Tag: socialnetworking

Does social media threaten the illusion of news neutrality?

For journalists, social media can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share their opinion on a wide range of matters, from sports to politics. But at the same time, they have to remember to exercise caution, because whatever they say can be taken out of context and have major implications on the publications they work for. If a reader who follows your tweets or Facebook posts doesn't agree with you, that can motivate them to claim your entire newsroom is biased.

That's why we're now seeing publications having to change their digital strategy. Last week, The New York Times published an "updated and expanded" set of social media guidelines for its journalists. These new rules outline how every staff member (not just editors and reporters) is expected to behave online. In an article posted last week, The Times said that while social media "plays a vital role" in its journalism, since it can act as a tool to better engage with readers and help reach fresh audiences, it can also be a complicated medium. "If our journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media," The Times said, "that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom."


Put simply, The Times wants its journalists to "take extra care to avoid expressing partisan opinions" through social media on issues that it covers, even if the reporter or editor isn't attached to a specific story's byline. Dean Banquet, The New York Times' executive editor, said in a memo that the guidelines are "rooted in the very experience of our journalists." Several reporters who are prominent on Twitter, including Maggie Haberman and Max Fisher, were involved in the process, offering "very helpful" input and, ultimately, their endorsement.

Rukmini Callimachi, a correspondent for The New York Times covering ISIS, suggested in the same memo that her colleagues block abusive people, rather than engaging in a argument that may turn ugly. At the same time, however, the guidelines say that staffers should avoid muting or blocking people who are simply criticizing their work.

Meanwhile, chief White House correspondent Peter Baker, warned reporters and editors that any tweet about President Trump from them could be taken as a statement from The New York Times. That's why it's probably best to keep your thoughts to yourself. "The White House," he said, "doesn't make a distinction. In this charged environment, we all need to be in this together." Baker's example is important because it signals that The New York Times doesn't just want to protect itself from reader criticism, but also President Trump and his staff. Don't make you and your colleagues an easy target, Bakers seems to suggest.

It's clear the idea is to avoid giving anyone reason to claim the paper isn't fair or neutral. That's understandable, but many journalism experts believe the move was driven by recent political events. The decision comes at a time when Trump is constantly bashing the publication, with "the failing New York Times" being his favorite epithet. And he often follows that by claiming that The Times and the rest of the "mainstream media" are "fake news." That said, the paper may be doing this as a way to shield itself against growing scrutiny.

The thing is that while other news organizations, such as The Wall Stret Journal, have similar guidelines in place, those don't tend to be publicly available. The New York Times made the choice to share them with its readers, and by doing so, it's opening itself up to critiques.

So why now?

Cynthia Collins, Social Media Editor at The New York Times, told Engadget that these guidelines have been in the works for months. Though she didn't elaborate on why this was the right time to share these rules publicly, Collins said that The Times felt it would be "interesting or useful for other newsrooms, journalism schools and most importantly to us, our readers." As for what's changed from the old rules, she said only that the new ones were shaped by incorporating reporters' voices.

If our Journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media, that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom.

The New York Times

"Although stricter policies are in place for journalists who directly cover topics like sports or culture," said Collins, "journalists who work outside of those departments can reasonably discuss their leisurely pursuits on social media." She said that staffers should ask themselves a couple of key questions before posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any other social media app: "If readers see your post and notice that you're a Times journalist, would that affect their view of The Times's news coverage as fair and impartial?" and "Could your post hamper your colleagues' ability to effectively do their jobs?"

If the answer is "yes" to either of those, she said, then it's best for journalists to just bite your tongue. (We reached out to a couple of NYT current and former staffers, but they declined to speak on the record.)

"I am very concerned that The Times' dictum might come in response to pressure and criticism from the right," said Jeff Jarvis, Director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Naturally, The Times won't say whether the new rules are, indeed, based on pressure from right-wing. Buf if that were to be the case, the paper would be making itself vulnerable. "In this age, it is more necessary than ever for journalists to connect with the publics they serve on a human level with direct communication, with empathy and with honesty. Journalists are not superhuman beings who have no opinions, no bias, no perspective, no worldview, no background."

When asked about whether reporters should avoid sharing their personal opinion, be it on Trump or other matters, Jarvis said that this shouldn't have to be the case. "I believe that we as journalists need to be transparent about our worldviews and experience," he said. "Indeed, one of the reasons the conservative half of America does not trust news media is, I believe, because we were not honest about journalists being predominately liberal in our outlook. If they could not trust us to be open about that, then they came to believe they could not trust us about other things we report."

Jarvis said he does understand The Times' desire to be somewhat more prescriptive, particularly when it comes to reporters using social media to make consumer complaints. On Twitter, for instance, journalists are often verified. That means they can use their position to grab a company's attention faster than someone without a blue check mark on their profile. Still, Jarvis said, "I feel for them as I find that public discussion can be the best way to find consumer justice."

It will be interesting to see if more publications follow in The New York Times' footsteps. Not just in demanding that staffers be less opinionated on social media but also making any revised guidelines public. Given the current state of affair, wherein readers who agree with something may shout "fake news," it wouldn't be surprising to see more news organizations change or be more transparent about their social media rules for staff members.

Facebook’s discovery-minded Explore Feed comes to your desktop

For a while, Facebook has offered an Explore Feed on mobile devices to help you discover stories beyond the friends and pages you already follow. Now, it's ready to bring that experience to your PC: Facebook has confirmed that it's officially rolling out Explore, including on the desktop. Visit the "see more" section and you'll find an Explore Feed option that shows posts Facebook thinks you might like based on both your own tastes and what's popular. If your usual News Feed seems overly familiar, you can break loose and try something new.

The feed is meant to keep you looking at Facebook for longer, of course. However, this could also go some way toward popping social bubbles. Much of what you'll see in Explore isn't that different than what you're used to, but it could get you out of a rut where you're seeing the same sources (and thus same ideas) over and over again. With that said, it's not clear how many people will use it when it's buried -- ideally, it'd have a prominent position.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Facebook

Internal Twitter email explains its new plans to fight abuse

Twitter promised stricter rules for abuse and hate in the wake of a boycott, but what will those rules entail, exactly? It's a bit clearer after today. Wired has obtained email providing early details on new policies, and they're mostly good news -- although they probably won't satisfy some people. Most notably, it's planning to crack down against all groups that "have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause" rather than focusing primarily on terrorism. It'll also take action against tweets that glorify violence, not just direct threats. There's no guarantee that this will lead to bans and suspensions against hate groups (Twitter is still hashing out the details), but that's what the early language implies.

The social network also plans to treat hate imagery and symbols as "sensitive media," much as it does with nudity and graphic violence. Again, Twitter isn't certain exactly what will qualify, but it's safe to presume that at least some Nazi images will be hidden by default.

The new policies will also give Twitter more power to curb sexual harassment -- you know, the problem that prompted the boycott in the first place. It'll soon let 'bystanders' report unwanted sexual advances, not just participants. It's also promising swifter action against revenge porn and other non-consensual nudity (namely, suspending confirmed posters right away), and it's widening the definition of this nudity to include "creep shots," hidden cameras and other photos where the victim might not even know something happened.

Twitter hadn't been planning to talk about the policies so soon, but it did confirm that the email is legitimate and reflects its intentions. The question is whether or not these will be enough. Many object to hate groups getting any kind of room to breathe on Twitter. Their very ideology isn't exactly compassionate and friendly. And as easy as it is to talk about fighting sexual harassment, there are numerous women who can point to instances where they reported harassing tweets that were allowed to stay. Even if the impact is muted, though, it could still help clean up Twitter and give people a better reason to stay.

Source: Wired

Twitter is the latest to fill your feed with auto-playing video ads

Your Twitter feed is going to get even busier thanks to the microblogging service unlocking auto-playing video ads for advertisers. Starting today Video Website Cards are available to every ad-buyer. In limited beta tests (like the one embedded below; videos don't seem to work with embeds), Twitter has found them pretty successful, with a 200 percent higher clickthrough rate compared to the leading standard. So yeah, expect to see an awful lot more of these coming soon. Just wait until #brands start combining these with 280-character tweets. Suddenly, paying for Tweetbot doesn't seem like a horrible idea.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Twitter

Why I kicked my morning Twitter habit

Up until a week ago, the first thing I did every morning after waking up was reach for the nightstand and grab my iPhone. Then, after hitting the snooze on the alarm a couple of times, I'd open Twitter or Instagram and scroll through my feeds for 10-15 minutes before getting ready for work. Once dressed and prepared to face another day, I'd walk to the train, hop on, take my phone out and check social media again. For 40 minutes, almost the entire length of my commute, I scrolled through people's posts for what felt like an eternity. Wash, rinse, repeat -- save for the weekends. And I imagine many people can relate.

Liking posts on Twitter and Instagram before my day really started became routine; it was a way to catch up with what the world had been up to for the six or seven hours I was asleep. What news did I miss? What were my friends doing? You know, the usual. Some call that FOMO (fear of missing out), but I'd say it's just a bad habit. I'd even go as far as calling it an addiction. I feel the need to be glued to my phone, particularly social-media apps, as if my brain is wired to open them every chance I get.

Via Twitter, Trump Threatens To Cancel Mexico Visit To White House Over Wall

Recently though, it's all become too much -- especially on Twitter, where oftentimes the first thing I'd see were tweets about politics and how the world is basically falling apart. It wasn't just Trump's questionable tweets, either, or people's reactions to them, but also things like the discussions around the Las Vegas Route 91 mass shooting. (Instagram is less toxic, because my feed is made up mostly of friends at bars, fashion and sports.)

Don't get me wrong: I love Twitter and Instagram, and I might even say the same about Facebook if I had an account (but probably not). However, that negativity eventually took a toll on me mentally. I noticed that by the time I got to the Engadget office in the morning, I was already in a bad mood. Things that were out of my control sometimes made it hard to focus on my work. And who wants to start the day like that?

That's why I decided to impose a social media diet on myself, in hopes of sparing me a few hours of dealing with the world's problems. No more Twitter or Instagram until after I'm in the office, at my desk and I've had time to settle into the day. Instead, I spend my commute playing games on my Nintendo Switch or reading a book.

I'm not alone in wanting to break from the shackles of social media. Celebrities like Solange Knowles have taken digital sabbaticals recently, citing the need to stay away from "racist ugly ass fuck bois who reek of citronella" on Twitter and Instagram. She made that decision three days after the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 15th. As a reporter, it's hard for me to completely tune out, given that my job requires me to stay informed with what's happening around us. But if anything needs my immediate attention, I have notifications for breaking news set up, and I still check my work email at home and on the train.

A couple of friends have suggested wiping the slate clean on Twitter -- unfollowing everyone and starting from scratch. Thing is, that probably wouldn't change much -- I'd just end up just following most of the same people and media accounts. My colleague Dan Cooper took a break from Twitter for an entire week, but I just can't bring myself to do that. Where else am I going to get live reactions to sporting events? Especially right now that the Yankees are on their way to snag another World Series pennant. (Editor's note: Cubs, two years in a row!)

Honestly, I wish I could go back to last year, when the majority of New York City's subway lines didn't have cell service. That said, I also understand there are people out there who need to stay connected for more important reasons, not just to check Twitter constantly. Plus, it's not the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) fault I have no self-control.

I've enjoyed my experiment so far, and now my mornings feel more pure and free from bad vibes. I'm less disappointed in humanity when I get to work, and it's great not starting my day by worrying whether or not Trump has started World War III. Sure, that all changes as soon as I check Twitter at the office, or when I absent-mindedly break my diet for a brief second, but there's no way to avoid reality. The only thing I can do is change the way I use social media, at least if I want to stay sane.

Fear of the US government led me to censor myself on Twitter

The day I've been dreading for months is drawing near. On October 18th, the Department of Homeland Security's modified system of records is scheduled to go into effect. The updated policy would affect all US immigrants, whether they are new, existing or permanent residents or even naturalized citizens, and how they are identified by the government. More accurately, it would allow the DHS, Border Patrol and other immigration authorities to collect social media handles as part of an individual's official record. As someone who's working in the US on a visa, I was immediately worried about how it would affect my standing.

The reason the DHS gave for the update is that it is beginning to conduct "more immigration actions in an electronic environment" and that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is adjudicating "more immigration benefits and requests for action in its USCIS Electronic Immigration System." Basically, people are increasingly applying online, and the changes would reduce the existing reliance on paper records. What the DHS wants to do is be able to officially identify you by your online persona in addition to existing attributes like your name, birthday and address. The update would also add an individual's "country of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS Online Account Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results" to one's records.

A DHS spokesperson said in a statement, "This amendment does not represent a new policy." The notice published on September 18th was "an effort to be transparent (and) comply with existing regulations" and "due to updates in the electronic immigration system." Multiple requests for clarity on what would change for immigrants -- whether they would have to fill out new forms asking for their social media handles or what would happen for those with private profiles, were not answered.

I was raised in Singapore, where political criticism can get you sued (if interpreted as libel), arrested (if seen as inciting violence) or even jailed. At my first full-time job, as a marketing executive for a local oil and gas company, my boss told me not to speak in meetings -- playing dumb was always better than potentially making a mistake, he said. For most of my life, I learned to swallow my feelings. My mother's mantra was "Keep your opinions to yourself," and she sternly repeated it as we made our way to family gatherings and social functions.


When I first came to live in the US, in 2008, I was surprised by how liberally people expressed themselves. I learned that individuals' thoughts have value but also, more important, that we are entitled to them. The notion of freedom of speech was new to me, but as I observed the thriving arts and culture in American society, I understood what liberty was worth. Just as people grow and improve by accepting and learning from different opinions, so a country flourishes by embracing and encouraging open discourse.

I got used to the freedom to air my thoughts on any topic in public forums like Twitter and Instagram. I still refrain from saying anything that would make me look insensitive or give away too much personal information, though. Part of me also continues to fear the wrath of the Singapore government; I worry about what could happen to me when I return to visit family should I unwittingly say something too critical. But for the most part I feel carefree. My posts tend to be a mix of my own articles, random musings, funny videos or frustrating stories about poor customer service and bad PR.

Something changed a few months ago, after I first heard of the DHS' plans to incorporate social media into its visa application process. I started to second-guess myself. I avoided weighing in on topics that would show my political leanings. I dutifully wished my followers a happy Fourth of July, shared the results of the Super Bowl and retweeted posts honoring the fallen victims of 9/11. I sent these tweets mostly out of goodwill, but a small part of me felt it was better to look like I participate in American activities.

I started posting what I imagined a immigration officer would like to see, rather than show an unfiltered version of my thoughts. Truth is, Chinese New Year matters more to me than Fourth of July does, and I didn't really care if the Patriots won. I love America, and I love many of its festivities and people, but I can't change the fact that I grew up elsewhere. And honestly, I shouldn't have to.

I continued to tweet, trying mostly to stay on neutral topics. Occasionally, I let myself express anger at institutions or people, but I only feel safe ranting about issues that people agree on regardless of political views.

I don't want to let my fear get in the way of me expressing myself, but it already has.

But it's what people don't see that I found the most telling. I agonized over whether to soften a jokingly violent tweet about New York's subway system. I didn't want someone to come across those thoughts, assume I was serious, and decide I'm a dangerous individual. Who knows what an immigration officer might think? Eventually, I toned down the language and added qualifiers like "I guess" to make it clear I was merely musing.

There are times I've avoided posting altogether. I kept quiet during the white nationalist rally in Virginia and generally don't comment on things Donald Trump does. But things came to a head when I found myself holding back from sharing negative tweets about American gun laws and political gridlock after the Las Vegas shootings. As my feed filled up with statistics showing how the US and its (lack of) gun control policies have led to massive loss of lives, I longed to retweet and share. But I didn't. Instead, I vented in private messages to trusted friends. I felt like I was back in Singapore.

I'm torn. I don't want to let my fear get in the way of me expressing myself, but it already has.

Maybe I'm being paranoid. A DHS spokesperson said the agency already does "and continues to monitor publicly-available social media to protect the homeland." They might already know everything they need to about me from years of unfiltered tweeting. But when your job, life and future depend on how strangers in some government agency perceive you, wouldn't you be careful too? Yes, my profile is public and anyone can already access it and judge me. But it's one thing to allow random people online to decide if they like you -- it's almost debilitating when your beliefs or personality are used to officially determine if you can visit a country.

The good news is, based on the thousands of comments on the proposal's forum, an overwhelming majority of people are against the upcoming update. Many of them argue that the move would be a violation of the First and Fourth Amendments. Some even claim this is a slippery slope toward a Big Brother–like future with the government monitoring the social media of citizens and immigrants alike. It's still unclear exactly how the changes would affect us, or how they are new, given the vague responses from the USCIS and the DHS. At this point though, my social media is no longer an accurate representation of the person I actually am. It's some facade I've created for the powers that be. Which really makes monitoring it useless anyway.

Mark Zuckerberg apologizes for insensitive VR tour of Puerto Rico

Did Mark Zuckerberg's VR tour of hurricane-struck Puerto Rico come across as callous to you? You're far from alone, and Zuckerberg realizes it... in a manner of speaking. The Facebook chief has apologized for his approach to the tour, arguing that what he intended and what happened didn't quite match. He wanted to show how VR could "raise awareness" of events and simultaneously promote a recovery partnership with the Red Cross, but "this wasn't clear" in the presentation, according to the CEO.

The apology is coming fairly quickly after the event, and there's little doubt that Zuckerberg meant well. With that said, it's not apparent that he fully understood what incensed people in the first place.

For some, the issue is that the VR tour exists at all. Hurricane Maria was an unprecedented disaster that crippled Puerto Rico's infrastructure (most of the territory still doesn't have power or clean water) and produced real casualties. To use a tragedy for what looks like a tech demo for social VR, even if it's well-intentioned, seems insensitive. That's not to say that VR or other tech novelties can never be used to highlight serious issues, but it's evident from Facebook's experience that companies have to be respectful as possible of people's suffering -- even if that means refraining from using technology to begin with.


Source: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

Twitter is developing a ‘Save for Later’ bookmarking feature

While most tweets are a quick read, a lot of people still want a way to save those worthy of a more in-depth inspection. After getting tons of requests for a "Save for Later" feature, the company has finally started developing a Bookmarking tool during its annual Hack Week activities. Twitter product manager Jesar Shah has announced the feature on the platform and posted a quick demo of the prototype they created at the event.

Apparently, they plan to replace the "send via DM" icon on the bottom right portion of tweets with an overflow menu. That menu will house both the "share via DM" and the upcoming "Add to Bookmark" features, though the final version could take on a different form. All the tweets added to Bookmarks can then be accessed through a list in settings.

Shah also revealed that users currently make do by Liking or sending tweets to themselves via DM. When the feature comes out, they no longer have to do either of those whenever they see tweets with photos containing a longer message, those that mark the beginning of a series or those that link to long pieces they'd like to access when they have more time on their hands.

Source: Keith Coleman (Twitter), Jesar Shah (Twitter)

Facebook aims to balance its fact-checking with a right-wing magazine

Facebook made much ado about bringing on third-party fact-checkers to curb fake news. However, it has faced accusations that the fact-checkers themselves are biased -- allegedly, too many of them skew to the left. And it appears that Facebook wants to alter this perception. Quartz sources claim that Facebook has signed on conservative magazine Weekly Standard as one of its fact-checking partners. Reportedly, this is a bid to "appease all sides" by picking a publication that combines a right-wing bent with an attention to accuracy.

The Standard isn't a shoe-in. Experts at Poynter still have to verify that the publication meets guidelines for not just fact-checking, but its transparency about sources and willingness to accept corrections if it ever makes a mistake. This could take several weeks. We've asked Facebook for comment on what's happening and will let you know if it has something to add.

It's easy to see some complaining that Facebook is including a different point of view for its own sake, aiming for perceived neutrality above all else. After all, existing partners tend to be sites dedicated to fact-checking (like PolitiFact or Snopes) while the Standard is a magazine that uses fact-checking to serve an agenda it wears on its sleeve.

With that said, the Standard may be one of Facebook's better choices. It hired a new fact-checker in September, and Quartz's industry contacts understand the recruit was brought on with the Facebook partnership in mind. The magazine also tends to defy the party line when it doesn't believe the facts line up, such as when it refuses to deny climate science (although it downplays doom-and-gloom predictions). In other words, this doesn't appear to be an arbitrary pick -- Facebook wants to be sure its media outlet choices can survive scrutiny, wherever they fall on the political spectrum.

Source: Quartz

Facebook will hand-review every ad targeting politics and race

When Facebook said it was hiring 1,000 more people to manually review ads, it wasn't necessarily clear to everyone what that entailed -- just what was the focus, and would it affect upstanding advertisers? While the company touched on what whats happening before, there's no ambiguity now. According to Axios, Facebook is telling advertisers that it now requires manual review for any ad targeting people based on "politics, religion, ethnicity or social issues." In other words, Facebook is determined to avoid any attempt to use ads to stoke social tensions, even if that means slowing down its ad system. The social network warns marketers that they're "likely to experience a delay" to the start of their ad campaigns, at least until Facebook finds a way to streamline the process.

When asked for comment, Facebook pointed to its earlier news post, which only made reference to "certain types" of ads going through human reviews. It didn't touch on the specific content or the expected delays.

It's not shocking that Facebook would limit manual reviews to more sensitive subjects, but the absolute requirement for reviews covering a wide range of subjects is notable. It's a more direct acknowledgment that the company's previous reliance on automated screening let shady ads slip through the cracks, and that manual inspection might be necessary to catch people trying to game the system. And simply speaking, this could represent a survival tactic. Facebook knows it's under government scrutiny for Russia-linked ads, and it may have decided that voluntarily slowing down its ad system was better than risking government intervention.

Source: Axios