Facebook Pledges Fewer Content Removals, New Criteria as Yet Unclear

Facebook Pledges Fewer Content Removals, New Criteria as Yet UnclearFacebook will allow more content on its platform that it would have earlier removed because it violated its standards, with new criteria being worked out, a senior executive said on Monday, following a row over the removal of an iconic Vietnam War photo.

His comments came on the same day that more than 70 rights groups asked Facebook to clarify its policies for removing content, especially at the behest of governments, alleging the firm had repeatedly censored postings that document human rights violations.

Only a month ago, the company and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg came into conflict after Facebook deleted the photo of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm attack, called “The Terror of War”.

(Also see: Facebook Executives Feel the Heat of Content Controversies)

Solberg posted the photograph on her Facebook page after the company had deleted it from the sites of a Norwegian author and the newspaper Aftenposten, which mounted a front-page campaign urging Facebook to permit publication.
“We have made a number of policy changes after The Terror of War photo. We have improved our escalation process to ensure that controversial stories and images get surfaced more quickly,” said Patrick Walker, Facebook’s director of media partnership for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“(And) in the weeks ahead, we are going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant or important to the public interest, even if they might otherwise violate our standards,” Walker told a meeting of the Association of Norwegian Editors in Oslo, to which he was invited following the row.

Dominant role
Walker’s comments echoed an October 21 blog post by Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s head of global public policy, and Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s head of global operations and media partnerships, in which the executives said the firm would change its guidelines on removing content.

“Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them,” they wrote.
On Monday, Walker told Reuters Facebook was at the beginning of the process of changing its guidelines and could not give further details.

(Also see: Facebook Says Will Learn From Mistake Over Vietnam Photo)

Reuters reported on Friday that an elite group of at least five senior executives, including chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, regularly directs content policy and makes editorial judgment calls, particularly in high-profile controversies.

To the audience of journalists, the Facebook executive said the company had to have global standards of content as it was mindful that content, such as nudity, that was acceptable in one country may not be acceptable in another.

Many were left unconvinced after the debate.

“Facebook is trying to isolate this as a question of rules about nudity, about being careful. But this is not the question I am raising,” Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief of Aftenposten, told Reuters.

“The question is whether they now have such a dominant role in distributing information and news that they are becoming a threat against important democratic processes.”

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Facebook Being Investigated in Germany Over Hate Postings

Facebook Being Investigated in Germany Over Hate PostingsGerman prosecutors are investigating Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives, a spokesman for the Munich prosecutor’s office said on Friday, following a complaint alleging the company broke national laws against hate speech and sedition by failing to remove racist postings.

The spokesman declined to provide further details. German attorney Chan-jo Jun had filed a complaint with prosecutors in the Bavarian city in September and demanded that Facebook executives be compelled to comply with anti-hate speech laws by deleting racist or violent postings from its site.

Facebook’s rules forbid bullying, harassment and threatening language, but critics say it does not do enough to enforce them and has failed to staunch a tide of racist and threatening posts on the social network during an influx of migrants into Europe.

Prosecutors in Hamburg earlier this year rejected a similar complaint by Jun on the grounds that the regional court lacked jurisdiction because Facebook’s European operations are based in Ireland.

“There is a different view in Bavaria,” his firm Jun Lawyers of Wuerzburg in Bavaria said in a statement.
“Upon Jun’s request, Bavarian Justice Minister Winfried Bausback said that Hamburg’s view was wrong and German law does indeed apply to some of the offences,” it said.

Jun’s complaint named Facebook founder and chief executive Zuckerberg and nine other managers at the company, including Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.
Facebook said it had not violated German law and was working on fighting hate speech online.

“We are not commenting on the status of a possible investigation but we can say that the allegations lack merit and there has been no violation of German law by Facebook or its employees,” a company spokesman said.

Jun has compiled a list of 438 postings that were flagged as inappropriate but not deleted over the past year. They include what some might consider merely angry political rants but also clear examples of racist hate speech and calls to violence laced with references to Nazi-era genocide.

Following a public outcry and pressure from German politicians, Facebook this year hired Arvato, a business services unit of Bertelsmann , to monitor and delete racist posts.

A rash of online abuse and violent attacks against newcomers to Germany accompanied the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants last year, which led to a rise in the popularity of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and has put pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Can Twitter Become the Next Big Customer Service Channel?

Can Twitter Become the Next Big Customer Service Channel?Twitter Inc is seeking revenue outside traditional advertising sales by helping companies develop customer service channels on its platform, according to its most senior executive in Latin America, a testing ground for the new strategy.

Guilherme Ribenboim said in an interview on Friday that features launched this week give businesses more ways to automate customer service through direct Twitter messages to clients, moving beyond simply responding to complaints or paying to promote posts.

Twitter is now offering consulting and other services for other corporate partners in Brazil – the largest economy in Latin America – to make the most of new features.

“As one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, we have the critical mass of both users and resources to invest in those consulting services,” said Ribenboim. “We are testing out this model, adding it to the mix as we launch our planning for 2017.”

Brazilian airline Gol Linhas Aereas SA has already developed an option for passengers to check-in for flights using a direct Twitter message, Ribenboim said.

San Francisco-based Twitter last week said it would cut 9 percent of its workforce and discontinue video app Vine as it aims to turn a profit in 2017.

The tailor-made approach to marketing is one way Twitter is trying to boost revenue despite a slowdown in user growth this year, with less than a fifth as many active monthly users as rival Facebook.

Ribenboim said the new tools for customer service, along with recent partnerships with live TV events and the acquisition of creative network Niche last year, were meant to differentiate Twitter in the increasingly competitive digital ad market.

Advertising sales made up 88 percent of Twitter’s revenue in the third quarter, down from 90 percent a year earlier.

Twitter, which has seen user growth stall amid competition from nimbler rivals such as Instagram and Snapchat, said its user base ticked up 3 percent to 317 million average monthly active users in the third quarter.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Twitter India Head Rishi Jaitly Leaving Company After 4 Years

Twitter India Head Rishi Jaitly Leaving Company After 4 YearsTwitter has been going through some tumultuous changes in recent times, and now in Twitter India head Rishi Jaitly announced – via a series of tweets, naturally – that he is leaving the company. Jaitly had joined Twitter in November 2012 as the India Market Director for the company. This was expanded to India and Southeast Asia in 2014, and for the last one year, he has been the Vice President, Media, Asia Pacific & Middle East North Africa, Twitter. Jaitly had earlier worked at Google as head of public-private partnerships from 2007-2009. At the time, he would have worked with Shailesh Rao, who was then the Managing Director, India, at Google. Rao joined Twitter in February 2012, as Vice President, International Operations; he also quit the company in July this year, announcing that it was time for new plans.

Now, Jaitly has followed suit, similarly stating that it is time to move on to new opportunities, with the same mission. In his tweets, Jaitly says: “My mission remains the same: harness tech/ media’s scale to connect users/ citizens to their voice/ agency/ leadership in places they care about. I myself care deeply about the United States, India, emerging markets and intend to devote myself to building bridges in service of my mission.”

For now though, Jaitly will be leaving for Chicago, owing to a “personal/ civic calling”, though he reiterated that he will spend a lot of time in India/ Asia.

These changes are taking place against a backdrop of troubles for Twitter. The company has had to face layoffs as revenue growth has slowed – the company had to let go of hundreds of people, amounting to nearly a tenth of its workforce. Attempts at a buyout haven’t gone well either, reportedly because of the abuse problem on Twitter. The company also shut down the Vine video service.

It’s trying to improve at least some things with changes to its interface – for example by removing usernames from tweet replies to allow you to have more content in your tweet without changing the character limit. However, the implementation has drawn a lot of criticism from people who’ve gotten to try it out. Whether the company can pull out of this tailspin remains to be seen, but losing senior leadership probably can’t help.

Instagram Wants to Be Your One-Stop Shopping Destination

Instagram Wants to Be Your One-Stop Shopping Destination

For a week in May, some of Instagram’s designers, engineers and product managers met not at the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters but at a rented house, stocked with grocery store snacks.

There, away from computers and armed with pencil and paper, they explored a question important for the photo-sharing app’s future: how do we get our users to shop?

In particular, they wanted to figure out how to introduce shopping tools without making them so obvious that they would transform the app into a splashy catalog. Together they came up with 150 ideas.

After an extensive process of elimination, the team settled on the design being unveiled this week: letting brands tag products in their photos, the way users tag their friends.

Tap on the tagging descriptions to get more information, tap again to buy on the retailer’s site. It’s the first test from Facebook’s Instagram to kick off a broader strategy for helping people pick out and buy things, according to James Quarles, Instagram’s vice president of monetization.

The team will gather data from users’ behavior to figure out what to do next. Maybe they’ll add a way to comparison shop, a way to search for products elsewhere on the app or even a Pinterest-like feature to save posts that inspire, he said.”We are so well-positioned in this space,” Quarles said. “Instagram is super visual, we have a well-defined graph of your interests based on what you’re following, and the serendipity of discovery happens every day through the ad products and who you follow.”

People have long been shopping on Instagram without a formal way to buy things. A crop of influencers on the photo app push fashions into popularity. Company researchers have noticed that users take screenshots of products they love, or direct-message them to themselves. But, like the design team’s caution suggests, making shopping an actual app feature is a risky proposition.

The main problem: shopping hasn’t worked well in social media. Facebook’s history is peppered with discontinued e-commerce products, like birthday gifts for friends and “Facebook credits,” which was a virtual currency for social games. The company recently introduced a Marketplace product that allows people to buy and sell to each other, but its launch was quickly marred when users started posting ads for drugs, sex and exotic animals.

Twitter tested a “buy button” for more than a year, but the project faded and the head of e-commerce departed. Pinterest made a bigger investment in shopping, allowing direct buying on its site from thousands of retailers, but it’s still unclear how popular the tool is with consumers.

Quarles said Instagram aims to learn from all these experiences-especially from its parent company, Facebook, which has shared its notes. Instagram already lets retailers promote products in ads, but the shopping update would apply to regular posts, making it a more natural experience for users. The app’s e-commerce ambitions are large-including international expansion and a video version of the product-but they’re starting small. It’s testing its new feature with just 20 brands, including Kate Spade and Warby Parker, and not taking any cut of the proceeds.

For J. Crew, which is one of the test brands, Instagram’s product fills a gap in mobile shopping. For one, it’s image-based, which makes it much more amenable to inspiring people to buy products than Facebook, according to Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s president and creative director. It has the opportunity to take a customer from the point they’re interested in a product to actually making a purchase. It’s happening in the real world already, she said.

“It’s been a little frustrating to us in the past to not be able to have people purchase on Instagram,” Lyons said. “Not only has it become a place for people to get influenced by their friends, but they’re walking into our stores with their phones and saying, ‘do you have this?'”

She is hoping the test will show that Instagram’s method is subtle enough to not turn people away, but powerful enough to drive people to J. Crew’s site.”I really hope it works,” Lyons said.

© 2016 Bloomberg L.P.

Twitter Brings Quick Replies to Direct Messages to Speed Up Customer Service

Twitter Brings Quick Replies to Direct Messages to Speed Up Customer Service

Micro-blogging website Twitter has rolled out quick replies and welcome messages in Direct Messages to speed up customer service and to enhance conversational experiences between businesses and people online.

These features are designed to help businesses create rich, responsive, full-service experiences that directly advance the work of customer service teams and open up new possibilities for how people engage with businesses on Twitter.

“Welcome messages let businesses greet people and set expectations as they enter a Direct Message conversation without requiring people to send the first message,” said Ian Cairns, Customer Service Product Manager, Twitter, in a blog post.

Businesses can create multiple welcome messages and deep link directly to a specific greeting from Tweets, websites, or apps.

Quick replies let businesses prompt people with the best ways to reply to a Direct Message, whether by choosing from a list of options or guiding users to enter specific text values.”When quick replies and welcome messages are used together, businesses can reduce wait times and educate people on the best ways to interact with them,” Cairns added.

People with the latest version of Twitter app can see these features in Direct Message conversations with accounts like @EvernoteHelps, @PizzaHut, @AirbnbHelp, @SpotifyCares, @NortonSupport, @Tesco, @TfLTravelAlerts, @WeatherNetwork, and @AirTailor

LinkedIn Partners Indian Government to Create More Jobs for Students

LinkedIn Partners Indian Government to Create More Jobs for Students

Leading global professional network LinkedIn today said it has signed an agreement with the human resource development ministry to create more job opportunities for Indian students.

As part of the MoU, LinkedIn’s ‘Placements’ product will be adopted by all Indian colleges affiliated with All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the company said in a release issued here.

‘Placements’ provides a level-playing field for all students, regardless of their location or college and allows them to take an online assessment test, which gives them direct access to thousands of openings in 35 top corporates in India, it added.

“We’re excited to work with the HRD ministry and AICTE to help students get greater access to the ‘Placements’ product. Our objective with ‘Placements’ is to help the country’s best talent get access to job opportunities, regardless of their location. We hope to bring students closer to their dream jobs through this platform,” LinkedIn India Country Manager and Head of Product Akshay Kothari said.

‘Placements’ was piloted in November 2015 and then LinkedIn opened the product in September 2016 to students at all colleges and universities in India.In less than eight weeks from the launch, over two lakh students registered for the product and there were over 1.2 million job applications.

LinkedIn Salary Tool Lets You Compare Pay With Others in Your Field

LinkedIn Salary Tool Lets You Compare Pay With Others in Your Field

Money isn’t everything, but it counts for a lot at work. That’s why work-related websites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor are adding new online tools to help professionals understand their salary potential.

LinkedIn, which calls itself the social network for professionals, is adding a service that provides members with pay information for a variety of jobs, including a break-down by such factors as location, industry, education and experience. It’s based on anonymized data submitted by LinkedIn members, including details about base pay and other compensation, such as bonuses and stock grants.

The new service comes two weeks after Glassdoor, a competing online job site, introduced a feature that promises to help workers determine their “personal market value” by comparing their current job title, salary and related information with data from other workers and current hiring trends.

Glassdoor’s site already showed information about median salaries and perks, along with employees’ reviews of what it’s like to work at various companies. It says the new feature can be useful for job-seekers as well as workers who might want to negotiate a raise from their current employer.Both new services are free and promise to go beyond more generic salary tools – offered by job sites like Indeed, PayScale.com and Salary.com – by combining sophisticated computer analysis with the most up-to-date information gleaned from workers, labor reports and other sources.

While LinkedIn officially announced its service Wednesday, spokesman Dan Shapero said the company has been quietly inviting some members to contribute their compensation data in recent months. The “LinkedIn Salary” feature is launching with data from 1 million professionals in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. LinkedIn may not have data for every job, Shapero acknowledged, but he predicted the service will improve as more people participate.

LinkedIn Inc., based in Mountain View, California, may add more kinds of information in the future, he added, such as suggestions about particular skills that can boost salaries in a particular occupation. LinkedIn recently began offering training suggestions for workers, based on their current jobs or career track, which tie into the online courses offered by its Lynda.com subsidiary.

Both LinkedIn and Mill Valley, California-based Glassdoor, Inc. promise to keep individual users’ pay data confidential. But spokesmen wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the companies making money in the future by aggregating the information – in a way that keeps individuals anonymous – and selling it to employers who might find it useful to calculate pay scales or salary offers.

While both companies promote their website as a useful service for workers, they make money by selling job listings and hiring tools to employers and recruiters. So each company wants to offer helpful features that keep workers coming back to their sites.

LinkedIn recently agreed to be acquired for $26 billion by Microsoft, which wants to augment its own commercial software – including email and calendars used by workers, as well as management and corporate sales programs used by employers – by incorporating LinkedIn’s extensive database of professionals and their resumes.

LinkedIn India Head’s Fastest Partnership Was With the Modi Government

LinkedIn India Head's Fastest Partnership Was With the Modi Government

LinkedIn India on Wednesday announced that it has partnered with the Indian government to bring its new product, Placements, to all colleges affiliated with AICTE. Students who register on Placements will be one step closer to securing a job in one of India’s 35 big corporates, as the tool is claimed to create a level playing field for them, irrespective of colleges.

Calling the Placements launch figures “staggering,” LinkedIn India head Akshay Kothari revealed that over 200,000 students have signed up for the product within eight weeks. He also said that the platform has received more than 1.2 million applications for the jobs on offer.

But more interesting than these figures is the tale behind how Kothari and his team secured the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Narendra Modi government to bring Placements to all AICTE-affiliated colleges.

In a post on LinkedIn’s publishing platform Pulse, Kothari writes how his opinion on working with the government changed after his dealings with the MHRD in the Modi government, and gives tips on how to proceed if you are planning to liaise with the government for a project.Here are excerpts from Kothari’s post:

Up until a few months ago, I had never met anyone from the Indian government. Not a minister, not a secretary, not even an employee. I felt the government was out of reach – you needed to know someone who knows someone in the government to even have a meeting. And because I didn’t know anyone, I always dismissed the government as “too bureaucratic.” Many people probably still think so, but I’m going to tell you a story about the current government that will likely change this thinking.

About 3 months ago, I wanted to connect with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to talk about the work LinkedIn was doing in India. We took a chance and requested a meeting with the Honorable Minister. To my surprise, Shri Prakash Javadekar agreed to meet first thing the next morning. I got on a flight to Delhi and was at his residence at 9AM.

Initially he seemed quite immersed in his own thoughts. He looked up and said “Acha, tell me.” I went ahead and gave him a 2-minute introduction to LinkedIn, something I had rehearsed a few times in my head. He nodded, listening intently, all while juggling a phone call and staffers bringing him more folders. After I finished, he said, “That sounds great. How can I help?” Taken aback by the welcoming nature of his question, I went ahead and talked about all the incredible data LinkedIn has and how it can help transform education and employment in India. I also showcased some of this data by sharing with him a printout of LinkedIn City Insights, which provided a snapshot of professionals in Bengaluru. He nodded, taking in everything. Then, on the back of the printout, he wrote my name in pencil and took down my phone number.

He wished me well and told me that he looks forward to working together. Now, all of this happened in such a compressed time frame that I really didn’t know what to tell him and how to chart our “working together.” I thanked him for his time and took off. As I was leaving his residence, I couldn’t help but feel slightly dejected.

I realized this might have been the shortest meeting I have ever been part of. And because it was so short, I didn’t think anything would come out of it.

A few weeks later, I received a phone call from a Delhi landline number. The caller said that he was speaking from MHRD and that the Additional Secretary R. Subrahmanyam would like to meet with LinkedIn. Elated, I committed to reaching out and meeting with him on my next visit to Delhi.

This time, I prepared better. I took my colleague and our newest hire, Sehraj Singh, with me. He helped make our story a lot crisper, and our potential collaboration areas, a lot clearer. We also prepared to showcase our new Placements platform, and how this could be a potential game changer for all colleges in India.

When we sat down for the meeting with Shri Subrahmanyam, I noticed the printout which I had handed to Minister, on his table. The phone number in pencil was still on it. He looked up to me and said “The Minister told me about your meeting. He mentioned that we can do something together to improve employability for college students. Can you please share details?”

We went straight into our demo, showing him how Placements worked. In a matter of seconds, he sensed the potential of the platform, and even started quizzing us on product improvements and enhancements that could increase scale and have an even greater impact. He showed a keen interest in learning about our testing partners and soon after said, “This makes sense. Let’s work with All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and put together a MoU that pushes this product to Indian colleges.”

In less than 10 minutes, he completely understood the product, realized how it could benefit Indian colleges and already charted the path forward.

Few days later, our CEO Jeff Weinercame to India to launch several products that were made in India, including Placements. We got an opportunity to discuss and share these products with Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. Subsequently, we also met with MHRD and AICTE to finalize the details of the MoU. Teams on both sides moved incredibly fast, and the agreement to push Placements to every AICTE affiliated college in India was recently signed.

Kothari’s advice to those who aim to work with the government in the future is:

Align to the government’s priorities
The products we launched in September are closely aligned to StartUp India, Digital India and Skills India. This helped us have a meaningful conversation with the government officials.

Make your asks clear and succinct
It is far easier to chart the course of your partnership with the government if you let them know which part you need action on and exactly how they can help. In our case, we wanted all AICTE affiliated colleges and their students to have access to the Placements product. Signing the MoU was the next step!

Invest in public policy
You need a person that understands how to work with the government, and aligns with some of the key initiatives you are driving for your company. Investing in a public policy professional helped us get meaningful meetings, which drove tangible results.

You can read Kothari’s complete post here.

Twitter South East Asia and India MD Parminder Singh the Latest to Leave the Company

Twitter South East Asia and India MD Parminder Singh the Latest to Leave the CompanyTwitter continues to haemorrhage senior leadership in the region, with yet another high profile executive announcing his decision to move on from the company in a series of tweets. After India head Rishi Jaitly on Monday, now we have Parminder Singh, Managing Director Twitter for India, South East Asia, Middle East, and North Africa (INSEA/ MENA). He worked at Twitter for three years before announcing his exit.

Singh, whose previous workplaces have included IBM, and Apple, also worked as the Business Head for Google India from 2007-2010, his tenure overlapping with Jaitly, who was head of Public-Private Partnerships at Google at the time, and also Shailesh Rao, former Twitter Vice President, International Operations – who was the Managing Director at Google India at the time. Like Jaitly and Singh, Rao also left Twitter recently, announcing his departure in July this year.

Revealing his exit via Twitter, Singh laid out how Twitter is reorganising its structure and disaggregating its INSEA/ MENA activities. Going forward, he tweeted, the INSEA region will be aligned with APAC (Asia Pacific), while MENA will be aligned with EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa). The former will be headed by Maya Hari, Managing Director South East Asia and India; the latter by Benjamin Ampen.

Singh will continue to be at Twitter for the next month, to help the transition, a process which he tweeted had already begun.

These high profile exits come at a time when the future of Twitter is looking increasingly uncertain. Twitter has been facing layoffs, been turned down for a buyout, and had to shut down its Vine video platform.