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.
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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.
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.
Apple employees circulated a petition on Wednesday to express concern over a new hire and his apparently problematic views on women and people of color.
In the petition — which is available to read in full over at The Verge — employees object to the hiring of former Facebook product manager and Chaos Monkeys author Antonio García Martínez. In his book, García Martínez details his journey from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, and according to employees, his characterization of that journey — and the role that women in particular played in it — is among their primary causes for concern.
In most of the objectionable excerpts, García Martínez repeatedly casts women as sex objects who are either shabbily dressed or dead weight in Silicon Valley’s corporate environments.
“There were few women one would call conventionally attractive at Facebook,” García Martínez writes. “The few there were rarely if ever dressed for work with their femininity on display in the form of dresses and heels.
In another passage currently making the rounds on Twitter, García Martínez refers to Bay Area women in particular as “soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit … they become precisely the sort of useless baggage you trade for a box of shotgun shells or a jerrycan of diesel.”
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“It’s so exhausting being a woman in tech; sitting opposite men who think because of my gender, I am soft and weak and generally full of shit,” one Apple employee wrote on Twitter alongside a screenshot of the passage in question. “It’s not even worth it to say I have worked relentlessly for every accomplishment I have.”
García Martínez’s hiring “calls into question parts of our system of inclusion at Apple, including hiring panels, background checks, and our process to ensure our existing culture of inclusion is strong enough to withstand individuals who don’t share our inclusive values,” the employees write.
Women in tech have long been dogged by pompous and persistent claims by men that they are inherently inferior or less suited to perform jobs in STEM fields, so you can imagine it feeling like sort of a slap in the face when your company hires the guy who wrote the literal book on those stereotypes to sit at the desk next to you.
Although Apple has yet to comment on the blowback directly, the company has come under frequent criticism for its lack of workplace diversity in recent years. As of this writing, Apple’s global workforce is currently 66 percent male, and 47 percent of its employees are white.
The UK’s conservative government will ban technology companies from “discriminating” against particular political viewpoints, according to a press release about the country’s new proposed Online Safety Bill. The anti-censorship clause is just a minor part of a much larger draft bill, but will likely get attention from conservatives around the globe who believe their viewpoints are being censored by large tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
“Ministers have added new and specific duties to the Bill for Category 1 services to protect content defined as ‘democratically important’,” the press release, published early Wednesday, said. “This will include content promoting or opposing government policy or a political party ahead of a vote in Parliament, election or referendum, or campaigning on a live political issue.”
“Companies will also be forbidden from discriminating against particular political viewpoints and will need to apply protections equally to a range of political opinions, no matter their affiliation,” the press release continued. “Policies to protect such content will need to be set out in clear and accessible terms and conditions and firms will need to stick to them or face enforcement action from Ofcom.”
“When moderating content, companies will need to take into account the political context around why the content is being shared and give it a high level of protection if it is democratically important.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s conservative government seems to be the latest to take up the martyr pose with Facebook and Twitter, feeding into the idea that right-wing opinions are being censored unfairly on social media. But quite to the contrary, we’ve learned that Big Tech financially rewards extremist speech on the right. In fact, Twitter acknowledged internally that if it censored white nationalists on the platform, its robots would have to censor Republicans who spout identical rhetoric.
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The UK’s new bill will bring in new reporting requirements for child abuse and other horrendous material, along with outlawing any racial abuse online that may already be illegal offline in the United Kingdom. The bill also has provisions to cut back on online fraud, something that many countries have grappled with in recent years.
“This is a landmark moment here in the UK. The problem of online abuse has escalated into a real epidemic which is affecting people physically as well as psychologically and it is time that something is done,” Dr. Alex George, The UK Government’s Youth Mental Health Ambassador said in a statement.
“That’s why I welcome today’s announcement about the Online Safety Bill and the protection it will provide people. Social media companies must play their part in protecting those who consume and engage with their content.”
Following the lead of Twitter, Facebook may now also prompt users to double-check whether they have actually read the goddamn article before potentially passing on hoaxes to some of their less discerning friends.
The company’s official Newsroom account tweeted on Monday that if it detects users attempting to share a news article without actually clicking through to open it, it will now prompt them with a popup that says “You’re about to share this article without opening it. Sharing articles without reading them may mean missing key facts.”
This is, at best, a minor speedbump on the disinformation highway, and the odds it will convince your most pigheaded relatives from sharing fake posts claiming that the Pope demanded Joe Biden resign or that unnamed French scientists have discovered masks incubate the novel coronavirus seem pretty low. It’s also not at all clear that pushing more people to read the content shared in places like Facebook’s more toxic Groups will do anything to blunt their desire to spread it further. It’s also somewhat annoying to users who have actually read articles (or in the case of whiny journalists, actually wrote them) without Facebook noticing, although one might point out that’s kind of the feature working as intended.
Twitter first rolled out its version of the feature in June 2020, and it said the prompts were actually effective—raising the odds of someone opening a given link by 40 percent, or 33 percent before actually retweeting. Some users, the percentage of which Twitter didn’t disclose, simply chose not to post at all after seeing a prompt. Of course, it’s possible that the prompts become less effective over time as users adjust their habits to ignore them.
America may have to wait another six months to find out whether Facebook has the capacity to make a good decision.
On Wednesday, Facebook’s Oversight Board announced that it would uphold the social media network’s decision to suspend Donald Trump from its main site and Instagram after he rallied his supporters to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a failed effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race. It also ruled that when Facebook announced Trump would be banned “indefinitely” and punted the final decision on whether it would become permanent to the board, it was just arbitrarily making shit up.
“The Board has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7, 2021, to restrict then-President Donald Trump’s access to posting content on his Facebook page and Instagram account,” the board wrote in its decision. “However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.”
“The Board found that the two posts by Mr. Trump on January 6 severely violated Facebook’s Community Standards and Instagram’s Community Guidelines,” the board continued. “‘We love you. You’re very special’ in the first post and ‘great patriots’ and ‘remember this day forever’ in the second post violated Facebook’s rules prohibiting praise or support of people engaged in violence. … The Board found that, in maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible.”
“Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr. Trump’s accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7,” they added. “…[But] it is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored… In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities.”
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The board then told Facebook that within six months, it must revisit the matter and either make Trump’s ban permanent themselves or release his account. They wrote the final determination “must be based on the gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm” and “be consistent with Facebook’s rules for severe violations, which must, in turn, be clear, necessary and proportionate.”
Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.
The Oversight Board, depending on who one asks, is either an independent body made up of academics, lawyers, politicians, and free speech activists with the ability to review and overrule virtually any of Facebook’s moderation decisions, including when Facebook rules in favor of the person who posted the contested content—or it’s an exercise in thinly veiled corporate obfuscation designed to add a patina of legitimacy to the company’s decisions. (Don’t blame us; blame the Oversight Board!) The board issued its first set of rulings in January, but the board took months to reach a conclusion as to whether our former carbuncle-in-chief’s use of Facebook to try and incite a coup, albeit a really shitty one, violated the site’s rules despite it clearly having done so.
Cori Crider, a director at Foxglove, a non-profit that works with Facebook content moderators around the world, told Gizmodo via email that the Oversight Board served to distract from Facebook’s broken moderation system and the grueling conditions that the army of contractors who man it labors under. Crider said absorbing the real cost of providing adequate “staff, pay, and mental health support” to keep Facebook would be transformative for the company, which is why they’ve done everything in their power to avoid doing it.
“Facebook is desperately hoping we’ll all pay attention to its shiny Oversight Board and ignore the real issue–content moderation on Facebook is totally broken,” Crider wrote. “It’s mostly done not by this Board but in digital sweatshops, and they don’t want to spend the money to fix it.”
“Today’s decision about Donald Trump is just one of thousands of similar decisions that get made every day with far less fanfare by underpaid, outsourced content moderators,” Crider wrote. “But instead of a plummy title and a six-figure stipend, the real content moderators are kept in working conditions that give lots of them PTSD. Facebook refuses to hire them, even though they’re the very heart of the business. And this lackadaisical approach to industrial-scale content moderation hasn’t been remotely enough to stop Facebook being a river of hate, lies, and violence.”
“… Moderators have real insight into the spread of lies and violence on Facebook, but when they try to suggest changes or report issues up, it’s like talking to a brick wall. Zuck ought to listen to their views,” Crider added. “I’d also invite all the Oversight Board members, if they’re really concerned about the health of the global public square, to sit in a Facebook moderator’s shoes for a week and grapple with the violence and hate and child abuse themselves. It would open their eyes to what Facebook really is – and lead to them calling for their colleagues to be given a fairer shake.”
Trump was always more concerned with the ban on @realDonaldTrump, his now-defunct Twitter account where he could more directly influence or at least try to piss off the droves of media and political elites on the platform. His account peaked at nearly 89 million followers before the kill date in January. Trump went so far as to continue posting via a series of alts including his campaign account, which was banned too. He’s seemed less eager about Facebook, where he has just shy of 33 million followers and an additional 24 million on Instagram, despite the site fueling a vast, servile right-wing digital media ecosystem that relentlessly promoted his presidency, filled his coffers, and ginned up the manpower for the Jan. 6 riot. He did briefly attempt to evade the ban by livestreaming via daughter-in-law Lara Trump’s account, though that attempt was aborted after Facebook warned workarounds wouldn’t pass scrutiny.
While Wednesday’s decision does uphold Facebook’s original decision to suspend access to Trump’s account, it could also be read as giving Facebook up to another six months to make up its mind after seeing which way the winds are blowing. Conservatives went into virtual apoplexy when Trump got banned from both sites, neutering his social media presence overnight. They’re bound to be just as displeased about the Oversight Board’s decision, which puts a capstone on four years of Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg bending over backwards to please Republican politicians and pundits who went on to vitriolically criticize the site anyhow.
Now will start another era of Facebook doing exactly that, just in a slightly different manner with vaguely different rhetoric and with or without Trump. The system works!
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
After threatening for months to disrupt social media with a bespoke platform that would allow him to bypass community guidelines (and the embarrassingly long list of platforms he’s been banned from), our big patriotic boy has finally made good on his promise. Folks, the wait is over — the future is now, and it’s a blog.
On Tuesday, former president Donald Trump launched his long-awaited social media platform, which, if you really squint at it, kind of resembles a rudimentary version of Twitter, if Twitter had been designed by a day-glo boomer hunkered down in Palm Beach, Florida. Titled “From the desk of Donald J. Trump,” the “feed” is tucked inconspicuously into a corner of Trump’s website and features that classic commentary we all know and love — pithy observations from a very old man who always cared more about how his snarky commentary would be received than he did about actual governance or, you know, people.
“Happy Easter to ALL, including the Radical Left CRAZIES who rigged our Presidential Election, and want to destroy our Country!” reads one post.
“So nice to see RINO Mitt Romney booed off the stage at the Utah Republican State Convention,” reads another. “They are among the earliest to have figured this guy out, a stone cold loser!”
Although the platform just launched, there are already posts dating back as early as March, which implies the existence of a universe where developers could have simply “forgotten” to plug this thing into the internet and kept it offline forever, leaving Trump content to shoot his foul musings straight off into the void for the rest of time.
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The platform also features the option to share Trump’s commentary on Twitter and Facebook — two platforms that, as of this writing, the former president is still currently banned from. Significantly, the platform’s launch comes just hours before Facebook’s Oversight Board is expected to hand down a decision on whether or not Trump will be allowed back on Facebook and its subsidiaries, including Instagram.
Trump was famously banned from a host of platforms in January after his rage-stoking rigged-election commentary incited an angry mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol, ultimately leaving five people dead.
According to Fox News, the page is the work of Campaign Nucleus, a “digital ecosystem made for efficiently managing political campaigns and organizations,” helmed by Trump’s former campaign manager, Brad Parscale.
The moral of the story is clear: You can take the Twitter out of the president, but you can’t take the tweet out of the poster. Or something like that.
While Twitter has yet to officially outline plans for its upcoming subscription service, the social media giant continues to prep for its release with the acquisition of Scroll.
In a blog post announcing the buyout, Twitter says it’s planning to enlist Scroll’s tech to create a better way to read news stories and articles “without the ads, pop-ups, and other clutter that get in the way, cleaning up the reading experience and giving people what they want: just the content.”
While details remain scarce, Twitter’s forthcoming subscription services seem poised to be Twitter’s answer to paid news aggregation apps like Apple News, which allow users to view content from a wide range of sites and publishers (both with and without paywalls) in one convenient place for a monthly fee.
In a series of tweets, Scroll CEO Tony Haile described the acquisition as a way of helping Twitter “serve the public conversation” with Scroll’s mission being to implement and scale its tech so that Twitter users “can experience an internet without friction and frustration” with a focus on “people who love the news *and* pay to support it.”
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Twitter says Scroll will become “part of an upcoming subscription offering we’re currently exploring” designed to give subscribers access to premium features and content (including newsletters), with a portion of your subscription fee dedicated to paying writers and publishers for the content they create, which sounds very similar to how YouTube distributes money generated by YouTube Premium subscriptions.
While not specifically mentioned in Twitter’s blog post, Twitter’s purchase of Scroll will also impact Nuzzle, an app acquired by Scroll in 2019 that became popular for helping people create a news feed curated from stories shared by people they follow on Twitter.
The bad news for Nuzzel fans is that the app will be officially shut down this week, with the Nuzzel app, site, and email service being taken offline. In a separate blog post, Haile said “simply cloning a service conceived in 2012 doesn’t make a ton of sense,” though there may be hope for Nuzzel down the road with Twitter vice president Mike Park saying Twitter is forming a team to bring Nuzzel or elements of Nuzzel to Twitter sometime in the future.
Regardless, Twitter’s purchase of Scroll is a clear sign that Twitter is getting closer to releasing an upcoming subscription service as the company looks to become less reliant on ads as its primary source of revenue.
Netflix rolled out its new “Play Something” feature this week, a shuffle play option for when you have thousands of TV shows and movies at your fingertips and no idea what to watch.
Sure, it’s a first-world problem. But as a routine sufferer of decision paralysis, I’ve been hoping for something like this for what feels like forever. At the end of a long day when my brain is slowly leaking out my ears and I’m just looking for some mindless entertainment to unwind for a bit, I’d offload the choice of what to watch onto an algorithm in a heartbeat.
Netflix’s new feature does just that, algorithmically generating content suggestions based on user habits. Upon opening the Netflix app, you’ll now come across a Play Something button in a few places (on the navigation menu, beneath your profile picture, and on the tenth row of the homepage). Click it, and Netflix will bring up what it reckons you’ll like, whether that be something new, a series or film you’ve had on your watchlist, a title you’re already watching, or something you started a while back but never finished.
If for whatever reason Netflix misses the mark with its pick, you can skip to another suggestion with the Play Something Else option. The feature also has full text-to-speech support for those that use screen-readers.
Netflix has had this in the works for a hot minute. Last September, the company confirmed it was testing a shuffle function, then going by the name “Shuffle Play,” among certain users worldwide. It ran similar tests targeted specifically at TV shows in April that same year, letting users roll the dice on a random episode to watch.
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Obviously, Netflix’s goal with any new feature it adds is to keep users glued to its platform for as long as possible. Endlessly scrolling through options trying to figure out what to watch can be frustrating, and frustrated users are more likely to start wondering why they’re even keeping their subscription in the first place (especially given the ballooning number of alternative options). It’s in Netflix’s best interest to figure out how to quickly connect users with content they’ll actually want to watch.
Nonetheless, for those of us often stricken with decision paralysis, this Play Something feature is a welcome tool that helps put a near-nightly dilemma to rest.
As more and more social media platforms start cooking up their own Clubhouse clones, Instagram is adding new features to its existing livestreaming service to get in on the voice chat craze. On Thursday, Instagram announced it’s rolling out the option to turn off your audio or video while using Instagram Live.
Instagram tested these new features publically on Monday during an Instagram Live broadcast between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram. Starting today, global audiences on both iOS and Android will have access to them too.
“We want to build on our Live product and offer even more ways for our creator community to drive serendipitous, engaging conversation with each other and their audience,” a company spokesperson told Gizmodo via email. “By giving people the option to mute their audio or turn off their video, hosts will have the added flexibility for their livestream experience, as the added functionality could help decrease pressure to look or sound a certain way while broadcasting live.”
As for now, broadcasters won’t be able to turn on or off the video or mute others in their livestreams, but Instagram said it’s working on adding these kinds of options soon.
In a similar move, Instagram’s parent company Facebook added Live Audio Rooms to its platform and Messenger app back in March. It also has a Clubhouse-inspired Q&A platform called Hotline in the works.
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LinkedIn, Twitter, Slack, and a slew of other online platforms have jumped at the chance to develop their own voice chat features in recent months, trying to capitalize on the relaxed, “video off” experience popularized by Clubhouse.
Whether or not it’s just a flash in the pan remains to be seen, but Clubhouse’s investors sure seem to have faith in its staying power. The company was reportedly valued at roughly $4 billion amid negotiations with investors during a round of funding earlier this month. However, Clubhouse’s explosive growth is starting to show signs of waning, Insider reports. According to data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower, the number of monthly app installs worldwide tanked between February and March, from 9.6 million downloads to 2.7 million downloads respectively.
Clubhouse’s rise in popularity has been partially tied to the coronavirus pandemic keeping many people stuck inside and pushing them toward socially distanced opportunities, such as public audio chatrooms, to connect. With the world slowly beginning to open back up again as vaccines roll out, it appears Clubhouse shtick may be wearing thin for some users.
India’s government reportedly ordered Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to censor dozens of posts criticizing the administration’s response to the pandemic, arguing that they were misleading or could hinder emergency response efforts. The crackdown comes amid an unprecedented surge in covid-19 cases and deaths in India as a second coronavirus wave hits the nation with a force some health officials have likened to a “tsunami.”
Following reports from TechCrunch and Indian news site MediaNama, Indian officials confirmed with the New York Times on Sunday that the government ordered Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to take down roughly 100 posts, some of which included criticism from politiciansand calls for India’s prime minister to resign. India’s government argued that these posts used images that were taken out of context and could potentially incite panic or interfere with its response to the pandemic, according to the Times.
Twitter took down several tweets in response to a legal request from the Indian government, a company spokesperson confirmed with Gizmodo on Sunday. Two such legal requests were published on Lumen, a Harvard University project that tracks government takedown notices across the globe. The first, dated April 22, lists 32 tweets, while the second, dated April 23, lists 21 tweets, both invoking the Information Technology Act of 2000 without going into further detail. Among the censored accounts include a West Bengal state minister, a sitting member of India’s Parliament, and multiple members of India’s film industry.
“When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter Rules and local law,” a Twitter spokesperson told Gizmodo in an emailed statement. “If the content violates Twitter’s rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, we may withhold access to the content in India only.”
The spokesperson added that Twitter notified the affected accounts to let them know it was withholding their content in response to a legal request from India’s government.
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Facebook, which also owns Instagram, did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but we’ll be sure to update this blog when they do.
Covid-19 cases have skyrocketed across India in recent weeks. On Saturday, India reported 349,691 new cases, making it the fourth consecutive day that the nation set a world record for daily infections during the pandemic, CNN reports. With 2,767 fatalities reported in the last 24 hours, India has also beaten its record for its highest daily death toll nine days in a row. Over 1 million new cases have been logged in the past three days, bringing the nation’s total to nearly 17 million, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins.