Apps

Facebook CEO could have swayed US government’s opinion against TikTok

Zuckerberg used last year’s meeting with Trump to raise issues against TikTok

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Recent trips to Washington by Facebook CEO — Mark Zuckerberg — could have swayed the US government’s opinion against TikTok and other Chinese companies, a new report by The Wall Street Journal claims.

The report details how Zuckerberg used private meetings with US government officials to sway the issue from Facebook to Chinese-made apps like TikTok. Last Fall, Zuckerberg made trips to Washington where he raised the issue against Chinese tech companies. During a visit to Georgetown University, he claimed that these companies don’t share Facebook’s commitment to American values — specifically, freedom of expression.

Later on, Zuckerberg would meet with US President Donald Trump and other officials. During these meetings, the Facebook CEO would make the case that Chinese tech companies pose a much bigger concern than Facebook. These meetings come at a time when government officials are investigating Facebook for privacy and security concerns.

The fallout from these meetings became apparent in late October. Two American senators — Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. Chuck Schumer — wrote a letter to intelligence officials demanding an inquiry into TikTok. Soon after, the US government began a security assessment of the app. Threats by Donald Trump soon followed. Now, the app is facing a total ban in the US if its parent company — ByteDance — fails to sell its US operations.

Protecting Facebook’s image

All those meetings could have also been interpreted as the company’s move to sway officials and to blunt concerns about Facebook’s issues. A spokesperson for Facebook — Andy Stone — claims that Zuckerberg’s remark in Washington is part of a bigger concern about Chinese influence in America.

“As Chinese companies and influence have been growing so has the risk of a global internet based on their values, as opposed to ours,” Mr. Stone said in a written statement.

It is clear also that Facebook sees TikTok as its potential rival. TikTok has seen a dramatic rise over the recent years, threatening Facebook’s user base. In response, Facebook launched Reels, an Instagram feature designed to sway TikTok users. Just recently, it made plans to acquire Dubsmash, a fledgling rival that saw some popularity back in 2015.

In response, TikTok’s parent company accused Facebook of plagiarism and smears. ByteDance CEO Kevin Mayer urged the social networking giant to focus on fair competition rather than “maligning attacks” which is “disguised as patriotism and designed to put an end to our very presence in the U.S.”

The company has also prepared a lawsuit against the US government. Clearly, ByteDance has a long way to go before it can wiggle out of the complex issues it is facing today.

SEE ALSO: US moves TikTok’s ban to November | China won’t allow US to steal TikTok

Apps

Instagram will start to put ads on a user’s profile

And on the Explore page

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Ads are everywhere. Several platforms are testing where and how much they can put without raising a lot of fuss from their users. On a few occasions, a platform can cross the line, prompting a wave of reprisals. Instagram, for example, backtracked on a controversial decision to pump out more recommended posts and ads after massive backlash. Despite the recency of the controversy, Instagram is back again with another ad-fueled decision: ads on user profiles.

This week, Meta announced that two more types of ads are coming to Instagram. The first type is a natural extension of what the platform already has. Instead of hiding video ads deep within the Explore section, these short videos will start popping up right on the section’s landing page. Since the section already has ads, it might not be as intrusive, especially when compared to the second type.

Besides a new spot in the Explore feed, Instagram is also adding ads to a user’s profile. Likely to a lot of users’ dismay, it is what it says on the tin. Offering some consolation, the platform won’t spoil a profile’s grid with an ad. Instead, when a user clicks on a post on the profile, the vertical feed, which usually shows a timeline of the profile’s content, will contain spots for ads.

Instagram has not officially confirmed which users will get the feature. However, the company is currently testing it for select creators. It also assures users that it will come only on public profiles, not private individuals.

SEE ALSO: You can snooze recommended posts on Instagram

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YouTube might ask users to pay to watch in 4K

In testing phase

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Despite offering a mostly free service, YouTube is finding new ways to monetize parts of its platform. Now, ads are a lot more prevalent while watching videos. A less popular way is gating some features behind the platform’s YouTube Premium banner. YouTube is trying it once again, though. The platform is currently testing whether to keep 4K viewing behind a paywall.

With the capabilities of displays today, YouTube and its creators can offer content in stunning 4K resolution. Though not everyone can enjoy the feature, 4K viewing was a welcome one.

However, as spotted by some users on social media (via TechCrunch), the video-sharing site is reportedly making the viewing option exclusive for Premium users. The company has not officially announced any change yet. However, YouTube’s other accounts on Twitter replied to some concerned users on the site, citing an “experiment” to test what works for Premium and non-Premium users.

The company is still gathering responses to the experiment. However, if the initial social media response is any indication, a good chunk of YouTube’s users isn’t pleased with having to pay more to enjoy high-quality content.

Currently, YouTube Premium comes at US$ 11.99 per month for interested customers. The paid subscription offers ad-free viewing and offline viewing. If the company sees some progress with the experiment, they might ad 4K viewing to Premium’s mix.

SEE ALSO: YouTube has quietly launched a Podcasts hub

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TikTok, Tencent linked to sexually violent ads on Facebook

Ads continue to run on platform

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Facebook has an ad problem. After spending years on the platform, you might have noticed a plethora of misplaced ads occasionally peppered on your feed. Though most users cringe at how the algorithm can uncannily show appropriate ads right after talking about a certain topic, a series of more off-putting, offensive, and disturbing ads is making the rounds on the social media platform. Now, following a deep dive, a report has found that ByteDance and Tencent are affiliated with the phenomenon.

What are these Facebook ads? In a report from Forbes’s Emily Baker-White, several web novel companies are advertising erotic content on the platform. However, more than just erotica, these ads promote sexual, violence, rape, and self-harm. Some are even using images of popular personalities without their permission.

A particularly egregious example involves a photo of a crying woman in the shower with the caption: “his personal cum bucket.” A few others are more up front about harming women to get sex.

Others depict scenes from Twilight and Star Wars, despite not being affiliated at all with the titles. Several companies and personalities contacted by Forbes confirmed that they did not give these novel apps any permission to use their likeness.

As for the deep dive, a good number of these companies were previously backed by either ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, or Tencent, one of the biggest Chinese companies in the world. While ByteDance has claimed that the apps don’t reflect their values, these ads continue to proliferate around the platform. Tencent has likewise denied any involvement with the campaigns.

It’s also worth nothing that the apps aren’t limited to just China. One app, called Pinky Novel, operates from the Philippines and is spreading similarly troubling ads everywhere, including one that says, “Raped by Mr. CEO.”

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