printing press or “print-capitalism,” I couldn’t help but replace the word “press” with WordPress and print-capitalism with advertising or surveillance capitalism. Aren’t we going through exactly the kind of media revolution that drove the first nation-states a few centuries ago?

Perhaps, but it’s an extraordinarily simplistic comparison, one that misses some of the key originators of these nation-states.

Photo by metamorworks via Getty Images

One of the key challenges is that nation-states weren’t a rupture in time, but rather were continuous with existing power structures. On this point, Anderson is quite absolute. In South America, nation-states were borne out of the colonial administrations, and elites — worried about losing their power — used the burgeoning form of the nation-state to protect their interests (Anderson calls this “official nationalism”). Anderson sees this pattern pretty much everywhere, and if not from colonial governments, then from the feudal arrangements of the late Middle Ages.

If you turn the gaze to the internet then, who are the elites? Perhaps Google or Facebook (or Uber), companies with “nation-state” status that are essentially empires on to themselves. Yet, the analogy to me feels stretched.

There is an even greater problem though. In Anderson’s world, language is the critical vehicle by which the nation-state connects its citizens together into one imagined community. It’s hard to imagine France without French, or England without English. The very symbols by which we imagine our community are symbols of that community, and it is that self-referencing that creates a critical feedback loop back to the community and reinforces its differentiation.

That would seem to knock out the lowly subreddit as a potential nation-state, but it does raise the question of one group: coders.

When I write in Python for instance, I connect with a group of people who share that language, who communicate in that language (not entirely mind you), and who share certain values in common by their choice of that language. In fact, software engineers can tie their choices of language so strongly to their identities that it is entirely possible that “Python developer” or “Go programmer” says more about that person than “American” or “Chinese.”

Where this gets interesting is when you carefully connect it to blockchain, which I take to mean a technology that can autonomously distribute “wealth.” Suddenly, you have an imagined community of software engineers, who speak in their own “language” able to create a bureaucracy that serves their interests, and with media that connects them all together (through the internet). The ingredients — at least as Anderson’s recipe would have them — are all there.

I am not going to push too hard in this direction, but one surprise I had with Anderson is how little he discussed the physical agglomeration of people. The imagining of (physical) borders is crucial for a community, and so the development of maps for each nation is a common pattern in their historical developments. But, the map, fundamentally, is a symbol, a reminder that “this place is our place” and not much more.

Indeed, nation-states bleed across physical borders all the time. Americans are used to the concept of worldwide taxation. France seats representatives from its overseas departments in the National Assembly, allowing French citizens across the former empire to vote and elect representatives to the country’s legislature. And anyone who has followed the Huawei CFO arrest in Canada this week should know that “jurisdiction” these days has few physical borders.

The barrier for the internet or its people to become nation-states is not physical then, but cognitive. One needs to not just imagine a community, but imagine it as the prime community. We will see an internet nation-state when we see people prioritizing fealty to one of these digital communities over the loyalty and patriotism to a meatspace country. There are already early acolytes in these communities who act exactly that way. The question is whether the rest of the adherents will join forces and create their own imagined (cyber)space.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Reddit expands chat rooms to more subreddits

Posted by on Jul 18, 2018 in chat rooms, Reddit, Social, TC | 0 comments

If you’d rather spend time chatting with strangers who share a hyper-specific interest instead of keeping up with your co-workers’ stale memes on Slack, Reddit is ready for you. The platform has quietly been working on a chat room feature for months now, and today it expands beyond its early days as a very limited closed beta.

Plenty of subreddits already make use of a chat room feature, but these live outside of Reddit, usually on Slack or Discord. Given that, it makes sense for Reddit to lure those users back into the engaging on Reddit itself by offering its own chat feature.

I spent a little time hanging out in the /r/bjj (brazilian jiu jitsu) chat as well as the psychedelics chat affiliated with r/weed to see how things went across the spectrum, and it was pretty chill — mostly people asking for general advice or seeking answers to specific questions. In a Reddit chat linked to the r/community_chat subreddit — the hub for the new chat feature — redditors discussed if the rooms would lead to more or less harassment and if the team should add upvotes, downvotes and karma to chat to make it more like Reddit’s normal threads. Of course, what I saw is probably a far cry from what chat will look like if and when some of its more inflammatory subreddits get their hands on the new feature. We’ve reached out to Reddit with questions about if all subreddits, even the ones hidden behind content warnings, will be offered the new chat functionality.

Chat rooms are meant as a supplement to already active subreddits, not a standalone community, so it’s basically like watching a Reddit thread unfold in real time. On the Reddit blog, u/thunderemoji writes about why Reddit is optimistic that chat rooms won’t just be another trolling tool:

I was initially afraid that most people would bring out the pitchforks and… unkind words. I was pleasantly surprised to find that most people are actually quite nice. The nature of real-time, direct chat seems to be especially disarming. Even when people initially lash out in frustration or to troll, I found that if you talk to them and show them you’re a regular human like them, they almost always chill out.

Beyond just chilling out, people who are initially harsh or skeptical of new things will actually often change their minds. Sometimes they get so excited that they start to show up in unexpected places defending the thing they once strongly opposed in a way that feels more authentic than anything I could say.

While a few qualitative experiences can only go so far to allay fears, Reddit’s chat does have a few things going for it. For one, moderators add chat rooms. If a subreddit’s mods don’t think they can handle the additional moderation, they don’t have to activate the feature. (A Wired piece on the thinking behind chat explores some of these issues in more depth.)

In the same post, u/thunderemoji adds that Reddit “made moderation features a major priority for our roadmap early in the process” so that mods would have plenty of tools at their disposal. Those tools include an opt-in process, auto-banning users from chat who are banned from a subreddit, “kick” tools that suspend a user for 1 minutes 1 hour, 1 day or 3 days, the ability to lock a room and freeze all activity, rate limits and more.

To sign up for chat rooms (mods can add as many as they’d like once approved), a subreddit’s moderators can add their name to a list that lives here. To find chat rooms to explore, you can check for a link on subreddits you already visit, poke around the sidebar in this post by Reddit’s product team or check out /r/SubChats, a dedicated new subreddit collecting active chat rooms that accompany interest and community-specific subreddits.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Aiming to make billboard advertising more programmatic, Adquick raises $2.1 million

Posted by on Jul 17, 2018 in AdQuick, Alexis Ohanian, billboard advertising, initialized capital, Instacart, outdoor advertising, Reddit, TC | 0 comments

Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Initialized Capital and an investor in Adquick, a new service that’s looking to bring billboard advertising into the internet age, bought his last billboard ad just this year.

For several years, the Reddit founder had turned to outdoor advertising as a tool to troll politicians and advocate for various positions (and celebrate his famous wife). The last political billboard, in 2012, was to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act.

It was also the impetus for his investment in Adquick. “I’d seen pitches from a number of competitors that were all just static websites on top of the single business,” says Ohanian.

What he was looking for, and what he eventually found in Adquick was a company that had managed to map all of the billboard advertising options available in the U.S. and was offering would-be advertisers a way to digitally distribute their ads and book inventory.

“For us the reason why it was such an exciting initial investment was because we saw the opportunity and the talent of the team,” Ohanian says.

Matthew O’Connor, Adquick’s chief executive previously worked at Instacart and it was there that he and his team first learned about dragging traditional businesses into the online world.

“This team had come out of Instacart… they came well recommended by the founders over there,”Ohanian said. “Working with them now I’ve just gotten more and more impressed.”

So impressed, that Ohanian doubled down on his firm’s initial investment into the company with a new $2.1 million round.

There’s an undoubtable opportunity in outdoor advertising. O’Connor estimates that it’s a $33 billion global market with $8 billion spent on outdoor ads in the U.S. alone.

“They are aggregating from hundreds of vendors across the U.S. and they’re making it easy for companies to sell those ads and manage that inventory and bringing a ton of transparency to a system that is mostly phone calls and emails,” Ohanian said. 

Bringing those efficiencies to an old industry can only help what’s been the only non-digital ad channel to actually grow in the U.S. “It’s the oldest channel in the world that’s about to undergo a resurgence,” O’Connor says.

“It’s the last frontier of advertising,” says O’Connor. “This is a real world channel that can have a lot of tailwinds if we can bring these great modern technologies to it which is what we’re doing.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More