Instagram Stories Just Passed 500 Million Daily Users

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Instagram Stories, the photo-sharing app’s feature allowing users to post pictures and videos for only 24 hours, has hit 500 million daily active users, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday.

Zuckerberg shared the update while taking a victory lap on Facebook’s Q4 earnings call, after the mothership posted strong revenue and user growth to close 2018. It was the first time Instagram had updated its Stories count since last June, when it had 400 million DAUs. The Facebook-owned app now has more than double the amount of Stories users as its chief competitor, Snapchat, which had 186 million daily users when it last reported earnings in October.

The 500 million figure comes just before Snap Inc., Snapchat’s parent company, will report its earnings next Monday. And to make things worse for Snap, which has been plagued by lagging user growth in recent quarters, Instagram essentially copied Snapchat’s Stories feature when it rolled out its own version of Stories in 2016.

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

Zuckerberg, talking about Stories last October, said it’s the “future” of Facebook’s family of apps. “People want to share in ways that don’t stick around permanently and I want to make sure we fully embrace this.” Facebook rolled out its own Stories feature in 2017, and WhatsApp’s Status — its own version of the feature — has more than 450 million daily users.

Facebook, in its letter to shareholders on Wednesday, said the company estimated 2 billion people use at least one of  its apps — Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger — each day on average.

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President Trump Blasts ‘Biased Facebook, Google and Twitter’ – on Twitter

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President Trump picked an interesting time to go after Facebook, blasting the social network and other “biased” major tech companies on Thursday morning.

“Check out how biased Facebook, Google and Twitter are in favor of the Democrats,” Trump wrote … on Twitter.

“That’s the real Collusion!” The comment followed Trump’s skewering “highly conflicted” special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into improper Russian connections, saying the probe was being led by Mueller’s “gang of Democrat thugs.”

The only “Collusion” is that of the Democrats with Russia and many others. Why didn’t the FBI take the Server from the DNC? They still don’t have it. Check out how biased Facebook, Google and Twitter are in favor of the Democrats. That’s the real Collusion!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2018

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Trump’s Facebook barb comes a day after The New York Times reported the company used Definers, a Republican political consulting firm, to attack its critics and competitors. Definers tied Facebook protestors to financier George Soros, a longtime target of conservatives and anti-Semites for his financial contributions to left-wing causes, according to the Times.

On behalf of Facebook, Definers also posted several disparaging articles about Google and Apple on NTK Network, an outlet that’s routinely picked up by conservative sites like Breitbart. Facebook terminated its relationship with Definers on Thursday without giving a reason.

This wasn’t the first time President Trump has taken on Silicon Valley. Trump criticized Facebook and Twitter in August over their removal of Alex Jones. The online conspiracy theorist had been permanently suspended by Facebook and Google-owned YouTube that same month; Twitter later banned Jones in September for violating its “abusive behavior” policy.

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“I won’t mention names but when they take certain people off of Twitter or Facebook and they’re making that decision, that is really a dangerous thing because that could be you tomorrow,” Trump told Reuters.

The president also tweeted last September Facebook is “always Anti-Trump.”

Despite his criticism, Trump has remained a prominent advertiser on Facebook. He was the platform’s biggest spender on political ads, a New York University study found in July.

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Facebook Hits 1 Billion Daily Stories Users, Mark Zuckerberg Warns Revenue Growth Could Slow

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Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg announced that more than 1 billion users are using its Stories feature — allowing users to thread together pictures and video with a 24-hour shelf life — each day across its family of apps, but that the compan…

Frontline’s ‘Facebook Dilemma’ Shows How Facebook Became the ‘Dominant Information Source for Entire Countries’

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Facebook’s power to influence the news is fiercely debated in the United States. But in some parts of the globe, Facebook is almost the the only source of news, says James Jacoby, director of the new Frontline documentary “The Facebook Dilemma.”

Facebook’s outsized influence makes the threat of fake news even more intense, he told TheWrap about the two-part film, which premieres tonight.

“The problems that we’ve seen with our elections and Facebook’s role pale in comparison to what’s happening internationally,” Jacoby said. “Facebook is the de facto internet in several parts of the world. When they are the dominant information source for entire countries, that is a potentially very frightening prospect that we should all be aware about.”

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His film looks closely at Myanmar, where misinformation and hoaxes on Facebook’s News Feed have exacerbated sectarian violence.

“If this is a place that can be polluted with misinformation and disinformation,” Jacoby continued, “that has tremendous implications for the future of democracies around the world.”

In an email obtained by The New York Times earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company had added “dozens” of content reviewers focusing on Myanmar and had “increased the number of people across the company on Myanmar-related issues.”

“The Facebook Dilemma” comes as the company scrambles to improve its image after the revelation earlier this year that Cambridge Analytica accessed up to 87 million accounts in 2014. The political firm used the leaked data to target voters through carefully crafted ad campaigns.

The Trump campaign hired the company during the 2016 U.S. election, leading to questions about how much Facebook influenced the vote in key swing states.

Facebook did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Addressing Congress earlier this year, Zuckerberg took responsibility for the company’s slow response to fake news in the U.S.

“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy,” Zuckerberg said. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Also Read: Did Nick Clegg Audition for Top Facebook Job With 2017 Essay Defending Company Against Rupert Murdoch?

Tracing the company from Zuckerberg’s dorm room up through today, “The Facebook Dilemma” shows how Facebook went from a site that connected college kids to one that serves as a  vital news source for billions of people.

Around 2011, Jacoby said, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter enjoyed near-universal acclaim as “forces for good in the world.”

In Egypt, Facebook played a crucial role in rallying dissidents and organizing protests — leading to the eventual overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. “In a country where a dictator controls the media, social media was a liberating force,” said Jacoby, who is also a producer and correspondent on the film.

But things became more complicated when Facebook went public in 2012. The company, now answering to shareholders, had to maintain its unprecedented growth. Hiring moderators was a secondary concern, “in part to keep costs down, and in part because ideologically they didn’t think of themselves as responsible for what people were doing there,” Jacoby said.

“We’ve heard this from [dozens] of insiders that were there at the time, the company took a much more hands-off approach as soon as Wall Street got involved,” Jacoby added.

Also Read: Facebook Inflated Video Views up to 900 Percent, Amended Lawsuit Says

That approach threatened to erode the company’s mission statement, crafted by CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “making the world more open and connected.”

To Jacoby, the portrait of Zuckerberg in the 2010 film “The Social Network” as a vengeful, petty computer nerd was “complete inaccurate in terms of what his motivations were.”

Jacoby believes Zuckerberg “really does believe in his invention as a force for good.” The problem has been Facebook’s inability to avoid being weaponized by trolls.

Now, the company is playing catchup. Zuckerberg, after initially scoffing at reports that the company affected the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election, has said he’s “dead serious” about weeding out fake news. Facebook has invested in an “election war room” to thwart bad actors. And ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, the company has removed hundreds of troll accounts, tied to Russia and Iran.

Also Read: Facebook Removes 810 ‘Inauthentic’ Accounts Ahead of Midterm Elections

“There were various points in time where they didn’t invest the energy, the thought and the resources to figuring out what to do with a what is a very difficult set of problems,” Jacoby added. “It’s only now that they’re starting to deal with these issues that are so complicated.”

You can watch the first half of “The Facebook Dilemma” on Monday on PBS at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., depending on your local station. The second half will air Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. “The Facebook Dilemma” will also be available online after Tuesday.

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Facebook Exec Slams WhatsApp Founder’s Dig as ‘Whole New Standard of Low-Class’

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Some Facebook employees won’t take criticism lying down.

David Marcus, head of Facebook’s blockchain team, wasn’t thrilled with WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton’s recent interview with Forbes, during which he called into question the social network’s business plans for the popular messaging app.

“I find attacking the people and company that made you a billionaire, and went to an unprecedented extent to shield and accommodate you for years, low-class,” Marcus said in a blog post aimed at Acton. “It’s actually a whole new standard of low-class.”

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Acton — who, alongside co-founder Jan Koum, sold WhatsApp to Facebook for $19 billion in 2014 — told Forbes he disagreed with how its new overlords want to monetize the app. Acton said he was in favor of a “metered-use model,” where users are charged a “tenth of a penny” after using a certain amount of free messages, but that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg pushed back, saying it won’t scale.

“I was like, ‘No, you don’t mean that it won’t scale. You mean it won’t make as much money as . . . ,’ and she kind of hemmed and hawed a little,” Acton told Forbes. “I think I made my point. . . . They are businesspeople, they are good businesspeople. They just represent a set of business practices, principles and ethics, and policies that I don’t necessarily agree with.”

Marcus said Acton’s framing of the issue didn’t square with his memory, though, and that CEO Mark Zuckerberg “protected” WhatsApp from being over-monetized. “And by the way the paid messaging that WhatsApp is rolling out now sounds pretty similar to metered messaging from my point of view,” Marcus said.

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According to Acton, a clause his contract stipulates he would be paid his four years worth of stock immediately if Facebook monetized without his and Koum’s consent, but he decided against lawyering up.  “At the end of the day, I sold my company,” said Acton. “I am a sellout. I acknowledge that.”

But most near and dear to Acton and Koum’s hearts, said Acton, is the issue of user privacy. The co-founders were adamant WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, Acton said, despite the potential it could thwart Facebook’s business desires. Acton said he wasn’t in favor of putting ads on the app, and that Zuckerberg would “probe” ways to offer analytical tools to WhatsApp’s business users. Ultimately, Zuckerberg was “supportive” of rolling out end-to-end encryption, Acton recalled, although WhatsApp will introduce ads next year.

In his response, Marcus made it clear Zuckerberg never balked at WhatsApp emphasizing user privacy.

“The global roll-out of end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp happened after the acquisition, and with Mark’s full support. Yes, Jan Koum played a key role in convincing Mark of the importance of encryption, but from that point on, it was never questioned,” Marcus said. “I witnessed Mark defending it a number of internal meetings where there was pushback — never for advertising or data collection reasons but for concerns about safety — and even in Board Meetings.”

Also Read: Facebook’s Former Head of Security Says it’s ‘Too Late’ to Stop 2018 Election Meddling

The tech exec spat comes only two days after Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mark Krieger announced they will leave the company in the coming weeks. Acton left WhatsApp in 2017, and Koum exited earlier this year to, among other things, focus on “collecting rare air-cooled Porsches.”

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Trump Still Among Top Google Ads Spenders Despite Bashing Search Giant

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President Trump is spending big on Google advertisements, despite saying the tech stalwart is “suppressing” conservative voices.

According to Google’s hub for tracking political spending, Trump — via the “Trump Make America Great Again Committee” — has dropped $720,500 on Google ads since the start of June. (The ad tracking tool shares data on spending since May 31 of this year.) As of Wednesday, that makes Trump the second-biggest spender on Google political ads, behind One Nation, the Karl Rove-linked organization that’s supporting Republicans in the 2018 U.S. midterms. As recently as Aug. 16, Trump was leading the pack when it came to Google political marketing.

Nearly all of the president’s Google budget goes towards YouTube, its massive video site.

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“Tell Congress: You Want The Wall!” reads on recent YouTube ad. “Do you trust the mainstream media to put the interests of Americans first?” reads another ad, while funneling viewers to a survey on his campaign’s site.

While Trump’s campaign apparently finds Google ads effective, he ripped the company on Tuesday, attacking the search engine for what he said was the unfair promotion of the “fake news media.”

“Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent,” Trump tweeted.

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Google pushed back against the president’s tweets, saying in a statement to TheWrap that its “search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.”

Trump’s spending on Google ads has swiftly declined in recent weeks. After putting about $114,000 into ads during the first week of August, the president’s spending dropped to $44,000 during the third week of the month, according to Google’s tracking tool.

President Trump is Google’s second biggest spender on political ads, but he’s cut down on spending in recent weeks (via Google)

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Trump also called out Facebook in his criticism of Silicon Valley on Tuesday, saying “they are really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.” But Trump is still ponying up for Facebook ads, too. A recent NYU study showed the president was Facebook’s top political advertiser, spending about $275,000 on ads between May and mid-July.

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Facebook Removes Hundreds of Accounts Over ‘Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior’

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Facebook has removed hundreds of pages and accounts on Facebook and Instagram due to what it called “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s  head of cybersecurity, said Tuesday in a post to the company news blog.

According to Gleicher, some of the removed accounts “originated” in Iran or Russia. However, Gleicher clarified that these were “distinct campaigns,” and that Facebook didn’t identify “any link or coordination between them.”

The company removed 652 Facebook and Instagram accounts associated with “Liberty Front Press,” which it says it linked to “Iranian state media through publicly available website registration information, as well as the use of related IP addresses and Facebook Pages sharing the same admins.” These pages primarily posted political content connected to the Middle East, the UK, U.S., and Latin America.

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Facebook says it also found links between “Liberty Front Press” and “another set of accounts and pages” created in 2016 that, according to Gleicher, posed as news organizations and conducted cybersecurity attacks. In all, Facebook says, about 170,000 users followed pages tied to “Liberty Front Press.”

The purge stems from a tip Facebook says it received from cybersecurity firm FireEye last month.

Separately, Facebook removed an undisclosed amount of pages tied to Russian military intelligence, the company said. The company said its working with law enforcement on its investigation into the removed accounts.

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Last month, Facebook removed dozens of accounts it suspected of politically manipulating users.

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Facebook Denies Ranking Its Users to Fight Fake News

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Facebook is pushing back on a Washington Post report on Tuesday saying that the social network gives its users a “trustworthiness score”  in a new attempt to combat the spread of misinformation on the platform.

To account for users deliberately flagging real news as fake news, Facebook has started ranking users based on their history, according to the Post. Per the report, users’ ratings increase on a o to 1 scale the more they incorrectly flag stories that are deemed truthful by Facebook’s third-party fact checkers like Snopes.

But in a statement to TheWrap, Facebook disputed both the accuracy of the Post’s headline “Facebook is rating the trustworthiness of its users on a scale from zero to one,” and details of the report.

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“The idea that we have a centralized ‘reputation’ score for people that use Facebook is just plain wrong and the headline in the Washington Post is misleading,” said a Facebook spokesperson. “What we’re actually doing: We developed a process to protect against people indiscriminately flagging news as fake and attempting to game the system. The reason we do this is to make sure that our fight against misinformation is as effective as possible.”

The company clarified it doesn’t have a universal rating system, but that its scoring was one of many factors its moderators use to vet news stories. Facebook didn’t dispute the 0-1 scoring system reported by the Post, and it wouldn’t share more details with TheWrap on what goes into its ratings. The scoring system has been in place for about a year, according to the Post.

Based on the company’s response, this can be looked at as Facebook’s attempt to safeguard against “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Facebook’s fact checking team is swamped daily with stories to review. By pegging a score to its users, it allows Facebook’s review team to expedite or downgrade a flagged story based on a user’s history.

Facebook started letting users flag news they believed was incorrect in 2015. But the tool has been leveraged by users reporting news they merely dislike, according to the social network.

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It isn’t “uncommon for people to tell us something is false simply because they disagree with the premise of a story or they’re intentionally trying to target a particular publisher,” Facebook product manager Tessa Lyons told the Post.

The rating comes to light at a time when Silicon Valley — and Facebook in particular — is working to stop the spread of fake news during the 2018 U.S. midterms. Facebook said it spotted 32 “inauthentic accounts” looking to politically manipulate users on both Facebook and Instagram last month.

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Trump Got Congratulatory Call From Mark Zuckerberg After 2016 Election (Report)

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After successfully using his platform to target millions of potential voters, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a secret phone call to Donald Trump following his 2016 election victory, according to a report from BuzzFeed News on Thursday.

Zuckerberg “congratulated the Trump team on its victory and successful campaign,” according to the report, which cited “three people familiar with the conversation.”

Facebook declined to comment to TheWrap. The White House did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

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The Trump campaign relied heavily on Facebook to win voters, spending $44 million on nearly 6 million different ads between June and November 2016, according to Bloomberg. Hillary Clinton’s camp, on the other hand, spent $28 million on 66,000 ads during the same period.

Facebook noticed how well the Trump team leveraged its platform, using the campaign to help sharpen its own approach to advertising, BuzzFeed reported. “Trump used Facebook as Facebook was meant to be used,” one former Facebook employee told BuzzFeed News.

The good will was apparently mutual on both sides. One Trump staffer told BuzzFeed News “their team showered tons of praise on our team.”

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Facebook said it did not invite Trump or Clinton campaign staffers to detail how they used the social network. “Our work with the Trump team was similar to that of any major client we have,” a Facebook rep told BN.

President Trump appears to be doubling down on his Facebook-heavy approach heading into the 2020 U.S. election as well. POTUS is the biggest spender on Facebook political advertising, according to a new New York University study, with his team dropping $274,000 on ads since early May. Those ads have hit 37 million people on Facebook so far.

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Facebook to Add Video News Section Ahead of 2018 Midterm Elections

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Facebook is preparing to add a video news section to its Watch tab later this year, TheWrap has confirmed.

The social network is looking to partner with about 10 publishers to create native news content, with a rollout set for this summer. News clips will be at least three-minutes long and will be featured within a dedicated tab on Watch. Axios was first to report the story on Tuesday morning.

“Timely news video is the latest step in our strategy to make targeted investments in new types of programming on Facebook Watch,”  Campbell Brown, Facebook’s global head of news partnerships, said in a statement to TheWrap. “As part of our broader effort to support quality news on Facebook, we plan to meet with a wide-range of potential partners to develop, learn and innovate on news programming tailored to succeed in a social environment. Our early conversations have been encouraging, and we’re excited about the possibilities ahead.”

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The move comes as Facebook has been recalibrating its approach to news. Earlier this year, Facebook shifted its News Feed algorithm to feature more local stories. “There’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post announcing the decision. Facebook is looking to “prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local,” added Zuckerberg. To this point, short-form reality shows, rather than hard news, have been the backbone of Facebook Watch.

Facebook has been under fire for its inability to weed out misinformation — some funded by Kremlin-tied agents — before and after the 2016 presidential election. More than 100 million Americans were hit with fake news on the platform, the company admitted to Congress last fall. By launching this summer, Facebook-approved news clips will be in circulation by the 2018 midterm elections.

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Facebook Set to Launch ‘Watch’ Streaming Platform with Dozens of Content Partners

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The online streaming wars are about to ramp up in a major way, with Facebook set to debut “Watch” — its new content platform — on Thursday, TheWrap has confirmed.

More than 30 original shows from a myriad of media partners will be featured on the Watch tab. Content from Thrillist, Vox, and sports leagues like the NBA and MLB will be included in the social juggernaut’s maiden voyage into programming. Watch will be available on mobile, desktop and Facebook’s TV apps.

The launch won’t be available to all of Facebook’s 2 billion users immediately, however. Watch will be limited to a select amount of users in the U.S. at first, and will continue to expand in the weeks ahead. Facebook will be premiering a number of its originals on Aug. 28, but a Facebook spokesperson declined to share which shows in particular will lead off.

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Facebook’s jump into TV has been anticipated for months, with the company willing to pay up to $3 million per episode for scripted and non-scripted content. Watch will appear on the same day as Snap reports its critical Q2 earnings — another twist in the ongoing battle between the media platforms.

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Watch users will be able to comment on shows and discover new content, just as you’d expect from Facebook. Viewers can also create a “Watchlist” to keep up with shows it might have missed.

Facebook’s shows will cover the full spectrum, from comedy to reality to sports. “Bae or Bail” from A&E will test couples by putting them in “terrifying scenarios,” “Celeb Moms Get Real” from Time will go one-on-one with stars’ parents, and “Nas Daily” will allow fans to follow the latest in the world traveler’s life.

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Facebook Closed Captioning Screwed Up Facebook CEO’s Harvard Speech

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has built a social media platform with more than two billion users, becoming the fifth richest person in the world in the process, but his company hasn’t built a perfect closed captioning system yet, apparently.

The Facebook closed captioning for Zuckerberg’s Harvard commencement speech was in full beta mode on Thursday, spitting out that “Ceceokok” — rather than “Facebook” — “wasn’t the first thing I built.”

Learning a lot about Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook’s automatic speech captions. Anyone got a CECEOKOK login that still works?

— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) May 25, 2017

It didn’t get much better from there, either.

Also Read: Hey Look: Mark Zuckerberg Finally Got His Harvard Degree

Facebook’s auto-caption function is… not great

— Mike Murphy (@mcwm) May 25, 2017

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Luckily for Zuck, he finally has that honorary doctorate from Harvard to fall back on if this tech thing doesn’t work out.

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Hey Look: Mark Zuckerberg Finally Got His Harvard Degree

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Donning full cap and gown, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was awarded an honorary doctorate on Thursday at Harvard University, nearly 12 years after dropping out to focus on building the world’s largest social media company full-time.

Zuckerberg would later switch into a blue suit and tie and give the commencement speech, joking “you’ve now accomplished something I never could!” to the crowd.

With his mom and dad in attendance, Zuckerberg received the degree along with nine other honorary members. “Mom, I always told you I’d come back and get my degree,” said a post from Zuckerberg on his personal Facebook page.

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He was a Psychology and Computer Science major during his time at Harvard, but dropped out in November 2005. His wife Priscilla Chan graduated from the university in 2007.

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Hacked Sony Music Account Falsely Reports Britney Spears Is Dead

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Two years after the devastating Christmastime hack of its movie studio, the Sony corporation had a significantly smaller breach — on its Twitter account, which falsely reported pop star Britney Spears was dead.

The erroneous claim about the singer sent her fans and social media spiraling on Monday morning.

“RIP @britneyspears #RIPBritney 1981-2016,” a tweet from Sony Music Global’s account read. Shortly after, a Twitter account belonging to the estate of Bob Dylan shared its condolences.

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Both accounts were hacked by online group OurMine, according to Billboard, which obtained screen grabs of the tweets deleted by Sony Music roughly two hours after they were posted.

Representatives for Spears confirmed the mother of two is alive and well, CNN’s AnneClaire Stapleton said.

A Sony Music spokesperson was not immediately reachable for comment. Spears is signed to Sony, a longtime flagship artist of its now-disbanded label Jive Records.

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OurMine has take credit for numerous high-profile hacks of late, including Marvel Studios, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, his sister, Randi, Spotify founder Daniel Ek, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, and actor-producer Channing Tatum.

“We are not blackhat hackers, we are just a security group…we are just trying to tell people that nobody is safe,” an anonymous member of the group told Wired magazine in a June profile.

Britney Spears is alive and well, her rep tells CNN. It appears @SonyMusicGlobal erroneously tweeted her death. Sony rep says no comment

— AnneClaire Stapleton (@AnneClaireCNN) December 26, 2016

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