Twitter Rallies On Growth In Users, Revenue

Twitter shares rallied Friday after a second-quarter update showed better-than-expected revenues and a growth in users even as the social network cracks down on fake accounts and inappropriate content.

The short messaging service said profit rose to $1.1 billion, lifted by a one-time tax benefit, up from $100 million a year earlier. Excluding special items, profit was $37 million.

Revenue was better than expected at $841 million, up 18 percent from a year ago. The vast majority of revenues came from advertising.

Twitter’s new measure of its user base — monetizable daily active users — was 139 million, compared to 122 million in the same period last year.

“Q2 was a really strong quarter for us,” chief executive Jack Dorsey said in a conference call.

“We’re really proud of our results and also the work and the effort that went into it.”

Shares in Twitter rallied 5.3 percent in pre-market trades following the release.

“Twitter’s value proposition to advertisers is not the size of its audience, but the engagement of its users,” said eMarketer analyst Jasmine Enberg.

“The strong growth in monetizable daily active users shows that Twitter users are sticking with the platform, and that should resonate with advertisers.”

Twitter stopped using a count of “monthly active users,” which was 330 million earlier this year, in favor or the new measure of daily users on the mobile app or website who see ads in their feeds.

Focus on ‘health’

The results showed Twitter remains profitable and is boosting the number of users even as it moves aggressively to weed out fake accounts and curb abusive content.

“Health of public conversation remains our top priority,” Dorsey said.

“Our focus in this quarter was ensuring that our rules and how we enforce them are easy to understand. This quarter we refreshed our rules with simple and clear language.”

Dorsey said he believes the efforts to curb hate speech and spam will eventually pay off by bringing in more users and keeping them on the platform.

“We do believe health is a long-term growth vector for us,” he said during the call with analysts.

Twitter and other social networks have been walking a fine line, responding to pressure from governments to remove “hate speech,” incitements to violence and other abusive content while remaining open.

President Donald Trump has been a prolific Twitter user with more than 60 million followers, but he has nonetheless accused social networks of suppressing conservative voices.

Dorsey said other improvements also appear to be helping Twitter’s growth, including efforts on “making Twitter feel more conversational.”

It has also been using machine learning tools to help make user timelines “more relevant,” according to Dorsey.

Twitter has been adding live video events — on news, sports, and entertainment — as part of its efforts to keep users engaged.

While it has a strong core base of celebrities, politicians, and journalists, Twitter has been struggling to gain broader appeal and has lagged behind other social networks like Facebook, which has more than two billion users worldwide.

AFP

Life Without Facebook? Social Network Outage Triggers Moans And Soul Searching

 

Facebook grappled Thursday with a widespread outage, forcing millions of people to taste life without the world’s largest social media platform.

It was probably the last thing Facebook needed as it stumbles from problem to problem, including outrage over its use of customers’ private data.

The outage began Wednesday afternoon and triggered a flood of gripes on downdetector.com, which tracks trouble accessing online pages, and on rival Twitter.

A Downdetector map late Wednesday showed Facebook service troubles persisting in parts of Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America.

As of early Thursday, the problem remained in parts of Europe and Asia, although moaning from America and elsewhere kept coming.

“You guys should look in the mirror at yourselves and hear how you sound,” a person with the handle Johanna wrote on Downdetector around 0745 GMT.

“You make it sound as if it’s the end of the world just because you can’t be on Facebook. Lmfao. Get a real life instead of a digital one!?!?!?”

Another whose handle is Palmina D’Allesandro mused that time without Mark Zuckerberg’s baby might have been good for making the real, humankind.

“Up and running here…..for now…..But I predict a baby boom in 9 months, Remember that day FB went down and people were forced to notice each other?”, this person wrote.

Some media outlets branded the outage as the biggest in Facebook’s history.

The outage, of unknown origin, also affected Facebook-owned Instagram, as well as Messenger, although Instagram later said it was back up.

In some cases the apps could be accessed but would not load posts or handle missives.

‘Not a DDoS attack’

The California firm which has more than two billion users acknowledged the outage after users noted on Twitter they could not access Facebook or had limited functionality.

“We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps. We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” a Facebook statement said on Twitter.

A short time later, Facebook indicated the outage was not related to an attack aimed at overwhelming the network.

“We’re focused on working to resolve the issue as soon as possible, but can confirm that the issue is not related to a DDoS attack,” Facebook said.

Distributed denial of service cyber strikes involve hackers overwhelming websites with tidal waves of simultaneous requests, typically using armies of computers infected with malicious code.

The social network said there was no update of the situation as evening arrived in California.

Last November, a Facebook outage was attributed to a server problem, and a September disruption was said to be the result of “networking issues.”

A grand jury subpoena

While the outage continued, The New York Times reported that US prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into the social network’s practice of sharing users’ data with companies without letting them know.

A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed information from at least two major smartphone makers about such arrangements with Facebook, according to the Times.

Regulators, investigators and elected officials in the US and elsewhere in the world have already been digging into the data sharing practices of Facebook.

The social network’s handling of user data has been a flashpoint for controversy since it admitted last year that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy which did work for Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, used an app that may have hijacked the private details of 87 million users.

“It has already been reported that there are ongoing federal investigations, including by the Department of Justice,” a Facebook spokesman said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“As we’ve said before, we are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously. We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so.”

Facebook has shared limited amounts of user data with smartphone makers and other outside partners to enable its services to work well on devices or with applications.

Regulators, and now prosecutors, appear intent on determining whether this was done in ways that let users know what was happening and protected privacy.

The social network has announced a series of moves to tighten handling of data, including eliminating most of its data-sharing partnerships with outside companies.

AFP

Amid Turmoil, Facebook Chief Product Officer Quits

This file photo shows a Facebook logo through the windows of the NASDAQ stock exchange as people walk by on Times Square in New York. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

Facebook said Thursday its chief product officer Chris Cox was leaving the company, becoming the highest-ranking executive to depart amid the turmoil at the leading social network.

Cox made his announcement in on his Facebook page, saying he was leaving “with great sadness” after 13 years.

While Cox gave no specific reason for his move, he noted that Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has unveiled a new direction away from being the “digital town square” to focus on smaller-scale, private interactions.

“As Mark has outlined, we are turning a new page in our product direction, focused on an encrypted, interoperable, messaging network,” Cox wrote.

“This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through.”

Zuckerberg, in a separate post, said Cox had discussed the possibility of moving on “for a few years,” but had remained for a transition period.

“After 2016, we both realized we had too much important work to do to improve our products for society, and he stayed to help us work through these issues and help us chart a course for our family of apps going forward,” Zuckerberg wrote.

The move comes with Facebook struggling to cope with investigations and complaints over data protection and privacy, and after Zuckerberg’s announcement last week of a new focus for the platform.

It also comes after an unprecedented global outage this week for Facebook and its other applications affecting millions of users, believed to be the worst ever for the network.

Facebook also said WhatsApp chief Chris Daniels is leaving the company.

Zuckerberg said Daniels “helped define the business model for our messaging services going forward.”

He said the new head of the Facebook-owned application would be Fidji Simo, who was previously in charge of video, games and monetization at Facebook.

A former eBay executive, Simo grew up in France and attended the French business school HEC Paris and the UCLA Anderson School of Business, according to a Facebook statement.

AFP

Facebook Bans Philippine ‘Fake Accounts’ Group Followed By Millions

Facebook Faces 'Oppenheimer Moment' Over Trump Scandal

 

Facebook says it has banned a Philippine digital marketing group which runs hundreds of pages across the social network with 43 million followers, accusing it of “inauthentic behaviour” and using fake accounts.

Facebook has stepped up efforts to root out fake accounts after being criticised for failing to tackle hate speech and misinformation on its platforms. Filipinos are among the world’s heaviest users of social media, and the country has been a key battleground for fake news.

The online giant said that on Thursday it removed 220 Facebook pages, 73 Facebook accounts and 29 Instagram accounts run by Twinmark Media Enterprises, whose pages were followed by about 43 million accounts.

“Our decision to remove this organisation, and the pages and accounts it controls, is based on the behaviour of these actors who repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and spam policies, rather than on the type of content they were posting,” it added.

It accused Twinmark of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour, the use of fake accounts, leading people to ad farms, and selling access to Facebook pages to artificially increase distribution and generate profit”.

A Twinmark employee told AFP by telephone Friday the Manila-based firm’s officials were not available for comment.

The average Filipino spends nearly four hours per day on social media — the most in the world – according to Britain-based media consultancy We Are Social.

German database firm Statista estimates there were 73 million Facebook users in the Philippines as of October 2018, the sixth-largest country group.

In October last year, Facebook said it had removed a network of 95 pages and 39 accounts in the Philippines, including one with 4.8 million followers, for violating the social media outfit’s spam and authenticity policies.

More Trouble For Facebook As Privacy Settings ‘Bug’ Affects 14 Million Users

This file illustration photo taken on March 22, 2018, in Paris shows a close-up of the Facebook logo in the eye of a person posing while she looks at a flipped logo of Facebook. 
Christophe SIMON / AFP

 

Facebook has acknowledged that a software glitch changed the settings of some 14 million users, potentially making some posts public even if they were intended to be private.

The news marked the latest in a series of privacy embarrassments for the world’s biggest social network, which has faced a firestorm over the hijacking of personal data on tens of millions of users and more recently for disclosures on data-sharing deals with smartphone makers.

Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said in a statement that the company recently “found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts.”

Facebook said this affected users posting between May 18 and May 27 as it was implementing a new way to share some items such as photos.

That left the default or suggested method of sharing as public instead of only for specific users or friends.

Facebook said it corrected the problem on May 22 but was unable to change all the posts, so is now notifying affected users.

“Starting today we are letting everyone affected know and asking them to review any posts they made during that time,” Egan said.

“To be clear, this bug did not impact anything people had posted before — and they could still choose their audience just as they always have. We’d like to apologize for this mistake.”

Facebook confirmed earlier this week that China-based Huawei — which has been banned by the US military and is a lightning rod for cyber espionage concerns — was among device makers authorized to see user data in agreements that had been in place for years.

Facebook has claimed the agreements with some 60 device makers dating from a decade ago were designed to help the social media giant get more services into the mobile ecosystem.

Nonetheless, lawmakers expressed outrage that Chinese firms were given access to user data at a time when officials were trying to block their access to the US market over national security concerns.

The revelations come weeks after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was grilled in Congress about the hijacking of personal data on some 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy working on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

AFP

Activist Groups Launch Campaign To Break Up Facebook

Facebook Faces 'Oppenheimer Moment' Over Trump Scandal

A coalition of activist groups on Monday announced a campaign to break up Facebook, arguing that the huge social network “has too much power over our lives and democracy.”

The groups created a website, and a Facebook page, to garner support for a petition to the US Federal Trade Commission to require the social media firm to spin off Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger into competing networks, and to “impose strong privacy rules.”

The effort was launched by a handful of groups focusing on digital rights, privacy and other social causes.

“Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have amassed a scary amount of power,” the groups said on their website.

“Facebook unilaterally decides the news that billions of people around the world see every day. It buys up or bankrupts potential competitors to protect its monopoly, killing innovation and choice. It tracks us almost everywhere we go on the web and, through our smartphones, even where we go in the real world.”

The effort comes with Facebook under fire in the US and elsewhere over the hijacking of private user data on some 87 million users, adding to concerns on how internet platforms were manipulated to spread misinformation during the 2016 US election.

Responding to the campaign, a company spokesman said Facebook “is in a competitive environment where people use our apps at the same time they use free services offered by many others.”

The spokesman said in an emailed statement that “the average person uses eight different apps to communicate and stay connected.”

Chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg told a US congressional panel last month that it “doesn’t feel like” Facebook is a monopoly.

Facebook has an estimated two billion users worldwide, and its Messenger and Whatsapp messaging services each have more than one billion.

Any breakup would require a lengthy investigation by US authorities and a potentially long court battle as well.

The latest campaign was launched by the activist organizations Demand Progress, MoveOn, and SumOfUs, along with the groups Citizens Against Monopoly, Jewish Voice for Peace and Muslim Grassroots Movement.

It comes as Zuckerberg prepared to appear before European Parliament members to answer questions on the data scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, which obtained Facebook user data while working on the 2016 Donald Trump campaign.

AFP

Facebook To Introduce ‘Dislike’ Button

FacebookFacebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, says Facebook is to add a ‘dislike’ button to its social network.

A ‘dislike’ button, according to the founder, would help users to express empathy.

He said Facebook was “very close” to having it ready for user testing, adding that the ‘dislike’ button has been constantly requested by some users since the introduction of the now iconic ‘like’ button in 2009.

“People have asked about the ‘dislike’ button for many years.

“Probably hundreds of people have asked about this, and today is a special day because today is the day that I actually get to say we are working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it,” Zuckerberg said.

According to report by an expert, the ‘dislike’ button might be used to express some negative emotions such as frustration, but it will mainly be used to express mild disapproval.

Facebook’s Service Disrupted For Some Users

Illustration photo of a Facebook error message in a computer screen in SingaporeFacebook Inc, the world’s number one social network, suffered a service disruption on Friday that made the website unavailable to some users.

Some visitors to the site were greeted with a message that read: “Sorry, something went wrong. We’re working on getting this fixed as soon as we can.” It was not immediately clear how widespread the disruption was.

Facebook, which has 1.32 billion monthly users, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Facebook’s Mobile Business Expands In First Quarter

Facebook Inc’s mobile advertising revenue growth gained momentum in the first three months of the year as the social network sold more ads to users on smartphones and tablets, partially offsetting higher spending which weighed on profits.

New types of ads designed for smartphones, particularly ads aimed at enticing Facebook users to install mobile apps on their phones, helped lift revenue while traffic to the social network remained strong.

The results reassured Wall Street that the world’s largest social network was keeping up with consumers’ shift from PCs to smartphones, even if the company provided few big surprises during the first quarter.

Mobile ad revenue accounted for 30 percent of Facebook’s ad revenue in the first quarter, compared to roughly 23 percent in the fourth quarter. Sales of ads on mobile devices have been a key element in the recovery of Facebook’s overall ad revenue from a sharp slowdown early last year.

The first-quarter mobile ad revenue was at the higher end of expectations, said Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter. But he said it “needed to be higher for people to get really excited about trend lines”.

Shares of Facebook, which are down roughly 12 percent since the end of January, were up 7 cents at $27.50 in after-hours trading on Wednesday.

“Everyone was focused on two things, one was mobile and how big it could be, and the other thing was engagement,” said Ronald Josey, an analyst with Jefferies & Co.

Facebook delivered solid results on both fronts, Josey said, noting that consumers’ use of Facebook does not appear to have declined despite a growing array of popular social networking and mobile messaging alternative services, such as Pinterest and WhatsApp.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 28-year-old co-founder and chief executive, told investors on a conference call on Wednesday that there was room for Facebook and rival services to thrive. He said mobile photo-sharing service Instagram, which Facebook acquired last year, was now growing faster than Facebook did at a similar stage in its history.

Facebook said it now counted 1.11 billion monthly active users and about 665 million daily active users.

The company said the number of monthly users who logged on solely through mobile devices more than doubled to 189 million users from a year ago.

Graphic: link.reuters.com/ryp77t

NEW AD PRODUCTS

Created in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, Facebook, along with other established Internet companies such as Google Inc and Yahoo Inc, are moving to reposition their businesses for a world in which consumers’ primary Internet access occurs on small-screened smartphones rather than PCs.

Facebook has rolled out a string of big product launches and revamps in recent months, including an overhaul of its newsfeed and search feature, as well an app for Android smartphones that puts Facebook features front and center on phone homescreens.

The various initiatives have contributed to rising spending, with Facebook’s 60 percent year-on-year increase in costs and expenses outpacing the 38 percent revenue increase.

Facebook said it earned $219 million, or 9 cents a share, in the first three months of the year, compared to $205 million, or 9 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding certain items, Facebook said it earned 12 cents a share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S were looking for adjusted EPS of 13 cents.

Facebook executives reiterated previous guidance that spending would be up in 2013 as the company invests in new products and in improving the efficacy of its ads.

One nascent type of mobile advertising pioneered by Facebook — ads that encourage users to install third-party apps — could grow meaningfully, Zuckerberg said.

“We’re starting to see real revenue from mobile app installs,” Zuckerberg said, without giving details. “It’s one of our most important new ad products.”

Facebook’s revenue in the first quarter totaled $1.46 billion, versus $1.06 billion in the year-ago period, and roughly in line with analyst expectations. Advertising revenue was up 43 percent in the first quarter, the fastest growth rate since the end of 2011.

“You are seeing pretty strong revenue growth right now,” said Raymond James analyst Aaron Kessler. But he warned that the revenue growth could slow in coming quarters as Facebook faces tougher year-on-year comparisons.

Privacy groups ask Facebook to withdraw proposed policy changes

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy urged Facebook Inc. to withdraw proposed changes on its terms of services that would allow the company to share data with acquired photo-application (Instagram), eliminate a user voting system and loosen email restrictions within the social network.

The changes which raised privacy risks for users and violate the company’s previous commitments to its over 1 billion members was unveilled by the social media network on Wednesday.

In a letter from the privacy groups to the CEO of Facebook; Mark Zuckerberg,it was stated the changes puts user privacy into question “Facebook’s proposed changes implicate the user privacy and terms of a recent settlement with the Federal Trade Commission,”By sharing information with Instagram, the letter said, Facebook could combine user profiles, ending its practice of keeping user information on the two services separate.

Facebook declined to comment on the letter.

In April, Facebook settled privacy charges with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it had deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. Under the settlement, Facebook is required to get user consent for certain changes to its privacy settings and is subject to 20 years of independent audits.

Facebook, Google and other online companies have faced increasing scrutiny and enforcement from privacy regulators as consumers entrust ever-increasing amounts of information about their personal lives to Web services.

Facebook unveiled a variety of proposed changes to its terms of service and data use polices on Wednesday, including a move to scrap a 4-year old process that can allow the social network’s roughly 1 billion users to vote on changes to its policies.

If proposed changes generate more than 7,000 public comments during a seven-day period, Facebook’s current terms of service automatically trigger a vote by users to approve the changes. But the vote is only binding if at least 30 percent of users take part, and two prior votes never reached that threshold.

The latest proposed changes had garnered more than 17,000 comments by late Monday.

Facebook also said last week that it wanted to eliminate a setting for users to control who can contact them on the social network’s email system. The company said it planned to replace the “Who can send you Facebook messages” setting with new filters for managing incoming messages.

That change is likely to increase the amount of unwanted “spam” messages that users receive, the privacy groups warned on Monday.

Reuters

OPINION: The good, bad and ugly sides of social media

Dickson, 32 was in search of money. He turns to the internet in search of the proverbial Golden Fleece. One cold evening in September 2011, while browsing through the Facebook site, he meets Jane, a 28-year-old banker. As the two friends continued their daily chats  Dickson began to generate strategies to scam his new Facebook friend.

Recently, social media including facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo/Google/Blackberry Messengers, Google+, 2go etc have been used for different activities – business, pleasure and networking.

While some use social media as a means to showcase products and services, others use it for pleasure and a way to meet new people.

Still others use social media for sinister purposes with intentions of harming others or defrauding them.

According to Wikipedia, Social media includes web- and mobile-based technologies which are used to turn communication into interactive dialogue among organizations, communities, and individuals.

The benefit of a social media is found in the connections that get drawn between those that participate. Connecting people, recommending resources, identifying expertise, and distributing content are all benefits to those who participate in and use these sites.

For instance, in the story of Dickson and Jane, though  the former intended to defraud the latter, after having a blind date for almost one year, they agreed to meet in Lagos and once that was done, they ended up falling in love. Just three months Dickson and Jane got married.

There are numerous other examples of people who have built a wholesome relationship that began from a social media website. Some have gotten their dream jobs via social media. Others are growing a thriving business on social media.

A simple broadcast from Facebook or Blackberry can send a message to millions of people in different parts of the world.

Like everything in life, if there are merits, there would also be demerits. People with malevolent intentions have capitalized on the ease of communication presented by social media to perpetrate their evil acts.

For instance, I am yet to understand how someone would sit somewhere and spend precious time in typing a lengthy message with false alarm like the cosmic ray nonsense that was circulating on Blackberry Messenger last week.

Another instance and the most tragic was the one in the news this week. Some young undergraduate used the social media to lure an unsuspecting only child of a retired army General all the way from Nasarawa to Festac in Lagos.

According to the news, Ezekiel Nnechuwu Olisa Eloka had spent over four months on Facebook with Cynthia Akuzogwu Udoka. Cynthia obviously thought she had found a friend in Eloka. Unfortunately she was wrong.

Eloka recounted how he treated his guest and facebook friend thus:

“When she got to Lagos, we took her to a hotel in Festac. We thought she had a lot of money, but she said she didn’t have any money.

We put a drug in her Ribena drink. After this, we slept with her for 12 hours in that hotel. We discovered that the tablet did not work quickly on her.

“We then attacked her, tied her up and used cello tape to cover her mouth. After that, we beat her to tell us where she kept the money.”

“When we didn’t get any money from her, we tied her mouth and strangled her and then we abandoned her in the hotel and fled.”

Get the juice from social media with care

In the midst of fraudsters, serial killers, assassins and people with different motives on social media platforms, how can you make the best of this powerful internet tool without regrets.

In the video below, an internet expert, Mercy Abang sheds light on what to watch out for while using the social media platforms.

Written by Oluchi Uwajubogu