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WhatsApp Sticker Integration Reportedly Coming Soon to Gboard

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WhatsApp’s stickers feature has been talk of the town since it was introduced in October last year. But to further enhance the use of stickers on the instant messaging app, the Facebook-owned company has now been spotted developing integration with third-party keyboards. Google’s Gboard is reported to be the first keyboard whose stickers will be integrated within WhatsApp. However, other keyboard apps are also likely to come on board shortly. The purpose of the new development is to essentially make a large number of stickers available for sharing on WhatsApp.

WABetaInfo reports WhatsApp for Android has had the integration of keyboard stickers since December 12, but the functionality isn’t available with Gboard right now. It is believed that WhatsApp is waiting for Google to complete the testing on Gboard end to flip the switch. The new move will enable the chat app to automatically convert stickers available on Gboard into WhatsApp compatible sticker format WebP. It is also said that the new feature will reach other third-party keyboards over time.

At present, the stickers that you share from Gboard get converted into images on WhatsApp but as soon as WhatsApp makes the integration live for Gboard users, they will appear as proper stickers.

Photo Credit: WABetaInfo

 

WhatsApp brought stickers to its platform back in October. While the app doesn’t have plenty of stickers by default, it allows the users to download distinct sticker packs from the App Store and Google Play. There is also a workaround to enable individuals to create personalised stickers. However, adding the ability to add stickers from keyboards will certainly take the experience to new levels.

Particularly, Gboard has ‘Minis’ selfie stickers and Emojis Minis sticker packs that both bring a list of selfie sticker options on the virtual keyboard. Google had upgraded the Gboard app for Android devices with artificial intelligence (AI) backed suggestions for adding new stickers last November.

All this could make sticker sharing on WhatsApp easier and more fun. That being said, we’re yet to see the official update for WhatsApp and Gboard to enable the new experience.

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Loop Team wants to give remote workers an in-office feel – TechCrunch

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As we’ve moved to work from home during the pandemic, it’s been challenging for remote workers to feel connected. Loop Team, a new entrant into the enterprise communications space, thinks the way we are communicating needs improvement. That’s why the startup is releasing Loop Team today, a tool that is trying to use software to reproduce the in-office experience.

Company founder and CEO Raj Singh says that he learned about the problems of feeling disconnected first-hand at a previous remote-first company, but in spite of his best attempts to use technology to produce that in-office feel, he said he continued to feel out of the loop (so to speak). That’s when he decided to build the solution he wanted.

“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter, the serendipitous bumping, things like that. And we built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form,” Singh explained to me.

While he created this company prior to COVID, the pandemic has highlighted the need for a tool like this. Before he created the software, he interviewed hundreds of people who worked from home to understand their issues working outside of the office and he heard a lot of common complaints.

“There was an office and they didn’t necessarily know what was going on. They didn’t know who was available. They didn’t know who was around. It was difficult to connect. Everything was scheduled through calendar. They were missing some of that presence — and they were feeling lonely or out of touch or out of the loop,” he said.

His company’s solution tries to reproduce the office experience using AI, good, old-fashioned presence awareness and other tech to let team members know what you’re doing and if you’re available to chat. So just as you would wander down the hall and see your colleague on the phone or deeply involved with work on the laptop, and know to leave them be, you could get that same feel with Loop.

Loop Team Highlights

Image Credits: Loop Team

It gives the current status of the person, and you can know from looking at the list of people on your team, who’s available to talk and who’s busy. As you go into virtual discussions, the team can see who’s having meetings and individuals can pop in too, just as you might do in the office.

What’s more, you can set up rooms (like in Slack), but these are designed to give you a more personal connection using video and audio for actual discussion. You can work on projects via screen share and people who miss these meetings because of other obligations or time zone differences, can always review what they missed.

While you can do all of these things in Slack and Zoom, or in some combination of similar tools, Loop’s layout and presentation is designed to help you see the conversations in a clear way and expose what you want to see, while hiding parts of the day that don’t interest you.

The product is available for free starting today, but Singh wants to introduce a pricing model sometime next year based on team size. He expects there will always be a freemium version for teams under 10 people.

The company was founded in 2018 and nurtured at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). It has raised $4.75 million so far. Today it starts on its journey as a startup with its first product, and it’s one that comes with good timing as more teams find themselves working remotely than every before.

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Facebook’s self-styled ‘oversight’ board selects first cases, most dealing with hate speech – TechCrunch

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A Facebook -funded body that the tech giant set up to distance itself from tricky and potentially reputation-damaging content moderation decisions has announced the first bundle of cases it will consider.

In a press release on its website the Facebook Oversight Board (FOB) says it sifted through more than 20,000 submissions before settling on six cases — one of which was referred to it directly by Facebook.

The six cases it’s chosen to start with are:

Facebook submission: 2020-006-FB-FBR

A case from France where a user posted a video and accompanying text to a COVID-19 Facebook group — which relates to claims about the French agency that regulates health products “purportedly refusing authorisation for use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin against COVID-19, but authorising promotional mail for remdesivir”; with the user criticizing the lack of a health strategy in France and stating “[Didier] Raoult’s cure” is being used elsewhere to save lives”. Facebook says it removed the content for violating its policy on violence and incitement. The video in questioned garnered at least 50,000 views and 1,000 shares.

The FOB says Facebook indicated in its referral that this case “presents an example of the challenges faced when addressing the risk of offline harm that can be caused by misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic”.

User submissions:

Out of the five user submissions that the FOB selected, the majority (three cases) are related to hate speech takedowns.

One case apiece is related to Facebook’s nudity and adult content policy; and to its policy around dangerous individuals and organizations.

See below for the Board’s descriptions of the five user submitted cases:

  • 2020-001-FB-UA: A user posted a screenshot of two tweets by former Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in which the former Prime Minister stated that “Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past” and “[b]ut by and large the Muslims have not applied the ‘eye for an eye’ law. Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t. Instead the French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings.” The user did not add a caption alongside the screenshots. Facebook removed the post for violating its policy on hate speech. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that they wanted to raise awareness of the former Prime Minister’s “horrible words”.
  • 2020-002-FB-UA: A user posted two well-known photos of a deceased child lying fully clothed on a beach at the water’s edge. The accompanying text (in Burmese) asks why there is no retaliation against China for its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, in contrast to the recent killings in France relating to cartoons. The post also refers to the Syrian refugee crisis. Facebook removed the content for violating its hate speech policy. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that the post was meant to disagree with people who think that the killer is right and to emphasise that human lives matter more than religious ideologies.

  • 2020-003-FB-UA: A user posted alleged historical photos showing churches in Baku, Azerbaijan, with accompanying text stating that Baku was built by Armenians and asking where the churches have gone. The user stated that Armenians are restoring mosques on their land because it is part of their history. The user said that the “т.а.з.и.к.и” are destroying churches and have no history. The user stated that they are against “Azerbaijani aggression” and “vandalism”. The content was removed for violating Facebook’s hate speech policy. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that their intention was to demonstrate the destruction of cultural and religious monuments.

  • 2020-004-IG-UA: A user in Brazil posted a picture on Instagram with a title in Portuguese indicating that it was to raise awareness of signs of breast cancer. Eight photographs within the picture showed breast cancer symptoms with corresponding explanations of the symptoms underneath. Five of the photographs included visible and uncovered female nipples. The remaining three photographs included female breasts, with the nipples either out of shot or covered by a hand. Facebook removed the post for violating its policy on adult nudity and sexual activity. The post has a pink background, and the user indicated in a statement to the Oversight Board that it was shared as part of the national “Pink October” campaign for the prevention of breast cancer.

  • 2020-005-FB-UA: A user in the US was prompted by Facebook’s “On This Day” function to reshare a “memory” in the form of a post that the user made two years ago. The user reshared the content. The post (in English) is an alleged quote from Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, on the need to appeal to emotions and instincts, instead of intellect, and on the unimportance of truth. Facebook removed the content for violating its policy on dangerous individuals and organisations. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that the quote is important as the user considers the current US presidency to be following a fascist model

Public comments on the cases can be submitted via the FOB’s website — but only for seven days (closing at 8:00 Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, December 8, 2020).

The FOB says it “expects” to decide on each case — and “for Facebook to have acted on this decision” — within 90 days. So the first ‘results’ from the FOB, which only began reviewing cases in October, are almost certainly not going to land before 2021.

Panels comprised of five FOB members — including at least one from the region “implicated in the content” — will be responsible for deciding whether the specific pieces of content in question should stay down or be put back up.

Facebook’s outsourcing of a fantastically tiny subset of content moderation considerations to a subset of its so-called ‘Oversight Board’ has attracted plenty of criticism (including inspiring a mirrored unofficial entity that dubs itself the Real Oversight Board) — and no little cynicism.

Not least because it’s entirely funded by Facebook; structured as Facebook intended it to be structured; and with members chosen via a system devised by Facebook.

If it’s radical change you’re looking for, the FOB is not it.

Nor does the entity have any power to change Facebook policy — it can only issue recommendations (which Facebook can choose to entirely ignore).

Its remit does not extend to being able to investigate how Facebook’s attention-seeking business model influences the types of content being amplified or depressed by its algorithms, either.

And the narrow focus on content taken downs — rather than content that’s already allowed on the social network — skews its purview, as we’ve pointed out before.

So you won’t find the board asking tough questions about why hate groups continue to flourish and recruit on Facebook, for example, or robustly interrogating how much succour its algorithmic amplification has gifted to the antivaxx movement.  By design, the FOB is focused on symptoms, not the nation-sized platform ill of Facebook itself. Outsourcing a fantastically tiny subset of content moderations decisions can’t signify anything else.  

With this Facebook-commissioned pantomime of accountability the tech giant will be hoping to generate a helpful pipeline of distracting publicity — focused around specific and ‘nuanced’ content decisions — deflecting plainer but harder-hitting questions about the exploitative and abusive nature of Facebook’s business itself, and the lawfulness of its mass surveillance of Internet users, as lawmakers around the world grapple with how to rein in tech giants.  

The company wants the FOB to reframe discussion about the culture wars (and worse) that Facebook’s business model fuels as a societal problem — pushing a self-serving ‘fix’ for algorithmically fuelled societal division in the form of a few hand-picked professionals opining on individual pieces of content, leaving it free to continue defining the shape of the attention economy on a global scale. 

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Facebook-backed Libra Association rebrands as Diem – TechCrunch

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The Libra Association, a consortium created by Facebook to support its Libra cryptocurrency efforts, announced this morning that it has a new name — the Diem Association — and made some key hires ahead of its launch.

This is just the latest course correction since the Libra project was announced last year. In an attempt to appease financial regulators around the world, the association shifted its strategy away from creating a global stablecoin and will instead launch multiple stablecoins, each tied to a different fiat currency (such as the U.S. dollar and the euro).

The project has also seen some high-profile departures, with announced partners like Visa and Stripe leaving the project. And Facebook has rebranded its cryptocurrency wallet, changing the name from Calibra to Novi.

In a statement, Diem Association CEO Stuart Levey more-or-less acknowledged that the new name is an attempt to distance the group from Facebook, and from its earlier controversies.

“The Diem project will provide a simple platform for fintech innovation to thrive and enable consumers and businesses to conduct instantaneous, low-cost, highly secure transactions,” Levey said. “We are committed to doing so in a way that promotes financial inclusion – expanding access to those who need it most, and simultaneously protecting the integrity of the financial system by deterring and detecting illicit conduct. We are excited to introduce Diem – a new name that signals the project’s growing maturity and independence.”

As for the new hires, they include Chief Technology Officer Dahlia Malkhi, Chief of Staff Christy Clark, Chief Legal Officer Steve Bunnel and Executive Vice President for Growth and Innovation/Deputy General Counsel Kiran Raj. Diem Networks, the subsidiary that will actually operate the Diem payment system, has also hired James Emmett as managing director, Sterling Daines as chief compliance officer, Ian Jenkins as chief financial and risk officer and Saumya Bhavsar as general counsel.

While today’s announcement doesn’t include any specifics about timing, it suggests the association is positioning itself for an imminent launch — albeit one that will “proceed only upon receiving regulatory approval, including a payment systems license for the operational subsidiary of the Association from FINMA.”

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