Author: Catherine Shu

Indian social commerce startup GlowRoad raises $10M Series B

Indian social commerce startup GlowRoad announced today that it has raised a $10 million Series B. The round was led by CDH Investments, a Chinese investment firm, with participation from returning investor Accel Partners.

GlowRoad’s last funding, a $2 million Series A led by Accel, was announced in September 2017, a few months after it launched. The startup’s founding team includes Sonal Verma, a physician who focused on community medicine before co-founding telemedicine company HealthcareMagic in 2008. During her medical work, Verma realized that many stay-at-home mothers and housewives resell products in their neighborhoods. GlowRoad was created to help them take their businesses online by drop-shipping products.

GlowRoad screens manufacturers before adding them to its platform, then GlowRoad’s sellers decide which items to add to their stores and how to market them. The company now claims more than 100,000 resellers, 20,000 suppliers and 300,000 buyers. One of its most notable competitors is reselling platform Meesho, which has raised a total of $65.2 million from investors, including Shunwei Capital, Sequoia Capital India, RPS Ventures, Y Combinator, Venture Highway, SAIF Partners and DST Partners, according to Crunchbase.

The Internet Archive has uploaded 450,000 songs collected before Myspace’s massive data loss

Last month, it became widely known that Myspace has lost much of the user data uploaded to it before 2016, including potentially millions of music tracks from between 2003 to 2015. This is a significant loss for people who may not have used the site anymore, but took for granted that it would remain an online scrapbook of the years when Myspace was the go-to social network, including for musicians promoting their work. A new collection of MP3s hosted by the Internet Archive, however, may help some users recover lost music (and memories).

Called the MySpace Music Dragon Hoard, the collection contains 450,000 songs. While this is just a small percentage of the tracks reportedly lost (according to estimates, up to 53 million songs from 14 million artists were deleted), it contains early work from now-famous artists including Donald Glover and Katy Perry, as Twitter user @pinkpushpop discovered:

Jason Scott of the Internet Archive said on Twitter that the set was compiled by “an anonymous academic group who were studying music networks and grabbed 1.3 terabytes of mp3s to study from MySpace in roughly 2008-2010 to do so.” After learning about the data loss, they offered the collection to Scott.

While it appears that the tracks were lost during a data migration, Myspace has remained tight-lipped about the situation, leading to speculation that the loss may not have been accidental.

New Facebook tool answers the question ‘Why am I seeing this post?’

Facebook announced today that it is adding to News Feeds a feature called “Why am I seeing this post?” Similar to “Why am I seeing this ad?,” which has appeared next to advertisements since 2014, the new tool has a drop-down menu that gives users information about why that post appeared in their News Feed, along with links to personalization controls.

Meant to give users more transparency into how Facebook’s News Feed algorithm works, the update comes as the company copes with several major events that have highlighted the platform’s shortcomings, including potentially harmful ones. These include its role in enabling the dissemination of a video taken during the shooting attacks on New Zealand mosques two weeks ago, which were originally broadcast using Facebook Live; a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that accuses Facebook’s ad-targeting tool of violating the Fair Housing Act and its role in spreading misinformation and propaganda (after years of complaints and criticism, Facebook recently announced plans to downrank anti-vaccination posts and ban white nationalist content.

Facebook’s announcement says this is the first time it has “built information on how ranking works directly into the app.” Users will be able to access “Why am I seeing this post?” as a drop-down menu in the right-hand corner of posts from friends, Pages and Groups in their News Feed, which displays information about how its algorithm decided to rank the post, including:

  • Why you’re seeing a certain post in your News Feed — for example, if the post is from a friend you made, a Group you joined or a Page you followed.
  • What information generally has the largest influence over the order of posts, including: (a) how often you interact with posts from people, Pages or Groups; (b) how often you interact with a specific type of post, for example, videos, photos or links; and (c) the popularity of the posts shared by the people, Pages and Groups you follow.

The same menu will also include links to personalization options, including See First, Unfollow, News Feed Preferences and Privacy Shortcuts. The company’s blog post said that “during our research on ‘Why am I seeing this post?,’ people told us that transparency into News Feed algorithms wasn’t enough without corresponding controls.”

“Why am I seeing this ad,” a similar feature that launched in 2014, will be updated with to include more information. For example, it will tell users if an ad appeared in their News Feed because a company uploaded their contact lists, like emails or phone numbers, or if they worked with a marketing partner to place the ad.

Facebook is introducing a new ‘Tributes’ section for memorialized accounts

Facebook is rolling out a new feature for memorialized accounts that will allow people to leave messages in a Tributes section that is separate from the rest of the profile’s timeline. Depending on a memorialized account’s privacy settings, friends can currently still post on its timeline, including in the comments of posts the person made before they died. If a memorialized account has a Tributes section, however, posts made after the day it was memorialized (which prevents anyone else from logging in) will be placed there.

Some Facebook users who have designated “legacy contacts” to manage their accounts after they die were alerted to the new feature by a notification today that contained the euphemistic phrase “if your account is memorialized.”

A page on Facebook’s Help Center describes the new Tributes section “as a space on memorialized profiles where friends and family can post stories, commemorate a birthday, share memories and more.”

“Legacy contacts” will have more leeway over tribute posts than they do over the rest of the account. For example, they have the ability to decide who can see and post tributes and who can delete posts. They can also change who can see posts the deceased person is tagged in or remove the tag. If the account had timeline review turned on, the legacy contact will be able to turn it off for tribute posts. Posts made to a profile after it is memorialized will be separated into the Tributes section. The feature’s help page says “we do our best to separate tribute posts from timeline posts based on the info we’re given.”

Legacy contacts still can’t log into accounts, read private messages or remove and add friends.

Instagram confirms that a bug is causing follower counts to change

Instagram confirmed today that an issue has been causing some accounts’ follower numbers to change. Users began noticing the bug about 10 hours ago and the drastic drop in followers caused some to wonder if Instagram was culling inactive and fake accounts, as part of its fight against spam.

“We’re aware of an issue that is causing a change in account follower numbers for some people right now. We’re working to resolve this as quickly as possible,” the company said on Twitter.

The Instagram bug comes a few hours after a Twitter bug messed with the Like count on tweets, causing users to wonder if accounts were being suspended en masse or if they were just very bad at tweeting.

No, your tweets aren’t awful. Twitter’s Likes are currently borked.

If you have been experiencing issues with the Like or Retweet count on Twitter and are desperately seeking validation, here it is: yes, it’s Twitter, not you (probably). The company confirmed today that it is working on a fix for a problem with notifications that’s been messing with Like counts.

Many users around the world have reported seeing the number of Likes on their tweets fluctuate continuously, making them wonder if accounts were being suspended in mass or if Twitter was deleting them.

Twitter did not say when the issue began, but based on a careful study of Twitter search results, and not on my own desperate longing for validation from internet strangers, the issue has been going on for almost a day.

Social media content and analytics startup PressLogic raises $10M from popular Chinese selfie app Meitu

PressLogic founders Ryan Cheung and Edward Chow

PressLogic, a Hong Kong-based social media content and data analytics startup, announced today that it has raised a $10 million Series A+ round from Meitu, developer of the popular Chinese selfie app. PressLogic will use the funds to launch its new lifestyle brand GirlStyle and enter e-commerce with its proprietary algorithms, which predict what topics will trend on social media among specific groups.

The new round brings PressLogic’s total raised to $15 million. Meitu first acquired a minority stake in PressLogic last year.

After launching a data-analytics service for social media managers called MediaLens in 2016, founders Ryan Cheung and Edward Chow began creating social media publishing and marketing brands in order to show potential clients how their technology could boost audience engagement. PressLogic, their social media publishing platform, now claims a total of 8 million Facebook and Instagram followers and more than 700 million monthly content impressions across its social media profiles and websites, with about 75 percent of its visitors aged 18 to 34.

MediaLens still serves as PressLogic’s core technology, underpinning its content brands, as well as the insights it provides to partners in order to increase their social media engagement and return on investment. CEO Cheung (Chow serves as PressLogic’s CTO) told TechCrunch that MediaLens “creates a pipeline from data sourcing to content suggestion to optimization” and has an edge against its competitors because it is able to make more granular suggestions about what content is likely to be popular among specific groups based on trending topics.

With its new round of funding, PressLogic will launch GirlStyle, a lifestyle and fashion-based social network targeted to young women, as an app and website in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Korea and Malaysia by the end of this year. In terms of e-commerce, Cheung says the company will start by focusing on skincare and cosmetics by leveraging data from its online traffic and readers.

PressLogic hasn’t revealed if Meitu’s photo imaging technology will be integrated into its platform, but Cheung says it would like to extend MediaLens’ analytics to images, too, as data from photos and videos shared on social media is potentially valuable, but still difficult to transform into the kind of insights that help predict which content will go viral next.

Progressive advocacy groups call on the FTC to ‘make Facebook safe for democracy’

A team of progressive advocacy groups, including MoveOn and Demand Progress, are asking the Federal Trade Commission to “make Facebook safe for democracy.” According to Axios, the campaign, called Freedom From Facebook, is set to launch a six-figure ad campaign on Monday that will run on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, among other platforms.

The other advocacy groups behind the campaign are Citizens Against Monopoly, Content Creators Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, Mpower Change, Open Markets Institute and SumOfUs. Together they are calling on the FTC to “break up Facebook’s monopoly” by forcing it to spin-off Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger into separate, competing companies. They also want the FTC to require interoperability so users can communicate across competing social networks and strengthen privacy regulations.

Freedom From Facebook’s site also includes an online petition and privacy guide that links to FB Purity and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger, browser extensions that help users streamline their Facebook ad preferences and block online trackers, respectively.

The FTC recently gained a new chairman after President Donald Trump’s pick for the position Joseph Simons was sworn in early this month, along with four new commissioners also nominated by Trump. Simons is an antitrust lawyer who has represented large tech firms like Microsoft and Sony. The FTC is currently investigating whether or not Facebook’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica violated a previous legal agreement it had with the commission, but many people are wondering if it and other federal agencies are capable of regulating tech companies, especially after many lawmakers seemed confused about how social media works during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearing last month.

Despite its data privacy and regulatory issues, Facebook is still doing well from a financial perspective. Its first-quarter earnings report showed strong user growth and revenue above Wall Street’s expectations.

TechCrunch has contacted Freedom From Facebook and Facebook for comment.

Interfaith social network Pray.com raises $14M Series A to add new features to its mobile app

Pray.com, an interfaith social networking app for members of religious communities, has raised a $14 million Series A led by TPG Growth. Previous investors Science Inc. and Greylock Partners also returned for the round, which brings the Santa Monica-based startup’s total funding, including a seed round announced last June, to $16 million. Founded in 2016, […]