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Tech Titans Under Fire In US

Hundreds of American families are suing four of the biggest tech companies — Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram), TikTok, Google and Snap Inc (parent of Snapchat)…reports Asian Lite News

Hundreds of families are suing social media giants like TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Meta (parent company of Instagram and Facebook) in the US and they feel the tech companies as “big, bad monsters”.

According to the BBC, the plaintiffs include ordinary families and school districts from across the US.

“I literally was trapped by addiction at age 12. And I did not get my life back for all of my teenage years,” Taylor Little, now 21, was quoted as saying in the report that came out on Monday.

Taylor’s social media addiction led to suicide attempts and years of depression.

“If I had my phone taken away, it felt like having withdrawals. It was unbearable. Literally, when I say it was addictive, I don’t mean it was habit-forming. I mean, my body and mind craved that,” she was quoted as saying.

Taylor also struggled with content around body image and eating disorders.

Taylor and hundreds of other American families are suing four of the biggest tech companies — Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram), TikTok, Google and Snap Inc (parent of Snapchat).

“Lawyers for the families believe the case of 14-year-old British schoolgirl Molly Russell is an important example of the potential harms faced by teenagers,” the BBC report noted.

Russell, a seemingly happy teenager from northwest London, was found dead in her bedroom in November 2017.

It later emerged she had viewed masses of content related to suicide, depression and anxiety online.

Russell’s name is mentioned a dozen times in the master complaint submitted to the court in California.

In a breather for these families, a federal court in the US last week rejected social media giants’ motion to dismiss dozens of lawsuits, accusing them of running platforms “addictive” to kids and allegedly spreading child sex abuse materials.

US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected their motion, saying that Meta, ByteDance, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), and Snap (Snapchat’s parent company) must proceed with a lawsuit alleging their social platforms have adverse mental health effects on children.

“Because children still developing impulse control are uniquely susceptible to harms arising out of compulsive use of social media platforms, defendants have ‘created a youth mental health crisis’ through the defective design of their platforms,” according to the ruling.

“Further, these platforms facilitate and contribute to the sexual exploitation and sextortion of children, as well as the ongoing production and spread of child sex abuse materials (CSAM) online. To that end, defendants know that children use their products, both from public and internal data,” the ruling read.

Lawyers for the families called it a “significant victory”.

In a statement, Meta said that their thoughts are with the families represented in these complaints.

“We want to reassure every parent that we have their interests at heart in the work we are doing to provide teens with safe, supportive experiences online,” the social media giant said.

Google said that the allegations in these complaints are “simply not true”.

“Protecting kids across our platforms has always been core to our work,” the company said.

Snapchat said its platform “was designed to remove the pressure to be perfect. We vet all content before it can reach a large audience to prevent the spread of anything that could be harmful.”

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Snapchat unveils 2 new AR lenses for Indian users

Indian Gen Zs and young Millennials love to use their nicknames online, according to the research…reports Asian Lite News

Popular social media platform Snapchat on Wednesday introduced two new nickname-themed augmented reality (AR) lenses for users in the country.

The new AR lenses are– ‘India’s Top Nicknames’ and ‘My Nickname’.
The ‘India’s Top Nicknames’ lens includes five bespoke designs featuring the country’s favourite nicknames, the company said in a statement.

“Not only that, for the first time, Indians can customise the ‘My Nickname’ lens to create their very own nickname.”

The new custom nickname AR experience has been purpose-built to allow users to celebrate their nicknames proudly and share it with their loved ones.

The company also released new research in partnership with YouGov on Indian nickname culture, uncovering a national fascination with nicknames.

Indian Gen Zs and young Millennials love to use their nicknames online, according to the research.

The data also revealed that over 96 per cent of Indians have had at least one nickname in their lives.

“Nicknames are such an integral part of Indian lives and given to us by our real connections- friends or family,” said Kanishk Khanna, Director, Media Partnerships- APAC, Snap.

Sonu, Babu, Macha, Shona and Pinky are amongst the most popular nicknames in the country, the company said.

To access the new lenses, users just have to search ‘IN’s Top Nicknames’ and ‘My Nickname IN’ in the lens carousel.

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Snapchat’s major investments to localise experience for Indians

During the event, the company announced a partnership with homegrown e-commerce marketplace, Flipkart, to develop AR experiences for e-commerce…reports Asian Lite News

Snapchat is utlising its monetisation and community growth learnings from the India market to tap into new geographies, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel has said.

Instant messaging platform Snapchat has crossed 100 million monthly users in India and according to Spiegel, the company has made a concerted effort over the past year to organise its team and make investments in its products to realise monetisation and community growth opportunities.

“Our expansion efforts in India continue to prove successful, and we are using our learnings to inform how we approach community growth in new geographies,” he said during the company’s quarterly earnings call late on Thursday.

“Our desire to build a better way of communicating visually through our camera has evolved into a leading platform for augmented reality. Our AR products and services are driving major impact at scale today, as Snapchatters use our services to shop, play, learn, explore, and entertain themselves,” he added.

In October last year, Snap Inc, the parent company of Snapchat, revealed for the first time that it reached 100 million monthly users in India.

The announcement was made during the second edition of ‘Snap in India’, an event to celebrate the company’s community of Indian partners, creators, brands, storytellers and “Snapchatters”.

During the event, the company announced a partnership with homegrown e-commerce marketplace, Flipkart, to develop AR experiences for e-commerce.

The company also said that Snap Map has entered into a partnership with Zomato – the first Snap Map partnership in India. This allows Snapchat users access to restaurant information and place food orders from their personal Map on Snapchat, claims Snap.

Snap also launched a free programme in India called ‘Yellow Tree Bootcamp’ which brings together experts from Snap and the Indian startup community to discuss fundraising, operations, growth, including how to leverage tools like Snap Kit and Snapchat Ads Manager to grow.

The company recently launched Creator Marketplace, which allows brands to connect with creators directly and pay them to produce branded content. AR Lens Creators in India are currently participating, and it will be rolling out to Snap Stars in India soon.

“We have made significant investments to localise the Snapchat experience for the Indian community,” Spiegel had said.

Daily active users pop up to 319 million

Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, has become profitable for the first time, with reaching 319 million daily active users (DAUs) — a 20 per cent growth (on-year).

In the fourth quarter of 2021, Snap reported $1.3 billion in revenue (up 42 per cent) with a net income of $22.6 million.

The company posted 64 per cent growth in its full-year revenue.

“2021 was an exciting year for Snap and we made significant progress growing our business and serving our global community,” said CEO Evan Spiegel.

“The strength of our core business has enabled us to accelerate our investments in augmented reality, transforming the way that the Snapchat community experiences the world through our camera,” he said in a statement late on Thursday.

The growth in DAUs has been 20 per cent or more for five consecutive quarters.

It appears that Apple’s iOS privacy changes that have affected several platforms did not have much impact on Snap’s growth.

In Q4 2021, 25 different Discover partners each reached over 50 million unique Snapchatters globally, including Universal Music’s Rebel Labs, social publisher Jungle Creations’ lifestyle content, and Team Whistle’s sports content.

The company launched two Snap Map Layers, Memories and Explore, which allow users to view their saved Snaps by location and explore new ones around the world and have been used over 100 million times since launch.

“We partnered with e-commerce company Flipkart and cosmetics companies Sugar Cosmetics and MyGlamm to bring more AR shopping and virtual try-on experiences to Snapchatters in India,” Snap said.

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Social platforms unite to support vax drive

The platform is also hosting a series of question and answers with medical experts on the Prime Minister’s snapchat account…reports Asian Lite News.

Leading social media platforms including Snapchat, Reddit, TikTok, and YouTube, have stepped into supporting the vaccination programme by encouraging users to get the jabs.

The partnerships come as all adults aged 18 and over are invited to receive a vaccine in England.

Snapchat users can use NHS stickers, a filter, and later this month, an augmented reality lens that all read: ‘I’ve had my vaccine’ for UK users to share on their accounts.

The platform is also hosting a series of question and answers with medical experts on the Prime Minister’s snapchat account.

The most recent took place on Saturday 19 June with Dr Kiren Collison, the interim Deputy Medical Director for Primary Care for NHS England, who answered questions from the public about the vaccine.

Snapchat has also expanded its: ‘Here For You’ feature which provides in-app resources to people looking for more information around health, mental health and wellbeing. When someone searches for ‘COVID-19’, ‘vaccine’, ‘NHS’ and ‘vaccination’, they will have access to expert NHS resources on the vaccine to make sure they are well informed, build confidence and tackle misinformation.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “With the offer of the vaccine now extended to all adults in England, we are leaving no stone unturned to boost uptake and encourage everyone to get the jab when eligible.”

“I am delighted that Snapchat, Reddit, TikTok and YouTube – some of the most influential social media platforms – are coming together to support the biggest and most successful vaccine effort in NHS history.”

He said UK is accelerating the vaccine programme on the road to recovery and urged everyone to “come forward for the offer, roll up their sleeves and join the millions that already have the fullest possible protection from 2 doses.”

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said they have worked closely with social media platforms throughout the pandemic to promote life saving vaccine information, “and this new initiative with popular platforms will help drive take-up even higher.”

“We are also tackling misinformation online through our new Online Safety Bill to make sure people are not bombarded by harmful content,” Dowden said.

The community network platform Reddit has hosted 2 live ‘ask me anything’ sessions on its coronavirus forum, featuring experts such as Dr Amalina Bakri answering questions from Downing Street. Reddit will continue to host question and answers over the coming weeks to help people access factual and reliable information from a range of experts.

TikTok’s support for the vaccine rollout includes adding the NHS ‘I’ve had my COVID vaccine’ stickers to its library for users to share, and working with Team Halo – a group of scientists using the platform to provide the latest information on vaccines with entertaining and shareable videos.

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