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Facebook Launches Live Audio Rooms and Podcast Playback In-Stream

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They’ve both been in the works for a little bit, and have been tested in various forms. But now, Facebook is officially rolling out its new live audio rooms option, as well as podcast discovery and playback within the app.

First off, on audio rooms, Facebook’s answer to the Clubhouse-lead audio social trend. After announcing the coming option back in April, then testing it with users in Taiwan over the last month, Facebook is now bringing its live audio rooms feature to selected public figures and Facebook Groups in the US.

As you can see here, audio rooms launched by people and/or groups that you follow will appear at the top of your Facebook News Feed, above the Stories panel. Which may point to the value that Facebook sees in the option – but then again, it’s also where your Messenger Rooms video hangouts already appear, so it’s largely in-line with that option.   

Users will be able to sign-up for reminders of upcoming audio rooms, similar to events, while you’ll also be able to tap into audio rooms from feed posts (as shown in the second screenshot above).

The UI of Facebook’s audio rooms very similar to Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces, with profile images of the room hosts at the top, then listeners below that.

You’ll note, in the top example, that there’ll also be a ‘Front Row’ in the listener display, which will be reserved for paying subscribers.

As explained by Facebook:

“Listeners can also offer support and show appreciation to the public figure host of the Live Audio Room by sending Stars, which bumps those listeners up to the “front row.” The “front row” is a special section that highlights people who sent Stars, so hosts can recognize supporters (and maybe even give them a shout out during the conversation!).”

That’ll provide another way for creators to monetize their Facebook efforts, with Stars being displayed on-screen to get the attention of the host/s.

Hosts will be able to invite speakers in advance, or choose listeners during the stream to join the conversation. For audio rooms within Facebook Groups, admins will be able to control whether moderators, group members or other admins are able to create a Live Audio Room.

“In public Groups, both members and visitors can listen to the Live Audio Room, but in private Groups, only members can listen.”

Rooms will be limited to 50 speakers, while there’s no limit to the number of listeners that can tune in. 

In addition to this, Live Audio Room hosts will also be able to select a nonprofit or fundraiser to support during their conversation, with listeners and speakers able to donate in-stream. 

The initial roll-out will see selected public figures and groups able to launch audio rooms, with Facebook tapping a range of popular creators to promote the option:

Grammy-nominated electronic music artist TOKiMONSTA will discuss female excellence and overcoming obstacles
American football quarterback Russell Wilson will talk about how to train your mind like an elite athlete
Organizer, producer, independent journalist and scholar-activist, Rosa Clemente will host a discussion around affirming Blackness in the Latinx community
Hear what it’s like to live the life of a professional esports player in a Live Audio Room hosted by streamer, entertainer, and internet personality Omareloff
Social entrepreneur Amanda Nguyen will speak with fellow changemakers about pursuing justice and making progress in an extraordinarily polarized time

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also tested out the option last week, which pointed to the coming launch, and with these popular users also trying out the function, it’ll no doubt see a lot of Facebook users tuning in, and getting a feel for how its audio social tools will work.  

“In the coming weeks, we’ll expand the ability for more public figures and Groups to host a Live Audio Room and introduce new features for both experiences in the coming months.”

Facebook’s coming late to the party, in some ways, with Twitter’s Spaces now, seemingly, the leader in the audio social race, as Clubhouse downloads slow on iOS (it is still growing on Android after the recent launch of its Android app). Nevertheless, Facebook could still win out, with the focus on bringing audio rooms to groups helping to ensure that its audio broadcasts remain relevant, and are highlighted to users who’ve expressed interest in these topics and speakers specifically.

Discoverability is the next key challenge for audio social tools. If users log into Clubhouse and aren’t able to easily find rooms that are relevant to them, they’ll give up pretty quickly, and the same on Twitter, which is still not great at highlighting relevant topics based on usage. But Facebook is avoiding any algorithm mismatches in this respect by focusing on groups and high-profile public figures specifically, which may ultimately prove to be a better way to go to maximize take-up.

In addition to this, Facebook’s also officially launching its new podcast support options, which will enable users to discover and listen to podcasts, without having to leave the app.

Facebook’s been testing the new options over the last month, and is now set to launch with a selected group of popular podcasters. 

“To start, the initial slate of podcasts will include Joe Budden of The Joe Budden Podcast; “Jess Hilarious” of Carefully Reckless from The Black Effect Podcast Network and iHeartRadio; Keltie Knight, Becca Tobin, and Jac Vanek of the LadyGang; and Nicaila Matthews Okome of Side Hustle Pro. We’ll continue to add more podcasts in the coming weeks.”

The option will facilitate podcast discovery within the Facebook app, along with “a miniplayer or full-screen player experience” for playback in-stream.

“Later this summer, we’ll roll out additional features, like captions and the ability to create and share short clips of a podcast. Over time, we’ll build more unique social experiences around podcasts that make use of Facebook’s best interactive and personalized features.” 

Note the mention of its new ‘short clips’ option, which will eventually enable Facebook users to create and share short snippets (less than a minute) of podcast audio in the app. That could provide a significant boost for podcasters looking to maximize promotion and discovery of their audio content, adding new ways to reach Facebook’s 2.85 billion users.

As noted, both options have been in development for some time, so it’s no surprise, as such, to see them get a proper launch. But it is a significant next step for The Social Network, which is looking to build in more monetization and promotion options for creators of all types, in order to provide more incentive for them to post to Facebook, and keep their audiences engaged on the platform.

Facebook also notes that it’s looking to begin testing of additional audio products in the near future “like a central listening destination and background audio listening for videos”.

That could provide more ways to discover and engage with audio content in the app – and as noted, it could end up positioning Facebook to ultimately win out in the new audio social race. 

Article: socialmediatoday.com

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Texas Cracks Down on Big Tech Censorship with New Bill, Russia Files Lawsuit Against Google, Facebook – Bringing you Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

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Texas Cracks Down on Big Tech Censorship with New Bill, Russia Files Lawsuit Against Google, Facebook - Bringing you Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

The governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, plans to sign into law a bill that will prevent social media platforms from censoring the state’s citizens’ posts. After declaring that censorship won’t be tolerated in the Lone Star State, the governor warned that the First Amendment is under attack from social media companies.

The bill, SB 12, is authored by Republican Senator Bryan Hughes and will empower Texans who are wrongfully restricted or de-platformed to file a lawsuit and help them get back on the platform. The Texas Attorney General will hold the right to bring a claim on behalf of an individual. 

If the social media platform fails to comply, the court can impose daily penalties. Governor Abbott noted that these online sites had become today’s public squares where information must be allowed to flow freely. However, the present-day scenario is such that big tech often acts as the jury, determining whose viewpoints are valid and what perspectives can be discussed.

“America was built on freedom of speech and healthy public debate, and efforts to silence conservative viewpoints on social media are wrong and weaken public discourse. I thank Senator Hughes for offering SB 12 to help protect Texans from being wrongfully censored on social media for voicing their political or religious viewpoints. With SB 12, Senator Hughes is taking a stand against Big Tech’s political censorship and protecting Texans’ right to freedom of expression,” Abbott said in a statement.

Hughes expressed great concern at American citizens getting censored on social media for not conforming to a narrow worldview approved by leftist ideologies. He argues that phone companies and cable companies cannot cut people off because of differing political or religious viewpoints. 

Since social media platforms are common carriers, they must not be allowed to discriminate in a manner that violates the First Amendment. 

Industry association TechNet said that lifting content restrictions could result in kids getting exposed to harmful information online. However, Hughes dismissed such concerns, stating that the legislation will only apply to political and religious speech and not any “lewd, lascivious” activity. 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, has called the bill one of his 31 priorities for the current legislative session. Abbott hopes to sign SB 12 into law by September 1.

Russian lawsuit

The Russian government is also getting on board in the fight against big tech, but for a different reason. Moscow has filed lawsuits against Google, Twitter, and Facebook for failing to comply with the government’s censorship requests, which demanded the deletion of posts asking youngsters to join in the protests held against Alexei Navalny’s detainment, the opposition leader.

The lawsuit was filed by the Russian Internet regulatory agency Roskomnadzor. Each platform has three charges against them, with each violation potentially resulting in a fine of up to 4 million roubles (approx. $54,000). 

The lawsuits will be heard on April 2. According to Roskomnadzor, legal actions are pending against other foreign social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Telegram. 

Facebook had recently blocked numerous accounts for spreading disinformation against Navalny supporters, angering Roskomnadzor, which demanded a full explanation for the sudden move. The company stated that the disinformation campaign aimed to generate large volumes of false posts in a bid to muffle the posts made by Navalny sympathizers. 

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Facebook to become first major tech company to bring Seattle workers back to offices

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Facebook to become first major tech company to bring Seattle workers back to offices

Facebook announced Tuesday that it plans to bring its Seattle employees back to its offices at 10% capacity.

Amazon hosts pop-up vaccine clinic in Seattle

This makes the social media giant the first large tech company in the Puget Sound region to begin bringing its workers back in person. In total, Facebook employs over 5,400 people in the region, the fifth most among major tech companies behind Amazon, Microsoft, T-Mobile, and Google respectively.

In a statement to the Puget Sound Business Journal, Facebook spokesman Tracy Clayton indicated that “offices in Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond are on the verge of opening again at a scale not seen since the COVID pandemic began more than a year ago,” but did not offer a timeline for when exactly that might occur.

The 10% of workers Facebook plans to bring back will be prioritized based on those who have been facing struggling most to be productive with the work-from-home model, the company told the Journal.

Officially, the company still plans to continue offering the option to voluntarily work at home until July 2 worldwide.

“We are encouraging everyone who can do their work remotely to continue working from home,” Clayton said.

Report: Amazon now has more employees than Boeing in WA

In the meantime, Facebook says it will continue monitoring local COVID-19 trends, as well as testing and vaccine access to assess its plans for the future.

Other tech companies in the Puget Sound region have continued to maintain their own remote work policies, including Amazon, where the option to work full time from home remains in place at least through June 2021. Microsoft took that a step further last October, indicating that it plans to enact flexible work schedules that would incorporate remote work options permanently.

Meanwhile, state leaders continue to encourage schools to begin phasing out their own remote models, pushing for students to at least begin returning to classrooms in a hybrid model. That’s based on emergent data indicating that students are less likely to significantly contribute to the spread of COVID-19, and continued increases in vaccine distribution statewide.

This content was originally published here.

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Chandler ranks among the best cities for women in tech | AZ Big Media

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Chandler ranks among the best cities for women in tech | AZ Big Media

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that computer and information technology jobs are expected to have grown by 11% from 2019 to 2029, adding 531,200 new jobs in cloud computing, big data storage and collection and information security. The median annual wage for those jobs in May 2019 was $88,240, which is $48,430 higher than the median annual wage for all occupations.

But while tech jobs continue to outpace other occupations nationwide, women still face gender discrimination in the workplace. The BLS says that full-time women workers in all occupations earned $202 less per week than their male counterparts in the third quarter of 2020. This not only makes it harder for women to advance in their careers, but it also adversely affects their ability to save for retirement and cover many day-to-day expenses like food or housing. The employment landscape, however, continues to change. With that in mind, SmartAsset analyzed data to identify the best cities for women tech workers.

READ ALSO: 25 tech startups to watch in Metro Phoenix

We compared 63 U.S. cities for which full data was available and ranked them according to the following metrics: gender pay gap in the tech industry, income after housing, women as a percentage of tech workers and three-year growth in tech employment. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s seventh annual study on the best cities for women in tech. Check out the 2020 version here.

Key Findings

• Tech opportunities are moving outside of California. Silicon Valley is widely considered the premiere tech hub of America. However, our 2021 study shows that only two California cities rank in the top 15, and neither of those are located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Women can seize tech opportunities in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Colorado, Texas, Ohio, New Mexico, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and Washington D.C.

• Women in tech still face a relatively large pay gap. While tech is often considered a progressive industry, our study shows that women on average make 83 cents for every dollar that is earned by their male counterparts. The city with the worst pay gap is Salt Lake City, Utah where women make only 68% of what men get. By contrast, Long Beach, California is the only city in the study where women earn slightly more than men – making $1.01 for every dollar that their male tech peers get.

1. Arlington, VA

Arlington, Virginia is an “inside-the-beltway” suburb of Washington, D.C., and women make up 33.5% of their tech workforce, the sixth-largest on our list. Women tech workers in Arlington also have the eighth-largest income after housing, earning $64,620. Women in this city face the 12th-lowest pay gap in tech, earning 91 cents for every dollar that men make.

2. Washington, DC

Located just across the Potomac River from Arlington, the nation’s capital has a tech industry that is made up of 38.9% women workers, the second-largest percentage for this metric in our study. Women in Washington D.C. get 90 cents for every dollar that their male co-workers make, the 16th-lowest pay gap overall. Furthermore, they have the 12th-highest income, earning $61,083 after housing.

3. Baltimore, MD

Women in tech in Baltimore, Maryland face the second-smallest pay gap in the study, earning almost on par with their male counterparts – at 99 cents for every dollar that men make. The tech workforce in Baltimore is made up of 29.9% women, the 10th-largest overall, and they have the ninth-highest income – $63,203 after housing is deducted. Note, however, that the tech industry has grown only 15% in the three-year period from 2016 to 2019, placing Baltimore in the bottom half of the study for this metric.

4. Durham, NC

Durham, North Carolina is the home of Duke University and part of the famed Research Triangle. Tech women in Durham earn 91 cents for every dollar that their male co-workers make, the 11th-smallest pay gap in our study. The Durham tech industry has grown 30% in the three-year period from 2016 to 2019, the 12th-biggest increase overall for this metric. Women make up 28.6% of the city’s tech workforce, the 14th-largest in the study.

5. Chesapeake, VA

Chesapeake is located in southern Virginia. Women make up 37.4% of its tech workforce – the fourth-largest in our study. Women in this city make 91 cents for every dollar that their male tech peers get and have an income of $54,371 after housing. The Chesapeake tech industry has seen a 23% growth in the recent three-year period from 2016 to 2019.

6. Aurora, CO

Tech women in Aurora, Colorado get 97 cents for every dollar that men make, the third-smallest pay gap in our study. The tech industry in Aurora has grown 25% in three years, the 21st-biggest increase on our list. And women tech workers in this city earn $57,853 after housing, the 19th-biggest income across all 63 cities in the study.

7. Houston, TX

Women tech workers in Houston, Texas make 94 cents for every dollar that their male co-workers earn, the sixth-smallest pay gap in our study. The city’s tech workforce is made up of 27.2% women and has seen a 17% employment growth from 2016 to 2019. Women tech workers in Houston have an income of $61,016 after housing, the 13th-highest overall.

8. Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati, Ohio has the fourth-smallest gender pay gap in tech – our study shows that women earn 95 cents for every dollar that men get. Women in the Queen City make up 30.7% of the tech workforce, the seventh-largest for this metric overall. Their income after housing – at $48,886 – ranks in the bottom half of the study. But the industry itself has seen a 21% growth in employment the three-year period from 2016 to 2019.

9. Albuquerque, NM

Tech women in Albuquerque, New Mexico make about 95 cents for every dollar that their male co-workers earn, the fifth-smallest gender pay gap in our study. While women make up 30.6% of the city’s tech workforce, the eighth-largest in the study, Albuquerque’s tech industry has experienced relatively slow growth. It has seen only 13% growth from 2016 to 2019.

10. Jacksonville, FL

Women in Jacksonville, Florida make up 29.4% of the tech workforce, the 11th-largest in our study. For every dollar that men make, these Florida tech women earn 93 cents – the ninth-smallest gender pay gap overall. Jacksonville, however, finishes in the bottom half of this study with a slower tech industry growth of 17% from 2016 to 2019.

11. Long Beach, CA

Long Beach, California is the only city in the entire study where women in tech make more money than men. They reversed the gender pay gap by earning $1.01 for every dollar that men earn. The tech industry in this California city has seen steady three-year growth, ranking 14th out of 63 with a 27% increase from 2016 to 2019. Long Beach women make up 25.4% of the city’s tech workforce and have an income of $55,640 after housing.

12. Sacramento, CA

Sacramento, California may not stand out as an obvious destination for tech workers, but women make up 37.8% of its tech workforce, the third-largest in our study. That said, pay equity isn’t as high, as women in the industry earn only 88 cents for every dollar that men make. The Sacramento tech workforce has grown 32% in the three years from 2016 to 2019, the ninth-highest increase across all 63 cities in the study. Women tech workers in the city have an income of $46,289 after housing.

13. Philadelphia, PA

Women in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania make up 28.5% of the city’s tech workforce, the 15th-largest rate for this metric in the study. Their income is $52,530 after housing, and they have the 13th-smallest pay gap overall, earning 91 cents for every dollar that their male peers make. The city’s tech workforce has seen a 23% increase in the three-year period from 2016 to 2019, ranking towards the middle of the study for this metric.

14. Chandler, AZ

While women in Chandler, Arizona make up 28.1% of the city’s tech workforce – the 18th-largest in the study – they rank towards the middle of the study for gender pay gap, earning 85 cents for every dollar that men make. Chandler’s tech industry has seen a 23% growth from 2016 to 2019. Women in the city have an income of $60,269 after housing.

15. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta, Georgia rounds out the final place in our top 15. Tech employment has grown 33% over the three-year period from 2016 to 2019, the eighth-fastest in our study. Women in Atlanta tech earn 88 cents for every dollar that men make, placing it in about the top third of the study for that metric. Women in Atlanta make up 27.1% of the tech workforce and have an income of $52,594 after housing.

This content was originally published here.

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