Twitter will delete dormant accounts – TechCrunch

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 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Twitter will free up handles by deleting inactive accounts

“As part of our commitment to serve the public conversation, we’re working to clean up inactive accounts to present more accurate, credible information people can trust across Twitter,” the company said.

Sounds like a smart move, with one big catch: If someone with a Twitter account died more than six months prior and no one else has their login, their account will be deleted. So hopefully, Twitter will come up with a way to memorialize these accounts.

2. Facebook buys VR studio behind Beat Saber

Virtual reality doesn’t have many hit games yet, but Facebook is buying the studio behind one of the medium’s biggest titles. It says Beat Games will join Oculus Studio but will continue to operate independently.

3. Indian scooter rental startup Bounce raises $150M

Bounce, formerly known as Metro Bikes, allows customers to rent a scooter for as little as Rs 1 (0.1 cents) per kilometer and Rs 1.5 per hour. Sources told us the new financing round values the startup “well over $500 million.”

4. Netflix leases New York’s Paris Theatre

Netflix is expanding its theatrical presence by signing a long-term lease for a historic single-screen venue in New York City. This follows reports that the streaming company is also working to buy the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles.

5. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince is coming to Disrupt Berlin

Back in 2010, web performance and security company Cloudflare launched on-stage at our Disrupt SF Battlefield. And as Prince loves to remind us, the company came in second.

6. Gift Guide: STEM toys for your builders-in-training

Yep, it’s gift guide season. Here’s our updated roundup of the latest wares clamoring to entice and inspire kids with coding tricks and electronic wizardry.

7. We’re democratizing information about startups with Extra Crunch

The Daily Crunch includes links to Extra Crunch stories just about every day. But if you’re still wondering what exactly TechCrunch’s premium membership program offers, here’s a 45-second video explaining everything you need to know.

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Facebook announces photo transfer tool – TechCrunch

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 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Facebook launches a photo portability tool, starting in Ireland

Facebook says it will make it easier for users to get their photos off the social network and onto another service — a step toward addressing the concerns of lawmakers and antitrust regulators.

The company is starting off with a way for users in Ireland to move pictures into Google Photos via encrypted transfer, but it says the feature will be available worldwide in the first half of 2020 and will eventually include integrations with additional services.

2. In ’60 Minutes’ appearance, YouTube’s CEO offers a master class in moral equivalency

YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki told “60 Minutes” reporter Lesley Stahl that the company has drawn a line at taking down videos that cause “harm,” as opposed to videos that might spread merely hatred and disinformation. In response, Connie Loizos argues that the distinction is, in a word, laughable.

3. Ikea is helping to redesign simulated Mars habitats

Ikea has been working with an Earth-based research facility that is meant to mimic what a Mars habitat would be like. Originally, Ikea sent a designer to the station to seek inspiration for creating functional furniture for small apartments — but it quickly became a two-way street, which could mean the Swedish home furnishing company has a say in how future human colonists live on other planets.

4. Accel closes new $550M fund for India

This is a significant amount of capital for Accel’s efforts in the country, where it began investing 15 years ago and has deployed roughly $1 billion through all its previous funds.

5. Here’s the math behind Tesla’s dumb Cybertruck vs F-150 tow test

During the unveiling of the Cybertruck, Tesla included a butt-to-butt pull-off. Besides being a silly test, this particular demo was flawed in multiple ways, giving the Tesla a major advantage.

6. Will the future of work be ethical? Founder perspectives

Following up on Greg Epstein’s column about whether the future of work will be ethical, we’ve published a number of other perspectives on the topic — including this one, in which he speaks to Andrea Thomaz of Diligent Robotics and Prayag Narula of LeadGenius. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

7. This week’s TechCrunch podcasts

This week’s Equity looks at Cocoon, a Y Combinator-backed startup that wants to help users stay in touch with close friends. (Also: I was relieved that even though Alex Wilhelm is leaving his role at Crunchbase, he’ll be sticking around to co-host the podcast.) And we’ve got a Thanksgiving edition of Original Content that focuses on what we’re thankful for in the streaming world.

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Mass media vs. social media – TechCrunch

In the waning years of the last millennium, at my university, one of the cause célèbres of the progressive left was a concept known as “Manufacturing Consent,” the title of a book and film, by and starring Noam Chomsky. Its central thesis was that U.S. mass media “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship.”

It’s fair to say that history has been pretty kind to this theory. Consider the support drummed up by mass media for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. To quote the public editor of The New York Times, “To anyone who read the paper between September 2002 and June 2003, the impression that Saddam Hussein possessed, or was acquiring, a frightening arsenal of W.M.D. seemed unmistakable. Except, of course, it appears to have been mistaken.” Consider the September 2002 dossier published by the U.K. government “to bolster support for war” which turned out to be full of spectacularly incorrect information, and the media’s failure to interrogate those claims.

It’s hard to overstate just how cataclysmic these errors were. If the mass media had pushed back against the false claims of weapons of mass destruction, we might have avoided the Iraq war, which killed hundreds of thousands and cost trillions of dollars. Saddam Hussein was not exactly a tough act to follow, but the U.S. still managed to follow its falsely motivated war with a botched occupation, which turned Iraq, and arguably the larger Middle East to this day, into a bloodbath.

An interesting question is: What would have happened if today’s social media had been around in 2003? Today, if a wrong assertion is promoted by the mass media, it doesn’t take long for subject-matter experts to appear on Facebook and Twitter, correcting them, and either going viral themselves or becoming the subjects of countervailing media stories.

This doesn’t necessarily mean catastrophe would have been averted. But at least a possible corrective to the collective hysteria of the mass media would have existed, unlike in 2002-3. (Yes, those were the days of Blogspot and LiveJournal, but they didn’t have anything like the reach or significance of today’s social media.)

Consider a more recent event: the 2016 American presidential election. It has become an article of faith, in certain quarters, that it was won and lost by the diabolical use of Facebook ads, especially in conjunction with the psychographic superscience of Cambridge Analytica. This is ridiculous. First, no one credible thinks CA’s purported ability to mind control Facebook users by showing them “psychographically” targeted ads was anything other than snake-oil nonsense.

Second, as Nate Silver points out, the impact of social-media ads was enormously less than the impact of mass media. Remember the months of hysteria about Hillary Clinton’s emails? Remember how it turned out to be a complete non-story? Doesn’t this remind you of Iraq’s WMDs?

“The media’s coverage of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal was probably literally 50 times more important to the outcome of the 2016 election than Trump ads on Facebook.” Perhaps, my fellow mass media, the fault lies not in our psychographic bullshit artists, but in ourselves.

Social media has many downsides. You don’t have to go particularly deeply into my own back catalog to discover that I am a harsh critic of Facebook myself. But let’s not pretend that mass media, just because it’s older, is therefore perfect. It has its own catastrophic failure modes itself. In fact — whisper it — maybe we’re a lot better off, net, with social media and mass media, in that each can act as a counterbalancing corrective on the other’s flaws and failure modes.

The progressive left may have gone from “mass media is the enemy” to “Big Tech social media is the enemy,” but maybe, and I know this sounds crazy because it’s on the internet, but hear me out here, maybe there’s room for a little nuance; maybe they both have good and bad aspects, and could possibly balance one another out. If you don’t think mass media needs a corrective, let me remind you once again of the Iraq War and But Her Emails, to name but two of many, many examples. Maybe there exists a future in which social and mass media are each a cure for what ails the other.

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Facebook sells off Oculus Medium to Adobe – TechCrunch

Facebook is selling Oculus Medium — a 3D virtual reality sculpting tool for creatives — to Adobe. The team was an expensive effort for Oculus and its sale signifies a broader rethinking within Facebook in what virtual reality projects they tackle in-house.

It’s clear that Oculus pumped an awful lot of money into Medium over the years and the sale probably isn’t great for the Oculus Medium team, if only because there is now a proper price tag attached to the effort that will be looming for the fairly niche software. Terms of the deal weren’t shared so who knows what kind of deal Adobe got.

What is nice is that Facebook went to the trouble of properly spinning out Medium. When Facebook shut down Oculus Story Studio, the company quietly laid off its employees. Medium is well-liked by a small community and it makes plenty of sense at Adobe where first-party integration with other products will undoubtedly make it better software. It’s nice to see it live on.

The sale of Medium after the purchase of Beat Saber-maker Beat Games really encapsulates the VR content strategy of Oculus at the moment. Non-gaming creative tools aren’t getting new investment, cinematic VR content isn’t being prioritized, and Facebook is preparing to buy more game studios with the goal of scaling their titles. For a division that has been talking only about the distant future for years, it’s a pragmatic strategy that probably signifies broader contentment with how things are looking on the hardware front.

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Will the 2020s be online advertising’s holistic decade? – TechCrunch

With less than two months left in the decade, advertising is again entering a new phase of rapid expansion with customer experience front and center.

The explosion of data and identity management, combined with technical advancements in real-time signal detection and machine learning, present new opportunities to respond to consumers, but mastering this ability enables marketers to create “magic moments” — instances of hyper-relevant content, delivered at the perfect time and place. 

We’ll see evolutions on the back end in terms of delivery and measurement — as well as on the consumer-facing end — through new creative deployments that enhance the brick-and-mortar shopping trip. Marketers will be held to a higher standard, both by clients demanding world-class performance and proof, as well as consumers who want relevancy, helpfulness and privacy from their brand relationships. 

Achieving this balance won’t be an easy task, but the most progressive marketers will succeed in driving this industry toward a more customer-centric future because they took steps to evolve before it was too late. With that in mind, here are five ways we expect advertising to become more holistic in the 2020s: 

Smart data will take priority over big data

Most marketers have heard the adage, “garbage in, garbage out.” For too long, the industry relied on sheer quantity of data with no quality metrics for making key audience assumptions. This mentality has had a detrimental effect on our industry, creating an ecosystem where people simply hate ads and brands focus on viewability over ROI.

To truly understand our audiences, we must first turn data from multi-channel interactions into smart, actionable insights. This involves not only understanding who the customer is, but what motivates them. 

Progressive marketers will continue to invest heavily in identity graphs to tie critical data and behaviors to individual profiles across channels. Using data science and machine learning, marketers will then be able to advance their knowledge about consumers to new levels, employing new messaging tactics based not only on value, but also on what inspires action. Key nuances, like distinguishing a deal-seeker from a value-seeker, will lead to more engaging personalized experiences and ultimately better ROI for advertisers.

We’ll see a flurry of investment in real-time engagement

We live in a world where our technology predicts where we are going, what we are seeking and how long it will take to get there by recognizing our patterns and everyday behaviors. The benefits in terms of convenience and knowledge are addictive. Look no further than email, social and Alexa to see how real-time awareness and time savings from these interactions impact our everyday lives.  

For marketers, capturing this lightning in a bottle has always been elusive — until now. The rise of real-time advertising, customer data platforms (CDPs), data science and machine learning have created the ability to detect purchases as well as online and real world location signals in real-time. This enables marketers to not only predict the next shopping trip, but what a consumer is likely to buy, when it matters most.

These sense-and-respond capabilities will enable progressive marketers to create experiences of enormous value at the moments that matter, such as triggering an offer of relevance upon entering a store or delivering a tailored experience at a specific time and location. The new decade will bring about massive investments into these technologies given their immediate ability to influence consumers during the actual purchase process. We’ll see budgets being specifically carved out to support real-time advertising and technologies as marketers optimize and convert users with greater effectiveness.  

For consumers, it means that the in-store experience will continue to become more interactive, with mobile devices as the connecting point between e-commerce and brick and mortar. Brands that thrive in this environment will win by delivering meaningful creative that connects both online and offline worlds in a helpful and relevant way.

Cutting-edge tech will create new ad experiences

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No Libra style digital currencies without rules, say EU finance ministers – TechCrunch

European Union finance ministers have agreed a defacto ban on the launch in the region of so-called global ‘stablecoins’ such as Facebook’s planned Libra digital currency until the bloc has a common approach to regulation that can mitigate the risks posed by the technology.

In a joint statement the European Council and Commission write that “no global ‘stablecoin’ arrangement should begin operation in the European Union until the legal, regulatory and oversight challenges and risks have been adequately identified and addressed”.

The statement includes recognition of potential benefits of the crypto technology, such as cheaper and faster payments across borders, but says they pose “multifaceted challenges and risks related for example to consumer protection, privacy, taxation, cyber security and operational resilience, money laundering, terrorism financing, market integrity, governance and legal certainty”.

“When a ‘stablecoin’ initiative has the potential to reach a global scale, these concerns are likely to be amplified and new potential risks to monetary sovereignty, monetary policy, the safety and efficiency of payment systems, financial stability, and fair competition can arise,” they add.

All options are being left open to ensure effective regulation, per the statement, with ministers and commissioners stating this should include “any measures to prevent the creation of unmanageable risks by certain global “stablecoins”.”

The new European Commission is already working on a regulation for global stablecoins, per Reuters.

In a speech at a press conference, Commission VP Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “Today the Ecofin endorsed a joint statement with the Commission on stablecoins. These are part of a much broader universe of crypto assets. If we properly address the risks, innovation around crypto assets has the potential to play a positive role for investors, consumers and the efficiency of our financial system.

“A number of Member States like France, Germany or Malta introduced national crypto asset laws, but most people agree with the advice of the European Supervisory Authorities that these markets go beyond borders and so we need a common European framework.

“We will now move to implement this advice. We will launch a public consultation very shortly, before the end of the year.”

The joint statement also hits out at the lack of legal clarity around some major global projects in this area — which looks like a tacit reference to Facebook’s Libra project (though the text does not include any named entities).

“Some recent projects of global dimension have provided insufficient information on how precisely they intend to manage risks and operate their business. This lack of adequate information makes it very difficult to reach definitive conclusions on whether and how the existing EU regulatory framework applies. Entities that intend to issue ‘stablecoins’, or carry out other activities involving ‘stablecoins’ in the EU should provide full and adequate information urgently to allow for a proper assessment against the applicable existing rules,” they warn.

Facebook’s Libra project was only announced this summer — with a slated launch of the first half of 2020 — but was quickly dealt major blows by the speedy departure of key founder members from the vehicle set up to steer the initiative, as giants including Visa, Stripe and eBay apparently took fright at the regulatory backlash. Though you’d never know it from reading the Libra Association PR.

One perhaps unintended effective of Facebook’s grand design on disrupting global financial systems is to amp up pressure on traditional payment providers to innovate and improve their offerings for consumers.

EU ministers write that the emergence of stablecoin initiatives “highlight the importance of continuous improvements to payment arrangements in order to meet market and consumer expectations for convenient, fast, efficient and inexpensive payments – especially cross-border”.

“While European payment systems have already made significant progress, European payment actors, including payment services providers, also have a key role to play in this respect,” they continue. “We note that the ECB and other central banks and national competent authorities will explore further the ongoing digital transformation of the payment system and, in particular, the consequences of initiatives such as ‘stablecoins’. We welcome that central banks in cooperation with other relevant authorities continue to assess the costs and benefits of central bank digital currencies as well as engage with European payment actors regarding the role of the private sector in meeting expectations for efficient, fast and inexpensive cross-border payments.”

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Neobanks raise $205M+; Softbank backs VTEX – TechCrunch

Argentina’s Ualá became the most recent Latin American fintech to receive a growth-stage funding ($150 million) from Asian investors, Tencent and Softbank. 

This marks Tencent’s second round of investment in Ualá, the first coming in April 2019. Tencent also invested $180M in Brazil’s leading neobank, Nubank in 2018. With Ualá, Tencent and Softbank will join a team of investors including Soros, Goldman Sachs, Endeavor, Monashees, Ribbit Capital, and Jefferies LLC, who have backed Ualá since it was founded in 2016. Ualá has provided over 1.3M accounts for unbanked and under-banked Argentine customers in the past two years and recently launched new products for lending and savings. 

Ualá was not the only neobank celebrating a significant round this month; Brazil’s Neon raised a $94M Series B round from Banco Votorantim and General Atlantic just one week earlier. Neon offers a fully-digital bank card to almost 2M customers across Brazil, mostly concentrated in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The round will enable Neon to expand beyond Brazil’s biggest cities and double its user base in 2020. 

Neon has raised $121M to date, with previous investors Quona Capital, Propel Venture Partners, Omidyar Network, and Monashees, also joining their most recent round. The two-year-old startup has been expanding its product offerings to include credit, investment, and most recently, a personal lending line in July 2019.

Neon’s products are helping to bring banking services to a famously complex and competitive market in Brazil. Brazil’s largest neobank, Nubank, is valued at $10B+, has 10M customers in Brazil and Mexico, and is now the most-downloaded neobank in the world. Brazil’s banking sector is one of the most lucrative in the world, with credit card interest rates reaching triple digits, whereas Nubank and competitors offer more US-style rates, putting Brazilian banks on the defensive against disruptors like Nubank and Neon who will drive competition. 

With strong funding from Asia, Brazilian, and US-based backers, these neobanks are gaining traction across the region to provide banking services to the 50% of Latin America’s population that is still excluded from traditional financial institutions. 

Softbank invests $140M in VTEX

VTEX, a Brazilian cloud e-commerce platform for large companies, joined the growing list of Softbank’s Brazilian portfolio companies, including QuintoAndar, MadeiraMadeira, Creditas, Buser, Gympass, and Loggi. The Japanese investor is supporting VTEX with a $140M investment to help the startup expand internationally and develop new products. 

VTEX already has 14 offices in Latin America, Europe, and the US, and serves over 2500 global clients including Ambev, Nestle, North Face, Coca Cola, and General Electric. VTEX’s solution involves a comprehensive digital commerce platform including order management, B2B marketplaces, web and in-store points of commerce, and customer service. As the back-end for some of the world’s largest companies, VTEX provides an enormous opportunity for integration with other marketplaces and platforms. 

LinkedIn expands to Mexico

Mexico is Latin America’s second-largest market after Brazil for many US tech companies like Uber and Facebook. In November 2019, both LinkedIn and Stripe announced their intention to expand into the Mexican market with offices and operations. Over 13 million of Linkedin’s 92 million total clients are in Mexico, making this country a logical place for Linkedin’s second Latin America office. Linkedin opened their first Latin America offices in São Paulo in 2013. 

The Mexican office will open in July 2020 and will help LinkedIn produce more Spanish-language content, as well as bring users closer to large clients like BBVA and Aeromexico. 

Notable Rounds and Acquisitions from November

  • Brazilian bank Itaú acquired growth-hacking and digital consulting startup, Zup, for a $140M deal that will be disbursed over four years. Zup will help the bank improve and develop digital channels for customer acquisition and management. Although Itaú now owns 51% of Zup, the two companies will continue to operate separately and under different brands for the foreseeable future. Acquisitions of this size are still very rare in Latin America and provide liquidity into the startup ecosystem that can promote the development of a more dynamic environment for tech companies. 
  • MUY Tech, a Colombia cloud kitchen startup, raised $15M this month to expand into Mexico and Brazil. MUY uses AI technology to predict food trends and create less waste, allowing users to order personalized meals from MUY’s physical restaurants or through a mobile app. The startup currently serves more than 200,000 meals per month, according to founder Jose Calderon, who previously exited Domicilios to Delivery Hero. Mexican investor ALLVP led the round with support from previous investor Seeya.
  • Brazilian mobility startup Kovi raised a $30M Series B led by Global Founders Capital and Quona Capital, with support from previous investors Monashees, Maya Capital, Kevin Efrusy, Y Combinator, Broadhaven Ventures, Justin Mateen, and ONEVC. Kovi rents cars to drivers that work for rideshare companies like Uber, Didi, or Cabify to make quality vehicles available to these potential gig-economy workers. They will use this investment to grow the team and fleet, as well as exploring new geographies. 
  • Mexico’s virtual supermarket, Justo, raised $10M in a seed round from Foundation Capital to continue growing in the local market. Justo is the first grocery store in Mexico with no physical branches, using a D2C model that has been increasing in popularity in Latin America. The startup was founded by Ricardo Weder, the former president of Cabify, earlier in 2019 to disrupt the wasteful grocery industry. 
  • Brazil’s identity verification startup, idwall, raised $10M from Qualcomm Ventures to continue developing facial recognition software that helps large companies like Loggi, 99, and OLX to verify the identity of their employees and customers.

Looking ahead to December, Latin American financial institutions are on the lookout for a shaky future based on the recent unrest in countries like Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia. This instability might provide a competitive edge for fintech startups who can use real-time data to adapt more quickly to the changing situation. 

What to watch next? International investors have not pulled out of the region despite recent political turmoil and many are willing to wait out this period to support their startups. While we may not have access to Q4 2019 for a few months, it will be interesting to see if growth and investment have been rocked by the changes of the past two months. Certainly the status quo for the traditional players in Latin America is rapidly changing, potentially leaving room for startups to take over more market share and compete for disgruntled customers.

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Facebook expands its efforts against ad discrimination – TechCrunch

Under the terms of a settlement with the ACLU and other civil rights groups earlier this year, Facebook has been taking steps to prevent discriminatory ad targeting.

Specifically, the company says ads in the United States that involve housing, employment or credit can no longer be targeted based on age, gender, ZIP code or multicultural affinity. Nor can the ads use more detailed targeting that connects to these categories.

Today, Facebook is announcing what VP of Ads Product Marketing Graham Mudd described as the next “milestone in our effort to reduce and eliminate discrimination.”

First, it’s expanding the enforcement of these rules beyond Facebook Ad Manager to encompass every other place where someone might buy ads on Facebook: the Ads Manager app, Instagram Promote, the ad creation tools on Facebook Pages and the Facebook Marketing API (which connects with third-party ad-buying tools).

Second, it’s expanding its searchable ad library — first created in response to concerns about political misinformation — to include housing ads targeted at an U.S. audience.

So moving forward, if a regulatory agency, civil rights group, journalist or anyone else wants to check on how businesses are actually using Facebook to advertise housing, they can check the archive. This portion of the library will start archiving ads from tomorrow (December 4) onward, and Facebook says it will eventually include employment and credit ads as well.

Mudd said that Facebook has also been helping advertisers understand how to work within the new rules. While he described this as “the right tradeoff” to combat discrimination, he also suggested that “there are and have always been very reasonable and legal non-discriminatory advertising practices” that use age- and gender-based targeting.

Now, he said, advertisers are having to “relearn how to use the platform given these restrictions.”

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Instagram finally launches 13+ age checkups – TechCrunch

Instagram is done playing dumb about users’ ages. After nine years, Instagram is finally embracing more responsibility to protect underage kids from the problems with social media. It will now ask new users to input their birth date and bar users younger than 13 from joining. However, it won’t be asking existing users their age, so Instagram will turn a blind eye to any underage kids already amongst its 1 billion members.

Instagram will later start using age info to offer education about settings and new privacy controls for younger users. It’s also adding the option to only allow people you follow to message you, add you to a group or reply to your Story.

Yesterday we published an opinion piece noting that “Instagram still doesn’t age-check kids. That must change.” after receiving no-comments from Instagram after mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong spotted Instagram prototyping an age-check feature. As the code she found indicated, Instagram will keep your birthday and date private, and sync it with your Facebook profile if you link your accounts.

Instagram had fallen far behind in protecting underage users. It’s relied on ignorance about users’ ages to avoid a $40,000 fine per violation of the Child Online Privacy Protection Act that bans services from collecting personal info from children younger than 13. “Asking for this information will help prevent underage people from joining Instagram, help us keep young people safer and enable more age-appropriate experiences overall,” Instagram notes.

Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok already require users to enter their birth date as soon as they start the signup process. TikTok built a whole separate section of its app where kids can watch videos but not post or comment, after it was fined $5.7 million by the FTC for violating COPPA.

As for why it took so long, an Instagram spokesperson tells TechCrunch, “Historically, we didn’t require people to tell us their age because we wanted Instagram to be a place where everyone can express themselves fully — irrespective of their identity.” That seems like a pretty thin excuse.

Adding the age check is a good first step for Instagram. But it should consider how it can do more to verify the ages users enter and keep out those who don’t belong exposed to strangers across the app. Moving in line with industry standards is attaining minimum viable responsibility. But an app so appealing to younger users and that deals in such sensitive data should be leading on safety, not just following the herd.

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This browser extension unhides Instagram Likes – TechCrunch

Instagram is hiding Like counts to make people feel better. But what if you’re curious, competitive or just petty? Now you can re-embrace the popularity contest by installing the Socialinsider Chrome extension that reveals Instagram Like and comment counts. “The Return of the Likes” extension overlays the numbers of Likes and comments on the top-right corner of posts on Instagram’s website. If you don’t want Instagram’s overprotective helicopter parenting, now you can download the extension here to put an end to it.

Obviously, it’s not as useful as showing Like counts right in the Instagram mobile app. You probably aren’t going to switch to browsing Insta just on the web, but if you see a post you want to know the Like count of, you can easily send yourself the permalink and open it on a computer.

Instagram is currently testing hiding Like counts with a percentage of users in every country worldwide. It started the experiment in Canada in April before adding six more countries in July and then the U.S. last month. Facebook launched a similar hidden likes experiment in Australia in September.

TechCrunch tested Return of the Likes and verified that it works. It comes from social media analytics company Socialinsider, which offers software for measuring engagement and benchmarking performance against competitors. The company insists that “No data is sent to Socialinsider servers.” We asked Instagram if the Chrome extension was in compliance with the app’s rules, and will update if we hear back.

As social media evolves, the emerging trend is for platforms to step in to protect users. In many cases, it’s warranted. Like counts can hurt people’s well-being by leading them into envy spirals comparing themselves against peers, or coercing them to self-censor to avoid an embarrassingly low Like count. Still, the question remains whether users deserve control over their own experience. Should we be able to opt back in to seeing Like counts, the way we have controls over block lists of offensive words?

After the platforms step up to ensure safety, we’ll have to decide when we want to step in and demand to see what’s been covered up.

Additional reporting by Lucas Matney

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