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Startups net more than capital with NBA players as investors

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in Alexa, Andre Iguodala, Basketball, Carmelo Anthony, Column, Dan Porter, david stern, Facebook, Golden State Warriors, Google, Kevin Durant, Messenger, national basketball association, NBA, overtime, player, SMS, Snap, Snapchat, snaptravel, Social Media, Spark Capital, Startups, stephen curry, TC, Telstra Ventures, toronto, twitch | 0 comments

If you’re a big basketball fan like me, you’ll be glued to the TV watching the Golden State Warriors take on the Toronto Raptors in the NBA finals. (You might be surprised who I’m rooting for.)

In honor of the big games, we took a shot at breaking down investment activities of the players off the court. Last fall, we did a story highlighting some of the sport’s more prolific investors. In this piece, we’ll take a deeper dive into just what having an NBA player as a backer can do for a startup beyond the capital involved. But first, here’s a chart of some startups funded by NBA players, both former and current.

 

In February, we covered how digital sports media startup Overtime had raised $23 million in a Series B round of funding led by Spark Capital. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern was an early investor and advisor in the company (putting money in the company’s seed round). Golden State Warriors player Kevin Durant invested as part of the company’s Series A in early 2018 via his busy investment vehicle, Thirty Five Ventures. And then, Carmelo Anthony invested (via his Melo7 Tech II fund) earlier this year. Other NBA-related investors include Baron DavisAndre Iguodala and Victor Oladipo, and other non-NBA backers include Andreessen Horowitz and Greycroft.

I talked to Overtime’s CEO, 27-year-old Zack Weiner, about how the involvement of so many NBA players came about. I also wondered what they brought to the table beyond their cash. But before we get there, let me explain a little more about what Overtime does.

Founded in late 2016 by Dan Porter and Weiner, the Brooklyn company has raised a total of $35.3 million. The pair founded the company after observing “how larger, legacy media companies, such as ESPN, were struggling” with attracting the younger viewer who was tuning into the TV less and less “and consuming sports in a fundamentally different way.”

So they created Overtime, which features about 25 to 30 sports-related shows across several platforms (which include YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and Twitch) aimed at millennials and the Gen Z generation. Weiner estimates the company’s programs get more than 600 million video views every month.

In terms of attracting NBA investors, Weiner told me each situation was a little different, but with one common theme: “All of them were fans of Overtime before we even met them…They saw what we were doing as the new wave of sports media and wanted to get involved. We didn’t have to have 10 meetings for them to understand what we were doing. This is the world they live and breathe.”

So how is having NBA players as investors helping the company grow? Well, for one, they can open a lot of doors, noted Weiner.

“NBA players are very powerful people and investors,” he said. “They’ve helped us make connections in music, fashion and all things tangential to sports. Some have created content with us.”

In addition, their social clout has helped with exposure. Their posting or commenting on Instagram gives the company credibility, Weiner said.

“Also just, in general, getting their perspectives and opinions,” he added. “A lot of our content is based on working with athletes, so they understand what athletes want and are interested in being a part of.”

It’s not just sports-related startups that are attracting the interest of NBA players. I also talked with Hussein Fazal, the CEO of SnapTravel, which recently closed a $21.2 million Series A that included participation from Telstra Ventures and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry.

Founded in 2016, Toronto-based SnapTravel offers online hotel booking services over SMS, Facebook Messenger, Alexa, Google Home and Slack. It’s driven more than $100 million in sales, according to Fazal, and is seeing its revenue grow about 35% quarter over quarter.

Like Weiner, Fazal told me that Curry’s being active on social media about SnapTravel helped draw positive attention and “add a lot of legitimacy” to his company.

“If you’re an end-consumer about to spend $1,000 on a hotel booking, you might be a little hesitant about trusting a newer brand like ours,” he said. “But if they go to our home page and see our investors, that holds some weight in the eyes of the public, and helps show we’re not a fly-by-night company.”

Another way Curry’s involvement has helped SnapTravel is in terms of the recruitment and retainment of employees. Curry once spent hours at the office, meeting with employees and doing a Q&A.

“It was really cool,” Fazal said. “And it helps us stand out from other startups when hiring.”

Regardless of who wins the series, it’s clear that startups with NBA investors on their team have a competitive advantage. (Still, Go Raptors!)


Source: The Tech Crunch

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The White House wants to know if you’ve been ‘censored or silenced’ by social media

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in Facebook, Policy, president trump, Social Media, trump, Twitter | 0 comments

It’s no secret that the Trump administration has been at war with social media. In the past year, the President has accused several online giants of censoring conservative voices, in particular giants like Twitter, Google and Facebook.

Today, the White House launched a Typeform site aimed at collecting personal reports of social media censorship relating to political bias.

“SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH,” the minimalistic site reads. “Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear ‘violations’ of user policies.”

For those who feel they’ve been wronged in some way by one of the major platforms, the 16 part questionnaire lets you chose from a list including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, while inquiring about specific tweets that were censored or accounts that were targeted. Users can submit screenshots and other supporting evidence and opt in for “President Trump’s fight for free speech” after entering a name, email address, phone number and proving they’re not real by answering a trivia question about the Declaration of Independence (take that, robots).

Trump has made a “shadow banning” and other perceived slights against conservatives voices a key cause in recent months. Last summer, he took to Twitter to address issues with the platform, writing, “Twitter ‘SHADOW BANNING’ prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.”

Late last month, the President met with Jack Dorsey for 30 minutes in the Oval Office, to discuss making Twitter “healthier and more civil,” according to the tech exec. No word on what the White House plans to do with the evidence it compiles.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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White House refuses to endorse the ‘Christchurch Call’ to block extremist content online

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in Australia, California, Canada, censorship, Facebook, France, freedom of speech, Google, hate crime, hate speech, New Zealand, Social Media, Software, TC, Terrorism, Twitter, United Kingdom, United States, White House, world wide web | 0 comments

The United States will not join other nations in endorsing the “Christchurch Call” — a global statement that commits governments and private companies to actions that would curb the distribution of violent and extremist content online.

“While the United States is not currently in a position to join the endorsement, we continue to support the overall goals reflected in the Call. We will continue to engage governments, industry, and civil society to counter terrorist content on the Internet,” the statement from the White House reads.

The “Christchurch Call” is a non-binding statement drafted by foreign ministers from New Zealand and France meant to push internet platforms to take stronger measures against the distribution of violent and extremist content. The initiative originated as an attempt to respond to the March killings of 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchruch and the subsequent spread of the video recording of the massacre and statements from the killer online.

By signing the pledge, companies agree to improve their moderation processes and share more information about the work they’re doing to prevent terrorist content from going viral. Meanwhile, government signatories are agreeing to provide more guidance through legislation that would ban toxic content from social networks.

Already, Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook and Alphabet — the parent company of Google — have signed on to the pledge, along with the governments of France, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The “Christchurch Call” is consistent with other steps that government agencies are taking to address how to manage the ways in which technology is tearing at the social fabric. Members of the Group of 7 are also meeting today to discuss broader regulatory measures designed to combat toxic combat, protect privacy and ensure better oversight of technology companies.

For its part, the White House seems more concerned about the potential risks to free speech that could stem from any actions taken to staunch the flow of extremist and violent content on technology platforms.

“We continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online while also continuing to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” the statement reads.”Further, we maintain that the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech, and thus we emphasize the importance of promoting credible, alternative narratives as the primary means by which we can defeat terrorist messaging.”

Signatories are already taking steps to make it harder for graphic violence or hate speech to proliferate on their platforms.

Last night, Facebook introduced a one-strike policy that would ban users who violate its live-streaming policies after one infraction.

The Christchurch killings are only the latest example of how white supremacist hate groups and terrorist organizations have used online propaganda to create an epidemic of violence at a global scale. Indeed, the alleged shooter in last month’s attack on a synagogue in Poway, Calif., referenced the writings of the Christchurch killer in an explanation for his attack, which he published online.

Critics are already taking shots at the White House for its inability to add the U.S. to a group of nations making a non-binding commitment to ensure that the global community can #BeBest online.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Telegram gets 3M new signups during Facebook apps’ outage

Posted by on Mar 14, 2019 in Apps, China, encryption, Europe, Facebook, instagram, internet censorship, Iran, messaging apps, messaging services, Moscow, Pavel Durov, Privacy, russia, Social, Social Media, Telegram, vk | 0 comments

Messaging platform Telegram claims to have had a surge in signups during a period of downtime for Facebook’s rival messaging services.

In a message sent to his Telegram channel, founder Pavel Durov’s just wrote: “I see 3 million new users signed up for Telegram within the last 24 hours.”

It’s probably not a coincidence that Facebook and its related family of apps went down for most of Wednesday, as we reported earlier. At the time of writing Instagram’s service has been officially confirmed restored. Unofficially Facebook also appears to be back online, at least here in Europe.

Durov doesn’t offer an explicit explanation for Telegram’s sudden spike in sign ups, but he does take a thinly veiled swipe at social networking giant Facebook — whose founder recently claimed he now plans to pivot the ad platform to ‘privacy’.

“Good,” adds Durov on his channel, welcoming Telegram’s 3M newbies. “We have true privacy and unlimited space for everyone.”

A contact at Telegram confirmed to TechCrunch that the Facebook apps’ downtime is the likely cause of its latest sign up spike, telling us: “These outages always drive new users.”

Though they also credited growth to “the mainstream overall increasing understanding about Facebook’s abusive attention harvesting practices”.

A year ago Telegram announced passing 200M monthly active users. Though the platform has faced restrictions and/or blocks in some markets (principally Russia and Iran, as well as China) — apparently for refusing government requests for encryption keys and/or user information.

In Durov’s home country of Russia the government is also now moving to tighten Internet restrictions via new legislation — and thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow and other Russian cities this weekend to protest at growing Internet censorship, per Reuters.

Such restrictions could increase demand for Telegram’s encrypted messaging service in the country as the app does appear to still be partially accessible there.

Durov, who famously left Russia in 2014 — stepping away from his home country and an earlier social network he founded (VK.com) because of his stance on free speech — has sought to thwart the Russian government’s Telegram blocks via legal and technical measures.

The Telegram messaging platform has of course also had its own issues with less political downtime too.

In a tweet last fall the company confirmed a server cluster had gone down, potentially affecting users in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Although in that case the downtime only lasted a few hours.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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A first look at Twitter’s new prototype app, twttr

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in Apps, conversations, iOS apps, replies, Social, Social Media, Twitter, twttr | 0 comments

Yesterday, Twitter rolled out its much-anticipated prototype application to the first group of testers. We’ve now gotten our hands on the app and can see how the current version differs from the build Twitter introduced to the world back in January. While the original version and today’s prototype share many of the same features, there have been some small tweaks as to how conversation threads are displayed, and the color-coded reply labeling system is now much more subtle.

“Twttr,” as the prototype build is called, was created to give Twitter a separate space outside its public network to experiment with new ideas about how Twitter should look, feel and operate. Initially, the prototype focuses on changes to replies, with the goal of making longer conversations easier to read.

However, the company said it will likely continue to test new ideas within the app in the future. And even the features seen today will continue to change as the company responds to user feedback.

In the early build of the twttr prototype, the color-coded reply system was intentionally designed to be overly saturated for visibility’s sake, but Twitter never intended to launch a garish color scheme like this to its testers.

The new system is more readable and no longer color codes the entire tweet.

Below are a few screenshots of what the public Twitter app looks like when compared with the new prototype, plus other features found in twttr alone.

Feedback

Above: regular Twitter on the left; twttr on the right

Before digging into twttr’s key features, it’s worth noting there’s an easy way for testers to submit feedback: a menu item in the left-side navigation.

Here, you can tap on a link labeled “twttr feedback” that takes you directly to a survey form where you can share your thoughts. The form asks for your handle, and what you liked and disliked, and offers a space for other comments.

Reply threads

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

This is the big change Twitter is testing in the prototype.

In the photo on the left, you can see how replies are handled today — a thin, gray line connects a person replying to another user within the larger conversation taking place beneath the original tweet. In the photo, TechCrunch editor Jonathan Shieber is replying both to the TechCrunch tweet and the person who tagged him in a question in their own reply to the TC tweet.

In twttr, Shieber’s reply is nested beneath that question in a different way. It’s indented to offer a better visual cue that he’s answering Steven. And instead of a straight line, it’s curved. (It’s also blue because I follow him on Twitter.)

You’ll notice that everyone’s individual responses are more rounded — similar to chat bubbles. This allows them to pop out on the contrasting background, and gives an appearance of an online discussion board.

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

This is even more apparent when the background is set to the white day theme instead of the darker night theme.

Color-coded replies

Here’s a closer look at nested replies.

People you follow will be prominently highlighted at the top of longer threads with a bright blue line next to their name, on the left side of their chat bubble-shaped reply. Twitter says the way people are ranked is personalized to you, and something it’s continuing to iterate.

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

In the public version of the Twitter app, the original poster is also highlighted in the Reply thread with a prominent “Original Tweeter” label. In the prototype, however, they’re designated only by a colored line next to their name, on the left side of the chat bubble. (See Jordan’s tweet above.)

This is definitely a more subtle way to highlight the tweet’s importance to the conversation. It’s also one that could be overlooked — especially in the darker themed Night Mode where the gray line doesn’t offer as much contrast with the dark background.

In the day theme, it’s much easier to see the difference (see below).

Engagements are hidden

Another thing you’ll notice when scrolling through conversations on twttr is that engagements are hidden on people’s individual tweets. That is, there’s no heart (favorite) icon, no retweet icon, no reply bubble icon and no sharing icon, like you’re used to seeing on tweets today.

Instead, if you want to interact with any tweet using one of those options, you have to tap on the tweet itself.

The tweet will then pop up and become the focus, and all the interaction buttons — including the option to start typing your reply — will then become available.

“Show more”

Another change to conversations is that some replies are hidden by default when you’re reading through a series of replies on Twitter.

Often, in long conversation threads, people will respond to someone else in a thread besides the original Tweeter. Both are tagged in the response when that occurs, but the reply may not be about the original tweet at all. This can make it difficult to follow conversations.

Above: “Show more,” before being expanded

In twttr, these sorts of “side conversations” are hidden.

In their place, a “Show more” button appears. When tapped, those hidden replies come into view again. They’re also indented to show they are a part of a different thread.

This change highlights only those replies that are in response to the original tweet. That means people trolling other individuals in the thread could see their replies hidden. But it also means that those responding to a troll comment to the original poster — like one offering a fact check, for example — will also be hidden.

There are other reasons to hide some replies, notes Twitter — like if the original response was too large or the thread has too many replies. It’s not always about the quality of the responses.

Above: after being expanded

The icon!

Twttr is very much a prototype. That means everything seen here now could dramatically change at any point in the future. Even the twttr icon itself has gone through different iterations.

The first version of the icon was a very lovely bird logo that looked notably different from original Twitter. The new version (which we’ll dub twttr’s Yo icon), is a plain blue box.

Twitter has its reasons for that one… and clearly, it didn’t ask for feedback on this particular change.

Where’s that feedback form again?


Source: The Tech Crunch

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The Anxiety of Having a Famous Follower on Twitter

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in Celebrities, Cusack, John, O'Brien, Conan, Obama, Barack, Social Media, Twitter, Whedon, Joss | 0 comments

A social-media status report, with Barack Obama, John Cusack, Conan O’Brien and Joss Whedon.
Source: New York Times

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Venture investors and startup execs say they don’t need Elizabeth Warren to defend them from big tech

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in Amazon, AT&T, ben narasin, chief technology officer, coinbase, Companies, economy, elizabeth warren, entrepreneurship, Facebook, Federal Trade Commission, Google, IBM, kara nortman, Los Angeles, Microsoft, new enterprise associates, Private Equity, Social Media, Startup company, TC, Technology, Technology Development, United States, upfront ventures, us government, venky ganesan, Venture Capital, Walmart, world wide web, zappos | 0 comments

Responding to Elizabeth Warren’s call to regulate and break up some of the nation’s largest technology companies, the venture capitalists that invest in technology companies are advising the presidential hopeful to move slowly and not break anything.

Warren’s plan called for regulators to be appointed to oversee the unwinding of several acquisitions that were critical to the development of the core technology that make Alphabet’s Google and the social media giant Facebook so profitable… and Zappos.

Warren also wanted regulation in place that would block companies making over $25 billion that operate as social media or search platforms or marketplaces from owning companies that also sell services on those marketplaces.

As a whole, venture capitalists viewing the policy were underwhelmed.

“As they say on Broadway, ‘you gotta have a gimmick’ and this is clearly Warren’s,” says Ben Narasin, an investor at one of the nation’s largest investment firms,” New Enterprise Associates, which has $18 billion in assets under management and has invested in consumer companies like Jet, an online and mobile retailer that competed with Amazon and was sold to Walmart for $3.3 billion.

“Decades ago, at the peak of Japanese growth as a technology competitor on the global stage, the US government sought to break up IBM . This is not a new model, and it makes no sense,” says Narasin. “We slow down our country, our economy and our ability to innovate when the government becomes excessively aggressive in efforts to break up technology companies, because they see them through a prior-decades lens, when they are operating in a future decade reality. This too shall pass.”

Balaji Sirinivasan, the chief technology officer of Coinbase, took to Twitter to offer his thoughts on the Warren plan. “If big companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are prevented from acquiring startups, that actually reduces competition,” Sirinivasan writes.

“There are two separate issues here that are being conflated. One issue is do we need regulation on the full platform companies. And the answer is absolutely,” says Venky Ganesan, the managing director of Menlo Ventures. “These platforms have a huge impact on society at large and they have huge influence.”

But while the platforms need to be regulated, Ganesan says, Senator Warren’s approach is an exercise in overreach.

“That plan is like taking a bazooka to a knife fight. It’s overwhelming and it’s not commensurate with the issues,” Ganesan says. “I don’t think at the end of the day venture capital is worrying about competition from these big platform companies. [And] as the proposal is composed it would create more obstacles rather than less.”

Using Warren’s own example of the antitrust cases that were brought against companies like AT&T and Microsoft, is a good model for how to proceed, Ganesan says. “We want to have the technocrats at the FTC figure out the right way to bring balance.”

Kara Nortman, a partner with the Los Angeles-based firm Upfront Ventures, is also concerned about the potential unforeseen consequences of Warren’s proposals.

“The specifics of the policy as presented strike me as having potentially negative consequences for innovation, These companies are funding massive innovation initiatives in our country. They’re creating jobs and taking risks in areas of technology development where we could potentially fall behind other countries and wind up reducing our quality of life,” Nortman says. “We’re not seeing that innovation or initiative come from the government – or that support for encouraging immigration and by extension embracing the talented foreign entrepreneurs that could develop new technologies and businesses.”

Nortman sees the Warren announcement as an attempt to start a dialogue between government regulators and big technology companies.

“My hope is that this is the beginning of a dialogue that is constructive,” Nortman says. “And since Elizabeth Warren is a thoughtful policymaker this is likely the first salvo toward an engagement with the technology community to work collaboratively on issues that we all want to see solved and that some of us are dedicating our career in venture to help solving.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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UK Far Right activist circumvents Facebook ban to livestream threats

Posted by on Mar 5, 2019 in Alex Jones, Europe, Facebook, far right, Google, hate speech, online platforms, Policy, Social, Social Media, social media platforms, social media tools, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, Tommy Robinson, United Kingdom, YouTube | 0 comments

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a Far Right UK activist who was permanently banned from Facebook last week for repeatedly breaching its community standards on hate speech, was nonetheless able to use its platform to livestream harassment of an anti-fascist blogger whom he doorstepped at home last night.

UK-based blogger Mike Stuchbery detailed the intimidating incident in a series of tweets earlier today, writing that Yaxley-Lennon appeared to have used a friend’s Facebook account to circumvent the ban on his own Facebook and Instagram pages.

In recent years Yaxley-Lennon, who goes by the moniker ‘Tommy Robinson’ on social media, has used online platforms to raise his profile and solicit donations to fund Far Right activism.

He has also, in the case of Facebook and Twitter, fallen foul of mainstream tech platforms’ community standards which prohibit use of their tools for hate speech and intimidation. Earning himself a couple of bans. (At the time of writing Yaxley-Lennon has not been banned from Google-owned YouTube .)

Though circumventing Facebook’s ban appears to have been trivially easy for Yaxley-Lennon, who, as well as selling himself as a Far Right activist called “Tommy Robinson”, previously co-founded the Islamophobic Far Right pressure group, the English Defence League.

Giving an account of being doorstepped by Yaxley-Lennon in today’s Independent, Stuchbery writes: “The first we knew of it was a loud, frantic rapping on my door at around quarter to 11 [in the evening]… That’s when notifications began to buzz on my phone — message requests on Facebook pouring in, full of abuse and vitriol. “Tommy” was obviously livestreaming his visit, using a friend’s Facebook account to circumvent his ban, and had tipped off his fans.”

A repost (to YouTube) of what appears to be a Facebook Live stream of the incident corroborates Stuchbery’s account, showing Yaxley-Lennon outside a house at night where can be seen shouting for “Mike” to come out and banging on doors and/or windows.

At another point in the same video Yaxley-Lennon can be seen walking away when he spots a passerby and engages them in conversation. During this portion of the video Yaxley-Lennon publicly reveals Stuchbery’s address — a harassment tactic that’s known as doxxing.

He can also be heard making insinuating remarks to the unidentified passerby about what he claims are Stuchbery’s “wrong” sexual interests.

In another tweet today Stuchbery describes the remarks are defamatory, adding that he now intends to sue Yaxley-Lennon.

Stuchbery has also posted several screengrabs to Twitter, showing a number of Facebook users who he is not connected to sending him abusive messages — presumably during the livestream.

During the video Yaxley-Lennon can also be heard making threats to return, saying: “Mike Stuchbery. See you soon mate, because I’m coming back and back and back and back.”

In a second livestream, also later reposted to YouTube, Yaxley-Lennon can be heard apparently having returned a second time to Stuchbery’s house, now at around 5am, to cause further disturbance.

Stuchbery writes that he called the police to report both visits. In another tweet he says they “eventually talked ‘Tommy’ into leaving, but not before he gave my full address, threatened to come back tomorrow, in addition to making a documentary ‘exposing me’”.

We reached out to Bedfordshire Police to ask what it could confirm about the incidents at Stuchbery’s house and the force’s press office told us it had received a number of enquiries about the matter. A spokeswoman added that it would be issuing a statement later today. We’ll update this post when we have it.  

Stuchbery also passed us details of the account he believes was used to livestream the harassment — suggesting it’s linked to another Far Right activist, known by the moniker ‘Danny Tommo’, who was also banned by Facebook last week.

Though the Facebook account in question was using a different moniker — ‘Jack Dawkins’. This suggests, if the account did indeed belong to the same banned Far Right activist, he was also easily able to circumvent Facebook’s ban by creating a new account with a different (fake) name and email.

We passed the details of the ‘Jack Dawkins’ account to Facebook and since then the company appears to have suspended the account. (A message posted to it earlier today claimed it had been hacked.)

The fact of Yaxley-Lennon being able to use Facebook to livestream harassment a few days after he was banned underlines quite how porous Facebook’s platform remains for organized purveyors of hate and harassment. Studies of Facebook’s platform have previously suggested as much.

Which makes high profile ‘Facebook bans’ of hate speech activists mostly a crisis PR exercise for the company. And indeed easy PR for Far Right activists who have been quick to seize on and trumpet social media bans as ‘evidence’ of mainstream censorship of their point of view — liberally ripping from the playbook of US hate speech peddlers, such as the (also ‘banned’) InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Such as by posting pictures of themselves with their mouths gagged with tape.

Such images are intended to make meme-able messages for their followers to share. But the reality for social media savvy hate speech activists like Jones and Yaxley-Lennon looks nothing like censorship — given how demonstrably easy it remains for them to circumvent platform bans and carry on campaigns of hate and harassment via mainstream platforms.

We reached out to Facebook for a response to Yaxley-Lennon’s use of its livestreaming platform to harass Stuchbery, and to ask how it intends to prevent banned Far Right activists from circumventing bans and carrying on making use of its platform.

The company declined to make a public statement, though it did confirm the livestream had been flagged as violating its community standards last night and was removed afterwards. It also said it had deleted one post by a user for bullying. It added that it has content and safety teams which work around the clock to monitor Live videos flagged for review by Facebook users.

It did not confirm how long Yaxley-Lennon’s livestream was visible on its platform.

Stuchbery, a former history teacher, has garnered attention online writing about how Far Right groups have been using social media to organize and crowdfund ‘direct action’ in the offline world, including by targeting immigrants, Muslims, politicians and journalists in the street or on their own doorsteps.

But the trigger for Stuchbery being personally targeted by Yaxley-Lennon appears to be a legal letter served to the latter’s family home at the weekend informing him he’s being sued for defamation.

Stuchbery has been involved in raising awareness about the legal action, including promoting a crowdjustice campaign to raise funds for the suit.

The litigation relates to allegations Yaxley-Lennon made online late last year about a 15-year-old Syrian refugee schoolboy called Jamal who was shown in a video that went viral being violently bullied by white pupils at his school in Northern England.

Yaxley-Lennon responded to the viral video by posting a vlog to social media in which he makes a series of allegations about Jamal. The schoolboy’s family have described the allegations as defamatory. And the crowdjustice campaign promoted by Stuchbery has since raised more than £10,000 to sue Yaxley-Lennon.

The legal team pursuing the defamation litigation has also written that it intends to explore “routes by which the social media platforms that provide a means of dissemination to Lennon can also be attached to this action”.

The video of Yaxley-Lennon making claims about Jamal can still be found on YouTube. As indeed can Yaxley-Lennon’s own channel — despite equivalent pages having been removed from Facebook and Twitter (the latter pulled the plug on Yaxley-Lennon’s account a year ago).

We asked YouTube why it continues to provide a platform for Yaxley-Lennon to amplify hate speech and solicit donations for campaigns of targeted harassment but the company declined to comment publicly on the matter.

It did point out it demonetized Yaxley-Lennon’s channel last month, having determined it breaches its advertising policies.

YouTube also told us that it removes any video content that violates its hate speech policies — which do prohibit the incitement of violence or hatred against members of a religious community.

But by ignoring the wider context here — i.e. Yaxley-Lennon’s activity as a Far Right activist — and allowing him to continue broadcasting on its platform YouTube is leaving the door open for dog whistle tactics to be used to signal to and stir up ‘in the know’ followers — as was the case with another Internet savvy operator, InfoWars’ Alex Jones (until YouTube eventually terminated his channel last year).

Until last week Facebook was also ignoring the wider context around Yaxley-Lennon’s Far Right activism — a decision that likely helped him reach a wider audience than he would otherwise have been able to. So now Facebook has another full-blown hate speech ‘influencer’ going rogue on its platform and being cheered by an audience of followers its tools helped amass.

There is, surely, a lesson here.

Yet it’s also clear mainstream platforms are unwilling to pro-actively and voluntarily adapt their rules to close down malicious users who seek to weaponize social media tools to spread hate and sew division via amplified harassment.

But if platforms won’t do it, it’ll be left to governments to curb social media’s antisocial impacts with regulation.

And in the UK there is now no shortage of appetite to try; the government has a White Paper on social media and safety coming this winter. While the official opposition has said it wants to create a new regulator to rein in online platforms and even look at breaking up tech giants. So watch this space.

Public attitudes to (anti)social media have certainly soured — and with livestreams of hate and harassment it’s little wonder.

“Perhaps the worst thing, in the cold light of day, is the near certainty that the “content” “Tommy” produced during his stunt will now be used as a fundraising tool,” writes Stuchbery, concluding his account of being on the receiving end of a Facebook Live spewing hate and harassment. “If you dare to call him out on his cavalcade of hate, he usually tries to monetize you. It is a cruel twist.

“But most of all, I wonder how we got in this mess. I wonder how we got to a place where those who try to speak out against hatred and those who peddle it are threatened at their homes. I despair at how social media has become a weapon wielded by some, seemingly with impunity, to silence.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Facebook won’t let you opt-out of its phone number ‘look up’ setting

Posted by on Mar 4, 2019 in Alex Stamos, computing, Facebook, photo sharing, Privacy, reporter, Security, Social Media, Software, terms of service | 0 comments

Users are complaining that the phone number Facebook hassled them to use to secure their account with two-factor authentication has also been associated with their user profile — which anyone can use to “look up” their profile.

Worse, Facebook doesn’t give you an option to opt-out.

Last year, Facebook was forced to admit that after months of pestering its users to switch on two-factor by signing up their phone number, it was also using those phone numbers to target users with ads. But some users are finding out just now that Facebook’s default setting allows everyone — with or without an account — to look up a user profile based off the same phone number previously added to their account.

The recent hubbub began today after a tweet by Jeremy Burge blew up, criticizing Facebook’s collection and use of phone numbers, which he likened to “a unique ID that is used to link your identity across every platform on the internet.”

Although users can hide their phone number on their profile so nobody can see it, it’s still possible to “look up” user profiles in other ways, such as “when someone uploads your contact info to Facebook from their mobile phone,” according to a Facebook help article. It’s a more restricted way than allowing users to search for user profiles using a person’s phone number, which Facebook restricted last year after admitting “most” users had their information scraped.

Facebook gives users the option of allowing users to “look up” their profile using their phone number to “everyone” by default, or to “friends of friends” or just the user’s “friends.”

But there’s no way to hide it completely.

Security expert and academic Zeynep Tufekci said in a tweet: “Using security to further weaken privacy is a lousy move — especially since phone numbers can be hijacked to weaken security,” referring to SIM swapping, where scammers impersonate cell customers to steal phone numbers and break into other accounts.

Tufekci’s argued that users can “no longer keep keep private the phone number that [they] provided only for security to Facebook.”

Facebook spokesperson Jay Nancarrow told TechCrunch that the settings “are not new,” adding that, “the setting applies to any phone numbers you added to your profile and isn’t specific to any feature.”

Gizmodo reported last year that when a user gives Facebook a phone number for two-factor, it “became targetable by an advertiser within a couple of weeks.”

If a user doesn’t like it, they can set up two-factor without using a phone number — which hasn’t been mandatory for additional login security since May 2018.

But even if users haven’t set up two-factor, there are well documented cases of users having their phone numbers collected by Facebook, whether the user expressly permitted it or not.

In 2017, one reporter for The Telegraph described her alarm at the “look up” feature, given she had “not given Facebook my number, was unaware that it had found it from other sources, and did not know it could be used to look me up.”

WhatsApp, the messaging app also owned by Facebook (alongside Messenger and Instagram), uses your phone number as the primary way to create your account and connect you to its service. Facebook has long had a strategy to further integrate the two services, although it has run into some bumps along the way.

To the specific concerns by users, Facebook said: “We appreciate the feedback we’ve received about these settings and will take it into account.”

Concerned users should switch their “look up” settings to “Friends” to mitigate as much of the privacy risk as possible.

When asked specifically if Facebook will allow users to users to opt-out of the setting, Facebook said it won’t comment on future plans. And, asked why it was set to “everyone” by default, Facebook said the feature makes it easier to find people you know but aren’t yet friends with.

Others criticized Facebook’s move to expose phone numbers to “look ups,” calling it “unconscionable.”

Alex Stamos, former chief security officer and now adjunct professor at Stanford University, also called out the practice in a tweet. “Facebook can’t credibly require two-factor for high-risk accounts without segmenting that from search and ads,” he said.

Since Stamos left Facebook in August, Facebook has not hired a replacement chief security officer.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Twitter’s latest test changes ‘Retweet with Comment’ so it looks more like a Reply

Posted by on Feb 21, 2019 in Apps, Social, Social Media, tweet, Twitter | 0 comments

Twitter’s new prototype testing program isn’t the only way it’s working to fix conversations on its site. The company confirmed it’s currently running another public-facing test focused on making Twitter “more conversational” — but this time with Retweets instead of Replies. The test involves using a thin line to connect a quote-style retweet to the person commenting on the tweet, instead of placing the quoted tweet in a box as before.

Here are some visual aids.

Today, when you comment on a tweet you’re reposting, the original tweet is boxed in like this:

The new test sees Twitter eliminating the box entirely, and connecting the comment to the tweet using the same sort of line that is used today with Replies.

For example, here is a before and after of the change. (Click through to the tweet to view the images larger). You can see the original look on the left, and the update using the line on the right:

We asked Twitter if this was a permanent change or just a test, and a spokesperson confirmed it was the latter.

The test was available on Android on Tuesday of this week, but began rolling out to iOS users yesterday.

Despite the launch of the new testing program, the company said it would continue to A/B test various conversational features and other changes within its public app.

“The fact that we’re doing this [Twitter prototype testing program] doesn’t mean that we don’t do regular testing – like we do with all our development processes in our regular app all the time,” Sara Haider, Twitter’s director of product management, noted in an interview at CES in January.

The prototype program, meanwhile, serves as more of an experimental testing grounds where Twitter users are able to directly influence the development process with their feedback and opinions.

Twitter had learned over the years that some of the best ideas come from the community itself. Many of its products — including @ Replies, the hashtag (#), tweetstorms (now “threads”) and Retweets (originally “RT”) — were developed in response to how people were already using Twitter. Now, Twitter hopes to tap into the hive mind to build whatever else is coming next.

But not all of Twitter’s changes are community-driven. (After all, I’m not sure anyone was really all that concerned about how Retweets were displayed.)

That means you’ll still see Twitter testing smaller changes like this one in the public app.

Whether or not the lines will eventually come to replace the box for Retweets still remains to be seen, however. While it does make the comment seem more like someone is continuing a conversation, the update arguably makes it easier to confuse a Retweet with a Reply, too.

“We’re working on updates to Retweet with Comment as part of our efforts to make Twitter more conversational,” a spokesperson for Twitter confirmed to TechCrunch. They also hinted we’d see more tests of this nature in the future, as well.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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