You can now follow profiles from within Twitter Moments

Twitter bird

When perusing through Moments within Twitter’s mobile apps, you can now follow the account that is being showcased. If you find a tweet interesting and you want to follow what that person is talking about — perhaps more about that particular moment — just tap on the tweet and you’ll see a “follow” button at the bottom of the window.

This update comes at the same time as the introduction of polls into Twitter Moments.

Although Twitter is actively pushing Moments in its marketing campaigns, including in commercials that ran during this year’s World Series, until recently, it was difficult to keep track of highlighted users. Yes, you could see which account was cited, but there wasn’t an efficient way to follow them.

While Twitter hasn’t released any usage numbers on Moments, the addition of easy following could be a boost to the company in its effort to show why you should be using the service. Right now when you see a moment, you’re seeing a human-curated view put together by the folks at Twitter. But while they may share specific tweets from an eyewitness or a media company, sometimes there might be more that’s not shared in a moment — thus the reason for the follow.

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In a way, you might think of Moments as a step better than the old Suggested User List, where new users were shown recommendations on who to follow, but without any context. Moments can be useful in not only answering the question about who to follow, but also why.

With the introduction of promoted Moments, the follow button could also give brands another metric to follow — how many people followed their Twitter account as a result of their advertising campaign.

As a refresher, Twitter debuted Moments in October to curate the best tweets concerning major events. Formerly codenamed Project Lightning, the service showcases tweets from not only news, but also from a select group of partners like BuzzFeed, Entertainment Weekly, Getty Images, NASA, The New York Times, and Major League Baseball.

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You can now remix songs on Vine

Vine new website layout

Vine has added a feature that will allow creators to remix any audio file from any video on its service. The expectation is that with this audio collaboration, more engagement will catch on and even memes will form. Users can make their own creation by simply tapping a button when composing their video and selecting “Make an audio remix.”

In addition to helping creators be more … well, creative, Vine thinks that this capability will lead to more discovery. If you like the audio clip or song being used in one video, the app will display other audio-centric feeds that you can follow. Metadata from each song has been indexed as well so you can just search for the song title or artist and Vine will display the videos that incorporate the music.

In an attempt to avoid copyright infringement complaints, remixes will include links back to the original video: give credit where credit is due. To find out the source of the remix, tap on the music note under the video and then the arrow that points to the right.

The addition of remix support comes nearly three months after the Twitter-owned company announced that it would enable creators to incorporate music from within the app. In a way, Vine is releasing tools that will allow creators to be more creative in their work, something that could likely rival YouTube’s own resources.

After all, with six-second videos, making them more flashy and creative certainly wouldn’t hurt in making them more viral across social media.

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Twitter says programmatic advertising in new apps is paying off big

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 10.08.03 AM

Advertisers buying ad space inside new apps are seeing good returns, according to Twitter.

Twitter sells programmatic ad space in a network of more than 31,000 mobile apps. Advertisers bid for specific markets at Twitter’s MoPub marketplace, and the ads get targeted at users based on social and demographic data.

In its quarterly programmatic trends report, Twitter found advertisers that bought inventory on any of the 580 new apps that launched in the third quarter had 186 percent higher click-through rates and 46 percent lower cost-per-click than when buying supply from apps launched prior to Q3.

Likewise, publishers who launched new apps in Q3 saw 67 percent higher eCPMs (advertising revenue generated per 1,000 impressions) than apps which launched prior to Q3.

Twitter said it gets 335 billion monthly ad requests on MoPub for ads placed on more than 1 billion devices via more than 175 demand-side platforms.

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How traffickers use social media to lure vulnerable teenagers into sex work

An illustration picture shows the log-on screen for the website Facebook, in Munich February 2, 2012.

(By Alex Whiting, Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Nicole was aged 17 and her mother was sent to prison for white collar crimes, she met a man on Facebook who offered to take care of her.

But instead of looking after her, he sold Nicole to men across the United States from Texas to Washington D.C.. It was only when she was in her early 20s, after being badly injured in a vicious rape, that she was finally able to escape sex work.

Nicole’s experience is not unique.

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Traffickers worldwide are increasingly using social media to contact vulnerable teenagers and sell them into sex work, quick to adopt the latest online platforms popular with teenagers that has created new challenges for law enforcement agencies.

Once limited to luring victims in the street, traffickers can now message thousands of people through Instagram, Facebook, Kik, Tagged and Twitter, with WhatsApp and Snapchat some of the latest tools in their arsenal.

“If just one of them answers … traffickers can make thousands of dollars off that girl very quickly,” said Andrea Powell, founder and director of FAIR Girls, a U.S.-based NGO which helps trafficked girls worldwide, including Nicole.

Powell, accompanying Nicole to the Trust Women conference on trafficking and women’s rights this week run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said a growing trend in the United States is to use WhatsApp or Snapchat where messages evaporate over time.

“In some cases you have really stupid traffickers who leave mountains and mountains of email trails,” said Powell.

“But most of the time everything’s done through different applications on different sites so law enforcement is having to learn how to use these … It’s a whole different ballgame.”

Europol, the European Union’s police agency, said social media and other online technology have not only taken the recruitment and selling process off the streets but also allow traffickers to control victims using remote surveillance.

But it does mean traffickers and victims leave permanent traces which can help police to identify them, Europol added.

No one at Europol was available for further comment.

Britain’s National Crime Agency said the use of social media by traffickers is an emerging trend, but the agency does not have hard data of how widespread it is.

Lured with job offers

Globally, nearly 21 million people are victims of human trafficking, a $150 billion industry, according to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization. An estimated 4.5 million of them are forced into sex work.

FAIR Girls said about 90 percent of the people it helped in Washington D.C. and Maryland had been sold online. Most of them had been sexually abused and were in foster care, with traffickers getting a psychological hold on them.

Kendis Paris, who runs the U.S.-based Truckers Against Trafficking mobilizing lorry drivers against domestic sex trafficking, said social media was a “massive entry point”.

Paris, a speaker at the Nov 17-18 Trust Women conference, said children were easy to manipulate, “especially young girls, unfortunately, looking for love”.

“This kind of thing happens all the time,” said Paris, whose network has led to more than 350 trafficking cases since 2011 and identified about 650 trafficking victims.

With Facebook alone having more than 1.5 billion users and its online messaging service WhatsApp with 900 million users, social media has opened up a new world for traffickers.

In Indonesia most teenagers use Facebook and some Twitter, says ECPAT Indonesia, an NGO fighting child sex trafficking.

“Most child traffickers use Facebook to get close to and manipulate their victims,” Ahmad Sofian, national coordinator of ECPAT Indonesia, said by phone from Jakarta.

They lure them with promises of jobs in restaurants or shops then sell them into sex work, said Sofian, who has researched the exploitation of children via social media in Indonesia.

The country’s first prosecution of an online trafficking syndicate was in 2010. The traffickers posted photos of children on Facebook, and customers booked them through chat rooms like Yahoo Messenger or mIRC. The children were sold for $45 to $60.

The U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 also cited examples of online trafficking by Croatians, Nigerians, Russians, Bulgarians, Brazilians, Japanese, South Koreans and Mongolians.

Lawyer Van Ngoc Ta, who works for anti-trafficking charity Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Vietnam, said young women were often fooled into believing they were in a relationship online but ended up a sex slave after going to meet that man.

“The men pretend to love them but sell them into the sex industry in China. These women, ashamed and alone, don’t know where to turn,” said Van Ta, also a speaker at Trust Women.

Turning the tables on traffickers

To combat traffickers, experts say more children should be targeted in public awareness campaigns through social media, and vulnerable children encouraged to speak to trustworthy people.

Facebook said its users are encouraged to report content that violates its policies, including any connected to human trafficking, while teenagers are given additional safety and privacy features on their accounts which block public searches.

Snapchat has guidelines on staying safe online, and a trust and safety team to deal with reports of abuse. It said it works closely with Thorn, an organization which provides technical innovation to fight the sexual exploitation of children.

WhatsApp was contacted for a comment but did not reply.

Mark Latonero, who heads the Technology and Human Trafficking Initiative at the University of Southern Carolina, said social media platforms leave traffickers exposed to investigators but the huge volume of posts makes it difficult for police to identify an actual victim, survivor or trafficker.

“Traffickers are using the scale and popularity of online services to essentially hide in plain sight,” he said.

“Even if we identified all traffickers or victims online, law enforcement and social services lack the manpower and resources to effectively respond,” added Latonero, who is also a fellow at the U.S.-based Data and Society Research Institute.

($1 = 0.6583 pounds)

(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst in New York, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; The Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

Twitter was built for the Onion’s brand of satire

The Onion: Built for Twitter

Twitter may be useful for many things — breaking news, customer service, networking, posting selfies — but it has also emerged as the perfect medium for delivering satirical one-liners.

Anyone who follows perennially popular spoof news outlet the Onion on Twitter will be familiar with the irresistibly cheeky 140-character-or-less headlines that make you want to read more.

Talking at Dublin Web Summit last week, Mike McAvoy, chief executive officer of the Onion; and David Schneider, writer, actor, and cofounder of humor-centric content company That Lot, were on hand to talk about satire in the digital age. And specifically, about how Twitter’s intrinsic restrictions are perfect for pithy put-downs and hilarious one-liners.

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“Each of the staff writers come up with a bunch of headlines or jokes,” said McAvoy, when asked how the Onion develops its stories. “And as part of the writing process every week, there’s probably 1,500 headlines that the writers select from. Writers read the joke aloud in the room, and if a joke or headline gets votes, it moves to the next round. Eventually, those 1,500 headlines are whittled down to around 25 a week that we write about.”

Once the headlines / jokes have been selected, “an intense writing process” ensues which leads to several rounds of drafts, editing, photoshopping, and then publication. But it’s interesting to note that the Onion’s joke-writing process is almost custom-built for Twitter — it all starts with the headline or series of one-liners around which the stories are subsequently written.

The Onion

Above: The Onion

The Onion was early to embrace the Web, first going online in 1996. Its print edition was shuttered in 2013, and today it feels like a native Internet company rather than a legacy media brand. But the publication actually pre-dates the Web by a few years. Conversely, the Onion’s UK equivalent, Private Eye, hasn’t aligned itself quite as much with the online fraternity, instead pushing for sales of its print incarnation.

A quick peek at the Onion’s beginnings reveals why the publication was a natural for the Web. Launched out of the University of Wisconsin in 1988, it began as a free weekly newspaper that ran advertisements and gave away coupons. In other words, it wasn’t a magazine you’d pay for on newsstands — unlike Private Eye which first went to market way back in 1961. The transition for the Onion was much smoother.

“When we went online in 1996, we didn’t have a conflict of ‘how do you get people to pay for content online, when they’re used to paying for print’ — It was always something that was free,” said McAvoy. “And it had to embrace advertising. We had an advantage in that we were naturally employing the Web economics of being able to create content by funding it through advertising and didn’t have to worry about how we keep our subscription revenue.”

Monetizing laughs

Making people laugh through Twitter and the wider Web is one thing, but monetizing is something else. Instinctively, comedy audiences don’t like being sold to — through advertising or any other means — but McAvoy said that monetizing is not a challenge unique to satire.

“It’s a challenge for all content creators, really,” he said. “Premium content — content that takes a lot of care, and energy, and talented people to create — you need to find a way to finance it. For us, it’s always been through advertising. Yet, the Onion also has this anti-establishment side to it. So it’s always been this delicate balance of how you become great at getting advertising to support what you want to do. But also staying true to what we do. We’ve done a really smart job with our sponsored content; we make sure advertisers are ‘part’ of a joke, and we make sure we’re making fun with the brand in front of our audience.”

David Schneider, who has written for and starred in a wide range of comedy shows in the UK over the past two decades, is now creative director at a social content company that works with brands to help them engage with their customers using humor. This approach works well for companies that want to distance themselves from the competition by not tweeting bland comments, but instead gaining followers who enjoy the banter.

Popular BBC TV show Have I got News for You has its own Twitter feed, which Schneider’s company manages, and which loosely follows the format of the show. The firm also works with Facebook posts, creates videos, and generates viral content for other brands.

But satire, by its very nature, can be difficult to align with corporate brands, given that it can be controversial, self-deprecating, and divisive.

“The right brand understands that in order to reach people who are under 15, or under 35, you need to do something different to traditional advertising,” said Schneider. “So the best way to create something authentic is through comedy. If you take yourself too seriously, the younger audience doesn’t give you any credit. So we work closely with brands, get them to be “in” on the joke, and not take themselves too seriously. If you are able to be self-aware and be part of it, your ad campaign will be successful.”

When a company is selling a product, everybody knows that it is doing so to make money. Yet, most brands hide behind the “benefits” it will bring the customer, not its shareholders. But this approach may have limited impact among certain demographics, which is why allowing the brand to be part of a joke can work.

The approach isn’t unique to online advertising though, as this beverage brand showed with billboard ads clearly intended to capture the imaginations of the more cynical generations.

One interesting case study for how humor and satire can effectively be used on Twitter is that of Arena Flowers, a UK-based flower-delivery business similar to 1-800 Flowers.

Rather than using its Twitter account for combatting angry customers or dispatching dull corporate messages, the company just tweets out jokes. And not on-topic jokes about flowers, either, just jokes. Arena Flowers is a hugely successful online business, so this approach seems to be working.

“We have a bravery scale, and we ask where are you on the bravery scale?,” said Schneider, in relation to his work with brands. “An account such as Have I got News for You is right up there on the bravery scale at 10, but other brands are less willing. Arena Flowers has just decided that they’re not going to sell. They’re not going to promote flowers. They’re just going to do jokes and humor to promote the product. You do have to compromise with some brands, but others say ‘just go for it’.”

Evolving platforms

As with most online platforms, Twitter has evolved. It used to be the case that you had to click on a link to view an image, and this was used by comedians and satirists to their advantage. “Click to reveal the punchline,” was the general idea.

“It was a great joke mechanism,” said Schneider. “Because you could set up the picture and they get the laugh when they click on it. But we had to adapt, because Twitter now serves the picture first.”

It has been interesting to see how comedy, in general, has evolved alongside Twitter. Many have embraced Vine to post short-form videos, while even something as “boring” as the recently launched polls can be leveraged for comedy. The excellent Pundamentalism has been cracking-wise on Twitter for a long time, with humorous word-play such as:

But it didn’t take long for the funnyman to find a way to use Twitter’s new polling tool to generate giggles.

With the rise of viral news platforms such as Upworthy and BuzzFeed in recent years, the Onion has also had to evolve. Last year, it launched ClickHole, which is a fantastic, satirical prod at clickbait websites.

“ClickHole has been fantastic — it’s a parody of everything viral and vapid,” said McAvoy. “What ClickHole does so well is it makes fun of the two different facets of clickbait — one is the publishers quest to get clicks. So they’re doing anything to try to engage you and get you to see an ad. But also the user-side, so even if you’re going to click on something that’s terrible and won’t be fulfilling, you can’t help but click.”

While Twitter isn’t ephemeral in the same way as Snapchat is, it’s certainly transient — information doesn’t tend to hang around for long. Blink, and you could miss a 132-character nugget. So doesn’t this mean satirists struggle to be remembered?

“I can still remember reading a great joke (on Twitter) and thinking ‘that’s fantastic’,” said Schneider. “I don’t think it is that transient. There’s certain things that The Onion have posted, and you just remember them.”

Naturally, McAvoy agrees — Twitter is great for comedy. “Since we begin with the headline, everything is really made for Twitter. For us it’s the perfect way for making sure your point is super succinct. If you cant’ have a headline be understood and be funny (in a tweet), well, that really is the litmus test of what works.”

Twitter Doing More With GIFs, Introduces Feature Called “ScratchReel”

Cat Djs Twitter tweeted out a new toy for you to play with for video called “ScratchReel.” Basically, it lets you scrub a short GIF back and forth for cool effects. Check it out here (to see the actual effect you have to visit the native tweet: Spotted a ScratchReel yet? Scrub back & forth to help the @WSL surfer escape the tube! ⏪ ⏩ Only on Twitter, dude. Read More

Twitter changes how often you’re notified about new Moments

Twitter Moments on the Web

Twitter has changed the frequency in which you’ll see that blue dot indicating that there’s a new Moment to be seen. The company tweeted out this evening that following user feedback (read: lots of tweets) on the issue, notification in Moments will “appear less frequently.”

How much less remains to be seen — we’ve reached out to Twitter for comment — but no longer will you have to go on or use its mobile app and have that blue icon always lit and annoying you that there’s no real way to get it to go away for longer than a few seconds.

Twitter Moments, if you recall, is a feature the company debuted last month which curates the best tweets around major events such as baseball’s World Series, best pug photos, the MSNBC’s Democratic forum, or those around a Q&A with artist Ellie Goulding. This is something that appears to be a main point of focus for the company, as it plays a central role in Twitter’s recently announced ad campaign which debuted during the World Series.

And these are just with the natural tweets that occur. There’s also promoted Moments that brands can purchase, which can cause that blue icon to appear — all eager to have you read about their story.

It’s not publicly known how often a Moment is created, but with Twitter’s internal media team and its group of partners, it’s likely that there’s probably quite a bit curated every hour as they have to cover a lot of ground.

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CrunchWeek: Diversity, Candy, And Books Of Faces

crunchweek-4-3 Welcome to another episode of CrunchWeek, TechCrunch’s weekly roundup show where we talk the biggest things in tech. This week we’re chatting about Twitter’s issues with diversity, Activision paying a lot of billions for the maker of the addictive game Candy Crush (hear Megan talk about her recovery), and Facebook’s earnings. They crushed it. So: As our resident… Read More