Facebook Revamps News Feed to Downplay Links to Websites With Deceptive Ads

Facebook is planning to intensify its crackdown on so-called clickbait websites, saying it will begin giving lower prominence to links that lead to pages full of deceptive or annoying advertisements.

The downgrade of the links was expected to take effect beginning on Wednesday on News Feed, the home page of Facebook where people go to see posts from friends and family.

Facebook said it wanted to downplay links that people post to websites that have a disproportionate volume of ads relative to content, or that have deceptive or sexually suggestive ads along the lines of “5 Tips to be Amazing in Bed” or “1 Crazy Tip to Lose Weight Overnight!”

Links to websites with pop-up ads or full-screen ads also would be downplayed, it said.

People scrolling through their News Feed are often disappointed when they click on such links and do not find valuable information, Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of ads and business platform, said in an interview.

“People don’t want to see this stuff,” he said. “We’re just trying to figure out how to find it and rank it further down News Feed when possible.”

Facebook Revamps News Feed to Downplay Links to Websites With Deceptive AdsFacebook uses a computer algorithm to determine which posts people see first from friends and family, and it frequently refines the algorithm to keep up with spam or other concerns.

The company said in August it was adjusting the algorithm to downplay news stories with clickbait-style headlines, a style of headline that intentionally withholds information or misleads people to get them to click on them.

In December, facing criticism that hoaxes and fake news stories spread too easily on Facebook in the run-up to the US presidential election on November 8, the company made it easier for people to report those kinds of posts.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network with 1.9 billion monthly users, has enormous power with its algorithms to potentially drive traffic to media publishers or stymie it.

The company said it reviewed hundreds of thousands of websites linked to from Facebook to identify those with little substance but lots of disruptive or shocking ads.

Bosworth declined to name any websites Facebook wants to target. He said only publishers of spam needed to worry about seeing less traffic, and other publishers could see their traffic go up.

“This is a small number of the worst of the worst,” he said.

Facebook to Appeal Austrian Global Hate Speech Order

Social networking giant Facebook will appeal a court order that requires the company to globally impose an Austrian law to curb hate speech against the country’s Green Party.

Critics see the controversial order as a threat and a new challenge to free speech on the Internet, a report in Fortune on Thursday said.

“There is no place for hate speech on Facebook and this post was removed from our platform last year as requested. However, we will appeal this particular case before the Austrian Supreme Court to have better legal clarity around this specific post and the categorization as ‘unlawful’ as the new decision substantially reversed the original court decision,” the report quoted a Facebook spokesperson as saying.

Facebook to Appeal Austrian Global Hate Speech OrderAn Austrian court has ruled that Facebook must remove the posts against Greens leader Eva Glawischnig in Austria as well as other parts of the world.

The court case involves comments posted to Facebook about the leader of Austria’s Green Party, which the party claims are illegal under the country’s hate speech laws.

That means Facebook will have to prevent and remove such posts in places where there are no European-style hate speech laws.

Critics termed the Austrian ruling as “dangerous and short-sighted”, arguing that it could embolden other countries to impose local laws everywhere on Facebook.

“Should Facebook comply globally with Russia’s anti-gay laws, or Thailand’s laws against insulting the king, or Saudi Arabia’s blasphemy laws? Would Austria want those laws to dictate what speech its citizens can share online? This ruling sends a signal to courts around the world that they, too, can enforce their national laws to ban speech around the world,” Daphne Keller, a lawyer at the Centre for Internet and Society at Stanford University, was quoted as saying.

The appeal against the court order would put the Facebook and Google on the same front in a legal battle whether national courts should be able to impose their law everywhere on the Internet.

Facebook Group Admins Can Now Set Up a Quiz for Screening

Ensuring that right persons are added in a Group, Facebook has rolled out a feature that allows admins to set up three questions for people requesting to join the Group.

This allows admins to screen the potential member and make sure the added member does not troll or spam the Group, TechCrunch reported on Friday.

“Screening new membership requests requires time and legwork for admins – particularly for groups built around focused passions or purpose. For these groups, admins typically have specific criteria they require before admitting new members.”

“Establishing these open-ended questions enables them to more quickly review and approve member requests; in turn, people seeking communities of support or shared interest can more quickly connect with others,” the report quoted a Facebook spokesperson as saying.

Potential members can answer the questions in up to 250 characters each that can be seen by admins and moderators only, and will not be posted on the Group.

facebook groups settings facebook

“Users who hit ‘Join’ on a Group with a questionnaire will be asked to fill it out immediately, while those invited to join will get a notification linked to the form. Applicants can edit their answers until they’re reviewed,” the report noted.

The new update gives more control to the Group admins, who can select the questions and decide whom to add in the Group – something that can lead to productive discussions.

“One of the things that we’ve seen in online communities, also including offline communities, is that having an engaged and talented leader is one of the key things for making a strong community … but right now our Groups product hasn’t really been built to facilitate the leaders,” Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook had said in February.

Facebook is holding its first Communities Summit for Group admins in Chicago in June.

It is expected that more updates related to Groups would be rolled out that might define specific roles and permissions of moderators and admins.

US Musician Dies After Live Streaming Suicide on Facebook

A US man died at a hospital after live streaming his suicide on social networking site Facebook, the media reported on Saturday.

According to witnesses, Jared McLemore, 33, a well-known musician in Memphis, ran into Murphy’s bar early Saturday morning seconds after setting himself on fire in a parking lot across the street.

The livestream shows McLemore dousing himself with kerosene. The frantic screams of witnesses can be heard in the background.

“This overwhelming smell of kerosene filled the room,” Jim Duckworth, a witness was quoted as saying to wreg.com.

“It looked like a movie, like someone wearing a flame-retardant suit…There were some people who thought that it was a joke,” Kimberly Koehler, another witness.

US Musician Dies After Live Streaming Suicide on FacebookKoehler said McLemore’s former girlfriend, against whom he has a history of domestic violence, was working just a feet away.

“It was almost like he waited for us to be over so that he would be the centre of attention. He wanted it to go down in some sick way and for everybody to see it,” Koehler said.

Court records show McLemore was arrested in August 2016 after strangling his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her on two different occasions one day apart.

He was ordered to undergo mental evaluations and was sentenced to probation in April 2017 on domestic assault charges.

Another man was seriously burned trying to kick the lighter out of McLemore’s hand, but he is expected to be okay, the police said.

Digital native: Snap out of outrage mode

If you are reading this right now, let’s just get something out of the way — you are not poor. Just the affordability of English language literacy and access to national news media marks you as belonging to a very small elite group in the country. If you are reading this online, the point is driven home even more. So, when you heard about the CEO of Snapchat (If you are asking SnapWhat, don’t feel crestfallen, you are not “out of it”, you are just not 17) being quoted from a statement he made two years ago, that he is not interested in expanding in poor countries like India, you were obviously riled.

There were many things wrong with the alleged statement that Evan Spiegel made. He betrayed his own ignorance and arrogance, where he was unable to understand the growing consumer base of mobile-based apps in emerging networked countries like India. He also more or less failed to understand that poverty is layered, and while India continues to struggle with poverty, it has a growing population of extremely wealthy and affluent users, who are not only driving global consumption trends but also the key focus of digital growth. His biggest faux pas was to not recognise that in the global information technologies development cycles, there is a huge chance that a large number of his employees and contractors might be located in India, and that Digital India is an undeniable extension of Silicon Valley apps and platforms.

Speigel’s cockiness is actually so common in how digital ecosystems are mapped, that you could almost ignore it because “everybody says it”. It is great that he was called out on his neo-colonial viewpoints. Users from India (and around the world) joined in to not only to protest against his bravado, but also to call for an action that hurts private companies in the one way they recognise — revenue. #BoycottSnapchat has been trending this last week, and millions of people using this visual filtered storytelling app are uninstalling it from their devices. People have been making jokes and criticising Snapchat, leading to a huge dip in the user base of Snapchat.

These moments of digital collective action are admirable and we need more instances where we call out such acts of discrimination and exclusion. We do need to make sure that we do not make Snapchat Enemy No. 1, pretending that the rest of the web is all good. Speigel is profoundly wrong, in his comments or in his defence that his app is “free” to download, which shows that he is not excluding India. However, Speigel cannot be singled out in all of this. Across the digital landscape, countries like India are always trapped in a strange dichotomy. On the one hand, Indian engineers and knowledge workers are being harvested as the cheap labour who “steal global jobs” and on the other, India is always seen as poor, underdeveloped, in need of saving.

Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO, Snapchat CEO India comments, Snapchat CEO on India, Snap, Snapchat app, Snapchat filters, how to use Snapchat, Net Neutrality, Internet, Uber, technology, technology newsThis distilling of the Indian landscape, in all its complexity, into these two polarised identities, allows for these tech companies to continue unfair practices which affect both the glamorous white-collar techies and the invisible labours of IT cities. It emphasises the idea that the IT worker, upwardly and geographically mobile, is being offered a path to escape either the country or their context, because they are touched by the economic power of the digital corporation. It also justifies the exploited labour conditions of IT industries, where the story of transformation is presented as an excuse for underpaid overworked production environments.

At the same time, these companies seek to take up state-like responsibilities without the accountability, destroying fundamental media and information rights in the guise of bridging the digital divide. Remember Internet.Org’s attack on #NetNeutrality in their attempt to provide free Internet to the poor. Pay attention to Uber’s continued exploitation of its drivers, refusing to treat them as employees and yet regulating them more than any employer can dare to. Realise that despite our #MakeInIndia campaigns, we have very little investment in creating localised, Indian language digital infrastructure. Notice that the Indian digital scene, far from being start-up friendly, is turning into a monopoly of a handful of telecom companies, which nonchalantly discard the legal apparatus of safeguards. Reflect on how we are building biometric databases like Aadhaar, without any regard for data protection and security, so that

millions of people are compromised through data leaks. All of these different phenomena need to be read along with our outrage at Snapchat. All of these are stern reminders that our act of questioning the digital does not stop at uninstalling an app, but at reorganising our policies and politics of the digital in the country.

Nishant Shah is a professor of new media and the co-founder of The Centre for Internet & Society, Bangalore.

Google Maps updated with India specific features: A look at what’s new

Google is gearing to roll out a new home screen for Google Maps on Android, specifically designed for people in India. The update will begin to roll out this week. Google will add new shortcuts on the home screen of the app that will instantly let users see directions cards, satellite imagery of a place as well as real-time information about traffic. The new home screen has been designed to load faster.

“We hope this new home screen provides a much more intuitive and faster experience for people in India. The Maps team will continue to evolve our products to make them useful no matter where you go or what you do, especially for the millions of people coming online for the first time,” Cathay Bi, Product Manager Google Maps said.

Google, Google Maps, Google Maps Android, Google Maps home screen shortcut, Google Maps shortcut home screen, Google Maps new features, Google Maps update, apps, smartphones, technology, technology newsComing to directions cards, these will be shown with different modes of transportation including bus, on foot and more. Users can save routes using download button, to access them in offline mode. Shortcuts on Google Maps home screen will now show more details about public transport lines on specific routes.

Google Maps for Android and iOS was recently updated to add a new feature that lets users save their parking location, browse through places they’ve saved as well as stay connected with family and friends. Users can add their parking location to the map, locate where they parked their car and add additional details like parking level and spot, amount of time left before the meter expires etc to parking cards.

WhatsApp Stories now bigger than Snapchat with 175 mn users

WhatsApp Stories now has more daily active users than Snapchat itself. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in company’s Q1 earnings call, announced that WhatsApp has a total of 1.2 billion monthly users, about 15 per cent of which use Stories features daily.

WhatsApp Stories is essentially a rip-off of Snapchat Stories, and was launched mid-February. Interestingly, Stories feature of WhatsApp is now bigger that the entire Snapchat app itself, which currently stands at 161 million daily users. For Snapchat, reports of competition taking a lead comes at a time when its parent company Snap just went public with its IPO and raised over $3.4 billion.

Facebook is actively using Stories features across all all its products, including in its core Facebook app. It looks like the feature has a much greater reach owing to the popularity of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. Stories in Messenger is gradually catching up, while Instagram Stories already has 200 million active users.

WhatsApp, WhatsApp Stories, Snapchat, Facebook, WhatsApp Stories bigger than Snapchat, WhatsApp Stories active users, WhatsApp Stories users, Instagram, Instagram Stories, Facebook, Facebook Stories, social media, apps, smartphones, technology, technology newsTo recall, Stories lets people post pictures or videos that disappear in 24 hours. They can be shared with all contacts on WhatsApp or a select few friends. Previously, WhatsApp introduced Stories as a replacement to its text Status. However, the messaging app had to bring back text-Status after several users demanded the same. Stories in WhatsApp was then re-introduced as an an option.

Snapchat app is popular among youth. In India, its Google Play Store ratings took a dip last month, after reports revealed CEO Evan Spiegel allegedly made the following statement in 2015: “This app is only for rich people… I don’t want to expand into poor countries like India and Spain.” Soon after the word spread, #UninstallSnapchat started to trend big time on social media.

Zucekrberg has made it clear the company has no plans of stopping at just Stories. At the F8 developer conference, Facebook has showcased how it wants to make augmented reality available across all its platforms. Now this is nothing new, given Snapchat’s camera has had AR-style lenses for sometime. The Facebook CEO, in an interview with TechCrunch took a slight jab at Snapchat saying the innovation they were doing was for everyone, and not for the ‘high end’ audience.

Uber will let riders update pick up location after booking: Here’s how

Uber in India will let riders update their pick up location after they have made a booking, and ended up pinning the wrong place. Uber says this feature will be rolling to iOS, Android users. According to Uber, the feature was piloted in some cities, and they saw that it led to less stress and cancellations for the drivers and riders.

This feature will be made available to all riders across the India in the coming weeks. Pinning the right location at the time of booking can often be an issue in cities in India. This often means a driver might end a couple of metres ahead of the actual location, or sometimes in an entirely different spot. Thankfully Uber’s new feature will let users fix this problem.

So how can users change their location after booking? After you’ve made a cab booking, and see the driver is en route, then just tap the “edit” option, which will appear next to your pickup location. Once this is done, you can enter the new pickup address, and then tap on ‘confirm’. After this update is done, Uber will notify the driver the route has been changed.

Uber, Uber new app, Uber change pickup location, Uber change pickup, Uber India, Uber app tricksUber says the experience will differ slightly for in-app and out-of-app navigation for drivers. The ride-sharing service already lets riders update, change their destination during a ride, so this new addition just builds on the earlier feature.

“Pick-ups are one of the hardest parts of the experience to get right, and they’re especially difficult when riders accidentally request a pickup from the wrong place. It often begins with a phone call and ends with a cancelled ride. A small miscue can lead to a frustrating situation where riders aren’t riding, and drivers aren’t earning,” said Ryan Yu, Software Engineer and Rachel Holt, Regional General Manager, US & Canada at Uber in a blog post.

WhatsApp: India top country with 50 million video calling minutes daily

WhatsApp has announced that India is the top country for video calling minutes in the world. WhatsApp, the world’s leading messaging app with over 1.2 billion monthly active users, rolled out video calling last November.

The company has announced that India records over 50 million video calling minutes per day. That is a substantial chunk of the 340 million daily video calling globally. As of February 2017, WhatsApp has 200 million monthly active users in India.

Incidentally, Whatsapp users maker over 55 million video calls per day across the world on Android, iOS and Windows devices. WhatsApp’s success in a market like India can be attributed to the fact that it does not prejudge the quality of the network from which the call is being made. Hence the video call quality improves as WhatsApp’s systems recognise the actual network quality. This means that the call will invariably connect as it is expecting the worst.

WhatsApp, WhatsApp video calling, WhatsApp India video calls, WhatsApp Video calling,  WhatsApp video calling feature, video calls WhatsApp, video calls iOS, video calls Windows, social, technology, technology newsAlso, the calling feature has been kept really simple and has very little hurdles for users, especially if they are not tech savvy or new smartphone users. Given that WhatApp was already very popular in India seems to have made it easier for users to switch to the video calling feature as there was minimum learning involved.

WhatsApp recently revamped its ‘Status’ option in the style of Instagram and Snapchat ‘Stories’. WhatsApp Status, which last for 24 hours, can be shared in video or photo formats with text added to them. The messaging app recently revealed that WhatsApp Status now has 175 million users, which is more than the total users on rival Snapchat.

Instagram’s mobile site now lets you upload photos without using the app

Instagram has updated its mobile website, allowing users to upload photos from the phone’s built-in web browser. That means millions of people living in countries with slow internet speeds (India, for example) will be able to access Instagram without needing a standalone app.

Previously, the mobile version of Instagram offered basic functionality, such as updating status, following users and liking posts. It’s also adding a lightweight version of the Explorer tab.

“Instagram.com (accessed from mobile) is a web experience optimized for mobile phones. It’s designed to help people have a fuller experience on Instagram no matter what device or network they are on,” the company told TechCrunch.

Instagram, Instagram mobile site, Instagram mobile site revamp, Instagram desktop browers, Instagram app, Instagram app Android, Android, Facebook, social, technology, technology newsIt should be noted that users still can’t upload videos or send direct messages, but the add-on functionality could help the company to increase its focus on developing markets with less stable mobile networks. For Instagram, it’s primarily focus has been to penetrate deeper in the Asian market – after all 8o per cent of its users are outside of the US. The Facebook-owned photo-sharing app recently announced that it has over 700 million active users, up from 600 million just four months ago.

The spike in its users base is a sign that Instagram is doing enough to attract the right audience. Last month, Instagram rolled out offline functionality to the Android version of the photo-and- video sharing app. Not just Instagram, it’s parent company Facebook is increasing its focus on large developing markets. Which is probably why it released Facebook Lite, a stripped-down version of its app aimed at countries like India where the data connectivity isn’t up to the mark.