#SocialStocks: Senators Clash with Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri During Hearing

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Twitter executives ignored warning about Spaces, Meta Platforms pays up for name trademarks assets, and other notable stories from this week. Welcome to “#SocialStocks,” The Fly’s weekly recap of Wall Street’s reactions to social media stock news.

SENATORS CALL FOR MORE REGULATION OF INSTAGRAM: 

Instagram head Adam Mosseri argued with senators over the app’s impact on young users, with lawmakers arguing for stricter government oversight of social-media apps, Ryan Tracy and John McKinnon of The Wall Street Journal reported. While Mosseri asserted young users find Instagram improves their lives, members of the senate subcommittee on consumer protection reviewed internal documents disclosed by The Wall Street Journal showing Instagram makes body-image issues worse for a substantial minority of teen girls. The documents also showed the platform is blamed by teens for increases in anxiety and depression. Lawmakers are now working to create legal obligations for social-media companies to prevent online harms and open their apps programming to outside scrutiny. Some lawmakers are suggesting to establish an industry panel to set safety standards on social-media platforms while other lawmakers are working on legislation to require more transparency on algorithms and data sets. “The time for self-policing and self-regulation is over,” Senator Richard Blumenthal said. The panel also questioned executives from Bytedance’s TikTok, Snap’s (SNAP) Snapchat, and Alphabet’s (GOOG;GOOGL) YouTube. “The reality is that keeping people safe is not just about any one company,” Mosseri remarked. Mosseri also said specific examples don’t necessarily reflect broad user experiences. “We absolutely do not want any content that promotes eating disorders on our platform. We do our best to remove it.” Blumenthal said Meta and other companies should be required to open their platforms to independent researchers who can study how content recommendation algorithms are working.

THRIVING IN CONTROVERSY: 

Despite recent controversy and CEO Adam Mosseri appearing before congress, Instagram has reached 2B monthly active users this fall, Salvador Rodriguez of CNBC reported, citing sources familiar with the situation. Mosseri’s hearing before a Senate Commerce subcommittee on child protection online has brought into question Instagram’s image over the past few months. Instagram has not publicized user metrics since it hit the 1B monthly active users milestone in June 2018 and it has reportedly avoided flaunting its growth while questions about Facebook’s (FB) market control have been constantly asked by regulators and antitrust watchdogs. A source said Instagram reached the 2B mark about a week before Facebook changed its name to Meta in October.

CAPTION THAT: 

Twitter (TWTR) has rolled out auto-generated captions on videos. in an effort to make videos more accessible for deaf and hard-of-hearing users, Amanda Silberling of TechCrunch reported. Auto captions will be available in more than 30 languages. The captions could be a tool in Twitter’s new vertical feed the company began testing last week. The feed would reportedly make the app’s Explore tab similar to TikTok, providing algorithmically recommended content one piece at a time, including videos. Siberling noted that captioned videos have become commonplace due to the ease of scrolling through feeds when in public and headphones aren’t in reach. However, unlike TikTok or Instagram, Twitter won’t let users edit its captions. Thus, users will not be able to correct errors to make the automated captions more accurate.

STORY STUDIO LAUNCH: 

Snap (SNAP) has launched a standalone video editing app called Story Studio, Mia Sato of The Verge reported. The new app is meant to give creators more editing control over vertical videos and allow them to add elements like text, audio and AR lenses. The Story Studio app is now available as an “early version” to iOS users in the U.S., UK and Canada. Videos edited in Story Studio can be exported right to Spotlight or a user’s Snapchat story. Videos can be downloaded and shared on other platforms, and unlike TikTok they aren’t watermarked,. Since the launch of Spotlight last November, the company has paid out more than $250M to 12,000 creators. The company says it’s paying millions per month to users with top performing Spotlight submissions but did not specify an exact number. Snap said it will continue to offer a “range of opportunities” to reward popular creators but didn’t say whether the millions in payments per month would continue.

WHATS IN A NAME?: 

Meta Platforms (MVRS), the owner of Facebook, is behind a $60M deal to acquire the trademark assets of U.S. regional bank Meta Financial Group (CASH), according to David French and Elizabeth Culliford of Reuters, citing spokespeople for the companies. The deal shows how valuable the Meta name has become for the social media giant, which is betting that its focus on the metaverse will pay off in the coming years. Meta Financial noted in a regulatory filing on Monday that a Delaware company called Beige Key agreed to acquire the worldwide rights to its company names for $60M in cash. “Beige Key is affiliated with us and we have acquired these trademark assets,” a Meta Platforms spokesperson said. A MetaBank spokesperson also confirmed.

UNMODERATED SPACES: 

Kayvon Beykpour and other executives ignored warnings that Twitter lacked the ability to moderate Spaces and launched the product amid investor pressure, The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin, Will Oremus, Craig Timberg and Nitasha Tiku reported. In a presentation to colleagues shortly before its public launch in May, Beykpour acknowledged that people were likely to break Twitter’s rules in the audio chats, but refused to slow down, convinced that Spaces would help revive the company, according to an attendee. Taliban supporters, white nationalists, and anti-vaccine activists have all reportedly hosted live audio broadcasts on Spaces that hundreds of people have tuned in to, according to researchers, users and screenshots viewed by The Washington Post. Chats are neither policed nor moderated by Twitter, the company acknowledges, because it does not have human moderators or technology that can scan audio in real-time. Even before Spaces was launched to Twitter’s 200M daily users, employees sounded alarms about the potential for live audio broadcasts to be used for hate and extremism. Allegedly those who called for Twitter to pump the brakes have been sidelined by managers, according to four current and former employees who spoke to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity. “Ensuring people’s safety and encouraging healthy conversations, while helping hosts and listeners to control their experience, have been key priorities since the beginning of [Spaces’] development,” said spokeswoman Viviana Wiewall, who acknowledged the lack of real-time moderation for audio. “We’re exploring avenues in this regard, but it’s not something that we have available at this time.”

NEW FACEBOOK UPDATES: 

Facebook (FB) is rolling out a few updates for creators, including new controls to help creators more easily moderate comments, live chat support tests to troubleshoot account issues, and a webinar series on how to stay safe on Facebook. “We’re adding more controls to help you manage the conversation around your content like blocking a user and new accounts they create, and improving how you hide unwanted comments on your posts,” the company said. “With the hide action now available next to each comment, you can quickly hide comments with one click and easily view all hidden comments in a single place by changing the comment filter view on your posts. For keyword blocking, you can now automatically hide comments with variations of words that use numbers, symbols, or different spellings. We’re also testing Moderation Assist, which – similar to Admin Assist for Groups – makes it easy to set criteria to automatically moderate comments on your posts, reducing how much time is spent on comment moderation. You can select from a list of rules to automatically hide certain types of comments on your posts such as comments with links, images, and more.” Facebook is providing additional comment moderation tools including profanity keyword blocking tools, suspending/banning controls and stronger comment controls. The company is also about to kick off a test for Facebook Live community moderation so creators can designate a specific viewer to moderate comments on their behalf. Facebook said, “We’ve begun a small test to provide support through live chat for English-speaking creators in the United States who do not already have an assigned relationship manager from Meta to help with questions they might have about Facebook or Instagram. Creators can access a dedicated creator support site when logged in through Facebook. There, they can chat live with a support agent for help on various issues ranging from status of a pay-out to questions about a new feature like Reels. This is just a small test for now, and as we expand, creators will receive an invitation on Facebook or Instagram to join the test and explore the new support experience.”

HORIZON WORLDS FOR FREE: 

Meta’s Oculus said in a blog post that it is making Horizon Worlds available for free to people 18 years or older in the U.S. and Canada. “Horizon Worlds is a social VR experience where you can create and explore together,” the company said. “Since launching as an invite-only beta last year, we’ve been amazed by the community that’s begun to form and inspired by the unique experiences they’ve built. From action-packed games to tranquil locales ideal for meditation, Horizon Worlds has something to offer every taste and mood. Our vision for Horizon Worlds is to bring to life a creator-friendly VR space with best-in-class social world-building tools. And we’ve spent the past year developing those tools and improving them based on creator feedback. To better support those creators, we announced a $10 million Creator Fund in October. Since then, we launched our first Creator Competition with cash prizes and will announce the winners later this month.” Horizon Worlds is currently available to download for free on Quest 2, though the company noted that as of January 13, 2022, it will no longer be supported on Quest 1.

Originally Posted on December 16, 2021 – #SocialStocks: Senators Clash with Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri During Hearing

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