Facebook’s new policy Supreme Court could override Zuckerberg

A real check to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s control is finally coming in the form of a 11- to 40-member Oversight Board that will review appeals to its policy decisions like content takedowns and make recommendations for changes. Today Facebook released the charter establishing the theoretically independent Oversight Board, with Zuckerberg explaining that when it takes a stance, “The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it.”

Slated to be staffed up with members this year who will be paid by a Facebook established trust (the biggest update to its January draft charter), the Oversight Board will begin judging cases in the first half of 2020. Given Zuckerberg’s overwhelming voting control of the company, and the fact that its board of directors contains many loyalists like COO Sheryl Sandberg and investor Peter Thiel who he’s made very rich, the Oversight Board could ensure the CEO doesn’t always have the final say in how Facebook works.

But in some ways, the committee could serve to shield Zuckerberg and Facebook from scrutiny and regulation much to their advantage. The Oversight Board could remove total culpability for policy blunders around censorship or political bias from Facebook’s executives. It also might serve as a talking point towards the FTC and other regulators investigating it for potential anti-trust violations and other malpractice, as the company could claim the Oversight Board means it’s not completely free to pursue profit over what’s fair for society.

One of the most important projects I've worked on over the past couple of years is establishing an independent Oversight…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Finally, there remain serious concerns about how the Oversight Board is selected and the wiggle room the charter provides Facebook. Most glaringly, Facebook itself will choose the initial members and then work with them to select the rest of the board, and thereby could avoid adding overly incendiary figures. And it maintains that “Facebook will support the board to the extent that requests are technically and operationally feasible and consistent with a reasonable allocation of Facebook’s resources”, giving it the right to decide if it should apply the precedent of Oversight Board verdicts to similar cases or broadly implement its policy guidance.

How The Oversight Board Works

When a user disagrees with how Facebook enforces its policies, and with the result of an appeal to Facebook’s internal moderation team, they can request an appeal to the oversight board. Examples of potential cases include someone disagreeing with Facebook’s refusal to deem a piece of content as unacceptable hate speech or bullying, its choice to designate a Page as promoting terrorism and remove it, or the company’s decision to leave problematic content such as nudity up because its newsworthy. Facebook can also directly ask the Oversight Board to review policy decisions or specific cases, especially urgent ones with real-world consequences.

Facebook Oversight Board

After Zuckerberg initially laid out a blueprint for the Oversight Board a year ago, Facebook assigned a 100-person team to build out the plan for the board. It held 6 workshops and 22 round-tables plus case review simulations with 650 people from 88 countries.

The board will include a minimum of 11 members but Facebook is aiming for 40. They’ll serve three year terms and a maximum of three terms each as a part-time job, with appointments staggered so there isn’t a full change-over at any time. Facebook is looking for members with a broad range of knowledge, competencies, and expertise who lack conflicts of interest. They’re meant to be “experienced at deliberating thoughtfully and collegially”, “skilled at making and explaining decisions based on a set of policies”, “well-versed on matters relating to digital content and governance”, and “independent and impartial”. 

Facebook will appoint a set of trustees that will work with it to select initial co-chairs for the board, who will then assist with sourcing, vetting, interviewing, and orienting new members. The goal is “broad diversity of geographic, gender, political, social and religious representation”. The trust, funded by Facebook with an as yet undecided amount of capital, will set members’ compensation rate in the near future and oversee term renewals.

Facebook Oversight Board candidate review guide

What Cases Get Reviewed

The board will choose which cases to review based on their significance and difficulty. They’re looking for issues that are severe, large-scale and important for public discourse, while raising difficult questions about Facebook’s policy or enforcement that is disputed, uncertain, or represents tension or trade-offs between Facebook’s recently codified values of authenticity, safety, privacy, and dignity. The board will then create a sub-panel of five members to review a specific case.

The board will be able to question that request that Facebook provide information necessary to rule on the case with a mind to not violating user privacy. They’ll interpret Facebook’s Community Standards and policies and then decide whether Facebook should remove or restore a piece of content and whether it should change how that content was designated.

Once a panel makes a draft decision, it’s circulated to the full board who can recommend a new panel review it if a majority take issue with the verdict. Once they’ve gone through a privacy review to protect the identities of those involved with the case, the decisions will be made public. Those decisions will be archived in a database, and are meant to act as precedent for future decisions. The idea is that the decisions of the board will be binding and implemented by Facebook as long as they don’t require it to violate the law.

Facebook Oversight Board Decisions

 

In a social media world, here’s what you need to know about UGC and privacy

In today’s brand landscape, consumers are rejecting traditional advertising in favor of transparent, personalized and most importantly, authentic communications. In fact, 86% of consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they support. Driven by this growing emphasis on brand sincerity, marketers are increasingly leveraging user-generated content (UGC) in their marketing and e-commerce strategies.

Correlated with the rise in the use of UGC is an increase in privacy-focused regulation such as the European Union’s industry-defining General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the along with others that will go into effect in the coming years, like the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA), and several other state-specific laws. Quite naturally, brands are asking themselves two questions:

  • Is it worth the effort to incorporate UGC into our marketing strategy?
  • And if so, how do we do it within the rules, and more importantly, in adherence with the expectations of consumers?

Consumers seek to be active participants in their favorite companies’ brand identity journey, rather than passive recipients of brand-created messages. Consumers trust images by other consumers on social media seven times more than advertising.

Additionally, 56% are more likely to buy a product after seeing it featured in a positive or relatable user-generated image. The research and results clearly show that the average consumer perceives content from a peer to be more trustworthy than brand-driven content.

With that in mind, we must help brands leverage UGC with approaches that comply with privacy regulations while also engaging customers in an authentic way.

Influencer vs user: Navigating privacy considerations in an online world

Facebook rolls out new video tools, plus Instagram and IGTV scheduling feature

Facebook on Monday announced a number of updates aimed at video creators and publishers, during a session at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) taking place in Amsterdam. The updates involve changes to live video broadcasting, Facebook’s Watch Party, and Creator Studio, and they include enhancements to tools, expanded feature sets, and improved analytics, among other things.

The highlights include better ways to prep for and simulcast live broadcasts, ways to take better advantage of Watch Party events, new metrics to track video performance, and a much-anticipated option to schedule Instagram/IGTV content for up to six months’ in advance.

Live Video

facebook live studio

In terms of live video, Facebook says it listened to feedback from those who have been broadcasting live on its platform, and is now rolling out several highly-requested features to Facebook Pages (not Profiles.) The changes are an attempt to better accommodate professional broadcasters who want to use Facebook’s live broadcasting capabilities instead of or in addition to other platforms, like YouTube.

Through the Live API, publishers can now use a “rehearsal” feature to broadcast live only to Page admins and editors in order to test new production setups, interactive features, and show formats before going live to a full audience. QVC has tested this feature, as they broadcast live on Facebook for hundreds of hours per month, and have wanted to try out new workflows and formats.

Publishers will also be able to trim the beginning and end of a live video, and can live broadcast for as long as 8 hours — double the previous limit of 4 hours.

This latter capability has already been used by NASA, who broadcast an 8-hour long spacewalk, for example, and it also leaves room for broadcasting things like live sports, news events, and Twitch-like gaming broadcasts.

Most notably, perhaps, is that the company realizes live broadcasters need to serve their audiences outside of Facebook. Now, publishers will be able to use apps that let them stream to more than one streaming service at once, by simulcasting via the Live API.

Live video recently rolled out to Facebook Lite, as well, the company also noted.

watch party facebook

Watch Party

Facebook additionally announced a few new updates for its co-watching feature, Watch Party, which include the ability for Pages to schedule a party in advance to build anticipation, support for “replays” that will let others enjoy the video after airing, the ability to tag business partners in branded content, and new analytics.

As for the latter, two new metrics are being added to Creator Studio: Minutes Viewed and Unique 60s Viewers (total number of unique users that watched at least 60 seconds in a Watch Party.) These complement existing metrics like reach and engagement.

The Live Commenting feature, which allows a host to go live in a Watch Party to share their own commentary, is also now globally available.

Creator Studio

And wrapping all this up is an update to Creator Studio, which is what publishers use to post, manage, monetize and measure their content across both Facebook and Instagram.

Creator Studio Loyalty

The dashboard will soon add a new visualization layer in Loyalty Insights to help creators see which videos loyal fans want to see, by measuring which videos drive return viewers.

A new Distribution metric will score each video’s performance based on the Page’s historic average on a range of metrics, including: 1 Minute Views, Average Minutes Watched, and Retention. This feature, rolling out in the next few months, will offer an easy-to-read snapshot of a video’s performance.

Creator Studio Distribution

Creator Studio will also now support 13 more languages for auto-captioning: Arabic, Chinese, German, Hindi, Italian, Malay, Russian, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Urdu, and Vietnamese. These are in addition to those languages already available, which included English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Instagram & IGTV Scheduling 

And finally, publishers and creators will be able to publish and schedule their Instagram Feed and IGTV content for up to 6 months. In a few more months, Instagram Feed and IGTV drafting and editing will also become available, the company says.

This feature was already spotted in the wild before today’s announcement, and sent the social media management and influencer community abuzz. It also follows an update to the Instagram API last year to allow scheduling by third-party applications. However, a native feature is not as limited as some of those other options.

The feature is now open to all creators and publishers with Facebook Pages, whereas before some were seeing it labeled only as “coming soon” or were not able to get it working. Story scheduling is not yet included here, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see it added further down the road.

 

 

How to get people to open your emails

We’ve aggregated the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual .

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training program. See past growth reports here and here.

Without further ado, onto the advice.


How can you send email campaigns that get opened by 100% of your mailing list?

Based on insights from Nick Selman, Fletcher Richman of Halp, and Wes Wagner.

  • First, a few obvious pieces of advice for avoiding low open rates:
    • Avoid spam filters by avoiding keywords commonly used in spam emails.
    • Consider using email subjects (1) that are clearly descriptive and (2) look like they were written by a friend. Then A/B your top choices.
    • Include the recipient’s name in your email body. This signals to spam filters that you do in fact know the recipient.
  • Now, for the real advice: Let’s say 60% of your audience opens your mailing, how can you get the remaining 40% to open and read it too?
    • First, wait 2 weeks to give everyone a chance to open the initial email.
    • Next, export a list of those who haven’t opened. Mailchimp lets you do this.
    • Important note: The reason many recipients don’t open your email is because it was sent to Spam, it was buried in Promotions, or it was insta-deleted because it looked like spam (but wasn’t). The goal here is to resuscitate these people. You have two options for doing so:
    • (1) Duplicate the initial email then selectively re-send it to non-openers. This time, use a new subject (try a new hook) and downgrade the email to plain text: remove images and link tracking. De-enriching the email in this way can help bypass spam filters and the Promotions tab.
    • (2) Alternatively, export your list of non-openers to a third-party email tool like Mailshake (or Mixmax).
      • First, connect Mailshake to a new Gmail account on your company domain.
      • Next, configure Mailshake to automatically dole out small batches of emails on a daily schedule. Let it churn through non-openers slowly so that Gmail doesn’t flag your account as a spammer.
      • Emails sent through Mailshake are more likely to get opened than emails sent through Mailchimp. Why? Mailshake sends emails through your Gmail account, and Gmail-to-Gmail emails have a greater chance of bypassing Spam and Promotions folders, particularly if the sender doesn’t have a history of its emails being marked as spam.

How to get your ads working, and whether PR is worth it

We’ve aggregated the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training programSee past growth reports here.

Without further ado, onto the advice.


How to get customer testimonials from hard-to-reach executives

Based on insights from Guillaume Cabane.

A customer testimonial from a well-known executive may be the social proof that improves conversion rates on your landing pages or in sales collateral. But executives of reputable companies are generally busy and difficult to reach.

Here’s how to get the testimonial:

  • Contract with a freelance journalist who’s written for a reputable publication like the New York Times.
  • Reach out to your executive customers with something like “Hey, we have a journalist who has previously written for NYT who’s interested in speaking to a few of our customers for a piece. Do you have 15 minutes for a quick call?”
  • For $200 in freelancer time, you get a testimonial you can use (in the words you want) from a reputable executive. Be sure to figure out some way to make it worth the executive’s time.

How to work with top influencers and avoid ad blockers

We’ve aggregated the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training program.

Without further ado, onto the advice.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a new series of articles on startup growth tactics in 2019 for Extra Crunch. This first article has been unlocked for all TechCrunch readers.


Don’t abandon email unsubscribers. They’re still useful.

Based on insights from Matt Sornson of Clearbit.

You’ve launched a new feature and want to tell your audience about it. You can send an email to your newsletter subscribers, but how do you reach the 20%+ who unsubscribed? Most people mistakenly consider this audience to be a lost cause.

  • Create a custom audience of all newsletter unsubscribers on Facebook.
  • Run ads announcing the new feature to that audience.
  • Now you’ve reactivated people who at one point had an interest in your product — instead of forever ignoring them.

Tips for effectively working with influencers

Based on insights from Barron Caster of Rev.

  • Create a referral system for influencers: Influencers who sign up others get a % of their sales or signups. This makes a mini-pyramid structure and turns your influencers into a salesforce. Why is this important? Some influencers don’t actually sell products, but just sign up tons of other influencers. Find these people.
  • Get everything you can out of an engagement (e.g. permission to use them as a testimonial for emails, social proof, etc.).
  • Working with influencers is a relationship-building game:
    • Actually go to conferences to meet influencers.
    • Treat influencers like royalty. Surprise them with gifts like flowers/donuts. $100 to send a gift can pay hefty dividends if they like your brand more and share that with their followers.
    • Give influencers a tangible benefit to share with their followers. They care about their followers and want to beneficially incentivize them to click on their link and buy with them.

More tips for working with influencers

Based on insights from Cezar Grigore of Tremo Books.

  • Geo rollouts: Your ROI increases when a bunch of influencers in the same category / region share your product within an interval of 2-4 weeks. It gives the impression that everyone is talking about your product.
  • Initially focus on influencers with 10-150k audiences. They’re smaller and more willing to accept bartered deals. There are enough influencers in this range willing to work in exchange for a free product. Most may not be producing results, but some work well, bringing in 50-200 customers within 24 hours. As you build up your following and reputation for your brand, it becomes much easier to work with more influential people.
  • It’s harder to cut deals with bigger influencers (100k-2M). Only about 5-10% of bigger influencers are willing to work on an affiliate basis (e.g. $10/customer).

Overcoming ad blockers that screw up your conversion data

  • Ad blockers can block FB’s tracking libraries and underreport ad conversions (even by 50%). The trick? Consider using the static IMG FB pixel — not the JavaScript one — which ad blockers don’t appear to block. — C.
  • Here’s another ad block workaround: You can extract UTM tags from the URL then save them into LocalStorage using JavaScript. Next, send that stored data plus the user’s on-site conversion behavior to a custom backend that, inherently, will circumvent ad blockers. Just be diligent about ensuring your marketing links all have UTM tags. —Neal O’Grady of Demand Curve
  • Remember that the use of ad blockers varies heavily by audience and device type. Depending on who your audience is, ad blockers can either be a huge problem or a non-problem. —Neal O’Grady of Demand Curve
    • So, for example, few people on mobile have ad blockers. Not much of a problem there.
    • However, on desktop, up to ~75% of millennial gamers and techies may have it installed.
    • In contrast, on desktop, maybe only 25% of middle-aged Americans outside of tech hub cities may have it installed.
    • These are hand-wavy numbers. Google for specifics.

Patreon sells product curation site Kit to Geniuslink

Patreon, the platform for independent content creators to operate membership businesses for their core fans, announced it is selling the assets of Kit.com to localized affiliate link service Geniuslink.

Founded in 2015, Kit is a social-shopping platform where influencers curate bundles of products (“kits”) they recommend. When their fans buy products they featured in a kit, the influencer earns an affiliate fee commission. Kit has 2.3 million monthly web visitors, according to SimilarWeb.

Among the most notable content creators on Kit, YouTuber Casey Neistat curated a kit featuring his favorite camera gear and author Tim Ferriss curated kits featuring his favorite podcasting equipment and the health products recommended by interviewees in his Tools of Titans book.

Screen Shot 2019 09 12 at 8.40.53 AM

Screenshot of Kit.com’s profile site for Tim Ferriss

Patreon acquired Kit in June 2018 in what Patreon’s SVP Product Wyatt Jenkins described to me during my in-depth series on the company as “close to an acqui-hire,” adding that “although Kit is a good revenue source for a lot of creators — so it’s not a shut-down of Kit — we’re maintaining it but not iterating on it.” 

Kit had previously raised $2.5 million in venture capital from backers like Social Capital, #Angels, Precursor Ventures, Expa and Ellen Pao. While the Kit site remained active, the team behind it was reassigned to lead product development for Patreon’s merch offering

It is unsurprising that Patreon found a new home for the asset. While Kit is a tool for creators to monetize, it doesn’t enhance paid memberships for fans, and that’s Patreon’s exclusive focus right now. Even Patreon’s merch product is only for offering merch as a benefit for membership tiers, not for managing an e-commerce store with one-time transactions.

In a blog post today announcing the acquisition, Geniuslink wrote that “The first order of business for Geniuslink is to migrate Kit to the Geniuslink infrastructure and work to improve speed and reliability while our operations team dives into user support. We look forward to adding additional functionality for creators to monetize their kits in the coming months.”

Geniuslink launched in 2009, originally branded as GeoRiot. The bootstrapped company has 13 employees headquartered in Seattle.

Social commerce is a popular trend right now, with other social platforms testing e-commerce integrations for users (particularly influencers) to feature products. YouTube now has a built-in merch section for a creator to sell products under their videos, and Instagram lets influencers sell products directly in the app. These have the advantage of providing influencer-curated shopping experiences right where influencers and their fans already are.

Those features assume an influencer is selling their own products, however, or at least the products of a brand they’ve formally partnered with. For Kit and its affiliate link model, the focus is on influencers as trusted curators for their fans. The influencer can feature a much wider variety of products and do so immediately, without negotiating a deal with each brand. 

That’s also why the model likely doesn’t make sense for many popular influencers — they want more money for their endorsement of a product than a standard affiliate link fee, and recommending lots of products they don’t have formal deals to promote may undercut them in their negotiations with brands.

As Geniuslink adds more monetization features to Kit, perhaps it will make it a more lucrative business activity for small and large influencers alike. 

Hatebase catalogues the world’s hate speech in real time so you don’t have to

Policing hate speech is something nearly every online communication platform struggles with. Because to police it, you must detect it; and to detect it, you must understand it. Hatebase is a company that has made understanding hate speech its primary mission, and it provides that understanding as a service — an increasingly valuable one.

Essentially Hatebase analyzes language use on the web, structures and contextualizes the resulting data, and sells (or provides) the resulting database to companies and researchers that don’t have the expertise to do this themselves.

The Canadian company, a small but growing operation, emerged out of research at the Sentinel Project into predicting and preventing atrocities based on analyzing the language used in a conflict-ridden region.

“What Sentinel discovered was that hate speech tends to precede escalation of these conflicts,” explained Timothy Quinn, founder and CEO of Hatebase. “I partnered with them to build Hatebase as a pilot project — basically a lexicon of multilingual hate speech. What surprised us was that a lot of other NGOs [non-governmental organizations] started using our data for the same purpose. Then we started getting a lot of commercial entities using our data. So last year we decided to spin it out as a startup.”

You might be thinking, “what’s so hard about detecting a handful ethnic slurs and hateful phrases?” And sure, anyone can tell you (perhaps reluctantly) the most common slurs and offensive things to say — in their language… that they know of. There’s much more to hate speech than just a couple ugly words. It’s an entire genre of slang, and the slang of a single language would fill a dictionary. What about the slang of all languages?

A shifting lexicon

As Victor Hugo pointed out in Les Miserables, slang (or “argot” in French) is the most mutable part of any language. These words can be “solitary, barbarous, sometimes hideous words… Argot, being the idiom of corruption, is easily corrupted. Moreover, as it always seeks disguise so soon as it perceives it is understood, it transforms itself.”

Not only is slang and hate speech voluminous, but it is ever-shifting. So the task of cataloguing it is a continuous one.

Hatebase uses a combination of human and automated processes to scrape the public web for uses of hate-related terms. “We go out to a bunch of sources — the biggest, as you might imagine, is Twitter — and we pull it all in and turn it over to Hatebrain. It’s a natural language program that goes through the post and returns true, false, or unknown.”

True means it’s pretty sure it’s hate speech — as you can imagine, there are plenty of examples of this. False means no, of course. And unknown means it can’t be sure; perhaps it’s sarcasm, or academic chatter about a phrase, or someone using a word who belongs to the group and is attempting to reclaim it or rebuke others who use it. Those are the values that go out via the API, and users can choose to look up more information or context in the larger database, including location, frequency, level of offensiveness, and so on. With that kind of data you can understand global trends, correlate activity with other events, or simply keep abreast of the fast-moving world of ethnic slurs.

hatebase map

Hate speech being flagged all around the world — these were a handful detected today, along with the latitude and longitude of the IP they came from.

Quinn doesn’t pretend the process is magical or perfect, though. “There are very few 100 percents coming out of Hatebrain,” he explained. “It varies a little from the machine learning approach others use. ML is great when you have an unambiguous training set, but with human speech, and hate speech, which can be so nuanced, that’s when you get bias floating in. We just don’t have a massive corpus of hate speech, because no one can agree on what hate speech is.”

That’s part of the problem faced by companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook — you can’t automate what can’t be automatically understood.

Fortunately Hatebrain also employs human intelligence, in the form of a corps of volunteers and partners who authenticate, adjudicate, and aggregate the more ambiguous data points.

“We have a bunch of NGOs that partner with us in linguistically diverse regions around the world, and we just launched our ‘citizen linguists’ program, which is a volunteer arm of our company, and they’re constantly updating and approving and cleaning up definitions,” Quinn said. “We place a high degree of authenticity on the data they provide us.”

That local perspective can be crucial for understanding the context of a word. He gave the example of a word in Nigeria, which when used between members of one group means friend, but when used by that group to refer to someone else means uneducated. It’s unlikely anyone but a Nigerian would be able to tell you that. Currently Hatebase covers 95 languages in 200 countries, and they’re adding to that all the time.

Furthermore there are “intensifiers,” words or phrases that are not offensive on their own but serve to indicate whether someone is emphasizing the slur or phrase. Other factors enter into it too, some of which a natural language engine may not be able to recognize because it has so little data concerning them. So in addition to keeping definitions up to date, the team is also constantly working on improving the parameters used to categorize speech Hatebrain encounters.

Building a better database for science and profit

The system just ingested its millionth hate speech sighting (out of perhaps tens times that many phrases evaluated), which sounds simultaneously like a lot and a little. It’s a little because the volume of speech on the internet is so vast that one rather expects even the tiny proportion of it constituting hate speech to add up to millions and millions.

But it’s a lot because no one else has put together a database of this size and quality. A vetted, million-data-point set of words and phrases classified as hate speech or not hate speech is a valuable commodity all on its own. That’s why Hatebase provides it for free to researchers and institutions using it for humanitarian or scientific purposes.

hatebase how

But companies and larger organizations looking to outsource hate speech detection for moderation purposes pay a license fee, which keeps the lights on and allows the free tier to exist.

“We’ve got, I think, four of the world’s ten largest social networks pulling our data. We’ve got the UN pulling data, NGOs, the hyper local ones working in conflict areas. We’ve been pulling data for the LAPD for the last couple years. And we’re increasingly talking to government departments,” Quinn said.

They have a number of commercial clients, many of which are under NDA, Quinn noted, but the most recent to join up did so publicly, and that’s TikTok. As you can imagine, a popular platform like that has a great need for quick, accurate moderation.

In fact it’s something of a crisis, since there are laws coming into play that penalize companies enormous amounts if they don’t promptly remove offending content. That kind of threat really loosens the purse strings; If a fine could be in the tens of millions of dollars, paying a significant fraction of that for a service like Hatebase’s is a good investment.

“These big online ecosystems need to get this stuff off their platforms, and they need to automate a certain percentage of their content moderation,” Quinn said. “We don’t ever think we’ll be able to get rid of human moderation, that’s a ridiculous and unachievable goal; What we want to do is help automation that’s already in place. It’s increasingly unrealistic that every online community under the sun is going to build up their own massive database of multilingual hate speech, their own AI. The same way companies don’t have their own mail server any more, they use Gmail, or they don’t have server rooms, they use AWS — that’s our model, we call ourselves hate speech as a service. About half of us love that term, half don’t, but that really is our model.”

Hatebase’s commercial clients have made the company profitable from day one, but they’re “not rolling in cash by any means.”

“We were nonprofit until we spun out, and we’re not walking away from that, but we wanted to be self-funding,” Quinn said. Relying on the kindness of rich strangers is no way to stay in business, after all. The company is hiring and investing in its infrastructure, but Quinn indicated that they’re not looking to juice growth or anything — just make sure the jobs that need doing have someone to do them.

In the meantime it seems clear to Quinn and everyone else that this kind of information has real value, though it’s rarely simple.

“It’s a really, it’s a really complicated problem. We always grapple with it, you know, in terms of, well, what role does hate speech play? What role does misinformation play? What role do socioeconomics play?” he said. “There’s a great paper that came out of the University of Warwick, they studied the correlation between hate speech and violence against immigrants in Germany over, I want to say, 2015 to 2017. They graph it out. And its peak for peak, you know, valid for Valley. It’s amazing. We don’t do a hell of a lot of analysis — we’re a data provider.”

“But now have like, almost 300 universities pulling the data, and they do those kinds of those kinds of analyses. So that’s very validating for us.”

You can learn more about Hatebase, join the Citizen Linguists or research partnership, or see recent sightings and updates to the database at the company’s website.

Facebook tightens policies around self-harm and suicide

Timed with World Suicide Prevention Day, Facebook is tightening its policies around some difficult topics including self-harm, suicide, and eating disorder content after consulting with a series of experts on these topics. It’s also hiring a new Safety Policy Manager to advise on these areas going forward. This person will be specifically tasked with analyzing the impacts of Facebook’s policies and its apps on people’s health and well-being, and will explore new ways to improve support for the Facebook community.

The social network, like others in the space, has to walk a fine line when it comes to self-harm content. On the one hand, allowing people to openly discuss their mental health struggles with family, friends, and other online support groups can be beneficial. But on the other, science indicates that suicide can be contagious, and that clusters and outbreaks are real phenomena. Meanwhile, graphic imagery of self-harm can unintentionally promote the behavior.

With its updated policies, Facebook aims to prevent the spread of more harmful imagery and content.

It changed its policy around self-harm images to no longer allow graphic cutting images which can unintentionally promote or trigger self-harm. These images will not be allowed even if someone is seeking support or expressing themselves to aid their recovery, Facebook says.

The same content will also now be more difficult to find on Instagram through search and Explore.

And Facebook has tightened its policy regarding eating disorder content on its apps to prevent an expanded range of content that could contribute to eating disorders. This includes content that focuses on the depiction of ribs, collar bones, thigh gaps, concave stomach, or protruding spine or scapula, when shared with terms related to eating disorders. It will also ban content that includes instructions for drastic and unhealthy weight loss, when shared with those same sorts of terms.

It will also display a sensitivity screen over healed self-harm cuts going forward to help unintentionally promote self-harm.

Even when it takes content down, Facebook says it will now continue to send resources to people who posted self-harm or eating disorder content.

Facebook will additionally include Orygen’s #chatsafe guidelines to its Safety Center and in resources on Instagram. These guidelines are meant to help those who are responding to suicide-related content posted by others or are looking to express their own thoughts and feelings on the topic.

The changes came about over the course of the year, following Facebook’s consultations with a variety of the experts in the field, across a number of countries including the U.S., Canada, U.K. Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, India, Mexico, Philippines, and Thailand. Several of the policies were updated prior to today, but Facebook is now publicly announcing the combined lot.

The company says it’s also looking into sharing the public data from its platform on how people talk about suicide with academic researchers by way of the CrowdTangle monitoring tool. Before, this was made available primarily to newsrooms and media publishers

Suicide helplines provide help to those in need. Contact a helpline if you need support yourself or need help supporting a friend. Click here for Facebook’s list of helplines around the world. 

Spotify users can now share music and podcasts to Snapchat

Spotify users can now share their favorite music and podcasts with friends on Snapchat, the company announced this morning, with added support for sharing a song, playlist, artist profile, or podcast either directly to your friends on Snapchat or to your Snapchat Story.

Snapchat is now one of several destinations that Spotify users can share to, along with WhatsApp, Messages, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram Stories, and as of just last week, Facebook Stories.

Using the new feature is same as with any other sharing option — you tap the three-dot share menu in the top right of the app’s interface, and choose Snapchat from the dropdown list. Snapchat will open with a new Snap and the full album art included. You can then edit and send the Snap as usual.

Recipients of your Snap will be able to tap the context card to listen to the music or podcast you’ve shared.

In addition to simply sharing music with friends, the feature will also make it possible for Spotify artists and their teams to promote their music to Snapcat’s 203 million daily users — most of who are well-within the coveted teen to young adult demographic that Spotify’s artists are hoping to reach.

The feature itself is powered by Snap’s Creative Kit (a part of Snap Kit), which lets users share media from a developer’s app or website.

Spotify is now one of over 200 apps that have integrated with Snap Kit following the June 2018 debut of the platform, which aims to offer a more private alternative to Facebook. In many cases, however, support for Snapchat is being added to other apps and sites alongside their existing support for Facebook and Instagram — as in the case here.

The expansion to Spotify’s sharing feature comes at a time when the streamer is looking for growth — especially in light of growing competition from rivals like Amazon Music and Apple Music. The former benefits from integrations with Prime and Alexa while the latter from its preinstallation on Apple devices. (And possibly a new bundle with Apple TV+, as we’ll find out tomorrow at Apple’s iPhone event.)

Spotify, meanwhile, notably missed its user estimates in its Q2 2019 earnings, with 8 million new subscribers in the quarter instead of the expected 8.5 million. With expanded social sharing options, it hopes to reach millions more users who may later convert to paying customers.