Hoping to get people back to being civil to one another, Twitter is hoping its users can help as the problem is much bigger than the social media giant expected. Who knew people could get so nasty of social media?
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is asking for help improving the openness and civility of conversation on Twitter, saying the company failed to prevent misinformation, echo chambers and abuse of its global messaging service.
In a series of tweets, Dorsey said Twitter was committing “to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation” and needs to re-engineer the service to encourage more healthy debate. The company is now soliciting proposals for measuring the healthiness of conversation on the service in order to improve it.
“We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough,” he tweeted, adding that the request for proposals due in mid-April would eventually create metrics against which it could be held accountable. “We simply can’t and don’t want to do this alone.”
Dorsey isn’t alone with his social-media mea culpa. In January, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced he would devote 2018 to fixing similar problems at Facebook; the company has since re-oriented its news feed to encourage “meaningful” interactions with family and friends over passive scrolling through posts and videos.
In a related development, YouTube said its effort to crack down on misinformation with more human moderators hit some snags, acknowledging mistakes in deleting some channels in the wake of the Florida school shooting.
YouTube’s reversal of several enforcement actions against video creators are a sign of growing pains at the video service, which aims to hire several thousand moderators this year to deal with fake news, conspiracy theories and offensive videos. It aims to have 10,000 people checking videos for compliance with YouTube’s standards by the end of the year.
Last week, several channels said YouTube shut them down after their coverage of the shootings, including Defango, Charles Walton, Bombard’s Body Language and others. Infowars, the conspiracy website run by Alex Jones, said it received a second strike from YouTube, which would have frozen new uploads, only to have it reversed hours later. Several channels were subsequently reinstated.
YouTube said Thursday that as it adds moderators, newer hires may “misapply some of our policies resulting in mistaken removals.”
Mandy O’Brien, who runs Bombard’s Body Language, said in an email she had three strikes issued against her channel in the last week accusing her of bullying and harassment, including for a video in which she scrutinized the expressions of Florida shooting survivors in TV interviews. Her channel was deleted, she said, but reinstated as of Wednesday after she appealed.
Instagram users fed up with the service becoming more and more like Facebook are flocking to a hot new app called Vero.
Though Vero has been around since 2015, it surged to popularity in recent days, thanks in part to sudden, word-of-mouth interest from online groups and a frustration with the flood of ads, lack of privacy options and the recent end to the chronological ordering of posts in Instagram.
But hot new apps pop up and fizzle by the dozen, so it’s hard to tell if the latest fad is here to stay. There’s already rumbling frustration among users, who complain that the app is buggy and slow and who question its founder’s past.
Does Vero have what it takes to stick around? Here’s what you need to know about Vero and what makes it different from Facebook, Instagram and so on.
What is Vero?
Vero is a new social media app boasting an ad-free and “more authentic” user experience. The app takes its name form the Italian word for “truth.”
The image- and video-focused app is similar to Instagram, drawing the attention of photographers, videographers and social media influencers popular there. It’s also drawing fans because posts are displayed in chronological order, instead of being sorted by an algorithm like the one Instagram recently adopted.
Vero officially launched in 2015, according to Slate. But the app is gaining popularity over the past couple of weeks thanks to word of mouth among hardcore social media users. It’s now the second most popular app in Apple’s App Store and sits at the top of Google Play’s free apps chart.
Does Vero cost money?
Vero previously said that its first million users will get free access to the app, then it would introduce a subscription fee. But after the app recently passed the million-user mark, Vero announced it would extend its “free for life” offer due to “service interruptions” until further notice. (Vero has had some technical trouble over the past several days, likely due to the sudden surge in interest.)
Vero has not yet said how much any future subscription plan might cost. But the company says that information will be available soon.
Vero’s subscription-based business model is meant to allow the app to remain ad-free, according to Vero. In its manifesto, Vero argues that its customers are users rather than advertisers. By contrast, most social media companies like Facebook and Instagram make money via advertising.
Who is the Vero CEO?
Vero’s CEO is Ayman Hariri, also a co-founder of the company. Hariri is a billionaire and the son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. According to a Vero spokesperson, Ayman Hariri was living in the United Sates at the time of the incident and afterwards went back to Saudi Arabia to support his family.
Ayman Hariri previously served as deputy CEO and deputy chairman of Saudi Oger, a construction company founded by his father. There were reports of Saudi Oger workers going unpaid and left stranded in cramped living quarters with little food money, water, or medical care, per Reuters. The Saudi Arabian government stepped in and the company shut down in 2017 due to “mismanagement,” according to Bloomberg.
A Vero spokesperson said Hariri left Saudi Oger in 2013 “to pursue other initiatives” and since then had no operational, management or board oversight of the company and was not involved in any decision making.
What’s the controversy surround Vero?
Putting aside the CEO’s past, several people have pointed out that some of Vero’s employees appear to be Russian. Given Russia’s attempts to use social media to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, some are questioning whether it’s wise to trust a social media app with potential Russian ties.
“We are fortunate to work with a team of talented individuals from across the world. Like nearly every global technology company, that includes developers based in Russia, plus talent across the US, France, Germany and Eastern Europe,” a spokesperson for Vero told media outlets.
Spotify is pursuing an unusual initial public offering that will sell some of its existing stock instead of issuing more shares to raise money. The strategy will make it easier for Spotify’s existing stockholders to cash out of their investments while creating a potential new financial channel for the company.
Having a publicly traded stock could also draw more attention to Spotify and its music service as it tries to fend off a growing competitive threat from Apple, the world’s most valuable company and one of its best-known brands.
Spotify indicated $1 billion worth of stock will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, although the amount is likely to be much higher, based on information contained in documents released Wednesday. The Luxembourg-based company took its first steps toward an IPO in a confidential filing a few weeks ago.
The numbers revealed Spotify’s music-streaming service boasts 71 million subscribers, nearly twice as many as Apple’s rival service.
But Spotify still isn’t profitable. The Luxembourg-based company lost 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion, based on the latest currency exchange rates) on revenue of 4.1 euros last year. By comparison, Apple earned $46 billion on revenue of $216 billion in its last fiscal years, thanks to the success of iPhones, iPads and other products that finance its music subscription service.
Although it has been outgunned financially, Spotify has been able to stay a step ahead since Apple launched its music-streaming service in 2015. Since then Apple has attracted 36 million music-streaming subscribers, according to CEO Tim Cook.
But Spotify has added 43 million subscribers since Apple Music’s debut. That suggests the main impact of Apple’s entry into the market may have been to normalize the idea of paying monthly fees for online music. Amazon and Google also offer music-streaming services.
It’s an idea that Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has been working on since he co-founded the company in 2006 in a mission combining his passions for music and technology.
“Over time, I realized that by combining my two passions, I could create a new paradigm,” Ek wrote in a letter included with the IPO filing. The letter outlined his ambition to “improve the world, one song at a time.”
Although music streaming is becoming increasingly popular, Spotify and similar services such as Pandora’s internet radio station have struggled to make money because of the royalties and other fees that they have to pay recording labels, songwriters, and performers. That’s the main reason Spotify has accumulated losses totaling 2.4 billion euros.
Spotify also offers a free service that people can listen to if they are willing to tolerate ads in between the tunes. Overall, Spotify says 159 million people worldwide listen to its music services each month.