More Unfriending At Facebook As Product Chief And Head Of WhatsApp Exit

Read on: Deadline.

Facebook’s time of transition, a seemingly unending phase since last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal segued to a host of other corporate issues, is continuing with the exits of product chief Chris Cox and WhatsApp head Chris Daniels.
Wil…

Facebook Facing Criminal Investigation Into Device Data Share Deals

Read on: Deadline.

A New York grand jury has subpoenaed records from at least two smartphone manufacturers as part of a criminal investigation into Facebook’s data deals with large technology companies.
The story, first reported by the New York Times, cites anonymo…

Facebook and Instagram Are Down for Some Users

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

If you’re unable to access Facebook or Instagram, you’re not alone. The social network and the popular pictures/video sharing app are both experiencing an outage on Wednesday, with many frustrated users venting on Twitter.

“We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps. We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” a Facebook spokesperson told TheWrap.

Facebook has been down since about 10:15 a.m. PT for many users, with downdetector.com, a website that tracks outages, receiving more than 10,000 reported problems between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. PT.

Also Read: Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick to Voice Facebook Watch Animated Series From ‘BoJack Horseman’ Producer

Some users who are unable to access Facebook from their desktop computers have been able to use its app without issue on an iPhone. According to The Independent, many Facebook users were greeted with a message that said that the site was “down for maintenance” when they visited on Wednesday. Instagram, meanwhile, has had difficulty loading user profiles and refreshing pictures on its timeline.

Rather than wait for Instagram or Facebook to go back online, many people — including Soulja Boy — raced to Twitter to joke and complain.

Facebook???? Instagram???? Atleast the Soulja App isn’t down ????????‍

— Soulja Boy (@souljaboy) March 13, 2019

Hello to everyone who has come back to twitter while Facebook and Instagram are down. Yes everything is still terrible and yes we are still all arguing with each other.

— TechnicallyRon (@TechnicallyRon) March 13, 2019

Me: Instagram and Facebook are down.

Wife: Oh, no. You’ll have to interact with people in person.

Me: No. There’s still Twitter.

— James Breakwell, Exploding Unicorn (@XplodingUnicorn) March 13, 2019

When #instagram is not working … Everybody run to twitter to check on it…

— Eddy Manolo (@syahchixchad) March 13, 2019

Everyone running from Instagram to twitter to see if other peoples Insta is down lmao #instagram pic.twitter.com/jKj6bnXxR9

— Nic???? (@HeyNicky_) March 13, 2019

Everyone running to twitter to see if facebook and instagram are down pic.twitter.com/lXCcHdASFx

— VT (@vtdotco) March 13, 2019

We’ll update you when both are back up and running at full capacity.

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‘The Social Network’ for Snapchat? Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi Orders Series Based on Snap Chief Evan Spiegel

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new digital startup Quibi is creating a series based on the rise of Snapchat. And yes, even Katzenberg sees the similarities to “The Social Network,” the 2010 movie about the birth and growth of Facebook.
“W…

Is Facebook Stuck in a No-Win Position When It Comes to Moderating Content?

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

When it comes to moderating content, Mark Zuckerberg probably gets the sense that Facebook is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

The social network has been ridiculed in the past for not doing enough to police its platform — which, despite a scandal-filled 2018, still closed the year with 2.3 billion monthly users.

Now, Facebook is once again being skewered by its critics — despite hiring thousands of content moderators in recent years — after The Verge published a harrowing look at what it’s like to spend all day scanning the worst Facebook has to offer: racism; violence; beastiality; self-harm; murder.

For the 1,000 moderators at Cognizant, a Phoenix-based vendor used by Facebook, it’s all part of the job. And unsurprisingly, it inflicts a significant mental toll on its workers. Some current and former employees told The Verge they drink on the job or smoke weed to “numb their emotions.” Others said they’d developed “PTSD-like symptoms.” One former moderator, scared that angry ex-colleagues may return to the office, said he brought a gun to work each day.

Also Read: Facebook’s Top-Secret Content Moderators Smoke Marijuana to ‘Numb Their Emotions,’ Report Says

While this was met with understandable horror by many tech reporters, former Facebook director and current Wired writer Antonio Garcia Martinez argued this is the painful but obvious byproduct of Facebook reluctantly stepping up its moderation.

“The same [Facebook] critics who call on the company to take on responsibility for moderating content (an operational job they don’t want, and had to be pressed to perform), will of course be shocked, shocked at the human cost in reviewing billions of pieces of random content,” Martinez tweeted.

The same FB critics who call on the company to take on responsibility for moderating content (an operational job they don’t want, and had to be pressed to perform), will of course be shocked, shocked at the human cost in reviewing billions of pieces of random content. https://t.co/GSzzA6k2Nt

— Antonio García Martínez (@antoniogm) February 25, 2019

Martinez’s reaction raised a valid point: What do we even expect Facebook to do?

“Social media companies like Facebook are between a rock and a hard place,” tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar told TheWrap. “If they’re more proactive and remove content, the other side says, ‘How dare you? You’re not the government.’ But then if they’re more libertarian and say it’s a marketplace of ideas, then they’re not handling their social responsibility.”

Facebook has beefed up its moderation efforts since it was roundly blamed for letting Russian trolls run bogus political ads during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The company also added several thousand moderators in 2017 in reaction to several videos depicting both murder and teens taking their own lives. Other social platforms like Twitter have followed suit in the last two years. Currently, Facebook employs about 15,000 reviewers around the world.

Also Read: Facebook Shuts Down Data-Collection App Onavo

In a wide-ranging discussion with Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain earlier this month, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg touched on the difficulty of moderating billions of posts each day. Zuckerberg said the company wants to make sure “borderline content,” or content that approaches violating its rules, doesn’t become the most shared content on Facebook. At the same time, he acknowledged that the company doesn’t want to be in the business of determining what is and isn’t true.

“I believe very strongly that people do not want Facebook and that we should not be the arbiters of truth in deciding what is correct for everyone in the society,” Zuckerberg told Zittrain. “I think people already generally think that we have too much power in deciding what content is good.”

The challenge Facebook is “grappling with,” Zuckerberg said, is striking a balance between “free expression” on the one hand, and “safety” on the other, where users “rightfully have an expectation of us that we’re going to do everything we can to stop terrorists from recruiting people or people from exploiting children.”

Like Martinez, Polgar said this was a challenge Zuckerberg only took on to silence the company’s critics.

“Zuckerberg and [Twitter chief] Jack Dorsey, if they could shift away this power, they absolutely would,” Polgar said. “Think about how much time and PR nightmares they’re stuck in because they’re trying to clean up behavior online.”

It’s a responsibility Facebook is likely stuck with, though, now that it’s begun moderating in the first place. And if that’s the case, there are a few options that can be explored to make this undesirable job a bit more palatable.

The first fix, Polgar said, would be to pay its moderators better. As The Verge pointed out, Cognizant reviewers earned less than $29,000 per year — or about eight times less than the average Facebook employee makes. If they’re going to sift through disgusting and depressing content all day, he thinks they should at least be paid decently.

Also Read: Facebook Acted Like ‘Digital Gangsters,’ British Parliament Says

Another option would be to provide more mental health resources for its moderators. A Facebook rep told TheWrap the company was looking to “include even more regular and comprehensive focus groups” with its vendor employees than it currently does, but didn’t elaborate on specific programs it’ll implement.

Still, these changes wouldn’t act as a surefire panacea. Humans would still be taking the mental brunt of it. Artificial intelligence could potentially ease this burden, somewhat.

A person familiar with Facebook’s moderation efforts said the company already depends on AI to target much of the content it’s trying to eradicate, including posts related to terrorism and pornography. AI also helps to prioritize the most important posts for moderators to review, like content related to self-harm. But a future where human moderators are replaced entirely by AI is unlikely.

“There will most likely always be a need for humans as part of this process,” the Facebook employee said, because of the “nuance” needed to review posts.

Also Read: Will Journalists Be Replaced by Artificial Intelligence?

This week has shined a light on the bind Facebook finds itself in. To moderate billions of posts each day is a near-impossible task that comes with a substantial human cost. To improve this effort by paying better or hiring more moderators would be pricey. On the other hand, to abandon it would be a PR catastrophe and allow the ugliest content to float around Facebook. Strictly from a business standpoint, this isn’t feasible, as some users and advertisers would run away.

Zuckerberg made his choice to fight the worst content on Facebook, but the halfhearted attempt has once again provided ammunition for the company’s critics — the same critics Facebook was looking to satiate by focusing on content moderation in the first place.

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Facebook’s Top-Secret Content Moderators Smoke Marijuana to ‘Numb Their Emotions,’ Report Says

Facebook’s Top-Secret Content Moderators Smoke Marijuana to ‘Numb Their Emotions,’ Report Says

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Facebook moderators, shaken by their daily exposure to racist posts, sexually-explicit content and videos of people being murdered, turn to having sex with their co-workers and smoking marijuana on their breaks to “numb the pain,” according to a lengthy report that The Verge published on Monday.

The piece offers an in-depth look at the company’s Phoenix office where 1,000 contracted moderators, ran by a vendor called Cognizant, grapple with the worst that the social network has to offer. Current and former employees have developed “PTSD-like symptoms,” according to The Verge, by spending their days sleuthing Facebook. Some employees joke about “drinking to forget” what they’ve seen and smoked marijuana during breaks.

Cognizant moderators are paid a fraction of what the average Facebook employee makes — about $29,000 compared to $240,000  — and can be fired if they make a “handful of errors a week.” Fired employees have threatened to come back to the office and hurt their former co-workers, something that drove Randy, a former Cognizant moderator, to bring a gun to work to protect himself.

Also Read: 7 Things We Learned in Tech World This Week, From Apple’s Blunder to Elon Musk’s Pivot to Boring

“I’m f—-d up, man,” Randy told The Verge. “My mental health — it’s just so up and down. One day I can be really happy, and doing really good. The next day, I’m more or less of a zombie. It’s not that I’m depressed. I’m just stuck.”

Randy added he doesn’t “think it’s possible to do the job and not come out of it with some acute stress disorder or PTSD.”

In a blog post on Monday, Facebook defended its work with vendors like Cognizant. The company said it makes regular site visits to check if its workers are provided mandatory “wellness breaks” and other measures are taken to protect mental wellbeing. Following The Verge’s report, Facebook said it’ll be taking more steps to protect its moderators.

Also Read: Facebook’s Faceplant Year: Is This the Beginning of the End for Social Media Giant?

“We are putting in place a rigorous and regular compliance and audit process for all of our outsourced partners to ensure they are complying with the contracts and care we expect,” Facebook said in its post. “This will include even more regular and comprehensive focus groups with vendor employees than we do today.”

A Cognizant spokesperson said the company has “investigated the specific workplace issues” raised by The Verge and “previously taken action where necessary. The spokesperson added the company has “steps in place to continue to address” the issues raised.

“In addition to offering a comprehensive wellness program at Cognizant, including a safe and supportive work culture, 24×7 phone support and onsite counselor support to employees, Cognizant has partnered with leading HR and Wellness consultants to develop the next generation of wellness practices,” the spokesperson said.

Wired writer Antonio Garcia Martinez — a former Facebook employee — said no matter what the company does, whether it’s moderating content or taking a hands-off approach, “there’ll be a loud mob complaining the whole way.”

Also Read: Google and Facebook’s Complete and Total Digital Ad Domination Explained in 1 Chart

The same FB critics who call on the company to take on responsibility for moderating content (an operational job they don’t want, and had to be pressed to perform), will of course be shocked, shocked at the human cost in reviewing billions of pieces of random content. https://t.co/GSzzA6k2Nt

— Antonio García Martínez (@antoniogm) February 25, 2019

The “same [Facebook] critics who call on the company to take on responsibility for moderating content (an operational job they don’t want, and had to be pressed to perform), will of course be shocked, shocked at the human cost in reviewing billions of pieces of random content,” Martinez tweeted.

The Verge’s report seemed to have little significance on Wall Street, with Facebook shares trading up 2.4 percent on Monday to $165. 75 per share.

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Facebook Shuts Down Data-Collection App Onavo

Facebook Acted Like ‘Digital Gangsters,’ British Parliament Says

Google and Facebook’s Complete and Total Digital Ad Domination Explained in 1 Chart

Facebook Shuts Down Data-Collection App Onavo

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Facebook is shutting down Onavo, a virtual private network (VPN) app the company used to collect data on the app usage of its users, the company confirmed to TheWrap on Friday.

“Market research helps companies build better products for people. We are shifting our focus to reward-based market research which means we’re going to end the Onavo program,” a Facebook spokesperson told TheWrap.

The decision comes months after the app was kicked off the App Store for violating Apple’s data collection rules.

Also Read: ‘Infuriated’ Mark Zuckerberg Told Facebook Staff to Use Android After Apple CEO’s Diss (Report)

Onavo, bought by Facebook in 2013, acted as a VPN, masking a user’s location to “keep you and your data safe.” More importantly for the social network, Onavo’s real value was in sharing data on the apps used by its users — allowing Facebook to spot trends and target companies to acquire. The app also told Facebook the websites its users visited and the devices they used, among other details.

“Because we’re part of Facebook, we also use this info to improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences,” Onavo’s app description said.

Facebook did not mention when Onavo will be officially shuttered. The app will “immediately cease pulling in data from users,” according to TechCrunch, the first outlet to report the story while continuing to operate as a VPN for its users in the short-term.

Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg ‘Didn’t Know’ Facebook Worked With Opposition Research Firm

Onavo’s shutdown comes weeks after Facebook removed its Research App, which paid users — some as young as 13 —  $20 per month to collect a wide range of data, including web search history and social media messages.

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Facebook Acted Like ‘Digital Gangsters,’ British Parliament Says

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Facebook Acted Like ‘Digital Gangsters,’ British Parliament Says

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Facebook has been allowed to act like “digital gangsters,” a blistering report from a British parliamentary committee said on Monday, by overlooking data privacy laws in order to expand its massive advertising business.

The report, put together over an 18-month period by the U.K. Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, called for new laws to regulate the tech industry — something lawmakers both in the U.S. and abroad have been increasingly calling for since Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data leak was discovered last year.

“Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law,” the report said. Facebook, according to the report, has “intentionally and knowingly” skirted consumer-protection and digital privacy laws as its grown into a business pulling in more than $50 billion in revenue per year.

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Facebook did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment, but a company spokesperson said it was open to “meaningful regulation” in a statement to The New York Times.

“While we still have more to do, we are not the same company we were a year ago,” Karim Palant, a public policy manager for Facebook in the U.K., told The Times. “We have tripled the size of the team working to detect and protect users from bad content to 30,000 people and invested heavily in machine learning, artificial intelligence and computer vision technology to help prevent this type of abuse.”

The committee used documents obtained by Six4Three, a small company that is suing Facebook in California after its app, which allowed friends to find pictures of their friends in bikinis, was decimated after Facebook changed its third-party sharing policies in 2015. The court documents, according to the committee, show Facebook was “willing to override its users’ privacy settings in order to transfer data” to app developers.

Also Read: Facebook Removes 783 Iranian Accounts for ‘Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior’

“Facebook’s handling of personal data, and its use for political campaigns, are prime and legitimate areas for inspection by regulators, and it should not be able to evade all editorial responsibility for the content shared by its users across its platforms,” the report added.

The report recommended the creation of a British watchdog to keep tabs on the entire tech industry. The committee doesn’t have the ability to create new laws, but chairman Damian Collins told The Times he hopes the recommendations are accepted by Parliament. The report comes at the same time Facebook is negotiating with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on a multi-billion settlement to close its investigation int privacy violations.

You can read the full report here.

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Google and Facebook’s Complete and Total Digital Ad Domination Explained in 1 Chart

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The digital advertising world is still dominated by two companies: Google and Facebook.

That much is clear after both tech giants reported fourth quarter earnings in the last week, providing a full look at their 2018 ad sales in the process. And the results from “the duopoly,” as the two firms have been dubbed, were staggering.

Facebook’s ad revenue increased 37 percent year-over-year, hitting $55 billion. Those gains came as the social network battled a string of well-chronicled data scandals, including its admission it gave partners like Spotify and Netflix special access to private user messages.

Also Read: Facebook’s Stock Surges 7 Percent on Huge Q4 Sales, Massive User Growth

Google’s strength was even more apparent, with the company pulling in $116.3 billion in ad revenue last year. That accounted for more than 40 percent of worldwide online ad sales, according to estimates provided by eMarketer.

Altogether, Facebook and Google combined to bring in more than 60 percent of the $279.6 billion in global ad revenue in 2018. (The two companies found a way to grab more of the international ad market than in 2017, when Facebook and Google’s combined $135.5 billion in ad sales accounted for 58 percent of the market.)

Also Read: FX Boss John Landgraf Bashes Google and Facebook’s ‘Winner-Take-All’ Mentality: ‘Not a Good Thing for Society’

The remaining 39 percent was split among a number of big name companies that are otherwise dwarfed by Facebook and Google — Chinese players Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu as well as U.S. heavyweights such as Amazon and Microsoft.

Most jarringly, the duopoly’s dominance is only expected to grow. By 2022, when digital ads are expected to grab half of all marketing dollars, Facebook and Google’s slice of the pie will increase to 80 percent of the global ad market, according to Polar’s State of Digital Media report.

To get there, Facebook is continuing to find ways to wedge ads onto Instagram, its popular pictures and messaging app, and looking to grow Watch, its content hub on Facebook, to keep eyeballs on its platform longer.

Also Read: Facebook Drops App That Paid Teens $20 for Full Access to Their Phones

Google, meanwhile, has recently looked to make YouTube, the web’s leading video site, even more advertiser-friendly. YouTube last year banned 1.67 million channels, with more than 50 million videos combined between them, for violations of its anti-spam policy, and last month said it would reduce the amount of conspiracy-oriented videos its algorithm recommends.

The decision came a week after AT&T decided to return to advertising on YouTube after a two-year moratorium, believing its ads wouldn’t be connected to “objectionable content” under YouTube’s latest content policies.

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Snapchat Snaps Back: Is Fresh Content the Key to Snap’s Longterm Success?

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Big Tom Callahan, played by Brian Dennehy in the 1995 classic “Tommy Boy,” seems to have been wrong when he proclaimed “you’re either growing or you’re dying” at least when it comes to Snap Inc.
While Snapchat’…

7 Things We Learned in Tech World This Week, From Apple’s Blunder to Elon Musk’s Pivot to Boring

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Tech stalwarts came into the week expecting the big news to come from quarterly earnings reports.

But that didn’t factor in a major bug hitting FaceTime or Facebook’s latest faux pas reigniting its feud with Apple, its Silicon Valley neighbor.

It was hard to keep up, so let’s review six lessons we learned this week, from Apple to Facebook to Elon Musk.

1. Apple Isn’t Infallible 

Apple has spent much of the last year publicly championing itself as the tech giant that truly cares about protecting its customers. This came as Facebook and Google, to a lesser extent, battled multiple data privacy scandals over the course of 2018. At one point last spring, Apple chief Tim Cook couldn’t help himself from needling Facebook over its Cambridge Analytica scandal, saying he “wouldn’t be in this situation” if he were Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Also Read: iPhone Q1 Sales Drop 15 Percent, Apple’s Stock Still Jumps 5 Percent on Record Services Revenue

And yet, Apple had it’s own privacy headache this week. A major FaceTime bug allowed iPhone users to listen to the audio on someone else’s phone — even if the recipient didn’t answer their phone. The glitch occurred when FaceTime users swiped up on their screen as they were dialing and added their own number to the call.

The makeshift three-way call allowed the caller to listen to the other person’s iPhone and, compounding matters, if the recipient hit the volume or power button to ignore the call, it instead started broadcasting video of their phone to the person calling them.

The issue impacted anyone that had updated their iPhone since October and forced Apple to disable Group FaceTime until a new iOS update is available next week. The bug put the privacy spotlight on Apple, if only for a moment, before Facebook had yet another misstep on Wednesday.

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2. Apple’s Growing Feud With Facebook… and Google

The social network’s latest controversy — running a clandestine “Research app” that paid some users as young as 13 a $20 monthly fee to let the company collect a wide range of data, including web search history and social media messages — only exacerbated Facebook’s strained relationship with Apple.

The app clearly violated App Store rules, and Apple hit back by revoking Facebook’s enterprise certificates — a move that blocked Facebook from running several internal iOS apps. That ended up causing companywide “chaos,” according to Business Insider, on the same day Facebook was set to report Q4 earnings.

Apple didn’t stop at Facebook, either. It also blocked Google’s internal iOS apps from working on Thursday as well for a separate rules violations. Apple eventually restored enterprise access for both of its Silicon Valley neighbors later on Thursday, but the message was clear: Apple has the muscle to paralyze its tech frenemies.

Speaking of Facebook, though…

Also Read: Facebook Pledges $300 Million to Support Local News Outlets

3. Users Don’t Care About Facebook’s Data Privacy Concerns 

Facebook’s series of privacy scandals in the last year seemed to have had no real impact on its bottom line. The company reported this week it gained 30 million daily active users — including several million in the U.S. and Europe, its most lucrative markets. The gains pushed Facebook past 1.5 billion DAUs; altogether it has 2.32 billion monthly users. This was a big win for Facebook, after posting stagnate user growth in North America, and even losing millions of users in Europe, for most of 2018.

Facebook also brought in nearly $17 billion in Q4 revenue, easily lapping the company’s previous quarterly high by more than $3 billion. Anyway you slice it, it looks like Facebook’s data concerns were ultimately met with indifference from the majority of its users. When asked on its Q4 earnings call if bad press had impacted growth at all, Facebook CFO David Wehner quickly replied, “I’d probably just let the numbers speak for themselves.”

By tech earnings call standards, it was the equivalent of Yasiel Puig celebrating a massive home run.

Facebook shares have jumped more than 10 percent since Wednesday, and at about $166 per share, the company is close to where it was last March, when it admitted 87 million users were impacted by the Cambridge Analytica data leak.

Also Read: Instagram Stories Just Passed 500 Million Daily Users

4. Instagram Is Trouncing Snapchat at Its Own Game

On the same call, Zuckerberg couldn’t help but share the good news about Instagram Stories, the popular app’s feature allowing users to thread together pictures and videos with a 24-hour shelf life. Instagram Stories now has 500 million daily users — a revelation that came just days before Snap Inc., Snapchat’s parent company, is set to report its own earnings and give an update on user growth.

Since Snapchat lost 2 million users in the third quarter of 2018, falling to 186 million DAUs, it’s highly unlikely it’ll come anywhere close to matching its chief rival.

And if that isn’t enough to give Snap CEO Evan Spiegel an ulcer, Instagram has done it by blatantly copying Stories, one of Snapchat’s trademark features. Stay tuned on Monday to see if Snap is able to shake out of its own funk.

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5. DirecTV’s Streaming Problem Is Only Getting Worse

DirecTV Now, DirecTV’s live streaming service that starts at $40 a month, was supposed to be the satellite company’s best defense against pesky, cord-cutting millennials and Gen Z’ers. Instead, it’s in just as much trouble as DirecTV’s legacy satellite TV business.

DirecTV Now lost 267,000 subscribers during the fourth quarter, shedding 14 percent of its total customers in the process, AT&T revealed earlier this week.

The companies core business didn’t fare any better, losing another 403,000 customers after losing more than 350,000 during Q3. “AT&T had guided to subscriber losses in Q4,” MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett wrote to clients afterwards. “But nobody expected this.”

Also Read: Tesla Cuts 3,000 Jobs, Elon Musk Says ‘Our Products Are Still Too Expensive for Most People’

6. The New, Subdued Elon Musk 

Silicon Valley’s favorite son/enfant terrible typically makes Tesla earnings calls must-listen events. He routinely shoots from the hip and isn’t afraid to blast an analyst for asking a “boring bonehead” question, as he did last May.

But this week, a more genteel Musk joined Tesla’s Q4 call. The biggest takeaway? Musk called the Model X, Tesla’s middle child SUV, the “Faberge egg of cars.” Not as exciting as butting heads with prodding Wall Street analysts.

Musk’s reserved approach could simply be a byproduct of him getting into hot water with the SEC last year. (It could also be the result of him being sued for calling a Thai rescue diver a pedophile.)

7. A Tech-wide “Pivot to Boring”

Whatever the reason, Musk seemed to represent an overall “pivot to boring” when it came to this round of earnings reports from the tech sector. Or maybe it’s just a pivot to less transparency.

Apple for the first time stopped sharing how many iPhones it sold, while Zuckerberg said Facebook would soon stop reporting Facebook’s overall user growth, opting instead to only share the growth of its “family of apps.”

And Amazon posted a record $72 billion in quarterly revenue, yet failed to reveal much of anything that went into its success beyond healthy holiday sales. The e-commerce giant continued to keep pesky details like its overall Prime membership under wraps.
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Apple Apologizes for FaceTime Bug, Says a Fix Will Be Available Next Week

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

It was Apple’s turn to apologize for a privacy issue on Friday, with the company saying sorry for a FaceTime bug that allowed callers to listen to other people’s phones.

The bug impacted Group FaceTime for anyone who had updated their phone since late October. The glitch occurred when FaceTime users swiped up on their screen as they were dialing, and added their own number to the call. The makeshift three-way call allowed the caller to listen to the other person’s iPhone and if the recipient hit the volume or power button to ignore the call, it instead started broadcasting video from their phone to the person calling them.

Apple was forced to disable Group FaceTime after the issue went public earlier this week.

Also Read: Apple Chief Tim Cook Blames Trade Tensions With China, Weak iPhone Sales for Lowered Revenue Projection

“We have fixed the Group FaceTime security bug on Apple’s servers and we will issue a software update to re-enable the feature for users next week,” Apple said in a statement shared with USA Today on Friday.

The company also acknowledged Arizona lawyer Michele Thompson in its statement, thanking her after her 14-year-old son spotted the bug while playing “Fortnite” with his friends. Thompson attempted to contact Apple to bring the bug to the company’s attention multiple times, including filing an official bug report and faxing a letter.

“We thank the Thompson family for reporting the bug,” Apple said. “We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected and all who were concerned about this security issue. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we complete this process.”

Also Read: Apple Chief Tim Cook Calls Out ‘Data-Industrial Complex’

The FaceTime flaw came after Apple spent much of the last year championing itself as the tech giant that truly cares about user privacy. Apple chief Tim Cook even chided Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year over its massive data leak, saying he “wouldn’t be in this position” if he were Zuckerberg.

Still, the bug had no impact on the company’s stock. Apple shares increased 8 percent this week, after the company reported record quarterly Services revenue, helping offset a 15 percent decline in iPhone sales.

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Facebook Tops Q4 Estimates For Profit, Revenue And Users, Lifting Stock

Read on: Deadline.

Facebook reported fourth-quarter results that exceeded estimates by Wall Street analysts for revenue, profit and active user levels.
The news boosted the company’s stock. After a regular session during which it rose more than 4% to $150.42, it ad…

Facebook’s Stock Surges 7 Percent on Huge Q4 Sales, Massive User Growth

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

What scandals? Facebook appeared to be Teflon to a myriad of data privacy concerns that have surfaced in the last year when it reported its fourth quarter earnings on Wednesday afternoon, with the social network posting major user growth and record-setting quarterly revenue.

Facebook reported $16.9 billion in revenue — marking a 30 percent year-over-year increase and easily passing the company’s previous quarterly high by more than $3 billion — and topped analyst estimates of $16.4 billion in sales. The company also posted better-than-expected earnings of $2.38 per share, compared to analyst estimates of $2.19 EPS.

Perhaps most impressively for a company that already had more than 2 billion monthly users, Facebook increased both its monthly and daily active users by 9 percent each, with Facebook adding 30 million daily users to hit 1.52 billion DAUs overall. Notably, Facebook added 4 million daily users in Europe — after consecutive quarters of decreasing growth — and also added 1 million DAUs in the U.S. after growth had been static for the first three quarters of 2018. Those users are especially important to Facebook’s business, considering 74 percent of its quarterly revenue stemmed from North America and Europe.

Also Read: Facebook Pledges $300 Million to Support Local News Outlets

“Our community and business continue to grow,” chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement. “We’ve fundamentally changed how we run our company to focus on the biggest social issues, and we’re investing more to build new and inspiring ways for people to connect.”

Facebook not only added more users, but also found a way to make more money off of them. The company’s average revenue per user of $7.37 increased 19 percent year-over-year and easily surpassed analyst estimates of $7.20. The bulk of Facebook’s ad revenue continues to come from mobile ads, which accounted for 93 percent of its total ad sales.

Also Read: Aaron Sorkin Knows They Should Make a ‘Social Network’ Sequel (Video)

Wall Street was receptive to Facebook’s strong quarter, with Facebook shares increasing 7 percent in after-hours trading to $162 per share.

One stat showed how ubiquitous Facebook’s family of apps has become: the company estimated 2 billion people use at least one of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger each day on average.

Wednesday got off to an inauspicious start for Facebook, with it’s “Facebook Research” app, which paid users $20 per month to receive a bevy of information, including private messages and web search history, being removed from Apple’s App Store. A Facebook rep told TheWrap it was the company’s decision to pull the app down on Tuesday — a claim Apple pushed back against in its own statement, telling TheWrap it “revoked” Facebook’s enterprise developer certificate, which not only impacted the Research app but several internal Facebook apps. “Chaos” ensued for Facebook employees unable to use internal iOS apps, according to Business Insider.

Also Read: Facebook’s Slide Continues as Stock Price Hits 2018 Low

The latest Apple-Facebook dustup didn’t impact the social network’s stock price, however, with Facebook shares increasing 4 percent during normal trading hours on Wednesday.

Facebook’s rocky 2018 continued during the fourth quarter, including another data privacy concern in a year full of them. The company admitted it gave major partners like Netflix and Spotify special access to private user messages in December, confirming key details in an illuminating report from The New York Times.

Facebook also removed dozens of inauthentic accounts stemming from Iran last month for spreading fake news. The purge was one of several from Facebook last year, with the company ultimately removing thousands of accounts for misinformation campaigns.

The company will hold a call to discuss its earnings at 5:00 p.m. ET.

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Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Facebook is pulling down a controversial app that paid users $20 per month to collect a wide range of  data, including web search history and social media messages, the company said on Wednesday.

The social network told The Verge that it’s removing the “Facebook Research App” from Apple’s App Store, one day after TechCrunch reported that the company was using it to mine an extensive amount of information from its users. Facebook did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on whether the app would remain available on Android.

Along with web searches and private messages, the app also allowed Facebook to view location history, emails, browsing activity, plus pictures and videos sent from a user’s phone, security specialist Will Strafach told TechCrunch. Facebook paid users between the ages of 13 and 35 to download the virtual private network app — with users 17 and younger requiring parental consent to continue. It’s unclear how many people were being paid to use the app.

Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg ‘Didn’t Know’ Facebook Worked With Opposition Research Firm

Facebook, in a statement to The Verge, said less than 5 percent of the app’s users were teenagers.

“Key facts about this market research program are being ignored,” Facebook told The Verge. “Despite early reports, there was nothing ‘secret’ about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App. It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate.”

Compounding matters, Facebook potentially violated the App Store’s rules by asking users to install a custom root certificate on their phones, allowing the company to track and analyze user data. Typically, Apple only allows this sort of access for internal company apps used by employees. Apple did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on if the Research App violated its policies and if it had asked Facebook to take down the app.

Also Read: ‘Infuriated’ Mark Zuckerberg Told Facebook Staff to Use Android After Apple CEO’s Diss (Report)

“The fairly technical sounding ‘install our Root Certificate’ step is appalling,” Strafach told TechCrunch. “This hands Facebook continuous access to the most sensitive data about you, and most users are going to be unable to reasonably consent to this regardless of any agreement they sign, because there is no good way to articulate just how much power is handed to Facebook when you do this.”

This wouldn’t be the first time Apple and Facebook have butted heads over an app; Apple yanked Onavo, a clandestine Facebook app that shared data on a user’s app usage, last August.

Facebook’s stock was unscathed by TechCrunch’s report, with shares trading up about 2 percent to $147 per share early on Wednesday. The company is set to report its fourth quarter earnings later in the day.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Facebook Q4 Earnings Preview: Will Bad Press Drive Users Away?

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Facebook Lays Groundwork For 40-Member Content Oversight Board

Read on: Deadline.

As a follow-up to its promises last fall to keep working to become more transparent and improve policing of its platform, Facebook today released a draft charter to establish an oversight board.
The move, revealed in a blog post by Nick Clegg, VP Globa…