Recode Daily: RIP Instagram influencers?

Instagram is expanding a test that hides the “Like” button on posts. According to Vox, Instagram has been running this experiment in Canada and is now rolling it out to users in Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. The test, which only shows a post’s like count to the person who posted it, is an attempt to “reduce pressure” and help users “focus on the photos and videos [they] share, not how many likes they get.” It’s also part of a larger effort to promote “digital well-being” and limit the app’s effects on mental health, which also includes anti-bullying measures.

  • But what about the influencers? Vox points out that the biggest concern with the experiment is the effect it could have on the livelihood of Instagram influencers because brands care most about an influencer’s likes and engagement. This will likely mean that current influencers will rely more on Instagram Stories (which is also Instagram’s focus).

[Kaitlyn Tiffany / Vox]

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This new map shows how widespread the use of facial recognition technology is. The map, assembled by the digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future, shows where and how often US law enforcement agencies use this controversial technology. Check out the map here.

  • Some highlights: In Texas, Florida, and Illinois, the FBI uses facial recognition technology to scan through DMV databases of driver’s license photos. In Baltimore, police have used facial recognition software to identify and arrest individuals at protests. In US airports, Customs and Border Protection now uses facial recognition to screen passengers on international flights.
  • Of note: Fight for the Future’s map also details about 40 local police partnerships with Ring. The company has told Recode, “Ring does not use facial recognition technology,” and that it does not collaborate with Amazon’s controversial facial recognition tech, Rekognition. But it did not rule out whether it might someday use the technology.

[Shirin Ghaffary and Rani Molla / Recode]

We still don’t know how or what “libra” will do to change the global financial system. The head of libra, David Marcus, answered questions this week from the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee about Facebook’s cryptocurrency project, but his responses weren’t exactly illuminating. An exchange with Rep. Patrick McHenry did highlight one crucial detail: Facebook needs Congress to help it define how libra is put into practice, and “whatever the answer ends up being will have big implications for the future of digital money and banking.”

  • What Congress wanted to know: After Facebook’s week on the Hill, lawmakers wanted to know if “what Facebook is proposing is actually a bank.” Ultimately, the questioning in the House focused on what exactly libra “is.”
  • What this is about: Facebook aside, “Big Tech is coming for financial services.” Thanks to their network effects, companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have the potential to dominate the financial services sector.

[Mike Orcutt / MIT Technology Review]

After 18 months of layoffs, a federal investigation, and internal turmoil, Grindr is looking for a buyer. According to BuzzFeed News’s reporting, many of the gay dating app’s recent woes can be attributed to its sale to Kunlun Group, a Chinese gaming company. The app is lucrative: A recent count put its daily active users at 3.6 million, and in 2018, it brought in more than $50 million in revenue. Before it sold, Grindr once had plans to expand the reputation of the primarily cisgender gay men’s hookup app “to become an all-encompassing LGBTQ-focused media destination.” It also wanted to promote global sexual health and safety campaigns through an advocacy group called Grindr for Equality. But since a leadership change, those plans are “in tatters.”

  • What’s next? The app could be an acquisition interest for Tinder owner Match Group and Bumble owner Badoo. But several former employees told BuzzFeed they are “unsure where Grindr goes from here.”

[Ryan Mac / BuzzFeed News]