Facebook launches “clear history” feature
Facebook has launched a “clear history” feature – well over a year after it was first promised. It is initially being rolled out in a fairly random selection of countries - Ireland, Spain and South Korea - to be followed by a worldwide launch “over the coming months”. The tool is designed to give users more control over their data privacy at the expense of advertisers’ targeting capabilities and is part of a new section called “Off-Facebook activity.” When it’s open, users will see the apps and websites that are tracking their activity and sending reports back to Facebook for ad targeting purposes. Tapping the “Clear History” button will dissociate that information from the user’s Facebook account (though it won’t actually delete anything from Facebook’s servers). With the amount of pressure Facebook is under when it comes to data misuse it’s hard to understand why this has taken so long, but better late than never.

Facebook turns to journalists for news section
Turns out that real live humans can still be useful! Facebook has confirmed plans to introduce a separate "news" section in its app for which it will hire human journalists to work on. Facebook's head of news partnerships Campbell Brown said the goal would be to "provide a personalised, highly relevant experience for people." Details are still unconfirmed, but it’s expected that the team will consist of around 10 journalists who will pick top national news stories for the section, but the content people end up seeing will be mostly driven by Facebook’s algorithm.

Facebook testing app to encourage sharing with close friends
The Verge has reported that Facebook is developing a new messaging app called Threads. It is said to promote constant, intimate sharing between users and their closest friends. Threads is designed as a companion app to Instagram and invites users to automatically share their location, speed, and battery life with friends, along with more typical text, photo, and video messages using Instagram’s creative tools. It’s unclear when Threads might launch – if ever – but as Mark Zuckerberg said in March that he sees private messaging as the future of the company it should have a good shot at making it. Instagram declined to comment so we’ll just have to watch this space for now.

Facebook adds badges to highlight Pages’ biggest fans
Facebook is adding badges into Page interactions to highlight more prolific and engaged Page fans. There are now 'Anniversary follower' and 'Milestone follower' badges for Page interactions, along with another 'Follower' icon, highlighting who's who within post comment streams. These badges can help Page admins better understand their fans and engage with them in a more personalised way, such as thanking them for their contributions or rewarding them for reaching certain milestones.

Instagram tests back-to-back ads in Stories
Love ads in your Instagram Stories? No!? Well bad news as you may start seeing a few more of them. The platform kicked off a test last week in which a “small percentage” of users will see ads from two different advertisers back-to-back in Stories. There is method behind the apparent madness - the goal is to see if back-to-back Stories ads from different brands provides a more seamless experience for users, and to gather feedback. Though the cynics amongst us may disagree, apparently, user experience is still the platform's key priority, followed by value for advertisers.

Snap boosts Lens Studio with new AR tools
Snap has boosted its Lens Studio with new features designed to appeal to a wider range of creators, from newbies to pros. They include Landmarker template support for 14 new real-world locations, six new facial templates, and an interactive tour for first-time app users. The move is designed to help Snap is get an even stronger foothold in the AR creative and marketing spaces by making it easier for brands and agencies to experiment with Snap’s AR.

YouTube scraps private chats to focus on public actions
Two years after adding a chat option, YouTube is scrapping it. Instead, it wants to put more emphasis on public sharing via comments, posts, and YouTube Stories. As of September 18th, the option will cease to exist within the app, though YouTube notes that users can still share content via the 'Share' option on all videos.

Twitter launches six-second video bidding option
Video ads are proving popular on Twitter, so the platform is looking to cash in by offering a new 6-second video bidding. Advertisers will only be charged if the ad is viewed for six seconds or longer, at 50 per cent in view. The new bid unit is now available globally on Promoted Video, In-stream Video Sponsorships, and In-stream Video Ads for ads that are 15 seconds or less in length. Twitter described the bid unit in this jargon-heavy summary: “(a) flexible option for advertisers who care about the completed view metric but are ready to lean into the mobile-first paradigm and develop short-form assets optimized for in-feed viewing.” Phew! Where do I sign?

TikTok encourages sales with Hashtag Challenge Plus
TikTok is getting its e-commerce game on. The platform has launched a new feature that allows users to shop for products associated with a sponsored Hashtag Challenge, without leaving its app. For the older generations amongst us, this is how it works: sponsored challenges ask people to use a product or do a specific action in a video, like putting on makeup, wearing new outfits or singing a particular song. The new commerce feature, Hashtag Challenge Plus, allows viewers to click through in-app to said product or to find out more information about what the brand is plugging. A pretty simple but potentially effective way of generating some cash for TikTok.

Reddit tests livestreaming
Despite live broadcasting on social platforms getting some bad press of late, Reddit last week tested its own livestreaming service, called Reddit Public Access Network (RPAN). It ran as a time-limited experiment but Reddit said that if it worked well it could become a permanent feature. "We know that our users are familiar with streaming across their internet experience, because they’re seeing it on other platforms,” says Alex Le, Reddit’s VP of product. “It’s become an expectation that a platform should offer this." The test streams were tightly curated, with human moderators watching each one to ensure no inappropriate content was broadcast. Redditors were able to upvote and downvote streams and participate in live chats during the broadcasts. No news yet as to whether the experiment was deemed a success or not.

The Telegraph turns to dark social to engage readers
A nice example of dark social being used effectively by UK newspaper The Telegraph. The publication has built up a WhatsApp group with users numbering in “the thousands”. Users receive two short voice messages every weekday at 8am and 5.30pm respectively with radio bulletin-style updates. These are then followed by a text message with links to articles. The best bit – the publication claims that those who follow these links go on to read double the number of articles than the average reader and are 12 times more likely to become paying subscribers than those reading on its homepage.