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Teespring is offering creators the ability to sell digital merchandise like filters

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For both aspiring and established creators, T-shirts and hoodies are so passé — the new wave of merchandise is all digital.

Teespring, one of the biggest platforms for creator and influencer merchandising and an official commerce partner for YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, is rolling out the ability to sell digital merchandise. These include photo filters, e-books, premium content, zines, and other items that creators can sell directly to fans instead of relying on physical merchandise.

Teespring decided to move into the digital merchandise space after a few influencers asked if it was something they could offer their fans, CEO Chris Lamontagne and vice president of marketing, Les Green, told The Verge on Wednesday. While Lamonatagne and the team had worked for a while on developing digital products, it was the pandemic that accelerated their plan to roll it out to creators who use Teespring. That includes people on YouTube, Instagram and, most recently, TikTok.

“The future isn’t just physical or digital — it’s gonna be digital and physical,” Lamontagne said. “We’re already seeing people who are doing bundles where it’s like, ‘Hey buy my shirt, download my filter.’”

Digital merchandise, which Lamontagne and Green refer to as digital commerce for creators, has been popular in other territories for years. Influencers abroad have created digital, personalized keyboards that are popular, for example. Creators who partook in Teespring’s digital merchandise beta were interested in working with Teespring on personalized digital products specifically for their audience, including a YouTuber who specializes in financial advice and wanted to create a digital financial planner for fans to use.

“For most of these creators, that’s the world that they live in — they create and distribute their content digitally,” Green said. “I think to be able to use that platform and leverage it to some more of their creative products out is a natural fit in many ways.”

Digital merchandise might sound a little more complicated than physical merch. Printing a T-shirt and mailing it out is one thing; designing a filter that works for every phone’s specifications is slightly trickier. Green said keeping up with how hardware and software changes — like different iPhone sizes or big Instagram software updates — are affecting people’s technology usage is “critical for us to adopt,” adding that Teespring will “sure that the products are compatible and appropriate for their fans.”

Neither Green nor Lamontagne said just how involved Teespring’s design team will be with creators who want to offer digital products that might require some extra technical skills, but Green mentioned they’re “going to be listening to the creators more often, and have a deeper relationship” with them to ensure their technical needs are met.

More than 450,000 verified creators are eligible to create digital products with Teespring. Creating a listing doesn’t cost anything, the company added in a press release, and there are no additional monthly charges or hosting fees.

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TikTok details how it’s taking further action against hateful ideologies

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TikTok said on Wednesday it’s strengthening its enforcement actions against hate speech and hateful ideologies to include “neighboring ideologies,” like white nationalism and others, as well as statements that emerge from those ideologies.

In a blog post, TikTok explained that it regularly evaluates its enforcement processes with the help of global experts to determine when it needed to take action against emerging risks.

While the TikTok Trust & Safety teams were already working to remove neo-Nazism and white supremacy from its platform under existing policies, it’s more recently expanded enforcement will also cover related ideologies, including white nationalism, white genocide theory, as well as “statements that have their origin in these ideologies, and movements such as Identitarianism and male supremacy,” TikTok said.

The announcement was made on TikTok’s European newsroom, and follows TikTok’s recent joining of the European Commission’s Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online. However, the guidelines TikTok discussed apply to its global audience.

TikTok had made similar statements on its U.S. newsroom in August, including its plans to take action against other hateful ideologies, including white nationalism and male supremacy, in addition to white supremacy and anti-semitism. A TikTok spokesperson told TechCrunch the new announcement was meant to offer “further details” on that policy.

The company’s new blog post noted how many monitoring organizations have been reporting that anti-semitic sentiment is increasing around the world.

TikTok itself had been recently accused of having a “white supremacy” problem, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, which led to the U.S. newsroom announcement earlier this year. The ADL had uncovered dozens of accounts that were using combinations of white supremacist symbols, terms and slogans as screen names or handles, its report said.

It also said it secured a commitment from TikTok to work together to remove such content going forward. At the time of the report, TikTok had claimed to have already removed 1,000 accounts during the year for violating hate speech policies, and said it had taken down hundreds of thousands of videos under those same guidelines. In the U.S. newsroom post, TikTok updated its numbers, saying it had banned more than 1,300 accounts for hateful content or behavior, removed more than 380,000 videos for violation of its hate speech policy, and removed over 64,000 hateful comments.

TikTok offered no update on those figures, or EU-specific data, in today’s post.

The post went on to detail other existing policies in this area. For example, TikTok says it doesn’t permit any content that denies the Holocaust and other violent tragedies — a policy Facebook only recently adopted after years of choosing to favor free speech. TikTok also says it takes action to remove misinformation and hurtful stereotypes about Jewish, Muslim and other communities — including those that spread misinformation about “notable Jewish individuals and families” that are used as proxies to spread antisemitism.

TikTok additionally noted it removes content harmful to the LGBTQ+ community by removing hateful ideas, including content that promotes promotes conversion therapy and the idea that no one is born LGBTQ+.

The company spoke about another area of policy it’s worked to improve, too. Today, TikTok is working to train Trust & Safety enforcement team members as to when it’s appropriate to remove certain language. In the case of language that was previously used to exclude and demean groups, it’s removed. But if those terms are now being reclaimed by impacted communities as terms of empowerment and counter-speech, the speech wouldn’t be taken down.

When content is taken down, TikTok users will be able to ask for a review of the action, TikTok also promised — a level of transparency that isn’t always seen today.

Much of what TikTok announced on Wednesday isn’t a new policy, necessarily, but is meant to address the E.U. audience specifically, where TikTok faces continual scrutiny over its data practices and other policies.

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How to Watch Apple TV’s New MTV-Style Music Channel

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Illustration for article titled How to Watch Apple TVs New MTV-Style Music Channel

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse (Apple Music app on iPad

Apple just launched Apple Music TV, a new Apple TV channel that plays round-the-clock music videos, live concerts, and other exclusive music-based content. It’s a free add-on for anyone with the Apple Music or Apple TV apps, though it’s exclusive to the US for now.

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I’ve also seen claims you can access the channel in your web browser via apple.co/AppleMusicTV, but the link just redirects me to the Apple TV landing page. If you’re mobile, pull out your iPhone or iPad and launch the Apple Music app. You’ll find Apple’s new channel it in the “Browse” tab—just tap “Watch Now” to start the stream.

Apple Music TV channel in the Apple Music app on iPad

Apple Music TV channel in the Apple Music app on iPad
Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

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So what will you see and hear on Apple Music TV? Well, music videos, mostly, but that’s not all.

The channel premiered on Monday, October 19, and started its programming with a top 100 countdown of the most-streamed songs on Apple Music in the US.

Apple also plans to premiere new music videos every Friday at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET, starting with new videos for Saint Jhn’s “Gorgeous” and Joji’s “777” on Friday, October 23.

Apple Music TV will also feature curated content blocks for superfans. The first is a Bruce Springsteen “takeover” on October 22 that will include his music videos, exclusive interviews, and more in celebration of Springsteen’s new album Letter to You.

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In addition to the music videos, Apple has a bunch of music-themed documentaries, live concerts, and other content that the company is planning to stream via the free channel

Now, since I pretty much only listen to lofi hip-hop, video game soundtracks, and Indonesian grindcore, my tastes aren’t necessarily in line with what Apple Music TV has to offer. Even so, I don’t think Apple’s offering is that much different than just turning on a music video playlist on YouTube—or just streaming the tracks on any other music app.

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That said, there’s an undeniable appeal to Apple Music TV’s concept, especially since it will have exclusive content for you to indulge. If you enjoy listening to top-rated hits or long for the golden era of MTV, you’ll probably enjoy Apple Music TV. Those with slightly more underground and alternative tastes will have to hold out hope for MTV 2 Apple Music TV 2, though.

[Variety]

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SoftBank’s $100 million diversity and inclusion fund makes its first bet … in health Vitable Health

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SoftBank’s Opportunity Growth Fund has made the health insurance startup Vitable Health the first commitment from its $100 million fund dedicated to investing in startups founded by entrepreneurs of color.

The Philadelphia-based company, which recently launched from Y Combinator, is focused on bringing basic health insurance to underserved and low-income communities.

Founded by Joseph Kitonga, a 23 year-old entrepreneur whose parents immigrated to the U.S. a decade ago, Vitable provides affordable acute healthcare coverage to underinsured or un-insured populations and was born out of Kitonga’s experience watching employees of his parents’ home healthcare agency struggle to receive basic coverage.

The $1.5 million commitment was led by the SoftBank Group Corp Opportunity Fund, and included Y Combinator, DNA Capital, Commerce Ventures, MSA Capital, Coughdrop Capital, and angels like Immad Akhund, the chief executive of Mercury Bank; and Allison Pickens, the former chief operating officer of Gainsight, the company said in a blog post.

“Good healthcare is a basic right that every American deserves, whoever they are,” said Paul Judge, the Atlanta-based Early Stage Investing Lead for the fund and the founder of Atlanta’s TechSquare Labs investment fund. “We’ve been inspired by Joseph and his approach to addressing this challenge. Vitable Health is bridging critical gaps in patient care and has emerged as a necessary, essential service for all whether they’re uninsured, underinsured, or simply need a better plan for their lifestyle.”

SoftBank created the opportunity fund while cities around the U.S. were witnessing a wave of public protests against systemic racism and police brutality stemming from the murder of the Black Minneapolis citizen George Floyd at the hands of white police officers.  Floyd’s murder reignited simmering tensions between citizens and police in cities around the country over issues including police brutality, the militarization of civil authorities, and racial profiling.

SoftBank has had its own problems with racism in its portfolio this year. A few months before the firm launched its fund, the CEO and founder of one of its portfolio companies, Banjo, resigned after it was revealed that he once had ties to the KKK.

With the Opportunity Fund, SoftBank is trying to address some of its issues, and notably, will not take a traditional management fee for transactions out of the fund “but instead will seek to put as much capital as possible into the hands of founders and entrepreneurs of color.”

The Opportunity Fund is the third investment vehicle announced by SoftBank in the last several years. The biggest of them all is the $100 billion Vision Fund; then last year it announced the $2 billion Innovation Fund focused on Latin America.

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