Patreon sells product curation site Kit to Geniuslink – gpgmail


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.

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. 


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


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.

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.


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Facebook tightens policies around self-harm and suicide – gpgmail


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. 


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Spotify users can now share music and podcasts to Snapchat – gpgmail


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.


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Freeda raises another $16 million for its media brand for women – gpgmail


Italian startup Freeda Media has raised a $16 million Series B round. Existing investor Alven is leading the round, with Endeavor Catalyst, UniCredit and others also participating. UniCredit is also granting the company a debt facility of $3 million.

The company has managed to attract millions of followers on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms. It runs short videos, quick interviews and articles. In other words, Freeda wants to create a social version of Elle, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan or Man Repeller.

Freeda is currently live in Italy, Spain and South America. The company currently has 5 million women engaging with their content every day. It reaches 80% of Italian and Spanish women aged 18-34 every month.

On Instagram in particular, the startup says that it is the first female media brand in the world with 100 million interactions in 2019 alone:

With today’s founding round, the goal is clearly on international expansion. The startup is opening an office in London and plans to launch in the U.K. and other English-speaking markets. There are currently 160 people working for Freeda.

The company is still mostly focused on branded content to monetize its audience. But Freeda wants to expand beyond this revenue stream with a new direct-to-consumer brand. You can expect to be able to buy Freeda-branded products starting in 2020.


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NY attorney general will lead antitrust investigation into Facebook – gpgmail


New York Attorney General Letitia James announced this morning that she’s leading an investigation into Facebook over antitrust issues — in other words, whether Facebook used its social media dominance to engage in anti-competitive behavior.

In a statement, James said:

Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers. I am proud to be leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in investigating whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk. We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.

According to the announcement, that coalition includes the attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia.

Facebook already announced in June that it was facing an antitrust investigation from the Federal Trade Commission (separate from the privacy-related settlement with the FTC that it announced on the same day). It seems that most of the tech giants are facing antitrust scrutiny from the FTC and Department of Justice.

“People have multiple choices for every one of the services we provide,” Facebook’s vice president of state and local policy Will Castleberry said in a statement after the new investigation was announced. “We understand that if we stop innovating, people can easily leave our platform. This underscores the competition we face, not only in the US but around the globe. We will of course work constructively with state attorneys general and we welcome a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which we operate.”


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Facebook Dating comes to the US – gpgmail


The Daily Crunch is gpgmail’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Facebook Dating launches in the US, adds Instagram integration

The integration means users will be able to add their Instagram accounts to their dating profiles and add Instagram followers to their “Secret Crush” lists.

If you’re wondering how this stacks up against other dating apps, the Secret Crush feature seems particularly interesting: While you won’t see your Facebook friends among your regular dating matches, you can list them as a crush that will only be revealed if the feeling is mutual.

2. Sonos gets portable

At six pounds, the Sonos Move is best positioned as augmenting a home setup. It’s a compelling device for barbecuing in the backyard, or taking out to the garage.

3. Federal judge rules that the ‘terrorist watchlist’ database violates US citizens’ rights

A federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush has ruled that the “terrorist watchlist” database compiled by federal agencies violates the rights of American citizens who are on it.

4. Google launches an open-source version of its differential privacy library

That means developers will be able to take this library and build their own tools that can work with aggregate data, without revealing personally identifiable information either inside or outside their companies.

5. A huge database of Facebook users’ phone numbers found online

The exposed server contained more than 419 million records over several databases on users across geographies, including 133 million records on users based in the United States.

6. Why Walmart’s Flipkart is betting heavily on Hindi

Flipkart’s major bet on Hindi — a language spoken by more than 500 million people in India — illustrates a growing push from local and international companies as they adapt their services and business models to go beyond India’s urban areas. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

7. Ashton Kutcher, Ann Miura-Ko and Mamoon Hamid are coming to Disrupt!

Specifically: They’re going to be judging the finals at the Startup Battlefield, hosted by yours truly.


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Facebook’s lead EU regulator is asking questions about its latest security fail – gpgmail


Facebook’s lead data protection regulator in Europe has confirmed it’s put questions to the company about a major security breach that we reported on yesterday.

“The DPC became aware of this issue through the recent media coverage and we immediately made contact with Facebook and we have asked them a series of questions. We are awaiting Facebook’s responses to those questions,” a spokeswoman for the Irish Data Protection Commission told us.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for a response.

As we reported earlier, a security research discovered an unsecured database of hundreds of millions of phone numbers linked to Facebook accounts.

The exposed server contained more than 419 million records over several databases on Facebook users from multiple countries, including 18 million records of users in the U.K.

We were able to verify a number of records in the database — including UK Facebook users’ data.

The presence of Europeans’ data in the scraped stash makes he breach a clear matter of interest to the region’s data watchdogs.

Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) imposes stiff penalties for compliance failures such as security breaches — with fines that can scale as high as 4% of a company’s annual turnover.

Ireland’s DPC is Facebook’s lead data protection regulator in Europe under GDPR’s one-stop shop mechanism — meaning it leads on cross-border actions, though other concerned DPAs can contribute to cases and may also chip in views on any formal outcomes that result.

The UK’s data protection watchdog, the ICO, told us it is aware of the Facebook security incident.

“We are in contact with the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), as they are the lead supervisory authority for Facebook Ireland Limited. The ICO will continue to liaise with the IDPC to establish the details of the incident and to determine if UK residents have been affected,” an ICO spokeswoman also told us.

It’s not yet clear whether the Irish DPC will open a formal investigation of the incident.

It does already have a large number of open investigations on its desk into Facebook and Facebook-owned businesses since GDPR’s one-stop mechanism came into force — including one into a major token security breach last year, and many, many more.

In the latest breach instance, it’s not clear exactly when Facebook users phone numbers were scraped from the platform.

In a response yesterday Facebook said the data-set is “old”, adding that it “appears to have information obtained before we made changes last year to remove people’s ability to find others using their phone numbers”.

If that’s correct, the data breach is likely to pre-date April 2018 — which was when Facebook announced it was making changes to its account search and recovery feature, after finding it had been abused by what it dubbed “malicious actors”.

“Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way,” Facebook said at the time.

It would also therefore pre-date GDPR coming into force, in May 2018, so would likely fall under earlier EU data protection laws — which carry less stringent penalties.


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Facebook is making its own deepfakes and offering prizes for detecting them – gpgmail


Image and video manipulation powered by deep learning, or so-called “deepfakes,” represent a strange and horrifying facet of a promising new field. If we’re going to crack down on these creepy creations, we’ll need to fight fire with fire; Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are banding together to help make machine learning capable of detecting deepfakes — and they want you to help.

Though the phenomenon is still new, we are nevertheless in an arms race where the methods of detection vie with the methods of creation. Ever more convincing fakes appear regularly, and though while they are frequently benign, the possibility of having your face flawlessly grafted into a compromising position is very much there — and many a celebrity has already had it done to them.

Facebook, as part of a coalition with Microsoft, the Partnership for AI, and several universities including Oxford, Berkeley, and MIT, is working to empower the side of good with better detection techniques.

“The most interesting advances in AI have happened when there’s a clear benchmark on a dataset to write papers against,” said Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer in a media call yesterday. The dataset for object recognition might be millions of images of ordinary objects, while the dataset for voice transcription would be hours of different kinds of speech. But there’s no such set for deepfakes.

We talked about this challenge at our Robotics and AI event earlier this year in what I thought was a very interesting discussion:

Fortunately Facebook is planning on dedicating around $10 million in resources to make this Deepfake Detection Challenge happen.

“Creation of these datasets can be challenging, because you want to make sure that everyone participating in it is clear and gives consent so they aren’t surprised by the usage of it,” Schroepfer continued. And since most deepfakes are made without any consent whatsoever, they’re not really permissible for usage in an academic context.

So Facebook and its partners are making the deepfake content out of whole cloth, he said. “You want a dataset of source video, and then a dataset of personalities you can map onto that. Then we’re spending engineering time implementing the latest most advanced deepfake techniques to generate altered videos as part of the dataset.”

And while you’re entirely justified in wondering, no, they aren’t using Facebook data to do this. They’ve got paid actors.

This dataset will be provided to interested parties, who will be able to build solutions and test them, putting the results on a leaderboard. At some point there will be cash prizes given out, though the details are a ways off. With luck this will spur serious competition among academics and researchers.

“We need the full involvement of the research community in an open environment to develop methods and systems that can detect and mitigate the ill-effects of manipulated multimedia,” said the University of Maryland’s Rama Chellappa in a news release. “By making available a large corpus of genuine and manipulated media, the proposed challenge will excite and enable the research community to collectively address this looming crisis.​”

Initial tests of the dataset are planned for the International Conference on Computer Vision in October, with the full launch happening at NeurIPS in December.


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Facebook Dating launches in the U.S., adds Instagram integration – gpgmail


Are Americans ready to trust Facebook with their dating life? Barely more than a month has passed since the U.S. Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook a record $5 billion over its privacy lapses, and imposed a modified corporate structure to hold the company more accountable for its decisions over user privacy. In the wake of this historic action, Facebook’s brand-new dating product is today launching to all in the U.S., promising to leverage the company’s deep insight into people’s personal data to deliver better matches than rival dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Match and others.

With its U.S. arrival, Facebook Dating will now also allow users to integrate their Instagram posts in their dating profile and add their Instagram followers to their “Secret Crush” list, in addition to Facebook friends.

By year-end, Facebook Dating users will be able to select which Facebook or Instagram Stories they want to add to their dating profile.

FB and IG Stories

Trusting Facebook to find your match

Though the U.S. is the 20th market for Facebook Dating, it’s one of the most important for the product, which was first announced at the company’s F8 developer conference last year.

The new service represents a significant step toward making Facebook a tool for connecting with people who aren’t just friends or family.

This is an area where the company is now heavily invested. The Facebook Groups product, used by a billion people on a monthly basis, connects users by similar interests or by geographic location, as with its neighborhood groups. The company also launched Facebook at Work a few years ago to allow businesses to build their own networks on top of Facebook infrastructure.

Arguably, none of these efforts require as much trust as opening up your Facebook data — to a company known for its mishandling — in the hopes of finding love.

Entry Points 2 DF

Facebook, well aware of the potential privacy pitfalls in such a product, has taken a number of steps to lock down the Facebook Dating experience so you’re not unwittingly outed to family or friends, or to work colleagues and other professional acquaintances. (Or, you know, to your spouse or significant other.)

For starters, the people you’re shown on Facebook Dating will not include your Facebook Friends. You can also opt to have Facebook Dating only show you those people where you don’t have any friends in common, for another layer of protection. And you can pre-emptively block people from seeing your profile on Facebook Dating — which may work well as a way to ensure an ex’s profile never, ever comes up and to make sure they never see yours.

And of course, Dating is an opt-in experience.

Privacy DF

Your profile will never be visible to friends anywhere or to any people not on Facebook Dating, and it won’t appear in the News Feed. With the newly added Instagram integration, only your photos will be shown — not your Instagram handle.

However, there is still a way to add a Facebook friend as a “Secret Crush,” which will only be revealed if the interest is mutual. People are also limited to nine “crushes,” to prevent abuse of the feature. This now extends to Instagram followers, too, with the U.S. launch.

Profile Creation 1 DF

The product, which lives within the main Facebook app, also allows you to connect with people attending the same events or who participate in the same groups — though this is off by default and can be enabled on a one-by-one basis.

Beyond that, however, Facebook Dating will present you with a set of profiles based on other factors — mutual friends (if enabled), mutual groups (if enabled), mutual schools and other, unknown factors.

Profile Creation DF

This is where things get tricky.

Facebook, of course, has been known to be eerily accurate with its friend recommendations — so much so that some people believed it had to have been spying on them. (As it turned out, Facebook did know more about who you were connecting with than people had realized.)

In terms of Facebook Dating’s recommendations, it’s unclear what “other” data, specifically, Facebook will be using.

Officially, Facebook says that match suggestions are based on “your preferences, interests, and other things you do on Facebook.”

Asked how exactly Facebook will rank its profile suggestions, Nathan Sharp, the Product Lead for Facebook Dating, said he can’t discuss the details of the system.

What I can say is that, in terms of privacy, none of the people you would see or encounter would be divulging any sort of information,” he explains. “So, if you and Taylor, for example, had gone to the same college, but you’d never posted that on your dating profile, you may be up-ranked. But Taylor would never see what college you went to and you would never see what college Taylor went to,” says Sharp. 

Sharp notes that people may discover their mutualities — like sharing the same alma mater, for instance — naturally, through conversations had within Facebook Dating chat.

EventsandGroups multiple 1

Though it’s not unusual for a dating app maker to be tight-lipped about its secret sauce, the amount of data Facebook has to play with here is a competitive advantage and possibly a cause for concern as users are in control of what profile data Facebook is using behind-the-scenes.

On Tinder, you may write that you “love hiking,” but Facebook would know if you actually participated in hiking-related groups or events, and how often. It may know a lot more, too — like your check-ins to hiking trails, if there are mountains in your photos, if you posted updates with the keyword “hiking,” if you “Liked” Facebook Pages about hiking, etc. But Facebook won’t confirm if this sort of data is used or how.

If people can look past the uncertainty around Facebook’s use of their personal data — and that’s a huge unknown for the U.S. market — the product itself has several advantages.

Facebook Dating’s larger goal is to make matchmaking feel personal again. It aims to remind people there’s a real person behind these profiles. That dating is not meant to be a game. This could be a big differentiator from a market tired of but still committed to using dating apps.

The issue is that today’s dating apps aren’t incentivized to help people make long-lasting connections — after all, people who find a relationship abandon their dating service. That’s bad for the apps’ bottom line. What better, then, but to double down on the “single lifestyle,” as Tinder is now doing, to ensure users stick around?

Facebook, on the other hand, isn’t exactly worried about user churn. With the social network’s 2.4 billion monthly users, it has the bandwidth to make dating an additive feature. Its sheer numbers also mean the potential for a far larger pool of daters, including those who wouldn’t otherwise think to join a dating app.

Another advantage is that Facebook is a company that knows how to build a compelling user experience. It shines in the details on Facebook Dating — like how easily it flows you into a gender identification screen at setup, or how it gives you a way to quickly share your live location for first-date safety with a trusted friend on Messenger .

It’s cracking down on the sending of unsolicited photos and porn-bot spam that plague dating apps, by limiting chats to text and GIFs only. That means no links, photos, payments or videos can be shared in messages.

And when Story integration goes live by year-end, checking out daters’ less-polished updates may become a new favorite activity.

Gender Identity Flow

Finally, because its raison d’être is not (for now at least) direct monetization of core dating features — like messaging or returning to a profile you accidentally swiped past — Facebook can create a free product where you’re not limited by the app’s need to squeeze you for dollars.

PauseMatch SecondLook DFThat said, the product can’t help but borrow from Tinder, with its set of rounded like/dislike buttons (why is there never a maybe?), photo-centric profiles that reward the genetically blessed, the integrated private chat and now Instagram integration, too.

Instagram Posts

In addition to the U.S., Facebook Dating is live already in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, Uruguay and Vietnam. It will be in Europe by early 2020. 

The company won’t say how many users are on the Dating product so far, but claims it’s “doing well.”

Facebook Dating is rolling out to users 18 and over in the U.S. starting today.


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