Twitter has taken another step back from its initial decision to block users from sharing links to or images of a New York Post story reporting on emails and other data supposedly originating on a laptop belonging to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
The story, which alleged that Hunter Biden had set up a meeting between a Ukrainian energy firm and his father back when Biden was vice president, looked shaky from the start, and more holes have emerged over time. Both Facebook and Twitter took action to slow its spread — but Twitter seemed to take the more aggressive stance, not just including warning labels whenever someone shared the story, but actually blocking links.
These moves have drawn a range of criticism. There have been predictable cries of censorship from Republican politicians and pundits, but there have also been suggestions that Facebook and Twitter inadvertently drew more attention to the story. And even Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey suggested that it was “unacceptable” to block links in DMs without an explanation.
Casey Newton, on the other hand, argued that the platforms had successfully slowed the story’s spread: “The truth had time to put its shoes on before Rudy Giuliani’s shaggy-dog story about a laptop of dubious origin made it all the way around the world.”
Twitter initially justified its approach by citing its hacked materials policy, then later said it was blocking the Post article for including “personal and private information — like email addresses and phone numbers — which violate our rules.”
The controversy did prompt Twitter to revise its hacked materials policy, so that content and links obtained through dubious means will now come with a label, rather than being removed entirely, unless it’s being shared directly by hackers or those “acting in concert with them.”
And now, as first reported by The New York Times, Twitter is also allowing users to share links to the Post story itself (something I’ve confirmed through my own Twitter account).
Why the reversal? Again, the official justification for blocking the link was to prevent the spread of private information, so the company said that the story has now spread so widely, online and in the press, that the information can no longer be considered private.
Instagram extends time limits on live streams to 4 hours, will soon support archiving – TechCrunch
Instagram is adapting to the way creators have been using its service during the coronavirus pandemic. With individuals and businesses now limited from hosting in-person events — like concerts, classes, meetups, and more — users have turned to Instagram to live stream instead. Today, the company says it’s significantly expanding the time limit for these streams, from 1 hour to now 4 hours for all users worldwide.
The change, the company explains, is meant to help those who’ve had to pivot to virtual events, like yoga and fitness instructors, teachers, musicians, artists and activists, among others. During the height of government lockdowns in the U.S., Instagram Live became a place for people to gather as DJ’s hosted live sets, artists played their music for fans, celebs hosted live talk shows, workout enthusiasts joined live classes, and more. Live usage had then jumped 70% over pre-coronavirus numbers in the U.S. as people connected online.
Many of these Instagram Live creators had wanted to extend their sessions beyond the 60 minute time limit without an interruption.
The change puts Instagram on par with the time limits offered by Facebook for live streams from mobile devices, which is also 4 hours. (If live streaming from a desktop computer or via an API, the Facebook time limit expands to 8 hours.)
While the longer time limit is opening up to all creators worldwide starting today, Instagram says the creator’s account has to be “good standing” in order to take advantage. That means the account can’t have a history of either intellectual property or policy violations.
Related to this change, Instagram will also update the “Live Now” section in IGTV and at the end of live streams to help direct users to more live content.
Instagram also today pre-announced another feature which has yet to arrive.
It says that it will “soon” add an option that will allow creators to archive their live streams for up to 30 days.
Before, users could archive their Feed posts or their Stories to a private archive, but the only way to save a live stream was to publish it to IGTV immediately after the stream, through a feature introduced in May.
The company says the new option to archive live broadcasts will mirror the existing archive experience for Stories and Feed Posts.
The difference is that archived live videos will be permanently deleted after 30 days.
But up until that time, the creator has the option to return to the video to save it or download it. This would allow the creator to publish the video on other social platforms, like Facebook or YouTube, or even trim out key parts for short-form video platforms, like TikTok. The Archive feature also means if a creator’s Live stream crashes for some reason — or if the creator forgot to download it in the moment — it can still be downloaded later on.
The news follows another recent Instagram update which introduced a new way for creators to monetize their Live streams.
The company earlier this month began rolling out badges in Instagram Live to an initial group of over 50,000 creators who will test the feature by selling badges at price points of $0.99, $1.99, or $4.99. These badges help fans’ comments stand out in busy streams, allow fans to support a favorite creator, and places the fan’s name on the creator’s list of badge holders.
Upstream aims to be the new home for your professional social life – TechCrunch
Last fall, social analytics startup SocialRank sold its product and business to Trufan, allowing the team to focus on something new: a professional social network. Today, they’re officially unveiling Upstream to the public.
To be clear, CEO Alex Taub told me that he’s not trying to replace LinkedIn — he acknowledged that thanks to network effects,”If you want to go and try to take down LinkedIn, you’re not going to be able to take them down.”
Instead, the goal is to create something that fulfills a different need. Where LinkedIn works primarily as an online résumé and rolodex, Upstream aims to help users build the connections and relationships that are important to their careers — something that’s sorely needed at a time when large-scale meetups and conferences aren’t really possible (though we’re certainly trying to create the virtual equivalent at TechCrunch).
“This is the place for your professional social life,” Taub said.
Upstream’s first product focused on professional groups and communities, allowing users to post what the company called Professional Asks, like if they’re looking to hire someone for a certain position or need an introduction at another company.
Taub suggested that things really took off with Upstream’s next product, Upstream Events, where Upstream would host a guest speaker, then attendees were matched up for five-minute, one-on-one video chats with the other people at the event.
Upstream says it’s already hosted more than 100 events, with 72% of people who who attend one event subsequently attending another.
While the team has built multiple products (and we’ve covered some of them already), they’re outlining the broader vision today and launching some new features at the same time.
For one thing, while communities were previously shared via a private, unlisted link, you can now browse all the different communities in a Discovery section. At the same time, community organizers will be still be able to control who joins by approving or rejecting new members.
There’s also a new spin on Events called Office Hours, allowing users to set aside structured time for virtual one-on-one sessions with anyone who’s interested in speaking to them. These sessions can be listed publicly, or they can be unlisted, so that you only share them via email or within a certain community.
In a blog post, Taub noted that he met his SocialRank/Upstream co-founder and CTO Michael Schonfeld via Ohours.org, and they’re trying to replicate that experience here:
Let’s say you are the CMO of a large company and you want to give your people the opportunity to meet 1:1. The thought of coordinating the individual scheduling of ten minute blocks using your Outlook calendar and email is not attractive. But with Upstream, you are able to choose the 30min block you want to offer and how long you want the sessions to be. You decide you want to run your office hours every other Friday at 2pm ET for the rest of the year. The event is built and able to be shared seamlessly to whoever you choose to offer the Office Hours to.
In fact, Taub’s post lists more than 30 different people who are already offering office hours on Upstream, including New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz, Foursquare co-founder/Expa partner Naveen Selvadurai and Amazon Photo Head of Product Nate Westheiemer.
Upstream is also announcing that it has raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from 8-Bit Capital, Human Ventures, Basement Fund, NYVP and various angel investors.
Looking ahead, Taub said that the next big priority is launching a web version of Upstream (which is currently available via mobile app), and to continue building live experiences, asynchronous experiences and features that provide real utility.
“We imagine a future when professionals come to Upstream for an event or Ask, and stay for the compelling opportunities that make Upstream an energizing and beneficial experience for them,” he wrote.
TikTok partners with Shopify on social commerce – TechCrunch
TikTok is further investing in social commerce with today’s announcement of a new global partnership with e-commerce platform Shopify. The deal aims to make it easier for Shopify’s over 1 million merchants to reach TikTok’s younger audience and drive sales. The partnership will eventually expand to include other in-app shopping features, as well, the companies said.
At launch, the agreement allows Shopify merchants to create, run and optimize their TikTok marketing campaigns directly from the Shopify dashboard by installing the new TikTok channel app from the Shopify App Store. Once installed, merchants will have access to the key functions from the TikTok For Business Ads Manager at their disposal.
These ad tools allow merchants to create native, shareable content that turns their products into In-Feed video ads that will resonate with the TikTok community. Merchants will be able to target their audiences across gender, age, user behavior, and video category, and then track the campaign’s performance over time. The campaigns’ costs will vary, based on the merchant’s own business objectives and how much they want to spend.
As a part of this effort, Shopify merchants can also install or connect their “TikTok Pixel” — a tool that helps them to more easily track conversions driven by their TikTok ad campaigns.
Currently, e-commerce merchants can track user actions like a user browsing their page, a registration on a website, adding items to their cart, placing an order, and completing the payment.
Shopify tells TechCrunch a small number of merchants previously gained access to these features as part of a beta test. But as of today, Oct. 27, the product is being made available to all merchants across the U.S.
“TikTok is one of the world’s fastest growing entertainment platforms with over 100 million highly engaged users in the U.S. alone,” said Satish Kanwar, Vice President of Product at Shopify, in a statement about the new partnership. “The TikTok channel means Shopify merchants—even those without a strong TikTok following of their own yet—can connect with these new audiences using content that feels authentic and genuine to the TikTok experience,” Kanwar added.
To get started with the new features, merchants who want to advertise on TikTok will first install the TikTok channel app, then create and connect their TikTok For Business account and install the one-click pixel. They can then deploy In-Feed shoppable video ads by selecting the product they want to feature using ad templates specifically designed for commerce. Because these templates use existing imagery or videos, the TikTok channel can work for merchants of any size, Shopify notes.
To kick off the partnership, merchants are being offered a $300 ad credit to get started with their first TikTok campaign.
In addition, the two companies have partnered on their first co-branded Hashtag Challenge Plus campaign, #ShopBlack, to celebrate Black-owned businesses. Shopify had earlier featured Black-owned businesses in its own app, Shop. But from Nov. 10 through Nov. 15, the TikTok community will be able to browse videos from over 40 Shopify merchants via the new hashtag and its accompanying branded effect within TikTok, too.
Shopify and TikTok had been working together to test various social commerce initiatives ahead of today’s announcement.
The companies, for example, had been spotted trialing a new shopping button that allowed TikTok creators to link their Shopify storefront from their videos. (Teespring was also testing this with TikTok). TikTok had offered a TikTok Ads Pixel for Shopify merchants before today, as well. But the partnership makes the pixel integration a 1-click install, so merchants don’t have to manipulate code.
“We are delighted to partner with Shopify and provide a channel for their merchants to reach new audiences and drive sales on TikTok,” said Blake Chandlee, Vice President, Global Business Solutions at TikTok, in a statement. “As social commerce proliferates, retailers are recognizing that TikTok’s creative and highly engaged community sets it apart from other platforms. We’re constantly exploring new and innovative ways to connect brands with our users, and Shopify is the perfect partner to help us grow and expand our commerce capabilities globally,” he said.
TikTok and Shopify’s partnership won’t be limited to the new TikTok channel app, however. That’s just the first step.
We understand the deal will soon expand to other shopping features, too.
TikTok says it plans to start testing new in-app features that will make it easier for users to discover Shopify merchants and their products by expanding their reach through video and on their account profiles. These features will also “let users browse merchant’s products and shop directly through the TikTok app,” a spokesperson said. They didn’t offer specific details about the features or how the payments portion would work, saying that more information would be available when the new tools launched.
However, the features will launch to a limited beta group of testers soon, a TikTok spokesperson confirmed.
Shopify isn’t the first to recognize TikTok’s potential as a new type of social shopping platform. Its ability to drive merchant traffic and sales was a key reason for Walmart’s participation in the TikTok-Oracle deal — a deal whose current status is still unknown, of course, given the ongoing TikTok lawsuit and the upcoming Presidential election whose outcome could impact the Trump Administration’s TikTok ban.
TikTok itself has been steadily ramping up its tools for merchants and other social shopping features. To date, it has experimented with allowing users to add e-commerce links to their bios; launched “Shop Now” buttons for brands’ video ads; and introduced shoppable components to hashtags with the e-commerce feature (soon to be used for #ShopBlack), known as the Hashtag Challenge Plus.
Shopify, meanwhile, has been working to deliver more tools that give smaller businesses the ability to compete against Walmart and Amazon, while at the same time partnering with Walmart to give its merchants broader reach.
The TikTok-Shopify partnership could help the video platform better compete against other sources of social commerce, including the growing number of live stream shopping apps as well as efforts from Facebook and its family of apps. The social giant has recently rolled out a bevy of shopping-focused updates across Facebook, Instagram, and — just last week — WhatsApp, with the goal of directing users to shop in its apps, then check out seamlessly with Facebook Pay.
TikTok’s advantage is that it’s a video-based social network, more like YouTube, rather than a platform whose roots were in editorial-quality imagery, like Instagram. On Instagram, video features have been added in over time. Now, a number of Instagram products include video — like Feed posts, Stories, Instagram Live, IGTV, and, finally, Instagram’s TikTok rival, Reels. But overall, the impact is that Instagram has started to feel overcrowded.
TikTok says the new TikTok channel for Shopify merchants is available today in the U.S. It will roll out to other markets next year, including elsewhere in North America, Europe and Southeast Asia.
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