TIME Social Networking

Facebook Reportedly Planning LinkedIn-Style ‘Facebook at Work’

Dado Ruvic—Reuters

‘Facebook at Work’ would allow users to chat with colleagues, build catalogs of contacts and collaborate on documents –just like LinkedIn and Google Drive

Facebook is planning a new product aimed at professionals, in an effort to compete with Google Drive, LinkedIn and Microsoft Office (and maybe end the stigma of being seen as nothing more than a distraction at the workplace).

Citing people familiar with the matter, The Financial Times said the new ‘Facebook at Work’ would allow users to chat with colleagues, build catalogs of contacts and collaborate on documents–core functions of LinkedIn and Google Drive.

It said Facebook had begun testing the product with companies as its launch approaches, after more than a year of development.

The company will have some headwinds to work against: many employers ban its social network at the workplace due to concerns about lost productivity. It will also have to persuade corporate customers that it can be trusted with their data, after a series of damaging revelations about its policy towards user data in the past. And it will have to assuage concerns about polluting feeds with ads and other tools aimed at monetizing the service.

However, the rewards have the potential to be big: founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg estimated earlier this year that the company’s U.S. users spend a total of nine hours a day on digital media, but only 40 minutes of that on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Social Networking

Facebook’s New Privacy Policy Is Way Simpler

Demonstration Held Against Facebook's Privacy Policies
Mary Guedon of the group Raging Grannies holds a sign as she protests outside of the Facebook headquarters June 4, 2010 in Palo Alto, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Facebook also launched an interactive privacy settings explainer

Facebook unveiled a drastically simplified privacy policy Thursday that explains in plain English who can see your personal information shared through the social network.

The streamlined policy strips out more than two-thirds of the verbiage from the previous policy, which consumer advocates had previously criticized as unnecessarily long and byzantine. “Our hope is that it won’t take long for people to read through this and really get it,” Facebook’s chief privacy officer told the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook also launched an interactive walkthrough of its privacy settings, called “Privacy Basics,” which guides users through drop down menus with options that can restrict viewing rights or delete posts entirely.

The update marks the company’s latest bid to make its privacy settings more user friendly since the company in 2011 settled Federal Trade Commission accusations that it broke its privacy promises. In September, Facebook launched a “Privacy Checkup” in an attempt to give users a greater measure of control over their data.

TIME Social Networking

CIA Twitter Sets Record Straight on Argo

The agency played a round of "reel" or "real" to mark the 35th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis

If only the C in CIA stood for “clever.” To mark the 35th anniversary of the start of the Iran hostage crisis, the surprisingly social media-savvy Central Intelligence Agency used Twitter to point out how the Oscar-winning film Argo took creative license with history.

“Today we tell you what’s ‘reel’ vs. ‘real,'” the CIA tweeted Friday before going on a fact-checking spree about what actually happened and what was invented for storytelling’s sake. The differences mostly come down to simplified details (they didn’t go to the Canadian ambassador’s house right away, multiple CIA agents went to Iran) and heightened drama (everything at the airport happened pretty smoothly, actually).

Despite the history lesson, the hashtag-friendly CIA still has lots of love for the film (and isn’t immune to typos): “Real #ARGO: An exciting movie that it kept us on the edge of our seats. Letting @BenAffleck film here? Best bad idea we’ve had. #ThanksBen!”

Check out the whole Twitter stream here.

TIME Social Networking

Facebook Will Make it Easier to Unfollow Boring Friends

The splash page for the social media Internet site Facebook.
The splash page for the social media Internet site Facebook. Karen Bleier—AFP/Getty Images

Users will be able to more easily hide people from their News Feed

Facebook is continuing CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s dream of turning the social networking site into “the perfect, personalized newspaper for everyone in the world” by giving users more control over their News Feed.

The company is adding a new News Feed settings page that will show users which people and pages they interact with most frequently and those they’ve recently unfollowed, Facebook announced Friday. The change will allow users to more easily add and delete people and pages from the News Feed based on user interest. The feature is available on the mobile and desktop versions of the site, and will come to the Facebook app within the coming weeks.

Users can also use the gray arrows that appear in the top right corners of posts to hide stories they’re not interested in reading. Then, they can select whether they’d like to see less from that person or unfollow them altogether.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced it would start cracking down on clickbait and hyperbolic headlines in News Feed links by evaluating how much time users spent reading a link and whether they were liking and sharing it.

TIME Social Networking

Facebook’s ‘I Voted’ Election Day Sticker Isn’t Evil

Midterms Elections Held Across The U.S.
A man fills walks past voting signs displayed outside a polling station during the mid-term elections November 4, 2014 in Hamtramck, Michigan. Joshua Lott—Getty Images

Facebook just wants more people to vote, regardless of ideology

If you’re an American old enough to vote in Tuesday’s elections, chances are you logged on to Facebook this morning to find your News Feed covered in notifications that your friends are “voting in The 2014 U.S. Election.” Facebook has done this in previous elections, with data scientists later finding that tiny social nudge can provide positive peer pressure driving Facebook users to the polls.

But the practice is getting renewed attention after a piece in Mother Jones last week raised serious questions about Facebook’s meddling with our News Feeds around election time.

In the 2012 elections, Personal Democracy Media co-founder Micah Sifry writes, Facebook tested the “I’m Voting” buttons with slightly different wording, presumably as a sort of A/B testing to tell which wording is more effective at getting people off their computers and to a polling place. And, more suspiciously, Facebook conducted what it says was a separate test in the weeks leading up to the 2012 election during which it put more hard news on the top of our News Feeds to see how that might affect voting habits — but we won’t know about the results of that study until sometime next year.

Sifry’s post struck a nerve because it came on the heels of a revelation that Facebook conducted a small but secret study to see if it could affect users’ moods by showing them different kinds of content. Facebook users were rightfully outraged about being made unwilling guinea pigs. Facebook has since apologized for the test and promised more transparency regarding its tests in the future, which would be appropriate and welcome. The difference between Facebook’s infamous mood test and today’s “I Voted” stickers, meanwhile, is that everybody and their mother can see the stickers clear as day.

Still, the idea of Facebook noodling around with voter participation is sounding alarms among partisans, who can easily read Facebook’s meddling as a conspiracy to boost the other side’s chances. That’s a more common refrain on the right, given the commonly accepted logic that Facebook users lean left. Ultimately, the worry among some on the right is that Facebook is providing Get Out the Vote services to the other side — worries made more acute by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s political activism, which has most notably included the creation of a struggling immigration reform group, though he’s also held a fundraiser for New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie and called President Obama to vent about government surveillance.

Still, conservatives have little to fear from Facebook for two reasons: Demographics and money.

While Facebook, born on college campuses, was once the domain of the young and likely left-leaning voter, its demographics have been changing rapidly year-over-year as more parents and grandparents log on to the service to swap family photos and catch up with long-lost friends. (Indeed, parents signing up for Facebook is probably a reason some teens are fleeing to alternative platforms hidden away from their guardians’ watchful eyes.) Facebook use is definitely still more common among the young, but its user base is getting older by the year. Pew found at the end of 2013 that Facebook “usage among seniors has increased significantly in the last year,” for example, and it’s safe to assume that trend has continued through 2014. Pew’s numbers also show Facebook use cuts across several other demographic factors, like race and urbanites/suburbanites/rural adults. And Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at Pew, said in a July presentation that there are few partisan differences regarding Facebook use.

Ultimately, Facebook is now so ubiquitous that if it does what it promises to do Tuesday — show the “I Voted” sticker to nearly every voting age American — it shouldn’t bring out one side’s voters more than the other’s.

On top of that, Facebook makes money by selling highly targeted ads to political campaigns on both sides of the aisle. The company’s been careful in the past few years not to be seen as too cushy to either Republicans, Democrats or any other interest group as not to lose revenue from angry would-be ad buyers. Facebook even has dedicated staffers who work with political campaigns across the spectrum on ad sales as well as teaching them about Facebook best practices. If Facebook were indeed pushing more left-leaning users to the polls, it would seriously jeopardize that increasingly important source of revenue and relevance.

Facebook’s “I Voted” sticker isn’t evil. There’s nothing wrong and everything right about the company leveraging its massive influence to get more people to the polls on Election Day in a non-partisan way. Given Facebook’s influence, however, we should have more transparency about the process — but we shouldn’t read conspiracies into the company’s civic efforts.

TIME Social Networking

Why Chelsea Handler Can Post Nudes on Twitter But Not Instagram

Celebrities Visit "Late Show With David Letterman" - October 9, 2014
Actress Chelsea Handler enters the "Late Show With David Letterman" taping at the Ed Sullivan Theater on October 9, 2014 in New York City. Ray Tamarra—WireImage

They have different rules

Chelsea Handler is causing a stir over nudity on social media, quitting Instagram Friday after the service deleted a topless picture of herself that she posted Thursday. Handler later reposted the image on Twitter, where it remains live, saying Friday that “You can now find my dogs and my breasts on Twitter only where my followers have the right to choose.”

Instagram made similar headlines earlier this year after it censored photos of Scout Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, who posted topless photos as part of the ongoing “free the nipple” campaign. Facebook, which owns Instagram, lifted its nipple ban in photos of breastfeeding mothers earlier this year after months of debate over mastectomy, breastfeeding and other types of nudity.

Why can Handler post nudes on Twitter but not Instagram? It all boils down to differences in the apps’ rules.

Instagram disallows “nudity and mature content.”

Remember that our community is a diverse one, and that your posts are visible to people as young as 13 years old. While we respect the artistic integrity of photos and videos, we have to keep our product and the content within it in line with our App Store’s rating for nudity and mature content. In other words, please do not post nudity or mature content of any kind.

And here are Twitter’s terms, which don’t prohibit nudity, but ask that users who post “sensitive content” mark their accounts appropriately.

For the most part, using common sense won’t steer you wrong. If you upload media that might be considered sensitive content such as nudity, violence, or medical procedures, you should consider applying the account setting “Mark my media as containing sensitive content”.

We do not mediate content, whether that content is an image or text; however, some content is not permissible by law. All content should be marked appropriately as per our guidelines. You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.

Uploaded images that are reported and that are determined to violate the law will be removed from the site and your account will be suspended. Please review the Twitter Rules for more information on these violations.

Images that have been marked as containing sensitive content will have a warning message that a viewer must click through before viewing the image. Only users who have opted in to see possibly sensitive content will see these images without the warning message. Check out this article for more information on settings and best practices.

Interestingly, Instagram explicitly frames its stricter rules as an effort to keep its 12+ age rating in Apple’s App Store — but Twitter, with its more lenient rules, is rated 4+. This isn’t the first example of app nudity rules making little sense; the subject also came up a few years back when a publisher of adult content wanted to get nudie mags on Apple’s iPad. Apple’s rules, for whatever they’re worth, have this to say:

  • Apps containing pornographic material, defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “explicit descriptions or displays of sexual organs or activities intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings”, will be rejected.
  • Apps that contain user generated content that is frequently pornographic (e.g. “Chat Roulette” Apps) will be rejected.

The more you know!

TIME Social Networking

Mark Zuckerberg Will Answer Your Facebook Questions Next Week

Mark Zuckerberg Attends Mobile World Congress
Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg speaks during his keynote conference as part of the first day of the Mobile World Congress 2014 at the Fira Gran Via complex on February 24, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. David Ramos—Getty Images

He's hosting a Q&A on Nov. 6

Ever wanted to ask Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg why there’s no “Unlike” button or what’s up with those auto-playing videos in your News Feed? Your chance is coming up: Zuck announced Thursday night that he’ll host a public questions and answers session on Thursday, Nov. 6, starting at 2 p.m. PT:

We have a tradition at Facebook, where every Friday we have a Q&A and all employees can come and ask me questions about anything they want.

It’s an important part of Facebook’s culture. People ask thoughtful questions about why our company is going in certain directions, what I think about things happening in the world, and how we can continue improving our services for everyone. I learn a lot from these Q&As, and the questions people ask help us build better services.

Now I want to extend this tradition to our whole community. On Thursday, November 6, I’ll host our first community Q&A at Facebook.

If you want to ask me a question, go to the Q&A with Mark page below, ask your question as a comment on the post about next week’s Q&A, and vote on other questions people have asked by liking them. The Q&A will be livestreamed on the page and I’ll post some highlights here afterwards. I’ll be answering questions for about an hour, and I’ll try to get through as many as I can.

I’m looking forward to hearing your questions and feedback. I think this will help make Facebook better, and I hope you’ll tune in next week.

You can ask Zuckerberg your question by submitting it to this event, or you can check out some of the already-posted questions and vote on the ones you’d like answered by “liking” it. His answers will be livestreamed.

Here’s a smattering of what’s already been asked:

“You haven’t tweeted in a couple of years now. Do you ever login to Twitter and read tweets? Do you find Twitter to be a useful service?”

“Why you forced us to install Facebook messenger?”

“Mark Zuckerberg, what beer were you drinking when you created Facebook? This is a MUST know.”

The whole event feels a lot like a Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” in which celebrities, musicians, politicians and others take questions from the Reddit community. Zuckerberg has already received more than 4,300 other comments, so you better start posting quick if you want your question answered.

TIME Social Networking

Facebook Reportedly Building a New App Where Everyone’s Anonymous

The plan marks a departure from company policy to have users disclose their identities or risk being booted from the network

Facebook plans to launch a standalone app that will allow users to mask their online identity, according to two anonymous company insiders speaking to the New York Times.

The two insiders, who divulged the plans to the Times on the condition of anonymity, said that the yet-unnamed app will allow users to sign up under a pseudonym, letting them engage in more candid discussions than they might otherwise have in public.

The report comes amid fallout from Facebook’s decision to boot several drag queens from the network for violating its naming policies by identifying themselves by their alter-egos rather than their birth names. Facebook quickly apologized for that move following intense backlash from several LGBT groups and other advocates.

Facebook’s anonymous app project is reportedly being spearheaded by Josh Miller, who heads the company’s “Conversations” group. Miller’s previous startup, Branch, attempted to foster intimate online discussions around shared interests. Facebook acquired Branch in January.



TIME deals

Facebook Completes Its $22 Billion Purchase of WhatsApp

Social Networks Facebook WhatsApp.
Marie Waldmann—Photothek/Getty Images

The final hurdle in the deal was crossed on Friday, when the E.U. approved the purchase after much resistance from Europe’s telecommunications industry

Facebook officially sealed its massive purchase of WhatsApp, a report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stated, with a final price of about $22 billion. The popular instant-messaging app has been operating independently since agreeing to an acquisition by the social-media giant back in February, but the finalizing of the deal is undoubtedly a step toward greater support, and control, from Facebook.

Ukrainian immigrant Jan Koum and former Yahoo engineer Brian Acton, the founders of WhatsApp, pocketed $6.8 billion and $3.5 billion in the deal respectively, according to Forbes. Koum will also get a seat on the board, where his $1 salary will match that of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The final hurdle in the deal was crossed on Friday, when the E.U. approved the purchase after much resistance from Europe’s telecommunications industry.

“We have carefully reviewed this proposed acquisition and come to the conclusion that it would not hamper competition in this dynamic and growing market,” the Wall Street Journal reported the E.U.’s antitrust chief Joaquín Almunia as stating.

WhatsApp, with over 600 million users across Europe, Asia and the Americas, presents an immense opportunity for Facebook, although how it will be used remains to be seen.

TIME Social Networking

Facebook Is Just an ‘Ad Platform,’ Says CEO of Ad-Free Social Network ‘Ello’

The Ello website is seen on the monitor screen September 27, 2014 in Washington D.C. PAUL J. RICHARDS—AFP/Getty Images

"We consider them to be an advertising platform more than a social network."

Ello, an ad-free, invitation-only social network, has been dubbed the “anti-Facebook” after its August launch, but even that characterization might be giving Facebook too much credit, according to Ello’s feisty CEO.

“We don’t consider Facebook to be a competitor,” said Paul Budnitz in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “We consider them to be an advertising platform more than a social network.”

That was just the opening shot in a wide ranging interview in which Budnitz opened fire on Facebook’s design, content and ad-based business model. Budnitz says that Ello can turn a profit by selling add-on features directly to a few users.

He claims to have tapped into a wellspring of discontent with Facebook, signing up users at a rate of 50,000 an hour after Ello suddenly skyrocketed in popularity last week. That’s just a drop in bucket compared with Facebook’s 1.3 billion users, but Ello’s CEO insists that he only wants the users who share his team’s vision of what a social network should and should not be. The site requires users to agree to a manifesto that states, “You are not a product.” Those who select “disagree” are redirected to Facebook’s website.

[Bloomberg Businessweek]

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