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Bumble Marks First User Growth Decline Since IPO on COVID-19 Hit, Has 2.9 Million Paid Users Now

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By Reuters | Updated: 11 November 2021

Bumble posted its first sequential decline in user growth since the dating app owner went public in February, as fresh pandemic restrictions crimped demand in some markets, sending its shares down over 9 percent in extended trading.

In the third quarter, total paying users fell 2 percent from the prior quarter to 2.9 million as the global Delta variant surge prompted renewed lockdowns, curtailing consumer spending on dating app subscriptions and in-app purchases.

Bumble’s other dating app, Badoo, which is mostly used by the urban middle class segment, also saw user growth affected by the economic pressures brought on by the health crisis in some markets.

“Badoo operates in a large number of markets where the pandemic is still a significant challenge … with differences in pace of recovery by region,” Chief Executive Officer Whitney Herd said in a post-earnings call.

“While many key markets such as Russia and Brazil have shown strong growth in both paying users and user revenue, other markets like France and Italy have lagged.”

Bumble’s shares have lost about 32 percent since its market debut in February.

Despite the slowdown, Texas-based Bumble raised its full-year revenue forecast and said it remained well-positioned for the upcoming quarter as it continues to expand internationally. Rival Match, however, projected fourth-quarter revenue below estimates as COVID-19 hit the Tinder owner’s business in Asia.

Bumble expects current-quarter revenue between $208 million (roughly Rs. 1,549 crore) and $211 million (roughly Rs. 1,571 crore), above analysts’ estimates of $206 Million (roughly Rs. 1,534 crore), according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Total revenue was $200.5 million (roughly Rs. 1,493 crore) in the third quarter, compared with estimates of $198.8 million (roughly Rs. 1,480 crore).

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Instagram Tightens Protection for Teen Users as US Senate Hearing Looms

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 7 December 2021

Instagram on Tuesday tightened protections for teens on the eve of a Senate hearing about whether it is “toxic” for young users.

“Every day I see the positive impact that Instagram has for young people everywhere,” chief executive Adam Mosseri said in a post.

“I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram.”

Instagram’s parent company Meta, which also oversees Facebook, is battling a serious reputational crisis after a whistleblower leaked reams of internal documents showing executives knew of their sites’ risks for teens’ well-being, prompting a renewed US push for regulation.

Mosseri is to testify Wednesday at a Senate committee hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Instagram and Reforms for Young Users.”

“After bombshell reports about Instagram’s toxic impacts, we want to hear straight from the company’s leadership why it uses powerful algorithms that push poisonous content to children driving them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat.

Instagram will be stricter about what it recommends to teen users, and will stop people from mentioning teens who don’t follow them on the platform, according to Mosseri.

Instagram will also start “nudging” teens toward new topics if there is one they have been dwelling on for a while, and suggest they take a break if they have been spending a lot of time on the platform, Mosseri said.

“If someone has been scrolling for a certain amount of time, we’ll ask them to take a break from Instagram,” Mosseri said.

The break suggestion feature launched in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States, and will expand to other countries by early next year, according to Instagram.

The platform also introduced an educational hub for parents, to “help them get more involved with their teen’s experiences” and tools for them to set limits on how much time their children spend in the app, Mosseri said.

“Meta is attempting to shift attention from their mistakes by rolling out parental guides, use timers, and content control features that consumers should have had all along,” Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn said in a statement.

“My colleagues and I see right through what they are doing.”

Meta has vehemently pushed back at accusations that its platforms are “toxic” for teens or that it puts profit over user safety.

Facing pressure, the company had previously announced that it would suspend but not abandon the development of a version of Instagram meant for users younger than 13.

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Apple’s ‘Hands-Off’ Approach With Roblox Draws Focus in US Antitrust Probe: Report

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By Reuters | Updated: 7 December 2021

US prosecutors are looking for instances in which Apple is unevenly enforcing rules for app developers such as gaming firm Roblox and some others, the Information reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is probing key revelations from the antitrust trial between Apple and Epic Games in May, according to the report, in which the Fortnite maker had argued that Apple had given a free pass to Roblox, whose app lets people pick from a selection of games to play.

Following this, Roblox had removed reference to the word “game” and changed it to “experiences”, the Information reported.

The DOJ recently asked Roblox why it made the language change and also wants to know whether Apple’s 2019 launch of its Arcade game app store made it more difficult for game developers to compete with the iPhone maker, according to the report.

Apple, DOJ did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment. Epic Games declined to comment.

The tech news website had reported in late October that the DOJ was accelerating its two-year-old antitrust probe on Apple in the last several months, increasing the likelihood of a lawsuit.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 4 December 2021

Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.

Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.

It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.

Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”

“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.

Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.

Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.

“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.

In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”

But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

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Microsoft Office’s New UI Now Rolling Out for Everyone

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By ANI | Updated: 3 December 2021

American tech conglomerate Microsoft has started to roll out a new Office UI for its users this week. The visual update was originally announced earlier this year and went into testing over the summer.

Now it’s starting to roll out to all Office 365 and Office 2021 users, according to The Verge. This new Office UI is designed to match the visual changes in Windows 11, and it includes a more rounded look to the Office ribbon bar, with some subtle tweaks to the buttons throughout Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

It’s a relatively simple refresh, and Office will now match the dark or light theme that you set inside Windows. The new-look can be toggled on or off using the Coming Soon megaphone icon in the top right-hand corner of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote.

It should be available for all Windows 11 users right now, and Microsoft says 50 percent of current channel subscribers will have the visual update enabled automatically.

Most of the design changes are subtle, but Microsoft has teased more dramatic changes to its Office UI, which included moving toward more of a command bar instead of the traditional ribbon interface.

As per The Verge, it’s still expected to see these changes appear in the Web and mobile versions of Office first, and Microsoft did say last year that its bigger Office UI changes could take a year or two to roll out.

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WhatsApp Said to Win Approval to Double Payments Offering to 40 Million Users in India

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By Reuters | Updated: 27 November 2021.

WhatsApp has won regulatory approval to double the number of users on its payments service in India to 40 million, a source with direct knowledge told Reuters on Friday. The company had requested that there should be no cap on users of its payment service in India.

Instead, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) this week told the company it could double the user base to which it can offer its payment service – currently restricted to 20 million – the source said.

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which recently changed its name to Meta.

The source said the new cap would still hinder the company’s growth prospects given that WhatsApp’s messenger service has more than 500 million users in India, the company’s biggest market.

It was not clear when the new cap would come into effect.

WhatsApp did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the NPCI declined to comment.

WhatsApp competes with Alphabet’s Google Pay, SoftBank- and Ant Group-backed Paytm, and Walmart’s PhonePe in India’s crowded digital market.

The NPCI gave WhatsApp approval to start its payments service last year after the company spent years trying to comply with Indian regulations, including data storage norms that require all payments-related data to be stored locally.

WhatsApp has almost reached its user base of 20 million for payment services, said the source, who declined to be identified as the details are private.

Online transactions, lending and e-wallet services have been growing rapidly in India, led by a government push to make the country’s cash-loving merchants and consumers adopt digital payments.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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China Demands Tencent Submit New Apps, Updates to Inspection Before Being Uploaded: Report

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By Reuters | Updated: 25 November 2021

China has required Tencent Holdings submit any new apps or updates for inspections before they can be uploaded after a number of its apps were found to have committed violations, Chinese financial media outlet Yicai reported on Wednesday.

Yicai, citing unnamed sources, said the Chinese social media and gaming giant had been required to do so by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) after some of its apps were found to have infringed users’ rights and interests.

It also said that MIIT had recently issued a notice to say that between November 24 to December 31, all mobile apps and their updates will need to undergo a roughly seven-day-long review before they can be uploaded to app stores.

Tencent said its apps remained functional and available for download in response to Yicai’s and other local media reports.

“We are continuously working to enhance user protection features within our apps, and also have regular cooperation with relevant government agencies to ensure regulatory compliance. Our apps remain functional and available for download,” the company said.

Chinese regulators have in over the past year mounted a wide-ranging crackdown on its tech giants, seeking to dismantle some of the industry’s long-held practices after accusing them of monopolistic behaviour and infringing user rights.

This has included a step up in checks on mobile apps by regulators. On November 3, MIIT ordered 38 apps from companies, including those of Tencent, to rectify the excessive collection of personal information.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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