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From Facebook to Twitter, Big Tech sees social commerce driving sales growth

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A woman stands in front of the logo of Snap Inc on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, NY, U.S. March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

July 29 (Reuters) – Led by Facebook, social media platforms from Alphabet’s YouTube to Snap Inc (SNAP.N) and Twitter (TWTR.N) are investing heavily in shopping features to drive revenue growth, a major theme that emerged during second-quarter results over the past week.

The companies are vying for a piece of the so-called social commerce industry, which relies on users’ ability to discover and buy products through social media apps and is expected to balloon to $50 billion from $36 billion in annual sales by 2023 in the United States according to research firm eMarketer.

The success of social commerce stems in part from product targeting based on user interests, with sales generating more data that can be used for future advertising and merchandise placements.

Facebook, widely considered the leader in social commerce, and Google helped retailers bring in sales in the last quarter, with ecommerce player Shopify saying the growth rate of products sold through the two tech companies’ platforms was “several times that” of websites run by the merchants themselves.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that enabling commerce and making it easier for businesses to communicate with customers through its Messenger and WhatsApp apps was “the right long-term bet.”

Retailers are increasingly hopping on to the trend as COVID-19 restrictions weigh on brick-and-mortar sales.

Brands ranging from luxury fashion house Burberry(BRBY.L) to fast fashion giant H&M (HMb.ST)have signed up celebrities and influencers to get millions of their followers to make purchases off ephemeral stories or posts by asking them to “swipe up to purchase”.

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While the business is small for now, the social media giants are eyeing the data generated from users’ shopping and browsing habits for targeted advertising.

The scramble for user data has become even more crucial as recent privacy changes from Apple Inc (AAPL.O) limit tech companies’ ability to track iPhone users and serve personalized advertising, ad experts have said.

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THE FUTURE OF COMMERCE?

Facebook launched Shops in May 2020 during the height of the pandemic, luring brands with an easy way to sell items directly through Facebook and Instagram and consumers with a curated and personalized way to discover trendy clothes or home goods.

Facebook was the top social commerce platform according to a survey conducted by eMarketer in June 2020, with 18% of respondents saying they had purchased a product via Facebook. That compared with 11% for Facebook-owned Instagram and 3% for Pinterest (PINS.N).

Even as restrictions lift, analysts say the demand for shopping online is unlikely to retreat.

“People have gotten accustomed to buying online,” said Edward Jones analyst Dave Heger. “I don’t think that they’re going to go completely back to the level they were at before in terms of purchasing at brick and mortar stores.”

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Snap Inc is investing in augmented reality technology designed to help users virtually try on items like watches, jewelry and other apparel to cut down on returns, a major problem faced by online retailers.

Snapchat users can take a photo of a friend’s outfit with the app and find similar looks or product recommendations, Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel said last week during the company’s earnings conference call.

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“The holy grail of advertising is to actually sell merchandise,” said Rich Greenfield, a partner at LightShed Partners, in a note on Snap last week.

“While these initiatives are still in the early stages, we believe an increasing number of brands want to be associated with where commerce is headed.”

Popular short-form video app TikTok is testing live-streamed shopping with select brands in the UK, allowing viewers purchase clothes as an influencer models the item in real time during a live video.

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Twitter, a platform most known for following breaking news or current events, said on Wednesday that it will begin testing a shopping feature that lets users browse items for sale at the top of a brand’s profile page. read more

Streaming video site YouTube, known for “unboxing” videos in which YouTubers review toys or tech gadgets, wants to integrate shopping directly into the platform, said Google Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler on Alphabet’s earnings call on Tuesday.

Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; editing by Kenneth Li, Peter Henderson and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures

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Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.

Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.

It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.

Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”

“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.

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Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.

Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.

“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.

In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”

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But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

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By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

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Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream

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At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”

On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.

Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.

Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.

The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.

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Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.

The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

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The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.

Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.

In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.

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Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.

But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.

“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.

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Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Twitter Bans Sharing Personal Photos, Videos of Other People Without Consent

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Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent, in a tightening of the network’s policy just a day after it changed CEOs.

Under the new rules, people who are not public figures can ask Twitter to take down pictures or video of them that they report were posted without permission.

Beginning today, we will not allow the sharing of private media, such as images or videos of private individuals without their consent. Publishing people’s private info is also prohibited under the policy, as is threatening or incentivizing others to do so.https://t.co/7EXvXdwegG

— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) November 30, 2021

Twitter said this policy does not apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

“We will always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, we may allow the images or videos to remain on the service,” the company added.

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The right of Internet users to appeal to platforms when images or data about them are posted by third parties, especially for malicious purposes, has been debated for years.

Twitter already prohibited the publication of private information such as a person’s phone number or address, but there are “growing concerns” about the use of content to “harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals,” Twitter said.

The company noted a “disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.”

High-profile examples of online harassment include the barrages of racist, sexist,and homophobic abuse on Twitch, the world’s biggest video game streaming site.

But instances of harassment abound, and victims must often wage lengthy fights to see hurtful, insulting or illegally produced images of themselves removed from the online platforms.

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Some Twitter users pushed the company to clarify exactly how the tightened policy would work.

“Does this mean that if I take a picture of, say, a concert in Central Park, I need the permission of everyone in it? We diminish the sense of the public to the detriment of the public,” tweeted Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York.

The change came the day after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey announced he was leaving the company, and handed CEO duties to company executive Parag Agrawal.

The platform, like other social media networks, has struggled against bullying, misinformation, and hate-fuelled content.


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