Category Archives: FaceBook

Study ties Facebook engagement to attacks on refugees

A study of circumstances and demographics attendant on attacks against refugees and immigrants in Germany has shown that Facebook use appears to be deeply linked with the frequency of violent acts. Far from being mere trolling or isolated expressions of controversial political opinions, spikes in anti-refugee posts were predictive of violent crimes against those groups.

The study was conducted by Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz of the University of Warwick. Their theory was that if country-wide waves of “right wing anti-refugee sentiment” result in subsequent waves of actual crime, these waves would travel the way any others do, via TV, word of mouth, radio and, of course, social media.

Now, if the anti-refugee rhetoric spreads via social media, then we can expect more crimes to occur in areas where there is more social media use, right? And specifically, areas where there is more activity among anti-refugee groups would see the most.

To test this theory, Müller and Schwarz used activity on a pair of major Facebook pages in Germany to measure social media use in general and specific to right-wing groups. For right-wing activity they looked at the page of the “Alternative for Germany” party, the most popular anti-immigration political faction in the country and one that does not attempt to control the conduct on its threads. As a measure of overall Facebook use, they used Nutella’s popular public German page.

With hundreds of thousands of posts and comments broken down by area, the researchers were able to identify overall patterns of social media use, and then isolate anti-refugee sentiment within that. Their findings are unambiguous:

Using these measures, we find that anti-refugee hate crimes increase disproportionally in areas with higher Facebook usage during periods of high anti-refugee sentiment online. This effect is especially pronounced for violent incidents against refugees, such as arson and assault. Taken at face value, this suggests a role for social media in the transmission of Germany-wide anti-refugee sentiment.

A quick estimate on their part suggests that the social media activity may have increased attacks by 13 percent or so — not a number to be quoted as definitive, but rather an indicator that we are not quibbling over half a percent here and there but meaningful numbers.

But the researchers are also careful both to carefully define the scope of those findings:

We do not claim that social media itself causes crimes against refugees out of thin air. In fact, hate crimes are likely to have many fundamental drivers; local differences in xenophobic ideology or a higher salience of immigrants are only two obvious examples. Rather, our argument is that social media can act as a propagating mechanism for the flare-up of hateful sentiments. Taken together, the evidence we present suggests that quasi-random shifts in the local population’s exposure to such sentiments on social media can magnify their effect on refugee attacks.

…and to account for the many confounding variables that may invisibly affect the data.

Correlation versus causation

No doubt many readers will be skeptical of any study like this one; after all, these are very complex issues with many moving parts, and correlations may appear between things regardless of whether those things directly cause or effect one another. Fortunately, the researchers foresaw this objection and were circumspect in their delineation of the link between social media use and attacks.

There are a handful of prominent possible alternative explanations, which the paper deals with in various ways.

First is the possibility that attacks are just more likely in areas where there is heavier social media use. This was my first thought: where are conflicts likely to occur? In places with dense and diverse populations, which seem likely to also have more internet and social media use.

This is dispatched in several ways. In the first place, the study looks at changes in violence levels within an area, not across the whole of Germany. In other words, the pattern of anti-immigrant posts preceding anti-immigrant violence is seen whether it takes place in a smaller town with low levels of social media engagement, or in larger cities where Facebook use is much more frequent.

Next, the Nutella control group provides a measure of social media activity independent of political issues — so patterns of use for a broad swath of users associated with seasons, weekly rhythms, holidays and so on can be identified down to the level of the county. When a population deviates from that pattern, you can be reasonably sure that something about that population is driving that deviation.

Something they couldn’t exactly control but is nonetheless useful is seeing how various internet and Facebook outages affect the patterns. It turns out that internet disruptions completely eliminate the increases in violence normally seen during a country-wide wave of anti-immigrant sentiment. Furthermore, they write, “the effect of refugee posts on hate crimes essentially vanishes in weeks of major Facebook outages.”

Spikes in activity expressing negative feelings toward other frequently targeted groups, for instance Jews, were not associated with increases in refugee-related violence, so it isn’t just that people lash out when they are feeling especially hateful.

Lastly, the researchers showed that other coverage of refugee-related issues, like that by major news outlets, drives local engagement in the form of protests, but does not seem to predict violent acts.

As the researchers say, Facebook isn’t just plain causing violence to happen. The places where it happens are often historically right-wing places that have had higher incidence of violence and hate crimes in the past. But it seems inescapable that Facebook is nevertheless an important way that refugee-related hatred and vitriol in particular is spread, as evidenced by the lack of increases in violence when the social network is unavailable.

The connection seems clear: Hateful content spreads via Facebook and where it is engaged with the most, there you find the most violence. On its face this doesn’t seem like something Facebook can moderate away — it’s a natural consequence of how the fundamental social media ecosystem pioneered by Facebook works. Having it repeatedly and systematically connected with increases in violence isn’t a good look.

Say “Aloha”: A closer look at Facebook’s voice ambitions

Facebook has been a bit slow to adopt the voice computing revolution. It has no voice assistant, its smart speaker is still in development, and some apps like Instagram aren’t full equipped for audio communication. But much of that is set to change judging by experiments discovered in Facebook’s code, plus new patent filings.

Developing voice functionality could give people more ways to use Facebook in their home or on the go. Its forthcoming Portal smart speaker is reportedly designed for easy video chatting with distant family, including seniors and kids that might have trouble with phones. Improved transcription and speech-to-text-to-speech features could connect Messenger users across input mediums and keep them on the chat app rather than straying back to SMS.

But Facebook’s voice could be drowned out by the din of the crowd if it doesn’t get moving soon. All the major mobile hardware and operating system makers now have their own voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Samsung Bixby, as well as their own smart speakers. In Q2 2018, Canalys estimates that Google shipped 5.4 million Homes, and Amazon shipped 4.1 million Echoes. Apple’s HomePod is off to a slow start with less than 6 percent of the market, behind Alibaba’s smart speaker according to Strategy Analytics. Facebook’s spotty record around privacy might deflect potential customers to its competitors.

Given Facebook is late to the game, it will need to arrive with powerful utility that solves real problems. Here’s a look at Facebook’s newest developments in the voice space, and how its past experiments lay the groundwork for its next big push.

Aloha Voice

Facebook is developing its own speech recognition feature under the name Aloha for both the Facebook and Messenger apps, as well as external hardware — likely the video chat smart speaker it’s developing. Code inside the Facebook and Messenger Android apps dug up by frequent TechCrunch tipster and mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong gives the first look at a prototype for the Aloha user interface.

Labeled “Aloha Voice Testing”, as a user speaks while in a message thread, a horizontal blue bar expands and contracts to visualize the volume of speech while recognizing and transcribing into text. The code describes the feature as having connections with external WiFi or Bluetooth devices. It’s possible that the software will run on both Facebook’s hardware and software, similar to Google Assistant that runs both on phones and Google Home speakers.

Facebook declined to comment on the video, with its spokesperson Ha Thai telling me “We test stuff all the time – nothing to share today but my team will be in touch in a few weeks about hardware news coming from the AR/VR org.” It unclear if that hardware news will focus on voice and Aloha or portal, or if it’s merely related to Facebook’s Oculus Connect 5 conference on September 25th.

A source previously told me that years ago, Facebook was interested in developing its own speech recognition software designed specifically to accurately transcribe how friends talk to each other. These speech patterns are often more casual, colloquial, rapid, and full of slang than the way we formally address computerized assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

Wong also found the Aloha logo buried in Facebook’s code, which features volcano imagery. I can confirm that I’ve seen a Facebook Aloha Setup chatbot with a similar logo on the phones of Facebook employees.

If Facebook can figure this out, it could offer its own transcription features in Messenger and elsewhere on the site so users could communicate across mediums. It could potentially let you dictate comments or messages to friends while you have your hands full or can’t look at your screen. The recipient could then read the text instead of having to listen to it like a voice message. The feature could also be used to power voice navigation of Facebook’s apps for better hands-free usage.

Speaker And Camera Patents

Facebook awarded patent for speaker

Facebook’s video chat smart speaker was reportedly codenamed Aloha originally but later renamed Portal, Alex Heath of Business Insider and now Cheddar first reported in August 2017. The $499 competitor to the Amazon Echo Show was initially set to launch at Facebook’s F8 in May, but Bloomberg reported it was pushed back amid concerns that it would exacerbate the privacy scandal ignited by Cambridge Analytica.

A new patent filing reveals Facebook was considering building a smart speaker as early as December 26th, 2016 when it filed a patent for a cube-shaped device. The patent diagrams an “ornamental design for a speaker device” invented by Baback Elmieh, Alexandre Jais, and John Proksch-Whaley. Facebook had acquired Elmieh’s startup Nascent Objects in September of that year and he’s now a technical project lead at Facebook’s secretive Building 8 hardware lab.

The startup had been building modular hardware, and earlier this year he was awarded patents for work at Facebook on several modular cameras. The speaker and camera technology Facebook has been developing could potentially evolve into what’s in its video chat speaker.

The fact that Facebook has been exploring speaker technology for so long and that the lead on these patents is still running a secret project in Building 8 strengthens the case that Facebook has big plans for the voice space.

Patents awarded to Facebook show designs for a camera (left) and video camera (right)

Instagram Voice Messaging

And finally, Instagram is getting deeper into the voice game too. A screenshot generated from the code of Instagram’s Android app by Wong reveals the development of a  voice clip messaging feature heading to Instagram Direct. This would allow you to speak into Instagram and send the audio clips similar to a walkie-talkie, or the voice messaging feature Facebook Messenger added back in 2013.

You can see the voice button in the message composer at the bottom of the screen, and the code explains that to “Voice message, press and hold to record”. The prototype follows the recent launch of video chat in Instagram Direct, another feature TechCrunch broke the news on thanks to Wong’s research. An Instagram spokesperson declined to comment, as is typical when features are spotted in its code but aren’t publicly testing yet, saying “unfortunately nothing more to share on this right now.”

The Long Road To Voicebook

Facebook has long tinkered in the voice space. In 2015, it acquired a natural language processing startup Wit.ai that ran a developer platform for building speech interfaces, though it later rolled Wit.ai into Messenger’s platform team to focus on chatbots. Facebook also began testing automatically transcribing Messenger voice clips into text in 2015 in what was likely the groundwork for the Aloha feature seen above. The company also revealed its M personal assistant that could accomplish tasks for users, but it was only rolled out to a very limited user base and later turned off.

The next year, Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus claimed at TechCrunch Disrupt that voice “is not something we’re actively working on right now,” but added that “at some point it’s pretty obvious that as we develop more and more capabilities and interactions inside of Messenger, we’ll start working on voice exchanges and interfaces.” However, a source had told me Facebook’s secretive Language Technology Group was already exploring voice opportunities. Facebook also began testing its Live Audio feature for users who want to just broadcast sound and not video.

By 2017, Facebook was offering automatic captioning for Pages’ videos, and was developing a voice search feature. And this year, Facebook began trying voice clips as status updates and Stories for users around the world who might have trouble typing in their native tongue. But executives haven’t spoken much about the voice initiatives.

The most detailed comments we have come from Facebook’s head of design Luke Woods at TechCrunch Disrupt 2017 where he described voice search saying it was, “very promising. There are lots of exciting things happening…. I love to be able to talk to the car to navigate to a particular place. That’s one of many potential use cases.” It’s also one that voice transcription could aid.

It’s still unclear exactly what Facebook’s Aloha will become. It could be a defacto operating system or voice interface and transcription feature for Facebook’s smart speaker and apps. It could become a more full-fledged voice assistant like M but with audio. Or perhaps it could become Facebook’s bridge to other voice ecosystems, serving as Facebook’s Alexa Skill or Google Assistant Action.

When I asked Woods “How would Facebook on Alexa work?”, he said with a smile “That’s a very interesting question! No comment.”

Facebook assigns you a fake news flagging trustworthiness score

A new way to attack Facebook is to fraudulently report a news story as false in hopes of reducing its visibility, either because someone wants to censor it or just doesn’t agree with it. Sometimes known as “brigading”, a concerted effort by trolls to flag a piece of content can reduce its visibility. Facebook now sends stories reported as false to third-party fact checkers, and these purposefully inaccurate reports can clog the already-overcrowded queues that fact checkers struggle to worth through.

That’s why Facebook gives users a trustworthiness score ranging from 0 to1 dependon the reliability of their flags of false news, the Washington Post reports. If they flag something as false news but fact checkers verify it as true, that could hurt their score and reduce how heavily Facebook factors in their future flagging. If users consistently report false news that’s indeed proven to be false, their score improves and Facebook will trust their future flagging more.

Facebook’s News Feed product manager Tessa Lyons confirmed the scoring system exists. There’s currently no way to see your own or someone else’s trustworthiness score. And other signals are used to compute the score as well, though Facebook won’t reveal them for fear of trolls gaming the system.

Friend Ranking Scores

This isn’t the only way Facebook ranks users, though. It assigns you a shifting score of affinity towards each of your friends that determines how frequently you see them in the News Feed. This “friend ranking” score is essentially a measure of graph distance from you to someone else.

If you like a ton of someone’s posts, get tagged in photos with them, search for them, view their profile, communicate with them, have lots of mutual friends, are in the same Groups, and have similar biographical characteristics like location and age, your score towards them is lower and you’ll see more of them in feed. However, they have a different score for you depending on their behavior, so constantly viewing someone else’s profile won’t make you show up in their feed more if they don’t reciprocate the interest.

I first reported on these friend scores almost exactly seven years ago, and you can still view them for yourself using this browser bookmarklet built by Jeremy Keeshin. Visit this site, drag the “Facebook Friends Rankings” link into your desktop browser’s bookmark bar, open Facebook while logged in, and tap the bookmarklet to reveal the Friend Ranking scores of your friends. It snoops the Facebook JavaScript to pull out the scores. The people you see at the top are who you’re closest to.

Facebook clearly The need for this score highlights the difficulties of Facebook’s battle against fake news. Between subjectivity and purposeful trolling, there’s a lot noise coming in with the signal about what should be removed. Anyone saying Facebook should have easily solved the fake news problems is likely underappreciating the nuance required and the intelligent human adversaries Facebook must defeat.

Facebook has a huge array of signals it can use to calculate Friend Rankings or trustworthiness scores. The question will be whether it can intelligently sort those signals to make coherent inferences about what to show us and when to believe us.

Facebook cracks down on opioid dealers after years of neglect

Facebook’s role in the opioid crisis could become another scandal following yesterday’s release of harrowing new statistics from the Center for Disease Control. It estimated there were nearly 30,000 synthetic opioid overdose deaths in the US in 2017, up from roughly 20,000 the year before. When recreational drugs like Xanax and OxyContin are adulterated with the more powerful synthetic opioid Fentanyl, the misdosage can prove fatal. Xanax, OxyContin, and other pain killers are often bought online, with dealers promoting themselves on social media including Facebook.

Hours after the new stats were reported by the New York Times and others, a source spotted that Facebook’s internal search engine stopped returning posts, Pages, and Groups for searches of “OxyContin”, “Xanax”, “Fentanyl”, and other opioids, as well as other drugs like “LSD”. Only videos, often news reports deploring opiate abuse, and user profiles whose names match the searches are now returned. This makes it significantly harder for potential buyers or addicts to connect with dealers through Facebook.

However, some dealers have taken to putting drug titles into their Facebook profile names, allowing accounts like “Fentanyl Kingpin Kilo” to continue showing up in search results. It’s not exactly clear when the search changes occurred.

On some search result pages for queries like “Buy Xanax”, Facebook is now showing a “Can we help?” box that says “If you or someone you know struggles with opioid misuse, we would like to help you find ways to get free and confidential treatment referrals, as well as information about substance use, prevention and recovery.” A “Get support” button opens the site of The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the US department of health and human services that provides addiction resources. Facebook had promised back in June that this feature was coming.

Facebook search results for many drug names now only surface people and video news reports, and no longer show posts, Pages, or Groups which often offered access to dealers

When asked, Facebook confirmed that it’s recently made it harder to find content that facilitates the sale of opioids on the social network. Facebook tells me it’s constantly updating its approach to thwart bad actors who look for new ways to bypass its safeguards. The company confirms it’s now removing content violating its drug policies, it’s blocked hundreds of terms associated with drug sales from showing results other than links to news about drug abuse awareness. It’s also removed thousands of terms from being suggested as searches in its typeahead.

Prior to recent changes, buyers could easily search for drugs and find posts from dealers with phone numbers to contact

Regarding the “Can we help?” box, Facebook tells me this resource will be available on Instagram in the coming weeks, and it provided this statement:

“We recently launched the “Get Help Feature” in our Facebook search function that directs people looking for help or attempting to purchase illegal substances to the SAMHSA national helpline. When people search for help with opioid misuse or attempt to buy opioids, they will be prompted with content at the top of the search results page that will ask them if they would like help finding free and confidential treatment referrals. This will then direct them to the SAMHSA National Helpline. We’ve partnered with the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration to identify these search terms and will continue to review and update to ensure we are showing this information at the most relevant times.”

Facebook’s new drug abuse resource feature

The new actions follow Facebook shutting down some hashtags like “#Fentanyl” on Instagram back in April that could let buyers connect with dealers. That only came after activists like Glassbreakers’ Eileen Carey aggressively criticized the company demanding change. In some cases, when users would report Facebook Groups or Pages’ posts as violating its policy prohibiting the sale of regulated goods like drugs, the posts would be removed but Facebook would leave up the Pages. This mirrors some of the problems it’s had with Infowars around determining the threshold of posts inciting violence or harassing other users necessary to trigger a Page or profile suspension or deletion.

Facebook in some cases deleted posts selling drugs but not the Pages or Groups carrying them

Before all these changes, users could find tons of vendors illegally selling opioids through posts, photos, and Pages on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook also introduced a new ads policy last week requiring addiction treatment centers that want to market to potential patients be certified first to ensure they’re not actually dealers preying on addicts.

Much of the recent criticism facing Facebook has focused on it failing to prevent election interference, privacy scandals, and the spread of fake news, plus how hours of browsing its feeds can impact well-being. But its negligence regarding illegal opioid sales has likely contributed to some of the 72,000 drug overdose deaths in America last year. It serves as another example of how Facebook’s fixation on the positive benefits of social networking blinded it to the harsh realities of how its service can be misused.

Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that learning of the depths of the opioid crisis was the “biggest surprise” from his listening tour visiting states across the U.S, and that it was “really saddening to see.” The fact that he called this a “surprise” when some of the drugs causing the crisis were changing hands via his website is something Facebook hasn’t fully atoned for, nor done enough to stop. The new changes should be the start of a long road to recovery for Facebook itself.

Crimson Hexagon regains Facebook data access

Analytics company Crimson Hexagon says Facebook has reinstated its data access to Facebook and Instagram.

That access was suspended last month, with Facebook saying it was investigating whether the company had violated any of its data use policies. (The social network, of course, has been dealing with the fallout from a separate controversy over user data.)

In this case, the issue appears to be related to some of Crimson Hexagon’s contracts with the U.S. government, with Facebook saying it wasn’t aware of those contracts when contacted by The Wall Street Journal.

What followed, according to a blog post by Crimson Hexagon Dan Shore, was “several weeks of constructive discussion and information exchange.” It seems that Facebook was satisfied with what it learned and ended Crimson Hexagon’s suspension.

Shore said that government customers make up less than 5 percent of the company’s business, adding, “To our knowledge, no government customer has used the Crimson Hexagon platform for surveillance of any individual or group.”

“Over time we have enhanced our vetting procedures for government customers,” he said. “Nevertheless, we recognize it is important to go beyond vetting by monitoring these government customers on an ongoing basis to ensure the public’s expectations of privacy are met. As governments and government-sponsored organizations change how they use data, we too must change.”

Twitter puts Infowars’ Alex Jones in the ‘read-only’ sin bin for 7 days

Twitter has finally taken action against Infowars creator Alex Jones, but it isn’t what you might think.

While Apple, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Spotify and many others have removed Jones and his conspiracy-peddling organization Infowars from their platforms, Twitter has remained unmoved with its claim that Jones hasn’t violated rules on its platform.

That was helped in no small way by the mysterious removal of some tweets last week, but now Jones has been found to have violated Twitter’s rules, as CNET first noted.

Twitter is punishing Jones for a tweet that violates its community standards but it isn’t locking him out forever. Instead, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that Jones’ account is in “read-only mode” for up to seven days.

That means he will still be able to use the service and look up content via his account, but he’ll be unable to engage with it. That means no tweets, likes, retweets, comments, etc. He’s also been ordered to delete the offending tweet — more on that below — in order to qualify for a fully functioning account again.

That restoration doesn’t happen immediately, though. Twitter policy states that the read-only sin bin can last for up to seven days “depending on the nature of the violation.” We’re imagining Jones got the full one-week penalty, but we’re waiting on Twitter to confirm that.

The offending tweet in question is a link to a story claiming President “Trump must take action against web censorship.” It looks like the tweet has already been deleted, but not before Twitter judged that it violates its policy on abuse:

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.

When you consider the things Infowars and Jones have said or written — 9/11 conspiracies, harassment of Sandy Hook victim families and more — the content in question seems fairly innocuous. Indeed, you could look at President Trump’s tweets and find seemingly more punishable content without much difficulty.

But here we are.

The weirdest part of this Twitter caning is one of the reference points that the company gave to media. These days, it is common for the company to point reporters to specific tweets that it believes encapsulate its position on an issue, or provide additional color in certain situations.

In this case, Twitter pointed us — and presumably other reporters — to this tweet from Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson:

WTF, Twitter…

Facebook buys Vidpresso’s team and tech to make video interactive

Zombie-like passive consumption of static video is both unhealthy for viewers and undifferentiated for the tech giants that power it. That’s set Facebook on a mission to make video interactive, full of conversation with broadcasters and fellow viewers. It’s racing against Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat to become where people watch together and don’t feel like asocial slugs afterward.

That’s why Facebook today told TechCrunch that it’s acqui-hired Vidpresso, buying its seven-person team and its technology but not the company itself. The six-year-old Utah startup works with TV broadcasters and content publishers to make their online videos more interactive with on-screen social media polling and comments, graphics and live broadcasting integrated with Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and more. The goal appears to be to equip independent social media creators with the same tools these traditional outlets use so they can make authentic but polished video for the Facebook platform.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it wouldn’t have taken a huge price for the deal to be a success for the startup. Vidpresso had only raised a $120,00 in seed capital from Y Combinator in 2014, plus some angel funding. By 2016, it was telling hiring prospects that it was profitable, but also that, “We will not be selling the company unless some insane whatsapp like thing happened. We’re building a forever biz, not a flip.” So either Vidpresso lowered its bar for an exit or Facebook made coming aboard worth its while.

For now, Vidpresso clients and partners like KTXL, Univision, BuzzFeed, Turner Sports, Nasdaq, TED, NBC and others will continue to be able to use its services. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that customers will work with the Vidpresso team at Facebook, who are joining its offices in Menlo Park, London and LA. That means Facebook is at least temporarily becoming a provider of enterprise video services. But Facebook confirms it won’t charge Vidpresso clients, so they’ll be getting its services for free from now on. Whether Facebook eventually turns away old clients or stops integrating with competing video platforms like Twitch and YouTube remains to be seen. For now, it’s giving Vidpresso a much more dignified end than the sudden shutdowns some tech giants impose on their acquisitions.

We’ve had a lot of false starts along the way . . . We finally landed on helping create high quality broadcasts back on social media, but we still haven’t realized the full vision yet. That’s why we’re joining Facebook,” the Vidpresso team writes. “This gives us the best opportunity to accelerate our vision and offer a simple way for creators, publishers, and broadcasters to use social media in live video at a high quality level . . . By joining Facebook, we’ll be able to offer our tools to a much broader audience than just our A-list publishing partners. Eventually, it’ll allow us to put these tools in the hands of creators, so they can focus on their content, and have it look great, without spending lots of time or money to do so.”

Facebook already has some interactive video experiments out in the wild. For users, it recently rolled out its Watch Party tool for letting Groups view and chat about videos together. It’s also trying new games like Lip Sync Live and a Talent Show feature where users submit videos of them singing. For creators, Facebook now let streamers earn tips with its new Stars virtual currency, and lets fans subscribe to donating money to their favorite video makers like on Patreon. And on the publisher side, Facebook Live has also built tools to help publishers pull in social media content. It’s even got an interactive video API that it’s developing to allow developers to launch their own HQ Trivia-game shows.

But the last line of Vidpresso’s announcement above explains Facebook’s intentions here, and also why it didn’t just try to build the tools itself. It doesn’t just want established news publishers and TV studios making video for its platform. It wants semi-pro creators to be able to broadcast snazzy videos with graphics, comments and polls that can aesthetically compete with “big video” but that feel more natural.

Every internet platform is wising up to the fact that web-native creators who grew up on their sites often create the most compelling content and the most fervent fan bases. Whichever video hub offers the best audience growth, creative expression tools and monetization options will become the preferred destination for creators’ work, and their audiences will follow. Vidpresso could help these creators look more like TV anchors than selfie monologuers, but also help them earn money by integrating brand graphics and tie-ins. Facebook couldn’t risk another tech giant buying up Vidpresso and gaining an edge, or wasting time trying to build interactive video technology and expertise from scratch.