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Federal judges evaluated the privacy and free speech implications of a California law that would create a database of online identities for sex offenders, noting the shift in public sentiment around such data collection since voters passed the law last November and today, as revelations about the US’s monitoring of online communications continue to emerge.

“We’re living in a post-Snowden world,” said Judge Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, referencing the surveillance practices revealed by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden and questioning whether a database of email addresses and online identities intended to help solve sex crimes could be used to monitor people’s political speech.

Mr Bybee was one of three judges hearing oral arguments in a case about Proposition 35, the California law that requires convicted sex offenders to register their email addresses and user names for online news sites and social networks. The initiative was passed by a majority of voters last November, after receiving financial backing from Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer between 2005 and 2009. Read more

Facebook has agreed to pay $20m to settle a class action lawsuit, after it included users’ names and photos in paid advertisements.

Some 614,000 users who appeared in a Sponsored Story on the site without giving their consent will now receive $15 each. That’s slightly more than anticipated under an earlier proposal, partly because lawyers and activists will receive less.

For Facebook, whose market cap has just surpassed $100bn, this is hardly an Erin Brockovich moment. But it’s another reminder that there’s a fine line between social advertising – which uses your friends’ buying habits to influence your own – and anti-social advertising, which just annoys everyone. Read more

Facebook will report second quarter earnings on Wednesday, with Wall Street expecting $1.62bn in revenues and 14 cents earnings per share.

Analysts will be looking for signs of increased advertising spending among small businesses and in international markets, as growth from large US advertisers is believed to have levelled off. Read more

African-American teenagers are more likely to use Twitter than their white counterparts, according to a study out today from the Pew Research Center.

Researchers noted a significant jump in Twitter use among teens in general, but found that 39 per cent of African-American teens used the microblogging site compared to 23 per cent of white teens. Read more

Wall Street is anticipating another positive earnings report from Facebook after markets close on Wednesday and the social network states first quarter results.

Analysts expect to see a bump in revenues from advertising products launched last year, and hope to hear plans for future ad products, in particular, video advertising and ad plans for Facebook Home, the new super app Facebook launched for Android phones in April.

Though business in the first quarter tends to slow compared to the preceding quarter, which included the holidays and the US presidential election, analysts are expecting 36 per cent revenue growth year on year. Consensus estimates are for 13 cents in earnings per share on $1.44bn in revenue. Morgan Stanley predicts mobile advertising revenues will be $314m for the quarter, representing 25 per cent of overall advertising revenues, up from 23 per cent in the last quarter. Read more

“It’s free and always will be.” That’s what newcomers to Facebook are told when they sign up online. So there is some surprise that the site is now charging some UK users between 71p and £10.68 to send messages to people they don’t know.

The scheme was launched in December in the US, but the UK roll-out is a strong signal that Facebook believes it is actually a runner. Never mind the critics who called the idea “almost too ridiculous to believe”. The site already charges users to “promote” their posts among their friends and followers. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Facebook is an incredible innovator, but one of its greatest strengths is its ability to absorb – the less charitable might say copy – its competitors’ best features. We saw it with Twitter and status updates; with Foursquare and Places; with Pinterest and last autumn’s Collections tool; and most recently Snapchat and the Poke app.

That’s fine when startups are nipping at your heels, but does that work when you’re competing against the tech industry’s biggest platforms?

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If I didn’t already obsessively look at my phone in search of distraction, while waiting for the train or a friend who’s running late, Facebook has just made it ten times easier to get a quick fix.

With the new Facebook “Home” for Android, photos and status updates from my Facebook newsfeed will be the first thing I see when I pick up my phone. (I’ll have to explain the demotion to my cat, Lucas, whose yellow eyes will no longer stare up at me from the screen on first swipe).

Instead, a rolling stream of photos passes over the screen as they are being uploaded and posted by friends. If I want a closer look, I just tap once. One more tap and I can see who Liked or commented on the photo, or type a comment myself. Read more


Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to turn Facebook into a “mobile first” company faced an important test on Thursday as the company unveiled what was expected to be its own mobile software platform: a version of the Android operating system that puts the social networking service front and centre.

But would it be enough to give Facebook a firmer foothold in a smartphone world increasingly dominated Apple, Google and Samsung?

 

The digerati are having fun with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ruling that US companies can use social media to distribute market-sensitive information such as earnings reports. “Facebook Flap Forces SEC Into 21st Century,” says Forbes.

Not so fast. The US regulator’s decision to drop its inquiry into Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive, who boasted about new viewing figures on his personal Facebook page, is only an incremental advance into the new millennium. It makes sense for the SEC to acknowledge the growing use of social media (I’m guessing more people saw Mr Hastings’ Facebook post than have viewed any regulatory announcement in corporate history), but I don’t think the decision will prompt fearful CEOs to tweet their earnings much more than they do already – and, even if it does, it won’t make much difference to investors.

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