Twitter threads are getting easier – TechCrunch

Twitter is rolling out a “continue thread” button, ViacomCBS has big plans for its streaming service and Morgan Stanley acquires E-Trade. Here’s your Daily Crunch for February 20, 2020.

1. Twitter adds a button so you can thread your shower thoughts

Twitter is adding a new feature for mobile users to make it easier to link dispersed tweets together. Per 9to5Mac, the feature — which Twitter tweeted about yesterday — is slowly rolling out to its iOS app. (At the time of writing we spotted it in Europe.)

The feature lets you pull down as you’re composing a tweet to create a thread, or to see a “continue thread” option.

2. CBS All Access to gain content from Nick, MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures & more

Until now, CBS All Access was of primary interest to Star Trek fans, but in today’s otherwise underwhelming Q4 earnings of the newly merged ViacomCBS, the company said the plan is to launch a new “broad pay” streaming service that will include CBS All Access content along with other ViacomCBS assets in film and TV.

3. What the $13B E-Trade deal says about Robinhood’s valuation

News broke this morning that Morgan Stanley, a banking behemoth, will buy E-Trade, an online brokerage and financial services firm, for around $13 billion in stock. Meanwhile, Robinhood has about twice the accounts as E-Trade — but E-Trade probably has more assets under management. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

4. A group of ex-NSA and Amazon engineers are building a ‘GitHub for data’

Data is often highly sensitive and out of reach, kept under lock and key by red tape and compliance, requiring weeks for approval. So the aforementioned engineers started Gretel, an early-stage startup that aims to help developers safely share and collaborate with sensitive data in real time.

5. HungryPanda, a food delivery app for Chinese communities, raises $20 million

Founded in the United Kingdom, where its service first launched in Nottingham, HungryPanda is now available in 31 cities in the U.K., Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.

6. Google gobbling Fitbit is a major privacy risk, warns EU data protection advisor

The European Data Protection Board has intervened to raise concerns about Google’s plan to scoop up the health and activity data of millions of Fitbit users. Google confirmed its plan to acquire Fitbit last November, but regulators are in the process of considering whether to allow the tech giant to gobble up all of Fitbit’s data.

7. Sling TV reports first-ever subscriber decline

This week, the company reported its first-ever decline in Sling TV subscribers, with a drop of 94,000 customers in the fourth quarter. Dish says the streaming service ended the year with 2.59 million total subscribers.

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.

Source link

Twitter adds a button so you can thread your shower thoughts – TechCrunch

Hold that tweet — and add another one.

Twitter is adding a new feature for mobile users to make it easier to link dispersed ‘shower thoughts’ together — and another thing styleee.

Per 9to5Mac, the feature — which Twitter tweeted about yesterday — is slowly rolling out to its iOS app. (At the time of writing we spotted it in Europe.)

The feature lets you pull down as you’re composing a tweet to add to your previous tweet by creating a thread or seeing a ‘continue thread’ option.

Tapping on a three-dots menu brings up an interface of older tweets which you can link the new tweet to — to continue (or kick off) a thread.

The feature looks intended to encourage more threads (from #140 characters to #280 to infinity tweetstorms and beyond!).

It may also be intended to address the broken thread phenomenon which can still plague the information network service. Especially where users are discussing complex and/or nuanced topics. (And Twitter has said it wants to foster healthy conversations on its platform so…)

The shortcut offers an alternative for Twitter users to being organized enough to tweet a perfectly threaded series of thoughts in the first place (i.e. by using the ‘+’ option at the point of composing your tweetstorm).

It also does away with the need to go manually searching through your feed for the particular tweet you want to expand on and then hitting reply to add another.

No, it’s still not an edit button. But, frankly, if you think Twitter is ever going to let you rewrite your existing tweets you should probably think longer before you hit ‘publish’ on your next one.

The ‘continue thread’ option could also be used as a de facto edit option — by letting users more easily append a correction to a preexisting tweet.

Whether the feature will (generally) work as intended — to boost threads and reduce broken threads and make Twitter a less confusing place for newbs — remains to be seen.

Happily it looks like Twitter has thought about (and closed off) one potential misuse risk. We tested to see what would happen if you try to insert a new tweet into the middle of an existing tweetstorm — which would have had the potential to generate more confusion (i.e. if the thread logic got altered by the addition).

But instead of embedding the new tweet in the middle of the old thread it was added at the bottom as a supplement. So you just start a new thread at the bottom of your old thread.

Good job, Jack.

TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet contributed to this report 



Source link

Lack of big tech GDPR decisions looms large in EU watchdog’s annual report – TechCrunch

The lead European Union privacy regulator for most of big tech has put out its annual report which shows another major bump in complaints filed under the bloc’s updated data protection framework, underlining the ongoing appetite EU citizens have for applying their rights.

But what the report doesn’t show is any firm enforcement of EU data protection rules vis-a-vis big tech.

The report leans heavily on stats to illustrate the volume of work piling up on desks in Dublin. But it’s light on decisions on highly anticipated cross-border cases involving tech giants including Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) began being applied across the EU in May 2018 — so is fast approaching its second birthday. Yet its file of enforcements where tech giants are concerned remains very light — even for companies with a global reputation for ripping away people’s privacy.

This despite Ireland having a large number of open cross-border investigations into the data practices of platform and adtech giants — some of which originated from complaints filed right at the moment GDPR came into force.

In the report the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) notes it opened a further six statutory inquiries in relation to “multinational technology companies’ compliance with the GDPR” — bringing the total number of major probes to 21. So its ‘big case’ file continues to stack up. (It’s added at least two more since then, with a probe of Tinder and another into Google’s location tracking opened just this month.)

The report is a lot less keen to trumpet the fact that decisions on cross-border cases to date remains a big fat zero.

Though, just last week, the DPC made a point of publicly raising “concerns” about Facebook’s approach to assessing the data protection impacts of a forthcoming product in light of GDPR requirements to do so — an intervention that resulted in a delay to the regional launch of Facebook’s Dating product.

This discrepancy (cross-border cases: 21 – Irish DPC decisions: 0), plus rising anger from civil rights groups, privacy experts, consumer protection organizations and ordinary EU citizens over the paucity of flagship enforcement around key privacy complaints is clearly piling pressure on the regulator. (Other examples of big tech GDPR enforcement do exist. Well, France’s CNIL is one.)

In its defence the DPC does have a horrifying case load. As illustrated by other stats its keen to spotlight — such as saying it received a total of 7,215 complaints in 2019; a 75% increase on the total number (4,113) received in 2018. A full 6,904 of which were dealt with under the GDPR (while 311 complaints were filed under the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003).

There were also 6,069 data security breaches notified to it, per the report — representing a 71% increase on the total number (3,542) recorded last year.

While a full 457 cross-border processing complaints were received in Dublin via the GDPR’s One-Stop-Shop mechanism. (This is the device the Commission came up with for the ‘lead regulator’ approach that’s baked into GDPR and which has landed Ireland in the regulatory hot seat. tl;dr other data protection agencies are passing Dublin A LOT of paperwork.)

The DPC necessarily has to do back and forth on cross border cases, as it liaises with other interested regulators. All of which, you can imagine, creates a rich opportunity for lawyered up tech giants to inject extra friction into the oversight process — by asking to review and query everything. [Insert the sound of a can being hoofed down the road]

Meanwhile the agency that’s supposed to regulate most of big tech (and plenty else) — which writes in the annual report that it increased its full time staff from 110 to 140 last year — did not get all the funding it asked for from the Irish government.

So it also has the hard cap of its own budget to reckon with (just €15.3M in 2019) vs — for example — Google’s parent Alphabet’s $46.1BN in full year 2019 revenue. So, er, do the math.

Nonetheless the pressure is firmly now on Ireland for major GDPR enforcements to flow.

One year of major enforcement inaction could be filed under ‘bedding in’; but two years in without any major decisions would not be a good look. (It has previously said the first decisions will come early this year — so seems to be hoping to have something to show for GDPR’s 2nd birthday.)

Some of the high profile complaints crying out for regulatory action include behavioral ads serviced via real-time bidding programmatic advertising (which the UK data watchdog has admitted for half a year is rampantly unlawful); cookie consent banners (which remain a Swiss Cheese of non-compliance); and adtech platforms cynically forcing consent from users by requiring they agree to being microtargeted with ads to access the (‘free’) service. (Thing is GDPR stipulates that consent as a legal basis must be freely given and can’t be bundled with other stuff, so… )

Full disclosure: TechCrunch’s parent company, Verizon Media (née Oath), is also under ongoing investigation by the DPC — which is looking at whether it meets GDPR’s transparency requirements under Articles 12-14 of the regulation.

Seeking to put a positive spin on 2019’s total lack of a big tech privacy reckoning, commissioner Helen Dixon writes in the report: “2020 is going to be an important year. We await the judgment of the CJEU in the SCCs data transfer case; the first draft decisions on big tech investigations will be brought by the DPC through the consultation process with other EU data protection authorities, and academics and the media will continue the outstanding work they are doing in shining a spotlight on poor personal data practices.”

In further remarks to the media Dixon said: “At the Data Protection Commission, we have been busy during 2019 issuing guidance to organisations, resolving individuals’ complaints, progressing larger-scale investigations, reviewing data breaches, exercising our corrective powers, cooperating with our EU and global counterparts and engaging in litigation to ensure a definitive approach to the application of the law in certain areas.

“Much more remains to be done in terms of both guiding on proportionate and correct application of this principles-based law and enforcing the law as appropriate. But a good start is half the battle and the DPC is pleased at the foundations that have been laid in 2019. We are already expanding our team of 140 to meet the demands of 2020 and beyond.”

One notable date this year also falls when GDPR turns two — because a Commission review of how the regulation is functioning is looming in May.

That’s one deadline that may help to concentrate minds on issuing decisions.

Per the DPC report, the largest category of complaints it received last year fell under ‘access request’ issues — whereby data controllers are failing to give up (all) people’s data when asked — which amounted to 29% of the total; followed by disclosure (19%); fair processing (16%); e-marketing complaints (8%); and right to erasure (5%).

On the security front, the vast bulk of notifications received by the DPC related to unauthorised disclosure of data (aka breaches) — with a total across the private and public sector of 5,188 vs just 108 for hacking (though the second largest category was actually lost or stolen paper, with 345).

There were also 161 notification of phishing; 131 notification of unauthorized access; 24 notifications of malware; and 17 of ransomeware.

Source link

Facebook backs Indian education startup Unacademy – TechCrunch

Unacademy, one of India’s fastest growing education startups, has just received the backing of a major technology giant: Facebook.

The social juggernaut has participated in the four-year-old Indian startup’s Series E financing round, sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

General Atlantic is leading the round, the size of which is about $100 million* (see below), the sources said. It wasn’t immediately clear to us exactly how big of a check Facebook has cut, but one of the sources said it was under $20 million. The round values the startup, which had raised $90 million prior to the new round, at over $400 million, the source said.

Updated at 4:30 P.M. IST: Gaurav Munjal, co-founder and chief executive of Unacademy, tweeted moments ago that the startup has raised $110 million from General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital India and Facebook. Existing investors Nexus, Steadview and Blume Ventures as well as angel investors Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart, and Sujeet Kumar, co-founder of Udaan, also participated in the Series E financing round, he said.

“Our mission from day one has been to make high quality education affordable and accessible to everyone. There are more than 800 Educators who teach live on Unacademy everyday with hundreds of thousands of Learners attending these classes from their smartphones,” he said.

“We have also heavily invested in making high quality free classes available on YouTube and our own platform where we see more than 150M video views every month. Our goal is to not just become the largest education organisation but to be the biggest consumer internet organisation in India,” he added.

The startup said it will use the fresh capital to add more test prep categories, and on-board more teachers.

In a statement, Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director of Facebook India, said, “Facebook is an ally for India’s economic growth and social development, and we are excited about India and its rapidly rising Internet ecosystem.”

“With this investment in Unacademy, we are reinforcing our commitment to the Indian startup ecosystem as well as investing in a company that is transforming learning in India. We love that the company is fundamentally democratising education and driving innovation in new learning models,” he added.

Rest of the original story:

Unacademy helps students prepare for competitive exams to get into a college and also those who are pursuing graduation-level courses. On its app, students watch live classes from educators and later engage in sessions to review topics in more detail.

A year ago, the startup launched a subscription service that offers students access to all live classes. Munjal tweeted earlier this month that the subscription service had become a $30 million ARR business. It has amassed over 90,000 paying subscribers.

This is the second time Facebook is investing in an Indian startup. Last year, it participated in social commerce Meesho’s $125 million financing round led by Prosus Ventures.

Facebook and Unacademy did not respond to a request for comment.

Ajit Mohan, VP and managing director of Facebook India, told TechCrunch in an interview last year that the company was open to engaging with startups that are building solutions for the Indian market for more investing opportunities.

“Wherever we believe there is opportunity beyond the work we do today, we are open to exploring further investment deals,” he said.

Indian newspaper Mint first reported in December that Unacademy was in talks with General Atlantic and GGV Capital to raise as much as $100 million. TechCrunch understands that GGV Capital, which earlier this month invested in edtech startup Vedantu, is not participating in Unacademy’s funding round.

Vedantu and Unacademy compete with Byju’s, which counts General Atlantic as an investor and is valued at $8 billion. Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has invested in Byju’s, but has sold at least some of its stake, according to a regulatory filing analyzed by business outlet Entrackr.

As India’s startup ecosystem begins to mature, it has started to attract several corporate giants. Google, Amazon and Twitter also have made investments in Indian startups. While Twitter has backed social platform ShareChat, Google has invested in hyperlocal concierge app Dunzo.

Unacademy counts Nexus Venture Partners, SAIF Partners India, and Blume Ventures, which announced its $102 million third fund for the Indian startup ecosystem on Wednesday, among its investors.



Source link

Twitter acquires Stories template maker Chroma Labs – TechCrunch

Is “Twitter Stories” on the way? Or will we just get tools to send prettier tweets? Well now Twitter has the talent for both as it’s just acquired Chroma Labs. Co-founded by Instagram Boomerang inventor John Barnett, Chroma Labs’ Chroma Stories app let you fill in stylish layout templates and frames for posting collages and more to Instagram Stories, Snapchat, and more.

Rather than keeping Chroma Stories around, Twitter will be splitting the Chroma Labs squad up to work on its product, design and engineering teams. The Chroma Stories iPhone app won’t be shut down, but it won’t get more updates and will only work until there’s some breaking change to iOS.

“When we founded Chroma Labs in 2018, we set out to build a company to inspire creativity and help people tell their visual stories. During the past year, we’ve enabled creators and businesses around the world to create millions of stories with the Chroma Stories app” the Chroma Labs team writes on its site. “We’re proud of this work, and look forward to continuing our mission at a larger scale – with one of the most important services in the world.”

We’ve reached out to Twitter for more details on the deal and any price paid. [Update: Twitter confirms this is an acquisition, not just and acquihire of the team as it first appeared, though Chroma Stories is shutting down. It refused to disclose the terms of the acquisition, but said all seven employees of Chroma Labs are coming aboard. The team will be working on the Conversations division at Twitter, and the deal is meant to boost its talent, leadership, and expertise for serving public discussions. A Twitter spokesperson also confirms that Chroma will shut down its .business and future versions of the app will not be available.]

Founded in late 2018, Chroma Labs had raised a seed round in early 2019 and counted Sweet Capital, Index Ventures, and Combine VC as investors. Barnett’s fellow co-founders include CTO Alex Li, who was an engineering manager on Facebook Photos and Instagram Stories; and Joshua Harris was a product design manager on the Oculus Rift and Facebook’s augmented reality filters.

With Chroma Stories, you could choose between retro filters, holiday themed frames, and snazzy collage templates to make your Storie look special amidst the millions posted each day. Sensor Tower estimates Chroma Stories had 37,000 downloads to date. That tepid reception despite the app’s quality might explain why the team is joining Twitter.

By snatching up some of the smartest talent in visual storytelling, Twitter could give its text-focused app some spice. It’s one of the few social apps without a Stories product already, and its creative tools are quite limited. Better ways to lay out photos in tweets could make Twitter more beautiful and less exhausting to sift through. That might make it more appealing to teens and help it boost its user count, which now lags behind Snapchat.

Twitter has become the world’s public record for words. The Chroma Labs talent might make it the real-time gallery for art and design as well.

[Update 3:05pm Pacific: Twitter confirms that this is a full acquisition of the Chroma Labs company, not just an acquisition as we originally printed.]



Source link

California’s new privacy law is off to a rocky start – TechCrunch

California’s new privacy law was years in the making.

The law, California’s Consumer Privacy Act — or CCPA — became law on January 1, allowing state residents to reclaim their right to access and control their personal data. Inspired by Europe’s GDPR, the CCPA is the largest statewide privacy law change in a generation. The new law lets users request a copy of the data that tech companies have on them, delete the data when they no longer want a company to have it, and demand that their data isn’t sold to third parties. All of this is much to the chagrin of the tech giants, some of which had spent millions to comply with the law and have many more millions set aside to deal with the anticipated influx of consumer data access requests.

But to say things are going well is a stretch.

Many of the tech giants that kicked and screamed in resistance to the new law have acquiesced and accepted their fate — at least until something different comes along. The California tech scene had more than a year to prepare, but some have made it downright difficult and — ironically — more invasive in some cases for users to exercise their rights, largely because every company has a different interpretation of what compliance should look like.

Alex Davis is just one California resident who tried to use his new rights under the law to make a request to delete his data. He vented his annoyance on Twitter, saying companies have responded to CCPA by making requests “as confusing and difficult as possible in new and worse ways.”

“I’ve never seen such deliberate attempts to confuse with design,” he told TechCrunch. He referred to what he described as “dark patterns,” a type of user interface design that tries to trick users into making certain choices, often against their best interests.

“I tried to make a deletion request but it bogged me down with menus that kept redirecting… things to be turned on and off,” he said.

Despite his frustration, Davis got further than others. Just as some companies have made it easy for users to opt-out of having their data sold by adding the legally required “Do not sell my info” links on their websites, many have not. Some have made it near-impossible to find these “data portals,” which companies set up so users can request a copy of their data or delete it altogether. For now, California companies are still in a grace period — but have until July when the CCPA’s enforcement provisions kick in. Until then, users are finding ways around it — by collating and sharing links to data portals to help others access their data.

“We really see a mixed story on the level of CCPA response right now,” said Jay Cline, who heads up consulting giant PwC’s data privacy practice, describing it as a patchwork of compliance.

PwC’s own data found that only 40% of the largest 600 U.S. companies had a data portal. Only a fraction, Cline said, extended their portals to users outside of California, even though other states are gearing up to push similar laws to the CCPA.

But not all data portals are created equally. Given how much data companies store on us — personal or otherwise — the risks of getting things wrong are greater than ever. Tech companies are still struggling to figure out the best way to verify each data request to access or delete a user’s data without inadvertently giving it away to the wrong person.

Last year, security researcher James Pavur impersonated his fiancee and tricked tech companies into turning over vast amounts of data about her, including credit card information, account logins and passwords and, in one case, a criminal background check. Only a few of the companies asked for verification. Two years ago, Akita founder Jean Yang described someone hacking into her Spotify account and requesting her account data as an “unfortunate consequence” of GDPR, which mandated companies operating on the continent allow users access to their data.

(Image: Twitter/@jeanqasaur)

The CCPA says companies should verify a person’s identity to a “reasonable degree of certainty.” For some that’s just an email address to send the data.

Others require sending in even more sensitive information just to prove it’s them.

Indeed, i360, a little-known advertising and data company, until recently asked California residents for a person’s full Social Security number. This recently changed to just the last four-digits. Verizon (which owns TechCrunch) wants its customers and users to upload their driver’s license or state ID to verify their identity. Comcast asks for the same, but goes the extra step by asking for a selfie before it will turn over any of a customer’s data.

Comcast asks for the same amount of information to verify a data request as the controversial facial recognition startup, Clearview AI, which recently made headlines for creating a surveillance system made up of billions of images scraped from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to help law enforcement trace a person’s movements.

As much as CCPA has caused difficulties, it has helped forge an entirely new class of compliance startups ready to help large and small companies alike handle the regulatory burdens to which they are subject. Several startups in the space are taking advantage of the $55 billion expected to be spent on CCPA compliance in the next year — like Segment, which gives customers a consolidated view of the data they store; Osano which helps companies comply with CCPA; and Securiti, which just raised $50 million to help expand its CCPA offering. With CCPA and GDPR under their belts, their services are designed to scale to accommodate new state or federal laws as they come in.

Another startup, Mine, which lets users “take ownership” of their data by acting as a broker to allow users to easily make requests under CCPA and GDPR, had a somewhat bumpy debut.

The service asks users to grant them access to a user’s inbox, scanning for email subject lines that contain company names and using that data to determine which companies a user can request their data from or have their data deleted. (The service requests access to a user’s Gmail but the company claims it will “never read” users’ emails.) Last month during a publicity push, Mine inadvertently copied a couple of emailed data requests to TechCrunch, allowing us to see the names and email addresses of two requesters who wanted Crunch, a popular gym chain with a similar name, to delete their data.

(Screenshot: Zack Whittaker/TechCrunch)

TechCrunch alerted Mine — and the two requesters — to the security lapse.

“This was a mix-up on our part where the engine that finds companies’ data protection offices’ addresses identified the wrong email address,” said Gal Ringel, co-founder and chief executive at Mine. “This issue was not reported during our testing phase and we’ve immediately fixed it.”

For now, many startups have caught a break.

The smaller, early-stage startups that don’t yet make $25 million in annual revenue or store the personal data on more than 50,000 users or devices will largely escape having to immediately comply with CCPA. But it doesn’t mean startups can be complacent. As early-stage companies grow, so will their legal responsibilities.

“For those who did launch these portals and offer rights to all Americans, they are in the best position to be ready for these additional states,” said Cline. “Smaller companies in some ways have an advantage for compliance if their products or services are commodities, because they can build in these controls right from the beginning,” he said.

CCPA may have gotten off to a bumpy start, but time will tell if things get easier. Just this week, California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra released newly updated guidance aimed at trying to “fine tune” the rules, per his spokesperson. It goes to show that even California’s lawmakers are still trying to get the balance right.

But with the looming threat of hefty fines just months away, time is running out for the non-compliant.



Source link

Some tech I loved is getting worse and I’m mad – TechCrunch

Time is supposed to make technology better. The idea is simple: With more time, humans make newer, better technology and our lives improve. Except for when the opposite happens.

Google is a good example of this. I’ve been harping on the matter for a while now. Google mobile search, in case you haven’t used it lately, is bad. It often returns bloated garbage that looks like a cross between new Yahoo and original Bing.

Here’s how it butchered a search query for “Metallica” this morning:

Remember when that interface was simpler, and easier to use, and didn’t try to do literally every possible thing for every possible user at once?

It’s not just Google’s mobile search interface that makes me want to claw my eyes out and learn how to talk to trees. Everyone now knows that Mountain View has effectively given up on trying to distinguish ads from organic results (Does the company view them as interchangeable? Probably?). TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas covered the company’s recent search result design changes today, calling them “user-hostile,” going on to summarize the choices as its “latest dark pattern.”

Google, once fanatical about super-clean, fast results, is now trying to help you way too much on mobile and fool you on Chrome.

Chrome itself kinda sucks, and is getting worse. But we all know that. Of course, that all this is shaking out around the same time that the company’s founders left is, you know, not shocking.

I’d also throw TweetDeck into the mix. It’s garbage-slow and lags and sucks RAM. Twitter has effectively decided that its power users are idiots who don’t deserve good code. Oh, and Twitter is deprecating some cool analytics features it used to give out to users about their followers.

Chrome and TweetDeck are joined by apps like Slack that are also slowing down over time. It appears that as every developer writes code on a computer with 64,000 gigs of RAM, they presume that they can waste everyone else’s. God forbid if you have the piddling 16 gigs of RAM that my work machine has. Your computer is going to lag and often crash. Great work, everyone!

Also, fuck mobile apps. I have two phones now because that’s how 2020 works and I have more apps than I know what to do with, not to mention two different password managers, Okta and more. I’m so kitted out I can’t breathe. I have so many tools available to me I mostly just want to put them all down. Leave me alone! Or only show me the thing I need — not everything at once!

Anyhoo, video games are still pretty good as long as you avoid most Battle Royale titles, micropayments, and EA. Kinda.



Source link

Senators attempt to force Twitter to ban Iranian leadership – TechCrunch

Four senators, including Ted Cruz (R-TX), have asserted that, as a consequence of sanctions placed on Iran, Twitter must cease providing its services to Ayatollah Khamenei and other leaders in the country. “The Ayatollah enjoys zero protection from the United States Bill of Rights,” he wrote in a letter to the company.

Although the move comes as relations between Iran and the U.S. grow ever more strained following a series of violent incidents connected with the country, it is also an attempt to exert executive power over tech companies that have resisted the yoke of federal regulation.

In a letter (PDF) sent to Twitter, the U.S. Attorney for Northern California and others, the senators explained the rationale for their demand. The Obama administration created rules in 2014 that specifically made an exception to export rules allowing free messaging and social media-type services to be offered to Iranians. The idea being that, though Twitter and many other such apps are mostly banned in Iran, it could not hurt to offer tools for free expression and communication to its citizens.

But there are exceptions even to exceptions, and this is what Cruz et al. claim now apply to Twitter. Specifically, they say that following Trump’s executive order in June imposing additional sanctions on Iran, the Khamenei and foreign minister Javad Zarif have lost the protection the law previously offered.

“All Americans — including you and Twitter — are prohibited from ‘the making of any contribution of provision of…goods or services’ to them,” the letter reads. “While the First Amendment protects the free speech rights of Americans… the Ayatollah and any American companies providing him assistance are entirely subject to U.S. sanctions laws.”

Not being an expert in import/export law myself, I can’t judge the merits of this argument, though on its face it seems sound. But it may not be a question of whether Twitter can or can’t “offer services” to persons blacklisted by the federal government.

There is the argument that Twitter choosing to offer the use of its platform to others is itself a protected act of free speech.

After all, the White House could just as easily have issued an E.O. blacklisting the leaders of the countries subject to the travel ban. Should that be a possibility? Is it the right of a U.S. company to extend its platform for free speech to anyone in the world, regardless of their legal status in the eyes of the government?

Sens. Ted Cruz, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Marco Rubio (R-NJ) think otherwise.

Twitter declined to comment.

Source link

Instagram gives unfollow suggestions in new ‘following categories’ – TechCrunch

Instagram will now show you who you interact with least frequently in case you want to unfollow them. In an effort to help you keep your feed clean and relevant, today Instagram is launching “following categories” that divides the list of who you follow into batches, including “most seen in feed” and “least interacted with.” That way if someone annoying or boring is overwhelming your feed, or there’s someone whose content you’ve proven to not be interested in, you can easily remove them. Time to axe those courtesy and pity follows.

“Instagram is really about bringing you closer to the people and things you care about — but we know that over time, your interests and relationships can evolve and change,” a spokesperson tells me. “Whether you graduate, move to a new city, or become obsessed with a new interest and find a community, we want to make it easier to manage the accounts you follow on Instagram so that they best represent your current connections and interests.”

To access the feature, go to your profile, then “following,” then you’ll see the categories you can explore. You’re also able to sort who you follow by earliest to latest and vice versa, in case you want to clear out your earliest adds or make sure you actually care about the latest people you followed.

By increasing the density of high-quality posts in your feed and Stories by getting you to unfollow irrelevant accounts, Instagram could boost ad views. You’ll come across fewer lame posts that might make you close the app so you instead keep scrolling and fast-forwarding while racking up ad impressions. Instagram reportedly hit $20 billion in 2019 revenue according to Bloomberg, and soon it may start running ads in IGTV while splitting revenue with creators.

I’ve been asking Twitter to build unfollow suggestions since 2013, but Instagram beat them to it. Even with filtered feeds, the algorithms can get things wrong and show too much of people you don’t care about.

Following back or adding someone who asks has become part of the modern-day social contract. It can be rude and cause drama to refuse, so people just bloat their following list. Manually sorting through, trying to remember who people are and if you see them too often or constantly ignore them can be a slow and emotionally draining chore. With Instagram now 10 years old, Twitter 14 and Facebook 16, we’ve had a long time to accidentally screw up our social graph.

Perhaps unfollow suggestions took this long because no app wants to overtly shame specific people. But Instagram’s approach via clear, quantifiable categories is just vague enough that you probably won’t screenshot them and show the friends it said to nix. With that sensitivity, Instagram has pulled off the rare feat of improving the user experience while simultaneously benefiting its revenue engine.



Source link

Twitter-backed ShareChat eyes fantasy sports in India – TechCrunch

The growing market of fantasy sports in India may soon have a new and odd entrant: ShareChat .

The local social networking app, which in August last year raised $100 million in a financing round led by Twitter, has developed a fantasy sports app and has been quietly testing it for six months, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

ShareChat’s fantasy sports app, called Jeet11, allows betting on cricket and football matches and has already amassed more than 120,000 registered users, the sources said. The app, or its website, does not disclose its association with ShareChat.

A ShareChat spokesperson confirmed the existence of the app and said the startup was testing the product.

Jeet11 is not available for download on the Google Play Store due to the Android maker’s guidelines on betting apps, so ShareChat has been distributing it through Xiaomi’s GetApps app store and the Jeet11 website, and has been promoting it on Instagram. It is also available as a web app.

Fantasy sports, a quite popular business in many markets, has gained some traction in India in recent years. Dream11, backed by gaming giant Tencent, claimed to have more than 65 million users early last year. It has raised about $100 million to date and is already valued north of $1 billion.

Bangalore-based MPL, which counts Sequoia Capital India as an investor and has raised more than $40 million, appointed Virat Kohli, the captain of the Indian cricket team, as its brand ambassador last year.

In the last two years, scores of startups have emerged to grab a slice of the market, and the vast majority of them are focused on cricket. Cricket is the most popular sport in India, just ask Disney’s Hotstar, which claimed to have more than 100 million daily active users during the cricket season last year.

Or ask Facebook, which unsuccessfully bid $600 million to secure streaming rights of the IPL cricket tournament. It has since grabbed rights to some cricket content and appointed the Hotstar chief as its India head.

So it comes as no surprise that many sports betting apps have signed cricketers as their brand ambassador. Hala-Play has roped in Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya, while Chennai-based Fantain Sports has appointed Suresh Raina.

But despite the growing popularity of fantasy sports apps, where users pick players and bet real money on their performances, the niche is still sketchy in many markets that consider it betting. In fact, Twitter itself restricts promotion of fantasy sports services in many markets across the world.

In India, too, several states, including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Telangana, have banned fantasy sports betting. Jeet11 currently requires users to confirm that they don’t live in any of the restricted states before signing up for the service.

“It doesn’t help matters either that the fantasy sports business’ attempts at legitimacy involve trying to be seen as video games — a cursory glance at a speakers panel for any Indian video game developer event is evidence of this — rather than riding on its own merits,” said Rishi Alwani, a long-time analyst of Indian gaming market and publisher of news outlet the Mako Reactor.

An executive who works at one of the top fantasy sports startups in India, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that despite handing out cash rewards to thousands of users each day, it is still challenging to retain customers after the conclusion of any popular cricket tournament. “And that’s after you have somehow convinced them to visit your website or download the app,” he said.

For ShareChat, which has been exploring ways to monetize its 60 million-plus users and posted a loss of about $58 million on no revenue in the financial year ending March 31, that’s anything but music to the ears. In recent months, the startup, which serves users in more than a dozen local languages, has been experimenting with ads.



Source link