Twitter Launches Happy Diwali Emoji in the Form of a Diya

Micro-blogging site Twitter on Monday launched a Diwali emoji by roping in Bollywood actors Salman Khan and Sonam Kapoor whose new movie will release during this festive season.

“This Diwali, Twitter is the go-to platform where people from across the world can engage in conversations about their celebrations, experiences and moments in real time. The #HappyDiwali emoji is a delightful, colourful way to unite Indians all over the world and celebrate the festival of lights together on Twitter,” said Rishi Jaitly, Twitter vice president of media, Asia Pacific and Middle East and North Africa.

Twitter said users can combine the hashtag #HappyDiwali when composing a tweet and a special emoji of a diya (lamp) will appear next to the hashtag in the sent tweet.

The ‘diya‘ symbolises victory of good over evil, brightness over darkness, and truth over falsity, it said. “The emoji is available starting today, giving Twitter users a fun way to spread the festive spirit and celebrate the occasion with Indians worldwide,” the company said in an emailed statement on Monday.

Salman Khan and Sonam Kapoor launched the first emoji.

The new emoji comes after the ‘Make in India’ emoji, the first India-specific Twittier emoji, launched by Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman from the Twitter headquarters in San Jose.

Sitharaman met Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey to discuss India’s importance as a strategic growth market and how the platform can be used to promote the country’s brand to rest of the world.

While the #MakeInIndia brand campaign on Twitter had over 300 million impressions and nearly 24 million engagements in August and September this year, the @MakeInIndia official Twitter account has over 700,000 followers since its inception a little over a year ago.

Can’t Force Google and Facebook to Stop Tracking Their Users: FCC

The Federal Communications Commission said Friday that it will not seek to impose a requirement onGoogle, Facebook and other Internet companies that would make it harder for them to track consumers’ online activities.

The announcement is a blow to privacy advocates who had petitioned the agency for stronger Internet privacy rules. But it’s a win for many Silicon Valley companies whose business models rely on monetizing Internet users’ personal data.

It’s also the latest move in an ongoing battle to defend the agency’s new net neutrality rules, which opponents warned would result in the regulation of popular websites and online services. By rejecting the petition, the FCC likely hopes to defuse that argument. The rules, which took effect this summer, allow the FCC to regulate only providers of Internet access, not individual websites, said a senior agency official.

Consumer Watchdog, an activist group, petitioned the FCC in June to support a technology that would allow consumers to signal to websites that they did not want to be tracked. By clicking a button in their browser settings, users would have been able to send a “do not track” message to website operators when they surfed the Internet.

Some Web sites have committed to honoring those requests voluntarily, but many do not. If it had succeeded, the petition could have made Do Not Track a US standard.

In a sign of its growing ambitions, however, the FCC has dramatically expanded its role in combating privacy violations among communications providers. Agency officials slapped Cox Communications, the country’s fourth-largest cable Internet company, with a $595,000 fine Thursday to settle charges related to a breach of consumer data. It has also gone after AT&T and a number of smaller telecom companies for similar security breaches.

Although the agency appears to be stopping short of establishing privacy rules for Web site operators, it is studying how net neutrality could allow it to set new privacy expectations for Internet providers.

Outside attempts by industry and privacy advocates to define and enforce a Do Not Track standard have been plagued by delays, as well as debates over what such a signal would require.

Privacy groups argue that Do Not Track should mean that no information is collected about a user. Online advertising groups say Do Not Track should prevent a company from serving up targeted advertisements but not impede data collection. This debate, however, has been superseded by even newer tracking technologies that Do Not Track is not designed to address.

The current Do Not Track proposal before the World Wide Web Consortium, an international Web standards body, has faced criticism from privacy advocates and leaders on Capitol Hill who say it does not do enough to protect consumers from companies that track users. In a letter to the group sent last month, Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Al Franken, D-Minn., and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, expressed concerns about the plan.

“Under the standard, first parties are free to continue tracking online activity even if a user activates the ‘Do Not Track’ signal and can share that information among its many affiliates,” the lawmakers wrote.

Twitter Names Jack Dorsey Permanent CEO

Twitter Inc named co-founder and interim Chief Executive Jack Dorsey as its permanent CEO, ending months of speculation about who would take the reins at the company.

Dorsey will remain head of fast-growing mobile payments company Square, which he also co-founded, potentially setting up conflicts of interest.

Twitter had previously said the CEO job would be a full-time position, which seemed to exclude Dorsey if he continued to run Square.

Some investors had expressed concerns about whether Dorsey could run both Twitter and Square, which is expected to go public later this year.

However, Twitter’s shares rose 1.9 percent to $26.80 (roughly Rs. 1,800) in premarket trading.

The move comes at a time when Twitter is working to rekindle user growth. Twitter’s second-quarter monthly average users grew at the slowest pace since the company went public in 2013.

Dorsey has served as interim CEO of the microblogging service since former CEO Dick Costolo stepped down on July 1.

Dorsey will continue to serve as a member of Twitter’s board, but will no longer be chairman. Costolo resigned from the board on Sept. 30, the company said on Monday.

“We’re working to change the composition of our board,” Dorsey tweeted.

Adam Bain, previously Twitter’s president and head of revenue and once considered a favorite for the top job, was named chief operating officer.

Square, which pioneered the use of instant payments over smartphones and is worth about $6 billion based on its most recent round of funding, plans to file for an initial public offering soon, according to a source familiar with the situation.

That will require substantial time from Dorsey, who will have to spend weeks courting investors.

But some investors said Dorsey was able to do both jobs, and was a more effective leader now than in 2008, when the co-founder was fired from his first stint as Twitter CEO.

Investors and analysts have lauded Dorsey’s success at Square and faster product rollouts at Twitter since he took the helm in July.

Those include a widely available “buy now” button that allows users to make purchases directly through Twitter; Project Lightning, expected to roll out later this year and which would allow users to follow live events through selected tweets and photos; and a partnership with Square that lets users to make political donations through Twitter.

Facebook Adds 360-Degree Video to News Feed

Facebook on Wednesday began rolling out 360-degree viewing at the leading social network, letting people change their perspectives in specially created videos.

“We’ve seen that people enjoy more immersive content in their News Feeds,” video engineering director Maher Saba said in a blog post.

“We’re excited to take it a step further with 360-degree video.”

Synched rings cameras are used to capture video in a way that lets viewers virtually look around as if they are in the middle of a scene.

In desktop computer browsers, changing angles can be done using on-screen cursors. On mobile devices, shifting perspectives can be done by dragging fingers or just turning handsets, according to Saba.

“You’ll be able to hold up your phone and the 360-degree video will follow you as you turn, looking around, to experience things from all over the world like never before,” Saba said.

Publishers sharing 360-degree video at launch included GoPro, Discovery, and Saturday Night Live, according to Facebook.

Disney and Lucasfilm will debut a 360-degree video focused on its upcoming film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Saba said.

The immersive new feature being added to News Feed was being rolled out to Web browser and mobile devices powered by Google-backed Android operating systems. Facebook planned to get it onto hardware powered by Apple iOS software “in the coming months.”

 

Facebook Unveils ‘M’ Virtual Assistant for Messenger

Facebook on Wednesday began testing a Messenger app virtual assistant that the leading social network said goes beyond artificial intelligence programs already on the market.

The personal digital assistant – dubbed “M” – completes tasks along with seeking out information at the behest of users.

“Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf,” Facebook’s David Marcus said in an online post.

“It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.”

Marcus described the test as an early step in a journey toward building a large-scale service using the virtual assistant software.

Word of “M” came just two days after Microsoft made its Cortana virtual assistant software available to users of Android mobile devices.

Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, which respond to voice commands on mobile devices.

The launch is part of an effort by Microsoft to expand its mobile presence despite a weak showing for its Windows Phone devices.

“The Cortana app can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone,” Microsoft’s Susan Hendrich said in a blog post.

“With the app, you can manage your hectic lifestyle by setting and getting reminders, searching the web on-the-go, tracking important information such as flight details, as well as starting and completing tasks across all of your devices.”

A beta version of Cortana was made available on Monday to US users of Android devices, and “we are planning to roll it out to other markets,” Hendrich said

UK Tells YouTube Bloggers to Slap ‘Advert’ Stickers, Will India Follow Suit?

As more creators start using YouTube to showcase their work, we finally have a clarification of sorts on how they can advertise on their YouTube channels. The Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP), the group of people that write advertising code, has released its first guidance to inform video bloggers (vloggers) that they need to let their viewers know if they have been paid by an advertiser to promote a product. Can a similar guideline be expected in India?

YouTube creators aren’t legally obligated to let their viewers know if a product they are talking about or showing on the screen has been paid for by an advertiser. But things started to change last year when many videos were banned after learning that their respective creators didn’t disclose that they had been paid to promote the product.

But now YouTube creators and other video bloggers in the UK will have to either verbally or by text signposting specify that they have entered into a commercial relationship with the advertiser. They are urged to use terms like “sponsored by,” “commercial,” or “advert” at the beginning of the video itself.

“The advertising rules do not cover or prohibit vloggers entering into commercial relationships and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) does not regulate editorial opinion,” the CAP said. “In response to feedback from vloggers, however, we and the ASA are also reminding brands and agencies (be they advertising, digital or PR) looking to partner with vloggers of the need to be transparent.”

Everything isn’t completely clear yet, however. For instance, the CAP noted that if a vlogger receives a unit from an advertiser but has full authority over how the final video should look like, it is not necessary to mention that the product was provided by an advertiser.

It all began in November 2014 when five YouTube videos showcasing a “Oreo Licking Race” were banned due to adjudication by Advertising Standards Authority. The creators hadn’t mentioned in the video that Oreo owner Mondel─ôz International had paid them. Since then a couple of more videos have been pulled from YouTube.

Currently in India there are no such rules in place. YouTube creators are often paid by advertisers for product promotions, and several other times, the end result of the video is set by the advertiser. The YouTube creators in the country aren’t obligated to disclose a paid promotion in their videos. “There’s no legal obligation for us to reveal that a product we promoted was paid for by an advertiser,” said Abhishek Bhatnagar, an India-based YouTube creator. “In my opinion, it is our duty to let viewers know of such things, though”

As more people flock away from TV to YouTube for content, and creators and advertisers get more serious, it is in the best interest of a viewer to know that the good things they are hearing about a product is because the creator was paid to say it. Otherwise, nothing is stopping the creators from taking money from advertisers and promote their products and present it as a sponsor-free content. And it would be misleading because many people won’t be able to tell if what they just saw was an advertisement, or an honest product review.

Twitter Huddles With NFL to Tackle Audience Challenge

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Twitter is huddling with the National Football League as it tackles the challenge of attracting a broader audience to its short messaging service.

A two-year content and advertising deal announced Monday expands upon similar partnerships that Twitter forged with the NFL in 2013 and 2014.

The NFL plans to funnel nearly three times more content into Twitter than last year, a commitment that will include more video highlights and pictures from games in progress. Twitter, in turn, will use an automated formula to prominently display NFL tweets and related ads in the streams of accountholders likely to enjoy the information.

The NFL’s Twitter blitz will begin with Thursday’s preseason games. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Twitter and other Internet companies typically pay their partners by giving them a percentage of ad sales made from their content.

After signing single-season contracts in 2013 and 2014, the NFL gave Twitter a vote of confidence by locking into a longer term this time around. It’s the first time any of Twitter’s roughly 200 partners have signed a multi-year contract, according to Glenn Brown, Twitter’s director of content partnerships.

The NFL, by far the most-watched sports league in the U.S., also is relying solely on Twitter to sell all the advertising tied to the tweets from its accounts. In the previous two seasons, the ads were jointly sold by the NFL and Twitter.

The show of faith comes at a critical time for Twitter.

Although its brand is widely known and its service boasts more than 300 million users, Twitter has been struggling to widen its appeal. With user growth slowing dramatically, even Twitter’s own management recently acknowledged that the service has become too confusing to navigate. What’s more, the San Francisco company still hasn’t posted a profit.

Investors have sacked Twitter for its execution problems. The company’s stock finished last week at $27.04 (roughly Rs. 1,700), less than half its value 10 months ago and just $1.04 (roughly Rs. 66) above its initial public offering price in November 2013.

The NFL’s immense popularity could help Twitter find ways to get people to check into its service more frequently and lure visitors who might not necessarily sign into the service, but could still see ads.

Twitter plans to highlight NFL material even if users haven’t chosen to follow the league. The company does this by tracking people’s activity on the service to determine their interests. Ads featuring NFL content will be targeted using similar analytical tools.

“We know if we put content in front of the hundreds of millions of Twitter users, they will engage with the content,” predicted Vishal Shah, the NFL’s vice president of media strategy and business development.

Facebook Makes It Trivial to Find Information Associated With Any Mobile Number

A built-in Facebook feature has become the subject of a new controversy. The social juggernaut, by default, allows users to look up and identify a profile by simply typing in someone’s phone number. A software engineer has managed to exploit this little-known feature and successfully obtained information of thousands of users.

Searching and mapping friends by simply looking up their phone numbers is a handy feature if you don’t know the email address of your friend, or if their profile is hidden from public view. However, this works even if someone has added their mobile number to Facebook but not shared it with anyone using privacy controls, which means you can effectively lookup the Facebook profile associated with any mobile number.

Reza Moaiandin, the technical director of Leeds-based technology company Salt Agency, discovered this flaw. He then made a tool that would randomly generate different phone numbers and try to find a corresponding profile registered with that number. Within minutes, the tool was able to retrieve profile picture, name, and other publicly shared information of thousands of people.

It’s like “walking into a bank, asking for a few thousand customers’ personal information based on their account number, and the bank telling you: ‘Here are their customer details.” Moaiandin said in a statement to The Guardian.

Moaiandin informed Facebook about the vulnerability twice, once in April and the other time in July and urged it to add an additional layer of security. Facebook reportedly dismissed his discovery and refused to call it a vulnerability. The company also seemed rather complacent with the feature. “We do not consider it a security vulnerability, but we do have controls in place to monitor and mitigate abuse,” it reportedly told Moaiandin.

Most Twitter Users Not Globally Aware

In a result that highlights the paradoxes of the modern world, a new study says Twitter users are much more likely to connect to nearby places.

Geographers at the University of California Santa Barbara and San Diego State University used Twitter data to identify how aware Americans are of global cities and found that Twitter users are much more aware of places they are close to, CityLab.com reported.

“Our social media interactions are restricted by our physical location. Even online, people tend to interact with others living nearby,” the study said.

The researchers tracked the names of cities in messages that included Twitter geotags, which show a user’s precise geographic location.

They then selected the 50 US cities with the densest populations and collected tweets within 30 km of the centre of each city, ending up with more than five million tweets that mentioned thousands of cities worldwide.

To quantify the geographic awareness of users from the same city, the study’s authors created a global awareness index (GAI).

A high GAI indicates that Twitter users mention international or distant US cities more than local city names.

They also found that Twitter users in large, dense cities like New York and Los Angeles have a greater geographical awareness than users from less densely populated mid-sized cities.

In contrast to smaller places, the authors find that these global cities often do have more awareness of and connection to other global cities across the world.

Replying to Customers on Twitter Can Trigger More Complaints

The response by a company to a customer’s complaint on the micro-blogging site Twitter is likely to trigger many more such complaints, says a study co-authored by an Indian-origin researcher.

The team found that while addressing complaints on social media does improve customer relationship with the company, but it also increases customers’ expectations to receive help, and makes customers more likely to speak up in the future.

That is, responding to complaints will encourage even more complaints.

“Social media is a double edge sword. Companies need to watch out and weigh the plus side against the down side for marketing and service interventions,” said researcher Sunder Kekre from Carnegie Mellon University.

Along with Liye Ma of University of Maryland and Baohong Sun of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, Kekre examined the history of compliments and complaints by several hundred consumers of a major telecommunications services provider made on Twitter and the company’s responses.

“People complain on Twitter not just to vent their frustration. They do that also in the hope of getting the company’s attention. Once they know the company is paying attention, they are more ready to complain the next time around,” explained Ma.

Despite this side effect, addressing complaints is still worthwhile.

The improved customer relationship from such effort outweighs the downside of encouraging more complaints, the researchers observed.