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Facebook India Growth Obstacles Said to Include Nude Content, Fewer Women Using the Platform

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On Feb. 2, when Meta Platforms reported Facebook’s first-ever quarterly drop in daily users, its finance chief identified higher mobile data costs as a unique obstacle slowing growth in India, its biggest market.

On the same day, the US tech group posted the findings of its own research into Facebook‘s business in India on an internal employee forum. The study, conducted over the two years to the end of 2021, identified different problems.

Many women have shunned the male-dominated social network because they’re worried about their safety and privacy, according to the Meta research, which hasn’t been previously reported.

“Concerns about content safety and unwanted contact impede women’s FB use,” said the study, reviewed by Reuters, as it detailed the platform’s main challenges.

Meta cannot succeed in India while leaving women behind.”

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Other obstacles included nudity content, the perceived complexity of its app design, local language and literacy barriers and a lack of appeal among internet users seeking video content, according to the research, which was based on surveys of tens of thousands of people as well as internal user data.

Facebook’s growth began plateauing last year, when it added a few million users in the space of six months in the country of about 1.4 billion people, significantly lagging sister apps WhatsApp and Instagram, according to the report, which noted: “FB has grown more slowly than the internet and other apps.”

A Meta spokesperson, contacted about the study, said the company regularly invested in internal research to better understand the value its products provide and help identify ways to improve.

“But it’s misleading to characterize 7-month-old research as an accurate or comprehensive representation of the state of our business in India,” they added.

Nonetheless, the main Indian issues detailed in the research were not cited by Meta’s chief financial officer, Dave Wehner, on a Feb. 2 call with analysts to discuss results for the final quarter of 2021.

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Wehner said Facebook’s user growth in Asia-Pacific and some other areas were hit by competition, plus compared with prior quarters when COVID resurgences aided user engagement. He identified higher mobile data costs as a “unique” headwind for India.

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Asked why the obstacles to growth identified by Wehner were different from those identified in the research, the spokesperson pointed to a Meta filing in April, during its first-quarter earnings, where it said Facebook users in India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam represented the top three sources of growth in daily active users in March versus a year before.

Facebook’s fortunes in India have broad implications for Meta, which has lost about half of its value this year amid a broader tech sell-off and faces scrutiny from investors and analysts who fear its growth in potentially high-growth developing markets is starting to wane.

“India contains more FB users than any other country,” said the research, which pegged the number at almost 450 million as of November, after rapid growth over much of the past decade.

“Teams across the company should explicitly consider their strategic position and growth opportunities in India. Outcomes in India could drive global results.”

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Family doesn’t allow FB

The internal study, a “high-level overview of the growth trends” in India, was detailed in a presentation meant to help Facebook’s researchers and product teams. It said that a key problem Facebook had tried to fix for years in India, with limited success, was related to “gender imbalance”.

Men accounted for 75 percent of Facebook’s monthly active users in India last year. That compared with 62 percent of internet users more broadly in early 2020, the researchers found.

“While there is a gender imbalance in internet use across India, the imbalance among Facebook users is even more pronounced,” said the study, adding that online safety concerns and societal pressures were among the reasons deterring women from the platform.

The researchers found that 79 percent of female Facebook users had “expressed concern about content/photo misuse”, while 20-30 percent of overall users were estimated to have seen nudity on the platform within the last seven days in the largely conservative country.

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India ranked highest globally on the latter metric; around 10 percent of users surveyed in the United States and Brazil said they had seen nudity in the past week, for example, and under 20 percent in Indonesia, according to a survey conducted in August 2021.

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“Negative content is more prevalent in India than other countries,” said the internal report.

Family disapproval – “Family doesn’t allow FB” – was a major reason cited by women for not using Facebook, the study found.

The Meta spokesperson said the online gender imbalance was an industry-wide problem and not specific to its platforms.

They said that since 2016, Meta had quadrupled the size of the global team working on safety and security to over 40,000, and that between January and April this year, more than 97 percent of adult nudity and sexual activity content was removed before someone reported it.

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Where do you live?

Depicting the struggles of women users, one research slide showed a picture of an Indian woman walking on a street wearing a saree with which she covered her head and face, a tradition common in many parts of India.

Next to this image was the account of a woman who said she had received 367 friend requests from strangers, with a string of comments on photos like “very beautiful”, “where do you live”, and “you look good”.

The comments stopped after she used the “locked profile” feature, according to the woman cited, referring to an option Facebook introduced in 2020 in India allowing users to restrict viewing of pictures and posts to non-friends.

By June 2021, the feature had been adopted by 34 percent of women users in India, said the internal report, but more work was needed, with “bold product changes”, to address the problem of low uptake of Facebook among women.

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Facebook has faced criticism globally from online safety campaigners for not doing enough to safeguard women from bullying or harassment. In 2019, the platform said it had a team of people focusing “just on making sure we are keeping women safe”, using technology tools to remove content deemed unsafe.

The Meta spokesperson said it had launched a Women’s Safety Hub and other privacy features such as a profanity filter to help female users in India stay safe online. Since 2021, more than 45 percent of Facebook Groups in India related to entrepreneurship have been created by women, Meta added.

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WhatsApp grabs crown

Facebook’s growth in India began to level off last year, according to internal research. The platform’s main appeal has been to connect with friends and family, but non-Facebook users were primarily now using the internet to see pictures and videos, the research noted.

Its annualised growth rate based on May-October 2021 showed it was adding just 6.6 million users per year, versus WhatsApp‘s 71 million and Instagram‘s 128 million, according to one internal slide that illustrated the slowdown graphically.

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By November, Facebook’s user base in India was 447 million strong, lagging behind its Meta sister apps. WhatsApp – which Facebook acquired in 2014 – had 563 million Indian users. Instagram, bought in 2012, had 309 million.

The slowdown stands in contrast to Facebook’s strong expansion in past years. In 2014, the platform had fewer than 100 million users in India, a number that doubled by 2017, the research said.

The Meta spokesperson declined to comment on the user numbers, saying it didn’t disclose country-specific data. They said the company was “definitely increasing the prominence of video” on Facebook.

Lower-educated users are another group that is underrepresented on Facebook, according to the research. The platform faced challenges in meeting the demand for content in India’s many local languages, while many people cited the app’s complexity and lack of tutorials as deterrents.

Between 2017 and 2020, India’s monthly online users as a share of the population doubled, boosted by cheaper data plans, but the share of internet users who reported they used Facebook declined during that period, the study found.

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“India is now the country with more Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram accounts than any other country in the world,” said an internal post accompanying the report. “But continued growth in India faces many challenges.”


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Musk Bid for More Data on Twitter Bot Accounts Denied by Judge

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Elon Musk was denied access to additional documents about Twitter’s internal measure of robot and spam accounts after a judge concluded the company already disclosed enough of the information as part of the billionaire’s legal fight over a scuttled takeover. Twitter has “done enough” in handing over documents about the so-called mDAU — a metric used to survey human users of the social media platform, Delaware Chancery Judge Kathaleen St. J. McCormick ruled Friday. Musk had sought more information to bolster his bid to cancel a $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3.5 lakh crore) buyout of the company.

Musk and his lawyers repeatedly accused Twitter of seeking to hide crucial documents and witnesses as they ramp up for an October 17 trial on whether the world’s richest person can legitimately walk away from the deal.

The billionaire claims the company hadn’t levelled with him about the number of spam and bot accounts among its more than 230 million users. Twitter says Musk has buyer’s remorse and his concerns are a pretext to get out of a deal.

McCormick also denied Musk’s request Twitter officials conduct further searches of the files under the terms “user-active minutes,” (UAM) or “stickiness,” two ways of measuring how long users stay on the platform.

Both sides have issued a fusillade of subpoenas and deposition requests to banks, investors and advisers involved in the teetering transaction. McCormick has been forced to rule on about a half-dozen disputes over document disclosures and other discovery issues.

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Meanwhile, the judge also appointed Chris Sontchi, a retired bankruptcy judge, to serve as a special master to oversee discovery disputes. The Wilmington, Delaware-based Sontchi now works as a mediator and also serves as a judge on the Singapore International Commercial Court.

See also  Elon Musk Said to Address Twitter Employees for the First Time Since Acquisition Bid

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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Ten Things Elon Musk’s Texts Reveal About the Twitter Deal

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A new trove of text messages between Elon Musk and Twitter executives, close friends, potential investors and Silicon Valley bros sheds light on how a $44 billion (nearly Rs. 3,58,100 crore) deal by the world’s richest person to buy the social media company came about — and ended up in court.

The texts show who wanted to be part of the buyout and reveal the inner circle’s musings on who should run the company if Musk did come to own it. They were disclosed as part of Twitter‘s lawsuit to make Musk follow through on his $54.20 (nearly Rs. 4,400)-per-share offer, which is slated to go to trial in Delaware Chancery Court next month.

Among the many texts, Musk discloses that he “has a minor case of COVID” in late March, is usually “up until ~3 am” and no longer has a personal assistant.

Here are 10 glimpses behind the scenes.

1. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s former Chief Executive Officer, worked to get Musk to join the board shortly after activist investors starting agitating for change at the company in 2020.

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“I tried my hardest to get you on our board, and the board said no,” Dorsey wrote. “That’s about the time I decided I need to work to leave, as hard as it was for me.”

Dorsey is “jack jack” on Elon’s phone.

2. Musk’s relations with Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal went from friendly to frosty within a week. On April 5, Agrawal tweeted that Musk was being appointed to Twitter’s board — and got Musk’s approval for the language of the tweet.

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But by April 9, the tone had shifted dramatically. Agrawal upbraided Musk over his tweets disparaging the company.

“You are free to tweet ‘is Twitter dying’ or anything else about Twitter — but it’s my responsibility to tell you that it’s not helping me make Twitter better in the current context. I’d like to provide your perspective on the level of internal distraction right now and how it [sic] hurting our ability to do work.”

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“What did you get done this week?” Musk snapped back.

“I’m not joining the board. This is a waste of time,” he texted 40 seconds later.

“Will make an offer to take Twitter private,” he texted 15 seconds after that.

3. A few minutes later, Musk texted with Chair Bret Taylor about fixing Twitter. The texts suggest he already knew about Twitter’s bot problem, which he would later cite as a reason to abandon the deal.

“This is hard to do as a public company, as purging fake users will make the numbers look terrible, so restructuring should be done as a private company,” Musk wrote. “This is Jack’s opinion too.”

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4. On April 20, Musk texted Oracle‘s Larry Ellison.

“Any interest in participating in the Twitter deal?” he asked. Ellison said yes. Musk asked how much.

“A billion … or whatever you recommend,” Ellison replied. Musk recommended $2 billion (nearly Rs. 16,300 crore). On April 24, Ellison said, “Since you think I should come in for at least $2 billion. I’m in for $2 billion.”

5. Several of Musk’s friends had ideas on whom Musk should hire. Investor Bill Lee suggested Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital. Jason Calacanis noted that “Twitter CEO is my dream job.”

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6. Joe Rogan was a fan of the deal. “I REALLY hope you get Twitter,” the outsize podcaster texted. “If you do, we should throw a hell of a party.”

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7. Steve Jurvetson suggested Musk hire Emil Michael, the former chief business officer of Uber Technologies, and texted Michael’s LinkedIn account over.

“I don’t have a LinkedIn account,” Musk responded.

8. Gayle King of CBS asked Musk in April for an interview, saying buying Twitter was what the kids call a “gangsta move” and suggesting that Oprah Winfrey might want to join the board. King said she’d like a Twitter edit button.

“Twitter edit button is coming,” Musk responded.

9. Musk warned Calacanis against offering investment in the deal to “randos.”

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It “makes it seem like I’m desperate,” he said.

Calacanis said he only wanted to be supportive: “You know I’m ride or die brother.”

10. In March, Sam Bankman-Fried, the crypto billionaire, tried to get in touch with Musk through an associate to discuss joining in a deal for Twitter. Musk appeared uninterested — and unaware of Bankman-Fried’s wealth, asking, “Does he have huge amounts of money?”

Eventually he warmed to the idea, “so long as I don’t have to have a laborious blockchain debate.”

It’s unclear if they met.

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Meta Unveils ‘Make-A-Video’ AI Text-To-Video Generator: All Details

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Meta has unveiled a new artificial intelligence system called ‘Make-A-Video’ that will allow users to generate short video clips by entering a text description of the desired scene. The announcement follows the company’s recent advancements in generative technology research, which seeks to give creators more creative control over artificially intelligent image generation. With the announcement, Meta has taken the technology a step further by including text-to-video generation capabilities apart from text-to-image. However, the company is yet to release access to users for the model.

The prompt-generated videos are five seconds or shorter and would contain no audio. However, Meta claims that a wide range of prompts is supported by the model.

Meta, while making the announcement through a blog post, stated that in a commitment to ‘open science’ it will be sharing details of the research behind the latest artificial intelligence generative technology while also confirming its plans to release a demo experience for users.

Generative AI research is pushing creative expression forward by giving people tools to quickly and easily create new content,” said Meta in a blog post announcing the work. “With just a few words or lines of text, Make-A-Video can bring imagination to life and create one-of-a-kind videos full of vivid colors and landscapes,” added the parent company to Facebook and Instagram.

In the research paper describing the model at work, the company notes that ‘Make-A-Video’ demo model utilises pairs of images, captions, and unlabeled video footage sourced from WebVid-10M and HD-VILA-100M datasets that includes stock video footage created by sites like Shutterstock and scraped from the web that together spans hundreds of thousands of hours of footage.

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Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook to describe the work as “amazing progress,” while adding that “it’s much harder to generate video than photos, because beyond correctly generating each pixel, the system also has to predict how they’ll change over time.”

See also  Elon Musk Said to Address Twitter Employees for the First Time Since Acquisition Bid

However, there have been concerning issues raised around AI generative media, with some suggesting that it could lead to a rise in misinformation, propaganda, and non-consensual pornography, as seen in the case of AI image generative systems and deepfakes, according to a report by The Washington Post. Meta says it wants to be “thoughtful” about how they build such generative models and hence plans to limit access to them. However, a timeline on the demo experience and clarity on how access would be limited is yet to be known.


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