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Google Says AI Better Than Humans At Scrubbing Extremist YouTube Content
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 04:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's automated-tasks department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google has pledged to continue developing advanced programs using machine learning to combat the rise of extremist content, after it found that it was both faster and more accurate than humans in scrubbing illicit content from YouTube. The company is using machine learning along with human reviewers as part of a mutli-pronged approach to tackle the spread of extremist and controversial videos across YouTube, which also includes tougher standards for videos and the recruitment of more experts to flag content in need of review. A YouTube spokesperson said: "While these tools aren't perfect, and aren't right for every setting, in many cases our systems have proven more accurate than humans at flagging videos that need to be removed. Our initial use of machine learning has more than doubled both the number of videos we've removed for violent extremism, as well as the rate at which we've taken this kind of content down. Over 75% of the videos we've removed for violent extremism over the past month were taken down before receiving a single human flag."

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Hackers Can Turn Amazon Echo Into a Covert Listening Device
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 03:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's always-listening department:
Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: New research released by MWR InfoSecurity reveals how attackers can compromise the Amazon Echo and turn it into a covert listening device, without affecting its overall functionality. Found to be susceptible to a physical attack, which allows an attacker to gain a root shell on the Linux Operating Systems and install malware, the Amazon Echo would enable hackers to covertly monitor and listen in on users and steal private data without their permission or knowledge. By removing the rubber base at the bottom of the Amazon Echo, the research team could access the 18 debug pads and directly boot into the firmware of the device, via an external SD card, and install persistent malware without leaving any physical evidence of tampering. This gained them remote root shell access and enabled them to access the "always listening" microphones. Following a full examination of the process running on the device and the associated scripts, MWR's researchers investigated how the audio media was being passed and buffered between the processes and the tools used to do so. Then they developed scripts that leveraged tools embedded on the device to stream the microphone audio to a remote server without affecting the functionality of the device itself. The raw data was then sampled via a remote device, where a decision could then be made as to play it out of the speakers on the remote device or save the audio as a WAV file. The vulnerability has been confirmed to affect the 2015 and 2016 editions of the device. The 2017 edition of the Amazon Echo is not vulnerable to this physical attack. The smaller Amazon Dot model also does not carry the vulnerability. More technical details can be found here.

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New iPhone To Have Tap to Wake, Attention Detection, and Virtual Home Button, Says Report
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 03:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's what-to-expect department:
HomePod's firmware has revealed several new features coming to the upcoming iPhone, such as a tap to wake function, facial expression and attention detection, and virtual home button. "Apple accidentally released the firmware over the weekend resulting in a frenzy of analysis about previously unknown features," reports The Verge. From the report: Developers including Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo have been tweeting their findings, notably the discovery of the new iPhone's bezel-less screen design. They've also concluded that the resolution for the iPhone 8 could be as much of a visual leap forward from current-generation iPhones as the iPhone 4's Retina display was from the original iPhone. Apple is using codenames for both its face recognition feature and the bezel-less phone, called "Pearl ID" and "D22" respectively. A potential "attention detection" feature is also mentioned in the code, with some speculating that may mean the phone will remain silent for notifications if it knows you're looking at the screen already. Facial references such as "mouthstretch," "mouthsmile," and "mouthdimple" were also found, which are most likely a nod to Apple's rumored facial recognition feature that can even detect faces in the dark using infrared. A tap to wake feature has also been discovered, and should be similar to the Windows Phone function that allows users to double-tap the screen to wake the phone.

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Senators Propose Bill Targeting Websites That Facilitate Sex Trafficking
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 01:52 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's core-pillars-of-internet-freedom department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday that aims to make it easier to sue and criminally prosecute operators of online classified sites like Backpage.com that have been used to advertise sex workers. The proposed bill would amend the Communications Decency Act to eliminate a provision that shields operators of websites from being liable for content posted by third-party users. In addition to removing liability protections for websites that facilitate "unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims," lawmakers are seeking to amend the CDA to allow state prosecutors -- not just federal law enforcement -- to take action against individuals and businesses that use websites to violate federal sex trafficking laws. "For too long, courts around the country have ruled that Backpage can continue to facilitate illegal sex trafficking online with no repercussions," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. "The Communications Decency Act is a well-intentioned law, but it was never intended to help protect sex traffickers who prey on the most innocent and vulnerable among us. This bipartisan, narrowly crafted bill will help protect vulnerable women and young girls from these horrific crimes."

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'Real People' Don't Need End-To-End Encryption In Their Messaging Apps, UK Home Secretary Says
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 12:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's what'-happening department:
UK home secretary Amber Rudd has called on messaging apps like WhatsApp to ditch end-to-end encryption, arguing that it aids terrorists. From a report: The major technology companies must step up their fight against extremism or face new laws, the home secretary has told the BBC. Amber Rudd said technology companies were not doing enough to beat "the enemy" on the internet. Encryption tools used by messaging apps had become a "problem," she added. Ms Rudd is meeting with representatives from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and others at a counter-terrorism forum in San Francisco. Tuesday's summit is the first gathering of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, an organisation set up by the major companies in the wake of recent terror attacks. In a joint statement, the companies taking part said they were co-operating to "substantially disrupt terrorists' ability to use the internet in furthering their causes, while also respecting human rights." In an op-ed, she wrote Tuesday: Real people often prefer ease of use and a multitude of features to perfect, unbreakable security ... Who uses WhatsApp because it is end-to-end encrypted, rather than because it is an incredibly user-friendly and cheap way of staying in touch with friends and family? Companies are constantly making trade-offs between security and 'usability,' and it is here where our experts believe opportunities may lie.

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Mozilla Launches Experimental Voice Search, File-Sharing and Note-Taking Tools For Firefox
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 12:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's browser-features department:
Firefox has just launched three new Test Pilot experiments that bring voice search, built-in note taking and a tool for sending large files to the browser. From a report: While the new voice search, which currently works on the Google, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo homepages, and note-taking features are browser plugins, the new Send tool is web-based and allows anybody -- no matter which browser they use -- to send files up to 1GB in size. It encrypts the file as it is uploaded and gives you a link you can share with your friends and co-workers. Files are automatically deleted after one download or after one day. That's not exactly the most novel concept (and Mozilla has often been criticized for diverting its attention from its core competencies), but the built-in encryption and the open-source nature of the tool do make up for that.

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Seed Funding Slows in Silicon Valley
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-tussle department:
The bloom is off seed funding, the business of providing money to brand-new startups, as investors take a more measured approach to financing emerging U.S. technology companies. From a report: Seed-stage financing has been sliding for the last two years, with the number of transactions down about 40 percent since the peak in mid-2015, data show. Dollar investments in fledgling companies have also declined, although less dramatically, dropping more than 24 percent over the same period. The slowdown comes despite an explosion of interest by wealthy individuals and foreign investors looking to park money in the next big thing. And it has potentially big implications for Silicon Valley. Early-stage funding is the lifeblood of a technology ecosystem built on risk-taking. Denied critical resources in infancy, companies can't hope to scale quickly enough to unseat incumbent industries and grow into the next Uber Technologies Inc or Airbnb. "The reason why startups are disrupting companies in the 21st Century is not because they are smarter. It's because they have capital to do so," said Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur, startup mentor and adjunct professor at Stanford University. [...] The zeal that prevailed just two years ago has faded. Seed and angel investors completed about 900 deals in the second quarter, down from roughly 1,100 deals in the second quarter of 2016 and close to 1,500 deals during that time period in 2015, according to a report released last month by Seattle-based PitchBook Inc, which supplies venture capital data. The dollar amount provided by seed and angel investors was $1.65 billion in the second quarter. That's just shy of the $1.75 billion for the same time period of 2016 and down significantly from 2015, which saw $2.19 billion invested into fledgling startups.

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Microsoft Targets Google and Apple in Schools With 'Surface Plus' Hardware Subscription Program
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's education-space department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft is launching a new subscription program for buying Surface computers and tablets in much the same way that many people now purchase smartphones, with no-interest financing for two years and the ability to upgrade to a new device before the term is up. Announced this morning at the launch of back-to-school season, the initiative is part of a broader push by Microsoft to gain new momentum in U.S. schools, where Google Chromebooks have taken the lead vs. Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft's new subscription program, called Surface Plus, will be available starting later today through the Microsoft Store in person and online. Microsoft's Surface Laptop, Surface Pro, Surface Book and Surface Studio are all options under the program. The program lets participants upgrade to a new machine after 18 months when they return their existing hardware in good condition. In addition to Surface Plus for students and consumers, Microsoft is offering a variation called Surface Plus for Business with the option to buy multiple machines under a single agreement, and the ability to finance a 55-inch Surface Hub as part of the agreement. The business version of the program also includes upgrade rights, with the timing of the upgrade depending on the length of the agreement. The fine print: an interest rate of 19.99% kicks in after 24 months.

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Bitcoin Splits in Two Amid Feud
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 09:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's breaking-news department:
Bitcoin is dividing in two. Disagreements about how to operate the cryptocurrency have led to a new strand called Bitcoin Cash, which is breaking off from the bitcoin system. From a report: Bitcoin Cash launches Tuesday in what is known as a "hard fork" from bitcoin, a virtual currency based on peer-to-peer transactions without any central authority or bank behind it. The new offshoot is a response to the increasing popularity of bitcoin, which is struggling to deal with massive numbers of transactions with its underpinning technology. The main bitcoin currency is adopting a system called Segwit2x that moves transactions out of the current blockchain, while bitcoin Cash will use bigger blocks within the blockchain. Bitcoin holders are set to receive the same amount of bitcoin cash as they have in bitcoin if the exchanges and wallets they use support the new coin, another report added. Exchanges including Kraken and ViaBTC have said they'll support both, while others like Coinbase and Poloniex have said they won't, citing uncertainty that bitcoin cash will have lasting market value.

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US Senators To Introduce Bill To Secure 'Internet of Things'
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 09:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tightening-things department:
Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Tuesday plans to introduce legislation seeking to address vulnerabilities in computing devices embedded in everyday objects -- known in the tech industry as the "internet of things" -- which experts have long warned poses a threat to global cyber security. The new bill would require vendors that provide internet-connected equipment to the U.S. government to ensure their products are patchable and conform to industry security standards. It would also prohibit vendors from supplying devices that have unchangeable passwords or possess known security vulnerabilities. Republicans Cory Gardner and Steve Daines and Democrats Mark Warner and Ron Wyden are sponsoring the legislation, which was drafted with input from technology experts at the Atlantic Council and Harvard University. A Senate aide who helped write the bill said that companion legislation in the House was expected soon.

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Google Chrome Starts Testing a Built-in Ad Blocker on Windows, Android
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 08:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's cleaning-the-web department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Earlier this year, Google was rumored to be working on a built-in ad blocker for its Chrome browser. The new ad blocker inside Chrome won't block every ad you see on the web -- instead, it'll only block ads that are considered intrusive and go against the standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads. Google has started testing the new built-in ad blocker for Chrome today on the desktop and Android devices. The latest canary release for Google Chrome includes a new option under Chrome's Settings where you can enable the new ad blocker inside Chrome. Users can enable the new feature by going to the Content options inside Chrome's settings page (chrome://settings/content/ads). The built-in ad blocker should automatically block ads that are considered "intrusive." But Google Chrome also lets you strictly block ads on certain sites, and you can also choose to allow ads on certain sites if you'd like.

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White House Officials Tricked By Email Prankster
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 08:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-is-hard department:
Jake Tapper, reporting for CNN: A self-described "email prankster" in the UK fooled a number of White House officials into thinking he was other officials, including an episode where he convinced the White House official tasked with cyber security that he was Jared Kushner and received that official's private email address unsolicited. "Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soiree towards the end of August," the fake Jared Kushner on an Outlook account wrote to the official White House email account of Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert. "It would be great if you could make it, I promise food of at least comparible (sic) quality to that which we ate in Iraq. Should be a great evening." Bossert wrote back: "Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can't refuse. Also, if you ever need it, my personal email is" (redacted). Bossert did not respond to CNN's request for comment; the email prankster said he was surprised Bossert responded given his expertise. The emails were shared with CNN by the email prankster. White House officials acknowledged the incidents and said they were taking the matter seriously. "We take all cyber related issues very seriously and are looking into these incidents further," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN.

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NVIDIA Announces Quadro And TITAN xP External GPU Solutions, OptiX 5.0 SDK
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 07:13 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's market-heating-up department:
Brandon Hill, writing for HotHardware: AMD isn't the only hardware company making waves this week at SIGGRAPH 2017. NVIDIA is looking to bolster its position in the professional graphics arena with a few new breakthroughs. The first of which is the addition of two new external graphics solutions that are targeted at professional artists and designers who primarily work with notebooks. NVIDIA is making it possible for these professionals to use either Pascal-based TITAN xP or Quadro graphics cards within an external GPU (eGPU) enclosure. NVIDIA will be partnering with a number of hardware partners including Bizon, Magma, and Sonnet, who will make compatible solutions available in September. NVIDIA is also playing up two of its strengths in artifice intelligence (AI) by launching the OptiX 5.0 SDK. With version 5.0, the OptiX is gaining ray tracing support to help speed up processing with regards to visual designs. This new release also adds GPU-accelerated motion blur along with AI-enhanced denoising capabilities.

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Amazon Suspends Sales of Blu Android Phones Due To Privacy Concerns
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 07:13 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-worries department:
CNET reports: Amazon just put budget phone maker Blu in the penalty box. The online retailing giant told CNET that it was suspending sales of phones from Blu, known for making ultra-cheap Android handsets, due to a "potential security issue." The move comes after security firm Kryptowire demonstrated last week how software in Blu's phones collected data and sent it to servers in China without alerting people. Blu defended the software, created by a Chinese company called Shanghai Adups Technology, and denied any wrongdoing. A company spokeswoman said at the time it "has several policies in place which take customer privacy and security seriously." She added there had been no breaches. Blu said it was in a process of review to reinstate the phones at Amazon.

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Privacy Watchdog Asks FTC To Look Into Google's Offline Shopping Tracker
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 05:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's online-to-offline department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A privacy advocacy group has filed a formal legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to begin an investigation "into Google's in-store tracking algorithm to determine whether it adequately protects the privacy of millions of American consumers." In the Monday filing, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said it is concerned with Google's new Store Sales Management program, which debuted in May. The system allows the company to extend its online tracking capabilities into the physical world. The idea is to combine credit card and other financial data acquired from data brokers to create a singular profile as a way to illustrate to companies what goods and services are being searched for online, which result in actual in-person sales. Because the algorithm that Google uses is secret, EPIC says, there is no way to determine how well Google's claimed anonymization feature -- to mask names, credit card numbers, location, and other potentially private data -- actually works. While Google has been cagey about exactly how it does this, the company has previously revealed that the technique is based on CryptDB.

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Is the iPhone 'Years' Ahead of Android In Photography?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 03:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-DSLR-era department:
Former Google senior vice president of Social, Vic Gundotra, said that Android phones are years behind the iPhone when it comes to photography. In a Facebook post, Gundotra said: "The end of the DSLR for most people has already arrived. I left my professional camera at home and took these shots at dinner with my iPhone 7 using computational photography (portrait mode as Apple calls it). Hard not to call these results (in a restaurant, taken on a mobile phone with no flash) stunning. Great job Apple." 9to5Mac reports: In response to a comment suggesting that the Samsung S8 camera was even better, Business Insider spotted that Gundotra disagreed. He said that not only was Apple way ahead of Samsung, but Android was to blame. From Gundotra's Facebook post: "I would never use an Android phone for photos! Here is the problem: It's Android. Android is an open source (mostly) operating system that has to be neutral to all parties. This sounds good until you get into the details. Ever wonder why a Samsung phone has a confused and bewildering array of photo options? Should I use the Samsung Camera? Or the Android Camera? Samsung gallery or Google Photos? It's because when Samsung innovates with the underlying hardware (like a better camera) they have to convince Google to allow that innovation to be surfaced to other applications via the appropriate API. That can take YEARS. Also the greatest innovation isn't even happening at the hardware level -- it's happening at the computational photography level. (Google was crushing this 5 years ago -- they had had 'auto awesome' that used AI techniques to automatically remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, add vignetting, etc... but recently Google has fallen back). Apple doesn't have all these constraints. They innovate in the underlying hardware, and just simply update the software with their latest innovations (like portrait mode) and ship it. Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don't mind being a few years behind, buy an Android."

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HP Patents 'Reminder Messages'
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's stupid-patent-of-the-month department:
Daniel Nazer reports via the Electronic Frontier Foundation: On July 25, 2017, the Patent Office issued a patent to HP on reminder messages. Someone needs to remind the Patent Office to look at the real world before issuing patents. United States Patent No. 9,715,680 (the '680 patent) is titled "Reminder messages." While the patent application does suggest some minor tweaks to standard automated reminders, none of these supposed additions deserve patent protection. Although this claim uses some obscure language (like "non-transitory computer-readable storage medium" and "article data"), it describes a quite mundane process. The "article data" is simply additional information associated with an event. For example, "buy a cake" might be included with a birthday reminder. The patent also requires that this extra information be input via a "scanning operation" (e.g. scanning a QR code). The '680 patent comes from an application filed in July 2012. It is supposed to represent a non-obvious advance on technology that existed before that date. Of course, reminder messages were standard many years before the application was filed. And just a few minutes of research reveals that QR codes were already used to encode information for reminder messages. The Patent Office reviewed HP's application for years without ever considering any real-world products. Indeed, the examiner considered only patents and patent applications.

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The US Is Becoming a Hot Spot For Outsourcing
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hot-spot department:
New submitter cdreimer shares a report from The New York Times (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source) about how companies are now outsourcing in the United States, hiring from Michigan instead of Mumbai. From the report: For years, American companies have been saving money by "offshoring" jobs -- hiring people in India and other distant cubicle farms. Today, some of those jobs are being outsourced again -- in the United States. Nexient, a software outsourcing company, reflects the evolving geography of technology work. It holds daily video meetings with one of its clients, Bill.com, where team members stand up and say into the camera what they accomplished yesterday for Bill.com, and what they plan to do tomorrow. The difference is, they are phoning in from Michigan, not Mumbai. "It's the first time we've been happy outsourcing," said Rene Lacerte, the chief executive of Bill.com, a bill payment-and-collection service based in Palo Alto, Calif. Nexient is a domestic outsourcer, a flourishing niche in the tech world as some American companies pull back from the idea of hiring programmers a world away. Salaries have risen in places like South Asia, making outsourcing there less of a bargain. In addition, as brands pour energy and money into their websites and mobile apps, more of them are deciding that there is value in having developers in the same time zone, or at least on the same continent.

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Iranians Use 'Cute Photographer' Profile To Hack Targets In Middle East
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's operating-lonely-guy department:
chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: Hackers working on behalf of the government of Iran are using alluring social media profiles featuring a young, English photographer to entice and then compromise the systems of high value targets in the oil and gas industry, according to a report by Dell Secureworks. In a report released on Thursday, Secureworks' Counter Threat Unit (CTU) said that it observed an extensive phishing campaign beginning in January and February 2017 that used a polished social media profile of a young, English woman using the name "Mia Ash" to conduct highly targeted spear-phishing and social engineering attacks against employees of Middle Eastern and North Africa firms in industries like telecommunications, government, defense, oil and financial services. The attacks are the work of an advanced persistent threat group dubbed COBALT GYPSY or "Oil Rig" that has been linked to other sophisticated attacks. The attacks, which spread across platforms including LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as email, were highly successful. In some cases, the attacks lasted months -- and long after the compromise of the employee -- with the targets engaged in a flirtation with a woman they believed was a young, attractive female photographer. The Mia Ash persona is a fake identity based loosely on a real person -- a Romanian photographer and student who has posted her work prolifically online. According to a report by Security Ledger, the persona was created specifically with the goal of performing reconnaissance on and establishing relationships with employees of targeted organizations. Victims were targeted with the PupyRAT Trojan, an open source, cross-platform remote access trojan (RAT) used to take control of a victim's system and harvest credentials like logins and passwords from victims, and lured with malware-laden documents such as "photography surveys" (really?). One target was even instructed to make sure to open the document from work because it will "work better," Secureworks said.

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With 200 Million Daily Users, Giphy Will Soon Test Sponsored GIFs
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-about-time department:
Giphy, the four-year-old search engine for GIFs with 200 million daily active users, will soon start testing sponsored GIFs within messaging experiences. "This means that users who search for GIFs may be served a sponsored GIF within the messaging tab," reports TechCrunch. From the report: There are some obvious use-cases here: A search for "Monday" or "morning" might turn up a Starbucks GIF. But there is also an opportunity for brands, especially movies and TV shows (which makes up a huge portion of Giphy's content), to work their existing content into people's messages. Structurally, this isn't too different from what Google does with search terms. If you search for "Walmart," you'll more than likely see a sponsored listing for both Walmart and Target. With Giphy, however, searches are rarely for specific brands but rather based around certain actions, reactions or emotions. With the forthcoming sponsored messaging product, a search for "Wooo" might turn up a GIF of someone pouring Jose Cuervo shots. A search for "cheers" might show folks clinking two Budweiser beer bottles together.

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