Friday Roundup: Week Ending November 18, 2016


By Natalie Munio

Facebook combats fake news, Twitter takes on cyber-bullies, people are traveling the world without living the house thanks to Google Earth, Facebook has more hiccups with measurements (but also makes strides in being more upfront about it), and Snapchat files for one of the largest IPOs in years.

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding Facebook and its allowing unchecked, fake news stories to proliferate across its network and the rest of the internet, which has gone on to also suggest it had a hand in landing President-elect Trump in the White House. Now, in the wake of controversy, Facebook, as well as Google, are each working to put ad-selling policies in place that would completely cut off advertising dollars for websites responsible for publishing false or fictional information. Facebook announced it would ban fake news sites from using its Facebook Audience Network – a network which allows websites to generate revenue by including Facebook ads. The tech company also announced it would no longer place ads from fake news publishers on third party apps or websites because the content is categorized as “illegal, misleading or deceptive.” For Google, the company said it would prohibit websites selling fake news or “misrepresentative content” from using its advertising network, AdSense. The company also announced it plans to “tweak” its search algorithms after a top search result mistakenly called the popular vote win for Donald Trump during election night.

Twitter has now taken substantial steps toward combatting online abuse that can often circulate throughout the platform, something users have long called upon the social app to address. On Tuesday, Twitter announced it would introduce new ways for users to block users and “mute” keywords, phrases and conversations in their notifications. Although not an entirely new feature, mute now allows users to not only mute accounts they don’t want to see in their feeds, but to also mute things that would likely appear in their notifications, such as if they were mentioned in a hateful conversation. The company also hopes to make it easier to report abuse and to better enforce their “hateful conduct policy” by allowing users to directly report misconduct. As result, Twitter will be able to process and respond to complaints faster. The move to tackle online abuse unquestionably falls on the heels of the divisive election, an event which led to a significant uptick in negative commentary proliferating social network platforms.

In the words of Google, “the world has so many beautiful and amazing places to visit. If we’re lucky, we’re able to travel and see a few of them. But even the most active travelers can only see a fraction. What if we could see them all?” No stranger to virtual reality, Google announced this week it would introduce Google Earth VR, allowing users to “fly over a city, stand at the top of the highest peaks, and even soar into space.” By way of the HTC Live, this new VR launch sets Google ahead of the pack to pave new ground for virtual reality-optimized experiences not yet explored, such as sending users soaring over the Grand Canyon, Swiss Alps or the Amazon River. Google Earth VR is now available free for download.

In light of growing frustration from advertisers after Facebook announced more faults with its measurement metrics, the tech company is making strides to become more transparent and upfront. Facebook announced three major updates to the company’s measurement offering on Tuesday, including the launch of a “measurement council,” more third-party verification measures and the introduction of a “Metrics FYI” – a blog that will publicly discuss any other discovered errors or bugs. Some of the most recently announced accidental measurement “exaggerations” involved features like Instant Articles, video and Page Insights, rendering those metrics incorrect. After coming clean with the latest slew of errors, Facebook was quick to reassure clients with the promise to offer more third-party measurement to advertisers. In a statement, Facebook said that with those moves, like the addition of the Measurement Council, the goal moving forward is to “communicate more regularly about our metrics, so that our partners can focus on doing what they do best – serving their customers – with the best insights possible.”

The Snapchat parent company, Snap Inc., quietly and confidentially filed for an initial public offering (IPO), which could place the social messaging app at a value of as much as $25 billion.  The move has quickly been called one of the biggest tech IPO in years, and suggests the most critical shift yet for the company to make room for a significant injection of investment in order to better help it grow and compete with other social giants like Facebook and Google. The app was estimated at about $18 billion in May, however, a successful IPO could more than likely multiply that figure, bettering its chances of positioning itself as a staying competitor in the fight for young audiences with Facebook and Instagram who have taken substantial interest in the visual storytelling front. A primary source of revenue for the app is in selling ads that are positioned between stories contributed by media partners and users. Marketers are also able to buy location or event-based geo-filters to add to photos and videos as another form of revenue.

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