Popular Payment Service Venmo Under Federal Investigation

According to an SEC filing, PayPal-owned peer-to-peer payment service Venmo is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether the company “engaged in deceptive or unfair practices in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.” PayPal received a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) from the FTC on March 28. “The CID could lead to an enforcement action and/or one or more consent orders,” explains PayPal, “which may result in substantial costs, including legal fees, fines, penalties, and remediation expenses and actions, and could require us to change aspects of the manner in which we operate Venmo.” Continue reading Popular Payment Service Venmo Under Federal Investigation

Facebook Develops Prototype Camera to Encourage Sharing

Facebook, concerned about the slowdown in users sharing videos, photos and updates, is developing a standalone camera app. Facebook’s “friend-sharing” team has created a prototype that, similar to Snapchat, opens to a camera that also allows users to live stream video. But people familiar with the project say it may never come to fruition. Facebook has built other sharing apps: Slingshot let users trade photos and videos that disappeared in 24 hours; Camera was a photo-editing/sharing app. Neither caught on and were dropped. Continue reading Facebook Develops Prototype Camera to Encourage Sharing

Facebook Credits Mobile Ad Growth for Major Revenue Jump

Following last week’s reports that online advertising revenue in the U.S. reached a record $59.6 billion in 2015, and that Google and Facebook claimed the largest share of the digital advertising pie, social giant Facebook announced yesterday that its ad revenue increased 57 percent in the first quarter to $5.2 billion. Notably, mobile ads represented about four-fifths of the network’s revenue. Facebook’s news countered announcements from other tech companies — including Alphabet, Apple and Twitter — all of which released disappointing first quarter figures. Continue reading Facebook Credits Mobile Ad Growth for Major Revenue Jump

Twitter Hopes to Prove Live-Streaming Value with NFL Games

Twitter reported revenue of $595 million for Q1 2016, below Wall Street expectations, adding to its growing list of woes. User growth, an area of concern since its 2013 IPO, remains modest, with an average 310 million monthly users in Q1 2016, up from 305 in Q4 2015. But most of the growth came from outside the U.S., where markets are less mature and therefore less lucrative. One ray of hope is Twitter’s deal with the NFL to live-stream Thursday Night Football games, which has drawn interest from other sports leagues. Continue reading Twitter Hopes to Prove Live-Streaming Value with NFL Games

Sean Parker’s Airtime Returns as an App for Virtual Viewing

Napster co-founder Sean Parker has relaunched a product that first debuted in 2012 and was almost an immediate flop. Airtime is now an app, for Android and iOS, that lets users gather in a “room” to chat, text and watch YouTube and Vimeo videos together or listen to songs and podcasts from Spotify and SoundCloud. Parker, also an early investor in Facebook, says he created — and now recreated — Airtime to offer an alternative to the “certain loneliness” of the “fast superficial interactions” that form the basis of Facebook. Continue reading Sean Parker’s Airtime Returns as an App for Virtual Viewing

Disney to Produce More VR Content with Nokia OZO Camera

Nokia and Disney announced a partnership whereby Disney filmmakers and marketing teams will use Nokia’s 360-degree OZO virtual reality cameras to create VR content across all the studio’s brands. The studio has already used the OZO for two promotional pieces for “The Jungle Book,” one of them a 360-degree roundtable interview with director Jon Favreau and the cast, the second a red carpet experience at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. Other Disney brands that could use the OZO are Marvel and Lucasfilm. Continue reading Disney to Produce More VR Content with Nokia OZO Camera

Vox Media to Launch Circuit Breaker Gadget Site on Facebook

Vox Media, parent company of politics site Vox, sports sites SB Nation, and technology site The Verge, is about to launch Circuit Breaker, a blog about gadgets. Circuit Breaker will publish news and gossip about technology products and primarily live as a Facebook page, not a separate website, says The Verge’s editor Nilay Patel. The idea of a blog devoted to gadgets is a throwback to sites like Engadget and Gizmodo that, in the early 2000s, focused on smartphones and then broadened to become culture sites. Continue reading Vox Media to Launch Circuit Breaker Gadget Site on Facebook

Expanding Internet Access May Be Key to Facebook’s Growth

In its attempts to triple the size of Facebook, now at 1.6 billion members, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has embraced technology based on open source (freely shared code) and is building wireless antennas. The goal is to make the Internet accessible and affordable to those who don’t yet have it, mainly rural and developing nations. In doing so, Facebook is treading into territory so far dominated by companies such as Cisco Systems and Ericsson, potentially impacting their bottom line. Continue reading Expanding Internet Access May Be Key to Facebook’s Growth

Teamsters Organize Uber Drivers Classified Indie Contractors

Riding-sharing app Uber has tussled with its drivers over how to define their status: independent contractors or full-time employees. Uber prefers to identify its drivers as independent contractors, which lets it off the hook for paying minimum wage, overtime and its share of Social Security. Recent settlements in class-action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts, which must be approved by a judge, allow Uber to continue this classification. The Teamsters union is busy organizing drivers who want representation. Continue reading Teamsters Organize Uber Drivers Classified Indie Contractors

European Officials Accuse Google of Breaking Antitrust Rules

European officials have charged Google with violating competition rules by favoring Android over rival mobile software. Europe’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager accused the tech giant of unfairly promoting its own mobile search and Chrome browser with phone makers. “We believe that Google’s behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players,” said Vestager. From Brussels, the European Commission issued a release stating that Google has “abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators.” Continue reading European Officials Accuse Google of Breaking Antitrust Rules

Facebook Rolls Out Rights Manager to Curb Video Freebooting

Video creators have been complaining for months that their content is being stolen and re-uploaded elsewhere on Facebook, a practice called freebooting. Now Facebook has released Rights Manager, a tool that video producers and companies can use to keep track of their content and prevent it from being re-uploaded without permission. The tool lets them create a reference library of their video content and a dashboard to keep track of the matches, which they can either permit or report based on criteria they set. Continue reading Facebook Rolls Out Rights Manager to Curb Video Freebooting

Facebook Open-Sources 360-Degree Camera to Jumpstart VR

Facebook debuted the Facebook Surround 360 camera for 360-degree video and VR at its F8 conference this week. The company will also freely share its hardware schematics and complex stitching software via GitHub this summer. Others share Facebook’s vision of virtual reality, including Nokia, Jaunt and Google, all of which built their own 360-degree cameras. But Facebook, by open-sourcing its plans, says chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, furthers its central mission of connecting everyone in the world. Continue reading Facebook Open-Sources 360-Degree Camera to Jumpstart VR

Facebook Developing Chatbots for its Popular Messenger App

Facebook is working with more than 25 companies to help them use chatbots in Messenger to order goods and answer customer service questions, without human assistance. Among its new partners are Disney, eBay, JetBlue, and The Wall Street Journal, all of which are contributing to making the Messenger app a focal point for shopping, news and entertainment. Facebook owns two of the largest messaging apps, Messenger and WhatsApp; both are piloting programs to let businesses communicate with customers. Continue reading Facebook Developing Chatbots for its Popular Messenger App

Facebook’s New Policy Allows Branded Content, Not All Ads

Facebook has a new policy regarding so-called organic, or branded, content, now permitted to appear on Facebook Instant Articles, video and Facebook Live. Advertisers and Web publishers must display an icon to make it clear that the content — articles, videos and images — comes from an advertiser. Up until now, they have only been able to post content in ads. This is good news for BuzzFeed, Forbes and others that frequently supply sponsored content on Facebook, which also stands to reap rewards from the new policy. Continue reading Facebook’s New Policy Allows Branded Content, Not All Ads

Pre-Release Piracy Grows Across Facebook and Publications

Movie studios that use Facebook to promote upcoming films — such as “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which has 4.4 million likes on its Facebook movie page — have discovered a potent downside to the extra publicity. Pirates post links to copyright-infringing streams; spam includes chain letters, pornography, phishing, malware and hate speech. Illegal sites are harvesting personal data and running money scams and now targeting publications with embedded Facebook comments, including BuzzFeed, ESPN and Huffington Post. Continue reading Pre-Release Piracy Grows Across Facebook and Publications

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