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October 20, 2017
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Facebook attacks Pinterest with ‘Sets’ of posts

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Identity is prismatic. You show different sides of yourself to different friends in your life. Now Facebook wants to let you share the niches of your interests while stealing thunder from Pinterest’s boards. Facebook is now testing a feature called Sets that lets you select several status updates, photos or videos and share them as a themed collection to everyone or specific friends.

Facebook confirms to TechCrunch that Sets are testing in a few countries and provided this statement: “We’re testing a way for people to create sets of specific posts, photos and videos for just the friends that want to follow along.”

Facebook has been toying with ways to compete with Pinterest more directly for years now. It tried Collection ads that let people save items to a Wishlist section of their profile. In April, Instagram launched a bookmarking feature that lets you save posts to private collections. In the following months, Facebook tried letting you follow specific niche interests in News Feed with Topics, and add status updates to photo Albums. But Facebook’s Sets are much more akin to Pinterest’s boards that can made visible to others, so you could make a wedding planning Set to share with your significant other, a vacation Set of memories with your family or a fashion Set to show off your style.

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Sets were first spotted by tipsters Blake Tsuzaki and Taylor Lauren and reshared by Matt Navarra. Here’s how they work according to Facebook. Those with access will see the option to create a Set on their profile based around a theme of their choice. By default, Sets are visible to friends on your profile and in the News Feed. All your friends are defaulted to be “following” the Set so they’ll keep seeing updates about it, but they can unfollow so they’ll only see that Set on your profile and not in the News Feed. Facebook is also testing “Secret Sets” that default to only being visible to a private selection of friends you choose.

Sets could give people ways to express themselves beyond the traditional News Feed posts that can feel clumsy if one of your hobbies isn’t of widespread interest amongst your friends. While a post about a niche interest might not get enough Likes to reach the friends who might care, Sets are designed for more targeted sharing. Facebook could eventually monetize the feature by offering a special button on product ads that save a business’ items to your Sets.

Facebook has found success by building good-enough versions of competitors’ products, like Instagram Stories, and is currently assaulting other tech giants like YouTube with Facebook Watch and Yelp with its restaurant discovery and food ordering options. It’s unlikely that Sets will displace Pinterest, but if Facebook can stunt its growth while helping users with self-expression, that may be sufficient.

Featured Image: Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr and Kim Kulish/Corbis/Getty Images

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News Source = techcrunch.com

Bipartisan bill seeks to regulate political ads on Facebook, Twitter and Google

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A new bipartisan bill known as the Honest Ads Act is the first major attempt to regulate online platforms that sell ads with rules akin to those that apply to more traditional advertising on TV, radio and in print.

The bill, introduced today by Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar with a bipartisan boost from Republican Senator John McCain, imposes regulations on social platforms, websites, ad networks and other online entities with more than 50 million unique users per month.

As the bill’s announcement states:

“Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.”

Disclosures for ad financing would apply to any entity that purchases more than $500 in ads cumulatively across a platform, a fairly low threshold for disclosure that speaks to the potency of even small ad buys on platforms like Facebook. The bill would also place a “reasonable expectation” on social media companies to identify if the source of an ad buy is outside the U.S.

“There will always be a case where things can fall through the cracks. What we’re trying to here is start with a light touch,” Warner said. “We don’t want to slow down innovation on the internet, we don’t want to slow down technology.”

As the top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee, Warner has had a front row seat to the revelations around Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

In their press conference announcing the bill, the senators noted that Google and Facebook command 85% on online political ads. “Who wouldn’t want to know if the ad appearing next to your story was being paid for by a foreign power?” Klobuchar asked.

Its creators hope that the bill can make its way through Congress before primary season begins, fending off or at least complicating further attempts by the Russian government to seed divisive political ads online.

Warner admitted that while the bill is a good start, it will still be difficult to identify account that are “misrepresenting themselves” to conceal where the money comes from.

Calling the identity piece “much tougher,” Warner admits that he is “hoping that these platform companies come up with some ideas” for tracing and attributing political ad purchases.

Sen. Klobuchar noted that tech companies may not be enthusiastic about facing increased regulation, but they have become increasingly cooperative after their initial reticence to admit fault.

“Now the online companies, we’re working with them,” Klobuchar said. “I’m not going to tell you they support this bill right now. They have to realize that the world has changed, they have been selling ads and making money off of this system.”

Even as they skewered Facebook for being “dismissive” early on and Twitter for essentially copying Facebook’s homework in its report to Congress a few weeks ago, the lawmakers appeared hopeful that cooperation would only improve as the depth of Russian election interference becomes more widely understood.

In spite of that increasing cooperation, the senators suggested that voluntary adherence to Congressional guidelines would be an uneven solution at best.

“The problem is, it has to cover everyone — you can’t just have a few companies doing it voluntarily, it has to be in the laws,” Warner said.

“These companies rely on the trust of users,” he added. “It’s in their own self interest.”

Facebook, Twitter and Google are expected to appear in an open hearing before the House and Senate’s intelligence committees on November 1. Facebook and Twitter confirmed this week that they will not be sending high profile executives to the hearings, instead opting to be represented by their general counsels.

“I think that they got the message,” Warner said. “I think the real proof in the pudding will be ‘come to the hearing on November 1.’”

Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE

News Source = techcrunch.com

Facebook Messenger lets games monetize with purchases and ads

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Facebook is finally giving developers a reason to build games for Messenger while also opening a new revenue stream for the chat app. After launching HTML5 ‘Instant Games’ inside Messenger like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Words With Friends Frenzy in November 2016, today Facebook is allowing developers to add in-app purchases as well as interstitial and rewarded video ads. Players get a virtual good or bonus life in exchange for watching rewarded videos.

Facebook will take a cut of the ads shown in Messenger games that are routed from its Facebook Audience Network, and they’ll begin appearing in some games on iOS and Android. In-app purchases will only start testing on Android, with Google Play taking its standard 30% cut.

Facebook was cagey about how much of a cut of in-app purchase revenue it plans to take, repeatedly giving this vague statement when asked: “Our early tests for IAP will follow the standard rev/share policy and transaction fees for Google Play In-App billing.” For now it seems that the remaining 70% goes to the developer, but Facebook will likely opt to take a portion of that when in-app purchases fully roll out.

Developers who want access to the monetization beta program as Facebook rolls it out more widely can sign up here, while advertisers who don’t want their Audience Network ads from appearing in games can opt out. Facebook plans to roll out ad measurement and optimization tools for game developers soon, plus ways to publish games to its directory more easily.

The move should attract higher quality games to the Messenger platform, as until now, devs could only hope to build an audience and monetize down the line. Now with cash able to flow in through the games, it’s worth pouring more development resources into the platform. Previously, the only real way to earn money off these games was indirectly through branding, as with titles like Valerian Space Run, Wonder Woman, and Lego Batman Bat Climb that promote movies.

Facebook seems to be taking Messenger Instant Games quite seriously after its desktop game platform withered and mobile game was dominated by the App Store and Google Play platforms. Facebook sees an opportunity to not only give people something to do between chat conversations and a way to challenge freinds, but also now to start squeezing more cash out of the 1.3 billion Messenger users without interrupting the traditional use cases as its inbox ads do.

News Source = techcrunch.com

“Bad things happen,” Facebook’s response to Russian election interference

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Facebook has come under fire for its role in influencing the U.S. presidential election, particularly when it comes to “fake news” and Russian-sponsored ads. 

When asked about this at WSJ D.Live in Laguna Beach on Wednesday, Facebook VP David Marcus at first deflected, talking at length about all the positive impacts that the social media giant has had on the world. “When you design a platform that reaches 2 billion people every month…sometimes bad things happen,” he concluded.

Marcus said that Facebook is “collaborating with special counsel and Congress” to help evaluate Russia’s use of the platform for U.S. politics. He says it’s a priority of the company to “make sure that we build systems to prevent what happened from happening again.”

Marcus oversees the Facebook Messenger platform and acknowledged that a “small number” of Russian-related incidents happened on the messenger service, but did not elaborate.

He says that going forward “we’re going to hire thousands of people to review ads and review all activities around notable elections around the world.”

Marcus added that while “there’s no such thing of perfection,” he’s “absolutely confident that we have the right plan.”

Featured Image: Mikhail Metzel/Getty Images

News Source = techcrunch.com

Facebook tests a resume “work histories” feature to boost recruitment efforts

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As LinkedIn ads in video and other features to look a little more like Facebook, Facebook continues to take on LinkedIn in the world of social recruitment services. In the latest development, Facebook is testing a feature to let users create resumes — which Facebook calls a “work histories” feature — and share them privately on the site as part of their job hunt.

First made public by The Next Web’s Matt Navarra on the back of a tip he received from a computer science student called Jane Manchun Wong, the test was confirmed to us by a spokesperson at the company as part of its efforts to grow usage of its recruitment advertising business, which was launched in February this year.

“At Facebook, we’re always building and testing new products and services, ” he said. “We’re currently testing a work histories feature to continue to help people find and businesses hire for jobs on Facebook.”

We’ve been looking around, and so far the only evidence of the test appears to be coming from an Android mobile device.

Interestingly, Facebook is testing this resume service to reduce some of the friction between finding a job and then applying for it on mobile specifically, to make it easier and faster to apply for jobs with a ready-made career and education history. That is a use case that LinkedIn also identified a while back, using its basic profile pages as resume proxies in its own mobile-based job application flow. Facebook, of course, has a wider purpose than career advancement, so its basic profile pages don’t quite fit that need.

On its surface, Facebook’s resume feature appears to be an expansion of the work and education details that you can already provide around your Facebook profile, including the period of time you’ve worked in a job or studied somewhere, and your contact information:

  1. resume fb

    The main resume page

  2. resume FB 2

    Contact details

  3. resume FB 3

    Editing your previous job experience

  4. resume fb 4

    Editing your education

In the case of the resume, though, the key difference is that the information doesn’t post directly to your profile. Today, users only have two options for handling that kind of information: either making it completely public, or just visible to your friends (but not entirely visible unless you choose to share it). The resume will have a more targeted use: you can show it off only when you choose to, as part of a job application.

Facebook took its initial step into the recruitment market in February this year when it launched its first job ads as a basic page that let you look for jobs they way you might look for goods for sale on Facebook’s Marketplace: by location and keywords. In the months since then, it’s worked on several tests and expansions of the service to figure out how to get more traffic to this new part of its site.

They have included plans to connect users in mentorships to help create a wider culture of career advancement on the platform (something LinkedIn has also been building); and ramping up the volume of job ads on Facebook by way of a partnership with ZipRecruiter, an aggregator that lets businesses post to Facebook’s job site along with dozens of other online job boards.

One notable thing to me about Facebook’s recruitment efforts is that while they have the  potential to take on LinkedIn in the world of white-collar jobs, Facebook is taking a very mass-market approach: in my area, I’ve seen jobs for lawyers and designers, but also bus drivers, housekeepers and other service workers.

In a sense, it makes this not unlike the approach that Facebook has taken with Workplace as a competitor to Slack: the latter has positioned itself as a communications tool for the professional class of workers, the former is trying to target them, but also everyone else. (And now those businesses can also use the platform to recruit more.)

Another notable data point: just as Facebook’s collecting of profile interests helps the company build out its social graph and data points for advertising and more, so could this resume builder help the company develop better ideas of where to target its job ads, as well as other kinds of advertising aiming at particular demographics.

It remains to be seen how far Facebook will be willing to go to grow its footprint in the very crowded area of online recruitment, which already has a number of huge players including Randstad (which owns Monster.com) and Recruit (which owns Indeed.com), among many more.

In Facebook’s favor, though, there is definitely a case of noise and signal when it comes to recruitment, and social networks have had a much higher hit-rate when it’s come to getting qualified leads for open positions.

“People are interacting on a wide variety of subjects, not just jobs, so it feels very organic,” said Ian Siegel, the CEO of ZipRecruiter. He told TechCrunch that social platforms tend to perform well in recruitment because employees can tap their networks and so inbound interest tends to be less random. “They deliver good quality candidates,” Siegel said. “People who come through the network of current employees can be vouched for.”

Featured Image: Michael D Brown/Shutterstock (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)

News Source = techcrunch.com

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