Daily Crunch: Twitter announces ‘Super Follow’ subscriptions

Twitter reveals its move into paid subscriptions, Australia passes its media bargaining law and Coinbase files its S-1. This is your Daily Crunch for February 25, 2021.

The big story: Twitter announces ‘Super Follow’ subscriptions

Twitter announced its first paid product at an investor event today, showing off screenshots of a feature that will allow users to subscribe to their favorite creators in exchange for things like exclusive content, subscriber-only newsletters and a supporter badge.

The company also announced a feature called Communities, which could compete with Facebook Groups and enable Super Follow networks to interact, plus a Safety Mode for auto-blocking and muting abusive accounts. On top of all that, Twitter said it plans to double revenue by 2023.

Not announced: launch dates for any of these features.

The tech giants

After Facebook’s news flex, Australia passes bargaining code for platforms and publishers — This requires platform giants like Facebook and Google to negotiate to remunerate local news publishers for their content.

New Facebook ad campaign extols the benefits of personalized ads — The sentiments are similar to a campaign that Facebook launched last year in opposition to Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Sergey Brin’s airship aims to use world’s biggest mobile hydrogen fuel cell — The Google co-founder’s secretive airship company LTA Research and Exploration is planning to power a huge disaster relief airship with an equally record-breaking hydrogen fuel cell.

Coinbase files to go public in a key listing for the cryptocurrency category — Coinbase’s financials show a company that grew rapidly from 2019 to 2020 while also crossing the threshold into unadjusted profitability.

Boosted by the pandemic, meeting transcription service Otter.ai raises $50M — With convenient timing, Otter.ai added Zoom integration back in April 2020.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

DigitalOcean’s IPO filing shows a two-class cloud market — The company intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “DOCN.”

Pilot CEO Waseem Daher tears down his company’s $60M Series C pitch deck — For founders aiming to entice investors, the pitch deck remains the best way to communicate their startup’s progress and potential.

Five takeaways from Coinbase’s S-1 — We dig into Coinbase’s user numbers, its asset mix, its growing subscription incomes, its competitive landscape and who owns what in the company.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Paramount+ will cost $4.99 per month with ads — The new streaming service launches on March 4.

Register for TC Sessions: Justice for a conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion in the startup world — This is just one week away!

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #social, #twitter


Twitter’s ‘Super Follow’ creator subscription takes shots at Substack and Patreon

It’s been an all-around more ambitious year for Twitter. Following activist shareholder action last year that aimed to oust CEO Jack Dorsey, the company has been making long overdue product moves, buying up companies and aiming to push the envelope on how it can tap its network and drive new revenue streams. Things seem to be paying off for the company, as their share price sits at an all-time high — double that of its 2020 high.

Today, the company shared early details on its first ever paid product, a feature called “Super Follow” which aims to combine the community trends of Discord, the newsletter insights of Substack, the audio chat rooms of Clubhouse and the creator support of Patreon into a creator subscription. The company announced the service during its Analyst Day event Thursday morning.

Plenty of details are still up in the air for the feature, which notably does not have a launch timeline.

Image Credits: Twitter

Screenshots shared by Twitter showcase a feature that allows Twitter users to subscribe to their favorite creators for a monthly price (one screenshot details a $4.99 per month cost) and earn certain subscriber-only perks, including things like “exclusive content,” “subscriber-only newsletters,” “community access,” “deals & discounts,” and a “supporter badge” for subscribers. Creators in the program will also be able to paywall certain media they share, including tweets, fleets and chats they organize in Twitter’s Clubhouse competitor Spaces.

The company’s other big announcement of the event was “Communities,” a product that seems designed to compete with Facebook Groups but also will likely provide “Super Follow” networks a place to interact with creators in close cahoots.

Introducing paywalls into the Twitter feed could dramatically shift the mechanics of the service. Twitter has been pretty conservative over the years in building features that are intended for singular classes of users. Creator-focused features built for a network that is already home to so many creators could be a major threat to services like Patreon, which have largely popped up due to the lackluster monetization tools available from the big social platforms.

New revenue streams will undoubtedly be key to Twitter’s ambitious plan to double its revenues by 2023.


#analyst, #ceo, #clubhouse, #computing, #day, #discord, #facebook, #jack-dorsey, #operating-systems, #patreon, #paywall, #real-time-web, #software, #tc, #text-messaging, #twitter


India sets more stringent rules for social media, streaming services

India announced sweeping changes to its guidelines for social media, on-demand video streaming services, and digital news outlets on Thursday, joining several other nations in posing new challenges for giants such as Facebook and Google that count the nation as its biggest market by users.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s IT, Law, and Justice minister, said in a press conference that social media companies will be required to acknowledge takedown requests of unlawful content within 24 hours and deliver a complete redressal in within 15 days. In sensitive cases that surround rape or other similar criminal cases, firms will be required to take down the objectionable content within 24 hours.

These firms will also be required to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact officer, who shall be reachable round the clock, and a resident grievance officer. They will also have to set up a local office in India.

Prasad said social media firms will have to disclose the originator of objectionable content. “We don’t want to know the content, but firms need to be able to tell who was the first person who began spreading misinformation and other objectionable content,” he said. WhatsApp has previously said that it can’t comply with such traceability requests without compromising end-to-end encryption security for every user.

Firms will also be required to publish a monthly compliance report to disclose the number of requests they received and what actions they took. They will also be required to offer a voluntary option to users who wish to verify their accounts.

The guidelines, which replace the law from 2011, go into effect for small firms effective immediately, but bigger services will be provided three months to comply, said Prasad.

New Delhi has put together these guidelines because citizens in India have long requested a “mechanism to address grievances,” said Prasad. India has been working on a law aimed at intermediaries since 2018. You can read the final version of the draft here, courtesy of New Delhi-based advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation.

“India is the world’s largest open Internet society and the Government welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the Constitution and laws of India,” he said, adding that WhatsApp had amassed 530 million users, YouTube, 448 million users, Facebook’s marquee service 410 million users, Instagram 210 million users, and Twitter, 175 million users in the country.

Full guidelines for social media firms and other intermediaries. (Source: Indian government.)

For streaming platforms, the rules have outlined a three-tier structure for “observance and adherence to the code.” Until now, on-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and MX Player have operated in India with little to no censorship.

New Delhi last year said India’s broadcasting ministry, which regulates content on TV, will also be overseeing digital streaming platforms. 17 popular streaming firms including international giants had banded together to devise a self-regulation code. Prakash Javedkar, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, said in the conference that the proposed solution from the industry wasn’t adequate and there will be an oversight mechanism from the government to ensure full compliance with the code.

Streaming services will also have to attach a content ratings to their titles. “The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”,” the Indian government said.

“The publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme.”

The new rules will also force digital news outlets to disclose the size of their reach and structure of their ownership.

Industry executives have expressed concerns over the new proposed regulation, saying New Delhi hasn’t consulted them for these changes. IAMAI, a powerful industry body that represents nearly all on-demand streaming services, said it was “dismayed” by the guidelines, and hoped to have a dialogue with the government.

Javedkar and Prasad were asked if there will be any consultation with the industry before these guidelines become law. The ministers said that they had already received enough inputs from the industry.

This is a developing story. Check back for more information…

#apps, #asia, #disney, #facebook, #google, #government, #hotstar, #iamai, #india, #instagram, #mx-player, #netflix, #social, #twitter, #whatsapp


Twitter relaunches test that asks users to revise harmful replies

Twitter is running a new test that will ask users to pause and think before they tweet. According to the company’s announcement, when Twitter detects what appears to be a potentially harmful or offensive reply to someone else’s tweet, it will prompt you to consider revising your text instead of tweeting.

Users whose tweets are flagged in this way will see a pop-up message appear on their screen, which asks, “Want to review this before Tweeting?” There are three buttons to then choose from: one to tweet the reply anyway, an Edit button (this is as close as we’ll get, apparently), and a delete button to discard the tweet entirely. There is also a small link to report if the system got things wrong.

This is not the first time Twitter has run a test like this.

In May 2020 and again in August 2020, Twitter ran variations on this same experiment. In those cases, the text on the pop-up screen was largely the same, but the layout of the three buttons looked different and were less colorful.

The earlier tests ran on Android, iOS and web, but this current iteration is only on iOS, for the time being.

At the time of the initial test, Twitter explained its systems were able to detect harmful language based on the kind of language that had been used in other tweets that had been reported in the past.

It’s been shown that these sorts of built-in small nudges can have an impact.

For example, when Twitter began prompting users to read the article linked in a tweet before retweeting it, the company found that users would open the articles 40% more often than without the nudge. Twitter has also built similar experiments to try to slow down the pace of online conversation on its platform, by doing things like discouraging retweets without commentary or slow down “Likes” on tweets containing misinformation.

Other social networks use small nudges like this, too, to influence their users’ behavior. Instagram back in 2019 launched a feature that would flag potentially offensive comments before they were posted, and later expanded this to captions. TikTok more recently launched a banner that would ask users if they were sure they wanted to share a video that contains “unverified content.”

It’s unclear why Twitter hasn’t simply rolled out the pop-up to combat online abuse — still a serious issue on its platform — and then iterated on the design and style of the message box, as needed.

Compared with the much larger engineering and design efforts the company has had underway — including its newer Stories feature known as Fleets and a Clubhouse rival called Spaces — a box asking users to pause and think seems like something that could have graduated to a full product by now.

#abuse, #bullying, #social, #social-media, #tweet, #twitter


Twitter explored buying India’s ShareChat and turning Moj into a global TikTok rival

Twitter recently held talks to acquire Indian social media startup ShareChat as the company explored ways to expand its presence in the world’s second largest internet market and build a global rival to TikTok, three sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The American firm, which is already an investor in Bangalore-based ShareChat, offered to buy the Indian startup for $1.1 billion and had committed an additional investment of $900 million, two of the sources said.

The talks are no longer ongoing, two sources said, requesting anonymity as the matter is private. TechCrunch could not determine why the talks did not materialize into a deal.

Two sources said Twitter had expressed intention to take Moj, a short-form video app that ShareChat owns, to international markets and position it as a rival to Chinese app TikTok.

Twitter declined to comment and ShareChat did not respond to a request for comment.

India’s ban on TikTok last year prompted scores of local startups and international giants to try their hands at short-form video format.

Moj, with over 80 million users already, has emerged as one of the largest players in the category. Earlier this month, Snap inked a deal with ShareChat to integrate its Camera Kit into the Indian short video app. This is the first time Snap had formed a partnership of this kind with a firm in India.

With the buyout offer no longer being entertained, ShareChat has resumed talks with other investors for its new financing round. These investors include Google, Snap, as well as Tinder-parent firm Match Group, the sources said. TechCrunch reported in January that the Indian startup was talking to Google and Snap as well as some existing investors including Twitter to raise over $200 million. A potential acquisition by Twitter prolonged the investment talks.

ShareChat, which claims to have over 160 million users, offers its social network app in 15 Indian languages and has a large following in small Indian cities and towns, or what venture capitalist Sajith Pai of Blume Ventures refer as “India 2.” Very few players in the Indian startup ecosystem have a reach to this segment of this population, which thanks to users from even smaller towns and villages — called “India 3” — getting online has expanded in recent years.

In an interview with TechCrunch last year, Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and chief executive of ShareChat, said the startup’s marquee app was growing “exponentially” and that users were spending, on an average, more than 30 minutes a day on the service.

Twitter, itself, has struggled to make inroads outside of bigger cities and towns in India. Its app reached about 75 million users in the country in the month of January, according to mobile insight firm AppAnnie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. It inked a deal with news and social app Dailyhunt to bring Moments — curated tweets pertaining to news and other local events — to the Google-backed Indian app.

The American social network has broadened its product offering in the past year amid pressure from activist investors to accelerate growth.

#apps, #asia, #facebook, #google, #india, #instagram, #match, #moj, #sharechat, #snap, #social, #tinder, #twitter


Team Molly: The Family After Molly Steinsapir’s Death

While her daughter was hospitalized, one mother built more room for our national grief.

#computers-and-the-internet, #grief-emotion, #social-media, #twitter, #your-feed-fashion, #your-feed-selfcare


Must We Dance on Rush Limbaugh’s Grave?

Speaking ill of the dead needn’t mean cackling over their demise.

#deaths-obituaries, #discrimination, #limbaugh-rush, #news-and-news-media, #radio, #rumors-and-misinformation, #twitter


The Heated Debate in the Birding Community

As the Manhattan Bird Alert account on Twitter gained traction, so did opposition. Critics said the crowds it encouraged could be harmful.

#anthony-susan-b, #antiques, #birds, #birdwatching, #geneva-ny, #hale-james-ellery-photographer, #new-york-city, #twitter, #whitcomb-david-1977


Military Imposes Full Grip on Myanmar in Overnight Crackdown

Armored vehicles rolled in along with soldiers in camouflage in cities across the country as generals moved to crush the protest movement against the Feb. 1 military coup.

#aung-san-suu-kyi, #coups-detat-and-attempted-coups-detat, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #facebook-inc, #instagram-inc, #mandalay-myanmar, #min-aung-hlaing, #myanmar, #national-league-for-democracy-myanmar, #naypyidaw-myanmar, #social-media, #twitter


The Economic Case for Regulating Social Media

The core business model of platforms like Facebook and Twitter poses a threat to society and requires retooling, an economist says.

#antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #conspiracy-theories, #facebook-inc, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #hate-speech, #online-advertising, #political-advertising, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #twitter, #united-states-economy, #united-states-politics-and-government, #youtube-com


Fran Lebowitz Isn’t Buying What Jack Dorsey Is Selling

The 70-year old social commentator and humorist doesn’t have a smartphone. That doesn’t stop her from having a take on big tech (and everything else).

#adams-eric-l, #dorsey-jack, #elections-mayors, #lebowitz-fran, #new-york-city, #pretend-its-a-city-tv-program, #scorsese-martin, #stringer-scott-m, #twitter, #wiley-maya, #yang-andrew-1975


Twitter Removes Accounts in India Under Pressure From Modi

The platform’s problems in the country offer a stark example of the difficulty of adhering to its free-speech principles amid government worries over its influence.

#agriculture-and-farming, #censorship, #computers-and-the-internet, #cyberharassment, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #india, #modi-narendra, #politics-and-government, #social-media, #twitter


Twitter says Trump is banned forever — even if he runs for president again

As the second impeachment trial of his presidency unfolds, there’s another bit of bad news for the former president. In a new interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Twitter Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal gave the decisive word on how the company would handle Trump’s Twitter account long-term.

Responding to a question about what would happen if Trump ran again and was elected to office, Segal didn’t mince words.

“The way our policies work, when you’re removed from the platform, you’re removed from the platform — whether you’re a commentator, you’re a CFO, or you are a former or current public official,” Segal said.

“Remember, our policies are designed to make sure that people are not inciting violence, and if anybody does that, we have to remove them from the service and our policies don’t allow people to come back.”

Twitter banned Trump from its platform one month ago citing concerns about the “risk of further incitement of violence.” Trump’s role in instigating the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol ultimately sealed his fate on his platform of choice, where he’d spent four years rallying his followers, amplifying conspiracies and lambasting his critics.

#social, #tc, #trump, #trump-administration, #twitter


Amorphous D.J.’d His Way Through 2020

After having a rough start to 2020, Jimir Reece Davis, a D.J. who goes by Amorphous, ended it with a bang.

#dj-khaled, #full-sail-university, #kehlani-1995, #music, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #twitter, #winfrey-oprah


Twitter takes actions on over 500 accounts in India amid government warning

Twitter said on Wednesday it has taken actions on more than 500 accounts and reduced visibility of some hashtags in India in the past 10 days to comply with “several” orders from the Indian government after New Delhi threatened to take action against executives with American social network for not obeying its notices.

Twitter said since January 26, when protests from millions of farmers in India took a violent turn and misinformation started to spread on the platform, the company has taken actions — including in some cases, permanent suspension — on hundreds of accounts that violated its rules and prevented certain terms from appearing in the Trends section.

“Over the course of the last 10 days, Twitter has been served with several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. Out of these, two were emergency blocking orders that we temporarily complied with but subsequently restored access to the content in a manner that we believe was consistent with Indian law. After we communicated this to MeitY, we were served with a non-compliance notice,” the company said, in part to be transparent about the steps it has taken in the world’s second largest internet market.

The company said it has also withheld a portion of the accounts that New Delhi had ordered to be blocked, keeping them available outside of the country. It did not take any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians, the company said. “To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law. We informed MeitY of our enforcement actions today, February 10, 2021,” it said.

Several users in India had tweeted using the hashtag “modiplanningfarmersgenocide, aimed at New Delhi’s agriculture reforms. The company said several accounts and hashtags violated the Twitter Rules, particularly inciting violence, abuse, wishes of harm, and threats that could trigger the risk of offline harm. A Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch that hashtags that were merely supporting farmers have not been restricted.

The order targeted more than 200 accounts that had tweeted using the hashtag #modiplanningfarmersgenocide, aimed at New Delhi’s agriculture reforms. Thousands of farmers have been camping on the outskirts of the city for more than two months protesting against the new legislation, which aims to promote greater private sector competition.

India demanded Twitter to block hundreds of accounts earlier this month over concerns that many users were producing false, intimidatory and provocative tweets late last months. Twitter had initially complied with the order, which resulted in blocking accounts of The Caravan (a news outlet that conducts investigative journalism), political commentator Sanjukta Basu, activist Hansraj Meena, actor Sushant Singh, and Shashi Shekhar Vempati, chief executive of state-run broadcasting agency Prasar Bharti. Accounts of at least two politicians with Aam Aadmi Party — Preeti Sharma Menon and Jarnail Singh — that governs the National Capital Territory of Delhi were also blocked.

However, hours later, Twitter lifted the block, citing users’ freedom of speech. The move prompted a showdown between the American social network and the Indian government, which issued a warning saying non-compliance with its order may result in penal action against Twitter and up to seven year of jail time to its executives.

“We will continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve and are actively exploring options under Indian law — both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted. We remain committed to safeguarding the health of the conversation occurring on Twitter, and strongly believe that the Tweets should flow,” the company said today.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#apps, #asia, #government, #social, #twitter


CD Projekt hit by ransomware attack, refuses to pay ransom

Polish video game maker CD Projekt, which makes Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher, has confirmed it was hit by a ransomware attack.

In a statement posted to its Twitter account, the company said it will “not give in nor negotiate” with the hackers, saying it has backups in place. “We have already secured our IT infrastructure and begun restoring data,” the company said.

According to the ransom note, the hackers said they would release the company’s stolen source code and other internal files if it did not pay the ransom, since the company would “most likely recover from backups.”

But the company said for now that no personal data was taken. “We are still investigating the incident, however at this time we can confirm that — to our best knowledge — the compromised systems did not contain any personal data of our players or users of our services.”

It’s an increasingly hostile tactic used by ransomware actors: Hackers target high-value businesses and companies with file-encrypting malware and hold the files for a ransom. But since many companies have backups, some ransomware groups threaten to publish the stolen files unless the ransom is paid.

CD Projekt Red did not immediately respond to TechCrunch’s questions, including what kind of ransomware was used to attack its systems.

It’s thought to be the second time in recent years that the company has been hit by ransomware. The game maker confirmed in 2017 that a hack resulted in the compromising of early work related to the Cyberpunk 2077. Weeks following the game’s launch Sony and Microsoft offered gamers refunds, citing bugs and poor performance on older consoles.

#articles, #cd-projekt-red, #cyberattacks, #cybercrime, #cyberpunk, #cyberwarfare, #gaming, #malware, #ransomware, #security, #security-breaches, #twitter


Twitter confirms plans to experiment with new models, like subscriptions, in 2021

Twitter is continuing to explore the addition of subscription services and other paid features to supplement its advertising revenues, according to a report from Bloomberg this morning. The company is considering a range of ideas, the report said, including tipping, paid consumer-facing features like profile customizations or an “undo send” option, or subscription-based access to Twitter’s Tweetdeck app. Twitter confirmed the company is researching and experimenting with new models, but declined to provide details.

Twitter’s interest in paid features, including subscriptions, were already public knowledge.

The company last summer ran a survey which asked users which options they were willing to pay for — including things like custom colors, the ability to publish longer and more high-def videos, profile badges, auto responses, an “undo send” (an alternative to the “edit” button users actually want), and, for brands, things like the ability to run brand surveys and added “social listening” analytics.

Then, during its Q2 2020 earnings, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told investors it’ll likely run subscription tests.

“We do think there is a world where subscription is complementary. We think there is a world where commerce is complementary,” Dorsey said at the time. “You can imagine work around helping people manage paywalls, as well, that we believe is complementary. So that’s what we’re looking for. We have a small team who is exploring our options, obviously we’re hiring for those teams,” he had noted.

And last year, a Twitter job posting was spotted which referenced a team “building a subscription platform.”

Twitter CFO Ned Segal during its Q3 2020 earnings then confirmed those plans, noting “you will see tests from us” on the subscription front. But he also warned these wouldn’t be things that impacted Twitter revenue in the near-term.

Bloomberg’s report added just a couple of new details to our earlier understanding of these efforts. It noted that one of the research projects around subscriptions was code-named “Rogue One,” and another involved the idea of “tipping” for exclusive content.

This latter item could perhaps reference an idea of how Twitter could monetize its recent acquisition of newsletter platform Revue, now rolled out on the web. That is, users could possibly “tip” (pay) to read someone’s newsletter. But Twitter could also be considering a tipping feature inside Twitter’s audio-based networking feature and Clubhouse rival, Twitter Spaces. Or it could be something else — The Information had also previously reported a tipping feature was being looked into, last month, but Twitter told them nothing was yet in development.

Twitter today declined to offer any further clarifications about its plans on this front.

Reached for comment, the company confirmed it was still considering new monetization models in order to grow its revenue.

“Increasing revenue durability is our top company objective. You will see us continue to research and experiment with ways to further diversify our revenue beyond ads in 2021 and beyond,” said Bruce Falck, Revenue Product Lead, in a statement provided to TechCrunch.

“These may include subscriptions and other approaches that will give people and businesses of all sizes on Twitter access to unique features and enhanced opportunities for content creation, discovery, and engagement. While we’re excited about this potential, it’s important to note we are still in very early exploration and we do not expect any meaningful revenue attributable to these opportunities in 2021. Given the massive opportunity to build upon our strengths, our main focus continues to be on growing our ads business,” he added.

Twitter in Q3 2020 had beat analyst expectations on revenue and net income, but investors are still stuck on Twitter’s inability to substationaly grow its user base. The company reports its Q4 2020 earnings on Tuesday, where its plans for new revenue models may again be discussed.

#revenue, #social, #subscriptions, #twitter


Daily Crunch: Myanmar blocks Twitter and Instagram

Myanmar’s government extends its internet crackdown, Microsoft’s lobbying arm blacklists presidential election objectors and Dublin’s Frontline Ventures raises a new fund. This is your Daily Crunch for February 5, 2021.

The big story: Myanmar blocks Twitter and Instagram

The military government in Myanmar recently told telecom operators and internet service providers to block access to Facebook. Now it’s doing the same thing to Twitter and Instagram.

This comes after the military staged a coup in Myanmar to take power from the civilian government. The new government claims that Twitter and Instagram were being abused to spread propaganda and misinformation, posing a threat to the country’s stability.

Telenor Group, one of the country’s largest telecom providers, said in a statement that it is “gravely concerned with this development in Myanmar” and that “freedom of expression through access to communication services should be maintained at all times, especially during times of conflict.”

The tech giants

Microsoft PAC blacklists election objectors and shifts lobbying weight towards progressive organizations — After “pausing” political giving to any politician who voted to overturn the 2020 election, Microsoft has clarified changes to the lobbying policy of its employee-funded PAC.

Peloton will pump $100M into delivery logistics to ease supply concerns — Peloton has announced that it will invest more than $100 million in air and ocean freight deliveries due to “longer-than-acceptable wait times for the delivery of our products.”

PayPal is shutting down domestic payments business in India — It’s been less than four years since PayPal kickstarted local operations in the world’s second-largest internet market.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Dublin’s Frontline Ventures raises new $83.8M seed fund for European B2B startups — The firm is aiming to invest in up to 45 companies over the next four years.

BeGreatTV to offer MasterClass-like courses taught by Black and brown innovators — The courses are designed to teach folks how to execute and succeed in a particular industry.

Why these co-founders turned their sustainability podcast into a VC-backed business — These podcast co-hosts are turning validation from listeners into the blueprint for a standalone business called Brightly.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Lightspeed’s Gaurav Gupta and Grafana’s Raj Dutt discuss pitch decks, pricing and how to nail the narrative — The duo explained how they came together for Grafana’s Series A … and eventually, its Series B.

How the GameStop stonkathon helped Robinhood raise $3.4B last week — Robinhood has shown an impressive ability to raise enormous amounts of capital.

TechCrunch’s favorite companies from 500 Startups’ latest demo day — Startup picks from Alex Wilhelm and Jonathan Shieber.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

House punishes Republican lawmaker who promoted violent conspiracy theories — As the House moved to vote on the highly unusual resolution, Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed that her embrace of QAnon was in the past.

‘Orwellian’ AI lie detector project challenged in EU court — This suit highlights questions of ethics and efficacy attached to the bloc’s flagship R&D program.

Learn about the importance of accessible product design at TechCrunch Sessions: Justice — At our event on March 3, we will examine the importance of ensuring accessible product design from the beginning.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #instagram, #myanmar, #policy, #social, #twitter


Myanmar’s new military government is now blocking Twitter

Myanmar’s new military government has ordered local telecom operators, internet gateways, and other internet service providers to block Twitter and Instagram in the South Asian country days after imposing a similar blackout on Facebook service to ensure “stability” in the Southeast Asian nation.

Several users from Myanmar confirmed that they were unable to access Twitter. NetBlocks, which tracks global internet usage, further reported that multiple networks in the country had started to block the American social network.

Friday’s order comes as thousands of Myanmar citizens joined Twitter this week to protest the new military government that seized power by detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders of her National League for Democracy, which won by landslide last year.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#apps, #asia, #government, #myanmar, #social, #twitter


Twitter expands Google Cloud partnership to ‘learn more from data, move faster’

Twitter is upping its data analytics game in the form of an expanded, multiyear partnership with Google Cloud.

The social media giant first began working with Google in 2018 to move Hadoop clusters to the Google Cloud platform as a part of its Partly Cloudy strategy.

With the expanded agreement, Twitter will move its offline analytics, data processing and machine learning workloads to Google’s Data Cloud

I talked with Sudhir Hasbe, Google Cloud’s director of product management and data analytics, to better understand just what this means. He said the move will give Twitter the ability to analyze data faster as part of its goal to provide a better user experience.

You see, behind every tweet, like and retweet, there is a series of data points that helps Twitter understand things like just how people are using the service, and what type of content they might want to see.

Twitter’s data platform ingests trillions of events, processes hundreds of petabytes of data and runs tens of thousands of jobs on over a dozen clusters daily. 

By expanding its partnership with Google, Twitter is essentially adopting the company’s Data Cloud, including BigQuery, Dataflow, BigTable and machine learning (ML) tools to make more sense of, and improve, how Twitter features are used.

Twitter declined a request for an interview but CTO Parag Agrawal said in a written statement that the company’s initial partnership was successful and led to enhanced productivity on the part of its engineering teams.  

“Building on this relationship and Google’s technologies will allow us to learn more from our data, move faster and serve more relevant content to the people who use our service every day,” he said.

Google Cloud’s Hasbe believes that organizations like Twitter need a highly scalable analytics platform so they can derive value from all their data collecting. By expanding its partnership with Google, Twitter is able to add significantly more use cases out of its cloud platform.

“Our platform is serverless and we can help organizations, like Twitter, automatically scale up and down,” Hasbe told TechCrunch.

“Twitter can bring massive amounts of data, analyze and get insights without the burden of having to worry about infrastructure or capacity management or how many machines or servers they might need,” he added. “None of that is their problem.” 

The shift will also make it easier for Twitter’s data scientists and other similar personnel to build machine learning models and do predictive analytics, according to Hasbe.

Other organizations that have recently turned to Google Cloud to help navigate the pandemic include Bed, Bath and Beyond, Wayfair, Etsy and The Home Depot.

On February 2, TC’s Frederic Lardinois reported that while Google Cloud is seeing accelerated revenue growth, its losses are also increasing. This week, Google disclosed operating income/loss for its Google Cloud business unit in its quarterly earnings. Google Cloud lost $5.6 billion in Google’s fiscal year 2020, which ended December 31. That’s on $13 billion of revenue.

#apache-hadoop, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #data-analysis, #data-processing, #google-cloud, #google-cloud-platform, #machine-learning, #twitter


Instagram Bans Hundreds of Accounts With Stolen User Names

Accounts operating under rare “O.G. user names” obtained through hacking were banned on Thursday after a monthslong investigation.

#cyberattacks-and-hackers, #instagram-inc, #tiktok-bytedance, #twitter


Scenes From a Marriage, Patinkin-Style

Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn Grody’s charming, irreverent pandemic-era posts led to unlikely social media stardom. Will the vaccine end their run?

#content-type-personal-profile, #instagram-inc, #kathryn-grody, #marriages, #patinkin-mandy, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #social-media, #tiktok-bytedance, #twitter


India sends warning to Twitter over lifting block on accounts and noncompliance of order

India has issued a notice to Twitter, warning the American social firm to comply with New Delhi’s order to block accounts and content related to a protest by farmers and not “assume the role of a court and justify non-compliance.” Failure to comply with the order may prompt penal action against Twitter, the notice warns.

The warning comes days after Twitter blocked dozens of high-profile accounts in India in compliance with New Delhi’s request, but later lifted the restriction.

Twitter “cannot assume the role of a court and justify non-compliance. Twitter being an intermediary is obliged to obey the directions as per satisfaction of authorities as to which inflammatory content will arouse passion and impact public order. Twitter cannot sit as an appellate authority over the satisfaction of the authorities about its potential impact on derailing public order,” said the notice, a copy of its summary was reviewed by TechCrunch.

India’s IT ministry expressed concerns over what it deemed derogatory and factually incorrect tweets and hashtags that have been circulating in India this week that it said were designed to spread hate. “It is thus clear that, the offending tweets/ hashtag remained in public domain and must have been tweeted and re-tweeted several times at the risk and cost of public order and at the risk of incitement to the commission of offences,” the letter said.

Twitter did not immediately respond to request for comment.

For more than three months, tens of thousands of farmers (if not more) in India and elsewhere have been protesting against three laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government that they say allow greater private sector competition.

Twitter, which reaches more than 75 million users through its apps in India, has emerged as the single-most important online forum for people seeking to voice their opinion on this matter. Singer Rihanna, who has more followers on Twitter than any Indian actor or politician, tweeted a CNN news story on Tuesday about the protests in India and asked “why are’t we talking about this!?

High-profile Indian actors including Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Karan Johar, and Ekta Kapoor cautioned Indians on Wednesday to not fall for “propaganda.”

Raman Chima, a senior international counsel and Asia Pacific Policy director at Access Now, a non-profit internet advocacy organization, said in a series of tweets that instead of threatening social media platforms, India’s IT ministry “needs to explain why blocking entire handles & seeking the banning of hashtags does not violate the Indian Constitution.” He said the ministry has neither been transparent nor respected the rights.

“You can choose to disagree, correct, ridicule, or engage with such fears, outcry. Seeking to ban & precensor such discussions is a travesty of India’s Constitution + international human rights law. This is not what 21st Century India should permit, nor what our founders envisaged. The Ministry of Electronics and IT should release its actual orders and all documentation behind the Govt’s decisions to – (1) issue these orders and (2) press the matter with Twitter and other social media platforms. Don’t hide; explain & justify how this is not unconstitutional.”

#apps, #asia, #india, #social, #twitter


Are Private Messaging Apps the Next Misinformation Hot Spot?

Telegram and Signal, the encrypted services that keep conversations confidential, are increasingly popular. Our tech columnists discuss whether this could get ugly.

#chen-brian-x, #computer-security, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #facebook-inc, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #instant-messaging, #mobile-applications, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #rumors-and-misinformation, #signal-open-whisper-systems, #social-media, #telegram-llc, #twitter, #whatsapp-inc


Twitter quietly rolls out Revue newsletters integration on web

If you were itching to launch an email newsletter via Twitter, following its acquisition of the Dutch newsletter platform Revue last month, it appears you’ll have to wait a little bit longer for the official unveiling — although some Twitter users are reporting being able to sign up for the newsletter publishing tool right now.

The social media company confirmed to TechCrunch it’s reverted Revue’s Publisher offer back to private beta for the moment — saying this means it’s only accessible to existing customers at this time.

Nonetheless, it also appears to have quietly flipped the launch switch over the last 12 hours or so — at least for some users.

Earlier today, a number of TechCrunch staffers were able to go through the process of setting up a Twitter Revue newsletter — including our very own Editor-in-Chief, Matthew Panzarino.

At the time of writing India-based reporter, Manish Singh, also has access to the interface — which prompts Twitter users to set up a free newsletter to reach their audience, flagging features such as the ability to embed tweets, import email lists, analyze engagement and earn money from subscribers.

So it looks as if Twitter has been testing a newsletter launch in a number of markets. It’s less clear whether/if it aborted a planned launch. We’ve asked the company for more details and will update this post with any response.

Unless you’ve been on a very long digital detox you’ll have noticed that newsletters have been having quite the moment of late. The rise of platforms that help writers monetize their content via an email-delivery format presents a clear risk/opportunity to Twitter, a company that relies on an army of users freely and publicly contributing short-form content.

But with Twitter launching its own in-house newsletter, tweets can potentially inflate in value — becoming the top of the funnel for Twitter users to build a community of followers who they made be able to convert to paying subscribers for longer form content, delivered in a newsletter format.

Twitter told us today that it has put new sign-ups to Revue on ice so it can focus on improving the offering in order to effectively meet the demand of new customers — and make Revue an even more powerful tool for publishers.

It added that it’s working quickly to roll out a new version that’s open to new customers, with a spokeswoman pointing to a mailing list for interested parties to sign up to get the latest updates here.

It’s not clear exactly why Twitter might have aborted a launch — or whether it was just quietly testing sign-ups in select markets, which at least three of our writers happened to be able to access. As we reported last month, it had already been working to integrate the newsletter into its platform and is clearly moving at a clip to get Revue plugged in so it can start to capitalize on the hype and momentum around paid newsletters.

Simultaneously, preventing users from finding a home for their longer form thoughts elsewhere is also likely front of mind for Twitter — as competition for attention in the social sphere heats up, such as from the likes of (rival) newsletter platform Substack (which has been building momentum since 2017); and buzzy live-voice chat app Clubhouse (which has recently captivated the clique-loving technorati).

But it seems Twitter feels its Revue newsletters aren’t quite ready for the prime time just yet.

For those eager to know more about how ‘Twitter + Revue’ will work in practice, here’s the lowdown from our very own @refsrc — who does have early access.

The newsletter feature, available from the three-dot “More” menu option on Twitter’s web interface, enables a user to sign up for Revue with a few clicks using their social account. Once onboard, users can begin drafting their newsletter and drag their recent tweets to it — if they so choose.

Image credit: TechCrunch

The newsletter platform, which competes with among others Andreessen Horowitz-backed Substack, maintains integration support for a number of third-party services including Facebook, Instagram, Pocket, Product Hunt, Instapaper, and even RSS feeds. Once users have integrated these services, they can drag and drop stories from those feeds to the newsletter.

In the current avatar, users can manually add email addresses of subscribers, or import a list from Mailchimp or a CSV file. On the welcome screen, which noted reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong first spotted last week, Twitter also advertises that its newsletter can help writers and publishers earn money from paid subscribers.

Like before, Revue lets users schedule their newsletters. All in all, there doesn’t appear to be any additional features in this entire workflow.

Image credit: TechCrunch


#clubhouse, #media, #newsletters, #publishing-tools, #revue, #social, #twitter


Twitter restricts over a dozen high-profile accounts in India following ‘legal demand’

Twitter blocked access to over a dozen high-profile individuals in India on Monday to comply with a “legal request”, prompting confusion and anger among users who are seeking an explanation for this action.

Among those whose accounts have been restricted in India include Caravan, a news outlet that conducts investigative journalism, political commentator Sanjukta Basu, activist Hansraj Meena, actor Sushant Singh, and Shashi Shekhar Vempati, chief executive of state-run brodcasting agency Prasar Bharti. Accounts of at least two politicians with Aam Aadmi Party — Preeti Sharma Menon and Jarnail Singh — that governs the National Capital Territory of Delhi have also been withheld.

At least two popular accounts linked with recent protests by farmers — Kisan Ekta Morcha and Tractor2Twitr —  in India have also been restricted.

At this point, it remains unclear who all have pursued the legal action that prompted Twitter to restrict these accounts in India. The accounts are accessible to users out of the country. But at least in the case of political commentator Basu, Twitter told him that Indian authorities had issued the legal demand against some accounts that included his and that it was talking with the authorities.

In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson said, “many countries have laws that may apply to Tweets and/or Twitter account content. In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive a properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time. Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we have a notice policy for withheld content.”

#apps, #asia, #india, #social, #twitter, #twitter-india


Survey Says: Never Tweet

The tensions in newsrooms over reporters’ social media presence are not just about politics.

#lowery-wesley, #news-and-news-media, #social-media, #twitter, #washington-post


Elon Musk, GameStop and the C.E.O. as Internet Troll

The billionaire Mr. Musk has inserted himself into the confounding stock market drama and solidified his role as the ultimate insider outsider.

#content-type-personal-profile, #gamestop-corporation, #high-net-worth-individuals, #musk-elon, #reddit-inc, #short-selling, #social-media, #stocks-and-bonds, #tesla-motors-inc, #twitter


Twitter is already working on integrating newsletters on its site, following Revue acquisition

Twitter only announced its acquisition of newsletter platform Revue two days ago, but the company has already begun to integrate the product into the Twitter.com website. It appears “Newsletters” will soon be the newest addition to Twitter’s sidebar navigation, alongside Bookmarks, Moments, Twitter Ads, and other options. The company is also readying a way to promote the new product to Twitter users, promising them another way to reach their audience while getting paid for their work.

These findings and others were uncovered by noted reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong, who dug into the Twitter.com website to see what the company may have in store for its newest acquisition.

According to a pop-up promotional message in development she found, Twitter will soon be pitching a handful of Revue benefits, like the ability to compose and schedule newsletters, embed tweets, import email lists, analyze engagement and earn money from paid followers. The messaging was clearly in early testing (it even had a typo!), but it hints at Twitter’s larger plans to tie Revue into the Twitter platform and serve as a way for prominent users to essentially monetize their reach.

Currently, the “Find Out More” button on pop-up message will redirect Twitter users to the Revue website. Wong found.

In addition, Wong noted Twitter was making “Newsletters” a new navigation option on the Twitter sidebar menu. Unfortunately, it was not shown on the top-level menu where you today find options like Explore, Notifications, Messages or Bookmarks, but rather on the sub-menu you access from the three-dot “More” link.


The tight integration between Revue and Twitter’s main platform could potentially give the company an interesting competitive advantage in the newsletters market — especially as Twitter has already dropped hints that its new audio product, Twitter Spaces, will also be used as a way to connect with newsletter subscribers.

In its announcement, Twitter referred to “new settings for writers to host conversations” with their readers. That likely means Twitter users would be able to not just publish newsletters with the new Twitter product, but also monetize their existing follower base, find new readers through Twitter’s built-in features, and then engage their fans on an ongoing basis through audio chats in Spaces. Combined with its lowering of the paid newsletter fee to 5%, many authors are rightly considering the potential Twitter advantages. If anything at all is holding them back, it’s Twitter’s less-than-stellar reputation when it comes to successfully capitalizing on some of its acquisitions.

Twitter declined to comment on Wong’s findings, but we understand these features are currently not live on the website. Wong told us she hasn’t found any indications of Revue integrations in the Twitter mobile apps just yet.

#apps, #newsletters, #revue, #social, #twitter


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Twitter’s Trump Ban

The social network is better than ever. Why not block all heads of state?

#computers-and-the-internet, #news-and-news-media, #social-media, #trump-donald-j, #twitter, #united-states-politics-and-government


Twitter Troll Tricked 4,900 Democrats in Vote-by-Phone Scheme, U.S. Says

Douglass Mackey, a right-wing provocateur, was accused of spreading memes that made Hillary Clinton supporters falsely believe they could cast ballots in 2016 via text message.

#clinton-hillary-rodham, #mackey-douglass-1989, #presidential-election-of-2016, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #trump-donald-j, #twitter, #voter-fraud-election-fraud, #west-palm-beach-fla


Will this time be any different?

As Twitter seems to buy its way into competing with Clubhouse and Substack, one wonders whether the beleaguered social media company is finally ready to move past its truly awful track record of seizing opportunities.

Twitter’s pace of product ambition has certainly seemed to speed in the past several months, conveniently following shareholder action to oust CEO Jack Dorsey last year. They’ve finally rolled out their Stories product Fleets, they’ve embraced audio both in the traditional feed and with their beta Spaces feature, and they’ve taken some much-publicized steps to reign in disinformation and content moderation woes (though there’s still plenty to be done there).

In the past few weeks, Twitter has also made some particularly interesting acquisitions. Today, it was announced that they were buying Revue, a newsletter management startup. Earlier this month, they bought Breaker, a podcasting service. Last month, they bought Squad, a social screen-sharing app.

It’s an aggressive turn that follows Twitter’s announcement that it will be shutting down Periscope, a live video app that was purchased and long-neglected by Twitter despite the fact that the company’s current product chief was its founder.

TikTok’s wild 2020 success in fully realizing the broader vision for Vine, which Twitter shut down in 2017, seems to be a particularly embarrassing stain on the company’s history; it’s also the most crystallized example of Twitter shooting itself in the foot as a result of not embracing risk. And while Twitter was ahead of that curve and simply didn’t make it happen, Substack and Clubhouse are two prime examples of competitors which Twitter could have prevented from reaching their current stature if it had just been more aggressive in recognizing adjacent social market opportunities and sprung into action.

It’s particularly hard to reckon in the shadow of Facebook’s ever-swelling isolation. Once the eager enemy of any social upstart, Facebook finds itself desperately complicated by global politics and antitrust woes in a way that may never strike it down, but have seemed to slow its maneuverability. A startup like Clubhouse may once seemed like a prime acquisition target, but it’s too complicated of a purchase for Facebook to even attempt in 2021, leaving Twitter a potential competitor that could scale to full size on its own.

Twitter is a much smaller company than Facebook is, though it’s still plenty big. As the company aims to move beyond the 2020 US election that ate up so much of its attention and expand its ambitions, one of its most pertinent challenges will be reinvigorating a product culture to recognize opportunities and take on rising competitors — though another challenge might be getting its competition to take it seriously in the first place.

#ceo, #computing, #facebook, #jack-dorsey, #operating-systems, #revue, #social-media, #software, #tc, #twitter, #vine


Twitter’s new API platform now opened to academic researchers

Twitter today is rolling out a new product track on its API platform, as part of its ongoing efforts to rebuild the Twitter API from the ground up. The track, which aims to serve the needs of the academic research community’s efforts, offers broader access to the Twitter archive and fewer restrictions on tweet retrievals, so researchers can access the entire history of the public conversation on Twitter’s platform.

In addition to gaining access to all the Twitter API v2 endpoints released to date and elevated access, researchers will gain access to more precise filtering capabilities.

Specifically, they’ll be able to access the full-archive search endpoint, which offers access to everything being said on Twitter. They can narrow searches for these historical tweets using start time and end time parameters.

Image Credits: Twitter

Researchers will also gain a significantly higher monthly cap on the number of tweets they can pull using the Twitter API v2. While on the Basic level of API access, this cap is set to 500,000, the Basic level of access on the Academic Research track is an initial monthly cap of up to 10 million tweets. This applies to the Recent Search, Filtered Stream, Full-archive search, and user tweet and mentions timelines endpoints, Twitter says.

The Academic Research track will gain access to certain operators that aren’t otherwise available, too, with the goal of helping them pull more precise user data. Today, these include: $ (aka cashtag), bio, bio_name, bio_location, place, place_country, point_radius, bounding_box, -is:nullcast, has:cashtags, and has:geo. 

Researchers can also add 1,000 concurrent rules when using the filter stream endpoint, instead of the limit of 25 available in the Standard track. Queries in the recent recent search endpoint can be 1024 characters long, compared with 512 characters in the Standard track.

Because of the elevated levels of access, those who want to gain access to the Academic Research product track have to first submit an application.

All applicants have to either be a master’s student, doctoral candidate, post-doc, faculty, or research-focused employee at an academic institution or university. They will also need to have a clearly defined research objective, and must be able to detail their specific plans for how they intend to use, analyze, and share Twitter data from their research.

Plus, the data used from the Academic Research product track can’t be used for any commercial purposes, Twitter notes.

Image Credits: Twitter

Academic researchers have been taking advantage of the Twitter API since its first introduction in 2006 and have used the data to study a variety of topics, Twitter says, like state-backed efforts to disrupt the public conversation​, ​floods and climate change​, ​attitudes and perceptions about COVID-19​, and​ ​efforts to promote healthy conversation online​.

However, the earlier version of the Twitter API didn’t make it easy for researchers to gain access to Twitter data — something the company wanted to correct with API v2.

Twitter to date has catered to the research community in other ways, with additions like a website dedicated to academic research, updates to its developer policy to make it easier to reproduce and validate others’ research, and even special endpoints, like the COVID-19 stream endpoint released in April 2020. But it hasn’t fully thought through, until the API v2, how it could build tools that would actually aid researchers in doing their work, instead of the researchers having to figure out ways to work around Twitter’s limitations.

The Academic Research product track was tested in private beta starting in Oct. 2020, and now this is being opened more broadly, where it will be made freely available.

Twitter says it’s planning to add higher levels of access across all its product tracks in the future, including this one, in time. The later levels will help researchers who need even more data than what’s being offered with today’s launch. Twitter also noted it’s looking into adding flexible access as well, which would help account for times when developers were consuming more or less data throughout the year.

#academic-research, #api, #developer, #developers, #research, #researchers, #twitter


Bonus: Kara and Kevin Roose Debrief on Chris Best

They also discuss “flouncing” and whether a Substack newsletter would be too much work for Donald Trump.

#4chan, #facebook-inc, #new-york-times, #parler-llc, #qanon, #roose-kevin, #substack-inc, #trump-donald-j, #twitter


Twitter acquires newsletter platform Revue

Twitter is getting into the newsletter business.

The social media company is announcing that it has acquired Revue, a Dutch startup that allows users to publish and monetize email newsletters. While Revue hasn’t driven the same wave of “is this the future of media?” think pieces as Substack, it counts major publishers like Vox Media and The Markup as customers.

Newsletters aren’t the most obvious fit for Twitter’s platform, but in a blog post, Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour and VP of Publisher Products Mike Park suggested that that this is a new way for Twitter to serve writers and publishers who have built a following with their tweets.

“Our goal is to make it easy for them to connect with their subscribers, while also helping readers better discover writers and their content,” Beykpour and Park wrote. “We’re imagining a lot of ways to do this, from allowing people to sign up for newsletters from their favorite follows on Twitter, to new settings for writers to host conversations with their subscribers. It will all work seamlessly within Twitter.”

They also suggested that this will give writers additional ways to make money. Revue already supports paid subscriptions, and Beykpour and Park said that the company will continue developing new monetization features, “whether it’s helping broaden revenue streams or serving as a cornerstone of someone’s business.”

They added that Twitter will continue to operate Revue as a standalone product, with its team remaining “focused on improving the ways writers create their newsletters, build their audience and get paid for their work.” The company is also making the platform’s pro features free for all users and lowering the fee charged on paid newsletters to 5%.

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. According to Crunchbase, Revue had raised €400,000 from various angel investors.

#kayvon-beykpour, #media, #revue, #social, #twitter, #vox-media


Twitter Acquires Revue, a Newsletter Company

The latest in a series of additions is seen as an attempt to compete with the growing popularity of outfits like Substack.

#computers-and-the-internet, #mergers-acquisitions-and-divestitures, #newsletters, #revue, #social-media, #substack-inc, #twitter


They Found a Way to Limit Big Tech’s Power: Using the Design of Bitcoin

Companies inspired by the cryptocurrency are creating social networks, storing online content and hosting websites without any central authority.

#bitcoin-currency, #blockchain-technology, #censorship, #computers-and-the-internet, #dorsey-jack, #facebook-inc, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #social-media, #twitter, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #virtual-currency, #youtube-com


Debunk, don’t ‘prebunk,’ and other psychology lessons for social media moderation

If social networks and other platforms are to get a handle on disinformation, it’s not enough to know what it is — you have to know how people react to it. Researchers at MIT and Cornell have some surprising but subtle findings that may affect how Twitter and Facebook should go about treating this problematic content.

MIT’s contribution is a counter-intuitive one. When someone encounters a misleading headline in their timeline, the logical thing to do would be to put a warning before it so that the reader knows it’s disputed from the start. Turns out that’s not quite the case.

In a study of nearly 3,000 people who evaluated the accuracy of headlines after receiving different (or no) warnings about them.

Going into the project, I had anticipated it would work best to give the correction beforehand, so that people already knew to disbelieve the false claim when they came into contact with it. To my surprise, we actually found the opposite,” said study co-author David Rand in an MIT news article. “Debunking the claim after they were exposed to it was the most effective.”

When a person was warned beforehand that the headline was misleading, they improved in their classification accuracy by 5.7 percent. When the warning came simultaneously with the headline, that improvement grew to 8.6 percent. But if shown the warning afterwards, they were 25 percent better. In other words, debunking beat “prebunking” by a fair margin.

The team speculated as to the cause of this, suggesting that it fits with other indications that people are more likely to incorporate feedback into a preexisting judgment rather than alter that judgment as it’s being formed. They warned that the problem is far deeper than a tweak like this can fix.

“There is no single magic bullet that can cure the problem of misinformation,” said co-author Adam Berinsky. “Studying basic questions in a systematic way is a critical step toward a portfolio of effective solutions.”

The study from Cornell is equal parts reassuring and frustrating. People viewing potentially misleading information were reliably influenced by the opinions of large groups — whether or not those groups were politically aligned with the reader.

It’s reassuring because it suggests that people are willing to trust that if 80 out of 100 people thought a story was a little fishy, even if 70 of those 80 were from the other party, there might just be something to it. It’s frustrating because of how seemingly easy it is to sway an opinion simply by saying that a large group thinks it’s one way or the other.

“In a practical way, we’re showing that people’s minds can be changed through social influence independent of politics,” said graduate student Maurice Jakesch, lead author of the paper. “This opens doors to use social influence in a way that may de-polarize online spaces and bring people together.”

Partisanship still played a role, it must be said — people were about 21 percent less likely to have their view swayed if the group opinion was led by people belonging to the other party. But even so people were very likely to be affected by the group’s judgment.

Part of why misinformation is so prevalent is because we don’t really understand why it’s so appealing to people, and what measures reduce that appeal, among other simple questions. As long as social media is blundering around in darkness they’re unlikely to stumble upon a solution, but every study like this makes a little more light.

#cornell-university, #disinformation, #facebook, #massachusetts-institute-of-technology, #moderation, #science, #social, #tc, #twitter


Daily Crunch: Twitter unveils Birdwatch

Twitter pilots a new tool to fight disinformation, Apple brings celebrity-guided walks to the Apple Watch and Clubhouses raises funding. This is your Daily Crunch for January 25, 2021.

The big story: Twitter unveils Birdwatch

Twitter launched a new product today that it says will offer “a community-based approach to misinformation.”

With Birdwatch, users will be able to flag tweets that they find misleading, write notes to add context to those tweets and rate the notes written by others. This is supposed to be a complement to the existing system where Twitter removes or labels particularly problematic tweets, rather than a replacement.

What remains to be seen: How Twitter will handle it when two or more people get locked into a battle and post a flurry of conflicting notes about whether a tweet is misleading or not.

The tech giants

Walking with Dolly — Apple discusses how and why it brought Time to Walk to the Watch.

Google pledges grants and facilities for COVID-19 vaccine programs — The tech giant is one of several large corporations that have pledged support to local government agencies and medical providers to help increase vaccinations.

Facebook will give academic researchers access to 2020 election ad targeting data — Starting next month, Facebook will open up academic access to a data set of 1.3 million political and social issue ads.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Clubhouse announces plans for creator payments and raises new funding led by Andreessen Horowitz — While we try to track down the actual value of this round, Clubhouse has confirmed it will be introducing products to help creators on the platform get paid.

Taboola is going public via SPAC — The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter, and the combined company will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol TBLA.

Wolt closes $530M round to continue expanding beyond restaurant delivery — The Helsinki-based online ordering and delivery company initially focused on restaurants but has since expanded to other verticals.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Qualtrics raises IPO pricing ahead of debut — After being acquired by SAP, Qualtrics announced it would spin out as its own public company.

Fintechs could see $100 billion of liquidity in 2021 — The Matrix Fintech Index weighs public markets, liquidity and a new e-commerce trend.

Unpacking Chamath Palihapitiya’s SPAC deals for Latch and Sunlight Financial — There’s no escaping SPACs, at least for a little while.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Moderna says it’s making variant-specific COVID-19 vaccines, but its existing vaccine should still work — Moderna has detailed some of the steps it’s taking to ensure that its vaccine remains effective in the face of emerging strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that leads to COVID-19.

Original Content podcast: ‘Bridgerton’ is an addictive reimagining of Jane Austen-style romance — Did I mention that the cast is insanely good-looking?

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #policy, #social, #twitter


Twitter’s Birdwatch fights misinformation with community notes

Twitter is launching what it calls “a community-based approach to misinformation.”

The Birdwatch project first came to light last fall thanks to product sleuth Jane Manchun Wong. Now Twitter has launched a pilot version via the Birdwatch website.

The goal, as explained in a blog post by Twitter’s Vice President of Product Keith Coleman, is to expand beyond the labels that the company already applies to controversial or potentially misleading tweets, which he suggested are limited to “circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention.”

Coleman wrote that the Birdwatch approach will “broaden the range of voices that are part of tackling this problem.” That has brings a broader range of perspectives to these issues and goes beyond the simple question of, “Is this tweet true or not?” It may also take some of the heat off Twitter for individual content moderation decisions.

Users can sign up on the Birdwatch site to flag tweets that they find misleading, add context via notes and rate the notes written by other contributors, based on whether they’re helpful or not. These notes will only be visible on the Birdwatch site for now, but it sounds like the company’s goal is to incorporate them to the main Twitter experience.

“We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable,” Coleman said. “Eventually we aim to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors.”

Given the potential for plenty of argument and back-and-froth on contentious tweets, it remains to be seen how Twitter will present these notes in a way that isn’t confusing or overwhelming, or how it can avoid weighing in on some of these arguments. The company said Birdwatch will use rank content based on algorithmic “reputation and consensus systems,” with the code shared publicly. (All notes contributed to Birdwatch will also be available for download.) You read more about the initial ranking system here.

“We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors,” Coleman said. “We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot.”

#jane-manchun-wong, #keith-coleman, #policy, #social, #twitter


Republicans’ Trump Dilemma

The former president’s Twitter ban may be a gift to G.O.P. leaders — but his influence isn’t going away.

#republican-party, #trump-donald-j, #twitter, #united-states-politics-and-government


Parler and the Far Right’s Ever-Evolving Digital Ecosystem

The Biden administration needs a game plan to deal with what will be a rolling and escalating threat from platform migration.

#computers-and-the-internet, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #google-inc, #parler-llc, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #social-media, #terrorism, #twitter, #united-states


Augmented reality and the next century of the web

Howdy friends, this is the web version of my Week in Review newsletter, it’s here to entice you to sign up and get it in your inbox every week.

Last week, I showcased how Twitter was looking at the future of the web with a decentralized approach so that they wouldn’t be stuck unilaterally de-platforming the next world leader. This week, I scribbled some thoughts on another aspect of the future web, the ongoing battle between Facebook and Apple to own augmented reality. Releasing the hardware will only be the start of a very messy transition from smartphone-first to glasses-first mobile computing.

Again, if you so desire you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny

The Big Thing

If the last few years of new “reality” tech has telegraphed anything, it’s that tech companies won’t be able to skip past augmented reality’s awkward phase, they’re going to have to barrel through it and it’s probably going to take a long-ass time.

The clearest reality is that in 2021 everyday users still don’t seem quite as interested in AR as the next generation of platform owners stand to benefit from a massive transition. There’s some element of skating to where the puck is going among the soothsayers that believe AR is the inevitable platform heir etc. etc., but the battle to reinvent mobile is at its core a battle to kill the smartphone before its time has come.

A war to remake mobile in the winner’s image

It’s fitting that the primary backers of this AR future are Apple and Facebook, ambitious companies that are deeply in touch with the opportunities they could’ve capitalized on if they could do it all over again.

While Apple and Facebook both have thousands of employees toiling quietly in the background building out their AR tech moats, we’ve seen and heard much more on Facebook’s efforts. The company has already served up several iterations of their VR hardware through Oculus and has discussed publicly over the years how they view virtual reality and augmented reality hardware converging. 

Facebook’s hardware and software experiments have been experimentations in plain sight, an advantage afforded to a company that didn’t sell any hardware before they started selling VR headsets. Meanwhile Apple has offered up a developer platform and a few well-timed keynote slots for developers harnessing their tools, but the most ambitious first-party AR project they’ve launched publicly on iOS has been a measuring tape app. Everything else has taken place behind closed doors.

That secrecy tends to make any reporting on Apple’s plans particularly juicy. This week, a story from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman highlights some of Apple’s next steps towards a long-rumored AR glasses product, reporting that Apple plans to release a high-end niche VR device with some AR capabilities as early as next year. It’s not the most surprising but showcases how desperate today’s mobile kingpins are to ease the introduction of a technology that has the potential to turn existing tech stacks and the broader web on their heads.

Both Facebook and Apple have a handful of problems getting AR products out into the world, and they’re not exactly low-key issues:

  1. hardware isn’t ready
  2. platforms aren’t ready
  3. developers aren’t ready
  4. users don’t want it yet

This is a daunting wall, but isn’t uncommon among hardware moonshots. Facebook has already worked its way through this cycle once with virtual reality over several generations of hardware, though there were some key difference and few would call VR a mainstream success quite yet.

Nevertheless, there’s a distinct advantage to tackling VR before AR for both Facebook and Apple, they can invest in hardware that’s adjacent to the technologies their AR products will need to capitalize on, they can entice developers to build for a platform that’s more similar to what’s coming and they can set base line expectations for consumers for a more immersive platform. At least this would all be the case for Apple with a mass market VR device closer to Facebook’s $300 Quest 2, but a pricey niche device as Gurman’s report details doesn’t seem to fit that bill quite so cleanly.

The AR/VR content problem 

The scenario I’d imagine both Facebook and Apple are losing sleep over is that they release serviceable AR hardware into a world where they are wholly responsible for coming up with all the primary use cases.

The AR/VR world already has a hefty backlog of burnt developers who might be long-term bullish on the tech but are also tired of getting whipped around by companies that seem to view the development of content ecosystems simply as a means to ship their next device. If Apple is truly expecting the sales numbers of this device that Bloomberg suggests — similar to Valve’s early Index headset sales — then color me doubtful that there will be much developer interest at all in building for a stopgap device, I’d expect ports of Quest 2 content and a few shining stars from Apple-funded partners.

I don’t think this will me much of a shortcut for them.

True AR hardware is likely going to have different standards of input, different standards of interaction and a much different approach to use cases compared to a device built for the home or smartphone. Apple has already taken every available chance to entice mobile developers to embrace phone-based AR on iPhones through ARKit, a push they have seemed to back off from at recent developer-centric events. As someone who has kept a close eye on early projects, I’d say that most players in the space have been very underwhelmed by what existing platforms enable and what has been produced widely.

That’s really not great for Apple or Facebook and suggests that both of these companies are going to have to guide users and developers through use cases they design. I think there’s a convincing argument that early AR glasses applications will be dominated by first-party tech and may eschew full third-party native apps in favor of tightly controlled data integrations more similar to how Apple has approached developer integrations inside Siri.

But giving developers a platform built with Apple or Facebook’s own dominance in mind is going to be tough to sell, underscoring the fact that mobile and mobile AR are going to be platforms that will have to live alongside each other for quite a bit. There will be rich opportunities for developers to create experiences that play with 3D and space, but there are also plenty of reasons to expect they’ll be more resistant to move off of a mutually enriching mobile platform onto one where Facebook or Apple will have the pioneer’s pick of platform advantages. What’s in it for them?

Mobile’s OS-level winners captured plenty of value from top-of-funnel apps marketplaces, but the down-stream opportunities found mobile’s true prize, a vastly expanded market for digital ads. With the opportunity of a mobile do-over, expect to find pioneering tech giants pitching proprietary digital ad infrastructure for their devices. Advertising will likely be augmented reality’s greatest opportunity allowing the digital ads market to create an infinite global canvas for geo-targeted customized ad content. A boring future, yes, but a predictable one.

For Facebook, being a platform owner in the 2020s means getting to set their own limitations on use cases, not being confined by App Store regulations and designing hardware with social integrations closer to the silicon. For Apple, reinventing the mobile OS in the 2020s likely means an opportunity to more meaningfully dominate mobile advertising.

It’s a do-over to the tune of trillions in potential revenues.

What comes next

The AR/VR industry has been stuck in a cycle of seeking out saviors. Facebook has been the dearest friend to proponents after startup after startup has failed to find a speedy win. Apple’s long-awaited AR glasses are probably where most die-hards are currently placing their faith.

I don’t think there are any misgivings from Apple or Facebook in terms of what a wild opportunity this to win, it’s why they each have more people working on this than any other future-minded project. AR will probably be massive and change the web in a fundamental way, a true Web 3.0 that’s the biggest shift of the internet to date.

That’s doesn’t sound like something that will happen particularly smoothly.

I’m sure that these early devices will arrive later than we expect, do less than we expect and that things will be more and less different from the smartphone era’s mobile paradigms in ways we don’t anticipate. I’m also sure that it’s going to be tough for these companies to strong-arm themselves into a more seamless transition. This is going to be a very messy for tech platforms and is a transition that won’t happen overnight, not by a long shot.

Other things

The Loon is dead
One of tech’s stranger moonshots is dead, as Google announced this week that Loon, it’s internet balloon project is being shut down. It was an ambitious attempt to bring high-speed internet to remote corners of the world, but the team says it wasn’t sustainable to provide a high-cost service at a low price. More

Facebook Oversight Board tasked with Trump removal
I talked a couple weeks ago — what feels like a lifetime ago — about how Facebook’s temporary ban of Trump was going to be a nightmare for the company. I wasn’t sure how they’d stall for more time of a banned Trump before he made Facebook and Instagram his central platform, but they made a brilliant move, purposefully tying the case up in PR-favorable bureaucracy, tossing the case to their independent Oversight Board for their biggest case to date. More

Jack is Back
Alibaba’s head honcho is back in action. Alibaba shares jumped this week when the Chinese e-commerce giant’s billionaire CEO Jack Ma reappeared in public after more than three months after his last public appearance, something that stoked plenty of conspiracies. Where he was during all this time isn’t clear, but I sort of doubt we’ll be finding out. More

Trump pardons Anthony Levandowski
Trump is no longer President, but in one of his final acts, he surprisingly opted to grant a full pardon to one Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer convicted of stealing trade secrets regarding their self-driving car program. It was a surprising end to one of the more dramatic big tech lawsuits in recent years. More

Xbox raises Live prices
I’m not sure how this stacks in importance relative to what else is listed here, but I’m personally pissed that Microsoft is hiking the price of their streaming subscription Xbox Live Gold. It’s no secret that the gaming industry is embracing a subscription economy, it will be interesting to see what the divide looks like in terms of gamer dollars going towards platform owners versus studios. More

Musk offers up $100M donation to carbon capture tech
Elon Musk, who is currently the world’s richest person, tweeted out this week that he will be donating $100 million towards a contest to build the best technology for carbon capture. TechCrunch learned that this is connected to the Xprize organization. More details

Extra Things

I’m adding a section going forward to highlight some of our Extra Crunch coverage from the week, which dives a bit deeper into the money and minds of the moneymakers.

Hot IPOs hang onto gains as investors keep betting on tech
“After setting a $35 to $39 per-share IPO price range, Poshmark sold shares in its IPO at $42 apiece. Then it opened at $97.50. Such was the exuberance of the stock market regarding the used goods marketplace’s debut.
But today it’s worth a more modest $76.30 — for this piece we’re using all Yahoo Finance data, and all current prices are those from yesterday’s close ahead of the start of today’s trading — which sparked a question: How many recent tech IPOs are also down from their opening price?” More

How VCs invested in Asia and Europe in 2020
“Wrapping our look at how the venture capital asset class invested in 2020, today we’re taking a peek at Europe’s impressive year, and Asia’s slightly less invigorating set of results. (We’re speaking soon with folks who may have data on African VC activity in 2020; if those bear out, we’ll do a final entry in our series concerning the continent.)” More

Hello, Extra Crunch Community!
“We’re going to be trying out some new things around here with the Extra Crunch staff front and center, as well as turning your feedback into action more than ever. We quite literally work for you, the subscriber, and want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, as it were.” More

Until next week,
Lucas Matney

#alibaba, #anthony-levandowski, #app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #ar, #arkansas, #asia, #augmented-reality, #ceo, #computing, #engineer, #europe, #facebook, #google, #head, #high-speed-internet, #instagram, #itunes, #jack-ma, #lucas-matney, #microsoft, #mobile-computing, #mobile-developers, #oculus, #oversight-board, #poshmark, #president, #siri, #smartphone, #smartphones, #software, #tc, #technology, #trump, #twitter, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xprize, #yahoo