New Disney Hub on Spotify Designed for Families and Kids

Spotify recently announced a new partnership with Disney that brings a collection of Disney playlists to the streaming music platform. The Disney Hub on Spotify — currently available for fans in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K. and U.S. — features soundtracks and other music related to Disney movies and TV shows. Among the current categories are Disney Hits, Disney Favorites, Disney Classics, Disney Sing-Alongs, Disney Princess, Marvel Music and The Best of Star Wars. Continue reading New Disney Hub on Spotify Designed for Families and Kids

Instagram Expands Tests of Hiding Likes to Reduce Anxiety

Facebook’s Instagram began testing a new approach with users in Canada two months ago and this week expanded its efforts to include users in Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. The experiment removes emphasis on the “Like” feature to minimize the pressure to compete, while hopefully creating a more personal and enjoyable experience. Users are still able to see who liked other people’s posts or watched their videos, but there is no longer a running tally of the number of likes and views (however, users can still privately see the counts for their own posts). Continue reading Instagram Expands Tests of Hiding Likes to Reduce Anxiety

Facebook Removes More Fake Accounts and Hate Speech

In Q1 2019, Facebook removed 2.2 billion fake accounts from its popular social platform. That compares to 583 million fake accounts the company deleted in Q1 2018; in Q4 that year, it removed “just more” than 1 billion. Facebook said that “the vast majority” is removed within minutes of being created, so they do not count in its monthly/daily active user metrics. In its biannual report, Facebook also said its automated detection software used to delete “illicit content” was improving, removing more than half of the targeted speech. Continue reading Facebook Removes More Fake Accounts and Hate Speech

YouTube Aims For Trending Videos to Come From Own Site

On the heels of a controversial quarter, YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki sent a newsletter to YouTube users and creators announcing that half of all featured videos on the site’s trending tab will come from YouTube itself. This assurance is meant to alleviate worries from some of YouTube’s most popular content creators who have concerns over copyright challenges, advertising policies, and video monetization, particularly related to YouTube’s favoring of more traditional content (movie trailers, TV clips) on its trending tab.

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Global Regulators Looking Into Facebook Privacy Practices

Regulators have reached a tipping point with Facebook after years of half-measures regarding the social media giant’s security-related missteps. Now, regulators across four continents are attempting to reign in Facebook’s behavior. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission hasn’t come to a decisive conclusion regarding what constraints to implement, but the agency is looking to address a wide range of issues, including violations reported almost monthly, according to a source close to the investigation.

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Huawei Inks 40 Contracts to Build and Operate 5G Networks

Huawei Technologies has inked 40 commercial contracts for 5G technology, leading its Q1 revenue to leap 39 percent to 179.7 billion yuan ($26.8 billion). The Chinese company also stated that it has shipped about 70,000 5G base stations, making it a leading supplier of 5G gear. Huawei’s net-profit margin rose a bit to 8 percent. The company also introduced what it calls the world’s first 5G-communication hardware for the auto industry. Its MH5000 module is built on its newly launched Balong 5000 5G chip. Continue reading Huawei Inks 40 Contracts to Build and Operate 5G Networks

Intelligence Agencies Agree to Rein In Huawei Technologies

In July, said sources, heads of intelligence agencies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and U.S. met in Canada and agreed that they needed to “contain” China’s telecom manufacturer Huawei Technologies. The advent of 5G mobile networks has heightened the already-existing risk of using Huawei gear. The group discussed Chinese cyberespionage and expanding military, and ways to protect telecom networks. Despite the lack of a consensus, the group did agree that an outright Huawei ban is impractical. Continue reading Intelligence Agencies Agree to Rein In Huawei Technologies

Facebook Extends Watch Video Platform to a Global Audience

Facebook announced that its Facebook Watch video platform is rolling out worldwide starting today. The VOD platform, designed for episodic content and a potential competitor to YouTube, initially launched in the U.S. one year ago. In what should be good news to content creators and publishers, Facebook is also making its Ad Breaks program for monetizing video content available in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, with plans to launch in 21 other countries in September. Continue reading Facebook Extends Watch Video Platform to a Global Audience

Instagram Users Can Feature Popular Music in Their Stories

Instagram Stories, which currently touts 400 million daily users, now offers a new feature that enables users to add clips of popular songs to their photos and videos. The feature is initially available to Android and iOS users in six countries (including the U.S.), with plans to roll out to additional regions soon. Facebook’s recent deals with major and indie music labels will enable Instagram users to select up to 15 seconds of music from the likes of Bruno Mars, Cardi B, Demi Lovato and Maroon 5 to create soundtracks for each post. Continue reading Instagram Users Can Feature Popular Music in Their Stories

New YouTube Premium and Music Services Go International

On Monday, YouTube increased international distribution of YouTube Premium, with its streaming hit “Cobra Kai” and other original content — and YouTube Music, with the Beatles’ album catalog. Both services have been available in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Korea, and the move represents a major push into international territories. YouTube Music, which is offered as an ad-supported free service or as the subscription-based Music Premium, is now available in both forms in the U.K. Continue reading New YouTube Premium and Music Services Go International

Autodesk, Amazon Tweak Digital Assistants to Be More Natural

Autodesk is rolling out a new version of its Autodesk Virtual Agent (AVA) to replace its text-only chatbot in mid-May. AVA features an animated face and a New Zealand accent, with emotional responses that the company hopes will help customers engage. For example, if a customer says he’s having trouble, AVA will frown, say she’s sorry and ask how she can help, explains Autodesk manager of digital support channels Rachael Rekart. In doing so, Autodesk is following a trend of companies installing virtual assistants that are more helpful and personable. Amazon, for example, is updating Alexa to be smarter and more conversational. Continue reading Autodesk, Amazon Tweak Digital Assistants to Be More Natural

Facebook, Microsoft, Telxius Transatlantic Cable Is Complete

The new underwater cable between North America and Europe, built through a partnership between Facebook, Microsoft and Telxius (a subsidiary of Telefónica), is now complete. Dubbed Marea (Spanish for “tide”), the new 4,000-mile subsea cable runs at a depth of 17,000 feet under the Atlantic from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Bilbao, Spain and has been under construction since August 2016. Marea will offer a capacity of 160 terabits per second, and will help meet the demand for high-speed Internet and cloud services. Continue reading Facebook, Microsoft, Telxius Transatlantic Cable Is Complete

Tech Startups Pitch Innovative New Drone Concepts at CES

The VR, AR and Robotics Pitch Competition at CES in Las Vegas included three drone-related entertainment tech startups. The Fotokite, from Zurich-based Perspective Robotics, is a tethered drone camera system. The $249 consumer version unfolds from an easy-carry tube and flies like a kite, but unlike a kite it works to maintain its position and camera angle relative to the handheld ‘kite’ tether. Dotterel “takes the drone out of drones” with technology that was developed to make it possible to record audio from a drone without the loud background buzz. And Boxfish Research showed a simple-to-operate submarine ROV with two universal camera mounts for capturing 360-degree video. Continue reading Tech Startups Pitch Innovative New Drone Concepts at CES

Facebook Messenger to Launch New Instant Games Platform

Facebook is again advancing into gaming. The company not only introduced Facebook Gameroom, its desktop PC gaming platform but now is preparing to launch Instant Games, a platform on Messenger for lightweight HTML5 games. King, of “Candy Crush” fame, is already testing an Instant Game, “Shuffle Cats Mini,” in New Zealand, and game studio Big Viking is also planning on debuting titles for the upcoming Instant Games launch. Facebook added chess, basketball and soccer mini-games to Messenger earlier in the year. Continue reading Facebook Messenger to Launch New Instant Games Platform

Pandora’s Promotional Tools Help Artists Market New Songs

Digital music services have a problem introducing new songs: Fans prefer music they’ve heard before, and can easily skip a song they don’t know. A radio station can promote a new song by repeatedly playing it, but up until now digital services haven’t had many tools to boost new song popularity. Now, Pandora has debuted a toolset that lets an artist introduce a new song with an audio message to fans. It worked for R&B singer Jill Scott, who was able to boost the popularity of a new song by 30 percent that way. Continue reading Pandora’s Promotional Tools Help Artists Market New Songs

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