Early-bird sale ends this Friday for TC Sessions: AR/VR in Los Angeles

After Friday, September 21, ticket prices for TC Sessions: AR/VR will jump $100 for the October 18 event hosted at UCLA. Buy your early-bird $99 tickets today before these savings fly the coop! Students get tickets for just $45. The event’s stage will feature some of the industry’s most groundbreaking companies and thought leaders. Here are some agenda highlights: Kickstarting an Industry
Yelena Rachitsky [Oculus]
Oculus has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into funding VR content. Facebook’s VR future rests on people finding new worlds that they want to step into — how will Oculus make this happen?
Building Inclusive Worlds
Cyan Banister [Founders Fund] (other speakers to be announced soon)
If you had the chance to redesign society, where would you even start? As game developers continue designing massive online virtual worlds where we will spend more and more time, how should we look to correct issues we
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Facebook named in suit alleging job ads on its platform unlawfully discriminated against women

Facebook’s ad platform is facing charges that it has enabled gender-based discrimination against millions of women in a class action suit filed on behalf of three female workers and backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The legal action also names ten employers who are alleged to have used the social media giant’s platform to exclusively and unlawfully target job adverts at male Facebook users, thereby excluding women and non-binary users from receiving the ads. The ACLU, law firm Outten & Golden LLP, and the Communications Workers of America have filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The ten employers and employment agency advertisers named in the suit, which the charges allege ran discriminatory jobs in “mostly” male-dominated fields, include a police department, multiple retailers, a software development firm and various installation, repair and remodelling companies. (All ten named in the suit are listed in the ACLU’s press release.
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This is what Americans think about the state of election security right now

A wide-ranging new poll yields some useful insight into how worried the average American feels about election threats as the country barrels toward midterms. The survey, conducted by NPR and researchers with Marist College, polled 949 adult U.S. residents in early September across regions of the country, contacting participants through both landlines and mobile devices. The results are a significant glimpse into current attitudes around the likelihood of foreign election interference, election security measures and how well social media companies have rebounded in the public eye.

Attitudes toward Facebook and Twitter

As the most recent dust settles around revelations that Russia ran influence campaigns targeting Americans on social media platforms, just how much do U.S. voters trust that Facebook and Twitter have cleaned up their acts? Well, they’re not convinced yet. In response to a question asking about how much those companies had done since 2016 “to make sure
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Facebook pilots new political campaign security tools — just 50 days before Election Day

Facebook has rolled out a “pilot” program of new security tools for political campaigns — just weeks before millions of Americans go to the polls for the midterm elections. The social networking giant said it’s targeting campaigns who “may be particularly vulnerable to targeting by hackers and foreign adversaries.” Once enrolled, Facebook said it’ll help campaigns adopt stronger security protections, “like two-factor authentication and monitor for potential hacking threats,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, in a Monday blog post. Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg has admitted that the company “didn’t do enough” in the 2016 presidential election to prevent meddling and spreading misinformation, yet took a lashing from lawmakers for failing to step up in the midterms. A former Obama campaign official told TechCrunch that the offering was important — but late. “Fifty days is an eternity in campaign time,” said Harper Reed, who served as President Obama’s
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Hear how Oculus is minimizing VR’s content problem at TC Sessions: AR/VR

In 2018, VR adoption has plenty of demons to chase as it looks to build a larger, more mainstream audience. In 2017, the chief concern for most in the industry was the lack of content available for headsets. The “content problem,” as it was called, was a huge concern for headset companies like Oculus which were selling pricey headsets that users could blaze through the available content for in a few weeks. It was a daunting challenge for the young industry, but one that no one seems to be talking about quite as much just a year later. With VCs still reticent to invest in content and a relatively small user base, how did the industry move past the content problem? Well, a large part was Oculus‘s efforts in spending its way through the problem by investing hundreds of millions in indie developers building new and innovative VR content.
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Facebook expands bug bounty program to include third-party apps and websites

Facebook announced this morning it’s expanding its bug bounty program – which pays researchers who find security vulnerabilities within its platform – to now include issues found in third-party apps and websites. Specifically, Facebook says it will reward valid reports of vulnerabilities that relate to the improper exposure of Facebook user access tokens. Typically, when a user logs into another app using their Facebook account information, they’re able to decide what information the token and, therefore, the app can access and what actions it can take. But if the token becomes compromised, users’ personal information could be misused. Facebook says it will pay a minimum reward of $500 per vulnerable app or website, if the report is valid. The company also noted it wasn’t aware of any other programs offering rewards of this scope for all eligible third-party apps. If a vulnerability is determined to be legit, Facebook will then work
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Startups are giving writers and filmmakers more ways to make it in Hollywood

On May 11 Netflix released the teen dramedy “The Kissing Booth” just as the school year was wrapping up for teens across the country. By June, the company had a smash hit among the tweenage set, and Wattpad, the company which owned the rights to the The Kissing Booth, had its first true breakout vehicle. The story, written on Wattpad’s publishing platform by Beth Reekles, was a proof point for the company’s thesis pitching a new twist on the old model of discovering stories and creative talent for the entertainment industry.

Behind the success of the film is a nascent movement among startup companies that are trying to open the doors of Hollywood’s dream factory to a broader group of creative professionals by riding the wave of fan fiction and user generated content all the

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Mobile social network Path, once a challenger to Facebook, is closing down

It’s that time again, folks, time to say goodbye to a social media service from days past. Following the shuttering of Klout earlier this year, now Path, the one-time rival to Facebook, is closing its doors, according to an announcement made today. The eight-year-old service will close down in one month — October 18 — but it will be removed from the App Store and Google Play on October 1. Any remaining users have until October 18 to download a copy of their data, which can be done here.

Path was founded by former Facebook product manager Dave

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Facebook is hiring a director of human rights policy to work on “conflict prevention” and “peace-building”

Facebook is advertising for a human rights policy director to join its business, located either at its Menlo Park HQ or in Washington DC — with “conflict prevention” and “peace-building” among the listed responsibilities. In the job ad, Facebook writes that as the reach and impact of its various products continues to grow “so does the responsibility we have to respect the individual and human rights of the members of our diverse global community”, saying it’s:
… looking for a Director of Human Rights Policy to coordinate our company-wide effort to address human rights abuses, including by both state and non-state actors. This role will be responsible for: (1) Working with product teams to ensure that Facebook is a positive force for human rights and apply the lessons we learn from our investigations, (2) representing Facebook with key stakeholders in civil society, government, international institutions, and industry, (3) driving our
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Three years later, Let’s Encrypt now secures 75% of the web

Bon anniversaire, Let’s Encrypt! The free-to-use nonprofit was founded in 2014 in part by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and is backed by Akamai, Google, Facebook, Mozilla and more. Three years ago Friday, it issued its first certificate. Since then, the numbers have exploded. To date, more than 380 million certificates have been issued on 129 million unique domains. Let’s Encrypt now secures 75 percent of the web, according to public Firefox data. That’s a massive increase from when it was founded, where only 38 percent of website page loads were served over an HTTPS encrypted connection. That also makes it the largest certificate issuer in the world, by far. “Change at that speed and scale is incredible,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Let’s Encrypt isn’t solely responsible for this change, but we certainly catalyzed it.” HTTPS is what keeps the pipes of the web secure. Every time your browser lights up
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Announcing the agenda for TC Sessions: AR/VR in LA on October 18

TechCrunch is heading to UCLA on October 18 and we’ve assembled some of the AR/VR industry’s most prescient founders, investors and executives to chat about the startups and trends driving virtual and augmented reality in 2018. The world’s top tech companies have heavily invested in AR/VR and are persistent in broadcasting the technologies’ potential to blur the lines of how consumers interact with the digital world. Beyond the tech titans, it’s the small startups that are dialing into what’s missing in the ecosystem right now. Our agenda showcases some of the powerhouses in the space, but also plenty of smaller teams that are building and debunking fundamental technologies for virtual worlds. We still have a few tricks up our sleeves and will be adding some new names to the agenda over the next month so keep your eyes open. In the meantime, check out these agenda highlights:

TechCrunch Sessions: AR/VR
UCLA,
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Former Uber exec alleges ex-PR chief ‘destroyed his reputation’

A nasty legal battle is set to play out between two former Uber executives. Eric Alexander, the ride-hailing company’s former president of business in Asia-Pacific, has filed suit against former Uber PR chief Rachel Whetstone . Alexander blames Whetstone for his firing from Uber in June 2017, claiming her “grossly misleading statements” both internally at Uber and to the media, “destroyed his reputation.” He claims she “harbored deep seated personal animosity” against him, was jealous of his close relationship with then-CEO Travis Kalanick and frequently made racist comments about several minority groups during her tenure. Whetstone, well-known in Silicon Valley for her comms prowess, also left Uber in 2017 and has since gone on to lead PR efforts at Facebook and now Netflix. We’ve reached out to Whetstone, Alexander and Uber for comment.

Backstory

Last year, Alexander was very publicly ousted from Uber after obtaining the medical records of a female passenger who
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Facebook’s new ‘SapFix’ AI automatically debugs your code

Facebook has quietly built and deployed an artificial intelligence programming tool called SapFix that scans code, automatically identifies bugs, tests different patches and suggests the best ones that engineers can choose to implement. Revealed today at Facebook’s @Scale engineering conference, SapFix is already running on Facebook’s massive code base and the company plans to eventually share it with the developer community. “To our knowledge, this marks the first time that a machine-generated fix — with automated end-to-end testing and repair — has been deployed into a codebase of Facebook’s scale,” writes Facebook’s developer tool team. “It’s an important milestone for AI hybrids and offers further evidence that search-based software engineering can reduce friction in software development.” SapFix can run with or without Sapienz, Facebook’s previous automated bug spotter. It uses it in conjunction with SapFix, suggesting solutions to problems Sapienz discovers. These types of tools could allow smaller teams
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Facebook rolls out photo/video fact checking so partners can train its AI

Sometimes fake news lives inside of Facebook as photos and videos designed to propel misinformation campaigns, instead of off-site on news articles that can generate their own ad revenue. To combat these politically rather than financially-motivated meddlers, Facebook has to be able to detect fake news inside of images and the audio that accompanies video clips. Today its expanding its photo and video fact checking program from four countries to all 23 of its fact-checking partners in 17 countries. “Many of our third-party fact-checking partners have expertise evaluating photos and videos and are trained in visual verification techniques, such as reverse image searching and analyzing image metadata, like when and where the photo or video was taken” says Facebook product manager Antonia Woodford. “As we get more ratings from fact-checkers on photos and videos, we will be able to improve the accuracy of our machine learning model.” The goal
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Ready, Set, Raise is a new accelerator built for women by women

Women in tech are not only significantly under-funded by venture capitalists, but they also often lack access to the early-stage support granted to their male counterparts. To enroll in a startup accelerator like Y Combinator, for example, its expected founders relocate to the Bay Area for three months. Women, who are more often caregivers, might not be able to do that, and even if they can, the program may not cater to their specific needs. Female Founders Alliance (FFA), a relatively new network of female startup founders, has built a free, non-dilutive 5-week accelerator for women by women. Called ‘Ready, Set, Raise,’ its goal is to help more female-founded startups raise VC through workshops, 1-on-1 coaching, legal clinics, communications and speech coaching and more. The accelerator, sponsored by Trilogy Equity Partners, kicked off at the end of August and will culminate with a private demo day with VCs in
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Integrate.ai pulls in $30M to help businesses make better customer-centric decisions

Helping businesses bring more firepower to the fight against AI-fuelled disruptors is the name of the game for Integrate.ai, a Canadian startup that’s announcing a $30M Series A today. The round is led by Portag3 Ventures . Other VCs include Georgian Partners, Real Ventures, plus other (unnamed) individual investors also participating. The funding will be used for a big push in the U.S. market. Integrate.ai’s early focus has been on retail banking, retail and telcos, says founder Steve Irvine, along with some startups which have data but aren’t necessarily awash with AI expertise to throw at it. (Not least because tech giants continue to hoover up talent.) Its SaaS platform targets consumer-centric businesses — offering to plug paying customers into a range of AI technologies and techniques to optimize their decision-making so they can respond more savvily to their customers. Aka turning “high volume consumer funnels”
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Social networks & the online reality of identity

Like everyone else, I watched the Washington Social Media circus with interest. A lot of words were used. Crocodile tears shed. Promises made. Bouquets of derision thrown. But no one actually said what needs to be done with the social media platforms and their social responsibility. The more I think about it, the more I believe that social platforms should take cues from real life social networks – cities, states, and nations. Just as these geographically defined social networks have amenities such a policing, rules and clear identities, our social platforms, and related online social environments to need to add a layer of humanness to the platform. Continue reading "Social networks & the online reality of identity"

Facebook’s Volatile Year in One Giant Chart

View a high resolution version of this graphic.
Facebook's Volatile Year Explained in One Chart

Facebook’s Volatile Year in One Giant Chart

View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here. Facebook has found itself in the headlines a lot in 2018, but not for reasons investors are likely to be excited about. The tech giant battled privacy scandals, policy changes, and dwindling user engagement throughout the year, and in July the company made history with an overnight drop of $119 billion in market capitalization – the single largest drop in U.S. history. Today’s chart, which was done with Cambridge House for their upcoming Extraordinary Future 2018 tech conference, shows Facebook’s volatile year in perspective. Here is a recap of some of the more major events that prompted volatility so far in 2018:

Zuckerberg Sells Shares

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg drew attention in September 2017 when he announced plans to systematically sell off up
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Walmart Nation
The Warren Buffett Empire in One Giant Chart
all the world's debt
Currency and the Collapse of the Roman Empire
Buying Power of the U.S. Dollar Over the Last Century
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Hate speech, collusion, and the constitution

Half an hour into their two-hour testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were asked about collaboration between social media companies. “Our collaboration has greatly increased,” Sandberg stated before turning to Dorsey and adding that Facebook has “always shared information with other companies.” Dorsey nodded in response, and noted for his part that he’s very open to establishing “a regular cadence with our industry peers.” Social media companies have established extensive policies on what constitutes “hate speech” on their platforms. But discrepancies between these policies open the possibility for propagators of hate to game the platforms and still get their vitriol out to a large audience. Collaboration of the kind Sandberg and Dorsey discussed can lead to a more consistent approach to hate speech that will prevent the gaming of platforms’ policies. But collaboration between competitors as dominant
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