Why social media companies won’t kill off bots

Bots, bots, everywhere, but nothing good to click. 

As the social media networks of the world engage in a performative struggle to become good for people’s well being, they have been simultaneously peppered with questions about bots on their respective platforms. The automated accounts degrade the user experience and poison the well, the argument goes, and calls to cull them from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have only grown since the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

The bots, however, are very much here to stay. 

Fun with Twitter bots

A look at Twitter makes this clear. Sure, the company is suspected of engaging in a recent purge of bot accounts that followed influencers, but as a whole it is actually pro bot. That’s right, the same social media giant that just notified 1.4 million Americans that they had interacted with accounts likely connected to a Russian troll army thinks bots are good for its platform and users. 

With some provisos, of course. 

Twitter is explicitly designed to allow for the creation and deployment of automated accounts. And there are plenty of great ones out there, with uses spanning the informative to the entertaining. 

Need a bot that alerts you every time someone makes a payment to the Bitcoin address associated with the WannaCry ransomware attack? It’s yours. Want something that shows you emoji meadows? Sure, why not. 

Twitter has gone and will likely continue to go after automated accounts that violate its terms of service, but even when it comes to truly malicious bots no process is going to be 100 percent successful in identifying and removing them. Some will always slip through the cracks. 

There’s also that uncomfortable little truth that automated accounts juice user engagement metrics. In March 2017, researchers from Indiana University and the University of Southern California found that anywhere between 9 and 15 percent of Twitter accounts are bots. Assuming their assessment was mostly correct, and that there are potentially 30 million fake accounts on Twitter, deleting them all wouldn’t look good for Twitter’s monthly active user numbers. 

Essentially, as long as your system is set up specifically to allow bots, there will be bots. For Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, that’s more than just the cost of doing business — it’s part of the business.


Facebook isn’t much different. The company is disturbingly obsessed with its real-name policy — ostensibly to better ensure authenticity on its platform or some other coded pro-ad-tracking speak — and yet it has fully embraced the bot. Just look to Facebook Messenger and all the bots that the Menlo Park-based company proudly boasts are a force for social good. 

At a time when people are really and truly not happy with Facebook, why would anyone at the company go out of his or her way to strike a PR win from the record? They won’t.

And anyway, bots can actually be good for Facebook’s bottom line. The more they engage with you, the more data you generate, and, consequently, the more advertising opportunities they create. Facebook has no incentive to rid its various platforms of allowed automated bot services — on the contrary, it thrives on them. 


Facebook is certainly less inclined to permit automated accounts on its marquee social media platform, but to completely rid it of them would be a massive undertaking. In November, the company admitted that there were approximately as many as 270 million fake accounts on its site. Sure, Facebook does and will continue to purge the most egregious offenders, but attempting to completely rid the platform of fake accounts — some of which surely are automated in some form or another — would likely catch many real users in the net. 

Facebook, just like all of us, has almost certainly come to terms with a certain amount of unwanted bots on its platform. It’s just the way things are, and the way they will continue to be. 


Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is not free from bots either. This past August Digiday explored how influencers use bots on the platform to gain a veneer of popularity. One example provided by the publisher was an automated system for liking and commenting on posts that included specific hashtags (in this case, dog related). 

The rough idea being that it would garner attention from the accounts receiving the likes and comments, which might, in turn, result in increased engagement and exposure for the influencer doing the liking. 

This also serves to clutter up the experience of the average Instagram user, but that’s just a side effect of the social media ecosystem doing its thing. 

Instagram says that it wants “to be an authentic and safe place for inspiration and expression,” and bots don’t have a role in that as far as Instagram is concerned. But will the company manage to totally eliminate them? 

Don’t bet on it. An instructive moment can be found way back in 2015, when, only a few months after what some referred to as the Instagram bot purge, The Wall Street Journal reported that potentially 8 percent of accounts on the platform were still bots. 

Sure, those numbers are old, but they speak to a larger social media truth: Bots are no easy target. 

Where bots thrive

Social media is the perfect environment for automated accounts — it’s where they thrive. They inflate engagement metrics, provide real services to users, help generate data on those same users, and are just plain difficult to completely weed out. 

Companies like Facebook and Twitter would love to be able to wave a magic wand and eliminate each and every account on their platform they deem to be problematic, but that’s not how the digital or IRL world works.

We know this. The social media giants know this. The people who make the bots that infect our online lives know this — and neither they, nor their creations, are going anywhere anytime soon. 


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Mark Cuban is heavily invested in these two tech companies

Image: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Mark Cuban’s two biggest bets on Wall Street are tech rivals Amazon and Netflix.

The billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank judge confirmed at a conference on Thursday that the online shopping giant constitutes his largest investment followed by the streaming service.

Cuban, who made his fortune as a tech entrepreneur in the ’90s, has previously called Amazon “the greatest startup and the greatest company in the world.”

He said in an interview with CNBC earlier this year that that he’s generally optimistic about the tech industry’s prospects.

“I think we’re going to go through the biggest technological revolution we’ve ever seen in the next 10 years,” he told the network.

But Cuban also touched on some criticisms of Silicon Valley in his appearance this week at the New York Times Dealbook conference this week. The two dominant players in the online advertising world—Facebook and Google—are like a “drug” to consumers, he said.

Aside from his tech predictions, Cuban also took some time to hint at a possible 2020 presidential run. Cuban’s name has been in the mix as a possible contender since his harsh criticisms of Donald Trump on the campaign trail last year.

He claims he would run as a Republican before he would a Democrat but most likely an Independent.

“I’m obviously considering it,” Cuban said. “The benefit of being an independent is you go right to the golden ticket time, if I get enough support in the polls then I get to participate in the debates.”

But he also relishes the idea of taking on Trump in a hypothetical Republican primary. b65f 248f%2fthumb%2f00001

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How Apple, Anheuser-Busch, and other companies are helping Harvey victims

Canned water, yogurt trucks, and free flights: Major companies across the country are improvising ways to help Houston flood victims as fallout from Harvey continues to devastate the area.

The storm and subsequent flooding have already killed at least eight people, displaced an estimated 30,000, and likely caused tens of billions of dollars worth of property damage.

Corporations like Budweiser-parent Anheuser-Busch, Walmart, and Duracell have opted to redirect business operations to play whatever small role they can in feeding, sheltering, and rescuing those affected. Many other companies have donated to the Red Cross’s relief fund or vowed to match customers or employees who do so.

Here’s a breakdown of everything corporate America is doing to provide aid:


The beer conglomerate’s massive Georgia brewery put beer production on pause this week to churn out 50,000 cans of water for Red Cross shelters in Louisiana. 

The company has done the same for other natural disasters in the past, including a spate of California wildfires and Hurricane Matthew. 

The home rental service is waiving service charges for evacuees and urging nearby hosts to list accommodations for free. As of Monday afternoon, there were around 30 under-$10 listings near Houston.

Airbnb regularly does this for mass emergencies as part of a program it started during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. 

Image: jeff blackler/rex/shutterstock


The crowdfunding site has created a dedicated landing page for Harvey-related campaigns.

Tech giants

Apple has set up Red Cross donations pages in iTunes and the App Store. Amazon and Whole Foods said they’d match up to $1 million donated to the Red Cross through the Amazon site.

Google created a dedicated disaster response map and announced it would donate a $250,000 grant to the Red Cross and match another $250,000 from employees. Microsoft also said it would give the Red Cross an “initial grant” of $100,000.

Major cell carriers

T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T all said they would not charge people in the affected areas for cell service for now. 


Dallas-based Southwest airlines gave 500 customers stranded in the shuttered Houston Hobby Airport a free flight out Sunday night.

Delta announced Monday that it will send a relief flight with supplies to the airport and evacuate more people.


The big-box chain has sent nearly 800 truckloads of supplies to affected areas and is expecting to ship around 1,700 more.


Duracell reps are in the area handing out free batteries.


The founder and CEO of the yogurt company said it was loading up trucks for the relief effort on Monday.

Waste Management

Houston-based Waste Management is donating $3 million to the Red Cross. f750 0f37%2fthumb%2f00001

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation issues a warning to companies banning hate groups

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a message for the tech companies that have been banning hate groups — be very careful.

The EFF, a nonprofit that focuses on “defending civil liberties in the digital world,” published a post on Thursday night that warned against the precedents set by the ongoing crackdown by major tech companies on websites like The Daily Stormer, a message board popular among the far right, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

“All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with,” wrote EFF staffers Jeremy Malcolm, Cindy Cohn, and Danny O’Brien.

Major tech companies have been cracking down on hate groups like never before in the wake of violence during protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. One woman died after a man with ties to far-right organizations allegedly drove his car into a group of counter-protestors.

Since then, Google, Facebook, Spotify, Squarespace, and other companies have taken action, garnering a mostly positive public response. 

The EFF’s post doesn’t come as a surprise; the organization is known to advocate against censorship on the internet.

The EFF noted that companies can choose what kind of speech to allow, but warned that companies are entering dangerous territory because of how much power they wield.

“We strongly believe that what GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudflare did here was dangerous. That’s because, even when the facts are the most vile, we must remain vigilant when platforms exercise these rights. Because Internet intermediaries, especially those with few competitors, control so much online speech, the consequences of their decisions have far-reaching impacts on speech around the world,” the post stated.

The EFF also warned that such action could be taken against anyone. 

“We would be making a mistake if we assumed that these sorts of censorship decisions would never turn against causes we love,” the post stated.

The EFF post had some supporters, most notably Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince. Cloudflare ceased doing business with The Daily Stormer and characterized the move as his unilateral decision. The company has traditionally maintained a hardline against censoring anything on the internet. While holding to the decision, Prince noted that the EFF post was “exactly on point.”

Others also applauded the EFF’s stance.

Others weren’t as convinced, arguing that the EFF downplayed just how toxic these groups have become.

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After Charlottesville, tech companies are forced to take action against hate speech

Silicon Valley spent years preaching a hands-off approach to even the most extreme speech in the interest of connecting the entire world. 

After Charlottesville, that’s changing quickly. 

Facebook, Google, Spotify, Squarespace, and a variety of other tech companies are taking action to curb the use of their platforms and services by organizations associated with far-right organizations. The effort, though apparently uncoordinated, is among the most aggressive campaigns yet to push a particular group off the internet’s mainstream spaces.

The moves come in the immediate aftermath of a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the “Unite The Right” rally, organized in part on Facebook, resulted in three deaths and dozens of injuries. The Facebook Event page for the rally, which drew a mix of white nationalists, self-identified Nazi, and the alt-right, was live for more than a month before Facebook removed it, Business Insider reported. It was only shut down one day prior to the rally. 

Now, a violent act affiliated with the alt-right is serving as a turning point, and more tech companies are continuing to take public and private actions—some unprecedented or at least unusual—against what they and their communities are flagging. Now, in the aftermath of Charlottesville, Facebook and Reddit are actively shutting down several hate groups, CNET reported. Even Cloudflare, a cloud security company with a history of taking a hardline stance against limiting the use of its services, has reportedly changed its stance.

“Previously tech companies felt like their job was to work behind the scenes and to focus on the business of business. What I think has changed since Charlottesville is the fact that companies are free to create online communities that reflect the type of communities they want to see in real life,” said Brittan Heller, ‎director of technology and society at Anti-Defamation League. 

“Companies are now realizing that now is a time of moral leadership,” Heller said, whose organization published its first report on cyberhate in 1985.

One focus of tech companies’ efforts has been to quell The Daily Stormer, a website launched in 2013 by neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin. The site’s affiliation with the alt-right and hate speech is nothing new. For example, Anglin is being sued for launching a “harassment campaign that has relentlessly terrorized a Jewish woman and her family with anti-Semitic threats and messages,” The Daily Beast reported in July.

Recently The Daily Stormer gained mainstream attention for their bigotry in Charlottesville. The group had helped to coordinate the rally. Afterwards, content on their website praised the man who murdered anti-racist protester Heather Heyes After her death, other posts personally attacked Heyes. After those events, it appears that the website is now a major problem in the eyes of the tech industry.

“Since tech companies are private entities by law they have the right to take action on their terms of service. They can make choices based on the demands of their customers and the needs of the market. This was the point that it wasn’t just freedom of expression, it was incitement to violence,” Heller said. 

On Sunday, GoDaddy told The Daily Stormer that it would stop hosting its hate-filled message boards. The company later went to Google, who banned them from using the service. Google also removed the company’s YouTube page. Email provider Zoho dropped them as a client. 

Facebook also has been more active, deleting links to The Daily Stormer article that personally attacked Heather Heyer, an anti-racist protester who was murdered after a driver struck her with his car. The article can only be shared if it includes a caption condemning the post. 

“Any shares of The Daily Stormer article that don’t include a caption will be deleted, Facebook said,” according to The Verge

And yet, GoDaddy, the first tech company to make a major public move against The Daily Stormer, had previously defended the website. 

When asked by The Daily Beast in July why GoDaddy hosts The Daily Stormer and other alt-right websites, the company cited the First Amendment and noted they have “more than 17 million customers” so they cannot monitor every lawsuit. 

Twitter’s made similar arguments in the past for its reason to allow President Donald Trump to use the platform regarding free speech and for its scale and continuous game of whack a mole when it comes to addressing abuse reports. 

When it comes to The Daily Stormer and other alt-right leaders on Twitter, the company does not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reason, a Twitter spokesperson told Mashable

But Twitter’s community standards do include a “Hateful conduct policy,” which specifically states, “You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.” 

A Twitter account claiming to be The Daily Stormer was suspended this week.

“Something that violates community terms can float under the radar for years, whether it’s a closed community or there’s just not outside or public scrutiny on what the group is doing,” said Emma Llanso, director of the Free Expression Project for the Center for Democracy & Technology. 

“It’s not going to be a perfectly applied set of terms because that’s essentially impossible for websites and online services to do given the sheer volume of content,” Llanso continued.  

Not all action took place in the aftermath. Airbnb had been made aware of the potential threat earlier in the month. The home-sharing platform had learned attendees of the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia had registered to use its services via the community and proceeded to ban them. 

“When we see people pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we take appropriate action. In this case, last week, we removed these people from Airbnb,” CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement.

The pushback didn’t happen as quick for some tech companies. Cloudflare still worked with The Daily Stormer until Wednesday. 

According to a statement from Cloudflare, they do not host anything and therefore do not have as much of a stake in the events, it seems. 

“Cloudflare terminating any user would not remove their content from the Internet, it would simply make a site slower and more vulnerable to attack,” a statement from the company reads, according to Quartz

But that type of laissez-faire attitude sparked outrage.

On Wednesday, Matt Sheffield of Salon tweeted an image of Anglin sharing an email of his Cloudflare subscription being terminated.

Cloudflare did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Also on Wednesday, Spotify pulled “hate music” from its streaming platform, after Digital Music News published a list of 27 bands it described as “white power music.” 

For several networks, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, their terms of service against hate speech and violence firmed up in 2015, when the public and several lawmakers pushed them on addressing terrorism. They also faced scrutiny in Europe, where hosting hate speech violates laws. 

Now, the companies face a reality in which it’s “important to be able to take proactive steps under their own terms instead of having to be responsive,” said Llanso of the Center for Democracy & Technology. 

The “Unite The Right” rally has only made it increasingly difficult for platforms to stay silent as the actions are broadcasted on social media and on television and not just behind closed doors or in pockets of the United States. 

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The top 10 companies for diversity in tech, ranked by their own underrepresented employees

Not on the list.
Not on the list.


It’s been a tough week for diversity in tech. 

Former Google engineer James Damore’s memo has ignited a pointless debate about whether or not women are inherently less capable of careers as software engineers. With the memo treated among many as a legitimate piece of scientific analysis, it can be discouraging for those who see it as manipulating scientific studies to support a flawed and problematic premise. 

The whole situation was reflective of larger problems with gender and racial diversity throughout Silicon Valley. Even at companies where engineers aren’t circulating arguments for why their employers should dismantle diversity programs, these ideas are pervasive. 

So it’s convenient that the jobs site Comparably has a new report out this week ranking Silicon Valley employers by how they’re doing at diversity. When it comes to gender, Google does not make the top 10 (although the company is one of the top ranked for racial diversity). 

Top 10 companies by gender diversity: 

  1. Salesforce 

  2. Adobe 

  3. Intuit 

  4. T-Mobile 

  5. LinkedIn 

  6. Accenture 

  7. PayPal 

  8. Workday 

  9. Apple 

  10. Facebook

Top 10 companies by racial diversity: 

  1. VMWare

  2. Disney 

  3. LinkedIn 

  4. Salesforce 

  5. Intuit 

  6. Google 

  7. T-Mobile 

  8. Dell 

  9. Facebook 

  10. Symantec

The rankings are determined by how these companies’ own underrepresented employees rate their experiences at work. So it’s not about the numbers in diversity reports, where Google, for example, is 56 percent white and 69 percent male, but about the experiences women and people of color actually have once they’re in the front door. 

Comparably then gives a score to each company and ranks them as compared to companies in the same industry and metro area. The scores look like this, with Google as a helpful example: 

Google's gender score on Comparably.

Google’s gender score on Comparably.

Responses were gathered over several months and through August 2017, so these are recent answers. 

Another report for Google—and its peers—to keep in mind as they deal with the fallout of one engineer’s manifesto. c0d8 2651%2fthumb%2f00001

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Why aren’t tech companies talking about Trump where it counts?

Tech companies that have been taking a stand against Donald Trump in the press are silent where it counts—their earnings reports. 

Almost no major tech companies have mentioned President Donald Trump in their quarterly earnings reports as posing a risk to their businesses. Google, Facebook, Apple, and the rest might talk a big game about immigration and net neutrality, but when it comes to communicating risks to shareholders, Trump doesn’t seem to be on their minds.

Financial data firm Sentieo combed the earnings releases of 500 U.S. companies to see which ones mentioned Trump. Plenty did, particularly companies in the the healthcare and energy industries. 

“Despite Silicon Valley being heavily reliant on foreign skilled migrants, they didn’t mention him at all in the run up to inauguration and that seems to continue to be the case,” said Youssef Essaegh, product manager at Sentieo. 

Tech, however, is barely represented. The most recent earnings release of Indian consulting firm Infosys has mentions of Trump only because of a transcript in which analysts asked company president Mohit Joshi about the impact of some proposed policies. 

“We don’t want to comment on the political side of it, but it is a fact. When there is uncertainty, clients delay decision making, it is very clear,” Moshi said during the call in response to a question about uncertainty created by Trump.

Not wanting to comment is understandable, Essaegh said, particularly since few companies are terribly keen to talk Trump in relations to their bottom lines.

“There’s the flip of the coin, which is if no one rings the alarm bell, you don’t want to be the only one doing it because they’re going to focus on you and think you’re the only one suffering from it,” Essaegh said.

There’s good reason not to rock the boat. The U.S. stock markets have enjoyed a strong run since Trump became president. The tech-heavy Nasdaq index is up almost 19 percent since the start of 2017, with many of the biggest names in tech among the best performers.

Trump is still named in plenty of earnings releases, but companies aren’t quite as worried as they once were. Mentions of Trump in the earnings reports of American companies have dropped sharply. From the end of 2016 to the most recent quarter, Trump mentions are down 74 percent among S&P500 companies, Sentieo found.

A similar study by FactSet Research found that chief executives are also referencing Trump less on conference calls. 

The earnings reports in particular are important, as companies have a legal responsibility to inform their shareholders of threats that the company is monitoring. That does not necessarily mean Trump should be in them, said Scott Kessler, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research, particularly given ongoing uncertainty over whether his administration can get anything of substance accomplished.

“I think it’s almost unreasonable to expect that every company is going to go through all the possible proposals and make statements about, ‘Well if this happened then this will be the result for us.’ I think there’s just too many uncertainties related to what’s going on here,” Kessler said.

This is not to say that none of Trump’s plans could end up affecting tech companies—for better or for worse. Issues like immigration could pose a threat, but tax reform has the chance to boost tech companies. Tech could receive a particularly big payday if they’re allowed to bring cash into the U.S. from overseas sales at a lower tax rate.

None of these issues, however, matter much if Trump can’t get anything done—a notion that is starting to take hold in financial circles. Tax reform sounds great, but Congress and Trump couldn’t even strike a blow to Obamacare, on which the party has broad agreement.

“I think people reasonably are wondering aloud in some cases if and when those other efforts will start to take shape,” Kessler said.

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Internet TV could be about to get a lot cheaper—and scarier for cable companies

Internet TV poses an important question: Would you give up a name-brand channel for a version you’ve never heard of to save money?  

For instance, would you take startup Cheddar over CNBC? Newsy instead of CNN? TheBlaze instead of Fox news?

Maybe not, but what if it meant a $10 bundle?

“We can debate whether Cheddar, which is basically 18 months old, is what percent as good as CNBC. Is it 3 percent? Forty percent? We can have that debate,” said Cheddar CEO Jon Steinberg. “But at the end of the day, it’s free to the distributor.”

Cheddar is one of a new group of media upstarts that have channels right alongside major cable companies on so-called “skinny bundles” of TV offered over the internet, such as Sling TV, which offers a base package of 29 channels for $20. The average cable plan hovers around $100.

The skinniest bundles, however, are yet to come. Cheddar and similar channels are providing TV-like content on the cheap, a prospect that could threaten their far bigger competitors. A super-skinny bundle would not just be smaller, but substitute in cheaper versions of some channels.

Newsy, for example, has around 80 people and is based in Columbia Missouri. CNN employs around 3,000 people across 38 locations around the world. They’re both on Sling TV.

“We don’t have thousands of people on staff, so we can make a product that looks good with stories that CNN wouldn’t necessarily cover,” said Blake Sabatinelli, general manager of Newsy. “And we can do it for so, so much cheaper.”

Price didn’t used to be as much of an object. Cable TV had a firm grip on its subscribers, who didn’t have options to look elsewhere. Bundles got bigger and prices went up—and there was little anyone could do to stop it.

Until the internet came along. Now, online TV bundles are competing head-to-head with price as a prime factor. 

“Price is very important. When you look at reasons people cancel pay TV, the top three reasons are all price related. Either the price is too high or you make me pay for channels I don’t want. It’s all price related,” said Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV.

Sling TV already has millions of subscribers and an increasing number of competitors, including DirecTV, YouTube, PlayStation, and Hulu. As more people cancel their hundred-channel cable subscriptions, these bundles are becoming an important lifeline for cable channels that are missing out on important viewership and revenue.

Whether cord cutters really want these channels is open for debate. The skinny bundles mostly have the same old channels, with some differing little from regular cable packages. And with younger people cutting the cord and getting less of their news from the TV, the value of channels like CNBC and CNN to them is immediately questionable. 

That makes Newsy, Cheddar, TheBlaze, and others an interesting proposition for a distributor looking to differentiate their offering. Lynch said that Sling doesn’t have plans to test out a super-skinny bundle, but that he expects another company will.

The question will be whether distributors can keep channels that people want while substituting in others that help round out the package.

“I do think you’ll probably see other services launch that attempt to thread that needle,” Lynch said. “But I think we’re really well positioned for that.”

Demographics is a key part of the pitch. Cord cutters tend to be younger, Lynch noted. That means in some ways, the newer channels are better geared for internet bundles with young audiences.

“Maybe they don’t have the same level of investment, but I think they have strong appeal to the demographics they go after,” Lynch said of channels like Newsy and Cheddar.

“If you’re a 26-year-old male or female, you might prefer something like Cheddar or Newsy to Fox News because it just fits your demographic better,” Lynch said.

The introduction of super-skinny bundles wouldn’t on its own be a major blow to cable companies, but it could add to their already sizeable woes. Internet bundles have had some success in providing channels a way to transition online without completely changing their business model. But if distributors start opting for newer competitors to keep prices down, cable channels would be caught in a difficult position.

The only other option might be direct-to-consumer options like HBO Now, which are a tough sell.

“The reality is there’s almost no scenario of the world where five years from now we as consumers will be paying as much money as we’re paying now to have home video entertainment delivered to us,” said Zack Kaplan, vice president on the internet and technology team at venture capital firm General Atlantic. 

Cheddar might not be forever free to distributors, but the impact of cheap TV options could have a lasting impact on the industry. 

“What can [cable channels] do?” Kaplan said. “They can’t lower their cost to match or their business model blows up.” a2b2 2ac6%2fthumb%2f00001


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Facebook is turning up the heat on media companies yet again

Dear media companies and other publishers, Facebook is not here for your slow-loading web pages.

Now, it will punish you for them. 

Facebook announced Wednesday it will lower the ranking of a web page appearing in News Feed if Facebook’s technology detects it will load slowly.

Facebook did not disclose how slow is too slow, but Wednesday’s blog post did include a statistic that “40 percent of website visitors abandon a site after three seconds of delay.” 

The news was revealed in a leaked blog post, shared by The Next Web‘s Matt Navarra:

The update is great news for publishers who have fast-loading websites, of course. 

“If signals indicate the web page will load quickly, the link to that web page might appear higher in your feed,” Facebook engineers Jiayi Wen and Shengbo Guo wrote in the blog post. 

For the average Facebook user, it’s obvious why the social network would make this change. Facebook makes money by having its users see as many ads as possible, which means spending as much time as possible on the app. If a user clicks a link that loads slowly, they may get frustrated, close the Facebook app all together, and—heaven forbid—go to Google. 

But for publishers, they’re (once again) being forced to adopt their sites to something that could contribute to less revenue. Slower websites could mean a richer visual experience, which could imply more videos, a.k.a. ad dollars. 

Facebook has a solution: Use Instant Articles, its tool that publishers can use to upload their articles directly into Facebook and therefore have them load within a second. 

Though the company does not implicitly call out the Instant Articles program in the blog post, Facebook media relations team has long been pushing the initiative on companies. It’s a better experience for the users, they say.

Yet publishers, including the New York Times and The Guardian, have abandoned Instant Articles, for now, saying that they see more success in subscriber rate without the program. 

Regardless of whether they jump onboard again, all publishers will have to prioritize fast-loading web pages if they ever hope to get through to the 2 billion people on News Feed. a2b2 2ac6%2fthumb%2f00001

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A top advocate for women in tech shares 5 ways companies can learn from Uber’s mistakes

Tech companies can avoid being like Uber.
Tech companies can avoid being like Uber.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

For anyone following Uber’s recent problems, Travis Kalanick’s resignation comes as no great surprise. But companies need to recognize the factors behind the headlines to avoid unwittingly following the same path.

You don’t have to look far to find examples of companies making the same sorts of poor decisions that led to Uber’s fall from grace. Like many tech leaders, Uber executives thought diversity and inclusion were negotiable values rather than key factors in attracting and retaining top talent. The latest Uber news highlights this disconnect: Investors asked for Kalanick’s resignation not because they expected the company to take responsibility for discriminatory behavior, but because negative press threatened the company’s financial performance.

Diverse workforces are critical to business success. A recent Deloitte study found that 72 percent of American workers would consider leaving their jobs for a more inclusive company. And research commissioned by the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) shows that diversity leads to increased innovation and better business results. projects there will be a million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020; we can’t let bias and bad behavior stand in the way of bringing every qualified technologist into the fold.

To prevent following in Uber’s now-notorious footsteps, leaders must recognize diversity and inclusion as core values. These five steps can help businesses prioritize—and benefit from—a diverse and inclusive culture. 

۱٫ Build a diverse leadership team. 

Send a powerful message by positioning women and minorities in highly visible roles. New research from FundersClub shows that tech startups with at least one female founder recruit women twice as well as startups with no female founders. And ABI’s own data shows that companies with women and minorities in leadership roles are better able to hire and retain women technologists at all levels. 

۲٫ Communicate the value of diversity. 

Outline a commitment to inclusion and diversity to encourage women and minorities to participate in developing company culture. Inclusion programs can illustrate an organization’s dedication: 92 percent of organizations on ABI’s Top Companies leadership index offered formal diversity training.

۳٫ Set goals for improvement. 

Track the diversity of your workforce and set targets for change, holding all senior managers accountable for success. Understand that achieving goals will take time, and require a long-term commitment as well as consistent oversight. Measurement is the only way to understand if your company is doing the right work to move the needle.

۴٫ Leverage HR to improve culture. 

Implement processes to support diversity at all stages of recruitment, hiring, and retention. Influence culture from the top down by focusing on advancing underrepresented minorities and women into visible senior roles. And ensure your HR leaders actively listen to employees’ feedback on diversity topics and address their concerns promptly.

۵٫ Tackle bias using proven methods. 

Establish formal policies that can make significant differences in company culture: diversity training, transparent promotion processes, official flextime policies, leadership development programs, and blind resume screening. Evaluate these programs continually to help weed out bias, which will improve your ability to hire, retain and advance women and minorities in technical roles. 

As an industry, we owe a debt to Susan Fowler and countless other women who have spoken out about sexual harassment and gender bias. We must acknowledge that Uber isn’t the first place this pattern has surfaced, and it surely won’t be the last. We must acknowledge the truth of these stories by encouraging employees and consumers to hold corporations responsible for their actions. And we must work together to create an industry where these cautionary tales become increasingly rare. 

Dr. Telle Whitney is president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Computing and a co-founder of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. She previously held senior technical management positions in the semiconductor and telecommunications industries. Whitney received her Ph.D. in computer science from Caltech, and her bachelor’s degree at the University of Utah.

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