Category Archives: Social Media

Parler Pivots To “Uncancelable” Cloud Services



On Friday, Parler announced that it was entering the internet infrastructure industry in order to provide new “uncancelable” cloud services for online business, The Verge reported.

According to The Verge, in a Friday press release, Parler announced it was restructuring; the new venture, called Parliament Technologies, will provide new internet infrastructure services for businesses it says are at risk of being forced off the internet. With $16 million in new Series B funding, the company purchased Dynascale, a California-based cloud services company that touts more than $30 million in annual revenue and 50,000 square feet of data space.

“We are entering a new era as Parliament Technologies, one that goes far beyond the boundaries of a free speech social media platform,” said Parliament Technologies CEO George Farmer. “We believe that Parliament Technologies will power the future. And the future is uncancelable.”

To me, the word “uncancelable” is one that is typically used by people who tend to put a lot of hashtags in their Twitter bio that signify that they are fans of the former President Donald Trump. Once in a while, a famous (or formerly famous) celebrity complains about being “canceled”. As such, it appears that Dynascale and Parliament Technologies are aiming to attract that specific group of people.

The Verge also reported that Parler had more than 4 million people signed up for the app during the 2022 presidential election, but the company struggled to maintain those numbers. Sensor Tower app data shows that the app had fewer than 7,000 downloads last month.

TechCrunch reported that Parler topped App Store charts in early January 2021 after Twitter and Facebook banned President Trump for inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol. But that success was short lived – Apple and Google removed the app from their respective software stores after drawing a line between Parler and the January 6 violence. Amazon also pulled its web hosting, a trifecta of consequences that clearly made an impact on the company, even after it returned to tech giants’ good graces.

According to TechCrunch, Apple reinstated Parler in April 2021 after the app promised to moderate additional content on iOS, bringing it into compliance with the company’s standards. Google only allowed the app back into the Play Store earlier this month, indicating that Parler adjusted the Android app to meet the company’s requirements for “robust” moderation.

Gizmodo reported that Parler also announced that it received $16 million in Series B funding, and has accrued $56 million in funds to date. Which is what enabled Parler to purchase Dynascale, and its 50,000 square feet of server space.

Gizmodo also pointed out that other far-right, often hate and conspiracy-filled websites tend to get booted from mainstream hosting, only to reemerge elsewhere. According to Gizmodo, Kiwi Farms, an offshoot of 4chan and hate speech hotbed, was pushed from a series of web hosts to its new home with VanwaTech. The neo-Nazi site, Daily Stormer, was kicked off of GoDaddy and Google after the Charlottesville white supremacist rally in 2017. And conspiracy theorist Alex Jones had his content banned from multiple large platforms.

All of this points to the obvious conclusion that nothing is truly “uncancelable”. Parliament Technologies obtained a lot of money to buy Dynascale. Perhaps the social media site thinks it is protected because it bought its own internet infrastructure service. That could, potentially, keep the site online. But, it won’t matter if Parler is unable to attract a large enough amount of users to compete with the other alternatives to Twitter. It could still crash and burn.


Snap Introduces Fresh Features For Fall



Snapchat introduced new features to help keep conversations with friends fresh, fast, and easy to find! Here is what to expect:

Snap’s new Lock Screen Widgets, available now with iOS 16, keeps conversations with your bestie saved right to your lock screen so you can start chats with one tap. With this new tool, you can save yourself the scrolling when you want to start Snapping, keeping visual conversations with the Snapchat camera right at your fingertips.

Widgets aren’t the only thing customizing your screen this Fall: New Chat Shortcuts at the top of our chat tab will make it easy to do things like spot unread Snaps and Chats from friends, see missed calls, and reply to stories. Our Shortcuts will also remind you if you owe a reply and show you when birthdays are coming up, so you never miss someone’s special day or leave a friend on read.

We are also introducing new tools like Question Stickers so you can AMA-all-day from your Snapchat Story, plus (and just in time for back to school) we’re making Snapchat for Web available to all! Head to https://web.snapchat.com to keep conversations with friends going from any device.

These new features are available now, or coming soon so keep an eye out and your app up to date.

Engadget reported that Snapchat for Web is finally available for all the messaging app’s users worldwide. It could be the better choice for users who have a lot of typing to do and messages to send, since they’ll be looking at a bigger screen and have access to a real keyboard.

According to Engadget, the web interface is pretty basic, but it can also be used to send photos and to make audio and video calls. A company spokesperson previously told Engadget that video calling has become more popular among its users recently. Giving users access to the feature on the web could lead to longer video calls. The spokesperson also told that Snap could bring more of its core features to the web interface if there’s enough demand for them.

Social Media Today reported that initially, only Snapchat+ users could use the web version, which enables users to send messages, conduct video chats and voice calls – basically all the central connection elements of the app will now be available via your desktop PC.

Snapchat for Web also enables you to use Snap Lenses for video calls.

According to Social Media Today, the expanded availability will make it easier for people to keep in touch with their friends via Snap, in more ways, which could be particularly beneficial for the increasing cohort of people that are working from home. Which, as its audience gets older, is becoming a bigger consideration for Snap, and the expanded web version is, in some ways, an acknowledgement of this, as it looks to align with audience shifts.

Unfortunately, Snapchat for Web is incompatible with Safari. Mac users will have to use Firefox or Google Chrome to access that feature.


California Governor Signs Bill Protecting Children’s Online Data And Privacy



California Governor Newsom announced that he has signed bipartisan landmark legislation aimed at protecting the wellbeing, data, and privacy of children using online platforms.

AB 2273 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) and Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), establishes the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, which requires online platforms to consider the best interest of child users and to default to privacy and safety settings that protect children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.

AB 2273 prohibits companies that provide online services, products or features likely to be accessed by children from using a child’s personal information; collecting, selling, or retaining a child’s geolocation; profiling a child by default; and leading or encouraging children to provide personal information.

The bill also requires privacy information, terms of service, policies, and community standards be easily accessible and upheld – and requires responsive tools to help children exercise their privacy rights. This bipartisan legislation strikes a balance that protects kids, and ensure that technology companies will have clear rules of the road that will allow them to continue to innovate.

The Children’s Data Protection Working Group will be established as part of the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act to deliver a report to the Legislature, by January 2024, on the best practices for implementation.

AB 2273 requires businesses with an online presence to complete a Data Protection Impact Assessment before offering new online services, products, or features likely to be accessed by children.

Provided to the California Attorney General, the Data Protection Impact Assessments must identify the purpose of the online service, product, or feature, how it uses children’s personal information, and the risks of material detriment to children that arise from the data management practices.


The New York Times reported that despite opposition from the tech industry, the State Legislature unanimously approved the bill at the end of August. It is the first state statute in the nation requiring online services likely to be used by youngsters to install wide-ranging safeguards for users under 18.

According to The New York Times, the measure will require sites and apps to curb the risks that certain popular features – like allowing strangers to message one another – may pose to younger users. It will also require online services to turn on the highest privacy settings by default for children.

The New York Times also reported that the California measure could apply to a wide range of popular digital products that people under 18 are likely to use: social networks, game platforms, connected toys, voice assistants and digital learning tools for schools. It could also affect children far beyond the state, prompting some services to introduce changes nationwide, rather than treat minors in California differently.

Personally, I think that California’s AB 2273 is a great idea! I believe that every parent wants to make sure that their children will be safe when engaging in online video games, social networks, and other things that kids tend to like. It will be even better when these protections are established nationwide, to provide protection for all children in the United States.


Governor Newsom Signs Social Media Transparency Measure



California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he has signed a first-of-its kind social media transparency measure to protect Californians from hate and disinformation spread online. Bill 587 was proposed by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D – Encino) and is called “Social media companies: terms of service”. The law requires social media companies to report data on their enforcement of the policies.

Obviously, this bill, which has been signed into law by Governor Newsom, provides protection to people who live in California. It does not to cover people who do not live in California.

This is, in some ways, similar to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which became law in 2018. It gave Californians the right to know about the personal information a business collects about them and how it is used and shared; the right to delete personal information collected from them (with some exceptions); the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information; and the right to non-discrimination for exercising their CCPA rights.

“California will not stand by as social media is weaponized to spread hate and disinformation that threaten our communities and foundational values as a country,” said Governor Newsom. “Californians deserve to know how these platforms are impacting our public discourse, and this brings much-needed transparency and accountability to the policies that shape the social media content we consume every day. I thank Assemblymember Gabriel for championing this important measure to protect Californias from hate, harassment and lies spread online.”

The Verge reported that Governor Newsom signed a law aimed at making web platforms monitor hate speech, extremism, harassment, and other objectionable behaviors. The Governor signed it after it passed the state legislature last month, despite concerns that the bill might violate First Amendment speech protections.

According to The Verge, AB 587 requires social media companies to post their terms of service online, as well as submit a twice-yearly report to the California Attorney General. The report must include details about whether the platform defines and moderates several categories of content including “hate speech or racism,” “extremism or radicalization,” “disinformation or misinformation,” “harassment,” and “foreign political interference.”

The law also requires social media companies to offer details about automated content moderation, how many times people viewed content that was flagged for removal and how the content was handled. AB 587 fits well with AB 2273, which is intended to tighten regulations for children’s social media use.

Personally, I think that AB 587 is a great idea. It might be exactly the push that social media companies need in order for them to actually remove hate speech, racism, extremism, misinformation, and everything else the bill requires. It would be great if social media companies removed the accounts of people who are posting threats of violence and/or engaging in harassment on their platform.

I remember when Twitter was brand new, and we all had less characters to use to say something. Back then, it was easy to find like-minded people who were also on Twitter. (For me, it was mostly fellow podcasters). I’d love to see Twitter go back to the good old days.


White House Creates Guiding Principles For Big Tech Platforms



The White House held a “Listening Session On Tech Platform Accountability”. A varied group of people were invited, including Assistants to the President of various parts of the federal government, some people involved in civil rights causes, Chief Executive Officer of Sonos, Patrick Spence, and Mitchell Baker, CEO of the Mozilla Corporation and Chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation.

The listening session resulted in a list of six “Principles for Enhancing Competition and Tech Platform Accountability”:

Promote competition in the technology sector. The American information technology sector has long been an engine of innovation and growth, and the U.S. has led the world in development of the Internet economy. Today, however, a small number of dominant Internet platforms use their power to exclude market entrants, to engage in rent-seeking, and to gather intimate personal information that they can use for their own advantage.

We need clear rules of the road to ensure small and mid-size businesses and entrepreneurs can compete on a level playing field, which will promote innovation for American consumers and ensure continued U.S. leadership in global technology. We are encouraged to see bipartisan interest in Congress in passing legislation to address the power of tech platforms through antitrust legislation.

Provide robust federal protections for Americans’ privacy: There should be clear limits on the ability to collect, use, transfer, and maintain our personal data, including limits on targeted advertising. These limits should put the burden on platforms to minimize how much information they collect, rather than burdening Americans with reading fine print. We especially need strong protections for particularly sensitive data such as geolocation and health information, including information related to reproductive health. We are encouraged to see bipartisan interest in Congress in passing legislation to protect privacy.

Protect our kids by putting in place even stronger privacy and online protections for them, including prioritizing safety by design standards and practices for online platforms, products, and services. Children, adolescents, and teens are especially vulnerable to harm. Platforms and other interactive digital service providers should be required to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of young people above profit and revenue in their product design, including by restricting excessive data collection and targeted advertising to young people.

Remove special legal protections for large tech platforms. Tech platforms currently have special legal protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that broadly shield them from liability even when they host or disseminate illegal, violent conduct, or materials. The President has long called for fundamental reforms to Section 230.

Increase transparency about platform’s algorithms and content moderation decisions. Despite their central role in American life, tech platforms are notoriously opaque. Their decisions about what content to display to a given user and when and how to remove content from their sites affect Americans’ lives and and American society in profound ways. However, platforms are failing to provide sufficient transparency to allow the public and researchers to understand how and why such decisions are made, their potential effects on users, and the very real dangers these decisions may pose.

Stop discriminatory algorithmic decision-making. We need strong protections to ensure algorithms do not discriminate against protected groups, such as by failing to share key opportunities equally, by discriminatorily exposing vulnerable communities to risky products, or through persistent surveillance.

The part that I think it going to upset the big social media companies the most is the bit about Section 230. Investopedia describes it as: “a provision of federal law that protects internet web hosts and users from legal liability for online information provided by third parties. In addition, the law protects web hosts from liability for voluntarily and in good faith editing or restricting access to objectionable material, even if the material is constitutionally protected.”

It is unclear to me if President Biden is interested in having Congress make legislation of the “six principals” – or if he will sign it. What I’m certain of is that this is likely going to make a whole lot of people talk about Section 230 on social media.


TikTok Launches “Elections Center” To Combat Misinformation



TikTok announced its midterms Election Center will go live in the app in the U.S. starting August 17, 2022, where it will be available to users in more than 40 languages, including English and Spanish, TechCrunch reported.

According to TechCrunch, the new feature will allow TikTok users to access state-by-state election information, including details on how to register to vote, how to vote by mail, how to find your polling place and more, provided by TikTok partner NASS (the National Association of Secretaries of State).

TikTok also newly partnered with Ballotpedia to allow users to see who’s on their ballot, and is working with various assistance programs – including the Center for Democracy in Deaf America (for deaf voters), the Federal Voting Assistance Program (overseas voting), the Campus Vote Project (students) and Restore Your Vote (people with past convictions) – to provide content for specific groups. The AP will continue to provide the latest election results in the Elections Center.

TikTok posted a Safety post titled: “Our commitment to election integrity”. It was written by Eric Han, Head of US Safety. From the post:

At TikTok, we take our responsibility to protect the integrity of our platform – particularly around elections – with the utmost seriousness. We’re proud to be a place that brings people together over creative and entertaining content, and we work hard to keep harmful misinformation and other violations of our policies off our platform. As the US midterm elections continue, we’re sharing more on the work we’re doing to protect our community during this time.

Here are some things TikTok says it will do:

Promoting digital literacy skills and education. TikTok says its in-app center will feature videos that encourage our community to think critically about content they see online, as well as information about voting in the election.

Users will be directed away from TikTok for any action that requires a user to share information, such as registering to vote. Users will be directed way from TikTok onto the website for the state or relevant non-profit in order to carry out that process. TikTok will not have access to any of that off-platform data or activity.

TikTok will also add labels to content identified as being related to the 2022 midterm elections as well as content belonging to governments, politicians, and political parties in the US. These labels will allow viewers to click through to TikTok’s center and get information about the elections in their state.

TikTok will provide access on popular elections hashtags, like #elections2022 and #midtermelections, so that anyone searching for that content will be able to easily access the center. Users can also use TikTok’s tools to automatically filter our videos with words or hashtags they don’t want to see in their For You or Following feeds.

It appears that TikTok is actually going to put some effort into preventing its site from becoming a quagmire of political misinformation. TikTok appears to have done its homework and connected with reliable sources of political information. My hope is that these efforts will work. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for users of a social media site to get angry whenever something is put in place that prevents them from easily spreading election misinformation.


Snapchat Adds Summer Drops for Snapchat+ Subscribers



Snapchat announced new drops for summer. Starting August 15, 2022, Snapchat+ subscribers can access even more exclusive features as part of your subscription.

The features include:

Priority Story Replies: Your replies will be more visible to Snap Stars.

Post View Emoji: Pick an emoji you want friends to see after they view your Snaps. It’s a signature way to sign-off your Snaps.

New Bitmoji Backgrounds: Give your Bitmoji background more flair with special backgrounds like gleaming gold and a beach paradise.

New App Icons: Change up your home screen Snapchat app icon with new designs.

According to Snapchat’s internal data, as of August 8, 2022, in just over six weeks since they launched Snapchat+, they are thrilled to share there are over 1 million paying subscribers.

Snapchat+ costs $3.99/month. Snapchatters can enable Snatchat+ anytime by visiting their Profile. Snapchat says it will continue to drop more features in the coming months.

Obviously, Snapchat is pointing all of this out in an effort to convince more people to purchase Snapchat+. Those who don’t choose to pay for it will not receive the exclusive monthly drops. To me, it sounds as though Snapchat might be attempting to get non-Snapchat+ users to experience FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

Snapchat+ is now available in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Finland and Australia.

TechCrunch reported that Sensor Tower stated that Snap already registered $7.3 million in in-app revenue within 30 days of Snapchat+ launch – with the paid tier estimated to contribute more than $5 million of that sum. The analytics firm said that while the $3.99 monthly plan was a top choice, many folks also opted to get six-month or 12-month subscriptions priced at $21.99 and $39.99 respectively.

Variety reported additional features in Snapchat+ that include:

  • Ghost Trails on the map: to see where your friends who share their location with you have been in the past 24 hours
  • Best Friends Forever: pin your No. 1 BFF
  • 
Story rewatch indicator
  • Custom app icons/themes
  • A Snapchat+ badge
  • Friend solar system: See a “Best Friends” badge on someone’s Friendship Profile, which means you’re one of each other’s eight best friends.
  • “Friends” badge: Which means you’re one of their eight closest friends, but they’re not one of yours
  • Ability to access Snapchat messaging functions on the web.

The “eight closest friends” feature makes me think of the “Top 8” feature that was on MySpace (when it was new). Back then, it was entirely possible for people to get mad at you they discovered that they were not in your “Top 8”.