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Social Networking Giant Facebook Testing ‘LOL’ App to Woo Kids

Facebook has over 2.2 billion users globally, including 300 million in India

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Facebook testing 'LOL' app to woo kids, experts wary. Pixabay

In a fresh attempt to woo children into joining its network and boost user growth, Facebook is testing a new hub called “LOL” that will let kids share and post humorous meme content.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch late Friday that it was experimenting with the “LOL” hub for kids. “We are running a small scale test and the concept is in the early stages right now,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Divided into categories like “For You”, “Animals”, “Fails” and “Pranks”, “LoL” will be a special feed of funny videos and GIF-like clips.

The company is yet to decide if “LOL” will become a stand-alone app or be available in the main Facebook app.

“‘LOL’ is currently in private beta with around 100 high school students who signed non-disclosure agreements with parental consent to do focus groups and one-on-one testing with Facebook staff,” said the report.

According to social media experts, this is yet another attempt by Facebook — embroiled in several data breach and privacy violation cases — to get into a yet-to-be-tapped market to boost its stalled user growth.

“It may not be a good idea to again start some specific social media platform for tender minds especially when the content is not guided. There has been a call globally to limit the screen time for kids and Facebook is somehow trying to hook them onto screens,” Anoop Mishra, one of the nation’s leading social media experts, told IANS on Saturday.

Despite call for withdrawal by experts, Facebook has decided to expand the reach of its Messenger Kids by introducing the video calling and messaging app designed for children under 13. The Messenger Kids app was launched in the US in 2017.

In 2018, more than 100 child health experts wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to discontinue the app.

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“At a time when there is mounting concern about how social media use affects adolescents’ well being, it is particularly irresponsible to encourage children as young as pre-schoolers to start using a Facebook product,” the authors wrote.

British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also warned the social media giant to stay away from his children.

“Facebook told me they would come back with ideas to PREVENT underage use of their product, but instead they are actively targeting younger children. Stay away from my kids please Facebook and act responsibly!” Hunt had posted on Twitter.

Responding to the backlash that Facebook’s Messenger Kids is facing, a top executive of the social network said that families would be better off because the video calling and messaging app designed for the under 13s exists. “I firmly believe that it is a good product,” said David Marcus, Facebook’s Vice President of Messaging Products.

But experts feel that the app’s overall impact on families and society is likely to be negative, and it could normalise social media use among young children by creating peer pressure.

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“With the growing incidences of child trafficking, wrong marketing messaging amid absence of proper guidelines, such new apps meant for kids can be another cause of concerns for parents,” stressed Mishra.

With over a billion users, Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform Instagram is currently very popular among teenagers.

Facebook has over 2.2 billion users globally, including 300 million in India.

The company last year launched a short-form video app called “Lasso” but the app did not gained much popularity. (IANS)

Next Story

Political ad Spend on Facebook Picks up in April

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19

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FILE - The Facebook app icon is shown on an iPhone in New York. VOA

Political parties and their affiliates ramped up spending on social media ads ahead of the third phase of Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for Tuesday, show data released by Facebook Ad Library.

Indians spent around Rs 7 crore for running political ads on Facebook and Instagram in the first 20 days of April, while the amount spent on these platforms in February-March was about Rs 10 crore.

Facebook’s Ad Library, a searchable database, includes ads related to politics and issues of national importance run on Facebook or Instagram.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates continue to lead the ad spending on Facebook. The official BJP page took the top spot in the list of spenders on social media platforms. Of the Rs 1.3 crore that it spent on Facebook, Rs 44.32 lakh was spent during the week ending April 20.

The official Congress page on Facebook spent Rs 56.69 lakh during February-April 20.

However, supporters and affiliates of political parties account for most of the spending on the social media platforms.

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FILE – An Indian man surfs a Facebook page at an Internet cafe in New Delhi, India, Feb. 9, 2016. VOA

For example, the pro-BJP pages — Bharat Ke Mann Ki Baat (Rs 2.23 core), My First Vote For Modi (Rs 1.08 crore) and Nation with NaMo (Rs 1.20 crore) among others — spent much more than the Congress.

Similarly, the pro-Congress page “Bande Mein Hai Dum” spent Rs 2.59 lakh for drumming up support for the grand old party on Facebook and the Indian Youth Congress spent Rs 6.52 lakh on the social media platform.

Among the regional parties, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the YSR Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) lead the spending table on Facebook.

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On Twitter, the accounts spending over $100 during the past week belonged to BJP MLA from Mandawa Narendra Kumar, Mumbai Congress unit chief Milind Deora, Congress leader and former Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai, BJD President Naveen Patnaik and the TN Youth Party.

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. (IANS)