Author: Megan Rose Dickey

Twitter is holding off on fixing verification policy to focus on election integrity

Twitter is pausing its work on overhauling its verification process, which provides a blue checkmark to public figures, in favor of election integrity, Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour tweeted today. That’s because, as we enter another election season, “updating our verification program isn’t a top priority for us right now (election integrity is),” he wrote on Twitter this afternoon.

Last November, Twitter paused its account verifications as it tried to figure out a way to address confusion around what it means to be verified. That decision came shortly after people criticized Twitter for having verified the account of Jason Keller, the person who organized the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Fast forward to today, and Twitter still verifies accounts “ad hoc when we think it serves the public conversation & is in line with our policy,” Beykpour wrote. “But this has led to frustration b/c our process remains opaque & inconsistent with our intented [sic] pause.”

While Twitter recognizes its job isn’t done, the company is not prioritizing the work at this time — at least for the next few weeks, he said. In an email addressed to Twitter’s health leadership team last week, Beykpour said his team simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to focus on verification “without coming at the cost of other priorities and distracting the team.”

The highest priority, Beykpour said, is election integrity. Specifically, Twitter’s team will be looking at the product “with a specific lens towards the upcoming elections and some of the ‘election integrity’ workstreams we’ve discussed.”

Once that’s done “after ~4 weeks,” he said, the product team will be in a better place to address verification.

 

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says letter about ‘toxic’ culture was a wake-up call

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel spoke a bit about some of the cultural issues at the company, going public and competition with Facebook at Recode’s annual Code Conference this evening in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Earlier today, Cheddar reported how a former Snap engineer criticized the company for a “toxic” and “sexist” culture that is not welcoming to women and people of color. In an email former Snap engineer Shannon Lubetich wrote in November, she described how Snap is not adequately promoting diversity at the company.

“The letter was a really good wake-up call for us,” Spiegel said.

Spiegel described how, in light of the letter, Snap hired external consultants to help the company figure out areas in which to improve. Snap also ran a company-wide survey and changed its promotion structure, Spiegel said. He later added that he’s “proud” of the progress Snap has made over the last few months.

In the letter, Lubetich also described a scenario in which scantily clad women, hired by Snap, dressed up in deer costumes.

“People are going to make mistakes and I was frustrated, to say the least, to see people dressed up as deer at a holiday party,” Spiegel said.

In addition to cultural issues, Snap has also struggled on the public market. Snap’s Q1 2018 earnings, for example, showed lackluster user growth numbers amid a rocky redesign and increased competition from Facebook. Still, Spiegel said the redesign was the right way to go, as was going public.

“I think this was the logical step forward in being an independent company,” Spiegel said about going public.

Meanwhile, Snap is constantly fending off competition from Facebook. Spiegel initially joked, “I think it bothers my wife more than it bothers me.”

But in all seriousness, Spiegel said Snap’s values of deepening relationships with the people closest to you is “really hard to copy.” Facebook, on the other hand, is more about having people compete online for attention, Spiegel said.

He also joked, in light of Cambridge Analytica scandal, that Snap would “appreciate it if [Facebook] copied our data protection practices as well.”

Match stock is tanking in light of Facebook’s dating play

On the heels of Facebook announcing its intent to add a dating element to its platform, dating company Match’s stock is suffering. Match is the brand behind dating services like Tinder, Match, OK Cupid and Plenty of Fish.

At the time of publication, Match’s stock was trading down about 22 percent.

Facebook’s entrance in this space brings it into direct competition with Match’s bread and butter. According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the dating functionality will be a standalone feature that will focus on legitimate long-term relationships, rather than just hookups.

Though, Match Group CEO Mandy Gisnberg says she is flattered by Facebook’s entrance into its space.

“We’re flattered that Facebook is coming into our space – and sees the global opportunity that we do – as Tinder continues to skyrocket,” Ginsberg said in a statement to TechCrunch. “We’re surprised at the timing given the amount of personal and sensitive data that comes with this territory. Regardless, we’re going to continue to delight our users through product innovation and relentless focus on relationship success. We understand this category better than anyone. Facebook’s entry will only be invigorating to all of us.”

Meanwhile, the parent company of IAC threw some shade at Facebook. In statement provided to TechCrunch, IAC CEO Joey Levin said,

Come on in. The water’s warm. Their product could be great for US/Russia relationships.

Bumble is another competitor that may be affected by Facebook’s new service, but the company says it’s “thrilled” about today’s news.

“Our executive team has already reached out to Facebook to explore ways to collaborate,” a Bumble spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Perhaps Bumble and Facebook can join forces to make the connecting space even more safe and empowering.”

Facebook drops fundraising fees for personal causes

Despite Facebook being under fire for everything pertaining to Cambridge Analytica, the company still hopes to be able to do some good. Today, Facebook is dropping its platform fees pertaining to fundraisers for personal causes.

That means Facebook is getting rid of the 4.3 percent platform fee in the u.S. and the 6.2 percent fee in Canada. Those fees were charged to cover a review process for and vetting for each fundraiser. Now, Facebook says it will absorb the costs associated with those safety and protection measures.

“We’re continuously learning and this was something we wanted to do to help people maximize the benefits,” Facebook Head of Product for Social Good Asha Sharma told me over the phone.

To be clear, there will, however, still be fees for payment processing and taxes. In the U.S. and Canada, payment processing fees are 2.6 percent plus $0.30.Facebook is also unveiling two new features for its fundraising tool.

The first is the ability for people to match donations for non-profit fundraisers and the second is the expansion of categories for personal causes. Now, in addition to raising money for things like vet bills, personal emergencies and whatnot, people can also raise money for travel (community trips or for medical needs), family-related causes (adoption, etc), religious events and volunteer supplies.

 

Facebook isn’t yet sharing specific dollar amounts raised pertaining to fundraisers, but says its tool has helped over 750,000 non-profits collect donations. All Sharma would say about personal causes is that “we’re seeing activity across all of these categories, which is why we have them.”

Twitter will publicize rules around abuse to test if behavior changes

As part of Twitter’s efforts to rid its platform of abuse and hate, the company is teaming up with researchers Susan Benesch, a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and J. Nathan Matias, a post-doc research associate at Princeton University, to study online abuse. Today, Twitter is going to start testing an idea that if it shows people its rules, behavior will improve.

“In an experiment starting today, Twitter is publicizing its rules, to test whether this improves civility,” Benesch and Matias wrote on Medium. “We proposed this idea to Twitter and designed an experiment to evaluate it.”

The idea is that by showing people the rules, their behavior will improve on the platform. The researchers point to evidence of when institutions clearly publish rules, people are more likely to follow them.

The researchers assure the privacy of Twitter users will be protected. For example, Twitter will only provide anonymized, aggregated information.

“Since we will not receive identifying information on any individual person or Twitter account, we cannot and will not mention anyone or their Tweets in our publications,” the researchers wrote.

Last month, Twitter began soliciting proposals from the public to help the social network capture, measure and evaluate healthy interactions on the platform. This was part of Twitter’s commitment “to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet.

It’s not clear how widespread the test will be. I’ve reached out to Twitter and will update this story if I learn more, but it seems that the company won’t be releasing specifics.

In the meantime, holler at me (megan@techcrunch.com) if these rules show up for you.

Sarah Lacy launches Chairman Mom, a social platform for working mothers

Sarah Lacy, founder of media site Pando, has unveiled her newest company, Chairman Mom. The subscription-based startup aims to provide resources to working mothers, and ultimately set them up to succeed in all areas of their lives.

“One of the things that’s actually pretty distinct for us is we focus really on the woman, not the children,” Lacy told TechCrunch. “There’s a lot of sites where you can get a lot of answers of what’s a great pre-school or where’s a restaurant that is kid-friendly. and a lot of things are always very kid-centric. We’re really woman centric.”

At launch, Chairman Mom is focused on one key functionality: a question and answer platform. Every day, Chairman Mom’s team of three curates two questions — one about life and one about work — from the community to feature on the site for answers and discussion. These questions can range from “How much do you get paid?” to “What’s the best way to handle harassment at work?” to “What should I do if I think my spouse is cheating on me?”

“The goal of each thread is to get that mom the best answer,” Lacy said. “It’s really not to have an open discussion board of everyone’s views on that topic.”

What makes Chairman Mom different from the likes of other social media sites is its emphasis on using real names while also offering anonymity. Real names are required to sign up but community members can ask and respond to questions anonymously. There is also no up-voting or direct messaging.

“We don’t have things that have created tribalism and fights on other mom networks,” Lacy said.

The goal with Chairman Mom is to rebrand what working mothers and what working motherhood represents, Lacy said. Before Lacy first became a mother, she heard horror stories about what to expect, she said. Some people, for example, told her to expect to feel like a failure at home and at work. But that’s not what it was like for her, Lacy said.

“I was shocked at the disconnect between that and what happened when I actually had kids,” Lacy said. What happened when I had kids was I became better at everything. I became more ambitious, I wrote more quickly, I was so much better as a manager. I was so much more productive. You really have this amazing ability to prioritize what’s important.”

Lacy went with the name Chairman Mom to “telegraph in charge and maternal,” she said. It was important to her, she said, for the name not to conjure up any connotations of shame around pregnancy and motherhood.

“It’s even a step beyond ‘I’m not ashamed,’ but like ‘No, this is our source of power,'” she said. “Something that just sounds so declaratively in charge but also maternal. And it’s still called the chairman of the board. And it’s this idea of we’re overthrowing a patriarchy. This is a man’s world that we’re overthrowing and we don’t have any illusion about that fact.”

Chairman Mom costs $5 per month for access to its community of honest answers to questions about working motherhood. By having people pay to access the platform, one hope is that trolls won’t pay actual money to troll, Lacy said. The platform is also free of advertisers and intends to remain that way, Lacy said.

Chairman Mom is not the only startup targeting mothers. There’s Peanut, which is a Tinder-like experience for finding other moms to hang out. There’s also Winnie, which helps parents find kid-friendly places and access other resources that may be helpful to parents.

Lacy said she recognizes Chairman Mom has competitors, but also recognizes that “it’s such a massive market no one’s building for,” she said. It’s so massive, Lacy said, that she envisions seeing “a handful of billion-dollar consumer internet companies that are geared toward women.

Chairman Mom has been in private beta for the last month or so, with “several hundred” people using it. Chairman Mom has raised a $1.4 million seed round led by Ann Miura-Ko of Floodgate Ventures and Tim Connors from PivotNorth Capital, with participation from Greylock Discovery and Precursor Ventures.

 

Twitter is now specifically focusing on increasing black, Latinx and female representation

 Twitter met or surpassed many of the diversity and inclusion goals it set for itself for 2017, the company announced today. Twitter is now 38.4 percent female, compared to 37 percent in 2016. Regarding underrepresented minorities at Twitter, representation increased from 11 percent in 2016 to 12.5 percent in 2017. Read More