Facebook Gives $100 Million in Local News Grants, Marketing

Although news media have seen a rise in digital subscriptions during the coronavirus, advertising has plummeted. Facebook has stepped in with the announcement it will provide $25 million in grants to local news outlets, as well as spend $75 million in marketing. Examples of outlets hard hit include BuzzFeed and American Media, which are cutting employees’ salaries, and alt-weeklies that have laid off as much as 75 percent of their employees. Facebook fact-checkers, meanwhile, are fighting coronavirus misinformation. Continue reading Facebook Gives $100 Million in Local News Grants, Marketing

Instagram Unveils Co-Watching Feature for Group Video Chat

Facebook’s Instagram recently debuted Co-Watching, a feature that makes it possible for users to video chat while they browse the app. With Co-Watching, users can engage in direct-message video-chat conversations to look at saved, liked and suggested photos and videos together. Co-Watching is just one example of ways that Facebook and Instagram are shifting to accommodate users and communities during the coronavirus pandemic, when many are confined to home. Instagram first began testing Co-Watching a year ago. Continue reading Instagram Unveils Co-Watching Feature for Group Video Chat

Europe Attempts to Ease Strain From Increased Internet Traffic

European carriers such as Vodafone are experiencing a spike in data traffic due to increased usage by home-bound consumers. The European Commission, which has net neutrality regulations in place, warned the telcos to avoid blocking, slowing down or prioritizing traffic as they attempt to avoid gridlock. At the same time, the Commission is concerned that crucial services including healthcare and online learning might be impeded. Netflix, Disney+, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Amazon Prime are among the companies cooperating with the European Union to curtail bandwidth usage for the time being. Continue reading Europe Attempts to Ease Strain From Increased Internet Traffic

Coronavirus Leads to an Increase in TV Viewing and Streaming

Nielsen revealed that, as coronavirus cases rose in South Korea, TV viewership increased 17 percent. In Italy, it rose 6.5 percent, with a 12 percent spike in Lombardy, particularly hit hard by the virus. That trend has arrived in the U.S. where, said Nielsen, in the Seattle area total television use (which includes live TV, on-demand viewing, streaming and gaming) rose 22 percent on March 11 from the week before. Streaming also increased 20 percent globally. Still, it may be a short-lived panacea for many media companies. Continue reading Coronavirus Leads to an Increase in TV Viewing and Streaming

New App Leverages AR to Let Users Dance with Music Stars

The stage appearance of a Tupac Shakur hologram at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival marked the beginning of the music industry’s fascination with the new tech. Now, augmented reality startup 1RIC convinced five artists to dance and pose, surrounded by 106 cameras. The resulting 3D images of these performers reside on Jadu, 1RIC’s app, which consumers can use to create their own videos of themselves dancing with the stars. Chief executive Asad Malik said Jadu is an effort to make 3D holograms more accessible. Continue reading New App Leverages AR to Let Users Dance with Music Stars

Google Chrome to Adopt New Coalition for Better Ads’ Rules

Beginning in August, Google Chrome will block the Internet’s most intrusive ads: long pre-roll video ads that can’t be skipped, mid-roll ads that appear part way through a video, and large display ads covering more than 20 percent of the screen. These ad types will be banned only on short-form videos under eight minutes. Google’s move follows new rules just set by the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA), whose other members include Facebook, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the World Federation of Advertisers. Continue reading Google Chrome to Adopt New Coalition for Better Ads’ Rules

Facebook Creates Changes to Its Rules on Paid Political Ads

Facebook has made adjustments to its policy on digital political advertising after reports emerged that 2020 presidential candidates are paying Instagram influencers. It will now require candidates buying branded content to register as political advertisers. FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra stated that a 2017 policy requiring influencers and marketers to reveal any “material connection” to advertisers is under review, adding that, “we may need new rules for tech platforms and for companies that pay influencers to promote products.” Continue reading Facebook Creates Changes to Its Rules on Paid Political Ads

UK Proposes Internet Laws, Reuters to Fact-Check Facebook

The United Kingdom proposed that its media regulator Ofcom take on the responsibility of regulating Internet content, in part to encourage Facebook, YouTube and other Internet behemoths to police their own platforms. Ofcom would be able to issue penalties against companies lax in fighting “harmful and illegal terrorist and child abuse content.” Many details have yet to be filled in. Meanwhile, Reuters has formed a new Fact Check business unit, which is poised to become a third-party partner aimed at ferreting out misinformation on Facebook. Continue reading UK Proposes Internet Laws, Reuters to Fact-Check Facebook

WhatsApp Chief Pledges to Safeguard Messaging Encryption

WhatsApp head Will Cathcart revealed that the app now has more than two billion active users; numbers were last released two years ago. Cathcart also emphasized that he will continue to defend the messaging app’s encryption, noting that, “for all of human history, people have been able to communicate privately with each other … and we don’t think that should go away in a modern society.” Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp for $21.8 billion, finds encryption a barrier to recuperating its investment. Continue reading WhatsApp Chief Pledges to Safeguard Messaging Encryption

FTC Looks Into Acquisition Strategies of Big Tech Companies

The Federal Trade Commission is focused on acquisitions made by Big Tech companies, ordering Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft to turn over information on such past deals. Specifically, the FTC wants to know about the smaller deals — many less than $100 million — that the companies were not required to report to regulators, in hopes of learning more about potential antitrust abuses. FTC chair Joseph Simons noted that if they find “problematic transactions,” they can conceivably “initiate enforcement action.” Continue reading FTC Looks Into Acquisition Strategies of Big Tech Companies

Instagram Removes the IGTV Button From Its Main Screen

Instagram has removed the IGTV button from the main screen of its app because so few people use it, instead “finding IGTV content through previews in Feed, the IGTV channel in Explore, creators’ profiles, and the standalone app,” according to the company. Instagram, which launched IGTV in 2018 as a way to post long-form video, has not stated whether it will replace the icon with another. IGTV allows video uploads of up to one hour for celebrities and influencers and 10 minutes for everyone else. Continue reading Instagram Removes the IGTV Button From Its Main Screen

CES: Samsung Engineers Sero TV to Display Vertical Video

During CES in Las Vegas, Samsung introduced its new Sero TV, which is designed to rotate 90 degrees in order to display vertical video content — the portrait mode that is commonly recorded via today’s mobile phones. The format is increasingly popular on social media platforms (such as Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube), and will soon become a focus of Quibi, the short-form streaming video service from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman. The 43-inch 4K Sero TV — “designed for the mobile generation” — has the ability to sync with Samsung smartphones and can automatically rotate based on the content being viewed. Continue reading CES: Samsung Engineers Sero TV to Display Vertical Video

Fake Facebook Accounts Used AI-Generated Profile Photos

Facebook discovered and removed hundreds of fake accounts with AI-generated profile photos tied to Epoch Media Group, the parent company of news outlet The Epoch Times and other Falun Gong-related publications. The use of artificial intelligence to generate fake photos has long been a concern among computer scientists. Although these fake photos were not the level of those created at Big Tech companies, their widespread appearance on Facebook marks another way that disinformation can invade social media platforms. Continue reading Fake Facebook Accounts Used AI-Generated Profile Photos

TikTok Catapults to Level of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube

TikTok has exceeded 1.5 billion downloads — half of them in the past year — and, in the process, has become a genuine competitor of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Chinese AI firm ByteDance, owner of TikTok, is valued at $75 billion, one of the world’s most valuable startups. The company is reportedly looking into an IPO in Hong Kong in 2020. Now that it has commanded widespread attention, ByteDance is also under scrutiny over how it stores personal data and if it follows orders from the Chinese government to censor content. Continue reading TikTok Catapults to Level of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube

FTC Reportedly Considering an Injunction Against Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission is contemplating a preliminary injunction against Facebook over antitrust issues related to its integration of apps and whether they work with competitors. The injunction could prevent Facebook from further integrating apps, and possibly reverse past integration as a step to breaking up the company. An injunction would require a majority vote of the five-member FTC. Prominent antitrust experts have presented a plan to separate Facebook from recent acquisitions Instagram and WhatsApp. Continue reading FTC Reportedly Considering an Injunction Against Facebook

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