Facebook said Monday it’s rolling out a live audio tool that will be available first to public figures and select groups in the US, taking on rivals Clubhouse, Twitter and Spotify.
The world’s largest social network, like other tech companies, has been investing more in audio features after the medium grew in popularity following the launch of invite-only audio app Clubhouse in 2020. Twitter, Discord, Reddit and Spotify have also unveiled rival products.
The social media site also said it’s adding podcasts that Facebook users will be able to listen to on their NewsFeed or a Facebook Page by clicking on a mini player or full-screen player.
As Facebook releases more ways people can share their thoughts through audio, the social media company will likely grapple with more content moderation challenges. Facebook groups have been used to spread misinformation about the coronavirus, vaccines, politics and other topics. To combat this problem, the social network has been trying to direct people to more authoritative sources.
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Facebook said it will use automated technology and human reviewers to moderate content in live audio rooms. Users who repeatedly violate Facebook’s rules won’t be allowed to create or speak in a live audio room.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered a peek at the new tool, called live audio rooms, last week, and it looks identical to Clubhouse. Hosts of the live audio room, available on Apple devices, will be able to invite speakers to join in on the conversation. Up to 50 speakers are allowed in a live audio room, and there isn’t a limit to the number of listeners. Facebook users who manage groups, online spaces where people on the social network gather to chat about various topics, will have control over which members, administrators and moderators can start a live audio room. Hosts can also select a nonprofit or fundraisers that live audio room participants can donate to and support.
To find a live audio room, Facebook users on Android and Apple devices will get notifications or come across them on their News Feeds or in groups. Live audio room users can enable live captions, raise their hands to participate as in Clubhouse and use emojis to react during the conversation. Listeners who purchase “stars” to give to the public figure will be bumped up to the “front row,” a section that highlights supporters.
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Facebook said it’s partnered with several celebrities and public figures who are expected to host live audio chats. Grammy-nominated electronic music artist Tokimonsta, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, producer and independent journalist Rosa Clemente, streamer and entertainer Omareloff and social entrepreneur Amanda Nguyen are expected to host live audio chats.
Facebook didn’t say how many US public figures will have access to live audio rooms on Monday. The company said dozens of groups will be able to use the new tool but there will be a fuller rollout in the coming weeks.
Live audio rooms in groups will include talks about how dance can help with mental health, finding the best vegan restaurants and guided meditation.
Podcasts that will be available on Facebook include Joe Budden of The Joe Budden Podcast; “Jess Hilarious” of Carefully Reckless from The Black Effect Podcast Network and iHeartRadio; Keltie Knight, Becca Tobin and Jac Vanek of the LadyGang; and Nicaila Matthews Okome of Side Hustle Pro. Facebook said it’s rolling out captions and a way to create and share short clips from a podcast later in the summer.
Meanwhile, Facebook is also testing other audio tools, including a feature called Soundbites that lets users share short audio clips and that’s expected to be released later this year.