Snapchat will shut down Snapcash, forfeiting to Venmo

Snapcash ended up as a way to pay adult performers for private content over Snapchat, not just a way to split bills with friends. But Snapchat will abandon the peer-to-peer payment space on August 30th. Code buried in Snapchat’s Android app includes a “Snapcash deprecation message” that displays “Snapcash will no longer be available after %s [date]”. Shutting down the feature will bring an end to Snapchat’s four-year partnership with Square to power the feature for sending people money. Snapcash may have become more of a liability than a utility. With apps like Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, and Square Cash itself, there were plenty of other ways to pay back friends for drinks or Ubers, so Snapcash may have seen low legitimate usage. Meanwhile, a quick Twitter search for “Snapcash” surfaced plenty of offers of erotic content in exchange for payments through the feature. It may have been safer for Snapchat
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With its goofy video loops, YC backed Splish wants to be the ‘anti-Instagram’

Is there any space on kids’ homescreens for another social sharing app to poke in? Y Combinator backed Splish wants to have a splash at it (😊) — with a super-short-form video and photo sharing app aimed at the under-25s. The SF-based startup began bootstrapping out of their college dorm rooms last July, playing around with app ideas before settling on goofy video loops to be their social sharing steed of choice. The Splish app pops content into video loops of between 1-5 seconds. Photos can be uploaded too but motion must be added in the form of an animated effect of your choice. So basically nothing on Splish stays still. (Hence its watery name.) But while wobbly, content on Splish is intended to stick around — rather than ephemerally pass away (a la snaps). Here are a few examples of Splishes (embedded below as GIFs… but you can
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Facebook suspends analytics firm Crimson Hexagon over data use concerns

As part of its ongoing mission to close the barn doors after the cows have got out, Facebook has suspended the accounts of British data analytics firm Crimson Hexagon over concerns that it may be improperly handling user data. The ominously named company has for years used official APIs to siphon public posts from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sources online, collating and analyzing for various purposes, such as to gauge public opinion on a political candidate or issue. It has clients around the world, serving Russia and Turkey as well as the U.S. and United Kingdom. Facebook, it seems, was not fully aware of the extent of Crimson Hexagon’s use of user data, however, including in several government contracts which it didn’t have the opportunity to evaluate before they took effect. The possibility that the company is not complying with its data use rules, specifically that they may
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Facebook, Google and more unite to let you transfer data between apps

The Data Transfer Project is a new team-up between tech giants to let you move your content, contacts, and more across apps. Founded by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft, the DTP today revealed its plans for an open source data portability platform any online service can join. While many companies already let you download your information, that’s not very helpful if you can’t easily upload and use it elsewhere — whether you want to evacuate a social network you hate, back up your data somewhere different, or bring your digital identity along when you try a new app. The DTP’s tool isn’t ready for use yet, but the group today laid out a white paper for how it will work. Creating an industry standard for data portability could force companies to compete on utility instead of being protected by data lock-in that traps users because it’s tough to switch services.
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Instagram adds a status indicator dot so people know when you’re ignoring them

In a blog post today, Instagram announced a new feature: a green status dot that indicates when a user is active on the app. If you’re cruising around Instagram, you can expect to see a green dot next to the profile pics of friends who are also Instagramming right then and there. The dot will show up in the direct messaging part of the app but also on your friends list when you go to share a post with someone. Instagram clarifies that “You will only see status for friends who follow you or people who you have talked to in Direct” so it’s meant to get you talking more to the people you’re already talking to. You can disable the status info in the “Activity Status” bit of the app’s settings menu, where it’s set to on by default. Prior to the advent of the green dot, Instagram
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Here’s what Facebook employees were saying about Holocaust denial … in 2009

Mark Zuckerberg has been in hot water this week thanks to comments he made during an interview with Kara Swisher about the kinds of content that should and shouldn’t be removed from the platform. Zuckerberg brought up Holocaust deniers as an example, saying he found them “deeply offensive,” then added, “But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.” (In a follow-up email, Zuckerberg repeated that he found Holocaust denial to be “deeply offensive” and said, “I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”) In light of the ensuing controversy, it seems worth bringing up some old posts by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington — from all the way back in 2009, when Arrington highlighted an effort by Brian Cuban to get Holocaust denial
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Facebook and Instagram change to crack down on underage children

Facebook and Instagram will more proactively lock the accounts of users its moderators suspect are below the age of 13. Its former policy was to only investigate accounts if they were reported specifically for being potentially underage. But Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that an ‘operational’ change to its policy for reviewers made this week will see them lock the accounts of any underage user they come across, even if they were reported for something else, such as objectionable content, or are otherwise discovered by reviewers. Facebook will require the users to provide proof that they’re over 13 such a government issued photo ID to regain access. The problem stems from Facebook not requiring any proof of age upon signup.

Facebook Messenger Kids is purposefully aimed at users under age 13

A tougher stance here could reduce Facebook and Instagram’s user counts and advertising revenue. The apps’ formerly more hands-off approach
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Reddit expands chat rooms to more subreddits

If you’d rather spend time chatting with strangers who share a hyper-specific interest rather than keeping up with your coworkers’ stale memes on Slack, Reddit is ready for you. The platform has quietly been working on a chat room feature for months now and today it expands beyond its early days as a very limited closed beta. Plenty of subreddits already make use of a chat room feature, but these live outside of Reddit, usually on Slack or Discord. Given that, it makes sense for Reddit to lure those users back into the engaging on Reddit itself by offering its own chat feature. I spent a little time hanging out in the /r/bjj (brazilian jiu jitsu) chat as well as the a psychedelics chat affiliated with r/weed to see how things went across the spectrum and it was pretty chill — mostly people asking for general advice or seeking answers
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Undercover report shows the Facebook moderation sausage being made

An undercover reporter with the UK’s Channel 4 visited a content moderation outsourcing firm in Dublin and came away rather discouraged at what they saw: queues of flagged content waiting, videos of kids fighting staying online, orders from above not to take action on underage users. It sounds bad, but the truth is there are pretty good reasons for most of it and in the end the report comes off as rather naive. Not that it’s a bad thing for journalists to keep big companies (and their small contractors) honest, but the situations called out by Channel 4’s reporter seem to reflect a misunderstanding of the moderation process rather than problems with the process itself. I’m not a big Facebook fan, but in the matter of moderation I think they are sincere, if hugely unprepared. The bullet points raised by the report are all addressed in a letter from
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Twitter is holding off on fixing verification policy to focus on election integrity

Twitter is pausing its work on overhauling its verification process, which provides a blue checkmark to public figures, in favor of election integrity, Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour tweeted today. That’s because, as we enter another election season, “updating our verification program isn’t a top priority for us right now (election integrity is),” he wrote on Twitter this afternoon. Last November, Twitter paused its account verifications as it tried to figure out a way to address confusion around what it means to be verified. That decision came shortly after people criticized Twitter for having verified the account of Jason Keller, the person who organized the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Fast forward to today, and Twitter still verifies accounts “ad hoc when we think it serves the public conversation & is in line with our policy,” Beykpour wrote. “But this has led to frustration b/c our process remains
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Instagram is building non-SMS 2-factor auth to thwart SIM hackers

Hackers can steal your phone number by reassigning it to a different SIM card, use it to reset your passwords, steal your Instagram and other accounts, and sell them for Bitcoin. As detailed in a harrowing Motherboard article today, Instagram accounts are especially vulnerable because the app only offers two-factor authentication through SMS that delivers a password reset or login code via text message. But now Instagram has confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s building non-SMS two-factor authentication system that works with security apps like Google Authenticator or Duo. They generate a special code that you need to login that can’t be generated on a different phone in case your number is ported to a hacker’s SIM card. Buried in the Instagram Android app’s APK code is a prototype of the upgraded 2FA feature, discovered by frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong. Her work has led to confirmed TechCrunch scoops on
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Dems and GOP unite, slamming Facebook for allowing violent Pages

In a rare moment of agreement, members of the House Judiciary Committee from both major political parties agreed that Facebook needed to take down Pages that bullied shooting survivors or called for more violence. The hearing regarding social media filtering practices saw policy staffers from Facebook, Google, and Twitter answering questions, though Facebook absorbed the brunt of the ire. The hearing included Republican Representative Steve King ask “What about converting the large behemoth organizations that we’re talking about here into public utilities?” The meatiest part of the hearing centered on whether social media platforms should delete accounts of conspiracy theorists and those inciting violence, rather than just removing the offending posts. The issue has been a huge pain point for Facebook this week after giving vague answers for why it hasn’t deleted known faker Alex Jones’ Infowars Page, and tweeting that “We see Pages on both the left
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Tinder tests Bitmoji integration using the recently launched Snap Kit

Tinder will begin testing Bitmoji in its app in Canada and Mexico, the company announced today. The new integration comes courtesy of the recently launched Snap Kit, which allows third-party apps to take advantage of Snap’s login for sign-up and features, like its Snap Map and Bitmoji, among other things. In Tinder, users in the test regions will be able to send the Bitmoji to their matches within their chat conversations. Tinder was one of Snap’s debut partners for Snap Kit, along with Patreon and Postmates. However, it hadn’t yet launched the integrations until today. “With our Bitmoji integration, we’re giving users a playful new way to engage with matches. This is just one way we work with partners to add features that encourage users to experiment with more personalized ways of chatting; in this case, it’s the freedom to get creative with avatars,” said Tinder Chief Product Officer Brian
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It’s official: Brexit campaign broke the law — with social media’s help

The UK’s Electoral Commission has published the results of a near nine-month-long investigation into Brexit referendum spending and has found that the official Vote Leave campaign broke the law by breaching election campaign spending limits. Vote Leave broke the law including by channeling money to a Canadian data firm, AggregateIQ, to use for targeting political advertising on Facebook’s platform, via undeclared joint working with another Brexit campaign, BeLeave, it found. Aggregate IQ remains the subject of a separate joint investigation by privacy watchdogs in Canada and British Columbia. The Electoral Commission’s investigation found evidence that BeLeave spent more than £675,000 with AggregateIQ under a common arrangement with Vote Leave. Yet the two campaigns had failed to disclose on their referendum spending returns that they had a common plan. As the designated lead leave campaign, Vote Leave had a £7M spending limit under UK law. But via its joint spending with BeLeave
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Kapwing is Adobe for the meme generation

Need to resize a video for IGTV? Add subtitles for Twitter? Throw in sound effects for YouTube? Or collage it with other clips for the Instagram feed? Kapwing lets you do all that and more for free from a mobile browser or website. This scrappy new startup is building the vertical video era’s creative suite full of editing tools for every occasion. Pronounced “Ka-pwing” like the sound of a ricocheted bullet, the company was founded by two former Google Image Search staffers. Now after six months of quiet bootstrapping, it’s announcing a $1.7 million seed round led by Kleiner Perkins. Kapwing hopes to rapidly adapt to shifting memescape and its fragmented media formats, seizing on opportunities like creators needing to turn their long-form landscape videos vertical for Instagram’s recently launched IGTV. The free version slaps a Kapwing.com watermark on all its exports for virality, but users can pay
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Reminder: Other people’s lives are not fodder for your feeds

#PlaneBae You should cringe when you read that hashtag. Because it’s a reminder that people are being socially engineered by technology platforms to objectify and spy on each other for voyeuristic pleasure and profit. The short version of the story attached to the cringeworthy hashtag is this: Earlier this month an individual, called Rosey Blair, spent all the hours of a plane flight using her smartphone and social media feeds to invade the privacy of her seat neighbors — publicly gossiping about the lives of two strangers. Her speculation was set against a backdrop of rearview creepshots, with a few barely there scribbles added to blot out actual facial features. Even as an entire privacy invading narrative was being spun unknowingly around them. #PlanePrivacyInvasion would be a more fitting hashtag. Or #MoralVacuumAt35000ft And yet our youthful surveillance society started with a far loftier idea associated with it: Citizen journalism. Once
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Yes, open office plans are the worst

If you’re endlessly distracted by your co-workers in the gaping open office space you all share, you’re not alone. Compared to traditional office spaces, face-to-face interaction in open office spaces is down 70 percent with resulting slips in productivity, according to Harvard researchers in a new study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B this month. In the study, researchers followed two anonymous Fortune 500 companies during their transitions between a traditional office space to an open plan environment and used a sensor called a “sociometric badge” (think company ID on a lanyard) to record detailed information about the kind of interactions employees had in both spaces. The study collected information in two stages; first for several weeks before the renovation and the second for several weeks after. While the concept behind open office spaces is to drive informal interaction and collaboration among employees, the study found that for
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Instagram Stories now lets its 400M users add soundtracks

The right music can make a boring photo or video epic, so Instagram is equipping users with a way to add popular songs to their Stories. TechCrunch had the scoop on the music feature’s prototype in early May, and now it’s launching to iOS and Android users in 51 countries including the U.S. Thanks to Facebook’s recent deals with record labels, users will be able to choose from thousands of songs from artists including Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa, Calvin Harris, and Guns N’ Roses. The launch could make Instagram Stories more fun to post and watch in a way that copyrights won’t allow on Snapchat, while giving the app a way to compete with tween favorite Musically.

And just a week after revealed its app has 1 billion monthly users, the company also announced today that Instagram Stories has 400 million daily users, up from 300 million in November

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Facebook will allow you to see all the active ads from any Page

Facebook made two announcements about ad transparency today — one around the ads purchased by any Page and another around expanding its recently announced archive of political ads. It seems like ad transparency is a big focus today, as Twitter just launched its own Ads Transparency Center, allowing anyone to see ads bought by any account. In terms of bringing more transparency to Facebook Pages, the company says there will be a new section in Pages allowing users to bring up general information about Pages (like recent name changes and date of creation), and another where anyone can view all the active ads the Page is currently running. As with any ad on Facebook, you’ll be able to flag ads viewed this way if you think they violate Facebook policies, and they will then be reviewed. Speaking to journalists via videoconference, Rob Leathern, a director of product management on
Facebook Pages transparency
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Twitter launches its Ads Transparency Center, where you can see ads bought by any account

Twitter is unveiling the Ads Transparency Center that it announced back in October. This comes as Twitter and other online platforms have faced growing political scrutiny around the role they may have played in spreading misinformation, particularly in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. For example, House Democrats recently released thousands of Russian-funded political Facebook ads, and Facebook will reportedly release its own ad transparency tool this week. (In fact, as this story publishes, I’m at a Facebook press event focused on ad transparency.) Twitter says that with this tool, you should be able to search for any Twitter handle and bring up all the ad campaigns from that account that have run for the past seven days. For political advertisers in the U.S., there will be additional data, including information around billing, ad spend, impressions per tweet and demographic targeting. Everyone should be able to
Twitter political ads
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