Facebook extends coronavirus work from home policy until July 2021 – TechCrunch

Facebook has joined Google in saying it will allow employees to work from home until the middle of next year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Based on guidance from health and government experts, as well as decisions drawn from our internal discussions about these matters, we are allowing employees to continue voluntarily working from home until July 2021,” a spokeswoman told the Reuters news agency.

Facebook also said it will provide employees with an additional $1,000 to spend on “home office needs.”

Late last month Google also extended its coronavirus remote work provision, saying staff would be able to continue working from home until the end of June 2021.

Both tech giants have major office presences in a number of cities around the world. And despite the pandemic forcing them into offering more flexible working arrangements than they usually do, the pair have continued to build out their physical office footprints, signaling a commitment to operating their own workplaces. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, given how much money they’ve ploughed in over the years to turn offices into perk-filled playgrounds designed to keep staff on site for longer — with benefits such as free snacks and meals, nap pods, video games arcade rooms and even health centers.)

Earlier this month, Facebook secured the main office lease on an iconic building in New York, for example — adding 730,000 square feet to its existing 2.2 million square feet of office space. Google has continued to push ahead with a flagship development in the U.K. capital’s King’s Cross area, with work resuming last month on the site for its planned London “landscraper” HQ.

In late July, Apple said staff won’t return to offices until at least early 2021 — cautioning that any return to physical offices would depend on whether an effective vaccine and/or successful therapeutics are available. So the iPhone maker looks prepared for a home-working coronavirus long haul.

As questions swirl over the future of the physical office now that human contact is itself a public health risk, the deepest pocketed tech giants are paradoxically showing they’re not willing to abandon the traditional workplace altogether and go all in on modern technologies that allow office work to be done remotely.

Twitter is an exception. During the first wave of the pandemic the social network firmly and fully embraced remote work, telling staff back in May that they can work from home forever if they wish.

Whether remote work played any role in the company’s recent account breach is one open question. It has said phone spear phishing was used to trick staff to gain network access credentials.

Certainly, security concerns have been generally raised about the risk of more staff working remotely during the pandemic — where they may be outside a corporate firewall and more vulnerable to attackers.

A Facebook spokeswoman did not respond when we asked whether the company will offer its own staff the option to work remotely permanently. But the company does not appear prepared to go so far — not least judging by signing new leases on massive office spaces.

Facebook has been retooling its approach to physical offices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing in May it would be setting up new company hubs in Denver, Dallas and Atlanta.

It also said it would focus on finding new hires in areas near its existing offices — including in cities such as San Diego, Portland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said then that over the course of the next decade half of the company could be working fully remotely. Though he said certain kinds of roles would not be eligible for all-remote work — such as those doing work in divisions like hardware development, data centers, recruiting, policy and partnerships.

Source link

Google to roll out its digital learning platform to 23 million students and teachers in India’s Maharashtra state – TechCrunch

Google has partnered with one of the largest states in India to provide its digital classroom services to tens of millions of students and teachers, the search giant said today, as it makes a further education push in the world’s second largest internet market.

The company, which recently announced plans to invest $10 billion in India, said it had partnered with the government of the western state of Maharashtra that will see 23 million students and teachers access Google’s education offering at no charge.

Thursday’s announcement follows a recent survey by the Maharashtra government in which it had sought teachers’ interest in digital classroom alternatives. More than 150,000 teachers signed up for the program in less than 48 hours, Google said.

Maharashtra is the worst hit Indian state by COVID-19, with more than 460,000 confirmed cases. The state, like others in India, complied with New Delhi’s lockdown order in late March that prompted schools and other public places to close across the nation.

“All of us had questions regarding the future of education. We have come a step closer to answering these questions due to the pandemic,” said Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of Maharashtra, in a statement.

Varsha Gaikwad, the education minister of Maharashtra, said the partnership with Google will help her department roll out tech solutions to students in about 190,000 schools.

“Our goal is to make Maharashtra the most progressive state in education by making effective use of online resources, platforms, bandwidth and technology, using the power of the internet to reach out to the masses and bridge the gap in education,” she said.

The pandemic, which has brought several sectors to their knees in the country, has accelerated the growth of startups that operate digital learning platforms in the country. Byju’s, Facebook -backed Unacademy, Vedantu and Toppr among other startups have amassed tens of millions of new students since March this year.

Google is providing students and teachers with a range of services, including G Suite for Education, Google Forms for conducting quizzes and tests, access to Google Meet video conferencing services and Google Classroom, which enables educators to create, review and organize assignments, as well as communicate directly with students.

The company said it has also made Teach from Anywhere, a hub for educators, in Marathi, a very popular language in the state of Maharashtra.

“Our teachers and schools have the huge responsibility in shaping the future of our new generation, and we continue to be honored to play a role in offering digital tools that can enable more teachers to help even more students stay firmly on their journey of learning, during these times and beyond,” wrote Sanjay Gupta, country head and vice president of Google India, in a blog post.

The company has rushed to work with educators in India in recent months. Last month, Google announced that it had partnered with the Central Board of Secondary Education, a government body that oversees education in private and public schools in India, to provide its education offerings to more than 1 million teachers across 22,000 schools in India.

It also unveiled a grant of $1 million to Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF), a foundation in India that works with partners to provide underprivileged children with education opportunities from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm.

Google’s global rival, Facebook, also partnered with CBSE last month to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety and online well-being, and augmented reality for students and educators in the country.

Source link

Attorneys general from twenty states call on Facebook to do more to fight discrimination, disinformation and harassment – TechCrunch

In an open letter to Facebook’s leadership posted earlier today, the attorneys general from 20 states called on the company to do more to fight intimidation, discrimination, disinformation, harassment and hate speech on the platform.

“Although Facebook has made some progress in counteracting the use of its platform to dehumanize and demean, that is just the beginning of what is necessary,” the attorneys general wrote. “Private parties, organized groups, and public officials continue to use Facebook to spread misinformation and project messages of hate against different groups of Americans. In many cases, these messages lead to intimidation and harassment of particular individuals online.”

Roughly 40% of Americans have experienced online harassment, according to a study by the Anti-Defamation League, and around 70% of those reporting harassment said it came on Facebook or its associated platforms, according to the report.

So the attorneys general asked Facebook to take more steps to protect users and provide redress for those platform participants who are victims of intimidation and harassment.

Their letter joins a chorus of consternation that has arisen to chastise the platform and its chief executive for doing too little, too late to stem the hate speech and misinformation that has come to define the platform’s experience for many users.

Over the summer, some of the biggest brands in the U.S. pulled advertising from social media platforms in response to a campaign from civil rights organizations.

That boycott includes huge mainstream brands, including Coca-Cola, Best Buy, Ford and Verizon. Other brands on board include Adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Reebok, REI, Patagonia and Vans.

While some of the companies may have ulterior motives for pulling advertising, pressure has been growing on the company to take more action against the provocateurs on its platform.

In the face of all this criticism, Zuckerberg has been steadfast in his refusal to budge (even as his logic becomes increasingly tortured).

The attorneys general agree with these other assessments. “[The] steps you have taken thus far have fallen short,” the attorneys wrote. “With the vast resources at your disposal, we believe there is much more that you can do to prevent the use of Facebook as a vehicle for misinformation and discrimination, and to prevent your users from being victimized by harassment and intimidation on your platforms.”

The leaders of the legal arms of state governments from California to the District of Columbia took the company to task and called on its leadership to follow the steps highlighted in its Civil Rights Audit to strengthen its commitment to civil rights and fighting disinformation.

Facebook also may be beginning to listen to its critics. Earlier this evening the company took down a post from President Donald Trump that included misinformation about the COVID-19 epidemic.

It’s a decision that could signal a new direction for Facebook, which has taken incremental steps to distance itself from the perception that the company deliberately turns a blind eye to the president’s potentially harmful behavior.

“This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation,” Facebook’s Liz Bourgeois said in a statement provided to TechCrunch.

Facebook also had a response for the attorneys general. In a statement issued to NBC News, Facebook spokesperson Daniel Roberts said that Facebook was working to ensure people feel safe on the internet.

“Hate speech is an issue across the internet and we are working to make Facebook as safe as possible by investing billions to keep hate off our platform and fight misinformation,” Roberts told the network in a statement.

Source link

Instagram Reels launches globally in over 50 countries, including US – TechCrunch

Instagram Reels, the company’s significant effort in challenging TikTok on short-form creative content, is launching globally, starting today. The feature is being made available across 50 countries, including the U.S., as TechCrunch had previously reported. The expansion means Reels will now be available in key international markets, such as India, Brazil, France, Germany, the U.K., Japan, Australia, Spain, Mexico, Argentina and several others.

The timing is fortuitous, given TikTok’s uncertain future in the U.S. as the Trump administration weighs either banning the Chinese-owned app entirely or forcing it to sell off its U.S. operations.

However, Facebook’s plans to respond to the TikTok threat were underway well before now.

In late 2018, Facebook launched a TikTok clone called Lasso. The app didn’t take off and was shuttered this year. Though unsuccessful as a standalone product, Lasso represents Facebook’s ability to run what are essentially large-scale beta tests that don’t have to generate revenue. This allows Facebook to collect a sizable amount of user behavioral data that can then be put to use when building new features for flagship apps, like it’s doing with Instagram Reels.

Following Lasso’s tests, Instagram released Reels in Brazil in November 2019, where it was called Cenas, to see how Instagram users would respond to a different sort of mobile video experience.

Those tests steadily expanded outside the U.S. to markets like India and parts of Europe in 2020.

With Reels, Instagram’s goal is not just to capture the now potentially up-for-grabs TikTok audience in the U.S. — it’s to steal them away even if TikTok remains.

Image Credits: Instagram

Today, Instagram caters to a certain kind of creator community that doesn’t always overlap with the younger, Gen Z (and up) user base that’s found a home on TikTok. (And Gen Alpha, if we’re being honest.) Instead, Instagram users either share polished, curated photos to their Feed; publish personal and casual videos in Stories; or share almost YouTube-like creator content to IGTV. Meanwhile, Instagram’s browsing experience hasn’t offered a way to quickly swipe through videos like on TikTok.

Image Credits: Instagram

Reels aims to change that. The feature lets users create and publish 15-second videos using a new set of editing tools that include options like AR effects, a countdown timer, a new align tool to line up different takes and, of course, music. Instagram’s deals with major record labels mean users won’t have to wonder if their sound will later be removed due to a rights issue and will offer a variety of musical content right out of the gate.

A comprehensive audio catalog could be a competitive advantage for Reels — not to mention a feature that’s difficult for smaller apps to acquire due to the complicated nature of record label negotiations.

When TikTok users recently descended on rival apps upon news of a potential TikTok ban in the U.S., one of their chief complaints was the lack of good music or popular sounds. Some even republished their favorites under hashtags like #sounds or #TikToksounds in an effort to rebuild TikTok’s catalog via user-generated uploads.

Instagram understood the importance of music — not just editing tools, workflow and discovery — in helping its TikTok competitor thrive. TikTok, after all, has its own record label contracts — though the extent of those deals haven’t been widely published.

“We think it’s really important to honor the rights of the music labels — and that’s one we’ve been working on for years now,” said Instagram head of Product, Vishal Shah. “We’re launching Reels now in countries where we have rights. We think that the catalog is quite deep and it has some unique content that you can’t really find, at that depth, in other platforms. At the same time, we wanted to make sure that all the restrictions that we needed to put in place — whether that was on the country basis or what could people download and use and remix etc. — were all built into the product from from day one. That’s something we’ve been working with the labels on and was an important consideration in the launch,” he added.

What he didn’t mention is that Instagram’s music industry relationships aren’t only with the record labels. The company has deals with other publishers and independents as well, which have been part of the company’s ongoing partnership efforts and strategic negotiations that are helping fuel other Facebook products, like the recent launch of Music Videos. 

Image Credits: Instagram

Using Reels is easy because it’s built into the Instagram Camera that people already know how to use. To create a new Reel, you’ll select the option at the bottom of the Instagram Camera, next to Story. The editing tools then pop up on the left side of the screen, which is where you’ll find the AR effects and other options, like the timer, speed and align features.

Like other Instagram posts, Reels can be saved to Drafts while they’re a work in progress. When ready to go live, Reels can be pushed out across key surfaces in the app — including Stories, Stories with Close Friends only or as a DM. If you have a public Instagram account, you also can publish Reels to the wider Instagram audience, which will discover them within a new space in Explore.

Image Credits: Instagram

Reels can also be captioned and hashtagged, and friends can be tagged — allowing Instagram to leverage the size and scale of its user base to help the new feature go viral. If Reels are published to Stories, they’ll disappear in 24 hours. Otherwise, Reels will continue to live on in a new tab on users’ profiles.

To watch Reels from Explore, users are presented in a vertical feed personalized to your interests, similar to TikTok. “Featured” Reels are those chosen by Instagram to guide users to original content and will be labeled accordingly.

Overall, what Instagram has built isn’t all that differentiated from TikTok. But nor is it a direct clone.

Instead, Instagram has turned the entirety of the TikTok experience into a single feature among many others within its own app. That’s been a formula for success in the past — Instagram Stories is now bigger than all of Snapchat, for instance.

But TikTok has built something that may not be as easily replicated: a community of users who started their social media lives with underage accounts on Musical.ly. They grew up with the app, lived through the TikTok rebranding and now may see no need to switch — unless TikTok actually does disappear.

Or, as my tween put it when a friend told her TikTok wasn’t really going to be banned: “So Instagram built Reels for nothing?”

Source link

India’s Byju’s acquires WhiteHat Jr. for $300 million – TechCrunch

Byju’s has acquired edtech startup WhiteHat Jr. for $300 million as the Indian online learning giant looks to expand its dominant reach in the country.

The all-cash deal makes 18-month-old Mumbai-headquartered WhiteHat Jr., which offers online coding classes to school-going students in India and the U.S., the fastest exit story of this size in the Indian startup ecosystem.

WhiteHat Jr., which had raised about $11 million from Omidyar Network and Nexus Venture Partners, has achieved an annual revenue run rate of $150 million. It will continue to operate as a separate entity for now, a Byju’s spokesperson told TechCrunch.

“We started WhiteHat Jr. to make kids creators instead of consumers of technology,” said Karan Bajaj, founder of WhiteHat Jr., in a statement. “Technology is at the centre of every human interaction today and we had set out to create a coding curriculum that was being delivered live and connected students and teachers like never before.”

Byju Raveendran, the founder and chief executive of the eponymous startup, said Byju’s will make “significant investments” in WhiteHat Jr. and hire more teachers to expand it to new markets. WhiteHat Jr. recently announced plans to expand to Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Unlike most edtech startups, WhiteHat Jr. assigns one teacher to each student. These classes are live and each session cost about $10, Bajaj told TechCrunch in an interview last month. More than 5,000 teachers currently work with WhiteHat Jr., said Bajaj.

“WhiteHat Jr is the leader in the live online coding space. Karan has proven his mettle as an exceptional founder and the credit goes to him and his team for creating coding programs that are loved by kids. Under his leadership the company has achieved phenomenal growth in India and the US in a short span of time,” said Raveendran in a statement.

Byju’s, which was backed by Mary Meeker’s Bond last month, is being currently valued at $10.5 billion.

The announcement today illustrates the growing phase of education startups in India as they report skyrocketing growth at the height of a global pandemic. “Delightful to see such an exit in the Indian startup ecosystem. Happy to see WhiteHat Jr. find home at the world’s most-valued edtech startup that will enable them to reach more students globally,” said Sajith Pai, Director at Blume Ventures, in an interview with TechCrunch.

The acquisition of WhiteHat Jr., which according to a person familiar with the matter had also received interest from several investors for financing its next fundraise, comes as top online learning startups in India are aggressively engaging in M&A talks with several younger startups to further their dominance in the nation.

Facebook -backed Unacademy last month acquired PrepLadder for $50 million and led an investment round of $5 million to acquire a majority stake in Mastree. Other major players Vedantu and Toppr told TechCrunch last month that they were also open to explore similar deals.

Separately, Byju’s is also in talks to acquire Doubtnut — a two-year-old startup whose app allows students from sixth grade to high school solve and understand math and science problems in local languages — for as much as $150 million, TechCrunch reported earlier.

Byju’s, which acquired U.S.-based startup Osmo that develops interactive play apps that tie into custom hardware in a $120 million deal early last year, currently leads the edtech market in India. The startup has been looking for ways to expand both outside of India and make inroads in smaller cities and towns in the country.

A venture capitalist who did not want to be identified said the acquisition of WhiteHat Jr. will allow Byju’s to gain access to top-tier families that can afford to spend big amount on education. “Today it’s coding but I’m sure Byju’s will replicate WhiteHat Jr’s model with math and other STEM subjects soon enough,” the VC said.



Source link

Google-Fitbit deal to be scrutinized in Europe over data competition concerns – TechCrunch

In a set-back for Google’s plan to acquire health wearable company Fitbit, the European Commission has announced it’s opening an investigation to dig into a range of competition concerns being attached to the proposal from multiple quarters.

This means the deal is on ice for a period of time that could last until early December.

The Commission said it has 90 working days to take a decision on the acquisition — so until December 9, 2020.

Commenting on opening an “in-depth investigation” in a statement, Commission EVP Margrethe Vestager — who heads up both competition policy and digital strategy for the bloc — said: “The use of wearable devices by European consumers is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. This will go hand in hand with an exponential growth of data generated through these devices. This data provides key insights about the life and the health situation of the users of these devices.Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition.”

Google has responded to the EU brake on its ambitions with a blog post in which its devices & services chief seeks to defend the deal, arguing it will spur innovation and lead to increased competition.

“This deal is about devices, not data,” Google VP Rick Osterloh further claims.

The tech giant announced its desire to slip into Fitbit’s data-sets back in November, when it announced a plan to shell out $2.1BN in an all-cash deal to pick up the wearable maker.

Fast forward a few months and CEO Sundar Pichai is being taken to task by lawmakers on home turf for stuff like ‘helping destroy anonymity on the Internet‘. Last year’s already rowdy antitrust drum beat around big tech has become a full on rock festival so the mood music around tech acquisitions might finally be shifting.

Since news of Google’s plan to grab Fitbit dropped concerns about the deal have been raised all over Europe — with consumer groups, privacy regulators and competition and tech policy wonks all sounding the alarm at the prospect of letting the adtech giant gobble a device maker and help itself to a bunch of sensitive consumer health data in the process.

Digital privacy rights group, Privacy International — one of the not-for-profits that’s been urging regulators not to rubberstamp the deal — argues the acquisition would not only squeeze competition in the nascent digital health market, and also for wearables, but also reduce “what little pressure there currently is on Google to compete in relation to privacy options available to consumers (both existing and future Fitbit users), leading to even less competition on privacy standards and thereby enabling the further degradation of consumers’ privacy protections”, as it puts it.

So much noise is being made that Google has already played the ‘we promise not to…’ card that’s a favorite of data-mining tech giants. (Typically followed, a few years later, with a ‘we got ya sucker’ joker — as they go ahead and do the thing they totally said they wouldn’t.)

To wit: From the get-go Fitbit has claimed users’ “health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads”. Just like WhatsApp said nothing would change when Facebook bought them. (Er.)

Last month Reuters revisited the concession, in an “exclusive” report that cited “people familiar with the matter” who apparently told it the deal could be waved through if Google pledged not to use Fitbit data for ads.

It’s not clear where the leak underpinning its news report came from but Reuters also ran with a quote from a Google spokeswoman — who further claimed: “Throughout this process we have been clear about our commitment not to use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads and our responsibility to provide people with choice and control with their data.”

In the event, Google’s headline-grabbing promises to behave itself with Fitbit data have not prevented EU regulators from wading in for a closer look at competition concerns — which is exactly as it should be.

In truth, given the level of concern now being raised about tech giants’ market power and adtech giant Google specifically grabbing a treasure trove of consumer health data, a comprehensive probe is the very least regulators should be doing.

If digital policy history has shown anything over the past decade+ (and where data is concerned) it’s that the devil is always in the fine print detail. Moreover the fast pace of digital markets can mean a competitive threat may only be a micro pivot away from materializing. Theories of harm clearly need updating to take account of data-mining technosocial platform giants. And the Commission knows that — which is why it’s consulting on giving itself more powers to tackling tipping in digital markets. But it also needs to flex and exercise the powers it currently has. Such as opening a proper investigation — rather than gaily waving tech giant deals through.

Antitrust may now be flavor of the month where tech giants are concerned — with US lawmakers all but declaring war on digital ‘robber barons’ at last month’s big subcommittee showdown in Congress. But it’s also worth noting that EU competition regulators — for all their heavily publicized talk of properly regulating the digital sphere — have yet to block a single digital tech merger.

It remains to be seen whether that record will change come December.

“The Commission is concerned that the proposed transaction would further entrench Google’s market position in the online advertising markets by increasing the already vast amount of data that Google could use for personalisation of the ads it serves and displays,” it writes in a press release today.

Following a preliminary assessment process of the deal, EU regulators said they have concerns about [emphasis theirs]:

  • “the impact of the transaction on the supply of online search and display advertising services (the sale of advertising space on, respectively, the result page of an internet search engine or other internet pages)”
  • and on “the supply of ‘ad tech’ services (analytics and digital tools used to facilitate the programmatic sale and purchase of digital advertising)”

“By acquiring Fitbit, Google would acquire (i) the database maintained by Fitbit about its users’ health and fitness; and (ii) the technology to develop a database similar to Fitbit’s one,” the Commission further notes.

“The data collected via wrist-worn wearable devices appears, at this stage of the Commission’s review of the transaction, to be an important advantage in the online advertising markets. By increasing the data advantage of Google in the personalisation of the ads it serves via its search engine and displays on other internet pages, it would be more difficult for rivals to match Google’s online advertising services. Thus, the transaction would raise barriers to entry and expansion for Google’s competitors for these services, to the ultimate detriment of advertisers and publishers that would face higher prices and have less choice.”

The Commission views Google as dominant in the supply of online search advertising services in almost all EEA (European Economic Area) countries; as well as holding “a strong market position” in the supply of online advertising display services in a large number of EEA countries (especially off-social network display ads), and “a strong market position” in the supply of adtech services in the EEA.

All of which will inform its considerations as it looks at whether Google will gain an unfair competitive advantage by assimilating Fitbit data. (Vestager has also issued a number of antitrust enforcements against the tech giant in recent years, against Android, AdSense and Google Shopping.)

The regulator has also said it will further look at:

  • the “effects of the combination of Fitbit’s and Google’s databases and capabilities in the digital healthcare sector, which is still at a nascent stage in Europe”
  • “whether Google would have the ability and incentive to degrade the interoperability of rivals’ wearables with Google’s Android operating system for smartphones once it owns Fitbit”

The tech giant has already offered EU regulators one specific concession in the hopes of getting the Fitbit buy green lit — with the Commission noting that it submitted commitments aimed at addressing concerns last month.

Google suggested creating a data silo to hold data collected via Fitbit’s wearable devices — and where it said it would be kept separate from any other dataset within Google (including claiming it would be restricted for ad purposes). However the Commission expresses scepticism about Google’s offer, writing that it “considers that the data silo commitment proposed by Google is insufficient to clearly dismiss the serious doubts identified at this stage as to the effects of the transaction”.

“Among others, this is because the data silo remedy did not cover all the data that Google would access as a result of the transaction and would be valuable for advertising purposes,” it added.

Google makes reference to this data silo in its blog post, claiming: “We’ve been clear from the beginning that we will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads. We recently offered to make a legally binding commitment to the European Commission regarding our use of Fitbit data. As we do with all our products, we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move or delete their data. And we’ll continue to support wide connectivity and interoperability across our and other companies’ products.”

“We appreciate the opportunity to work with the European Commission on an approach that addresses consumers’ expectations of their wearable devices. We’re confident that by working closely with Fitbit’s team of experts, and bringing together our experience in AI, software and hardware, we can build compelling devices for people around the world,” it adds.

Source link

More thoughts on growing podcasts – TechCrunch

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of startup founders and heads of growth. You can participate by joining Demand Curve’s marketing training program or its Slack group.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.


More thoughts on growing podcasts

Insights from Harry Morton of Lower Street.

Podcast growth is all about relationships. To increase your listenership, consider partnering with:

  1. Other podcasters. Do an episode swap where you play an episode of your show on theirs, and vice versa. Make sure the two podcasts share similarly minded audiences.
  2. Curators. Every podcast aggregator has someone responsible for curating their featured content. Look them up on LinkedIn. Reach out via email. Be their friend. Send them only your best stuff.
  3. Subscribers. You rise in Apple’s podcast charts (which account for 60% of podcast listenership) by having a subscriber growth spurt in a concentrated period of time (24-48 hours). So, when you release an episode, immediately run your audience promotions aggressively and all at once.

Increasing referral incentives might not increase referrals

Source link

Facebook fights order to globally block accounts linked to Brazilian election meddling – TechCrunch

Facebook has branded a legal order to globally block a number of Brazilian accounts linked to the spread of political disinformation targeting the country’s 2018 election as “extreme,” claiming it poses a threat to freedom of expression outside the country.

The tech giant is simultaneously complying with the block order — beginning Saturday after it was fined by a Supreme Court judge for non-compliance — citing the risk of criminal liability for a local employee were it not to do so.

However it is appealing to the Supreme Court to try to overturn the order.

A spokesperson for the tech giant sent us this statement on the matter:

Facebook complied with the order of blocking these accounts in Brazil by restricting the ability for the target Pages and Profiles to be seen from IP locations in Brazil. People from IP locations in Brazil were not capable of seeing these Pages and Profiles even if the targets had changed their IP location. This new legal order is extreme, posing a threat to freedom of expression outside of Brazil’s jurisdiction and conflicting with laws and jurisdictions worldwide. Given the threat of criminal liability to a local employee, at this point we see no other alternative than complying with the decision by blocking the accounts globally, while we appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Friday a judge ordered Facebook to pay a 1.92 million reais (~$367,000) fine for non compliance, per Reuters, which says the company had been facing further daily fines of 100,000 reais (~$19,000) had it not applied a global block.

Before the fine was announced Facebook had said it would appeal the global block order, adding that while it respects the laws of countries where it operates “Brazilian law recognizes the limits of its jurisdiction.”

Reuters reports that the accounts in question were controlled by supporters of the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, and had been implicated in the spread of political disinformation during the country’s 2018 election with the aim of boosting support for the right wing populist.

Last month the news agency reported Facebook had suspended a network of social media accounts used to spread divisive political messages online, which the company had linked to employees of Bolsonaro and two of his sons.

In a blog post at the time, Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, wrote: “Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Social Liberal Party and some of the employees of the offices of Anderson Moraes, Alana Passos, Eduardo Bolsonaro, Flavio Bolsonaro and Jair Bolsonaro.”

In all, Facebook said it removed 33 Facebook accounts, 14 Pages, 1 Group and 37 Instagram accounts that it identified as involved in the “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

It also disclosed that around 883,000 accounts followed one or more of the offending Pages, the Group had around 350 accounts signed up, and 918,000 people followed one or more of the Instagram accounts.

The political disops effort had spent around $1,500 on Facebook ads, paid for in Brazilian reais, per its account of the investigation.

Facebook said it had identified a network of “clusters” of “connected activity,” with those involved using duplicate and fake accounts to “evade enforcement, create fictitious personas posing as reporters, post content and manage Pages masquerading as news outlets.”

An example of removed content that was being spread by the disops network identified by Facebook (Image credit: Facebook)

The network posted about “local news and events, including domestic politics and elections, political memes, criticism of the political opposition, media organizations and journalists,” and, more recently, about the coronavirus pandemic, it added.

In May a judge in Brazil had ordered Facebook to a block a number of accounts belonging to Bolsonaro supporters who had been implicated in the election meddling. But Facebook only applied the block in Brazil — hence the court order for a global block.

While the tech giant was willing to remove access to the inauthentic content locally, after it had identified a laundry list of policy contraventions, it’s taking a “speech” stance over purging the fake content and associated accounts internationally — arguing such an order risks overreach that could damage freedom of expression online.

The unstated implication is authoritarian states or less progressive regimes could seek to use similar orders to force platforms to apply national laws which prohibit content that’s legal and freely available elsewhere to force it to be taken down in another jurisdiction.

That said, it’s not entirely clear in this specific case why Facebook would not simply bring down its own banhammer on accounts that it has found to have so flagrantly violated its own policies on coordinated authentic behavior. But the company has at times treated political “speech” as somehow exempt from its usual content standards — leading to operating policies that tie themselves in contradictory knots.

Its blog post further notes that some of the content posted by the Brazilian election interference operation had previously been taken down for violating its Community Standards, including hate speech.

Update: In follow-up comments after we queried the decision not to remove the content, Facebook told us that the particular accounts subject to the judicial order did not post content that it deemed had violated its community standards — but had rather posted content deemed to be defamatory in Brazil.

In such cases it says it applies local geoblocking as policy, subject to human rights due diligence and legal review.

The company also said that the decision by Brazil’s Supreme Court is unlike any other it’s had applied to its business elsewhere, adding that it does not believe it’s reasonable a court order in Brazil apply elsewhere or vice versa.

The case doesn’t just affect Facebook. In May, Twitter was also ordered to block a number of accounts linked to the probe into political disops. It’s not clear what action Twitter is taking.

We’ve reached out to the company for comment.

Update II: Discussing the case with TechCrunch, Mireille Hildebrandt, a professor at the research group for Law, Science, Technology and Society at Vrije Universiteit Brussels in Belgium, told us: “The judgement is hugely important because Facebook is required to block accounts globally, based on their violating Brazilian laws against hate speech. Usually courts will shrink back from ordering global blocking as this may infringe upon the sovereignty of other states that may have other laws that should not be overruled by enforcement of Brazilian law.

“The point here was that it would be too easy for the perpetrators to bypass the order by means of accounts outside of Brazil. The Court of Justice of the EU recently decided that the right to be forgotten (GDPR) does not necessarily require delisting of relevant content at the global level, precisely because this would imply extraterritorial jurisdiction.”

Hildebrandt went on to emphasize the importance of such rulings being “situated in their context”.

“Hate speech in a political context is often automated by way of bots and may have major impact on public interests such as democratic debate, reliability of information in the public sphere etc., whereas delisting of information about an individual person has entirely different consequences,” she added.

She also noted that the judge who issued the order, Alexandre de Moraes — who has been investigating whether Bolsonaro’s allies have been running a social network aimed at spreading threats and fake content targeted at Supreme Court justices — has taken some controversial decisions before.

As Time reported earlier this month, Moraes’ probe is also “one of the main points of confrontation between Bolsonaro and the Supreme Court”, with the president filed a lawsuit last month demanding that the Facebook accounts be unblocked.

Source link

Facebook launches commerce and connectivity-focused accelerator programs – TechCrunch

Facebook launched two 12-week accelerator programs for startups on Monday as the social juggernaut looks for new ideas and solutions to expand its commerce and connectivity efforts.

Facebook’s Commerce Accelerator will select 60 startups from the EMEA and LATAM regions for the program, the company said. The startups that make the cut will explore building shopping solutions to drive commerce inside Facebook’s family of apps.

“Our goal is to make shopping seamless and empower anyone from an entrepreneur to the largest brand to use our apps to connect with customers,” wrote Michael Huang, head of Startup Programs at Facebook, in a blog post.

The company said a recent global survey it conducted in partnership with the OECD and World Bank found that at least a third of small to medium-sized businesses on Facebook reported 25% or more of their sales being made digitally in the past month.

“With so many sales being made online, the importance of intuitive and positive e-commerce experiences for customers has become even greater,” the company said in a statement.

The other accelerator program, called Connectivity, will feature 30 startups from the LATAM and North America (Americas) regions. These startups will be tasked with developing affordable connectivity solutions that make internet access available in more places and to at least 100,000 additional people.

Facebook said through these accelerator programs it aims to provide local development opportunities for entrepreneurs. The company holds one or two similar accelerator programs each year in some markets. In total, the company has launched accelerator programs in 11 countries to date.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has forced Facebook to conduct the accelerator programs virtually this year, has “exposed the hard truth of the digital divide and the critical need for reliable, affordable internet connectivity,” wrote Huang.

Participating startups will gain access to cost-free training, 1:1 mentorship and access to Facebook products, its expertise and access to a global network of startup peers and successful founders. But the company is not offering monetary benefits to startups — something it has done in some of its previous accelerator programs — at accelerators announced on Monday.

Startups interested in either of the accelerator programs can submit their application.

“At Facebook, we strongly believe that by connecting, training, and growing entrepreneurs and startups through our programs, we can empower people to solve relevant, meaningful problems. We aim to build products that billions of people can use and benefit from,” Huang wrote.

Facebook has long focused on connectivity efforts, but its interest in commerce is relatively new. In May, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook Shops to make it easier for companies to list their products on Facebook and Instagram.

Source link

The iron rule of founder compensation is dead – TechCrunch

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We had the full team this week: Myself, Danny and Natasha on the mics, with Chris running skipper as always.

Sadly this week we had to kick off with a correction as I am 1) dumb, and, 2) see point one. But after we got past SPAC nuances (shout-out to David Ethridge), we had a full show of good stuff, including:

  • Y Combinator Demo Day is going virtual, as before, and its coming iteration will also be live. The Equity crew all agree that this is the right thing to do, and probably more fun, to boot. And now the founders can sweat a live event, too! What fun.
  • Speaking of live events going digital, Disrupt is coming up. And it is going to be great. Read more here.
  • A group of Stanford business school students are putting together an investment vehicle to invest money into themselves, which is a good idea and something that is highly risible. Luckily, Danny and Natasha had good things to say about the effort.
  • Ro raised $200 million, and any jokes that were inappropriate are Danny’s fault. The company’s reported $1.5 billion valuation makes the news that its competitor Hims could go public via a SPAC all the more exciting.
  • I covered a neat round: $20 million for Instrumental, a super neat startup that has me hyped.
  • Facebook is still hunting up ways to get a better look into growing startups — this time via investments in venture capital funds.
  • And, finally, there were some hearings this week, you might have heard. We’re working on something neat that you are going to love on just that topic, so stay tuned.

And that’s Equity for this week. We are back Monday morning early, so make sure you are keeping tabs on our socials. Hugs, talk soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.



Source link