Clubhouse Announces That Its App Will Be Available on Android Worldwide by Friday

Illustration for article titled Clubhouse Announces That Its App Will Be Available on Android Worldwide by Friday

Photo: Mark Schiefelbein (AP)

Faced with plummeting app downloads on iOS in recent months, Clubhouse has one thing to say: Hello, Android.

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The audio-based social network announced on Sunday in a town hall it would be rolling out to Android users worldwide by Friday afternoon, May 21. In a Twitter post, Clubhouse said that it would start its expansion with Japan, Brazil, and Russia on Tuesday. The company said it would add availability in other countries throughout the week, specifying that it would launch in Nigeria and India on Friday morning.

Clubhouse told Gizmodo on Sunday that it had begun its first wave of the Android beta rollout in the U.S. last week. In the end, the company also ended up launching its app in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the UK. Clubhouse said the app is still invitation-only, but that people can download the app on the Play Store, and friends on the app may invite them in.

Besides announcing its worldwide expansion on Android, Clubhouse said it was working on feature parity in Android and iOS. TechCrunch points out that Clubhouse’s Android app still lacks several features offered on iOS. During last week’s Android launch, the outlet stated, users couldn’t follow a topic, create or manage a club, link their social profiles, make payments, or change their profile name.

While Clubhouse’s expansion on Android was expected, and some might say overdue, the app might be hoping that rolling out to more devices will allow it to recover its lost steam. Since its iOS launch last year, the app has seen explosive growth, attracting tech billionaires like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The shininess around Clubhouse recently began to taper off, though. According to the analytics firm SensorTower, Clubhouse had 2 million downloads in January and then jumped to more than 9.5 million in February. Downloads dipped in March to 2.7 million and then again in April, when they dropped to below a million.

The reasons for Clubhouse’s rollercoaster of growth over these past few months are still up in the air. Some say that the app became a success because it launched at the beginning of the pandemic, a time when so many of us were stuck inside and starved for human connection. Today, the world is different. Things are opening back up again. Vaccinated people are taking off their masks and going outside, so the idea of chatting on an audio-only platform may just not hold the same appeal.

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The social app landscape is different as well because users have more options. Big Tech’s social apps are all copying Clubhouse’s format. Instagram, for instance, has given users the option to turn off their audio or video when using Instagram Live. Twitter has launched Spaces, which allows users to join virtual rooms and have real-time audio conversations with others. Facebook is also working on its own version of Clubhouse, as are LinkedIn, Spotify, and Slack, just to name a few.

It’s unclear whether Clubhouse’s global rollout to Android will save it from becoming a passing fad, but we’ll find out soon.

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28-Year-Old Woman Infiltrates High School to Beef Up Her Instagram and Seriously, WTF?

Surely there are easier ways to pad your following on Instagram than trespassing on high school grounds while disguised as a teenager. That apparently did not occur to a 28-year-old Florida woman who was arrested after infiltrating a school in Miami-Dade County for the Gram on Monday.

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Really? That was your plan? Really?

The grown-ass woman in question, Audrey Francisquini, allegedly snuck into American Senior High School with a backpack, a “painting under one arm and a skateboard under the other,” according to the Washington Post. Police say she walked the halls of the school handing out fliers advertising her Instagram account before her cover was blown. Police reports state she was confronted by school security and gave the excuse that she was looking for the registration office, but continued to prowl the halls with fliers before being again confronted by security, CBS Miami reported. Francisquini fled but was subsequently arrested and charged with felony trespassing, misdemeanor interfering with a school, and nonviolently resisting arrest. One imagines handing out fliers with her social media handle on it didn’t exactly help her evade the authorities.

Francisquini is a former police officer who was fired from her job in DeKalb County, Georgia when she was arrested for allegedly accessing a female colleague’s social media accounts to post revenge porn. As of the time of the incident, she worked for Carnival Cruise lines.

According to the Post, her trip to the school somehow managed to be almost as creepy as Never Been Kissed, a 1999 movie where Drew Barrymore infiltrates a high school as an undercover reporter and is later joined in the ruse by her brother, played by David Arquette, who attends prom in his underwear:

A student told the station that Francisquini was showing off her Instagram feed, which featured videos and several images of her wearing a “devil’s mask.”

“It’s crazy. It’s very creepy,” the student said. The station showed videos from her account, in which Francisquini wore a sinister red mask with pointy ears and black horns.

She could have also got the idea from that meme of Steve Buscemi asking “How do you do, fellow kids?”, though in that case, his character was an undercover drug cop.

While surrounded by police at her home, she continued to post to Instagram, according to WSVN.

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“I legit have I don’t know how many cops outside right now of my house,” Francisquini said in an Instagram Story. “I’m not going outside at all.”

In court, WSVN reported, Francisquini shook her head while prosecutors read the allegations against her and was advised by her public defender not to continue blabbing about the incident on camera:

“She was carrying a skateboard, a painting, dressed similar to students to try and blend in with — as soon as you shake your head right now,” a prosecutor said.

“Ma’am, stop doing that,” Francisquini’s public defender advised… “If someone shoves a camera in your face, just don’t talk about this,” Francisquini’s public defender said before she left court.

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Seriously? Wannabe social media influencers have pulled some absolutely bizarre stuff over the years, ranging from driving their cars blindfolded to eating Tide Pods to dipping their testicles in soy sauce and lighting their homes on fire, but this one is something else.

Francisquini is out on a $2,000 bond, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools has said the “unfortunate incident” is under review, according to the Post.

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44 Attorneys General Beg Facebook to Leave the Kids Alone

Illustration for article titled 44 Attorneys General Beg Facebook to Leave the Kids Alone

Photo: Mark Lennihan (AP)

In an open letter, forty-four attorneys general have beseeched Mark Zuckerberg to mercifully stop the company’s planned version of Instagram for children. Buzzfeed News discovered in March that Facebook—a company famous for platforming murderous rage and dangerous misinformation without consequence—has been developing a platform for kids under age 13, the minimum age to create an Instagram account.

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Maybe the company wants to pipe dreams of sugar plum butts and monstrous trolls and freemium merriment to their sweet developing brains for…eating, presumably. Or maybe it’s staking a desperate bid to get kids on board with a company whose primary platform looks doomed to peter out with the Boomers and needs more eyeballs on Reels.

Instagram head Adam Mosseri explained to Buzzfeed that kids are breaking the rules and getting on Instagram anyway, so “part of the solution is to create a version of Instagram for young people or kids where parents have transparency or control.” Instagram-can’t-regulate-so-screw-it is also the gist of a Facebook company spokesperson’s statement shared with Gizmodo:

“As every parent knows, kids are already online,” they said, claiming that they are gathering input from “experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates.”

A little shade here: “We also look forward to working with legislators and regulators, including the nation’s attorneys general.” Subtext: We will destroy you.

The attorneys general are not looking forward to working with Facebook and would like Facebook not to unleash the product specifically because of proven failures like keeping kids off the platform in the first place. They cite a report finding that in 2018, UK police documented more instances of sexual grooming on Instagram than on any other platform, followed by Facebook. They also point to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which claimed that in 2020, they received over 20 million reports of child sex abuse material across all of Facebook’s platforms.

The NCMEC reports that the data comes almost entirely from service providers themselves, so TikTok’s relatively sterling count of around 22,700 instances could indicate that Facebook was more communicative. Still, 20 million instances, plus Facebook’s policy of fixing mistakes after everything goes to hell, should preclude getting to run a playground.

In the letter, the attorneys general also point to a recent finding that Instagram had automatically suggested weight loss search terms like “appetite suppressants” for users based on their interests. A 2017 survey by an anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found 42% of young Instagram users had been cyberbullied on the platform, a higher percentage than on any other social media service. They add that users were able to circumvent a safety control in Messenger Kids which was supposed to limit contacts to parentally-approved friends. In fact, social media probably shouldn’t exist at all. They generally note that social media use leads to increased rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, and body dysmorphia.

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There isn’t a name yet for Instagram’s child product yet, and a Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo that it’s in the early stages of development. The spokesperson added that the company has committed today not to show any ads to people under 13.

Don’t gorge on the tempting morsels, children. You will be trapping yourself in a digital friend circle from which there is no escape. Bobby seems cool today but in 20 years he’ll be posting about adrenochrome and lizard people.

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Clubhouse Launches Android Beta as iOS Downloads Nosedive

Illustration for article titled Clubhouse Launches Android Beta as iOS Downloads Nosedive

Photo: Mark Schiefelbein (AP)

Good news: The audio-based social network Clubhouse is finally bringing its app to Android after more than a year of iOS exclusivity, the company announced Sunday. Bad news: The beta is only available for U.S. users, and, just as with Clubhouse’s iOS version, it remains invite-only for now. So not just anyone can sign up and join in the app’s audio-only chatrooms.

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Downloads of the app have reportedly been plummeting in recent months, so it’s likely Clubhouse hopes that welcoming users on the largest smartphone OS in the world users will save it from spiraling further. The app surpassed 9.5 million downloads in February but dipped to about 2.7 million in March and fell to just 900,000 in April, according to the analytics firm Sensor Tower.

In a Sunday blog post, Clubhouse said it plans to gradually roll out the Android version to other English-speaking markets and then the rest of the world. For those outside the U.S., you can pre-register for access on the Clubhouse page in the Google Play store to be alerted once the app becomes available near you.

“Our plan over the next few weeks is to collect feedback from the community, fix any issues we see and work to add a few final features like payments and club creation before rolling it out more broadly,” the company said.

Over the summer, Clubhouse also plans to welcome millions of iOS users who have been stuck on the iOS waitlist as it improves the app’s infrastructure, which includes expanding language support and adding more accessibility features.

Clubhouse’s download rates could be declining for any number of reasons. Some experts have theorized that the audio-only social media craze may have been a pandemic-era fad that helped people feel connected while stuck in their homes. With vaccines rolling out and many areas across the U.S. opening up again, it could be that people are simply connecting in person more these days, leaving Clubhouse in the dust. It’s also possible that interest is waning because every other tech giant has either rolled out or is cooking up a copycat app to get in on the social audio hype train.

Another possible factor: Two high-profile security snafus hit the company in February amid a flood of hype and celebrity sign-ups, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In Sunday’s blog post, Clubhouse acknowledged that it has struggled to keep up with its platform’s ballooning growth earlier this year.

“Earlier this year, Clubhouse started growing very quickly, as people all over the world began inviting their friends faster than we had ever expected. This had its downsides, as the load stressed our systems—causing widespread server outages and notification failures, and surpassing the limits of our early discovery algorithms. It made us shift our focus to hiring, fixing, and company building, rather than the community meetups and product features that we normally like to focus on.”

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Clubhouse is increasingly looking like the flash in the pan experts suspected it might be, but who knows, maybe this much-anticipated launch on Android will turn things around. We’ll have to wait and see.

Soon You May Not Have to Say ‘Hey Google’ to Get Your Phone’s Google Assistant to Listen to You

Illustration for article titled Soon You May Not Have to Say 'Hey Google' to Get Your Phone's Google Assistant to Listen to You

Illustration: Leon Neal (Getty Images)

If you’ve ever wanted your Google Assistant to get moving without having to say, “hey Google,” all the time, you may be getting your wish in the near future.

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On Friday, Android Police spotted a new featured dubbed “Guacamole” after updating the Google app on Android. The update introduced a new Guacamole menu in the Google Assistant settings list for some users, the outlet reported, although it’s not functional yet. Nonetheless, according to screenshots of the menu posted by Android Police, Guacamole is apparently a voice shortcuts feature that will allow users to skip saying “hey Google” for help with quick tasks.

In order to enable the feature, users have to click and read, presumably, a set of terms and conditions. We say “presumably” because the link included in the menu doesn’t work yet, so we haven’t been able to confirm this. (We did try, though).

Just what exactly will these quick tasks consist of? 9to5Google reports that these quick tasks include alarms, timers, and calls. As an example, the outlet said that the feature will allow you to say “stop” or “snooze” to stop an alarm. It also stated that users will be able to say, “answer the call,” or “decline the call.”

Now, I don’t use Google Assistant, but I do use an Amazon Echo Dot that always plays a wonderful BTS playlist in the morning to wake me up. I’m a beast in the morning, and when I grumble, “Alexa, stoooooop,” I always feel the thing is paying attention to me. I don’t think I would get that same feeling of sleepy satisfaction if I just said, “stop.” That’s just me though, and this is a very particular situation.

9to5Google notes that Google is only testing the Guacamole feature with employees at the time, which is why it began showing up on some users’ phones. As with other features under development, there’s no guarantee that this one will ever make it to the mainstream. We just have to wait and see.

iOS 15 Will Reportedly Bring Big Changes to Notifications and the iPad Home Screen

Illustration for article titled iOS 15 Will Reportedly Bring Big Changes to Notifications and the iPad Home Screen

Image: Apple

Earlier this week, Apple added a new M1-powered iPad Pro to its portfolio, and now a new report indicates the company has some big plans for iPadOS.

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According to multiple sources who spoke to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to revamp the way the iOS handles notifications, while possibly adding some new features to Messages, and allowing users to add even more widgets to the iPad’s home screen. Those upgrades will be coming in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. Apple’s major OS updates are typically released in the fall alongside the latest iPhone models. However, Apple often shows off new features and software updates at WWDC, which this year is set to take place virtually starting on June 7. 

According to Bloomberg, Apple in iOS 15 will add the ability to set various notifications statuses, which will enable your phone to respond in different ways depending on if it’s set to working, driving, sleeping, or a number of custom categories. In some situations, like when your status is set to driving or sleeping, new notifications may arrive silently to help you avoid disturbances or distractions. Bloomberg’s sources claim your current status will be shown on your lock screen, and a new status menu will be available from the iPhone’s Control Center so it’ll be easy to change quickly.

According to Bloomberg, Apple also has some potential changes in mind for Messages designed to help the app better compete with rival chat apps from Facebook, but those features are said to still be in their early stages and may not be ready for release until later in the year.

And in accordance with Apple’s overarching goal of increasing user privacy, the company is reportedly working on a new feature that will better highlight which apps may be silently monitoring and collecting your data.

Finally, following the addition of home screen widgets in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, it looks like iPads are getting a major revamp to their home screens, so you’ll be able to place widgets anywhere you want and even replace the entire app grid with widgets, if you are so inclined.

Apple is set to preview upcoming changes in iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and more at WWDC 2021, so we should have a much better idea about all the new features and updates Apple has in store in early June.

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Apple Fixes ‘Asian’ Adult Content Filter, but We Need More

Illustration for article titled Apple Fixes 'Asian' Adult Content Filter, but We Need More

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have had to write a story about how Apple’s adult content filter on iOS blocks users from searching the word “Asian” in any browser. In that world, I also wouldn’t have to write the follow-up the issue is now fixed, but that the timingshortly after a mass shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead, six of whom were Asian women—is deeply problematic.

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According to Mashable, the latest iOS 14.5 beta removes the “Asian” filter. Gizmodo has independently confirmed that this is the case. This is objectively a good thing. What’s not good is that this issue, according to Mashable, was reported to Apple on Dec. 7, 2019 by iOS developer Steven Shen. After more than a year of inaction, Shen took to Twitter in early February to raise public awareness of the issue, which Gizmodo and other news media covered. Gizmodo’s requests to Apple at the time for a statement went unanswered. Shen also reportedly told Mashable while Apple never officially responded to his initial warning, an Apple employee did verify the problem on Twitter and “filed the issue internally.”

What this means is this filter was in place before the first public reports of covid-19 in Wuhan, China. It means it was brought to Apple’s attention well before the phrases “kung flu” or “China virus” were ever uttered. It was in place as the AAPI community tried to raise awareness over a spike of hate crimes fueled by the pandemic. It was functional well after the issue finally started picking up steam in the media after the killing of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai immigrant who was murdered in San Francisco—a city about 50 minutes from Cupertino. It is still technically functional today, a day when yet another elderly Asian-American woman was attacked in New York City as bystanders did nothing. You need to have downloaded the iOS 14.5 beta, after all, to get the fix.

Since publicly rolling out in September, there have been several updates to iOS 14. Since the issue gained public attention, there have been two updates. It’s still unclear how exactly Apple’s adult filters were determined, and whether there was human oversight or if this an example of AI’s inherent weaknesses in tagging and filtering content. Apple has yet to comment or address why “Asian” was the sole racial search term that was filtered for adult content, or whether fixing this issue was a priority once it became aware. Perhaps this is an extremely difficult thing to fix, requiring several of Apple’s most brilliant minds, and the timing was unfortunate given the uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes. I don’t know. I’ve reached out to Apple for more context and a statement, but have yet to hear back. That said, my gut feeling is that this isn’t a difficult task. It just wasn’t deemed a particularly important or urgent one.

I wish I could say that, as an Asian-American tech journalist who frequently reviews Apple products, the thought makes me angry. The reality is I am just so sad, and so tired.

It especially hurts in the wake of Atlanta because, as Gizmodo originally reported, this filter wasn’t even effective. If the intent was to block inappropriate content, it could be easily outsmarted with a few workarounds. You could search “Japanese schoolgirls” and see several images that parents would object to. But searching “Asian-American history” or “Stop Asian Hate” would turn up a message that you were trying to access inappropriate content. Ostensibly, this filter was meant to protect children from seeing pornography. What I can’t stop thinking about is how a child could innocently search for facts about an Asian elephant and then see a message that plants the idea that somehow anything “Asian” is adult content.

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This is most certainly not what Apple intended, but it doesn’t erase the sting. It doesn’t change the fact that the way Apple handled this mirrors how Asian-American pleas to Stop Asian Hate went unheard for over a year. It underscores just how normal it is to hypersexualize Asian women, which to be clear, is both racist and misogynist. It only magnifies the normalized racism and misogyny of the Atlanta shooter, who targeted Asian massage parlors to remove the “temptation” of his alleged “sex addiction.”

What’s done is done. Apple can’t go back in time, wave a magic wand, and pretend this never happened. Apple should’ve fixed this issue when it was first raised, but saying this feels empty and hollow. Lots of people and companies in positions of power and influence should have and could have done something sooner. They didn’t, and bemoaning that does nothing but rub salt in the wound.

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The one thing that Apple absolutely should not do is stay silent in the hopes that quietly fixing this issue will limit how many people know this even happened. The AAPI community has been gaslit enough. Instead, it could own up to its mistake and outline how it intends to ensure that this sort of thing never happens again. Perhaps I’m wrong, but this doesn’t seem like a huge ask. But then again, neither did fixing the filter.

Leaked Samsung Roadmap Reveals New Phones, Tablets, and PCs Coming This Summer

Illustration for article titled Leaked Samsung Roadmap Reveals New Phones, Tablets, and PCs Coming This Summer

Photo: Sam Rutherford

Samsung launched a new line of mid-range Galaxy A-series phones earlier this week, but now a new leaked roadmap may have just revealed what the South Korean tech giant has planned for the rest of the spring and summer.

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Assuming the roadmap, which appeared in a leaked graphic posted by Evan Blass on his Voice page, is legit, we can see that Samsung has a handful of upcoming events and product launches scattered throughout the next two quarters. Looking past the the generic launch event on March 26 (which will likely include U.S.-specific info for the new Galaxy A52 and A72), we can see a new PC launch event scheduled for mid-April, the new Tab S7 Lite slated for June, a new budget 5G phone in July, and a Galaxy FE Unpacked event in August.

To me, the two most notable dates on this roadmap are the PC event in April, at which we could see a new Galaxy Book Pro and Galaxy Book Pro 360 convertible with built-in S Pen support and possibly a 5G-capable version of the Galaxy Chromebook 2, and the Galaxy FE event in August.

Here’s Samsung alleged product roadmap for spring and summer 2021.

Here’s Samsung alleged product roadmap for spring and summer 2021.
Screenshot: Samsung via Evan Blass (Other)

Samsung has been relatively up-front about investing more resources into its computing division, so following two Unpacked events for the S21 and Galaxy A-series lineup earlier this year with a PC-based Unpacked event makes a lot of sense.

When looking at the event slated for late summer, the most important takeaway is that mid-August is typically when Samsung announces a new Galaxy Note device. However, with the leaked roadmap specifically indicating that the event will be for a new Fan Edition device (most likely the S21 FE), it makes recent talk that Samsung might not make a new Galaxy Note for 2021 seem even more likely.

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However, Samsung’s co-CEO Koh Dong-Jim did mention during a recent shareholder’s meeting that Samsung could always move the next Galaxy Note’s launch day back, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung ended up holding back a couple of special devices (like a new Galaxy Fold or possibly a Galaxy Note) for later in the fall.

Scattered between the events listed on the roadmap, Blass said Samsung will also release the Galaxy A82 sometime this summer, which is said to feature 5G and come with some kind of “dual-use” camera module.

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Despite the ongoing chip crunch plaguing the tech industry, it seems Samsung still has a steady string of releases planned for 2021—aside from May, when the company doesn’t appear to have anything major on the calendar. And while this leaked roadmap only mention phones, tablets, and PCs, there’s likely to be a few other unexpected gadgets that will make an appearance before the end of the year as well.

Facebook Working on Instagram Product for Children Under 13 Years Old

Illustration for article titled Facebook Working on Instagram Product for Children Under 13 Years Old

Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP (Getty Images)

Facebook, the social media behemoth that owns Instagram, is developing a new Instagram product for children under 13 years of age, according to leaked documents obtained by BuzzFeed. Instagram users must currently click a button declaring that they’re at least 13 years old, or that the account featuring a kid under the age of 13 is “managed” by an adult.

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“I’m excited to announce that going forward, we have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list,” an Instagram executive wrote to employees on Thursday, according to a message reviewed by BuzzFeed.

The term “youth work,” appears to refer to work by Instagram employees on providing tech platforms for youth user, not putting youth to work, as it were. However, we can’t take anything for granted when it comes to a company like Facebook’s ethical guidelines.

“We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things,” the internal message to Instagram employees continued.(a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment sent late Thursday but did confirm to other news outlets, such as Australia’s ABC News, that it was indeed working on an Instagram product for children. The company did not elaborate on the kinds of things that would differentiate an Instagram For Kids product from regular Instagram.

BuzzFeed notes that one of the people spearheading the project, Pavni Diwanji, previously worked on YouTube’s controversial kids product while at Google. YouTube Kids has served as a gateway to grown-up YouTube, a smart strategy for monopolistic companies looking to expand market share.

It’s long been said that social media is the new smoking and this heightened focus on children would seem to give more ammunition to that thesis. Tobacco companies spent the 1970s and 80s marketing their product to kids in an effort to create a new generation of smokers as the negative health effects of smoking became better understood and led people to quit the product. Tobacco ads on TV and radio were banned in 1971, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when there was a concerted effort to crack down on tobacco marketing in the U.S., with a ban on tobacco billboards starting in 1999.

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Anti-advertising advocates have long worried about the kinds of messages that kids have been receiving, whether it’s about tobacco or particularly sugary food. But messages about the dangers of social media haven’t been spread with the same cohesive and well-funded movements that emerged like the anti-tobacco organizations of the 1990s.

It obviously remains to be seen what kind of product an Instagram for kids might look like, but we can expect Big Tech to make a concerted effort to find new demographics in the coming years. And, to be frank, there’s not a lot of money in getting Grandma on your social media platform. Aside from being very set in their ways, and by extension their buying habits, making them less attractive to advertisers, it’s much more lucrative to get a child addicted to your product because they’re more likely to use it for life. Again, it’s one of the great lessons from Big Tobacco.

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