Twitter Now Lets You Mute Notifications From Accounts You Don’t Follow

Twitter, in its latest step to curb abusive behaviour on its platform, rolled out new features on Monday to help users disable notifications from accounts that they want to avoid.

The micro-blogging website said its “advanced filter settings” will now have options for users to mute notifications from accounts that they do not follow as well as from accounts that do not follow them.

Users can also filter lower-quality content from notifications such as content that appears to be automated and mute notifications related to certain words and phrases.

Twitter had said in March that it would introduce new filtering options for notifications to allow users to limit what they see from certain types of accounts, such as those that do not have a profile photo.

Twitter Now Lets You Mute Notifications From Accounts You Don't FollowTwitter and rival Facebook have been facing a barrage of criticism for failing to tackle cyber-bullying, fake news and extremist propaganda on their platforms.

Last week, a US judge ruled that Twitter could move forward with a lawsuit that aims to free technology companies to speak more openly about surveillance requests they receive from the US government.

The US government had failed to show the kind of “clear and present danger” that could possibly justify restraints Twitter’s constitutional right to talk about surveillance requests, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, said in a written order.

“The government’s restrictions on Twitter’s speech are content-based prior restraints subject to the highest level of scrutiny under the First Amendment,” Rogers wrote.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees certain rights including freedom of speech.

Facebook Messenger Ad Testing Expanded to Global Audiences

Facebook on Tuesday said that advertisements will begin popping up on Messenger home screens globally after promising tests with users in Australia and Thailand.

“Messenger ads are going global,” the Facebook-owned mobile messaging service said in an online post.

“People will see Messenger ads in the home tab of their Messenger mobile app.”

Facebook enticed businesses to take advantage of a new tool for creating ads for Messenger, which it said is used by more than 1.2 billion people monthly.

The move promised Facebook an even larger bite of the digital advertising revenue pie.

Facebook quarterly profit in the first three months of this year surged as its ranks of monthly users swelled, but the firm warned of rising expenses and slowing revenue growth.

Facebook Messenger Ad Testing Expanded to Global AudiencesFacebook revenue growth was expected to throttle back “significantly” this year as the social network runs out of room to post ads, chief financial officer David Wehner said during an earnings call with analysts.

Meanwhile, expenses are expected to surge 40 percent to 50 percent compared with last year as Facebook invests in data centers, research and more, he said.

The world’s biggest social network and a powerhouse in online advertising, Facebook has been working to diversify its revenue base as it expands into new areas.

But advertising still accounts for the vast majority of revenues, with most of that money made from people connecting to the social network on smartphones or tablets.

Facebook’s family includes the fast-growing social network Instagram and messaging applications WhatsApp and Messenger, and Oculus, which makes virtual reality gear.

Twitter Hires Ned Segal, Former Goldman Sachs Managing Director, as CFO

Twitter Inc on Tuesday hired Ned Segal, senior vice president of finance at Intuit Inc and a former managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc, as its chief financial officer beginning in late August.

Anthony Noto, who has been serving as Twitter’s CFO and chief operating officer since November, will remain at the company as COO, Twitter said in a statement.

The appointment of Segal, 43, comes as investors are demonstrating renewed optimism in Twitter, which still lags rival social network Facebook Inc in terms of size and profitability.

Twitter shares rose 3 percent on Tuesday, before the announcement of Segal’s hiring after the market’s close. The stock is up 32 percent since April 17, when it hit the low of the year at $14.12.

In April, Twitter reported better-than-expected user growth in the first quarter of the year, partly related to heightened user interest in political news and comment.

Twitter Hires Ned Segal, Former Goldman Sachs Managing Director, as CFOBefore joining Intuit, Segal was the CFO of RPX Corp , which helps companies manage patent risk, and earlier spent some 17 years at Goldman, according to a biography provided by Twitter.

From 2009 to 2013, Segal was a Goldman managing director and head of its global software investment banking unit, advising tech companies on mergers, acquisitions and initial public offerings, Twitter said.

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said Segal was an ideal fit because of the range of his experience.

“He brings a principled, engaging and rigorous approach to the CFO role, with a track record of driving profitable growth,” Dorsey said in a statement.

Segal said in a statement he was committed to helping Twitter “continue toward its goal of GAAP profitability.”

Segal is entitled to receive a signing bonus of $300,000 (roughly Rs. 1.9 crores) and his annual salary will be $500,000 (roughly Rs. 3.2 crores), Twitter said in a securities filing. He will also be eligible to receive 1.2 million shares in the company, subject to conditions and vesting, according to the filing.

Twitter is scheduled to report earnings for the second quarter on July 27.

Facebook Spaces Live Streaming Goes Live, Lets You Share VR Video

Facebook has brought live streaming to virtual reality (VR) by enabling people to share live video with each other using Facebook Spaces virtual reality app.

Launched in April, Facebook Spaces is the company’s first VR app built for the company’s Oculus Rift VR headset which is developed and manufactured by Oculus VR, a division of Facebook.

According to a Facebook blog post on Wednesday, people could interact with other Oculus Rift users inside a virtual playground by chatting and drawing 3D animations.

Facebook Spaces Live Streaming Goes Live, Lets You Share VR Video“By going live from Facebook Spaces, you can share a whole new kind of moment with friends and family directly from VR. Whether you’re touring exotic locations across the globe in 360 or riffing on a viral video, the people who matter most to you can now follow along in real time on Facebook,” the blog post said.

Users going live from Facebook Spaces will have a virtual camera that can be positioned anywhere to capture the action while their friends can comment on their broadcast.

Spaces users can also broadcast their VR sessions to those users who don’t have the Oculus Rift.

Facebook has also dropped the price of its Oculus Rift headset to $400 in an attempt to lure more people to use VR.

Facebook Data Shows India Is Now Its Biggest Market, Ahead of the US: Report

India seems to have become Facebook’s biggest market, edging past the US, according a report that cites data Facebook shares with advertisers. As of July 13, India is said to have 241 million monthly active users, just ahead of the 240 million monthly active users in the US. The report notes that the data Facebook shares with advertisers can change on a daily basis.

A report by HootSuite and WeAreSocial notes that Facebook is referring to these statistics as “potential audience” for advertisers, where the audience in India is shown as bigger than the US. The report adds that now India and the US have an 11 percent share each of Facebook’s total global monthly active users, followed by Brazil at 6 percent with 139 million users.

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Photo Credit: HootSuite and WeAreSocial

Other statistics shared by HootSuite and WeAreSocial include growth in monthly active users over the past six months, adding that India has seen a 27 percent growth (roughly 50 million users), while the US has seen 12 percent growth (roughly 26 million). This would suggest growth in India has been twice as fast as the US, which makes sense when one considers people in India are still slowly coming online.

The report cites various other research organisations to claim that of 1.282 billion people in India, there are 462 million Internet users (36 percent penetration), and 241 million active social media users (19 percent penetration). In the US on the other hand, out of its 327 million population, 287 million are Internet users (88 percent penetration), of which 240 million are active social media users (73 percent penetration).

HootSuite and WeAreSocial also note that the growth in the past six months hasn’t really addressed a prevalent gender imbalance on Facebook in India, with just 24 percent of Facebook users from the country declaring themselves as female. The report also claims that the 18 to 24-years age bracket has the most number of Facebook users, at 100 million, followed by 25 to 34-years age bracket.

Australia to Compel Chat Apps to Hand Over Encrypted Messages

Social media giants like Facebook and WhatsApp will be compelled to share encrypted messages of suspected terrorists and other criminals with Australian police under new laws unveiled Friday.

It comes after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned encrypted messages were increasingly being used by terrorists, drug traffickers and paedophile rings, calling for legislation to be modernised to allow police to do their jobs.

“We need to ensure that the internet is not used as a dark place for bad people to hide their criminal activities from the law,” he said, adding that the tech giants must “face up to their responsibility”.

“They can’t just wash their hands of it and say it’s got nothing to do with them.”

Australian authorities can currently obtain information from telecommunications companies, but not internet firms that use data encryption to guarantee user confidentiality.

Encryption essentially involves complex algorithms scrambling data to make it indecipherable until unlocked by its owner or when it reaches its destination.

“Because of this end-to-end encryption, all of that information, all of that data, that communication is effectively dark to the reach of the law,” said Turnbull.

“And that’s not acceptable. We are a society, a democracy, under the rule of law, and the law must prevail online as well as offline.”

The laws will be introduced into parliament by the end of the year.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the legislation would be similar to Britain’s Investigatory Powers Act, which imposes an obligation on companies to cooperate with investigations.

Australia to Compel Chat Apps to Hand Over Encrypted MessagesThey would provide Australian intelligence and law enforcement authorities with coercive powers as a “last resort” if tech companies did not voluntarily help, said Brandis.

“It is vitally important that the development of technology does not leave the law behind,” he said.

However, Silicon Valley tech companies have so far refused to bend to similar legal requests.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd will travel to the United States shortly to discuss the issue with her American counterpart and tech companies, said Turnbull.

The US government last year locked horns in a legal battle with Apple, seeking to compel the iPhone maker to help decrypt a device used by one of the attackers in the San Bernardino shooting rampage.

Authorities eventually dropped the case after finding a way to break into the iPhone without Apple’s help.

Turnbull admitted it may be difficult to enforce the laws if firms do not comply, but said it was important to “recognise the challenge and call on those companies to provide the assistance”.

Facebook Camera Gets Its Own Animated GIF Image Creator

When it comes to communication on social media platforms, animated GIF images are perhaps as important as emojis. These two have in a way managed to carve a language for its own and are at times the preferred form of expression than having to type long sentences. GIF images are already popular on Facebook, which just recently added a GIF option in the comments section. Now, the social networking giant is letting you make your own GIFs with the addition of a GIF mode in Facebook Camera.

The new GIF mode in Facebook Camera was discovered by The Next Web’s Director of Social Media Matt Navarra, who reported seeing a new GIF option on the top of Facebook camera. Notably, the feature was found only on iOS and could not be seen on Android, suggesting that it could be rolling out just for iOS as of now. We couldn’t see the feature on iOS either, which means it is yet to roll out to everyone.

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As the feature rolls out, users will find the new GIF option when they swipe right to open camera. TNW’s report says that the GIFs created through the feature are short, lasting only a few seconds, which is pretty much how GIFs are meant to be. You will also be able to use Facebook’s effects and frames that were normally available in the camera. The GIF images you make can be saved to your device, posted on your profile or to your Facebook story.

Facebook last month introduced the GIF option in the comments section as part of the 30th birthday of the GIF format. You can already send GIFs on Messenger and Facebook-owned WhatsApp, but the ability to make your own GIFs now means you’ll have more creative freedom in expressing what you what without having to rely and search through existing GIF images. It also means that you won’t have download third-party apps to make your own GIFs if Facebook is baking the feature right into its app.

Twitter Kills 90,000 Accounts Associated With SIREN Botnet Campaign

After a US-based digital security company alerted Twitter about a massive botnet campaign promising online sex to its users, the micro-blogging website has removed nearly 90,000 such fake accounts.

Dubbed as ‘SIREN’, the fake botnet campaign was discovered by ZeroFOX, a Baltimore-based security firm specialising in social-media threat detection.

“To our knowledge, the botnet is one of the largest malicious campaigns ever recorded on a social network,” ZeroFOX wrote in a blog post.

ZeroFOX’s computer vision and natural language processing algorithms identified over 8,500,000 tweets from close to 90,000 accounts related to the ‘SIREN’ campaign.

“‘SIREN’ has been incredibly successful, netting over 30,000,000 clicks from its victims. This data can be gleaned because the botnet uses trackable, Google shortened URLs,” ZeroFOX added.

ZeroFOX last week reported the findings to both the Twitter and Google security teams, who promptly removed the offending accounts and links, comprehensively remediating the ‘SIREN’ botnet.

All of the nearly 90,000 accounts had a suggestive photo of a woman as a profile picture and a female name as the display name.

The accounts either engaged directly with a target by quoting one of their tweets or attracting targets to the payload visible on their profile bio or pinned tweet.

The tweets themselves generally contained canned, sexually-explicit text, often in broken English, compelling the target to click, such as “you want to meet with me?” or “Push, don’t be shy” [sic].

Once a link is clicked, the user is issued a series of redirects.

Twitter Kills 90,000 Accounts Associated With SIREN Botnet CampaignThe final redirect websites encouraged the user to sign up for subscription pornography, webcam or fake dating websites.

“These types of websites, although legal, are known to be scams. Many of the websites’ policies claim that the site owners operate most of the profiles,” the blog post said.

A large percentage of the bots were female names with nude or semi-nude pictures.

In terms of the ‘SIREN’ actors themselves, a large chunk of the Twitter accounts’ self-declared user languages were Russian.

“The poor English, Cyrillic text and sheer magnitude of the infrastructure is indicative that ‘SIREN’ is a group or actor that is technically proficient and probably located in the Eastern Block of Europe,” ZeroFOX said.

The botnet is named after the mythical Greek Sirens, who seduced wayward sailors with their singing and lured them to their doom.

Facebook, Twitter Manipulated by Governments to Shape Opinion, Study Claims

Governments around the world are enlisting “cyber troops” who manipulate Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to steer public opinion, spread misinformation and undermine critics, according to a new report from the University of Oxford.

Adding to growing evidence of government-sponsored efforts to use online tools to influence politics, researchers found 29 countries using social media to shape opinion domestically or with foreign audiences. The tactics are deployed by authoritarian regimes, but also democratically-elected governments, the authors said.

“Social media makes propaganda campaigns much stronger and potentially more effective than in the past,” said Samantha Bradshaw, the report’s lead author and a researcher at Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Research Project. “I don’t think people realize how much governments are using these tools to reach them. It’s a lot more hidden.”

Online behavior of the government-backed groups varies widely, from commenting on Facebook and Twitter posts, to targeting people individually. Journalists are harassed by government groups in Mexico and Russia, while cyber troops in Saudi Arabia flood negative Twitter posts about the regime with unrelated content and hashtags to make it harder for people to find the offending post. In the Czech Republic, the government is more likely to post a fact-check response to something they see as inaccurate, said the report.

Governments also use fake accounts to mask where the material is coming from. In Serbia, fake accounts are used to promote the government’s agenda, and bloggers in Vietnam spread favorable information.

Meanwhile, government actors in Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, Turkey, Venezuela and elsewhere use automation software – known as “bots” – to spread social media posts in ways that mimics human users.

“Cyber troops are a pervasive and global phenomenon,” said the report published by the group that is studying how digital tools are being used to manipulate public opinion.

Propaganda has long been a dark art used by governments, but digital tools are making the techniques more sophisticated, according to Bradshaw. She said governments over the past several years have taken note of the way activists have used social media to spread a message and build support, and are adopting some of the same methods. Online tools such as data-analytics software allow governments to more effectively tailor a message for specific groups of people, maximising its impact.

Facebook, Twitter Manipulated by Governments to Shape Opinion, Study ClaimsBradshaw said that while Russia and authoritarian regimes get most of the attention for manipulating social media, Western democracies have been using similar techniques. In the UK, the British Army created the 77th Brigade in 2015, in part for psychological operations using social media. Bradshaw said democratic governments aren’t forthcoming about their digital propaganda efforts.

“They are using the same tools and techniques as the authoritarian regimes,” she said. “Maybe the motivations are different, but it’s hard to tell without the transparency.”Following the US election, Facebook and Twitter have been criticised for not doing enough to filter out fake news and offensive content. Facebook, which had no immediate comment on the report, has hired more human curators and partnered with fact-check organisations in an attempt to keep misinformation out of people’s feeds.

Twitter spokesman Ian Plunkett referred to a June a blog post that said the company “should not be the arbiter of truth,” and that others on the site do a better job of highlighting wrongdoing. The company has taken steps to crack down on the use of bots. Bradshaw said there isn’t an easy solution when balancing the benefits of sharing information across the Internet against the problems with spreading propaganda. She said one improvement would be tools that make it more clear when a government is involved. “There’s a fine line,” she says, “between free speech and censorship. “

Facebook India’s Boost Your Business Initiative to Add 20,000 Entrepreneurs in 6 Months

Facebook plans to add 20,000 entrepreneurs from 100 cities in India in the next six months as part of its “Boost Your Business” programme to help them scale up their businesses, its top executive said in Gandhinagar on Tuesday.

The social network company has tied up with Gandhinagar-based Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) to train people to achieve the target.

The initiative was launched on Tuesday at EDII by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

“Our ‘Boost Your Business’ initiative was launched in 2015, but with EDII, we plan to go to 20 states and 100 cities in the next six months in its first phase, expanding five times than what we have achieved so far,” said Ritesh Mehta, head of programmes, South Asia.

Mehta said apart from EDII, Facebook will also continue to take up other initiatives to connect people through Facebook to help them do business.

Facebook India's Boost Your Business Initiative to Add 20,000 Entrepreneurs in 6 Months“The programme is designed to equip small and medium businesses with the knowledge, skill and technology to stay innovative and increase markets across globally,” he said.

Mehta said the programme is part of Facebook’s public partnership policy, and aimed at giving back to the community.

“They (businesses) see a measurable difference (when connected to Facebook). First, the cost of business goes down. The service is free (setting up a Facebook page is free, communicating with your customer is free, and reaching new customers is free). Money that you spend on marketing can be spent on other things, like improving your business, scaling your business, hiring more people,” he said.

“Secondly, it is essentially allowing you to reach a lot more customers. Facebook allows you to reach out to expand nationally and internationally,” he added.

India has 201 million active people on Facebook, with 95 percent of them accessing it on the mobile. Globally, over 65 business million SMBs have pages on Facebook, and 57 percent people on Facebook in India are connected to at least one small business, the company said.