Popular voice chat platform Discord has shut down several servers and accounts associated with the alt-right for violations of the terms of service. The company announced the enforcement action on Twitter, emphasizing that it is “about positivity and inclusivity. Not hate. Not violence.”
Predictably, this was quickly followed by accusations of censorship and political bias, and the near-universal assumption that the accounts in question had been banned for ideological reasons. One could, of course, just as easily claim (as some do with Twitter and Reddit) that by tolerating the accounts for as long as it did, Discord supports the ideologies in question.
The company cleared things up in a statement: “We unequivocally condemn white supremacy, neonazism, or any other group, term, ideology that is based on these beliefs. They are not welcome on Discord.”
“While we don’t read people’s private servers our Terms of Service explicitly forbid harassment, threatening messages, or calls to violence…The public server linked to AltRight.com that violated [the ToS] was shut down along with several other public groups and accounts fostering bad actors on Discord.”
In response to calls for counter-protestors’ Discord servers to be shut down as well, the company invited people to report them (email abuse at discordapp.com with details) and they would be investigated just as altright.com’s was.
Hate speech like that proudly employed by those organizing, participating in and discussing the horrifying events in Charlottesville is unwelcome on many platforms. In fact, discouraging hate speech is an ideological stance common to nearly all internet services, with the marked exception of services created specifically to circumvent that stance.
Different companies’ efforts and success in combating it vary widely, but just today GoDaddy revoked neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer’s hosting and Google kicked it off the domain registry — both for pretty clear ToS violations. Airbnb has been pretty clear about what’s allowed on its platform, as well.
We can certainly expect more actions like this, and for similar reactions as neo-Nazis and their like are removed from services to which they have forfeited their privilege to use. It seems likely this will lead to a pitiful, parallel Internet of Hate as the excommunicated communities coalesce and organize. Sad!
Here’s the full statement, for the curious:
Discord was built to bring people together through a love of gaming and our mission is to connect positive communities who share this appreciation. We unequivocally condemn white supremacy, neonazism, or any other group, term, ideology that is based on these beliefs. They are not welcome on Discord. While we don’t read people’s private servers our Terms of Service explicitly forbid harassment, threatening messages, or calls to violence. When hatred like this violates our community standards we act swiftly to take servers down and ban individual users. The public server linked to AltRight.com that violated those terms was shut down along with several other public groups and accounts fostering bad actors on Discord. We will continue to be aggressive to ensure that Discord exists for the community we set out to support – gamers.
LinkedIn to launch Talent Insights, a new analytics tool, as it dives deeper into data
LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social network for the working world with some 500 million members, has made a large business out of recruitment — with some 11 million job listings on the site at any given time, and the recruitment market providing the company with its largest source of revenue.
Now it is taking another step ahead in building out that business with a new product: LinkedIn Talent Insights, a self-service, big data analytics product that will let recruiters make deeper queries into statistics for hiring and employment, based on LinkedIn data.
Talent Insights is being announced in a closed beta today, with a full launch in 2018. It will be a paid product, Eric Owski, LinkedIn’s head of product for talent insights, tells me, although pricing will not be made public until it’s generally available next year.
Talent Insights will come, initially, with two views, called “Talent Pool” and “Company report.”
The first of these will let recruiters search on different parameters related to specific jobs that they may want to fill — for example, a typical kind of search LinkedIn envisions might be used here is, what schools are producing the most successful data scientists or natural language processing engineers; or which industries (or companies) have been recruiting the most computer vision specialists.
The Company report, meanwhile, will provide a similar kind of dive but into recruitment patterns at your own company and your competitors — including a look at what skills are growing the fastest and which cities employees are living in. The idea here is not to simply gain competitive intelligence but to improve how you are approaching recruitment yourself.
LinkedIn has made a couple of acquisitions in the past of recruitment startups — specifically Careerify and Connectifier — companies that have built big data solutions to approach the process of hiring and searching for good people in a more modern way. Some of that expertise has already started to make its way into LinkedIn products, and I suspect some of it is coming through here, too.
At the same time, the company has been building out a host of new features to help connect the dots between users and jobs and recruiters a bit more, such as Open Candidates, a way for users to quietly signal to the world of recruiters that they are open to considering new jobs, without letting people at their current organization or any others for that matter know what they are doing.
The significance of this new product for me is that it’s another indication of how LinkedIn is continuing to build out the parts of its business that have been strong revenue generators up to now.
And as it faces more and more competition from others that are hoping to inch into the recruitment space — most recently Facebook, which has been building out its own job listings business (most recently with a partnership with ZipRecruiter) — LinkedIn is looking for ways of keeping people coming back to its site over the others.
Offering more insights beyond job ads with tools like data analytics is one way of tying people to the platform, and as a paid tool you could even potentially envision a time when even if you are using LinkedIn for some of your recruitment budget, you might use it just for the analytics alone to help form wider recruitment strategies.
That’s assuming, of course, that people are not lying on their LinkedIn profiles. It’s still hard to know just how much of the data on LinkedIn is verified beyond people policing themselves — since you are not required to, say, give and verify a TechCrunch email when noting that you work for TechCrunch — and perhaps companies sometimes getting proactive on the platform. LinkedIn also has yet to launch verified profiles on the platform.
It’s also interesting to me because people have long known that LinkedIn is a massive data repository. Much of that data crunching has been done behind closed doors and for LinkedIn’s own purposes — sometimes leading to people saying LinkedIn is “creepy” because of the uncanny connections (and suggestions of connections) that it seems to make between people.
Now, it’s essentially opening up some of that analytics to its users.
Longer term, it will also be interesting to see how and if LinkedIn tries its hand and expanding this platform to more than just recruitment.
The company has been trying for years to evolve its reputation from simple job hunting and networking site to a place where people go to enrich their “professional selves” — be it through reading news relevant to their fields, or reading (and writing) thought pieces from people in those fields. It seems like a logical step to expand Talent Insights into “Professional Insights” down the line to continue to evolve that wider opportunity.
For now, though, the emphasis will be on using LinkedIn’s own data and keeping the focus squarely on recruitment.
“We are going to expand the number of questions that we can answer for talent professionals,” Owski said. “We are already answering critical questions that no other product answers in this way about the labor market.”
SoundCloud saved by emergency funding as CEO steps aside
SoundCloud has just closed the necessary funding round to keep the struggling music service afloat. CEO Alex Ljung will step aside though remain chairman as former Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor replaces him. Mike Weissman will become COO as SoundCloud co-founder and CTO Eric Wahlforss stays as chief product officer. New York investment bank Raine Group and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek have stepped in to lead the new Series F funding round of $169.5 million.
SoundCloud laid off 40 percent of its staff last month, with 173 employees departing in an effort to cut costs. The company only had enough runway left to last into Q4, and today’s investor decision was viewed as a do-or-die moment for the company. Now it will have the opportunity to try to right the ship, or sail into an established port via acquisition.
SoundCloud declined to share the valuation or quantity of the new funding round. Yesterday, Axios reported the company was raising $169.5 million at a $150 million pre-money valuation. That’s a steep decline in value from the $700 million it was valued at in previous funding rounds. The new Series F round supposedly gives Raine and Temasek liquidation preferences that override all previous investors, and the Series E investors are getting their preferences reduced by 40 percent. They’re surely not happy about that, but it’s better than their investment vaporizing.
Raine will get two board seats for bailing out SoundCloud, with partner and former music industry attorney Fred Davis, and the vice president who leads music investments, Joe Puthenveetil, taking those seats.
While abdicating the CEO role probably wasn’t exactly what Ljung had hoped for, at least he gets to stay on with the company as chairman of the board. “This financing means SoundCloud remains strong, independent and here to stay,” he wrote.
SoundCloud says its total revenue is now at a $100 million annual run-rate. If it can keep costs low and grow that number, it may eventually get to break even and no longer need infusions of investor capital.
TechCrunch broke news about the magnitude of the SoundCloud crisis last month. Sources from the company told us the layoffs had been planned for months, but SoundCloud still recklessly hired employees up until the last minute, with some being let go within weeks of starting. Employees told TechCrunch that the company was “a shitshow” with inconsistent product direction and dwindling cash. Ljung was seen as reluctant to be honest with the team, and unfocused as he partied around the world like a rock star.
Our report led to a flurry of follow-on coverage, prompting fans and artists to speak up in favor of the service. The rally was reminiscent of the love shown to Vine after Twitter announced it would shut down. Popular musician Chance The Rapper tried to get involved to save the company. He, like many other indie hip-hop artists, made their name on the platform as part of a genre that came to be called “SoundCloud Rap.” In the end, SoundCloud was saved when Vine wasn’t.
For now, music and other audio saved on SoundCloud is safe. But the company will need to find a way to make its subscription tiers more appealing and scale up its advertising despite having much less staff to drive the changes. If it can’t, SoundCloud could be back begging for cash in a year.
The new management should provide some additional confidence. I’ve interviewed both Ljung and Wahlforss in the past, and neither had answers to the big questions facing SoundCloud about its product direction, business model and the spurious copyright takedowns that have eroded its trust with musicians.
Trainor may be able to institute some more discipline at the startup. He was the CEO of Vimeo from 2012 to 2016, and has poached his former COO there to help run SoundCloud. They helped Vimeo fend off bigger rivals like YouTube by doubling down on what was special about the service: a focus on high-quality artful film rather than amateur viral videos. That experience makes Trainor a great fit to lead SoundCloud, which is fending off bigger rivals like Spotify and Apple Music.
SoundCloud’s best bet isn’t to battle them directly, but double down on the user-uploaded indie music scene, including garage demos, DJ sets, unofficial remixes and miscellaneous audio you can’t find elsewhere. Whether it stays independent long term or tries to seduce an acquirer, SoundCloud will benefit from spotlighting its unique community of creators and hardcore listeners.
Featured Image: TechCrunch
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