Category Archives: Social Media

Snapchat will Stop Promoting Trump’s Account in Discover



Snapchat posted a long post titled: “We Stand Together”. It is well worth reading. It discusses racial inequality in the United States, why change hasn’t happened, and more. The part of the post that appears to be getting the most attention is the portion that mentions Snapchat’s decision to no longer promote President Trump’s account in its Discover tab.

…As for Snapchat, we simply cannot promote accounts in America that are linked to people who incite racial violence, whether they do so on or off our platform. Our Discover content platform is a curated platform, where we decide what we promote. We have spoken time and again about working hard to make a positive impact, and we will walk the talk with the content we promote on Snapchat. We may continue to allow divisive people to maintain an account on Snapchat, as long as the content that is published on Snapchat is consistent with our community guidelines, but we will not promote that account or content in any way…

The Verge received a statement from Snapchat that said: “We are not currently promoting the president’s content in Snapchat’s Discover platform. We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them a platform on Discover. Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America.”

To be clear, Snapchat has not taken President Trump’s account down. Snapchat users can still view the content on that account if they choose to do so. The only difference is that Trump’s content on Snapchat will no longer appear in the Discover tab.

The Guardian reported that Snapchat’s decision regarding Trump’s Snapchat account “will likely increase pressure on the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has come under intense criticism from civil rights leaders and Facebook employees over his decision to allow Trump’s threat that “when the looting starts the shooting starts” remain on the platform.”

Personally, I’m very confused about why the President of the United States, who is frequently on television, and written about in a wide variety of news outlets around the world, feels that he needs to be the focus of every social media platform as well. Neither Twitter nor Snapchat have removed his accounts. They simply are requiring him to adhere to the rules of their platforms.


Mark Zuckerberg Defended Leaving Up Trump’s Posts



Facebook and Twitter are very different social media platforms. Recently, the differences have become vividly clear, as we see how each platform chooses how they will respond to controversial content posted by President Trump.

The Verge obtained a recording of an extended conference with employees in which Mark Zuckerberg addressed accusations that Facebook allowed election misinformation and veiled promotions of violence from President Trump. According to The Verge, Mark Zuckerberg stood by what he described as a “pretty thorough” evaluation of Trump’s posts. Zuckerberg reportedly said that the choice to avoid labeling them or removing them was difficult but correct.

As you may have heard, Twitter added a fact-check to two of President Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots. Twitter also flagged another tweet made by President Trump because it violated Twitter’s rules about glorifying violence. It should be noted that all three of those tweets are still on Twitter. Those who want to read them can simply click a link to view them.

There has been some pushback. President Trump issued an executive order that some see as intended to curtail free speech on Twitter’s platform. Personally, I think that President Trump should have read Twitter’s policies about what is, and is not, allowed on their platform. If he had done that, and acted accordingly, there would be no need for that executive order.

The Guardian reported that Facebook staff held a virtual walkout to show their disagreement with Mark Zuckerberg’s decision regarding posts by President Trump. Some took to Twitter to express their displeasure. Facebook Software Engineer Timothy J. Aveni, resigned in response to Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to leave up Trump’s post that called for violence. The Hill reported that Owen Anderson, another Facebook employee, announced his departure from the company on Twitter.

Overall, I think that people who are fans of President Trump are going to take his side of the situation no matter what. Those who dislike Facebook and/or Mark Zuckerberg’s decision making process, might choose to leave that platform. Those angry with Twitter may quit that platform. None of this is going to lead to healthier versions of either Facebook or Twitter, and I miss the days before the politicians invaded social media.


Put Your Face in a Video with Snapchat Cameo



Snapchat is slowly rolling out a new feature called Snapchat Cameo. It goes further than the Lenses that people can use on a selfie to make themselves look like an animal or to wear a flower crown. Cameo lets people put their selfie into a video that they can share with others.

TechCrunch reported that Snapchat Cameo is currently being tested by Snapchat users in France. Snap confirmed to TechCrunch that Cameo exists, and that they are currently testing it in limited availability in some international markets. It appears that Snap will make its global debut “soon”.

According to TechCrunch, a Snapchat users starts by selecting a vaguely male or female body shape. There is no androgynous option. The user can then select from a bunch of short, looping, videos from the ones Snapchat chose. The user adds their selfie to Cameo. TechCrunch wrote: Snapchat will then stretch and move your selfie to create different facial reactions that Cameo can apply to actors’ heads in the videos.

To me, it sounds like an amusing little feature that could be used to share an emotion that a person is feeling (or to make a friend laugh). Cameo can be personalized more than a Bitmoji or a GIF can.

On the other hand, it also feels a bit creepy. While I don’t think of Cameo as a deepfake, it kind of makes me uncomfortable because it alters reality in a way that might not be immediately recognizable to some. I also have concerns that because Cameo appears to be cute and fun, it could desensitize people to the dangers of malicious deepfakes.


Verizon Announced Sale of Tumblr to Automattic



Verizon Media and Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Automattic plans to acquire Tumblr.

The press release says that the terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, Axios reported that “a source familiar with the deal” put the price-tag “well below” $20 million, while another source put it below $10 million. Axios reported that Yahoo had paid $1.1 billion for Tumblr. Axios also reported that Automattic Inc. will buy the network and take on its 200 employees.

Tumblr is a media network powered by a massive community of independent creators and home to 475 million blogs.

“Tumblr is one of the Web’s most iconic brands,” said Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg. “It is an essential venue to share new ideas, cultures, and experiences, helping millions create and build communities around their shared interests. We are excited to add it to our lineup, which already includes WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, Longreads, and more.”

I deleted my Tumblr account shortly after Verizon took over. My husband and I used to post photos of our cockatiels on a second Tumblr account, which we never got around to deleting. Personally, I feel that Automattic is going to do good things with Tumblr, and I definitely trust the company a whole lot more than I trust Verizon.

Will this change bring people back to Tumblr? It is too soon to know that for certain. Axios pointed out that The Wall Street Journal reported that Automattic’s CEO Matt Mullenweg intends to maintain the “porn ban” that Verizon implemented. The ban is one of the reasons why many people left Tumblr.


Trump Administration Launches Tool to Report Censorship



The Trump Administration has launched a web survey for people to use if they feel they have been wrongly censored on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. The survey was created with the online form-building tool Typeform. The first page of the survey says:

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear “violations” of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.

The Guardian reported that the survey asks users to provide their names, contact information, social media accounts, and screenshots of interactions with social media platforms. Only US citizens and permanent residents are asked to participate. The Guardian wonders what the Trump administration will do – and what it won’t do – with the names and contact information of the people who fill out the survey.

Typeform tweeted: “We didn’t get any further than this @WhiteHouse”. The tweet included a screenshot of the question “Are you a U.S. citizen or permanent resident?” Typeform checked “no”. The Guardian reported that Typeform is based in Barcelona.

As always, it is a good idea to read a survey’s user agreement before you post any of your information into it. Ars Technica reported that the user agreement gives the Trump Administration a broad license to use the information that users post into the survey, including publishing it.

More specifically, the user agreement “grants the U.S. Government a license to use, edit, display, publish, broadcast, transmit, post, or otherwise distribute all or part of the Content (including edited, composite, or derivative works made therefrom)”.

“You waive any right to inspect or approve of any Content edited, composite or derivative works made from Content (including those which may contain your information) before use. You are not entitled to any prior notice before the U.S. Government uses Content or Information. You are not entitled to any compensation for Content.”

“You understand that Content may not be altered or deleted by you after submission, You further understand that your submission may be subject to the Federal Records Act and/or the Presidential Records Act and may be subject to public release according to those statutes.”

The Verge reported that near the end of the survey, it invites users to opt into email newsletters from President Trump “so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”

Another part of the survey points users toward the user agreement, and states: “you understand this form is for information gathering only.” I think there are going to be a lot of disappointed people who presume that filling out the survey will instantly make their suspended or banned accounts accessible once again. In addition, some people may not realize they opted-in to a newsletter.


Social Media Companies to Tackle Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content



Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter have responded to the Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online by committing to remove that content from their social media sites. As far as I can tell, this is the first time those three companies have decided to work together on removing that type of content.

In March of this year, a terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was livestreamed. The Christchurch Call was created by New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and French President, Emmanuel Macron. Ars Technica reported that Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom have signed on.

The Christchurch Call is a commitment by Governments and tech companies to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. It rests on the conviction that a free, open and secure internet offers extraordinary benefits to society. Respect for freedom of expression is fundamental. However, no one has the right to create and share terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have all committed to the Christchurch Call. Each company posted nearly identical details about how they will enact policies to combat the spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Each company will be: “identifying appropriate checks on livestreaming, aimed at reducing the risks of disseminating terrorist and violent extremist content online. These may include enhanced vetting measures (such as streamer ratings or scores, account activity, or validation processes) and moderation of certain livestreaming events where appropriate. Checks on livestreaming necessarily will be tailored to the context of specific livestreaming services, including the type of audience, the nature or character of the livestreaming service, and the likelihood of exploitation.”

The companies will also improve technology to detect and remove terrorist and violent extremist content. They will combat hate and bigotry by providing greater support for relevant research – with an emphasis on the impact of online hate on offline discrimination and violence – and supporting capacity and capability of NGOs working to challenge hate and promote pluralism and respect online.

Personally, I think this is a step in the right direction. It is abundantly clear that hateful content online influences some people to take that hate offline and to act in ways that cause harm to other people. Something must be done to prevent that.


Sri Lanka’s Government Blocked Social Media After Attacks



A wave of bombings happened in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Targets included churches, hotels, and an apartment complex. At least 290 people have been killed and 500 were injured. While this was happening, Sri Lanka’s government blocked access to social media sites.

Sri Lanka’s government moved to block Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – all owned by Facebook – on Sunday out of concern that “false news reports… spreading through social media” could lead to violence. The services will be suspended until investigations into the blasts that killed more than 200 people are concluded, the government said. Non-Facebook social media services, including YouTube and Viber have also been suspended, but Facebook and WhatsApp are dominant platforms in the country.

The Guardian reported that this was not the first time Sri Lanka’s government blocked social media in an effort to prevent misinformation from spreading and resulting in violence. In March of 2018, the government blocked several social media platforms amid hardline Buddhist violence against Muslims. Some of that violence was fulled by hate speech and false rumors that were spread on social media.

Social media websites need to vastly improve their ability to keep people safe. These companies need to wake up and realize that what what is said – and passed around – on the internet can have devastating real-world repercussions. They must do a better job of removing misinformation.

Personally, based on Sri Lanka’s history, I think their government did the right thing by blocking social media websites while police were investigating the cause of the bombings. I think this action likely prevented people, in a time of crisis, from being unfairly influenced to target other people with violence. The government may have saved some innocent people from being harmed or killed.

The big problem, of course, is that blocking social media was necessary. If Facebook (and other social media companies) were quicker to remove misinformation, Sri Lanka’s government would not have needed to block it. People could have used social media to let their families know that they were safe.

Another thing to consider is that many governments are not going to block social media platforms in their countries during a crisis. This could lead to misinformation spread online resulting in additional violence in “the real world”. Social media companies need to be more responsible about what they allow to spread on their platforms.