Facebook Dating now integrates with Instagram and Facebook Stories

Facebook Dating, an opt-in feature of the main Facebook app, will begin to tap into the content users are already creating across both Facebook and Instagram to enhance its service. Today, Facebook Dating users will be able to add their Facebook or Instagram Stories to Facebook Dating, in order to share their everyday moments with daters.

As opposed to more polished profile photos, Stories can give someone better insight into what a person is like by showcasing what activities they like to engage in, their hobbies, their interests, their personality, and their humor, among other things. And if the daters themselves appear in a Story, it lets others see what they really look like, even if their online photos are out-of-date.

The way the feature is being implemented on Facebook Dating puts the user in control of what’s being shared. That is, your Facebook or Instagram Stories are not automatically copied over to Facebook Dating by default. Instead, users can select which of their Stories are shared and which are not.

In addition, people daters have blocked or passed on Facebook Dating won’t be able to see them.

If a Story is inappropriate, you can also block the user and report it, like you can with other content elsewhere on Facebook.

One thing to be aware of is that this feature is a way to share a Story to Facebook Dating, but the Story isn’t exclusively designed for Facebook Dating. That means, if you decide to use the Story feature as some sort of video dating intro, your Facebook and Instagram friends could see this, as well.

When browsing Facebook Dating, you’ll be able to view other people’s Stories along with their profiles. And if you match with someone, you can continue to view their Stories and then even use that to spark a conversation, which takes place in the app. This is similar to how you can respond to someone’s Facebook or Instagram Story today, which then appears in Messenger or Instagram’s Messages section, respectively.

The new Stories feature could be a potential competitive advantage for Facebook Dating, because it allows users a new way to express themselves without requiring them to create new content just for the dating service itself. Even if a rival dating app like Tinder or Bumble introduced their own version of Stories, many wouldn’t think to launch a dating app to capture their everyday moments.

Stories integration is rolling out starting today to Facebook Dating.

Dating, as a Facebook feature, is currently available in 20 countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, United States, Uruguay, and Vietnam. It will be in Europe by early 2020, Facebook says.

The company has not disclosed how many people are using Facebook Dating at this time.

Facebook quietly built “Popular Photos”, an in-app Instagram

Facebook is copying Instagram while simultaneously invading its acquisition with branding and links back to the mothership. TechCrunch has spotted Facebook testing a feature called Popular Photos, which affixes an endless scroll of algorithmically selected pics from friends beneath the full-screen view of a photo opened from the News Feed. The result is an experience that feels like the Instagram feed, but inside of Facebook.

Popular Photos could offer users a more relaxing, lean-back browsing experience that omits links you have to click through, status updates you have to read, and other content types that bog down the News Feed. Instead, users can just passively watch the pretty pictures go by.

Facebook’s text and link-heavy feed looks increasingly stodgy and exhausting compared to visual communication-based social networks like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. Users have to do the work of digging into the meaning of News Feed each post rather than being instantly entertained. That experience doesn’t fit as well into short browsing sessions throughout the day, or when users are already drained from work, school, or family. Facebook used to have a dedicated Photos bookmark on desktop that would let you just browse that content type, but at some point it disappeared.

A Facebook spokesperson confirms that Facebook was running a small test of Popular Photos in October when we spotted it. That trial has concluded but the team is now iterating on the product and plans to do updated tests in the future. The company refused to disclose more details or its motives for Popular Photos. Given Facebook already has Stories, messaging, profiles, and its IGTV-esque Watch video hub, it’s only the Explore tab and a dedicated media feed that are missing from it being a full clone of Instagram.

Here’s how Popular Photos works. When users discover a photo in the News Feed or a profile, they can tap on it to see it full-screen on a black theater-view background. Typically, if users swipe or scroll on that photo, they’re just booted back out to where they came from. But with the Popular Photos feature, Facebook splays out more images for users to scroll through after the original.

By scrolling down past the Popular Photos title, they’ll see additional pics and a “See More Photos” label beckoning them to keep whipping through more public and friends-only images shared by friends and who they follow. Like on Instagram but unlike the News Feed, Facebook truncates the captions of Popular Photos after only around 65 characters so the stream doesn’t look overwhelmingly wordy. The black backgrounds give a more cinematic feel to the Popular Photos, putting emphasis on the imagery.

Facebook started showing Related Videos in 2014 when users scrolled past a video they’d opened full-screen. Now this “More Videos” feature will auto-play the next video and automatically bump users down the feed to view it. The feature even shows video ads. That could foreshadow Facebook inserting advertisers’ photos into the Popular Photos tab to monetize the extra browsing.

Facebook hasn’t been shy about trying to leverage Instagram to benefit itself. The company has placed an Open Facebook button in the Instagram navigation sidebar.

Previously, Instagram tried showing Facebook alerts in its own Notifications tab, and an annoying red counter for Facebook notifications on the three-line hamburger button that opens the Instagram sidebar in an attempt to drive referral traffic back to the Facebook app. Facebook has also tried notifying users in its app asking them to Like the Facebook Pages of people they follow on Instagram. And now, a “from Facebook” and new FACEBOOK logo can be found appended to the Instagram loading screen.

For Facebook to keep growing after 15 years in the market, it needs to fully embrace visual communication. It’s already copied Snapchat Stories and implemented the ephemeral photo and video format across its apps. Clearly it’s not above copying its own subsidiary Instagram to offer an alternative take on feed scrolling. I wonder how Instagram’s team feels about its parent company building a direct competitor?

The AI stack that’s changing retail personalization

Consumer expectations are higher than ever as a new generation of shoppers look to shop for experiences rather than commodities. They expect instant and highly-tailored (pun intended?) customer service and recommendations across any retail channel.

To be forward-looking, brands and retailers are turning to startups in image recognition and machine learning to know, at a very deep level, what each consumer’s current context and personal preferences are and how they evolve. But while brands and retailers are sitting on enormous amounts of data, only a handful are actually leveraging it to its full potential.

To provide hyper-personalization in real time, a brand needs a deep understanding of its products and customer data. Imagine a case where a shopper is browsing the website for an edgy dress and the brand can recognize the shopper’s context and preference in other features like style, fit, occasion, color etc., then use this information implicitly while fetching similar dresses for the user.

Another situation is where the shopper searches for clothes inspired by their favorite fashion bloggers or Instagram influencers using images in place of text search. This would shorten product discovery time and help the brand build a hyper-personalized experience which the customer then rewards with loyalty.

With the sheer amount of products being sold online, shoppers primarily discover products through category or search-based navigation. However, inconsistencies in product metadata created by vendors or merchandisers lead to poor recall of products and broken search experiences. This is where image recognition and machine learning can deeply analyze enormous data sets and a vast assortment of visual features that exist in a product to automatically extract labels from the product images and improve the accuracy of search results. 

Why is image recognition better than ever before?

retail and artificial intelligence

 

While computer vision has been around for decades, it has recently become more powerful, thanks to the rise of deep neural networks. Traditional vision techniques laid the foundation for learning edges, corners, colors and objects from input images but it required human engineering of the features to be looked at in the images. Also, the traditional algorithms found it difficult to cope up with the changes in illumination, viewpoint, scale, image quality, etc.

Deep learning, on the other hand, takes in massive training data and more computation power and delivers the horsepower to extract features from unstructured data sets and learn without human intervention. Inspired by the biological structure of the human brain, deep learning uses neural networks to analyze patterns and find correlations in unstructured data such as images, audio, video and text. DNNs are at the heart of today’s AI resurgence as they allow more complex problems to be tackled and solved with higher accuracy and less cumbersome fine-tuning.

How much training data do you need?

The AI stack that’s changing retail personalization

Consumer expectations are higher than ever as a new generation of shoppers look to shop for experiences rather than commodities. They expect instant and highly-tailored (pun intended?) customer service and recommendations across any retail channel.

To be forward-looking, brands and retailers are turning to startups in image recognition and machine learning to know, at a very deep level, what each consumer’s current context and personal preferences are and how they evolve. But while brands and retailers are sitting on enormous amounts of data, only a handful are actually leveraging it to its full potential.

To provide hyper-personalization in real time, a brand needs a deep understanding of its products and customer data. Imagine a case where a shopper is browsing the website for an edgy dress and the brand can recognize the shopper’s context and preference in other features like style, fit, occasion, color etc., then use this information implicitly while fetching similar dresses for the user.

Another situation is where the shopper searches for clothes inspired by their favorite fashion bloggers or Instagram influencers using images in place of text search. This would shorten product discovery time and help the brand build a hyper-personalized experience which the customer then rewards with loyalty.

With the sheer amount of products being sold online, shoppers primarily discover products through category or search-based navigation. However, inconsistencies in product metadata created by vendors or merchandisers lead to poor recall of products and broken search experiences. This is where image recognition and machine learning can deeply analyze enormous data sets and a vast assortment of visual features that exist in a product to automatically extract labels from the product images and improve the accuracy of search results. 

Why is image recognition better than ever before?

retail and artificial intelligence

 

While computer vision has been around for decades, it has recently become more powerful, thanks to the rise of deep neural networks. Traditional vision techniques laid the foundation for learning edges, corners, colors and objects from input images but it required human engineering of the features to be looked at in the images. Also, the traditional algorithms found it difficult to cope up with the changes in illumination, viewpoint, scale, image quality, etc.

Deep learning, on the other hand, takes in massive training data and more computation power and delivers the horsepower to extract features from unstructured data sets and learn without human intervention. Inspired by the biological structure of the human brain, deep learning uses neural networks to analyze patterns and find correlations in unstructured data such as images, audio, video and text. DNNs are at the heart of today’s AI resurgence as they allow more complex problems to be tackled and solved with higher accuracy and less cumbersome fine-tuning.

How much training data do you need?

Dutch court orders Facebook to ban celebrity crypto scam ads after another lawsuit

A Dutch court has ruled that Facebook can be required to use filter technologies to identify and pre-emptively take down fake ads linked to crypto currency scams that carry the image of a media personality, John de Mol, and other well known celebrities.

The Dutch celerity filed a lawsuit against Facebook in April over the misappropriation of his and other celebrities’ likeness to shill Bitcoin scams via fake ads run on its platform.

In an immediately enforceable preliminary judgement today the court has ordered Facebook to remove all offending ads within five days, and provide data on the accounts running them within a week.

Per the judgement, victims of the crypto scams had reported a total of €1.7 million (~$1.8M) in damages to the Dutch government at the time of the court summons.

The case is similar to a legal action instigated by UK consumer advice personality, Martin Lewis, last year, when he announced defamation proceedings against Facebook — also for misuse of his image in fake ads for crypto scams.

Lewis withdrew the suit at the start of this year after Facebook agreed to apply new measures to tackle the problem: Namely a scam ads report button. It also agreed to provide funding to a UK consumer advice organization to set up a scam advice service.

In the de Mol case the lawsuit was allowed to run its course — resulting in today’s preliminary judgement against Facebook. It’s not yet clear whether the company will appeal but in the wake of the ruling Facebook has said it will bring the scam ads report button to the Dutch market early next month.

In court, the platform giant sought to argue that it could not more proactively remove the Bitcoin scam ads containing celebrity images on the grounds that doing so would breach EU law against general monitoring conditions being placed on Internet platforms.

However the court rejected that argument, citing a recent ruling by Europe’s top court related to platform obligations to remove hate speech, also concluding that the specificity of the requested measures could not be classified as ‘general obligations of supervision’.

It also rejected arguments by Facebook’s lawyers that restricting the fake scam ads would be restricting the freedom of expression of a natural person, or the right to be freely informed — pointing out that the ‘expressions’ involved are aimed at commercial gain, as well as including fraudulent practices.

Facebook also sought to argue it is already doing all it can to identify and take down the fake scam ads — saying too that its screening processes are not perfect. But the court said there’s no requirement for 100% effectiveness for additional proactive measures to be ordered. Its ruling further notes a striking reduction in fake scam ads using de Mol’s image since the lawsuit was announced

Facebook’s argument that it’s just a neutral platform was also rejected, with the court pointing out that its core business is advertising.

It also took the view that requiring Facebook to apply technically complicated measures and extra effort, including in terms of manpower and costs, to more effectively remove offending scam ads is not unreasonable in this context.

The judgement orders Facebook to remove fake scam ads containing celebrity likenesses from Facebook and Instagram within five days of the order — with a penalty of €10k per day that Facebook fails to comply with the order, up to a maximum of €1M (~$1.1M).

The court order also requires that Facebook provides data to the affected celebrity on the accounts that had been misusing their likeness within seven days of the judgement, with a further penalty of €1k per day for failure to comply, up to a maximum of €100k.

Facebook has also been ordered to pay the case costs.

Responding to the judgement in a statement, a Facebook spokesperson told us:

We have just received the ruling and will now look at its implications. We will consider all legal actions, including appeal. Importantly, this ruling does not change our commitment to fighting these types of ads. We cannot stress enough that these types of ads have absolutely no place on Facebook and we remove them when we find them. We take this very seriously and will therefore make our scam ads reporting form available in the Netherlands in early December. This is an additional way to get feedback from people, which in turn helps train our machine learning models. It is in our interest to protect our users from fraudsters and when we find violators we will take action to stop their activity, up to and including taking legal action against them in court.

One legal expert describes the judgement as “pivotal“. Law professor Mireille Hildebrandt told us that it provides for as an alternative legal route for Facebook users to litigate and pursue collective enforcement of European personal data rights. Rather than suing for damages — which entails a high burden of proof.

Injunctions are faster and more effective, Hildebrandt added.

The judgement also raises questions around the burden of proof for demonstrating Facebook has removed scam ads with sufficient (increased) accuracy; and what specific additional measures it might deploy to improve its takedown rate.

Although the introduction of the ‘report scam ad button’ does provide one clear avenue for measuring takedown performance.

The button was finally rolled out to the UK market in July. And while Facebook has talked since the start of this year about ‘envisaging’ introducing it in other markets it hasn’t exactly been proactive in doing so — up til now, with this court order. 

Instagram to test hiding Like counts in US, which could hurt influencers

“We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s well-being and health” says Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri. To that end, next week Instagram will expand its test of hiding Like counts from everyone but a post’s creator to some users in the United States. But there are major questions about whether the change will hurt influencers.

Mosseri revealed the plan at the Wired25 conference today, saying Instagram “We have to see how it affects how people feel about the platform, how it affects how they use the platform, how it affects the creator ecosystem.”

Instagram’s CEO explained that “The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connect ing with the people they love and things that inspire them.” The intention is to “reduce anxiety” and “reduce social comparison”.

Elsewhere during the talk that also featured actor and CEO Tracie Ellis Ross, Mosseri discussed Instagram’s growing interest in shopping, and how it can provide new revenue streams to influencers. He also described Instagram’s three-pronged approach to well-being where it identifies and addresses acute problems such as hate speech, finds positions where it can lead as with fighting bullying, and rethinks fundamentals of how the platform works as with Like count hiding.

Instagram began testing this in April in Canada and expanded it to Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand in July. Facebook started a similar experiment in Australia in September.

While it seems likely that making Instagram less of a popularity contest might aid the average user, Instagram has to be mindful that it doesn’t significantly decrease creators’ or influencers’ engagement and business success. These content makers are vital to Instagram’s success, since they keep their fan bases coming back day after day, even If  users’ friends are growing stale.

A new study by HypeAuditor reported by Social Media Today found that influencers across tiers of follower counts almost unanimously saw their Like counts fall in countries where the hidden Like count test was active. Likes fell 3% to 15% in all the countries for influencers with 5,000 to 20,000 followers.

Only in Japan, and only for influencers with 1,000 to 5,000 or 100,000 to 1 million followers did the change lead to a boost in Likes — of about 6% in both groups. Meanwhile, influencers saw the biggest loss of Likes in the Brazilian market. Those trends could relate to how users in certain countries might feel more comfortable Liking something if they don’t know who else is too, while in other nations users might rely on more herd mentality to know what to Like.

If Instagram finds the impact of the test to be too negative on influencers, it may not roll out the change. While Mosseri stated the company wasn’t afraid to hurt its own bottom line, impairing the careers of influencers may not be acceptable unless the positive impacts on well-being are significant enough.

Instagram CEO Announces Platform Will Test Hiding Likes in the US

WATCH: Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announces that the platform will start hiding likes for US audiences starting next week. It's the latest step in Instagram’s quest to become the safest place on the internet. Learn more: https://wired.trib.al/nbNQ7nb

Posted by WIRED on Friday, November 8, 2019

Instagram expands ban on suicide content to cover cartoons and memes

Instagram has expanded a ban on graphical self-harm imagery to include a broader range of content depicting suicide, including fictional illustrations of self-harm and suicide methods such as drawings, cartoons and memes.

“This past month, we further expanded our policies to prohibit more types of self-harm and suicide content. We will no longer allow fictional depictions of self-harm or suicide on Instagram, such as drawings or memes or content from films or comics that use graphic imagery,” writes Instagram boss, Adam Mosseri, explaining the latest policy shift. “We will also remove other imagery that may not show self-harm or suicide, but does include associated materials or methods.”

Earlier this year Mosseri, met with the UK’s health secretary to discuss the platform’s policy towards self-harm content. The company has faced high level pressure in the country following a public outcry after the family of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old UK schoolgirl who killed herself after viewing suicide content on Instagram, went public with the tragedy by talking to the BBC.

In February the Facebook-owned social media platform announced that it would prohibit graphic images of self-harm, such as cutting, and restrict access to non-graphic self-harm content, such as images of healed scars — by not recommending it in searches.

At the time it also suggested it was toying with the idea of using sensitive screens to blur non-graphical suicide content, saying it was consulting with experts. In the event it appears to have decided to go further — by now saying it will also remove fictional content related to self-harm, as well as anything that depicts methods of suicide or self-harm.

Instagram says it’s doubled the amount of self-harm content it has acted on following the earlier policy change — with Mosseri writing that in the three months following the ban on graphic images of cutting it “removed, reduced the visibility of, or added sensitivity screens to more than 834,000 pieces of content”.

While more than 77% of this content was identified by the platform prior to it being reported, he adds.

A spokesperson for Instagram confirmed to us that the latest policy shift is in effect.

Although it’s not clear how long it could take for it to be effectively enforced. Mosseri told BBC News: “It will take time to fully implement,” adding that: “It’s not going to be the last step we take.”

In his blog post about the policy change, the Instagram boss writes that the new policy is “based on expert advice from academics and mental health organisations like the Samaritans in the UK and National Suicide Prevention Line in the US”, saying: “We aim to strike the difficult balance between allowing people to share their mental health experiences while also protecting others from being exposed to potentially harmful content.”

“Accounts sharing this type of content will also not be recommended in search or in our discovery surfaces, like Explore. And we’ll send more people more resources with localized helplines like the Samaritans and PAPYRUS in the UK or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and The Trevor Project in the United States,” he adds.

He goes on to argue that the issues involved are complex and “no single company or set of policies and practices alone can solve”, while defending continuing to allow some suicide and self-harm content on Instagram by saying “experts tell us that giving people a chance to share their most difficult moments and their stories of recovery can be a vital means of support” and that “preventing people from sharing this type of content could not only stigmatize these types of mental health issues, but might hinder loved ones from identifying and responding to a cry for help”.

“But getting our approach right requires more than a single change to our policies or a one-time update to our technology. Our work here is never done. Our policies and technology have to evolve as new trends emerge and behaviors change,” he adds.

Here’s where top gaming VCs are looking for startup opportunities

With cross-platform experiences like Fortnite and PUBG, in-game socializing environments, and subscription-based cloud gaming services from Playstation, Google, Amazon, and others, the gaming industry is entering a new era beyond mobile.

These days, the industry is at the center of social media and entertainment trends; gaming is expected to earn $152 billion in global revenue this year, up 9.6% year over year. 

Given my recent writing on Unity, the most-used game engine, and ongoing research into interactive media trends, I wanted to find out how top gaming-focused VCs are assessing the market right now. I asked ten of them to share which trends they are most excited about when it comes to finding investment opportunities:

  • David Gardner, Partner at London Venture Partners
  • Henric Suuronen, Partner at Play Ventures
  • Samuli Syvähuoko, Partner at Sisu Game Ventures
  • Jay Chi, Partner at Makers Fund
  • Peter Levin, Managing Director at Griffin Gaming Partners
  • Gigi Levy-Weiss, Partner at NFX
  • Ethan Kurzweil, Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners
  • Jonathan Lai, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz
  • Blake Robbins, Partner at Ludlow Ventures
  • Jon Goldman, General Partner at GC Tracker & Board Partner at Greycroft Partners

Amid the mix of predictions, there were several common threads, such as optimism about the rise of games as broader social platforms, opportunities to invest directly in new studios, and skepticism about near-term investments in augmented or virtual reality and blockchain.

Here are their responses.

David Gardner, Partner at London Venture Partners

“PC Games are back. Great place to start new IP to then migrate a success to multiple platforms. There is more innovation in business models and more open distribution on PC to facilitate audience growth without the punishment of mobile CPIs.

VR & AR remain out. We stood away from VR in the beginning and extend that to AR while the user experience for games remains a disappointment. Let’s hope those new Apple glasses do the trick!

Crypto remain a theological war zone, but honestly everything on offer has been available in the cloud world, but the real consumer benefit isn’t showing up.

We love games that are expanding audience demographics and are sensitive to less hardcore audiences.  For example, women players are estimated to account for 1 billion gamers.”

Henric Suuronen, Partner at Play Ventures

“At Play Ventures, we believe we have just entered the golden era of mobile gaming. Who would have believed 10 years ago that Nintendo and games like Fortnite and Call of Duty would all be on mobile. Mobile is not just a games platform anymore, it is THE games platform of choice for casual and core players alike. Consequently, in the next 2-3 years we will invest in 30-40 mobile games studios across the globe.”

Samuli Syvähuoko, Partner at Sisu Game Ventures

“We at Sisu Game Ventures have been investing in many sectors since 2015 including free-to-play mobile games (especially big here in Finland), VR, AR, PC, console, instant messenger, hypercasual, audio and most recently cloud-native games as well. In addition to game studios, around a third of our investments are into games related tech/infrastructure. 

We’ve so far not dipped our toes into blockchain or eSports and our appetite for doing more investments in VR and AR is nil. To me, the most interesting mega trends lie with the promise of cloud gaming when utilized to its full potential. Another term that encapsulates my excitement is games-as-a-social-hobby. Put this and the extreme accessibility of the cloud together and you’ll have a game with revolutionary potential.”

Jay Chi, Partner at Makers Fund

“We are looking closely at ‘Gaming as Media’ related content and platforms — the emergence of new interactive experience centered on ‘viewers as participants.’ Gaming as social media falls under this thesis. We are also looking for MMO and Metaverse enablers given increased demand for specialized, scalable and affordable technologies that empower lean startup teams to create and operate large-scale worlds and novel gameplays. 

We also see potential for new start-ups to emerge in hypercasual games with midcore/social meta — no one has truly cracked this genre yet.”

Source: Nike has picked up Russell Wilson’s Tally/TraceMe in a rare acquisition

Nike has long been synonymous with premium sneakers and other sports gear, but now it seems that the company could be extending its brand into another area — digital media — thanks to the rumored acquisition of a Seattle-based startup.

TechCrunch has learned from a source that the multibillion-dollar sports giant has acquired TraceMe, which originally built an app to let fans engage with sports stars and other celebrities before later pivoting into a service called Tally, a platform aimed at sports teams, broadcasters and venues to help fans engage around sporting events.

TraceMe was originally founded by Russell Wilson, the champion quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, who was the executive chairman of the startup. The company had raised at least $9 million from investors that included the Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group and Bezos Expeditions (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ fund), as well as YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and others, and it was last valued, in 2017, at $60 million.

Our source said the deal closed in recent weeks and that “it was a good outcome” for the company and investors. It involved both IP — the main interest, the source said, was in TraceMe’s tech rather than Tally’s — and the team.

Indeed, at least eight of them, including TraceMe’s CEO Jason LeeKeenan, an ex-Hulu executive, are now listing Nike as their place of employment. LeeKeenan describes his new role as the head of Nike Seattle. Others on the team now have taken roles that include software engineers, head of product and product designers.

No one at TraceMe and Nike that we contacted has responded to our requests for comment, but just a little while ago GeekWire (which likely had the same tip we did) published a post noting that it had a source that confirmed the deal.

The athletic footwear giant Nike is no stranger to the world of technology: it has been a longtime collaborator with the likes of Apple to develop apps for its devices and has been an early mover on the concept of bringing and integrating cutting-edge (yes, possibly gimmicky) tech into its footwear and other gear. And that’s before you consider Nike as an e-commerce force.

But while the dalliance between sports, tech and fashion is well established, this deal opens up a different frontier for the company. It’s very rare for Nike to make an acquisition, but it makes sense that if it were going to do some M&A, it would be in the area of digital media and picking up engineers to execute on a wider vision in that area.

The company is best known, of course, for its shoes and related sporty clothes, which it has for a long time created in co-branding with the biggest sports stars and has more recently started to extend to a wider circle of celebrities and hot brands in a spirit of sporty street style. These have included the likes of so-cool Supreme, Travis Scott and seemingly tentative forays into music culture.

Nike overshadows all other sports shoe brands in size, with its current market cap at nearly $117 billion, more than twice that of its closest competitor, Adidas . But Adidas has been stealing a march when it comes to partnerships with a wide network of celebrities (even if Drake prefers checks over stripes).

While it isn’t clear yet how and if Nike will be using the startup’s existing services, you could see how a deal like this could help Nike start to think about how it might leverage the collaborations and endorsements it already has in place into experiences beyond shoes, advertising and athletic performance. In this age of Instagram and influencers playing a massive role in shifting consumer sentiment (and dollars), this could give Nike a shot at building its own media platform, independent of these, on its own terms.

This is a bigger trend that we’re seeing across a lot of digital media. Consider how companies like Spotify have extended beyond simple music streaming, investing in building tools to help artists on its platform with marketing and expanding their brands: selling shoes means selling a concept, and that concept needs to have a foothold in a digital experience. 

Social Club, a ‘censorship free’ Instagram clone for pot, gets booted from the App Store

Apple has booted from the App Store cannabis-promoting app Social Club after it devolved into a place where users were openly posting drugs for sale, and it became filled with photos of various drugs, guns and weaponry, racist content, memes, gore videos and adult and child pornography, according to its users. The app is inexplicably still live on Google Play.

Social Club first launched on July 15, 2019, and during its life saw 455,000 downloads across both iOS and Android devices, according to data from Apptopia.

The app was part of a larger collaboration between Joshua Otten, the co-founder of cannabis lifestyle brand PRØHBTD and CEO of content services agency RONIN, and rapper and Cookies dispensaries owner, Berner. The founders announced in an August press release their plans for “Social Club TV,” an over-the-top cannabis network featuring series about marijuana like “Marijuana Mania,” “HighTech,” “Pot Pie” and others.

The Social Club mobile app, meanwhile, was designed to offer a home for cannabis content and, most importantly, marijuana-related advertising, to flourish outside of Instagram, where such content is currently banned.

SC2

However, the Social Club app promoted itself not just as a place for sharing photos of cannabis, but rather a “zero-censorship community,” which clearly invited abuse.

According to a tweet from Berner, who was responding to NYT Styles reporter Taylor Lorenz’s comments about the chaos raging in Social Club, the app had been “attacked.”

“I don’t see how overnight the app completely changed, sad, scary and wack,” he said. “Cleaning it up now.”

But the app wasn’t so much attacked as it was poorly designed. There was seemingly no moderation or image recognition technology in place on Social Club, giving users a rare look at what it would be like if social media had no limitations or rules.

As designed, the app was also very much an Instagram clone, offering the ability to post photos, comment and browse a “Discover” page to find interesting content.

There, you’d come across a large number of marijuana photos, as intended, as well as pictures of cash, guns and other modified weapons, a wide range of other drugs (particularly pills), porn, memes and spam. Some of its content, like the child pornography, is illegal. And some of its users were openly selling drugs in the app, as well.

https://twitter.com/faneta/status/1181205250021187585

Since its launch, Social Club soared up the charts on the App Store, becoming the No. 12 top-ranked app on the U.S. App Store across both apps and games, and the No. 5 top-ranked app. Social Club isn’t as popular on Google Play, where it’s the No. 70 top app and No. 132 overall.

According to an Instagram story post by Berner, Social Club is now “temporarily” off the App Store because “a weirdass porn community attacked the app.” He said the app is adding an image recognition system to help it identify and remove the problematic content, including the numerous photos of pills being posted for sale.

He also shot down rumors that Social Club “was working with the feds” and warned people (using a lot of expletives) that it was really stupid to be posting drugs for sale on social media using your phone in the first place. That being said, he promised Social Club wouldn’t look at its users DMs.

Apple and Google haven’t commented.