Twitter Passes Stimulus Package for the Very Online

Illustration for article titled Twitter Passes Stimulus Package for the Very Online

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP (Getty Images)

Twitter is finally rolling out a way to get paid for tweeting that doesn’t involve putting a Venmo link in your bio, promoting a Patreon, or using the app to hunt for a rich spouse.

On Thursday, the company announced a new feature that could change the way the app functions entirely: Super Follows, which is essentially paid subscriptions for individual Twitter feeds. Users will now be able to paywall certain types of content away from others on Twitter with “Super Follows,” which allows them to charge more for various types of content. According to the Verge, that could include giving paid subscribers access to private tweet feeds, Twitter’s new newsletter feature, or profile badges. Another feature announced on Thursday, the ability for users to create and join groups called Communities, can also be paywalled. Both of these additions won’t be rolled out for a few months, and according to the Verge, it’s not clear how big a cut Twitter will take from the revenue.

This is a big shift in the way Twitter operates: a long-running and pretty tired joke on the site has been that “this site is free,” referring to none of its content directly costing any money whatsoever. The flip part of that equation is that monetizing a Twitter presence is impossible without referring fans somewhere else, even if that’s just to pay for access to a private Twitter feed. So this is sort of a big shift, in that it could reshape the incentives for users to participate in the site in the first place and allow Twitter to compete directly with crowdfunding app Patreon and similar payment tools on Facebook and YouTube.

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It’s also easy to see how this could open a Pandora’s Box of sorts for Twitter. It’s long struggled to rein in toxic communities like white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and far-right trolls, all of whom could now potentially use the app as a way to make money. The addition of private feeds for subscribers could also let those so inclined hide stuff like harassment campaigns behind paywalls, where such content will be accessible to a smaller pool of paying followers unlikely to report it to the site’s moderators. (It’s already possible to do this via direct messages, locked accounts, and off-site coordination, but still.)

Similarly, the Communities feature sounds pretty close to Facebook Groups. Facebook pivoted from the news feed to an emphasis on Groups in 2019, which had disastrous consequences after said Groups were infested with death threats, harassment, and calls to violence.

Another thing Twitter hasn’t clarified is whether it will allow Super Follows for sexual content, a type of content which is only subject to a handful of restrictions elsewhere on the site (like not posting it in banner images or profile pictures.) Allowing it would put the site in direct competition with places like OnlyFans, though when Motherboard’s Samantha Cole asked Twitter whether or not it will allow users to pay for porn the company responded with a non-answer, claiming that it was “examining and rethinking the incentives of our service.”

The announcement has also set off a wave of am-I-kidding-or-aren’t-I speculation from reporters and other media types about whether or not their employers will allow them to charge for tweets. It’s not any kind of secret that journalists are among the most Twitter-addicted people on the planet and comprise a large percentage of the power users that dominate the app’s feed… and thus easy to see why this is an appealing fantasy for them.

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Suffice it to say that while anything that subsidizes, say, tech bloggers buying fancy aquariums is welcome, how big the reader appetite to fund 280-character insights is or how willing news organizations are to let staff run sidelines remains speculative at best.

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Twitter has recently rolled out countless features including Instagram Stories-esque Fleets; newsletters; and a Clubhouse-like audio chat tool. It acquired a screen-sharing app called Squad that could be of use if it decides to launch a streaming service, and an adtech firm called CrossInstall which could help fix its notoriously busted ad tools. This could all be related to a failed investor coup led by vampiric hedge fund Elliott Management last March demanding Twitter catch up to its far more profitable competition.

According to the Verge, Twitter said during a business presentation on Thursday that paid subscriptions and the Communities feature are marked as “what’s next” without putting forward a solid timeline for implementation. Per CNBC, Twitter told analysts and investors it hopes the new features will help it hit its goal of $7.5 billion in annual revenue by 2023, about double how much money it makes now.

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Facebook’s New Ad Campaign Tries To Remind You That Targeted Ads Are Good, Actually

Illustration for article titled Facebook's New Ad Campaign Tries To Remind You That Targeted Ads Are Good, Actually

Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty Images)

Just two months after running a full-page ad decrying Apple’s impending updates, Facebook is rolling out another campaign meant to defend the targeted ads that make up about 98% of its multi-billion dollar revenue stream.

Per CNBC, the one-minute ad will air across digital platforms, radio, and television starting today. Facebook says the spot is meant to highlight “how personalized ads are an important way people discover small businesses on Facebook and Instagram,” and “how these ads help small businesses grow from an idea into a livelihood.”

You can give it a watch below:

The ad features a few stand-ins for the small businesses that seemingly rely on Facebook’s ad-targeting tech for their livelihoods. There’s one woman who’s shown using Instagram ads to promote her goat farm to people who want to give goat yoga a try. There’s a pair of influencers shown advertising an indie bag brand that—as Facebook points out—doesn’t only pay homage to her West African background, but also supports “empowerment work” in the region. All the while, Grace Jones (yes, the Grace Jones) does some spoken word about how wonderful ad targeting is, and how it brings these sorts of interesting businesses to people’s attention. The end of the spot then directs viewers to a dedicated site that reminds us right at the top that “good ideas deserve to be found.”

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This is Facebook’s latest attempts to butter up users ahead of Apple’s planned rollout of certain anti-tracking tools meant to give iOS users a but more transparency and control over the data that their apps are allowed to collect. Since this past summer, Facebook has argued at every possible opportunity to argue that without the ability to freely track users and pelt them with ads, small business will suffer. In response, Apple fired back that it was simply standing up for iOS users that were tired of Facebook’s ongoing disregard for user privacy. Facebook shot back that this was all baldfaced attempt on Apple’s part to monopolize that juicy user data all for themselves. Apple responded that these updates aren’t eliminating targeted ads entirely, but simply giving users the chance to opt-out.

These iOS updates are still on track to roll out in early spring, which means Facebook needs to do all the damage control it can before then. Earlier this month, the company announced it would be testing some pop-up prompts of its own across iPhones and iPads asking users to allow Facebook to track them across apps and sites “for a better ads experience.”

What Facebook’s trying to do here is remind us all that while you probably don’t love targeted ads, you probably love yoga studios, handbags, and the people behind them. Facebook’s webpage for the campaign does what it can to convince us that those to ideas are one in the same: if you click on the landing page’s definition of what “personalized ads” are, it doesn’t tell you anything about how Facebook’s ads are targeted or how they manage to track you across the web. Instead, Facebook says that “personalized ads (aka ‘targeted ads’) help small businesses grow by reaching customers that are more likely to be interested in their products or services.” That’s it.

Facebook goes on to say that these ads don’t only support the businesses you love, but actually preserve your privacy, regardless of what Apple tells you:

Personalized ads help us connect you with businesses that are most relevant to your interests, without sharing who you are with the advertiser. Individual data that could identify you, like your name, posts, or contact information is never shared with businesses using personalized ads.

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On one hand, this is all technically true: the data that these businesses use for ad targeting is so aggregated that they’re typically getting a birds-eye view of the number of clicks from a few hundred or thousand people at a time, rather than just one. But the only reason those quasi-anonymous pools of data even exist in the first place is because Facebook’s spent more than a decade tracking us all.

It’s also worth noting here that with the latest iOS update, that creepy cache of data won’t be going anywhere. It’ll just make sure that Facebook isn’t able to build up more data on all of us. Regardless, some analysts suspect that losing access to this ongoing data trickle could cost Facebook about 10% of its quarterly revenue—about $8 billion dollars by the end of this year.

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But what about those small businesses? The ones that Facebook says rely on its ad platform for their survival?

Nobody can deny that the ongoing global pandemic has devastated countless small businesses across the country, many of which don’t see an end to the current economic climate in their near future. However, it’s unlikely that the impact of Apple’s update will be anywhere nearly as catastrophic as Facebook’s saying here. Back in December, Dipayan Ghosh—an ex-Facebook executive turned public critic of the company—pointed out as much. Small businesses, he said, don’t only advertise on Facebook, and they don’t only rely on Facebook’s massive reams of data to do that work. Over time, some small business owners on forums like Reddit have reached the same conclusion: advertising might be a little harder with Apple’s new update, but it won’t be impossible.

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What would be truly egregious would be if a company were willfully misrepresenting the efficacy of its targeted ads to those same cash-strapped small businesses. But Facebook wouldn’t know anything about that, would it?

Now You Can Filter Your Liked Spotify Jams by Mood

Illustration for article titled Now You Can Filter Your Liked Spotify Jams by Mood

Photo: Spotify

Finally, you can sort the music in your Liked Songs playlist on Spotify.

Hitting play on the Liked Songs playlist in Spotify has always been a bit of a crapshoot for me—I never know whether I’ll get Steely Dan or Phoebe Bridgers or Ginuwine’s “Pony.” If this sounds like you (maybe sans “Pony” but that’s your business), Spotify mercifully began rolling out mood and genre filters today for both free and premium accounts.

Spotify says that for anyone with at least 30 songs in their Liked Songs playlist, they’ll be able to filter their music with up to 15 personalized genre and mood categories. However, these mood and genre filters are populated based on the music in your playlist. That means if you change the playlist by adding or removing titles, so too can your mood and genre filters change.

To enable the feature, head to Your Library and select Liked Songs. Below the “add songs” button but above the actual playlist, you should see additional bubbles that display your mood and genre filters. To filter by a specific category, select the bubble. To disable it, just click the “X” that’ll appear next to it. In Spotify’s demo of the feature, some of the filters included things like chill, indie, electronic, rap, and folk.

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Don’t be alarmed if you don’t see the feature immediately. Spotify said that it’s coming to iOS and Android in the U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, South African, New Zealand, and Australia “over the coming weeks,” so keep an eye out.

Google’s Live Caption Tool Is Now Available as a Hidden Feature in Chrome

Illustration for article titled Google's Live Caption Tool Is Now Available as a Hidden Feature in Chrome

Screenshot: Sam Rutherford

Live Captions is one of the most useful features on Android phones, allowing your mobile device to automatically transcribe any audio it’s currently playing. And now it seems Google is bringing Live Captions to Chrome, with the feature already available as a hidden option in the browser.

First noticed by Chrome Story, Live Caption can actually be activated now in Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS versions of Chrome 88. But if you want to try out Live Captions for yourself, you’ll need to manually enable it as it’s currently still listed as an experimental feature. To activate Live Captions, you can paste this command chrome://flags/#enable-accessibility-live-caption into Chrome’s search bar, and then search for Live Captions to see the toggle option.

Illustration for article titled Google's Live Caption Tool Is Now Available as a Hidden Feature in Chrome

Screenshot: Sam Rutherford

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Once you have Live Captions turned on, you’ll be asked to relaunch Chrome. From there, to get it working, all you need to do is browse over to a video or something like a podcast in Chrome, and a small bar should automatically pop up along the bottom of the browser displaying live captions.

That said, Live Captions is still an experimental feature and there are a few bugs. The first is that it doesn’t seem to work with YouTube at all (unless you are running Chrome Canary), though that’s not necessarily a huge deal as YouTube already offers automatic closed captions for many videos.

Live transcriptions works for both videos and pure audio sources like podcasts.

Live transcriptions works for both videos and pure audio sources like podcasts.
Screenshot: Sam Rutherford

Additionally, depending on the audio source, transcriptions may not automatically appear as you expect or might stop working if you pause a video, so you may have to restart the Live Captions feature by turning it on and off from Chrome’s Global Media Settings controls (the music note icon in the top right corner of Chrome). And on Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices, Live Captions doesn’t seem to work for audio coming from Linux or Android apps either.

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Still, some bugs are to be expected for something that hasn’t been officially released yet, and even though in my experience the accuracy of Google’s Live Captions can be somewhat hit or miss, the feature is still a valuable upgrade for general accessibility.

Facebook Finally Bans Myanmar Military After Feb. 1 Coup

A friend of Myanmar protester Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who died after being shot during a rally against the military coup, looks at pictures of her on a phone during a memorial service in Naypyidaw on February 25, 2021.

A friend of Myanmar protester Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who died after being shot during a rally against the military coup, looks at pictures of her on a phone during a memorial service in Naypyidaw on February 25, 2021.
Photo: STR/AFP (Getty Images)

Facebook finally banned the military in Myanmar, known as Tatmadaw, from the social media platform several weeks after the military staged a coup that toppled the democratically elected government. The ban on the country’s military includes Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban. We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” Rafael Frankel, director of policy for the Asia-Pacific region, said in a statement posted online late Wednesday.

“We’re also prohibiting Tatmadaw-linked commercial entities from advertising on the platform,” Frankel continued. “We are using the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar’s 2019 report, on the economic interests of the Tatmadaw, as the basis to guide these efforts, along with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These bans will remain in effect indefinitely.”

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Facebook has already taken down military-connected pages like Tatmadaw True News Information Team, MRTV, and MRTV Live since the coup earlier this month.

Facebook’s statement doesn’t mention the 20-year-old protester, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who was shot in the head during an anti-coup protest in Myanmar and later died in the hospital, but that event has attracted condemnation from around the world.

The Myanmar government is currently being run by the military, but Facebook made sure to stress that certain parts of government that are vital to public health and wellbeing, such as the Ministry of Health and Sport and the Ministry of Education, will not be affected by the new ban.

Facebook is tremendously popular in Myanmar and one of the first things the military government did after taking power was to ban the social media platform. Service has been highly restricted ever since, with Netblocks reporting that Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are all currently down.

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Facebook came under heavy criticism after the platform was used to incite genocide in Myanmar in 2018 but the company insisted on Wednesday that it held the military to the same standards as everyone else. The new statement lists four factors that caused Facebook to make this decision:

  1. The Tatmadaw’s history of exceptionally severe human rights abuses and the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar, where the military is operating unchecked and with wide-ranging powers.
  2. The Tatmadaw’s history of on-platform content and behavior violations that led to us repeatedly enforcing our policies to protect our community.
  3. Ongoing violations by the military and military-linked accounts and Pages since the February 1 coup, including efforts to reconstitute networks of Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior that we previously removed, and content that violates our violence and incitement and coordinating harm policies, which we removed.
  4. The coup greatly increases the danger posed by the behaviors above, and the likelihood that online threats could lead to offline harm.

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The difficult part to understand, of course, is why points one, two, and four in the list weren’t enough for a ban on February 1 or earlier. The word “history” is used in points one and two, an implicit acknowledgement that none of this is new.

Optimists are fond of saying “better late than never,” but that’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re talking about things like genocide and military coups. But, better late than never, Facebook.

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OLED King LG Says It Will License webOS to Other TV Makers

Illustration for article titled OLED King LG Says It Will License webOS to Other TV Makers

Image: LG

LG will make its webOS software available to other companies.

The proprietary software on LG’s own sets will be able to be licensed by outside TV brands, the company announced Wednesday. Notably, TV brands that choose to bring LG’s software to their televisions will also get its Magic Motion remote, LG’s very good cursor-like wand. It would also see the same voice control tools, algorithms, and apps—including LG Channels—included on those displays as well, the company said.

“By welcoming other manufacturers to join the webOS TV ecosystem, we are embarking on a new path that allows many new TV owners to experience the same great UX and features that are available on LG TVs. We look forward to bringing these new customers into the incredible world of webOS TV,” Park Hyoung-sei, president of the LG Home Entertainment Company, said in a statement.

The news follows LG’s announcement during CES earlier this year that webOS was getting a fairly drastic redesign. LG’s interface in the past has gone for a blade-like design that kept the navigation menu in the lower third of the screen. But with webOS 6.0, which will be included on the company’s 2021 TVs, LG has ditched the blade design for a more standard interface that looks a lot more like Google TV, which is also being licensed out to TV makers and will appear on devices other than the Chromecast this year, including on TCL and Sony televisions.

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More than 20 TV makers have already signed on to bring webOS to their sets, according to the company, including RCA, Ayonz, and Konka.

What’s New on Netflix in March 2021

Illustration for article titled What's New on Netflix in March 2021

Screenshot: Operation Varsity Blues/Netflix

In the absence of broadly appealing new films and TV series (no Oscar hopefuls this month, I’m afraid), Netflix appears to be looking to the podcast market to figure out how to keep its massive subscriber base happy. Its new offerings in March include a host of documentary series and specials that I would totally listen to, were they podcasts. Will I watch? Well, I will not. (I haven’t even seen Ted Lasso yet.) But you might.

Operation: Varsity Blues (March 17) is sure to draw eyeballs, fascinated as we all were by the college admissions scandal that toppled such titans of culture as Felicity Huffman, Aunt Becky from Full House, and the fashion mogul who once designed a paper towel holder I bought at Target. Everyone is still pissed at the way these already-hads manipulated a system already weighted in their favor to get their kids into “good” colleges, and with good cause. The documentary feature comes from some of the same team that produced early pandemic sensation Tiger King.

Murder Among the Mormons (March 3) is the kind of lightly exploitative true-crime story that seems like it already was a podcast you subscribed to last year but forgot to listen to. It delves into a rash of bombings that terrorized Salt Lake City in the mid-1980s.

And an inspiring story of perseverance in the Hoop Dreams mold, Last Chance U: Basketball (March 10) is a spinoff from Netflix’s long-running series Last Chance U. It shifts the focus from football to collegiate basketball players who have struggled in their lives and studies and must play at the junior college level if they hope to get back into Division play.

If you prefer some more fiction in your TV viewing diet, I’m personally excited to see how well the Pacific Rim film series translates to anime in Pacific Rim: The Black, launching March 4 (giant robots in anime? It just might work!). The Irregulars (March 26) has great Buffy/Sabrina potential: a series about young paranormal crime fighters based on Sherlock Holmes’ famed “Baker Street Irregulars.”And then there’s Moxie (March 3), a dramedy film about a girl who launches a ‘zine to expose the sexism at her high school, which sounds pretty culturally relevant and is also the directorial debut of one Amy Poehler.

Here’s everything else coming to and leaving Netflix in March 2021.

What’s coming to Netflix in March 2021

Coming Soon (no date announced)

March 1

  • Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell — Netflix Documentary
  • Batman Begins (2005)
  • Blanche Gardin: Bonne Nuit Blanche (2021)
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
  • Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • DC Super Hero Girls: Season 1
  • I Am Legend (2007)
  • Invictus (2009)
  • Jason X (2001)
  • Killing Gunther (2017)
  • LEGO Marvel Spider-Man: Vexed by Venom (2019)
  • Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
  • Power Rangers Beast Morphers: S2
  • Rain Man (1988)
  • Step Up: Revolution (2012)
  • Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
  • Training Day (2001)
  • Two Weeks Notice (2002)
  • Year One (2009)

March 2

March 3

March 4

March 5

March 8

March 9

March 10

March 11

March 12

March 14

  • Audrey (2020)

March 15

March 16

March 17

March 18

March 19

March 20

  • Jiu Jitsu (2020)

March 22

  • Navillera — Netflix Original (South Korea)
  • Philomena (2013)

March 23

March 24

March 25

March 26

  • A Week Away — Netflix Film (Trailer)
  • Bad Trip — Netflix Film
  • Big Time Rush: Seasons 1-4
  • Croupier (1998)
  • The Irregulars — Netflix Original (Great Britain)
  • Magic for Humans by Mago Pop — Netflix Original
  • Nailed It!: Double Trouble — Netflix Original

March 29

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
  • Rainbow High: Season 1

March 30

  • 7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story (2020)
  • Octonauts & the Ring of Fire — Netflix Family (Great Britain)

March 31

  • At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
  • Haunted: Latin America — Netflix Original

What’s leaving Netflix in March 2021

Leaving March 3

  • Rectify: Seasons 1-4

Leaving March 7

  • Hunter X Hunter (2011): Seasons 1-3

Leaving March 8

  • Apollo 18 (2011)
  • The Young Offenders (2016)

Leaving March 9

  • November Criminals (2017)
  • The Boss’s Daughter (2015)

Leaving March 10

  • Last Ferry (2019)
  • Summer Night (2019)

Leaving March 13

  • Spring Breakers (2012)
  • The Outsider (2019)

Leaving March 14

  • Aftermath (2017)
  • Marvel & ESPN Films Present: 1 of 1: Genesis
  • The Assignment (2016)
  • The Student (2017)

Leaving March 15

  • Chicken Little (2005)

Leaving March 16

  • Deep Undercover: Collections 1-3
  • Love Dot Com: The Social Experiment (2019)
  • Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Leaving March 17

  • All About Nina (2018)
  • Come and Find Me (2016)

Leaving March 20

  • Conor McGregor: Notorious (2017)

Leaving March 22

  • Agatha and the Truth of Murder (2018)
  • I Don’t Know How She Does It (2011)

Leaving March 24

  • USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016)

Leaving March 25

  • Blood Father (2016)
  • The Hurricane Heist (2018)

Leaving March 26

  • Ghost Rider (2007)

Leaving March 27

  • Domino (2019)

Leaving March 30

  • Extras: Seasons 1-2
  • Killing Them Softly (2012)
  • London Spy: Season 1
  • The House That Made Me: Seasons 1-3

Leaving March 31

  • Arthur (2011)
  • Chappaquiddick (2017)
  • Enter the Dragon (1973)
  • God’s Not Dead (2014)
  • Hedgehogs (2016)
  • Inception (2010)
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
  • Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
  • Molly’s Game (2017)
  • Money Talks (1997)
  • School Daze (1988)
  • Secret in Their Eyes (2015)
  • Sex and the City: The Movie (2008)
  • Sex and the City 2 (2010)
  • Sinister Circle (2017)
  • Skin Wars: Seasons 1-3
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • The Bye Bye Man (2017)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
  • The Prince & Me (2004)
  • Weeds: Seasons 1-7

How Android’s Nearby Share Compares to Apple’s AirDrop

Illustration for article titled How Android's Nearby Share Compares to Apple's AirDrop

Image: Google

Android finally has its own version of Apple’s AirDrop. It’s called Nearby Share, and it makes it easy to quickly send files to another Android device.

Using a file-sharing app requires deep access to your devices to work properly, and going with the official Google option means you don’t have to put your trust in a third-party solution that may not be as secure as it seems. As we’ve seen with an extremely popular Android file-sharing app’s recent malware revelations, you may be putting yourself at risk.

Nearby Share’s Android integration means that it’s very easy to access, too. Based on the time that we’ve spent testing it so far, the tool works as advertised, without any noticeable problems in terms of connectivity or speed. If it’s anything like AirDrop, it’s likely to become the default local file-sharing choice for a lot of Android users.

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Nearby Share and AirDrop use a mix of Bluetooth and wifi technologies to quickly move data between two devices. This data could be a photo, a document, a web link or an Android app for example. There are a bunch of app options for sharing files, from Dropbox to WhatsApp, but Nearby Share and AirDrop work as device-to-device connections, so you don’t need to be connected to wifi or even a cell network to drop your photos.

Illustration for article titled How Android's Nearby Share Compares to Apple's AirDrop

Screenshot: Android

Nearby Share works on all devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or later, which should be just about all of the devices still in widespread use. It doesn’t work with iPhones or iPads, just as AirDrop doesn’t work with anything running Android. There’s no sign that Apple or Google would ever want to make our lives that easy and convenient.

The instructions here are for Nearby Share on the stock version of Android 11 that Google installs on its Pixel phones—if you’re using an older version of Android or a phone made by a different manufacturer, some of the menus and screens might vary slightly, though Nearby Share should still be available if you’re running the latest software.

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For Nearby Share to work, your device needs to have both Bluetooth enabled (Connected devices, Connection preferences and Bluetooth from Settings) and location reporting enabled (Location from Settings). You can then enable Nearby Share by opening Settings and tapping Google, Device connections, and Nearby Share. You can also just initiate a share to turn the feature on.

You can also tap Google, Device connections, and Nearby Share from Settings to customize how the feature works in more detail. Tap Device name to change the name that other users see during a share, and Data to set whether or not Android can use wifi and cell networks to transfer files if necessary. You can disable this and keep shares fully offline if you want to.

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Illustration for article titled How Android's Nearby Share Compares to Apple's AirDrop

Screenshot: Android

Tap Device visibility to set how easily you can be found by other people. Pick All contacts, and everyone in your contacts list will be able to see your device when they start a share; pick Some contacts, and only the people you select will be able to see your device. This is assuming you have Nearby Share enabled on your device of course—if you don’t, no one will be able to see you, and you won’t get any prompts to receive shares.

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The final option is Hidden, which means no one can see you until you make your device visible. The difference between this and just turning Nearby Share off completely is that you will get a notification prompt if an Android device in close proximity has started a share. You can then tap the prompt to show your device.

Whichever option you choose here, you’ll always be asked to confirm the file transfer once the sender has picked your phone as a destination, so you won’t suddenly find your phone bombarded with pictures or videos that you didn’t ask for. These options don’t affect your ability to send files with Nearby Share either, or which devices you’ll be able to see when you do.

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Nearby Share will appear as an option whenever you hit the standard share button anywhere in Android. You might see a Nearby button or a Nearby Share button, depending on the app. If you don’t see the option, you might have to tap the More button to see it, or double-check the feature is actually enabled on your device.

Illustration for article titled How Android's Nearby Share Compares to Apple's AirDrop

Screenshot: Android

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With a share initiated, you simply choose the device you want to share with. The recipient will then be asked to confirm the file transfer, and off it goes. You don’t have to keep the Nearby Share panel open while the data is sent and received, because the process will carry on in the background until it’s completed.

“Nearby Share then automatically chooses the best protocol for fast and easy sharing using Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, WebRTC or peer-to-peer wifi—allowing you to share even when you’re fully offline,” Google explains.

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The feature is also rolling out to Chromebooks in the near future, though it hasn’t gone live quite yet. You can enable it with the right flags.

Nearby Share and AirDrop are very similar, though the options for keeping your phone visible differ slightly. If you pick General then AirDrop from Settings, you can choose Receiving Off (no one can see your device), Contacts Only (only contacts can see your device), or Everyone (everyone can see your device).

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Unlike Nearby Share, you won’t see a prompt to become visible if you’re hidden and someone is using AirDrop nearby—you’re either visible or you’re not. Like Nearby Share, no matter what your visibility settings, you’re still going to have to manually approve transfer requests before any data gets moved over.

Google Maps Dark Mode and More Useful Android Features Are Rolling Out Today

Illustration for article titled Google Maps Dark Mode and More Useful Android Features Are Rolling Out Today

Image: Google

While we wait for Android 12 to officially go live later this year, Google has a bunch of tweaks and updates coming to Android this spring.

Following the 2019 update to Chrome, Google is now bringing Password Checkup to Android to help alert you about potential leaks or data breaches that may have exposed your existing passwords to hackers. Password Checkup will be rolling out to devices with Android 9 and above, and will automatically check passwords already saved in Android along with any new ones. If Google detects that your password has been exposed, you’ll get an alert strongly suggesting you change it.

Gif: Google

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Password Checkup is important, but let’s get down to the good stuff: Google Maps is finally getting the long-awaited official dark mode. And in Google Messages on Android 7 and above, Google is adding the ability to send scheduled messages, similar to Gmail’s scheduled email feature. All you have to do is write a message as normal, and then hold the send button, which makes a new menu appear allowing you to set an exact time for when your text will go out.

Even the Google Assistant is getting a small upgrade, with the ability to make calls, set timers and alarms, and play music on your phone using voice commands. This means your Android phone can now kind of double as a smart speaker, and helps expand the role of the Google Assistant as something that simply answers questions with these additional automation features.

Finally, an official dark mode for Google Maps.

Finally, an official dark mode for Google Maps.
Image: Google

Android Auto is also getting a refresh. Google added new car-inspired backgrounds and voice-activated games like Jeopardy to help those long road trips go by a little faster. And to help make things like contacts easier to access, Google is also adding shortcuts to Android Auto, and cars with widescreen displays get a new split-screen mode so you can see Google Maps and your media controls at the same time.

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Finally, for folks who are blind or have low vision, Google is also releasing a new version of its Talkback app featuring a redesigned menu, more intuitive gesture recognition, improved reading controls, and more.

Here’s what the new scheduled sending options will look like in Google Messages.

Here’s what the new scheduled sending options will look like in Google Messages.
Image: Google

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Google’s new Android software updates will start rolling out today, with Talkback version 9.1 available now in the Google Play store and the update to Android Auto expected to be available “in the coming days.”

What I Hear on Clubhouse: For Black People, Will Silicon Valley’s Hot New Thing Be More Terrordome Than Mecca?

Illustration for article titled What I Hear on Clubhouse: For Black People, Will Silicon Valley’s Hot New Thing Be More Terrordome Than Mecca?

Photo: rafapress (Shutterstock)

What happens when everyone is an “expert?” How to navigate a world where everyone’s “insights,” no matter how dubious, are cloaked in corporate-speak, strenuously hyped by like-minded cohorts, then injected straight into your brain via a mechanism intentionally designed to push your emotional buttons? And how much do you think your ideas and energy are worth?

How about your very voice?

These questions bubble up every time I dip into Clubhouse, the audio-only meeting place that slipped into the social media ecosystem during the spring of 2020 and immediately generated buzz and agita among the Early Adopter crowd. Since October, when a friend jumped me into the invite-only Clubhouse world of “rooms” and “hallways,” I have listened in as its user base expanded from almost exclusively white tech industry operators, venture capitalists, and business owners to a wide diaspora of Black, Latinx, and other ethnic minority groups here and abroad.

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Similar to the concerns I shared here at The Root in 2017 on how Facebook, Twitter, and other major social media companies deftly exploited the energy, creativity and innovative ideas of Black users on their respective marches toward global dominance, what I hear when I visit Clubhouse is concerning, indeed. Over a few months, as the number of users increased, the app’s developers have expanded functionality so that you, too, can start a discussion and host it in a “room.” Whether you are a host a speaker or a listener, you can pop in on a range of live discussions; the topics advertised in headline descriptions run a wide gamut between rank marketing come-ons for LLC Twitter and Insta, such as “How to Build Your Personal Brand Through Clubhouse,” to philosophical themes like “Finding Inner-Peace Through Love and Loss.”

As recently noted by writer Chris Lubin for VSB, Clubhouse’s founders and investors are now rapidly onboarding Black, Latino, and other users from historically marginalized communities.

Color me cynical, but if Clubhouse’s primarily white founders and major investors eventually achieve a big payday, it will largely be due to the creative labor and intellectual property (IP) of its Black users. And as I’ve experienced the Clubhouse environment thus far —with its peculiarly insular nomenclature, and still-developing functionalities and performance protocols—it is this toxic aspect of exploitation, along with two other factors, that lead me to be extremely wary.

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I have chimed in a few times in certain “rooms” at Clubhouse, usually in discussions related to my industry—journalism and strategic communications—or my hometown, San Francisco. I pipe up primarily due to what I consistently perceive to be an absence of values (as in morality)-based discussions on Clubhouse: Amidst pseudo-intellectual language and annoying TechSpeak about “cap tables,” “exits,” and the like, the broad discourse in many Clubhouse rooms strikes me as alarmingly free of humanitarian focus.

The app’s veneer of exclusivity and “insider-ism,” fostered in part by its limited accessibility (it is only compatible with Apple’s iOS programming interface, and doesn’t easily accommodate hearing-impaired users) also gives me pause.

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The third source of my trepidation—and perhaps the most menacing, overall—has to do with the way Clubhouse echoes, in function and in its early socialization into the wider world, the path blazed by Facebook. Even its design look-and-feel updates Facebook’s initially cheery look and feel. “Hey, lookit these users who are in here,” the design says. “You know them—or you want to know them, right?” The unstated yet real goal is that users will trust other users who have made it into these tacitly “exclusive” Clubhouse rooms.

Yes, there are non-predatory discussions focusing on deeply emotional topics, such as conversations hosted by actor Lakeith Stanfield covering youth mental health and suicide. But these human-centered, solutions-oriented “rooms” tend to get lost amid the growing collection of discussions hosted by “experts” touting Get-Rich-Quick schemes.

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What could possibly go wrong?

Contemplating Compensation for Users: Who Decides How Much Your Ideas (and Possibly Your Soul) Are Worth?

In a February 7 “Town Hall” on Clubhouse, co-founder Paul Davison sounded positively giddy in describing his goal of “scaling intimacy” via the platform, primarily by having millions of people around the world talk to each other in real-time in “rooms” where Hosts invite speakers onto a virtual “stage,” all of it organized as “social clubs.” (There’s an inherent contradiction between the literal definition of intimacy and “millions of people connecting in groups” but that hasn’t seemed to occur to Clubhouse’s founders or PR team.) Davison has also been vocal about wanting users to be able to make money on the platform; he mentioned that his developer team is exploring plans to eventually roll out a formal “tipping” model in which users who Host discussions in “rooms” can somehow receive compensation. Another plan in the works involves a subscription model that might allow users to earn money.

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As I listened in on that town hall, Davison and his team struck me as predictably well-meaning in their stated desire to provide a new vehicle for building “communities”—but also shockingly naïve about the fundamental unpredictability of human behavior, and the infinite capacity for humans to not only turn against each other, but to also ruthlessly exploit and profit from aspiration, cultural fears, and ambition.

Sure enough, as I was working on this piece for The Root, The New York Times published an article about Clubhouse in which the writers spoke with Porsha Bell, a Black woman user who said she’d been subjected to misogynistic and racist bullying on the site—only to have the company suspend her account after she tried to push back. “My page is suspended, while the bullies get to roam free,” Bell told The Times.

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It is almost as if Davison and his team and one of the app’s marquee investors, the VC firm Andreessen Hor0witz are convinced that whatever “magical experience” (Davison’s words, from the town hall) they can scale up could not ever turn into an evil giant genie that will never be controlled. Put another way, see: “Facebook,” “disinformation,” “rise of 21st century racist white nationalists,” and “the rise of Would-be Dictator-Former U.S. President Donald Trump.” Black people still using Facebook have by now developed technical and emotional coping skills to contend with the racist Terrordome that it has become.

I do not wish for it, but I can absolutely envision the real potential of new forms of social and economic havoc resulting from Clubhouse—especially if it turns out that sharing not just your IP and creative energy but also literally your own voice might eventually morph into economic or political forms over which you have little to no control.

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Similar to facial recognition technologies that create major risks for Black people—thanks to racism baked into both algorithms and law enforcement agencies—how do we know what the future of voice recognition, also known as voice biometrics AI programs, will hold for Black people and other historically-marginalized populations? Clubhouse is surely a big test case, whether or not users consent. For users who are Black and hoping to leverage the app for material gain, the cost-benefit analysis is far more of a high-stakes proposition than it is for the VCs and other wealthy white people pontificating on the platform.

After listening in there for a few months now, I’m more skeptical than enthusiastic about Clubhouse—and not because I do not think Black users (or “creators” in the preferred language of the site) aren’t capable of finding delightfully creative ways of maximizing the audio-only format.

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My most pressing worry is that despite the sheer hell we’ve all been through and are still living—thanks in part to social media companies that extract our labor while simultaneously failing to hold white people accountable—we might be on the cusp, again, of getting played by another sparkly “new thing” that draws us in through implied promises of material or cultural gain, only to leave us in worse shape than before. If we ever manage to “iterate” white racism out of existence, I might be willing to tune in without reservation.


Amy L. Alexander is a journalist and author of numerous nonfiction books, including Uncovering Race: a Black Journalist’s Story of Reporting and Reinvention.