China bans Facebook messaging service WhatsApp

The Chinese government has disabled Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp, the New York Times reports.

Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Paris-based research firm Symbolic Software, told the Times his company began noticing slowdowns in the service Wednesday. By Monday, the block had become comprehensive.

Authorities blocked video-chat and file-sharing functions within WhatsApp in mid-July, but the app’s messaging capabilities, which employ a rare and strong form of encryption, remained functional. The government lifted bans on video chat and file sharing later, but has since disabled the app in its entirety, reports say.

WhatsApp’s messaging service uses a renowned end-to-end encryption technique. As the Times explains it, even Facebook itself cannot decode messages sent via the app. The encryption method is not widely used and is therefore difficult to compromise.

But the ban, as the Times points out, indicates that Chinese authorities have developed a means by which to breach WhatsApp messaging encryption.

“This is not the typical technical method in which the Chinese government censors something,” Kobeissi said.

Censorship of various technological communication services is commonplace in the country. If the government does not disable a service entirely, it slows down that service to such a degree that it becomes unusable.

“If you’re only allowed to drive one mile per hour, you’re not going to drive on that road, even if it’s not technically blocked,” Lokman Tsui, an internet communications specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, explained to the Times.

The goal of the censorship is to funnel users toward a handful of communication services that the government can easily monitor. WeChat is one such service. It is similar to WhatsApp except that the former, according to the Times, offers broader functionality.

Tencent, the company that runs WeChat, is based in Shenzhen and has said that it will comply with the government’s requests for information. In total, 963 million people use WeChat, the Times says.

Services like WhatsApp and WeChat have largely replaced e-mail in China, and are vital to many business operations. A large number of China-based businesses were unwilling to use WeChat, whether because of the threat of surveillance or some other reason.

Some former WhatsApp users in China expressed frustration on social media, the Times reports.

“Losing contact with my clients, forced back to the age of telephone and email for work now,” one user complained on Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging site.

“Even WhatsApp is blocked now? I’m going to be out of business soon,” another person said via the same site.

WhatsApp was the last Facebook product available in mainland China, the Times says. The country banned the company’s main social media site in 2009. Instagram, another Facebook offering, is disabled as well.

The WhatsApp ban represents a setback for the social media behemoth, whose founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has been advocating and taking steps toward re-entering the Chinese market.

The handful of American-created communication services China does tolerate include Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s FaceTime. The former does not employ end-to-end encryption, the Times points out, and is, therefore, easier for the government to monitor. The latter does use end-to-end encryption but is less secure than WhatsApp.

The Times notes that the Office of the United States Trade Representative is investigating whether Chinese authorities have violated the intellectual property rights of American citizens. The Office has not clarified whether it will consider the bans as part of the investigation, or merely look for cases in which China has stolen US technology.

The WhatsApp ban comes just prior to the country’s Communist Party Congress on October 18, during which authorities appoint the leaders of the party, who in turn run the country.

According to the Times, the meeting, which the country holds once every five years, will likely reinstall President Xi Jinping as party leader. The question remains as to who will join Xi on the Standing Committee of Politburo, the party’s highest ranking group.

Under Xi’s leadership, the Times notes, China has tightened censorship, closed several churches and jailed a number of human rights activists.

Featured image via Pixabay

Amazon glitch gives customers big news

Amazon sent several customers e-mail alerts Tuesday notifying them that items on their baby registries had been purchased and were on the way, MarketWatch reports.

But, many who received the e-mails did not have registries and were not expecting babies. Some such customers assumed the messages were spam and did not click the link provided. Those who followed the link were directed to a broken page, according to MarketWatch.

An informal poll conducted in the Fortune office indicated that most people who received the e-mail did have registries via Amazon. MarketWatch says such customers clicked the link to find that nothing on their registries had in fact been purchased.

“A technical glitch caused us to inadvertently send a gift alert e-mail earlier today,” Amazon said in an e-mail to affected customers. “We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”

Customers who received the e-mail in error took to social media. All were baffled. Some were amused. Others were offended.

Several hoped their non-existent babies had received alcoholic beverages.

“It better be wine cause I’m definitely not pregnant,” one woman tweeted.

A man who received the email expressed a similar wish. “Amazon notified me that someone bought a gift from my baby registry. Shocked to learn I’m a father; hope his wishlist was mostly bourbon,” he wrote.

Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty, who also received the e-mail in error, tweeted: “My baby is 21, and hopes it’s a keg.”

Some took sheer delight in Amazon’s miscue. In a tweet directed at the company, one woman wrote: “Please don’t fire the person who accidentally sent all those baby registry emails, it was really funny and made my day.”

Of course, Amazon’s statement implies the culprit was not a person but a misguided piece of software.

Some have joked that Amazon’s software, which collects extensive data on customers, perhaps knew users were pregnant before users themselves did.

One woman tweeted: “Me: *opens email* Amazon baby registry gift? But I’m not pregnant. Amazon’s new AI program: that’s what you think.”

Some women who are infertile or have miscarried took offense at the blunder.

“Pro tip @amazon & @amazonregistry,” one woman wrote. “Don’t send infertile women who’ve miscarried notices for gifts for a baby registry they don’t have.” The woman asked for an apology and an explanation from Amazon.

Glitches are rare for Amazon but do happen. In mid-July, on Prime Day, a 30-hour sales event during which Amazon offers promotions to members of its benefits program, the company’s website fell victim to slowdowns and other quirks.

Some customers saw error messages when they tried to add items to their digital “carts.” Others reported getting multiple “Prime Savings” discounts on a single item.

Amazon’s system unintentionally discounted several video games. Some PlayStation 4 games were listed for as little as $12.

The sale is among Amazon’s busiest events of the year. Mehdi Daoudi, CEO of Catchpoint, a firm that collects traffic and speed data for websites, said that, overall, Amazon, which is renowned for its ability to accommodate spikes in site traffic, managed the frenzy well.

“As usual, Amazon is handling the extra load very well, despite the fact that their web pages got heavier than usual with all the Prime Day product images,” he said per Digital Commerce 360.

While Tuesday’s Amazon glitch concerned the gift of new life, a blunder by Facebook last November involved the other end of the life cycle. The social media giant erroneously flagged some profiles with messages saying their owners were dead.

The bug even killed off Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Engadget notes. A banner on his profile read: “We hope people who love Mark will find comfort in the things others share to remember and celebrate his life.”

Here in the 21st century, of course, we live and die by technology.

Featured image via Pixabay

Snap Shares Dip Below IPO Price, Selloff Expected

Shares of Snap, Inc. were valued at $16.99 when the market closed Monday, marking the first time the stock has dipped below its $17 IPO price since the company went public in March.

The drop comes as the market anticipates a massive selloff of Snap stock when a lockup period, which prevented investors who bought Snap’s IPO from offloading their shares, expires on July 29. At that point, more than 60% of Snap’s stock will become eligible to be sold.

Snap entered the public market with a $24 billion valuation, one of the loftiest ever amongst technology companies. Investors bought in, despite Snap’s 61.7 price-to-sales ratio. Following the IPO, the stock rose 41%, opening its first trading day at $24.

But when the company’s first public earnings report, published in May, came in below analysts’ projections, the stock dropped 25% almost instantaneously.

Since then, Snap’s market capitalization has fallen more than $10 billion, from $31 billion to $20 billion. Still, the market values the stock at 20 times the company’s expected 2017 sales, according to Fortune’s Jen Wieczner. When Snap publishes last quarter’s sales report later the summer, the stock is likely to drop even further.

When Snap’s new strategy to attract advertisers to Snap hit a snag earlier this year, Stephen Ju, an analyst for Credit Suisse, lowered his projections of Snap’s revenue last quarter: Credit Suisse no longer believes Snap’s 2017 revenue will crack the $1 billion threshold.

The financial analysis group dropped its target price for Snap from $30 to $25, but still gives Snap an “outperform” rating.

“While we were hoping for Snap to exhibit a more comfortable growth path, we are reminded that nascent companies sometimes grow in fits and starts,” Ju said in explanation of the drop in the target price.

The social media sector as a whole has performed well in the stock market over the last quarter. Since April 11, Facebook stock has risen 10%. Twitter shares have risen almost 30% since the same date.

The number of daily active users of Snap increased just 5% from the final quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017. In the first half of last year, Snap’s user base grew about 15% per quarter, but it has grown an average of just 5% per quarter over the last three-quarters.

Many have compared recent investment trends toward social media and other technology sectors to the dot-com boom of the 1990s. People who have never before dipped a single toe into the stock market are snapping up technology stocks as though they have been investing for years.

Robinhood, a stock trading app, reported that 43% of those who traded on Snap’s first day bought shares in the startup social media company. The median age of those Snap investors was 26.

An overwhelming majority of Snap’s users occupy the 14-35 year old demographic, so it stands to reason that a sizable portion of the company’s investors are similarly aged.

“It’s hard to believe that such rookie investors would be equipped to successfully trade a stock like Snap,” Wieczner wrote in another article.

In the midst of a tech boom which has lingered on over the past three years or so, many considered Snap to be a sure thing, the next Google or Facebook or Twitter.

But given May’s sales report and the further disappointment expected when Snap publishes its quarter two earnings later this summer, it appears Snap’s bold IPO wrote a check it could not cash.

Investors, many of whom will have their first opportunities to sell their Snap stock when the lock-up period ends on July 29, are demanding what’s left of their money back.

After Reports, Facebook Bans the Creation of Spy Tools

The more technology advances, the more open we become to scrupulous activity. Facebook has recently responded to the reports that a few surveillance agencies have been using the social media giant as a means for spying. Since the report has been made Facebook has responded by updating its platform policy to prevent such things from occurring.

The deputy chief privacy officer at Facebook, Rob Sherman, announced this new policy platform update just this Monday. Sherman and his team say that they have made sure that the language in Facebook’s Platform Privacy are very clear in preventing unwanted surveillance tools from spying on Facebook profile information.

Sherman told a source Monday that Facebook was “adding language to our Facebook and Instagram platform policies to more clearly explain that developers cannot use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.”

This, however, isn’t the first time that Facebook has responded to such reports. Back in November, car insurer Admiral wanted to gain access to Facebook user information. The company claimed it wanted to access user accounts so that it would be able to tell people’s risk of being in a collision based on drinking habits and even personality types.

The social media giant has taken any and all step necessary in the past few months to make sure developers stop taking advantage of the sites large range of user data. Developers have been using Facebook user data to create, market and even sell spying tools.

This new platform policy development, however, has been created to make it evident that any such actions are clearly a violation.

The reports of these actions were first issued by the American Civil Liberties Union of California (ACLU), Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice. These organizations made claims that developers were using Facebooks data in order to form spy tools from Facebook’s API.

ACLU states that even Instagram and Twitter, along with Facebook, were giving data information to Geofeedia. Geofeedia is a social networking surveillance company which gives tracking and spying tools to protesters and activists.

In proof of these accusations, law enforcement used the software to spy on those who were out protesting police violence near the San Jose and Baltimore areas. Later the software was used to keep track of hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter.

It didn’t take long into the investigation for all three of the social media sites to get rid of the software, cutting Geofeedia off completely. Yet while Facebook has technology that can manually and automatedly monitor developers, there’s no actual guarantee that those developers will abide by the policies. Although the spy world is rather slippery in its operations, Facebook setting its rules in stone is one large step in the direction of putting surveillance to a stop.

The platform policy can be found here and reads as follows: “Protect the information you receive from us against unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. For example, don’t use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.”

Sherman told a source, “We will continue using our policies to support our community, and we hope that these efforts will help encourage other companies to take positive steps as well.”

AT&T Cell Phone Users Lose Contact With 911 in 14 States

On Wednesday, some AT&T cellphone users were unable to dial 911, but it was only for a few hours. It didn’t take long for city and county law enforcement along with emergency response teams to warm people. The teams headed to social media warning people over the span of five hours about the possibility of being unable to dial for emergencies.

Officials in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, Colorado, and even Washington D.C. released warnings to AT&T customers that they might not be able to contact 911 dispatchers in the case of emergency.

Even though the problem was resolved, AT&T has yet to disclose what really went to wrong to cause this to happen in the first place. There’s also no telling just how many people were affected.

Customers were alerted with a warning that started around 5:50 p.m. The Monongalia County Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency located in West Virginia started warning people via Facebook around this time. The warnings to AT&T customers continued well into the afternoon until around 10:25 p.m. It was at that same time that AT&T stated they had fixed a problem.

In Indiana, the Hendricks County Communications Center which is a consolidated dispatch center for fire, police, and emergency medical services stated that the calls coming in from AT&T customers just wouldn’t connect.

In order to accommodate the customers that were unable to contact 911 for emergency response, Hendricks made a Facebook post saying, “We have conducted test calls locally and it will just ring.” Hendricks then made sure to provide a number for those to call in case they needed a dispatch officer.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, made a Twitter statement saying that they had heard reports of the issue and were further investigating the incident.

AT&T released a statement later that same night around 10:30 p.m. saying that “service has been restored for wireless customers affected by an issue connecting to 911. We apologize to those affected.”

Facebook’s New Apps In Competition With YouTube?

Social Media giant Facebook is always coming up with new ways to improve its usability for its consumers. In fact, the company is now coming up with ways get its users to upload and stream more and more videos. In order to achieve this, the social media site has made new changes when it comes to how its users distribute and display video.

However, that’s not all the good news that Facebook is sharing. Just recently vice president of partnerships, Dan Rose, announced that Facebook would start a series of apps for things like Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and even Samsung Smart TV.

With the capability to stream TV, Facebook would be opening up its site and apps to more people who want to share their videos. During his announcement at CODE Media, Rose says this change began with automatic video ads. Those are the ads on the news feed that automatically play. From there it moved to Facebook live and Instagram video. Of course, from here there’s no place to go but up for the company and others.

Facebook also says that a few changes are coming in regards to the way videos are displayed. First things first. When it comes to sound, if your devices sound is on, the audio of the video will automatically play. Second change involves video cropping. Facebook says it won’t be cropping vertical video making it a bit more like Snapchat. Finally, users will have the ability to watch videos and slide them to the side as they scroll through their news feeds.

However, even though Facebook is more than optimistic about these new changes what the company is even more enthusiastic about are the new apps. These will allow Facebook users to watch Facebook videos on their televisions. Although Facebook has always been able to stream videos to an Apple TV or AirPlay, this will expand that ability.

There was also talk that Facebook was on the hunt this week to license music from a few big labels. This would greatly increase the number of videos shared on the company’s site. That doesn’t really put Facebook side by side with companies like Spotify or Apple Music, but it does cause the social media site to bump heads with YouTube. YouTube as already established itself as a great site for creators to stream and build views around their videos. Facebook is hoping to start a similar campaign with its new announcements.

Yet there are a few things that Facebook will have to look into before it gets too excited. Facebook will have to come up with a way to pay video creators for their work as well as find a way to prevent piracy of any kind.

Facebook is looking to add many more types of professionally made videos to its new streaming options. Just last year, Ricky Van Veen from CollegeHumor. It’s said that Van Veen is in the process of creating new content.

However, its user’s happiness isn’t the only benefit Facebook will get. The company stands to bring in a large amount of revenue. That’s due to the fact that Facebook user base is a growing 1.2 billion. This stands to boost video production by developing a broader platform for mobile, desktop, and, TV production for viewers around the globe.

 

Valentine’s Day Scams; A Warning From the Better Business Bureau

Valentine’s Day is Tuesday, and many will take this opportunity to shower their loved ones and partners with gifts to show just how much appreciation and admiration they have. Yet with the holiday estimating to cost America a big $18 billion this year, the scammers are going to be out on the prowl to take advantage.

The Better Business Bureau is providing a few tips on how to avoid those scams that will most likely cause a Valentine’s Day fail.

Pixabay/kaboompic

First, when it comes to ordering flowers keep a sharp eye out for scrupulous businesses. This year it’s estimated that American’s all over the country will shell out a good $2 billion on flowers. With that number as high as it is, scammers are certainly going to be on the move to get their fair share. The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips on how to avoid scammers:

  • Let the Better Business Bureau be a guide for any and all purchases. On BBB.org, consumers will be able to use the search guide to find florists and gift shops as well as search for other customer reviews.
  • Make sure to visit the shop or talk to someone in over the phone. Discuss the exact arrangement you’re looking for. Even if you’re ordering online make sure to go to the shop in person if you can and inquire about your purchase, the company policies, delivery times, and guarantees. It’s important that you don’t finalize your purchases until all information is properly outlined. Finally, be sure to obtain a receipt after purchase.
  • Be on the lookout for suspicious calls and emails. Phishing scams spike around this time of year for those who expect to give flowers and gifts to their loved ones. Beware of fake e-cards and unsolicited emails that can contain viruses and request additional funds in order to deliver gifts.

Social media and online dating sites will be buzzing with activity come Tuesday. Match.com expects to see a jump in its new users by twenty percent. It’s also said that around 1.9 million Facebook users will change their relationship status. However, the internet is also a great place to find scammers who just loving preying on love struck victims.

It’s sometimes all too easy for a scammer to build a relationship with someone under false pretenses whether it be through video chat, over the phone, or texting. At some point in the is relationship the scammer will cry that they are experiencing some type of trouble with their finances, or say that they need money to come see the victim.

Once the funds are exchanged, the scammer drops off the face of the earth and the victim is out of who knows how much money. The BBB calls these type of scams Cupid cons. They are the hardest to avoid because scammers in this type of con know just how to make others feel vulnerable.

The following are a few tips on how to avoid Cupid cons and what to look out for:

  • Look out for a new friend that is always a no show. Whether its business travelling, vising family out of state, or a last-minute re-schedule. This is an extremely common excuse for scammers, and how they will lie to avoid meeting people face-to-face. A significant other would normally find time to see and get to know someone better. If your new boo is ignoring you, this should alert you to suspicion.
  • If you’re searching for a love interest on Facebook and find that their profile is extremely new, doesn’t fit their description or doesn’t exist you’re probably being scammed. When you’re talking to someone and find out things about them, the information they provided you with should most definitely match up with their social media profiles. Look for things like a small list of friends, little or no photos, major spelling or grammar errors. All those things can be signals that you’re talking to a scammer.
  • When it comes to loaning out money, people often always skeptical even if it’s to a really good friend. It’s just an uncomfortable situation at times. Be on the lookout for new loves that immediately ask you for cash. Their needs will range from a number of emergencies. They will claim to have been robbed, or there was a medical emergency. Scammers will tell any story to tug at your heartstrings. And your wallet. BBB says to never give out money or share your bank info with someone you don’t know very well and have never met.

Always be on the lookout for business scams or people who use the methods above.

The truth is everyone wants to feel special and needed, especially on a day of celebrating love like Valentine’s Day. The best way to protect yourself from a scam is not to let your emotions cloud your judgment, be aware of all the signs, and try not to ignore that gut feeling. Anyone is open to a scam so don’t think it won’t happen at some point. There are people out there who can’t wait to prey on vulnerability.

Facebook Faces Lawsuit Over Stolen Tech?

Mark Zuckerberg, the well-known owner of the social media giant Facebook, has to testify in court over a $2 billion lawsuit. ZeniMax Media filed the lawsuit against Oculus and co-founder Palmer Luckey. Since Facebook is now the owner of Oculus, ZeniMax added Facebook to the lawsuit. ZeniMax says Facebook knew that Oculus stole ZeniMax’s tech but purchased the company regardless.

ZeniMax who owns id Software, a video game developer, filed the suit back in 2014. Facebook also made a $2 billion purchase of Oculus during the same time frame. The lawsuit also accuses Facebook of trying to “leverage and commercially exploit” ZeniMax technology.

However, Oculus denies the allegations that it stole anything. In fact, a spokesperson for the company insisted Oculus “invested” a large amount of time and money to further develop its virtual reality technology. The spokesperson commented that the company was “disappointed that another company is using wasteful litigation to attempt to take credit for technology that it did not have the vision, expertise, or patience to build.”

In retort to that statement, ZeniMax said it would produce “substantial evidence” to support its claim of the stolen VR tech. ZeniMax stated “That evidence includes the theft of trade secrets and highly confidential information, including computer code. ZeniMax will also present evidence of the Defendants’ intentional destruction of evidence to cover up their wrongdoing.”

Carmack is the co-founder of id Software who’s known for developing the first person shooter I the popular video game Doom. Carmack and ZeniMax met with Luckey back in 2012 to discuss the development of Rift, a VR headset. In the lawsuit, ZeniMax says it took the Rift technology, reshaped, and further expanded it “from $500-worth of optics into a powerful, immersive virtual reality experience.”

Not long after ZeniMax displayed its new technology, Luckey created Oculus. The Rift headset brought in $2.4 million. Yet instead of giving ZeniMax the compensation for use of its technology, Oculus instead reached out it ZeniMax employees as well as Carmack to join the Oculus team.

The lawsuit included that Oculus created a factitious story of a youth who created virtual reality technology in his parents’ garage. In fact, the suit states “Luckey lacked the training, expertise, resources or know-how to create commercially viable VR technology, his computer programming skills were rudimentary and he relied on ZeniMax’s computer program code and games to demonstrate the prototype Rift.”

Overall, the lawsuit reproaches Oculus, and Facebook, for copyright infringement on “Doom 3”, the misappropriation of ZeniMax trade secrets, and that Oculus violated a non-disclosure agreement.

Luckey testifies sometime later in the week whereas Carmack testified earlier last week.

Skype Expands its Translator

Skype’s translation feature, created back in 2014, only allowed users to translate Skype to Skype calls. The company, however, recently announced that the translation option will soon be available for landline and mobile use as well.

Users will need to be members of the Windows Insider Program which is free and allows its users to sign up for Windows features before others. They will also need to have the latest version of the Skype app, Skype Preview, downloaded as well as have some Skype credits.

To begin, you’ll start like any other Skype call. Click the dialer, select the switch marked “Translate”, then chose the language you wish to translate. The person on the other end will hear a message telling them that the call is being translated through Skype Translator, and you will be able to carry on a normal conversation.

Skype Translator has about nine languages which include: English, Spanish, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Russian. There will be some delays during the conversation while things are translated, but a good way to enhance the experience of using Skype Translator is to use headphones for the conversation.

Live Streaming Video Comes to Instagram

What was once a niche corner of the internet afforded only to those with low-quality webcams has now blossomed into a booming business that everyone wants a piece of. And now you have another live streaming app to choose: Instagram, if you couldn’t tell from the title.

Following Facebook, Youtube and Periscope, Instagram users (only those in the United States at the moment, an important distinction to make) will now be able to stream up to one hour of live video at a time, and like those previously listed services, Instagram users can like the stream in the form of giving out hearts as well as live commenting.

Instagram flipped the switch today, and users can find the option to stream live from the camera section of the app, which can be accessed by swiping to the right. The app will notify your Instagram friends by displaying a “LIVE” notice on your account, as well as sending out alerts and showing up in the Stories menu.

Instagram rolling out Live Streaming is the next step in the app’s quest to keep parity with the other app giants. After updating the app with a Stories section, much in the vein of Snapchat’s popular offering, Instagram is looking to become the one-stop app for all your social needs.

At the moment there are no confirmed dates for the live streaming ability to be released to Instagram users outside of the United States, but seeing as this is a highly requested feature, you can be all but guaranteed to see Instagram rolling out the update in waves across the world. Live streaming takes quite the toll, so look at this as more of a beta test to see how the app can hold up to the mass of users streaming at once. Look for Instagram to make even more strides in the future.

Microsoft and LinkedIn Join Forces

Microsoft closed its biggest deal ever by purchasing LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. This deal exceeded the one Microsoft made by purchasing Skype for $8.5 billion back in 2011. Six months ago, Microsoft had announced that they planned on buying LinkedIn, and this Thursday the details were made final.

Although Microsoft will own LinkedIn, the CEO of the company, Jeff Weiner will still oversee the company. LinkedIn simply reports to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Weiner commented on the deal saying that he was “more confident than ever” about the pair up with Microsoft.

LinkedIn has been around for nearly thirteen years providing free online resume service to its 433 million users. While initial services are free, you must pay if you want other features like sending messages to people you don’t know and making advanced searches.

LinkedIn has had its fair share of hard times. The company has tried very hard to expand its brand further than being just an online resume. The expansion included the $1.5 billion purchase of Lynda.com and the upgrade of the LinkedIn mobile app. Weiner said, “This relationship with Microsoft, and the combination of their cloud and LinkedIn’s network, now gives us a chance to…change the way the world works.”

For those of us who are current LinkedIn users, Wiener says that, for now, things with the site will remain the same. During the next few months, however, we can only wait and see what type of interesting influence Microsoft products will have on LinkedIn.

Facebook Scanning Videos Using Artificial Intelligence?

When you find something on Facebook you think is a bit too risqué, you make a report. A Facebook employee then takes the reported material and compares it against Facebook’s “company policies”. Now, however, Facebook has announced that it will be using artificial intelligence to detect offensive material.

According to Facebook’s director of applied machine learning, Joaquin Candela, says that the Facebook has slowly but surely been incorporating artificial intelligence into the way it monitors site content.

The social media giant uses AI in order to sort through all the millions of reports it receives each week. The computer sorts through content and duplicate reports, then send the information to an employee who reviews the information. The use of AI for scanning video will have to be fast in order to process the millions of videos that are uploaded to Facebook. Once scanned, the AI will also have to sort the material so that the proper content goes to the right Facebook expert.

While earlier in November Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg had announced that the company would be using AI for the detection of fraudulent news, Facebook was the center of controversy during the election when fake new about both candidates circled throughout the site.

Facebook is still in the research stages when it comes to using AI, but the company says it’s testing the automation on Facebook live, the options the user is given to post live video to the site. Candela described the system as “An algorithm that detects nudity, violence, or any of the things that are not according to our policies.”

Facebook Initiates Buyback Plan for Expansion

Facebook has announced that 2017 will be a year of increased expansion. In its first repurchase program, a move to placate its shareholders, the company will buy over $6 billion back in shares.

This move will happen during the first quarter of 2017 and although the company has $26 billion in cash and other marketable profits, only some of that will be used in the buyback process while the rest will go toward the growth and expansion of the company.

Facebook isn’t the first business using buybacks to keep its shareholders content. In fact, the company joins a long line of U.S. technology firms like Apple Inc., who started in 2012, and Alphabet, who joined later in 2015, who are using this trend. Following the announcement, Facebook shares rose 1 percent during after-hours.

The rise in digital advertising has left businesses like Facebook with billions of dollars that can be put toward profitable uses. “Facebook is very efficient with its capital and how it uses that capital. Although some people took issue with their choice at the time, they clearly saw value,” said Brian Wieser an analyst at Pivotal Research Group.

According to Boomerang data on companies that are worth more than $5 billion, U.S. technology businesses have spent over $131 billion in the repurchasing of share since 2012.  Facebook has also risen from $2 billion to $2.9 billion just from share trading. Hopefully, the business’s repurchases will keep that number steady in the upcoming years.

The year of 2017 will open the door for so many increased spending opportunities for Facebook. The company plans to further its growth by hiring more engineers. This and other expansions of its infrastructure might be able to aid in returning value to shareholders while other long-term investments begin to unfold in the upcoming future.

Twitter Shuts Down Popular Social Media Application ‘Vine’

Social Media websites and apps have become an integral part of how people communicate with one another, with many businesses making their names by offering new and inventive ways to connect with others. As the times change, some sites become out of date and not as popular as they once were, even if they were so explosively popular. This seems to be the case for one video sharing application. According to BBC News, Twitter has chosen to shut down their video-sharing application ‘Vine.’ This news is surprising to many people who partake in social media.

The news of Vine’s closing came on Thursday afternoon. BBC News is reporting that Twitter  just announced its decision to close the service by discontinuing the mobile app. Vine has been up and running for about four years. The application became especially popular with online musicians, comedians, artist, and those who wanted to view their work. The site has even been able to propel some people into mainstream popularity and begin their careers and fortunes based on the content they created for the platform.

Vine was one of the first social media applications that incorporated videos into its services, and the application was purchased by twitter for about $30 million by the Twitter corporation before it officially launched in 2012. The site began to lose popularity with the launch of applications like ‘Snapchat’ and when Instagram incorporated videos into its application, allowing users to do relatively the same thing they were able to do on Vine.

Though the sites application will no longer be available for usage on phones, the content that is now available on the site will still be available for view and download through regular internet access via a phone or computer. BBC News is reporting that the owners have stated they “think it’s important to still be able to watch all the incredible Vines that have been made.”

Vine was a small, but influential part of the social media craze that has struck the world in the last decade. Though the app is being shut down, the impact it’s had on video sharing among people will not be forgotten. Careers have been made through the platform, and here is hoping that they find a new home on an equally as successful application.

Facebook OpenCellular: Internet Wherever You Go

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerbug, is at it again and this time with Facebook OpenCellular!

Despite the setbacks of a similar program to Facebook OpenCellular, Facebook is determined to make OpenCellular’s dream a reality. The purpose of OpenCellular is to provide as many people with wireless Internet access.

Zuckerbug has expressed his wish to provide as many people as possible with Internet access and Facebook. He hopes that Facebook will reach 5 billion users by 2030.

A few months back, Facebook reported having 1.65 billion active users with another 1.51 billion who regularly use the mobile application. Cisco predicts that 5.5 billion people (70 percent of the world’s population!) will be using mobile devices by the end of 2030.

The problem is that Internet access isn’t always available or reliable for those who reside in remote parts of the world. Although many technology companies, such as Google, are trying to propose solutions to the problem things haven’t been sailing smoothly.

OpenCellular is designed to support various connections from 2G to LTE. According to Facebook engineer Kashif Ali, OpenCellular’s system will be open sourced. This helps organizations so that organizations can easily build the appropriate framework to use the platform. The OpenCellular system is the size of a shoebox and can support 1,500 people as long as they are within 10 kilometers of the system. In addition, the system is both sturdy and adaptable. It supports a variety of power sources ranging from batteries to solar and can endure different climates.

So far, OpenCellular is able to support voice calling, transfer data using 2G connection, and can send and receive SMS text messages. OpenCellular is still in development and is expected to be completed this summer.

Facebook is planning to collaborate with the Telecom Infra Project, an engineering-focused effort to build a telecom network base, to develop an open source community in support of OpenCellular.

Ali states, “With OpenCellular, we want to develop affordable new technology that can expand capacity and make it more cost-effective for operators to deploy networks in places where coverage is scarce… By open-sourcing the hardware and software designs for this technology, we expect costs to decrease for operators and to make it accessible to new participants.”

Potential Candidates for New Twitter CEO are Being Strongly Debated

Twitter is on the hunt for its next CEO as the company’s co-founder, Jack Dorsey, fills in the position in the meantime.

Since Dick Costolo stepped down from his position as CEO in June, the company has been working on major changes, both in how Twitter runs and who is going to run it.

Dorsey stepped down from the position in 2008 and has since co-founded a mobile payment company called Square. There was speculation that Dorsey would be leaving the company to go back to Twitter, but he has since denied this.

According to Business Insider,

“Adam Bain is under more serious consideration than anyone on the very short list of outsiders, according to a person familiar with the matter. Bain is the ‘number one candidate that the board is focused on right now,’ this person said. ‘It’s Bain’s to accept or reject.’”

Bain has been with the company since September 2010 where he has worked as the President of Global Revenue handling advertisements for the website.

Twitter has taken on the executive search and leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart, and now Social Media Blazer came up with a list of 13 potential candidates.

In the article it said, “Rumors continue to swirl, so we’ve put together a listing of viable appointees, in addition to some wild rumor for good measure.”

The list goes on to include people like Jeff Weiner, Padmasree Warrior and Snoop Dogg. This list has since been narrowed down into more qualified candidates.

Ross Levinsohn, who is the Chairman of Scout.com and a brief time was the CEO of Yahoo, is said to have potential because of his work in social media.

A few months back Levinsohn tried to get a conversation about going Yahoo buying Twitter. Yahoo acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion in May of 2013, so acquiring another social media platform wouldn’t be out of their range.

Levinsohn said on CNBC,

“Honestly I think Twitter should go buy Yahoo. If you separated Yahoo into the two business that it really is – a tracking company and an operating company. If you put Yahoo and Twitter together it would be the most powerful force in the media business.”

During this time, analysts were unsure if Costolo would stay for much longer in his position, and they were correct.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “[SunTrust anaylist Robert Peck] floated Levinsohn’s name as well as Google executive Neal Mohan as potential successors.”

Bradley Horowitz is another potential candidate with a lot of experience with social media. He is the Vice President of Product for Google’s social features including Google+.

This and his involvement with other projects, such as Gmail, Gtalk, Google Docs, Google voice and Google Calendar, give him an upper hand, seeing as his experience has been directly correlated with social media.

Mike McCue was a board member of Twitter for two years and is the CEO of Flipboard which is an information platform that consists of news, videos and photos made accessible for everyone, everywhere.

In May rumors were flying around about Flipboard acquiring Twitter.

McCue couldn’t confirm or deny the rumors, but he did tell CNBC,

“We have a very close partnership with Twitter. We have promoted tweets on Flipboard, so you are going to see us do more and more with Twitter over time.”

Some of the names floating around stand a small chance at rising to the top of Twitter, while others have been on the mind of analysts for a long time. There is no set date for the choosing of the CEO, but whoever it is will have some big shoes to fill.

 

The World Celebrates Social Media Day

The tools of the new media have definitely taken the world by a storm. The ability of Social Media to ensure connectivity and enforce six degrees of separation like never before, still fascinates us all.

Social Media is what we depend on for news, information, entertainment, getting in touch with people, advertising and so much more. It is about time that a marvelous feature of our lives like Social Media is celebrated and its worth is acknowledged.

About six years ago, the first annual Social Media Day was celebrated. Today, 30th of June, marks the 6th year of this wonderful celebration. Mashable was the first website to start celebrating this day.

The motive behind the celebrations is merely to acknowledge the impact Social Media has had in all our lives. Events are held around the world where hundreds of people meet up within the participating countries.

The best part is that even if you can’t make it to any of these events, one can still post material online with the “#SMDay” tag in the description and be a part of the festivities.

Hopefully, the day gets more popular as each year passes.

Tinder Lays Off Nearly 10% of Employees

Swipe left, or swipe right? That’s what CEO of Tinder, Chris Payne, and his fellow executives attempted to figure out as they rummaged through employee files and laid off almost 10% of the total company’s staff.

Tinder responded to the news with an official statement reading:

“A small number of employees moved on from Tinder last week. This decision was made after carefully reassessing the current needs of the company. We believe these changes are essential as Tinder continues to grow and evolve. We are continually adding world class talent to the Tinder team while remaining conscious of maintaining a nimble organization.”

While the 10% laid off only included three employees from marketing and three from engineering, due to the company’s small but exponentially growing stature with a total amount of 60-65 employees as stands, the layoffs come at a time when Tinder is beginning to monetize.

By adding new features to the free app such as Tinder Plus, which allows you to undo a match, along with a passport mode so users can match with other users around the world instead of just their immediate area, Tinder will be in the beginning stages of monetization.

The pervasive dating app has seen far worse days than dropping 10% of their staff, like in 2014 when co-founder and now president of Tinder, Sean Rad, succumbed to sexual harassment charges which “scandalized the company” according to L.A. Biz, and resulted in CMO, Justin Mateen’s resignation.

However, while the app continues to chug on and defy the odds, within April, having users swipe through 1.6 billion Tinder profiles worldwide, the app is attempting to make the app profitable by forcing older app users to make a higher tiered payment just to use the app, and the price increases with age. This part of the app remains controversial.

Instagram Sends Users Email Updates

Expect to start seeing emails from Instagram in your inbox as they try to appeal to its less active users.

Social media sites are notorious for spamming their users, in notifications and in emails. Twitter and Facebook both send updates on what is going on with your social media whether you were or weren’t away.

Twitter tells you popular tweets, and Facebook tells you notifications you might’ve missed when scrolling through the website. Each update email has multiple hyperlinks in order for users, who may not be as engaged with their social media as these websites would like, to get right back into it.

Instagram is referring to their emails as “highlights”. While the app already has a place for users to see the trending topics on the social media app and amongst the people you follow, these emails will be a supplement to that.

According to Mashable, the highlights, “complies photo updates from those you follow in reverse chronological order, with the latest posts shown at the top.”

This is all part of the app’s initiative to get back users that may not be as active on the app.

The emails themselves contain the photo, user and caption along with an option to open the photo in the application.

In December 2014, Instagram made a blog post announcing they had more than 300 million users. June 2015 will mark their half way mark four and a half years since they first launched. Now they are working on re-engaging their users with new filters, more updates about their feed and making sure that even if the app isn’t open, people will see the photo that their friend posted.

According to Tech Crunch, “[Instagram] decided not to let Twitter render its photos in-line so people would have to use Instagram.”

Social media sites have shown in the past how they will go to great lengths in order to attract more attention to their sites.

Twitter created their own “highlights” which take followers, topics or conversations that might it believes will be of interest to you. These highlights come to users in the form of push notifications, and pop up twice a day.

As of now, Instagram gives its users notifications when someone accepts their follow request, follows them, likes one of their photos or tags them in a photo.

As of now, some users may not receive the email initially because the feature is so new. If you do find yourself receiving the emails, and aren’t a fan, fear not.

If you’re not interested in the updates, as of now there is no way to disable these emails.

According to Tech Crunch, “It’s so fresh there’s not even a setting to control it. When I tried hitting Unsubscribe to see where it took me, I discovered there was no email settings menu and no way to re-subscribe.”

The app does have two features where users can search trending photos in the explore tag, as well as popular accounts that might be of interest to you, based on the content you post and the people you already follow.

Instagram has said that these emails are just a test, and is the first time they’ve ever done something like this to try and lure users back in to the app.

Although this is a new thing for Instagram, some are questioning whether it means the app is on its way out. Some users took to Twitter to discuss their fear of Instagram spamming them, nothing that they think Instagram is losing its cool by doing so.

John Costine of TechCrunch wrote, “Highlights could solve an issue common amongst maturing social networks that show a live, reverse chronological feed of posts. It impacts networks like Instagram and Twitter, but not relevancy-sorted streams like Facebook’s.”

 

Facebook’s Copyright Message is a Hoax

A recent pop up message claiming to be the newest Facebook copyright contract has been spreading through social media. The message has been telling people to copy and paste the new copyrights onto the users’ walls.

The notification that pops up states, “In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!”

The message is indeed not true and a hoax, and Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes wanted to remind the social media community that, “We have noticed some statements that suggest otherwise and we wanted to take a moment to remind you of the facts — when you post things like photos to Facebook, we do not own them. Under our terms, you grant Facebook permission to use, distribute, and share the things you post, subject to the terms and applicable privacy settings.”

When a user signs up for Facebook they are responsible for reading over and agreeing with the copyright terms that they have posted. Brad Shear, a Washington attorney and social media expert states that, “non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any content you post. You do not need to make any declarations about copyright issues since the law already protects you. The privacy declaration [in this message] is worthless and does not mean anything.” So pretty much this is just a fake post that wants the Internet to get stirred up because it wants them to feel vulnerable. This kind of message spread throughout Facebook just a couple years ago, and it quickly died out with no real solution or result.

Via ABC News