Tag: socialmedia

Facebook’s ‘ticker,’ aka creeper feed, is no more

Facebook has killed one of its oldest features, the "ticker," that let you see at a glance what your friends were doing or sharing. First launched in 2011, it used to appear to the right of your news feed (on the web app) showing likes, comments and other friend activities. As TechCrunch noticed, Facebook's help community had been posting about the ticker's disappearance, when a verified employee chimed in to see that "this feature is no longer available."

Facebook hasn't explained exactly why it chopped the ticker, though we've reached out for comment. The social network is generally ruthless with features that don't increase user engagement, and by extension, ad revenue.

It's hard to remember now, but Facebook's feeds used to display posts in chronological order, much like Twitter (mostly) still does. The algorithmic feed, launched in 2011 eliminated date-ordered posts, surfacing what it thinks is more relevant information, instead. Facebook-owned Instagram made the same change early last year.

The ticker was introduced along with the algorithmic feed, so that you could still monitor your friends' activities in real time. Though often called the "creeper" feed, it didn't really do anything that the news feed didn't before.

The algorithmic feed is ostensibly good for users, but like any algorithm, it can be gamed. That has become especially apparent with Facebook over the 18 months, when Russian operators bought ads in an attempt to influence US election results. They correctly surmised that discord increases engagement, and paid for posts that played social factions off against each other. As a result, at least 126 million Americans were exposed to articles that likely influenced election results to some degree.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Facebook

Instagram can now automatically archive your Stories

Last week, The Next Web reported on a bunch of new features Instagram was reportedly testing out and today, the platform is giving users two new ways to manage Stories. The first is the rumored Story archive. Now, Instagram will automatically save your Stories after their 24 hours are up and they'll exist in a separate archive section of your profile. You'll be able to rewatch Stories, add them to posts or add them to a new Story. And if you decide you don't want those Stories sticking around, you can turn off auto-archiving whenever you want.

Your archived Stories can also be used in the second new addition to Instagram. Underneath the bio in your profile, there will now be a section called Stories Highlights. They're collections of previously shared Stories that will stay posted to your profile for as long as you want them there and you can have as many of them as you want. To make one, tap the "New" circle underneath your bio and select any stories you want to add from your new archive. You'll then pick a cover image and name the Highlight and then it's there for any of your followers to see at any time. To edit or delete them, just tap and hold.

Both features are rolling out now.

Image: Instagram

Source: Instagram

Facebook is testing a ‘breaking news’ tag for developing stories

Facebook will set a cookie to keep you logged in, but it won't set one to remember whether you want to stick with a chronological News Feed. That sort of thing makes it hard to tell at a glance how old a story from a media outlet in your Feed might be. To counter that, the social network is giving certain publications access to a "breaking" tag for their posts. The bright red tag sits below a post's image and highlights how long ago it was published. Recode writes that publishers will be able to flag a story for between 15 minutes and six hours, and that it can be used once every 24 hours.

For now, the list of publishers who can use it is small and includes ABC News and Vox Media, and Facebook is keeping the full list of media organizations involved close to the chest. The breaking tag won't weight a post's ranking within Facebook's algorithms. At least not yet. A spokesperson told Recode that part of the test was to decide whether or not a breaking news story should have preference over other posts in the News Feed.

Facebook has been working with news organizations on different ways to post, host and promote their stories for awhile. Instant Articles, for example, were fast-loading versions of news stories hosted by Facebook, made their debut a few years ago. Then there's the split News Feed that keeps posts from Pages and friends siloed off from each other, and the Explore Feed. We've reached out to Facebook for more information and will update this post should it arrive.

Source: Recode

Snapchat’s redesign separates friends’ posts from media content

Snapchat's major redesign is here and it's all about separating your relationships from content. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel wrote on Axios today that Snapchat has always been primarily geared towards conversing with friends and with the new layout, Snapchat will make that even easier. "With the upcoming redesign of Snapchat, we are separating the social from the media, and taking an important step forward towards strengthening our relationships with our friends and our relationships with the media," he wrote.

Prior to this redesign, opening the app would bring you to the camera. You would swipe left to get to your messages, swipe right to get to your Stories and swipe right again to get to the Discover page. Now, all of that is being shuffled. Opening the app still brings you to the camera, but swiping left now takes you to the new dynamic Friends page. There, you'll find friends' Chats and Stories. That page will learn how you use it and who you message and will then begin to arrange your friends in the order in which you talk to them most. Swiping right will bring you to the new Discover page, which will have all of your subscriptions up top and Stories it thinks you might be interested in below. Those suggestions will also be curated based on how you use the app and what content you seek out.

"Separating social from media has allowed us to build the best way to communicate with friends and the best way to watch great content - while addressing many of the problems that plague the Internet today," Snapchat said in a statement. You can check out the video below for a demonstration on how the new Snapchat works.

Source: Snapchat

Snapchat CEO blames rival social networks for fake news

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel has decried rival social media firms for propagating fake news and damaging the media industry, saying that the "smart" alternative is, you guessed it, Snapchat. "The personalized newsfeed revolutionized the way people share and consume content," he wrote on Axios. "But let's be honest: this came at a huge cost to facts, our minds and the entire media industry."

While you may think that Snapchat is doing some kind of a pot/kettle thing, Spiegel argues that it's not like Facebook or Twitter. "While many people view Snapchat as a social media service, it is primarily used to talk with friends –- like visual texting," he said. "Snapchat began as an escape from social media, where people could send photos and videos to their friends without the pressure of likes, comments and permanence."

He notes that Snapchat uses algorithms that are based on users' personal interests, rather than those of their friends. "We think this helps guard against fake news and mindless scrambles for friends or unworthy distractions," he writes.


Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, at center (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

It's true that you don't hear a lot about fake news on Snapchat, which is not the case with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, platforms that have been exploited by foreign actors and folks who don't have your best interests at heart.

On the other hand, Snap, Inc. has recently had trouble drawing new users and achieving revenue growth, unlike Facebook, which made all the money last quarter. Spiegel acknowledged that its algorithmic focus on individual users, rather than their friends, makes the platform a challenge for publishers and advertisers.

To solve that, the company said it would take a page from another kind of platform. "Netflix uses machine-learning algorithms to recommend content to subscribers based on what they watched in the past," he notes. "This form of machine learning personalization gives you a set of choices that does not rely on free media or friend's recommendations and is less susceptible to outside manipulation."

Spiegel ties all of that with Snapchat's new look, suggesting how it will help the company be more publisher-friendly. "With the upcoming redesign of Snapchat, we are separating the social from the media, and taking an important step forward towards strengthening our relationships with our friends and our relationships with the media," he said. " This will provide a better way for publishers to distribute and monetize their Stories, and a more personal way for friends to communicate and find the content they want to watch."

Snapchat was once considered the bad boy of social media, thanks to its reputation for the sharing of racy picks that would quickly disappear. Now, with fake news on social media being a much bigger societal ill, Spiegel is touting Snapchat as the moral choice.

Source: Axios

Twitter tries to fix verification of people ‘we in no way endorse’

Sure, being verified on social media isn't always as good as people think, but after a recent blowup, Twitter says it's addressing the "perception" of endorsement a blue checkmark confers. While the network has notably verified the accounts of self-proclaimed white supremacists and Nazis, it appears to be reversing that policy. One item on the new list of reasons an account can lose verification cites promoting hate against certain races/nationality or supporting groups that do.

Loss of verified status

Twitter reserves the right to remove verification at any time without notice.

Reasons for removal may reflect behaviors on and off Twitter that include:

  • Intentionally misleading people on Twitter by changing one's display name or bio.
  • Promoting hate and/or violence against, or directly attacking or threatening other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. Supporting organizations or individuals that promote the above.
  • Inciting or engaging in harassment of others.
  • Violence and dangerous behavior
  • Directly or indirectly threatening or encouraging any form of physical violence against an individual or any group of people, including threatening or promoting terrorism
  • Violent, gruesome, shocking, or disturbing imagery
  • Self-harm, suicide
  • Engaging in activity on Twitter that violates the Twitter Rules.

In a series of tweets explaining the policy change, Twitter said "We are conducting an initial review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts whose behavior does not fall within these new guidelines." Today, an individual known as Baked Alaska, who previously was verified, has been banned from the service, while Laura Loomer -- recently banned from both Uber and Lyft for anti-Muslim statements against drivers -- self-reported that she had lost her status on Twitter. Jason Kessler, the Charlottesville organizer whose verification sparked the backlash, is no longer verified, and neither is notable punchee Richard Spencer.

Source: Twitter Support

30 governments are interfering with democracy online

Political mudslinging is a concept as old as politics itself, but in recent years it's found its way off the podium and onto the internet, and a new report now shows the extent of the problem. According to findings from Freedom House, governments in no less than 30 countries are now "mass producing their own content to distort the digital landscape in their favor". Furthermore, these manipulation efforts may have affected elections taking place in 18 countries.

The report follows attempts by Russia to meddle with the US presidential election between June 2015 and May 2017, when adverts paid for by a Russian organization called the "Internet Research Agency" appeared on American citizens' Facebook pages in an apparent bid to fuel political discord. According to Freedom House, internet freedom in the US has now declined since the previous year.

The report shows that the lowest "internet freedom" score -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- goes to China, but regimes in Turkey, Sudan, Venezuela and the Philippines are also poor performers. In Venezuela, for example, government agencies regularly used manipulated footage to support its re-election campaign, while in Sudan the government uses a virtual "cyber army" to spread its messages through WhatsApp.

The solution to this escalating issue isn't obvious, and as Freedom House notes, steps to mitigate online misinformation are liable to cause just as much harm. According to the report, 14 countries taking measures to stop nefarious web activities actually ended up restricting internet freedom. In June this year, for example, Germany instituted a new law stipulating Facebook, Google and Twitter remove content marked offensive in a way that "lacks judicial oversight".

"When trying to combat online manipulation from abroad, it is important for countries not to overreach," said Sanja Kelly, who oversees the production of the Freedom of the Net report. "The solution to manipulation and disinformation lies not in censoring websites but in teaching citizens how to detect fake news and commentary." But as this report shows, with governments pushing one way and online companies pushing the other, the gap between fake news and total censorship is closing, and citizens are increasingly unable to decide for themselves.

Source: Recode

Chinese firm nabs social video app Musical.ly for as much as $1 billion

The popular teen lip-syncing app Musical.ly has been purchased by Chinese firm Bytedance -- the company behind China's major news aggregating service Jinri Toutiao. The details of the deal haven't been disclosed but sources told the Wall Street Journal that the app sold for somewhere between $800 million and $1 billion.

Since its launch, Musical.ly has expanded its content offerings beyond just social lip-syncing video creation. Last year, it spun off a separate live-streaming app called Livel.ly and earlier this year it began offering original mini-shows. In June, a short version of MTV's Nick Cannon's Wild 'N Out, a how-to show called Fashion to DIY For, a series called Greatest Party Story Ever and Hearst's Seventeen and the City all debuted on the app. NBCUniversal has also been creating shows specifically for Musical.ly.

Bytedance, which was recently valued at $20 billion, says that Musical.ly will remain a separate, independent business.

Via: TechCrunch

Twitter expands display name length to 50 characters

If you've always wanted to use all your names, aliases, titles and suffixes on Twitter, now's your time to shine. The social network now supports display names up to 50 characters in length. It would've been better if the feature came out last Halloween so you could've used that awesome but lengthy spooky name you wanted to use. However, rolling out support for 280-character tweets seemed to be more important to Twitter, so we got that first instead.

Since Twitter has so many deeper issues, it's getting a lot of flak for introducing features that seem trivial in comparison. It continues to grapple with abuse and harassment on its website, fake accounts created to influence the US Presidential Elections as well as accounts made by terrorist organizations to spread propaganda. Just recently, it had to suspend its verification process when it faced backlash after verifying the account of the leader of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally. Some users even took advantage of the platform's display name expansion by changing their names to add "#wouldpreferthatyoubannazis."

Source: Twitter

Facebook explains bizarre revenge porn prevention program

When Facebook revealed its experimental porn prevention program in Australia, it raised a lot of eyebrows. After all, you'll first need to upload your sensitive images if you don't want them to get posted by anybody else. Now, Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis has defended the test feature in a post that also explains how it will work in detail. She clarified that it's "completely voluntary" and that Facebook will still remove any intimate images you report, hash them and prevent them from being uploaded again. This method is merely an "emergency option" for people who want to proactively prevent their photos from being shared.

To participate in the trial, you'll first have to complete an online form on Australia's eSafety Commissioner's official website. You will then be asked to send the images you want to block to yourself on Messenger. The commissioner's office will notify Facebook that you sent in a form -- it won't have access to your images -- so a "specially trained representative" from the social network can review and hash your images.

Whenever someone uploads pictures on Facebook, it checks them against a database of hashes, which are like digital fingerprints and are unique for each photo. Facebook and other internet titans already use the technique to fight the dissemination of child porn online: they keep a database of hashes from known child porn images in an effort to block them.

Davis assures everyone who wants to use the feature that the the company only keeps those number-and-letter hashes and not the photos themselves. Also, Facebook promises that once it's done hashing your images, you'll get a notification telling you to delete them from Messenger, so Facebook can also jettison them from its servers. At the moment, only users in Australia have access to the feature, but the social network is reportedly planning (probably depending on user feedback) to roll it out in the US, UK and Canada in the near future.

Source: Facebook