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AmazeVR, the Los Angeles-based virtual reality entertainment distribution service, is taking its first steps into the world of location-based virtual reality experiences with an installation in Seoul’s Incheon International Airport.

The company, which also scored an additional $2.5 million commitment to expand its total funding to around $9 million, made the announcement last week.

The company, which launched last May with backing from the Korean hardware manufacturer LG, has added Partners Investment and YG Investment, the financing arm of YG Entertainment, which manages a stable of Korean pop artists and owns a record label, talent agency, production company and events management and concert production company.

Backed by LG, AmazeVR is hoping to resurrect virtual reality’s consumer dreams

Founded by a cadre of seasoned Korean technology executives, AmazeVR soft-opened an 11,000-square-foot entertainment hub in Incheon’s airtrain station on the way to Terminal 1. It’s a mix of meditation areas and relaxation-focused VR videos, the company said.

There’s also a performance stage to display immersive performances from popular musicians (hence the YG investment) and an indoor playground for kids and the kids-at-heart.

“As leaders in the online VR consumer market, one of our key objectives is to broaden our distribution and expand capabilities towards immersive experiences offline as well,” said Steve Lee, AmazeVR’s chief executive, in a statement. “Through this location-based hub at Incheon International Airport, we can expose an untapped market not just to the great content that AmazeVR produces, but also to the wonders of VR in general. Our investors recognize this and have deep connections within the music and entertainment industries, which will help us develop unique VR experiences with even more incredible content that will extend VR adoption globally.”

The company has inked partnerships with two of the last remaining immersive entertainment studios, Atlas V and Felix & Paul Studios.

“Our mission, is that we believe in the consumer market,” says Earnest Lee, AmazeVR’s chief content officer. “We have seen the VR market is still fairly nascent and we’re moving forward with location-based entertainment. This is a start to get into the location-based industry.”

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Most in tech would agree that following the launch of Alexa and Google Home devices, the “Voice Era” is here. Voice assistant usage is at 3.3 billion right now; by 2020, half of all searches are expected to be done via voice. And with younger generations growing up on voice (55% of teens use voice search daily now), there’s no turning back.

As we’ve reported, the voice-based ad market will grow to $19 billion in the U.S. by 2022, growing the market share from the $17 billion audio ad market and the $57 billion programmatic ad market.

That means that voice shopping is also set to explode, with the volume of voice-based spending growing twenty-fold over the next few years due to voice-based virtual assistant penetration, as well as the rapid consumer adoption of home-based smart speakers, the expansion of smart homes and the growing integration of virtual assistants into cars.

That, combined with the popularity of digital media — streaming music, podcasts, etc. — has created greenfield opportunities for better brand engagement through audio. But brands have struggled to catch up, and there have not been many ways to capitalise on this.

So a team of people who co-founded and worked at Zvuk, a leading music streaming service in Eastern Europe, quickly understood why there is not a single profitable music streaming company in the world: subscription rates are low and advertisers are not excited about audio ads, due to the measurement challenges and intrusive ad experience.

So, they decided to create SF-based company Instreamatic, a startup which allows people to talk at adverts they see and get an AI-driven voice response, just as you might talk to an Alexa device.

Thus, the AI powering Instreamatic’s voice-driven ads can interpret and anticipate the intent of a user’s words (and do so in the user’s natural language, so robotic “yes” and “no” responses aren’t needed). That means Instreamatic enables brands which advertise through digital audio channels (streaming music apps, podcasts, etc.) to now have interactive (and continuous) voice dialogues with consumers.

Yes, it means you can talk to an advert like it was an Alexa.

Instead of an audio ad playing to a listener as a one-way communication (like every TV and radio ad before it), brands can now reach and engage with consumers by having voice-interactive conversations. Brands using Instreamatic can also continue conversations with consumers across channels and audio publishers — so fresh ad content is tailored to the full history of each listener’s past engagements and responses.

An advantage of the platform is that people can use their voice to set their advertising preferences. So, when a person says “I don’t want to hear about it ever again,” brands can optimize their marketing strategy either by stopping all remarketing campaigns across all digital media channels targeted to that person, or by optimizing the communication strategy to offer something else instead of the product that was rejected. If the listener expressed interest or no interest, Instreamatic would know that and tailor future ads to match past engagement — providing a continuous dialogue with the user.

Its competitor is AdsWizz, which allows users to shake their phones when they are interested in an ad. This effectively allows users to “click” when the audio ad is playing in the background. One of their recent case studies reported that shaking provided 3.95% interaction rates.

By contrast, Instreamatic’s voice dialogue marketing platform allows people to talk to audio advertising, skipping irrelevant ads and engaging in interesting ones. Their recent case study claimed a much higher 13.2% voice engagement rate this way.

The business model is thus: when advertisers buy voice dialogue ads on its ad exchange, it takes a commission from that ad spend. Publishers, brands and ad tech companies can license the technology and Instreamatic charges them a licensing fee based on usage.

Instreamatic has now partnered with Gaana, India’s largest music and content streaming service, to integrate Instreamatic into Gaana’s platform. It has also partnered with Triton Digital, a service provider to the audio streaming and podcast industry.

This follows similar deals with Pandora, Jacapps, Airkast and SurferNETWORK.

All these partnerships means the company can now reach 120 million monthly active users in the United States, 30 million in Europe and 150 million in Asia.

The company is headquartered in San Francisco and London, with a development team in Moscow, and features Stas Tushinskiy as CEO and co-founder. Tushinskiy created the digital audio advertising market in Russia prior to relocating to the U.S. with Instreamatic. International Business Development head and co-founder Simon Dunlop previously founded Bookmate, a subscription-based reading and audiobook platform, DITelegraph Moscow Tech Hub and Zvuk.

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Nike has long been synonymous with premium sneakers and other sports gear, but now the company could be extending its brand into another area — digital media — thanks to the rumored acquisition of a Seattle-based startup.

TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that the multibillion-dollar sports giant has acquired TraceMe, which originally built an app to let fans engage with sports stars and other celebrities before later pivoting into a service called Tally, a platform aimed at sports teams, broadcasters and venues to help fans engage around sporting events.

TraceMe was originally founded by Russell Wilson, the champion quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, who was the executive chairman of the startup. The company had raised at least $9 million from investors that included the Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group and Bezos Expeditions (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ fund), as well as YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and others, and it was last valued, in 2017, at $60 million.

Nike confirmed the acquisition to us in a short statement: “NIKE, Inc. has acquired TraceMe to supplement the company’s content strategy on Nike-owned platforms,” a spokespersonsaid in an email.

Our source said the deal closed in recent weeks and that “it was a good outcome” for the company and investors. It involved both IP — the main interest, the source said, was in TraceMe’s tech rather than Tally’s — and the team.

Indeed, at least eight of them, including TraceMe’s CEO Jason LeeKeenan, an ex-Hulu executive, are now listing Nike as their place of employment. LeeKeenan describes his new role as the head of Nike Seattle. Others on the team now have taken roles that include software engineers, head of product and product designers.

No one at TraceMe responded to our requests for comment. GeekWire (which likely got the same tip we did) published a post noting that it had a source that confirmed the deal.

The athletic footwear giant Nike is no stranger to the world of technology: it has been a longtime collaborator with the likes of Apple to develop apps for its devices and has been an early mover on the concept of bringing and integrating cutting-edge (yes, possibly gimmicky) tech into its footwear and other gear. And that’s before you consider Nike as an e-commerce force.

But while the dalliance between sports, tech and fashion is well established, this deal opens up a different frontier for the company.

It’s very rare for Nike to make an acquisition, but it makes sense that if it were going to do some M&A, it would be in the area of digital media and picking up engineers to execute on a wider vision in that area.

The company is best known, of course, for its shoes and related sporty clothes, which it has for a long time created in co-branding with the biggest sports stars and has more recently started to extend to a wider circle of celebrities and hot fashion labels in a spirit of sporty street style. These have included the likes of so-cool Supreme, Travis Scott and seemingly other tentative forays into music culture.

Nike overshadows all other sports shoe brands in size, with its current market cap at nearly $117 billion, more than twice that of its closest competitor, Adidas . But Adidas has been stealing a march when it comes to partnerships with a wide network of celebrities (even if Drake prefers checks over stripes).

While it isn’t clear yet how and if Nike will be using the startup’s existing services, you could see how a deal like this could help Nike start to think about how it might leverage the collaborations and endorsements it already has in place into experiences beyond shoes, advertising and athletic performance.

In this age of Instagram and influencers playing a massive role in shifting consumer sentiment (and dollars), this could give Nike a shot at building its own media platform, independent of these, on its own terms.

This is a bigger trend that we’re seeing across other consumer categories. Consider how companies like Spotify have extended beyond simple music streaming, investing in building tools to help artists on its platform with marketing and expanding their brands. Selling shoes means selling a concept, and that concept needs to have a foothold in a wider digital experience. 

Updated with comment from Apple.

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VidCon, the annual summit in Anaheim, CA for social media stars and their fans to meet each other drew over 75,000 attendees over last week and this past weekend. A small subset of those where entertainment and tech executives convening to share best practices and strike deals.

Of the wide range of topics discussed in the industry-only sessions and casual conversation, five trends stuck out to me as takeaways for Extra Crunch members: the prominence of TikTok, the strong presence of Chinese tech companies in general, the contemplation of deep fakes, curiosity around virtual influencers, and the widespread interest in developing consumer product startups around top content creators.

Newer platforms take center stage


Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images

TikTok, the Chinese social video app (owned by Bytedance) that exploded onto the US market this past year, was the biggest conversation topic. Executives and talent managers were curious to see where it will go over the next year more than they were convinced that it is changing the industry in any fundamental way.

TikTok influencers were a major presence on the stages and taking selfies with fans on the conference floor. I overheard tweens saying “there are so many TikTokers here” throughout the conference. Meanwhile, TikTok’s US GM Vanessa Pappas held a session where she argued the app’s focus on building community among people who don’t already know each other (rather than being centered on your existing friendships) is a fundamental differentiator.

Kathleen Grace, CEO of production company New Form, noted that Tik Tok’s emphasis on visuals and music instead of spoken or written word makes it distinctly democratic in convening users across countries on equal footing.

Esports was also a big presence across the conference floor with teens lined up to compete at numerous simultaneous competitions. Twitch’s Mike Aragon and Jana Werner outlined Twitch’s expansion in content verticals adjacent to gaming like anime, sports, news, and “creative content’ as the first chapter in expanding the format of interactive live-streams across all verticals. They also emphasized the diversity of revenue streams Twitch enables creators to leverage: ads, tipping, monthly patronage, Twitch Prime, and Bounty Board (which connects brands and live streamers).

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Internet platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter are under incredible pressure to reduce the proliferation of illegal and abhorrent content on their services.

Interestingly, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recently called for the establishment of “third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content and to measure companies against those standards.” In a follow-up conversation with Axios, Kevin Martin of Facebook “compared the proposed standard-setting body to the Motion Picture Association of America’s system for rating movies.”

The ratings group, whose official name is the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), was established in 1968 to stave off government censorship by educating parents about the contents of films. It has been in place ever since – and as longtime filmmakers, we’ve interacted with the MPAA’s ratings system hundreds of times – working closely with them to maintain our filmmakers’ creative vision, while, at the same time, keeping parents informed so that they can decide if those movies are appropriate for their children. 

CARA is not a perfect system. Filmmakers do not always agree with the ratings given to their films, but the board strives to be transparent as to why each film receives the rating it does. The system allows filmmakers to determine if they want to make certain cuts in order to attract a wider audience. Additionally, there are occasions where parents may not agree with the ratings given to certain films based on their content. CARA strives to consistently strike the delicate balance between protecting a creative vision and informing people and families about the contents of a film.

CARA’s effectiveness is reflected in the fact that other creative industries including televisionvideo games, and music have also adopted their own voluntary ratings systems. 

While the MPAA’s ratings system works very well for pre-release review of content from a professionally- produced and curated industry, including the MPAA member companies and independent distributors, we do not believe that the MPAA model can work for dominant internet platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter that rely primarily on post hoc review of user-generated content (UGC).

Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Here’s why: CARA is staffed by parents whose judgment is informed by their experiences raising families – and, most importantly, they rate most movies before they appear in theaters. Once rated by CARA, a movie’s rating will carry over to subsequent formats, such as DVD, cable, broadcast, or online streaming, assuming no other edits are made.

By contrast, large internet platforms like Facebook and Google’s YouTube primarily rely on user-generated content (UGC), which becomes available almost instantaneously to each platform’s billions of users with no prior review. UGC platforms generally do not pre-screen content – instead they typically rely on users and content moderators, sometimes complemented by AI tools, to flag potentially problematic content after it is posted online.

The numbers are also revealing. CARA rates about 600-900 feature films each year, which translates to approximately 1,500 hours of content annually. That’s the equivalent of the amount of new content made available on YouTube every three minutes. Each day, uploads to YouTube total about 720,000 hours – that is equivalent to the amount of content CARA would review in 480 years!

Another key distinction: premium video companies are legally accountable for all the content they make available, and it is not uncommon for them to have to defend themselves against claims based on the content of material they disseminate.

By contrast, as CreativeFuture said in an April 2018 letter to Congress: “the failure of Facebook and others to take responsibility [for their content] is rooted in decades-old policies, including legal immunities and safe harbors, that actually absolve internet platforms of accountability [for the content they host.]”

In short, internet platforms whose offerings consist mostly of unscreened user-generated content are very different businesses from media outlets that deliver professionally-produced, heavily-vetted, and curated content for which they are legally accountable.

Given these realities, the creative content industries’ approach to self-regulation does not provide a useful model for UGC-reliant platforms, and it would be a mistake to describe any post hoc review process as being “like MPAA’s ratings system.” It can never play that role.

This doesn’t mean there are not areas where we can collaborate. Facebook and Google could work with us to address rampant piracy. Interestingly, the challenge of controlling illegal and abhorrent content on internet platforms is very similar to the challenge of controlling piracy on those platforms. In both cases, bad things happen – the platforms’ current review systems are too slow to stop them, and harm occurs before mitigation efforts are triggered. 

Also, as CreativeFuture has previously said, “unlike the complicated work of actually moderating people’s ‘harmful’ [content], this is cut and dried – it’s against the law. These companies could work with creatives like never before, fostering a new, global community of advocates who could speak to their good will.”

Be that as it may, as Congress and the current Administration continue to consider ways to address online harms, it is important that those discussions be informed by an understanding of the dramatic differences between UGC-reliant internet platforms and creative content industries. A content-reviewing body like the MPAA’s CARA is likely a non-starter for the reasons mentioned above – and policymakers should not be distracted from getting to work on meaningful solutions.

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Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications division published its 13th-annual Digital Media Trends survey, focused on identifying changes in the ways US consumers engage with various types of media.

Led by an independent research firm, the survey had roughly 2,000 consumer respondents across demographics – with the report categorizing respondents based on age (Gen-Z: ages 14-21, Millenials: 22-35, Gen-X: 36-52, Boomers: 53-71, and Matures: 72+).

While already accompanied by a succinct 13-page executive summary, the report can largely be summarized in just a couple of sentences: more people are using streaming or alternative media services than ever before, largely due to more user freedom and customization, though the growing quantity and fragmentation of platforms are becoming more frustrating for users to manage.

The survey results directionally echo already well-discussed dynamics, which we’ve previously dug into such as here, here and here. Instead, the most poignant aspects of the report were not the answers or conclusions themselves, but the immense level of support many of them received.

Somewhat interesting:

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European Union lawmakers are facing a major vote on digital copyright reform proposals on Wednesday — a process that has set the Internet’s hair fully on fire.

Here’s a run down of the issues and what’s at stake…

Article 13

The most controversial component of the proposals concerns user-generated content platforms such as YouTube, and the idea they should be made liable for copyright infringements committed by their users — instead of the current regime of takedowns after the fact (which locks rights holders into having to constantly monitor and report violations — y’know, at the same time as Alphabet’s ad business continues to roll around in dollars and eyeballs).

Critics of the proposal argue that shifting the burden of rights liability onto platforms will flip them from champions to chillers of free speech, making them reconfigure their systems to accommodate the new level of business risk.

More specifically they suggest it will encourage platforms into algorithmically pre-filtering all user uploads — aka #censorshipmachines — and then blinkered AIs will end up blocking fair use content, cool satire, funny memes etc etc, and the free Internet as we know it will cease to exist.

Backers of the proposal see it differently, of course. These people tend to be creatives whose professional existence depends upon being paid for the sharable content they create, such as musicians, authors, filmmakers and so on.

Their counter argument is that, as it stands, their hard work is being ripped off because they are not being fairly recompensed for it.

Consumers may be the ones technically freeloading by uploading and consuming others’ works without paying to do so but creative industries point out it’s the tech giants that are gaining the most money from this exploitation of the current rights rules — because they’re the only ones making really fat profits off of other people’s acts of expression. (Alphabet, Google’s ad giant parent, made $31.16BN in revenue in Q1 this year alone, for example.)

YouTube has been a prime target for musicians’ ire — who contend that the royalties the company pays them for streaming their content are simply not fair recompense.

Article 11

The second controversy attached to the copyright reform concerns the use of snippets of news content.

European lawmakers want to extend digital copyright to also cover the ledes of news stories which aggregators such as Google News typically ingest and display — because, again, the likes of Alphabet is profiting off of bits of others’ professional work without paying them to do so. And, on the flip side, media firms have seen their profits hammered by the Internet serving up free content.

The reforms would seek to compensate publishers for their investment in journalism by letting them charge for use of these text snippets — instead of only being ‘paid’ in traffic (i.e. by becoming yet more eyeball fodder in Alphabet’s aggregators).

Critics don’t see it that way of course. They see it as an imposition on digital sharing — branding the proposal a “link tax” and arguing it will have a wider chilling effect of interfering with the sharing of hyperlinks.

They argue that because links can also contain words of the content being linked to. And much debate has raged over on how the law would (or could) define what is and isn’t a protected text snippet.

They also claim the auxiliary copyright idea hasn’t worked where it’s already been tried (in Germany and Spain). Google just closed its News aggregator in the latter market, for example. Though at the pan-EU level it would have to at least pause before taking a unilateral decision to shutter an entire product.

Germany’s influential media industry is a major force behind Article 11. But in Germany a local version of a snippet law that was passed in 2013 ended up being watered down — so news aggregators were not forced to pay for using snippets, as had originally been floated.

Without mandatory payment (as is the case in Spain) the law has essentially pitted publishers against each other. This is because Google said it would not pay and also changed how it indexes content for Google News in Germany to make it opt-in only.

That means any local publishers that don’t agree to zero-license their snippets to Google risk losing visibility to rivals that do. So major German publishers have continued to hand their snippets over to Google.

But they appear to believe a pan-EU law might manage to tip the balance of power. Hence Article 11.

Awful amounts of screaming

For critics of the reforms, who often sit on the nerdier side of the spectrum, their reaction can be summed up by a screamed refrain that IT’S THE END OF THE FREE WEB AS WE KNOW IT.

WikiMedia has warned that the reform threatens the “vibrant free web”.

A coalition of original Internet architects, computer scientists, academics and others — including the likes of world wide web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, security veteran Bruce Schneier, Google chief evangelist Vint Cerf, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and entrepreneur Mitch Kapor — also penned an open letter to the European Parliament’s president to oppose Article 13.

In it they wrote that while “well-intended” the push towards automatic pre-filtering of users uploads “takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

There is more than a little irony there, though, given that (for example) Google’s ad business conducts automated surveillance of the users of its various platforms for ad targeting purposes — and through that process it’s hoping to control the buying behavior of the individuals it tracks.

At the same time as so much sound and fury has been directed at attacking the copyright reform plans, another very irate, very motivated group of people have been lustily bellowing that content creators need paying for all the free lunches that tech giants (and others) have been helping themselves to.

But the death of memes! The end of fair digital use! The demise of online satire! The smothering of Internet expression! Hideously crushed and disfigured under the jackboot of the EU’s evil Filternet!

And so on and on it has gone.

(For just one e.g., see the below video — which was actually made by an Australian satirical film and media company that usually spends its time spoofing its own government’s initiatives but evidently saw richly viral pickings here… )

For a counter example, to set against the less than nuanced yet highly sharable satire-as-hyperbole on show in that video, is the Society of Authors — which has written a 12-point breakdown defending the actual substance of the reform (at least as it sees it).

A topline point to make right off the bat is it’s hardly a fair fight to set words against a virally sharable satirical video fronted by a young lady sporting very pink lipstick. But, nonetheless, debunk the denouncers these authors valiantly attempt to.

To wit: They reject claims the reforms will kill hyperlinking or knife sharing in the back; or do for online encyclopedias like Wikimedia; or make snuff out of memes; or strangle free expression — pointing out that explicit exceptions that have been written in to qualify what it would (and would not) target and how it’s intended to operate in practice.

Wikipedia, for example, has been explicitly stated as being excluded from the proposals.

But they are still pushing water uphill — against the tsunami of DEATH OF THE MEMES memes pouring the other way.

Russian state propaganda mouthpiece RT has even joined in the fun, because of course Putin is no fan of EU…

Terrible amounts of lobbying

The Society of Authors makes the very pertinent point that tech giants have spent millions lobbying against the reforms. They also argue this campaign has been characterised by “a loop of misinformation and scaremongering”.

So, basically, Google et al stand accused of spreading (even more) fake news with a self-interested flavor. Who’d have thunk it?!

Dollar bills standing on a table in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

The EU’s (voluntary) Transparency Register records Google directly spending between $6M and $6.4M on regional lobbying activities in 2016 alone. (Although that covers not just copyright related lobbying but a full laundry list of “fields of interest” its team of 14 smooth-talking staffers apply their Little Fingers to.)

But the company also seeks to exert influence on EU political opinion via membership of additional lobbying organizations.

And the register lists a full TWENTY-FOUR organizations that Google is therefore also speaking through (by contrast, Facebook is merely a member of eleven bodies) — from the American chamber of Commerce to the EU to dry-sounding thinktanks, such as the Center for European Policy Studies and the European Policy Center. It is also embedded in startup associations, like Allied for Startups. And various startup angles have been argued by critics of the copyright reforms — claiming Europe is going to saddle local entrepreneurs with extra bureaucracy.

Google’s dense web of presence across tech policy influencers and associations amplifies the company’s regional lobbying spend to as much as $36M, music industry bosses contend.

Though again that dollar value would be spread across multiple GOOG interests — so it’s hard to sum the specific copyright lobbying bill. (We asked Google — it didn’t answer). Multiple millions looks undeniable though.

Of course the music industry and publishers have been lobbying too.

But probably not at such a high dollar value. Though Europe’s creative industries have the local contacts and cultural connections to bend EU politicians’ ears. (As, well, they probably should.)

Seasoned European commissioners have professed themselves astonished at the level of lobbying — and that really is saying something.

Yes there are actually two sides to consider…

Returning to the Society of Authors, here’s the bottom third of their points — which focus on countering the copyright reform critics’ counterarguments:

The proposals aren’t censorship: that’s the very opposite of what most journalists, authors, photographers, film-makers and many other creators devote their lives to.

Not allowing creators to make a living from their work is the real threat to freedom of expression.

Not allowing creators to make a living from their work is the real threat to the free flow of information online.

Not allowing creators to make a living from their work is the real threat to everyone’s digital creativity.

Stopping the directive would be a victory for multinational internet giants at the expense of all those who make, enjoy and enjoy using creative works.

Certainly some food for thought there.

But as entrenched, opposing positions go, it’s hard to find two more perfect examples.

And with such violently opposed and motivated interest groups attached to the copyright reform issue there hasn’t really been much in the way of considered debate or nuanced consideration on show publicly.

But being exposed to endless DEATH OF THE INTERNET memes does tend to have that effect.

What’s that about Article 3 and AI?

There is also debate about Article 3 of the copyright reform plan — which concerns text and data-mining. (Or TDM as the Commission sexily conflates it.)

The original TDM proposal, which was rejected by MEPs, would have limited data mining to research organisations for the purposes of scientific research (though Member States would have been able to choose to allow other groups if they wished).

This portion of the reforms has attracted less attention (butm again, it’s difficult to be heard above screams about dead memes). Though there have been concerns raised from certain quarters that it could impact startup innovation — by throwing up barriers to training and developing AIs by putting rights blocks around (otherwise public) data-sets that could (otherwise) be ingested and used to foster algorithms.

Or that “without an effective data mining policy, startups and innovators in Europe will run dry”, as a recent piece of sponsored content inserted into Politico put it.

That paid for content was written by — you guessed it! — Allied for Startups.

Aka the organization that counts Google as a member…

The most fervent critics of the copyright reform proposals — i.e. those who would prefer to see a pro-Internet-freedoms overhaul of digital copyright rules — support a ‘right to read is the right to mine’ style approach on this front.

So basically a free for all — to turn almost any data into algorithmic insights. (Presumably these folks would agree with this kind of thing.)

Middle ground positions which are among the potential amendments now being considered by MEPs would support some free text and data mining — but, where legal restrictions exist, then there would be licenses allowing for extractions and reproductions.

And now the amendments, all 252 of them…

The whole charged copyright saga has delivered one bit of political drama already —  when the European Parliament voted in July to block proposals agreed only by the legal affairs committee, thereby reopening the text for amendments and fresh votes.

So MEPs now have the chance to refine the parliament’s position via supporting select amendments — with that vote taking place next week.

And boy have the amendments flooded in.

There are 252 in all! Which just goes to show how gloriously messy the democratic process is.

It also suggests the copyright reform could get entirely stuck — if parliamentarians can’t agree on a compromise position which can then be put to the European Council and go on to secure final pan-EU agreement.

MEP Julia Reda, a member of The Greens–European Free Alliance, who as (also) a Pirate Party member is very firmly opposed to the copyright reform text as was voted in July (she wants a pro-web-freedoms overhauling of digital copyright rules), has created this breakdown of alternative options tabled by MEPs — seen through her lens of promoting Internet freedoms over rights extensions.

So, for example, she argues that amendments to add limited exceptions for platform liability would still constitute “upload filters” (and therefore “censorship machines”).

Her preference would be deleting the article entirely and making no change to the current law. (Albeit that’s not likely to be a majority position, given how many MEPs backed the original Juri text of the copyright reform proposals 278 voted in favor, losing out to 318 against.)

But she concedes that limiting the scope of liability to only music and video hosting platforms would be “a step in the right direction, saving a lot of other platforms (forums, public chats, source code repositories, etc.) from negative consequences”.

She also flags an interesting suggestion — via another tabled amendment — of “outsourcing” the inspection of published content to rightholders via an API”.

“With a fair process in place [it] is an interesting idea, and certainly much better than general liability. However, it would still be challenging for startups to implement,” she adds.

Reda has also tabled a series of additional amendments to try to roll back what she characterizes as “some bad decisions narrowly made by the Legal Affairs Committee” — including adding a copyright exception for user generated content (which would essentially get platforms off the hook insofar as rights infringements by web users are concerned); adding an exception for freedom of panorama (aka the taking and sharing of photos in public places, which is currently not allowed in all EU Member States); and another removing a proposed extra copyright added by the Juri committee to cover sports events — which she contends would “filter fan culture away“.

So is the free Internet about to end??

MEP Catherine Stihler, a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, who also voted in July to reopen debate over the reforms reckons nearly every parliamentary group is split — ergo the vote is hard to call.

“It is going to be an interesting vote,” she tells TechCrunch. “We will see if any possible compromise at the last minute can be reached but in the end parliament will decide which direction the future of not just copyright but how EU citizens will use the internet and their rights on-line.

“Make no mistake, this vote affects each one of us. I do hope that balance will be struck and EU citizens fundamental rights protected.”

So that sort of sounds like a ‘maybe the Internet as you know it will change’ then.

Other views are available, though, depending on the MEP you ask.

We reached out to Axel Voss, who led the copyright reform process for the Juri committee, and is a big proponent of Article 13, Article 11 (and the rest), to ask if he sees value in the debate having been reopened rather than fast-tracked into EU law — to have a chance for parliamentarians to achieve a more balanced compromise. At the time of writing Voss hadn’t responded.

Update: A spokesman for the MEP has now sent us this statement: “Mr Voss hopes for a fruitful debate. The EPP amendment now only refers to platforms liability and does not foresee any obligation to take measures. That should be supportable for all MEPs who see the need to strengthen our European Creative Industry and as such constitute a good compromise.”

Voting to reopen the debate in July, Stihler argued there are “real concerns” about the impact of Article 13 on freedom of expression, as well as flagging the degree of consumer concern parliamentarians had been seeing over the issue (doubtless helped by all those memes + petitions), adding: “We owe it to the experts, stakeholders and citizens to give this directive the full debate necessary to achieve broad support.”

MEP Marietje Schaake, a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, was willing to hazard a politician’s prediction that the proposals will be improved via the democratic process — albeit, what would constitute an improvement here of course depends on which side of the argument you stand.

But she’s routing for exceptions for user generated content and additional refinements to the three debated articles to narrow their scope.

Her spokesman told us: “I think we’ll end up with new exceptions on user generated content and freedom of panorama, as well as better wording for article 3 on text and data mining. We’ll end up probably with better versions of articles 11 and 13, the extent of the improvement will depend on the final vote.”

The vote will be held during an afternoon plenary session on September 12.

So yes there’s still time to call your MEP.

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A former female employee alleges that the sales team took boys trips to strip clubs and that an executive was promoted after receiving warnings for sexual harassment

A former Spotify sales executive is suing the music streaming giant for gender discrimination, equal pay violation and defamation. Hong Perez alleges that the Swedish company systematically discriminated against female employees, Variety reports.

Perez alleges that her former boss, the US head of sales Brian Berner, took only male employees to the Sundance independent film festival in 2016 and 17. She says employees spoke of drug use on these boys trips and alleges that one man got into a physical fight during one. She claims these trips excluded more senior women.

Perez claims that in March 2018, Berner was reprimanded by Spotify for accepting free tickets to Madison Square Garden in New York, and that he evaded disciplinary action by blaming her for the situation. She claims that Berner then fired her for violating the companys code of conduct.

A spokesperson for Spotify told Variety: At Spotify, we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind at any level. While we cannot comment on the specific details of a pending litigation, these claims are without merit.

Perez also claims that another Spotify executive received a promotion after receiving warnings for sexual harassment and that this executive had taken male sales-staff members to strip clubs in Atlantic City. She claims that she raised concerns with a human resources executive over what she perceived as a double standard in how Spotify had treated a male executive it is unclear if she means the same one accused of sexual harassment.

Perezs suit also alleges that men in the sales department received higher compensation and equity than their female counterparts. She quotes the companys chief financial officer as having said that he did not care about diversity at the company and that an HR executive told staffers his favourite swear word was cunt.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek in May 2015. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

In July 2018, Spotify published its first public diversity data report. It stated that 38.7% of employees identified as women, with less than 1% identifying as non-binary. The number of female board members, senior executives and women in leadership roles hovered around 30%.

The number of women in management roles had grown by 3.4% to 38.4% in the two-year reporting period to 2018. Only 14.1% of Spotify staff were above the age of 40, showing an increase of 1.2%. In the US, where slightly over half its global staff are based, 50% of staff were white, 14.8% Asian, 6.1% black, 5.5% Hispanic and 2.7% mixed race.

In a statement accompanying the data, Spotify affirmed a need for diversity and a feeling of belonging among staff. It acknowledged the necessity of more work, specifically around increasing the share of senior women leaders and focus on female representation in our technology organisation, diversifying our racial landscape in the US, investing in the intersectional experiences of our employees, and ensuring our service is welcoming to all.

Spotify has run marketing campaigns around social justice issues. In July 2017, the company launched a series titled Im with the banned, which highlighted those who have been historically excluded, including immigrants and the LGBTQ community.

In July 2018, Spotify recorded an 8m rise in its number of subscribers in the second quarter. The number of monthly paying subscribers, which account for the bulk of its revenue, rose to 83m at the end of June from 75m in the first three months of 2018, more than double Apples last reported 40m paid users.

Spotify made its debut as a public company in April 2018, with a so-called direct listing approach. At the end of its first day of trading, the company was valued at $26.5bn (20bn). The stock value has since risen 39% to $33bn.

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YouTube, social media and even Bitcoin are allowing musicians to reject major labels and go it alone but the industry is fighting back. Can artists use technology to stay truly independent?

All the hits … Bugzy Malones video for Moving has been viewed almost 10m times on YouTube.

The guys are cool and massively helpful, he says of ADA. But theyre taking the lead from me and what it is that I want to do. They are there to back up the vision and be on the wagon that is already moving.

Yet record companies still profit from deals such as Bugzys and take a cut of artists earnings. Plus, their grip on companies offering services to independent artists is getting tighter. Sony Music now fully owns distribution firm The Orchard, while, on the label-services side, Warner Music owns ADA, Universal Music owns Caroline International and Kobalt owns AWAL (Artists Without a Label). All the record labels, major and indie, have an equity stake in Spotify.

But while the teeth marks of the old music business can be found in the emerging one, there are still ways acts can remain totally independent.

Benji Rogers set up direct-to-fan platform PledgeMusic in 2009 to allow acts to pre-sell, distribute and market their music. It turns out that direct communication makes the artist the most money, he says. Rogers is also an early investor in SuperPhone a supercharged communication and engagement tool built by musician Ryan Leslie, whereby all contacts and fans are managed through one phone number. He is not in the mainstream, says Rogers. He is literally the definition of independent.

Leslie was signed to Universal, but left to pursue a career where technology would give him the independence to create a new type of fan engagement that he felt the label system was too ossified to bend towards.

Selena Gomez has 128 million Instagram followers, but she is definitely not selling 128m albums, says Leslie of the fundamental disconnect between social media profile and sales, from where the idea for SuperPhone sprang. What I realised is that social media connections are very weak.

She has 128m Instagram followers, but she is definitely not selling 128m albums … Selena Gomez. Photograph: Chris Polk/Getty Images

In 2013, he gave his phone number to his Twitter followers to sign them up to SuperPhone. Within six months, 35,000 people had texted the number and, of that, 33,000 had responded to an automated request for more information about themselves. The following year, he went on tour and announced it to his fan database. We sold 40,000 tickets with no label, no manager and no PR, he says. All straight off SuperPhone.

After raising $75,000 in seed funding, he opened it up to all artists, including rappers such as Lil Wayne and Cardi B. They are all vetted in advance, so that they dont abuse the tools to spam fans, but rather use it carefully to maintain regular contact with them. Success, in any iteration, happens at the speed of communication, he says.

All this comes as a reaction against the three-card trick Facebook has played on users: if you have a million followers, at best 2% of your audience will stumble across your posts, unless you pay Facebook to boost them, according to research by Ogilvy.

Quick Guide

Five tips for staying independent in music

Think like an entrepreneur

Young aspiring artists are also aspiring entrepreneurs, says Ryan Leslie, suggesting they find at least five key contacts for every part of their career from lawyers and producers to video directors and graphic designers. The top five in each category will hopefully be the nucleus that will catapult your career.

Be a digital polymath

Its about making sure you are across as many platforms as possible and utilising all of them, suggests Luke Hood. No one wants to rely on one revenue stream.

Avoid sales tactics

Dont try and sell anything to people, even music, proposes Sephi Shapira. Just monetise the engagement with the consumer.

Own everything

Its one thing to license copyrights for a while, but its entirely another thing to give them up in perpetuity, says Tim Clark. It is the same thing with data.

Be outgoing even if you dont feel like it

You have to be tenacious, says Brian Message. If you are a bit of a shoegazer in your bedroom, it will be a lot tougher than being a gregarious personality who is driven.

Every artist you know is in some way, shape or form paying Facebook and Instagram to reach their fans, argues Rogers. What you get here is a sickness cycle. Would I build my business on Facebook? Hell, no! Because, in their business, I am the product. What is it giving me back?

In a similar vein, social app EscapeX was set up to decentralise social media and give artists new levels of autonomy by putting them, rather than the major social networks, in charge of their communities. The engagement economy is different, argues Sephi Shapira, the companys CEO. Its not really the amount of fans that you have; its how engaged you are and the spending power of your fans.

Thirteen-year-old Danielle Cohn a megastar on lip-sync video app, where she has more than 8 million followers recently signed up with EscapeX to take more control of her fanbase. In the app, she has a monthly subscription option, but Shapira says this only accounts for 10% of the money she makes there. The other 90% comes from fans paying to rocket themselves up the leaderboard to be in her top-three fans, where, according to the apps description, they will be guaranteed to be seen by Dani Cohn effectively buying their way into her line of vision.

The Faustian pact of these apps and social media platforms is that musicians get data about their fans in return, but become dependent on the service in question still being in business and relevant six months from now. As MySpace crumbled, artists made SoundCloud the main place to upload their music. But SoundCloud is teetering on the brink of insolvency, recently laying off 40% of its staff and raising emergency funding of $170m to stay afloat. If it goes down the tubes, the underground will lose one of its biggest tools.

If it goes down the tubes, the underground will lose one of its biggest tools … German songwriter Bibi Bourelly at a SoundCloud event. Photograph: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Musician and tech activist Mat Dryhurst believes, however, that a new wave of funding and technological disruption is brewing that will finally put artists in the driving seat moving them beyond apps and social media altogether and propping up their underground communities in perpetuity.

He laments a world in which platforms rise and fall based, not on a lack of demand, but on a lack of ability to return profits to a small group of venture capitalists. He argues that the cryptocurrency community the people behind online cash such as Bitcoin could create alternative to the ad-funded models beloved of Silicon Valley.

He suggests an ICO initial coin offering to fund a music hosting and sharing platform a kind of cryptocurrency IPO. It would allow for open-source utopian developers to raise significant amounts of money with an engaged user base and build something potentially revolutionary, he says.

Its best thought of as crowdowning we could distribute governance of these platforms to the people who care the most about them. In return for your contribution, you receive something of value that can be used within the ecosystem and also potentially a portion of ownership that gives you decision-making rights.

Royalties are possible under a cooperative model, like Resonate.iss proposed model for more equitable streaming payments. You could also make membership and uploading entirely free in return for contributing value in other ways to the platform. One artist making the first steps into this space is Bjork, whose new album, Utopia, can be purchased using various cryptocurrencies.

SuperPhone, EscapeX and ICO-powered platforms are early indicators of a self-sustaining 21st-century counterculture. In that world, artists own and control everything data, copyrights, fan relationships. For now, however, they are trapped, toggling between Tin Pan Alley and Silicon Valley.

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WhatsApp: inside the secret world of group chat

When WhatsApp launched it quickly became the main messaging service for groups of friends and family. More recently its become a useful platform for activists and politicians, fuelling a whisper network of alliances and playing a crucial role in the recent revelation of the sexual abuse scandal

If Jan Koum and Brian Acton hadnt been turned down for jobs at Facebook, the lives of a billion or so people around the world might look somewhat different today. Their failure to get hired, however, left the two former Yahoo! employees with enough time on their hands to play around with an idea. And eight years ago, that idea became WhatsApp.

Like most incredibly lucrative inventions, it doesnt sound like much; just a free, quick and easy mobile phone messaging service, allowing users to set up specific groups of friends around whom messages will be sent en masse. But last year it overtook traditional SMS text messaging in popularity and increasingly its weaving itself into the fabric of modern life, for what it really does is create private meeting places in a very public online world. In that sense, WhatsApp is beginning to turn friendship back into what it used to be before Facebook (which inevitably bought the app three years ago); not vast, sprawling networks of people you barely know but small, intimate circles of trust where like-minded people can share stuff that matters to them.

Sometimes its things that would be boring to anyone outside the circle, as with the legions of family WhatsApps used to share baby pictures, in-jokes and gently nagging messages from mothers to far-flung offspring at university. For teenagers, theyre places to dissect last Saturday night in excruciatingly minute detail, and develop their own intricate etiquette along the way. (Its rude to ignore an unfolding group chat, since the app can let the rest of the group know whos online and if theyve read a post; but its just as rude to bombard the group with endless witterings or prolong the conversation after everyone else clearly wants to stop. The ethics of sneaking off with one member for a private chat behind the groups back, meanwhile, remain a minefield.) But sometimes whats shared is anything but dull.

Shortly after Junes general election, Tory MPs used WhatsApp groups to canvass backbench opinion about Theresa Mays prospects so much more discreet than huddling in the corners of Commons tearooms, as plotters did in a more analogue age. Theyre routinely used on all sides of the house to swap gossip, agree lines to take across groups of sympathetic MPs Brexiters, say, or Labour moderates despairing of Jeremy Corbyn and support individuals under pressure. Theyve played a pivotal part in exposing sexual harassment in both politics and journalism, with victims swapping names via a whisper network of like-minded WhatsAppers. And for political activists inside repressive regimes, they can be a lifesaver.

Yet the apps system of secure end-to-end encryption which means that nobody outside the group can intercept the messages also attracts those with more sinister intent. The home secretary Amber Rudd suggested earlier this year that it was one of several potential hiding places for those plotting terrorist atrocities Isis recruiters have been known to use it and Khalid Masood sent a message on the service shortly before killing six people by driving his car into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge earlier this year. The FBI, meanwhile, is said to be concerned about its potential use in money laundering, insider trading and other financial crimes.

The biggest danger for ordinary users, however, is that while a group may feel like a safe and private space, it can be anything but. Its so simple for the distracted to send what was meant to be a private thought around the wrong group, as the Labour MP Lucy Powell found out when she accidentally texted a less than flattering message about frontbench colleagues to the entire womens parliamentary Labour party.

And, unlike a whispered conversation in real life, WhatsApp leaves an electronic record that can all too easily be leaked by a rogue group member; like human friendships down the ages, its only ever as strong as its most gossipy link. Some things, it seems, even technology cant change.

The Second Source: a group set up by female journalists to tackle sexual harassment in the media, by Rosamund Urwin

Out of touch: Career advice shouldnt come with a kiss or a grope as part of the deal, says Rosamund Urwin. Photograph: Alamy

Sisterhood can emerge in unexpected places. For the past few weeks, WhatsApp has been my haven of female solidarity, my sorority house a group set up in reaction to the onslaught of tales about sexual harassment is now forging a response to combat this abuse.

It all began with a Twitter message. I had read a brilliant, biting piece by the journalist Emily Reynolds: An Incomplete List of All the Men in The Media Who Have Wronged Me. Afterwards,I messaged her to say how well-written it was. We had never even met.

Reading her piece was like a punch to the gut. What struck me was that Reynolds who is younger than me had had similar (actually far worse) experiences to me when I started as a journalist 10 years ago. It made me think that if nothing changed, this would happen to the 22-year-old of tomorrow, of next year, of the next decade a stuck record of abuse.

Compared with what has since been reported, the harassment I suffered seems mild. There were inappropriate text messages (Before I die, I will kiss every freckle on your lips was one) and incessant pestering to go for drinks. Reynolds, in a list of horrors, wrote she had been sent an unsolicited (when does any women actually ask for these?) penis pic before a follow-up introducing her to a contact.

We decided to set up a WhatsApp group for female journalists to talk about their experiences. Five founding members swiftly became 20. We werent alone in this: there were other WhatsApp groups set up by women in the media and other industries most famously a group of political researchers talking about misdemeanours in the House of Commons.

The deal was that no one shared anyone elses stories. Patterns swiftly emerged. The same names kept coming up and the same behaviour. Many men invited women for drinks ostensibly to give them career advice, but expecting rather more than a chat about pitching to editors and building a Twitter following.

It became obvious why this type of abuse is so prevalent in the media. It is an informal industry where contacts are all. Freelancers starting out and those doing shifts, especially, have to build a contacts book of editors to ensure they have work. That means asking to meet for a coffee, or perhaps feeling unable to say no when the man who can turn off the tap of work for you requests you come for a drink.

There are those who would say these young women are naive in thinking older men would help them out of mere kindness. But that is exactly what usually happens with younger men (although I would note that they, too, can find themselves fleeing cabs to escape roving hands). There is a system of patronage where wisdom gets passed down to the next generation. When the boys ask for it, the advice doesnt come with the addendum of an invite to a hotel room a kiss or a grope arent part of the deal.

Our WhatsApp group started with stories, but it quickly morphed into a movement. We met up and then launched the Second Source earlier this month, which sets out to tackle harassment in the media promoting awareness, informing women about their rights and working with organisations to create change. We still organise it all via WhatsApp. The medium isnt really what matters we would have done this over email otherwise but WhatsApp does work particularly well for campaigning. It lends itself to quick decisions and anyone can weigh in with a tweak. It feels egalitarian. The only problem is that in the excitement of a constant flow of messages, it can take over your life. Ive not paid much attention to the second series of Stranger Things Ive been staring at my phone. And being one of the older members (Im 33), Im not as competent at it as others I thought I was using the pointing emoji when I was actually giving everyone the middle finger.

In recent weeks, these whisper networks have come under fire, accused of being used to fell mens careers. That isnt true, but it reflects the whiff of paranoia that often accompanies women organising. When allegations have emerged, they were from women going public with their experiences not a whisper but a public shout.

This group has empowered us. When I was sexually harassed, I felt alone, now I realise so many women shared my experiences and we want to use this collective call for change to stop it happening to more women in the future. This revolution will be WhatsApped.

The White Helmets Khaled Khatib: Syria Civil Defence volunteers who use the app to co-ordinate rescues

Under siege: Syrian Civil Defence volunteers, known as White Helmets, dig a body out of the rubble after an airstrike in Aleppo. Photograph: Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images

The internet in Syria is bad, but WhatsApp doesnt require a lot of data, so everyone uses it. Ive been with the Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, since 2013 we are volunteers who go to the scene of attacks to rescue trapped civilians. We have people ready all round Syria. We use WhatsApp groups to organise where more help is needed. Its especially important for contacting people in areas that are completely under siege, like the countryside around Homs, and areas where there are no longer motorways to travel on. We can hold meetings with these colleagues through WhatsApp.

In April, when there was a large chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, the local rescue group used WhatsApp to communicate that they needed more support. Many rescue groups responded and went to the scene where more than 60 people were killed and many more injured. It is difficult to think how this would have been co-ordinated so quickly with so many people in any other way. As a media officer, I used WhatsApp to communicate with people on the ground about what was happening and then put the story on social media to bring more help to the people there. This week, weve been using WhatsApp to speak to our team in Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, where there is shelling in the street. WhatsApp makes being in touch during the war easier for us.

Gaysians Khakan Qureshi: an LGBT group for Asians offering support and organising Pride marches

Streets ahead: We organised for 100 of us to be in the Pride parade this year

Im part of a south Asian LGBT support group in Birmingham and someone randomly contacted me online to see if I wanted to help get our community across the UK together for this years London Pride he invited me to a small WhatsApp group to organise it.

The group is made up of 19 people around the country, many of them prominent within our community. We named it Gaysians a portmanteau of gay and Asian. Its something that we started using between ourselves and it became a byword. Its 70 years since the partition of India and 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK, so it felt like a good time for us to make a statement.

We organised for 100 of us to be in the Pride parade this year. It was a beautiful, hot, sunny day and we really stood out because everyone was in traditional dress salwar kameez, bright colours, embroidered patterns. It was amazing seeing so many of us pull together. We might have gone to Pride as individuals in the past, but this time we made a stand and said: We are gay Asians and were standing proud. It felt like our little WhatsApp group made a big difference.

Many of us are trying to reconcile faith and sexual orientation. In our group there are atheists, agnostics, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and we discuss the unique challenges we face. Theres one woman who is going through a traumatic time as she prepares to tell her family she is lesbian and weve been able to give her assurance and guidance.

Ive been in lots of these chats that end after a few weeks, but weve kept ours going, sending each other articles and support. I love it because it makes us each stronger. Were like-minded individuals who have come together to make things happen.

Cornmarkets Business Group Frank Bradley: self-employed traders in Cork City centre fighting antisocial behaviour

Working together: Cork City traders

I set up a group for traders in our area of Cork Cityto communicate the problems were facing. Weve got 29 different businesses in the group the Scout shop, McDonalds, there are public houses, restaurants, craft shops, hairdressers, and shoe shops. This summer there was an increase in antisocial behaviour and it hasnt been given enough attention by the authorities. People are openly dealing heroin. Theres a lot of drinking happening on the main street, and a lot of aggression. Im a publican and I try to keep a strict house, but there are off-licences selling countless amounts of alcohol and its affecting us all. We use the group to record stuff so that when we go into meetings with City Hall or the garda, we know what we want to talk about. We take pictures of people drinking in the street, urinating, lying on the plinths that are meant for recreation. Were not being vigilantes. Weve been told, and were very aware, that we cant use any of this as official evidence against anyone.

Were all self-employed and dont really have the time to take off for meetings, so it saves us time. Weve only used the group in a negative way so far, but weve decided were going to use WhatsApp to organise a festival in the spring, too.

Love Island Kem Cetinay and Amber Davies: the two winning couples from this summers reality TV hit show share jokes and deal with hurtful tabloid untruths on their group

Happy landings: Love Islands Kem Cetinay and Amber Davies at Stansted airport this summer. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Kem Cetinay: When we were in the Love Island villa in Mallorca, the four of us were like a little family. Me and Chris [Hughes] were friends, and Amber [Davies, Kems girlfriend] and Liv [Attwood, Chriss girlfriend] were close, too. When we got our phones back after the show, the first thing I did was set up a WhatsApp group for our little clique.

We always share things that are being said about us on social media or in the press, but arent true. We wake up every morning and check Twitter and theres always some new speculation. People will be saying that one of us have split up, and well be messaging each other saying: Where are they getting this from?

There was one time when we were at the airport and Amber said she didnt want to hold her suitcase so I took it for her. Chris and Liv were standing behind us holding hands, someone took a picture and then used it to say Amber and I were no longer together. I posted it in our group, making a joke that because we werent holding hands as Amber was too lazy to hold her suitcase, people are now saying were not talking.

We share the memes people make of us. And the tattoos theyve had. Chris and Liv like to send me and Amber little videos of them when theyre out together, and well send one back.

We all came out of the show in new relationships that are public so its good to have each other to talk to about it. Especially me as this is my first relationship.

Chris and I also have our own WhatsApp chat. If I want to talk to anyone about me and my girlfriend, its going to be to Chris, and the same with him. We chat about our show and our music. Im on WhatsApp 24/7. Amber says Im addicted.

Amber Davies: Kems the organiser in general and started the group. Hes always the one who wants to be socialising, so he uses the group to arrange double-dates for the four of us. Liv and I like to use the group to send screenshots of things we find funny that people have Tweeted. Someone Tweeted Liv: Oh, I wish I could live with Chris and Kem, and we were messaging between us saying: Well give you 24 hours and see how you get on.

Chris and Kems chat makes me and Liv roll our eyes. They talk about themselves all the time. About the events theyre going to or the filming theyre doing. Liv and I are more like: What are we wearing on our night out? We used to respond to the boys more, but now we just ignore them. Its a typical boyfriend and girlfriend WhatsApp group.

Womens PLP Lucy Powell: a group for female MPs

Message mistake: A few days later we could see the funny side, says Lucy Powell. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Im in about eight parliamentary WhatsApp groups. Im not really desperate to be in any more; with parent groups, family groups and work ones, it can be hard to keep up.

One group Im in is the Womens PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party). Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry are in it, too. At the moment, sexual harassment is causing a lot of traffic. There are different views on what actions we need to follow.

Back in January, I had a temporary group with the MPs Alison McGovern and Jess Phillips to draft an article on childcare. When the article was published, there had been a sense offline that our front bench wasnt that happy. We hadnt intended it to be confrontational, just a useful intervention in the debate. Later in the day, there was a conversation on the Womens PLP group about childcare and the article came up. I meant to comment about that conversation in the group of the three of us, but put my message in the Womens PLP group about women in that group. [The post read: We are in the most ludicrous, nonsensical, pretend, unreal, bollocks position as an Opposition Angela [Rayner] and Tulip [Siddiq] really think theyre going to be Ministers in an actual Labour government very soon.]

I realised my mistake almost straight away and I spent the next few minutes in absolute horror. The thought of showing my face in Parliament was mortifying.

I texted Angela and Tulip to apologise and posted back in the larger group to apologise to everybody. Obviously, it serves me right, and Im not expecting any sympathy for it, but I was just a bit cross and thought I was venting to a few mates, not the entire Womens Parliamentary Labour Party.

There were two hours of tumbleweed on the group. The messages just sitting there and me knowing everybody was logging on at different points and seeing them for the first time. Luckily others realised the best thing to do was to try to move the conversation up the screen and started posting other stuff. I had a sleepless night, but Angela and Tulip were very, very good about it. A few days later we could see the funny side.

Its made me incredibly careful. We all have times where we say stuff about friends and family, let alone colleagues, to let off steam. But if you commit those things to writing, whether its WhatsApp, text or email, then they can stand there for the rest of time without context.

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