Facebook to put ads before (some) videos

The next time you open Facebook to watch a video of cute kids trying British food, or an educational explanation about what happens when you hold your pee, you may have to sit through an ad first.

Starting next year, Facebook will test advertisements at the beginning of some videos. The ads will last six seconds and only show up before videos you seek out in Facebook’s Watch section.

That means you won’t see these ads in your news feed. You’ll only run across a “pre-roll” advertisement when you view something in the dedicated “Watch” section, which Facebook launched earlier this year. (Facebook says the news feed location doesn’t “work well” for these kinds of ads.)

Watch is Facebook’s separate area just for video. It has a dedicated button on the bottom of the mobile app, and a link on the side of the website.

There are some original shows on Watch, like video versions of the popular Humans of New York account. But it’s more of a burgeoning YouTube than the next Netflix. The content is mostly short and low budget.

The social network is also tweaking its ads that show up in the middle of a video.

Starting in January, they won’t be included in any videos shorter than 3 minutes, and the first ad won’t pop up until at least a minute into whatever riveting content you’re consuming.

“Viewers tell us they prefer it when the video they are watching ‘merits’ an Ad Break — for example, content they are invested in, content they have sought out, or videos from publishers or creators they care about and are coming back to,” Facebook said in a blog post.

One other new change: Facebook is tweaking its news feed formula, again.

Videos that are part of a series or from creators churning out regular content will now get preferential placement in the news feed.

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Instagram tests standalone messaging app

Soon you may have yet another way to privately message friends.

Instagram is testing a standalone messaging app called Direct exclusively for sharing private messages, photos and videos with your friends.

The app is similar to what private messaging is like on Instagram already, but it opens directly to the camera instead of your list of messages, similar to Snapchat.

It also has unique camera filters not available on Instagram.

The company confirmed to CNN Tech it is testing Direct in Turkey, Uruguay, Chile, Portugal, Italy and Israel. It’s expected to roll out broadly next year, but there is no definitive timeline yet.

Instagram added private messaging to its app in 2013.

It’s unclear whether Direct will fully replace the Instagram inbox. Users who download Direct will see their Instagram inbox disappear, but it comes back when the messaging-only app is deleted.

Instagram’s latest move follows parent company Facebook’s decision to remove private chats from its main app. In 2014, Facebook forced users to download Messenger in order to privately message Facebook friends on mobile — an effort that was widely criticized. But the app now has over one billion monthly active users.

It’s likely Instagram will receive some of the same backlash — users may not want to have to download yet another app.

Facebook continues to expand its mobile footprint with messaging apps. The company recently launched a private chat app for children ages 6 to 12.

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Google is hiring 10,000 reviewers to clean up YouTube

Google is going on a hiring spree to try to stamp out offensive videos and comments on YouTube.

The company is recruiting thousands of reviewers to reduce the amount of “problematic content” on its video platform. It’s also introducing tougher restrictions on advertising and making greater use of smart technology.

By 2018, Google aims to have more than 10,000 people “working to address content that might violate our policies,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in a blog post. She did not say how many people currently monitor YouTube for offensive videos.

“Some bad actors are exploiting our openness to mislead, manipulate, harass or even harm,” Wojcicki said, adding that YouTube’s trust and safety teams have reviewed nearly 2 million videos for violent extremist content over the past six months.

“We are also taking aggressive action on comments, launching new comment moderation tools and in some cases shutting down comments altogether,” she said.

YouTube has grappled with a series of controversies this year concerning videos available on its platform. It was forced to adopt additional screening measures last month on its kid-friendly platform, YouTube Kids, after reports showed many of the videos there contained profanity and violence.

Companies such as Etihad Airways, Marriott and Deliveroo pulled their advertisements in June — as did the U.K.’s Labour Party — after finding they were appearing alongside videos made by a hate preacher.

Wojcicki said YouTube was taking a “new approach to advertising,” with more manual curation, stricter criteria for videos eligible to show ads, and a greater number of ad reviewers.

“We want advertisers to have peace of mind that their ads are running alongside content that reflects their brand’s values,” she said. “Equally, we want to give creators confidence that their revenue won’t be hurt by the actions of bad actors.”

The company isn’t just banking on more human intervention, however. Its machine learning algorithms have helped remove more than 150,000 videos from YouTube since June that depict violent extremism.

Wojcicki said 180,000 people would have had to work 40 weeks to assess the same amount of content.

“Because we have seen these positive results, we have begun training machine-learning technology across other challenging content areas, including child safety and hate speech,” she added.

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Facebook loves London. It’s creating 800 new jobs

Facebook is not afraid of Brexit.

The company is adding 800 tech jobs in London over the next year as it establishes its biggest engineering hub outside the U.S. The announcement coincided with Facebook opening a new office in the center of the city.

Once the new jobs are filled, Facebook will employ 2,300 people in London.

“Facebook is more committed than ever to the U.K.,” said Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s senior executive in Europe.

That commitment will give an important boost to the U.K. tech sector, coming as it does at a time of significant nervousness among British companies about what Brexit will mean for their business.

“The UK’s flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem and international reputation for engineering excellence makes it one of the best places in the world to build a tech company,” Mendelsohn added.

Britain is due to leave the European Union in March 2019 and businesses still have little clarity over the country’s future relationship with the EU.

At the moment, companies based in the U.K. are free to do business across the bloc without having to jump regulatory hurdles. They can also hire workers from any of the 27 EU member states.

That could all change. The U.K. government has said Britain will leave the EU’s internal market and restrict immigration after Brexit. That could exacerbate a skills shortage — according to research by techUK, an industry body, 31% of workers in the digital sector in London are foreigners.

Facebook didn’t comment on those risks on Monday.

Its new office will also host an in-house tech incubator called LDN_LAB. Facebook said it will invite U.K. startups to take part in programs designed to help kick start and accelerate their businesses.

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The guy who took down Trump’s Twitter account says it was ‘a mistake’

Bahtiyar Duysak describes himself as “an ordinary guy.”

The 28-year-old grew up in a small town in Germany and says the United States might be “the best country in the world.” He enjoys cars and values his time at the gym. In his free time, he also volunteers, most recently at a Muslim community center.

But four weeks ago, he did something extraordinary: he became the person responsible for taking President Trump off Twitter for 11 minutes.

The brief silencing of Trump’s account drove the internet into a frenzy. People questioned how Twitter could enable one person to take down such a high-profile account with tens of millions of followers. Some of the president’s critics said whoever did it should be considered a hero.

But Duysak, who was working as a contractor at Twitter at the time, says he never thought his spur-of-the-moment act would actually lead to Trump’s account going offline.

“I did a mistake, I confess,” he told CNNTech. “It’s not like I was looking for something or planning to do it. It was in front of me, and I didn’t do a good job, and I didn’t double-check things.”

Duysak, whose identity was first revealed by TechCrunch, declined to give details of exactly how he took down the account but insisted he didn’t do anything illegal.

Trump’s account came his way because it had been a reported by another user, he said. But it was only after he saw media outlets reporting Twitter’s official statement that an employee had taken the account down on their last day at the company that he realized what had happened.

“The specific mentions of this person on his last day, I immediately knew I was the only guy who left on the last day … I felt a little bit nervous,” he told CNNTech.

Duysak said he worked at Twitter through a contracting company called Pro Unlimited. He denied he was a rogue worker with a political vendetta and said he actually admires Trump’s success.

A Twitter spokesperson said the company can’t comment directly on Duysak.

“We have taken a number of steps to keep an incident like this from happening again,” the spokesperson said. “In order to protect our internal security measures we don’t have further details to share at this time.”

A source familiar with the matter identified Duysak as the person responsible for taking Trump’s account offline.

Pro Unlimited wasn’t immediately available for comment late Wednesday.

Duysak said he’s not concerned about any legal consequences from what happened because he’s “100% sure I didn’t commit any crime.”

He said November 2, the day Trump’s account was taken offline, was just “one of those days.”

“It was a hectic day,” he recalls. “You have a headache, you are tired. We are not machines — this was one of those days.”

He told CNNTech it was a coincidence that the error that led to Trump’s account being taken offline happened on his last day.

“Such a little probability,” he says. “Sometimes these things happen.”

Duysak had built up experience working at top tech firms.

He says he studied business administration in Germany and international finance in the U.K. before he came to the U.S. as a student. He completed his postgraduate studies at California State University, East Bay, and started working as a contractor for tech companies.

Before Twitter, Duysak said he worked for a contractor at YouTube helping make decisions on whether videos were entitled to revenue from ads.

YouTube didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Duysak lived in San Francisco for nearly two years. He says he spoke to Pro Unlimited and Twitter about making November 2 his last day even though his contract wasn’t up until early 2018. He says he didn’t want to extend his work visa and wanted to spend time with his family in Germany.

Duysak is back in Germany now. But what happened to Trump’s account raises questions about how much access both employees and contractors have to sensitive accounts and who holds editorial power at increasingly influential companies like Twitter and Facebook.

Their role as editorial gatekeepers and amplifiers is coming under growing scrutiny.

Duysak says he shouldn’t have been in a position where one rash move could lead to such an extreme outcome.

“Even if it was on purpose, it still shouldn’t have taken place … because of internal regulations at the company,” he said. “But all of this, it’s not my responsibility and I don’t want to say something negative about Twitter because it’s a great platform where all people are given the chance to share real time information.”

Despite what he did to the president’s account, Duysak says he admires what Trump has achieved in his career.

“He is a very successful person, and I admire his hard work and how he made it to get the highest position,” Duysak said. “But I think he needs to learn a little as a politician.”

Duysak says he’s taking a brief break from work but plans to get into banking.

“I apologize to everyone who I’ve hurt,” he said. “At the same time, I’m not a rogue person … I’ve worked for so many companies. Everyone will agree I’m reliable and trustworthy. There are little probabilities that occur and you’re in the spotlight.”

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