Category Archives: Social Media

TikTok Reveals its State-Controlled Media Policy

TikTok posted information about its state-controlled media policy in a Newsroom post titled: “Bringing more context to content on TikTok”. Some social media companies already have put in place similar policies. Those who don’t have one will probably create one now.

Last year we began working to develop a consistent and comprehensive state media policy, as we recognize that an additional layer of context can be helpful to viewers, especially in times of war and in conflict zones. In response to the war in Ukraine, we’re expediting the rollout of our state media policy to bring viewers context to evaluate the content they consume on our platform…

TikTok will begin by applying labels to content from some state-controlled media accounts over the coming days.

Here are some key points from TikTok’s policies:

We recognize the heightened risk and impact of misleading information during a time of crisis. We continue to increase our safety and security measures and are working aggressively to help ensure people can express themselves and share their experiences, while we also seek to mitigate the potential for harm.

TikTok uses a combination of technology and people to protect their platform. Their teams speak more than 60 languages and dialects including Russian and Ukrainian.

TikTok reminds users that their Community Guidelines prohibit content that contains harmful misinformation, hateful behavior, or promotion of violence. The company will remove violative content, will ban accounts, and will suspend access to product features like livestream to those who break the rules.

TikTok also has evolved its methods in real-time to identify and combat harmful content, such as implementing additional measures to help detect and take action on livestreams that may broadcast unoriginal or misleading content.

TikTok will “remain focused on preventing, detecting, and deterring influence operations on our platform and our systems help us to identify, block and remove inauthentic accounts, engagement, or other associated activities on TikTok”.

The New York Times reported that some TikTok users were viewing videos of Ukrainian tanks taken from video games, as well as a soundtrack that was first uploaded to the app more than a year ago. Some who viewed that content believed they were seeing legitimate, authentic, videos posted by people in the Ukraine.

Russia Blocked Facebook and Twitter

Both Facebook and Twitter were blocked by Russia on Friday, amid President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing military invasion of Ukraine, BuzzFeed News reported.

According to BuzzFeed News, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, posted a statement on Friday, explaining the decision was made to “block access to the Facebook network” after at least 26 cases of “discrimination against Russian media and information resources” since October of 2020. More specifically, the agency highlighted Facebook’s recent restriction of Kremlin-tied media sources RT and Sputnik across the EU.

Reuters reported that Meta Platforms (parent company of Facebook) would restrict access to Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik on its platforms across the European Union. According to Reuters, the company received requests from a number of governments and the EU to take steps in relation to Russian state-controlled media on its platforms.

In addition, Reuters reported that the European Union said it would ban Russian state-owned television network RT and news agency Sputnik. Canada telecoms operators have also stopped offering the RT channel.

Interfax, (Interfax Information Services Group) reported that Roskomnadzor blocked Twitter in Russian territory. According to Interfax, Twitter is restricted across Russia based on the Prosecutor General’s Office demand dated February 24.

NetBlocks a global monitor working at the section of digital rights, cybersecurity and internet governance, confirmed the restriction of Twitter in Russia from the morning of February 26, 2022. It also reported that Facebook servers had been subsequently restricted on Sunday.

According to NetBlocks, the restrictions are in effect across multiple providers rendering both social media platforms largely unusable, and come as Russian authorities and social media platforms clash over rules in relation to the invasion of Ukraine.

It seems to me that people who have friends and relatives in Russia are unlikely to see them post anything on Facebook or Twitter for a while. This news also makes it very clear how important social media is for various governments. It appears that Russia’s decision to block Facebook and Twitter could be an effort to prevent its people from learning about what is happening in Ukraine.

Snapchat Will Ad Mid-Roll Ads to Snap Star Stories

Snapchat announced that it will be introducing a new opportunity to support creators: mid-roll advertisements in Snap Star Stories. It appears that Snapchat feels that this will help the Snap Star creators to earn money.

In beta testing now with an early set of U.S. Snap Stars, Snap Stars will receive a share of the revenue generated from ads within their public Story. Stories lower the barrier to content creation and engagement, and we believe placing ads within a Snap Star’s public Story will allow an easier path to financial success.

According to Snapchat, this represents a new opportunity to reach Snapchat’s community with a new, high-value placement. Mid-roll advertisements in Snap Star Stories will be available later this year.

TechCrunch reported that a Snapchat spokesperson told them that these advertisements will appear as mid-roll ads inside their stories, and the creator will earn a share of the ad revenue. The payout is determined by a payment formula, which weighs factors like posting frequency and audience engagement. According to TechCrunch, Snapchat declined to comment further on the nature of these payouts.

The Verge reported that the revenue sharing is only being made available to Snap Stars. If you use Snapchat, but are not a Snap Star – you won’t receive any revenue from your stories.

According to The Verge, Snap CEO Evan Spiegal told investors that users are spending less time posting and viewing stories and instead watching content on Spotlight (Snapchat’s TikTok equivalent). It seems to me that Snapchat wants to pull those users away from their TikTok clone in favor of pushing them over to Snap Star Stories.

Will this work? It’s hard to say. I think some Snap Stars will give it a try, in the hopes of earning some money. It is unclear how much they could potentially earn, and that could be a problem if the revenue is too low to be worth it for the creator.

Another potential problem for Snapchat is that most people don’t enjoy watching ads. If Snap Star Stories becomes too cluttered with ads, I suspect that users will lose interest in them… and focus on the more popular Spotlight content.

Signal Allows You to Change Your Phone Number

Signal announced that it will now allow users to change their phone number. It is an unusual choice for a company that identifies users based on their phone number. That said, it may be a feature that people who use Signal will be excited about.

Millions of people worldwide rely on Signal every day for secure and private communication. Some of these people change their phone number, but want to continue using Signal without registering for a new account. We now provide the ability to change the phone number on your Signal account, while retaining all of your chats, profile information, and groups.

There are two ways to change your phone number in Signal. If you are getting a new phone, but keeping your old number, you can use Signal’s end-to-end encrypted device-to-devise transfer on Android or iOS to carry your contacts and chat history over to your new device.

Signal recommends you do that before wiping or recycling your old device as Signal messages are excluded from built-in operating system and cloud backups.

If you are keeping your existing phone, but getting a new number, you can use the Change Number feature. It will let you keep your profile and all of your existing messages and groups on your device, while making you reachable at your new phone number.

The Signal Support website provides some additional details:

Change Number is supported if you can send and receive Signal messages on the phone with your old number, or are keeping the same phone and changing the number.

Change Number is not supported if you cannot send and receive Signal messages on the phone with your old number, do not have your old device, or lost your phone. It also won’t work if you have cleared your phone.

In order to change your number, you must be using the latest version of Signal available for that device. This means Android v5.30.6 or later, or iOS v5.27.1 or later.

Your contacts in Signal will see an alert in your chat that the phone number has changed.

Overall, I think this is a good idea. It gives Signal users the opportunity to change their phone number without losing anything. The process sounds quick and simple.

Texas Sued Over Law That Stops Social Media Sites from Banning Users

The State of Texas has been sued over its new law that prevents social media platforms from banning users over their political views, The Texas Tribune reported.

The Texas bill is called HB 20. Governor Greg Abbott signed it into law. According to The Texas Tribune, the law states that “social media platforms with over 50 million monthly users in the U.S. – a threshold that includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – must publicly report details about content removal and account suspensions biannually. The platforms are also required to establish an easily accessible complaint system, where users could flag violations of the law.”

The lawsuit was filed by NetChoice, LLC and Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represent Google and Twitter in the lawsuit. It was filed against Texas Governor Ken Paxton (in his official capacity as Attorney General of Texas). The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division.

Here is a key point from the lawsuit:

…The Commerce Clause does not permit a single state to dictate the rules of content for the global Internet. H.B. 20 would regulate wholly-out-of-state conduct – balkanizing the Internet by imposing onerous extraterritorial regulation on the operation of covered social media platforms. This vastly exceeds Texas’s regulatory purview and will impede commerce across the Internet…

USA Today described this Texas law as a “social media censorship law”. According to USA Today, “Texas lawmakers were motivated in large part by the suspensions of former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol”.

Personally, I don’t think this Texas law stands much of a chance in court. USA Today reported that a federal judge blocked a similar Florida law in June, one day before it could take effect.

Tumblr Post+ Subscription is in Beta Mode

Tumblr is now one of the social media companies that wants to let creators make money from their content. It announced Post+, which is a subscription service that is currently in beta.

Tumblr’s Post+ is our new tool that allows creators to make some of their posts exclusive to paid supporters and allows people to support their favorite creators. It’s an optional way to support and encourage your favorite creators in Tumblr, and it’s all done in the existing post form with the existing tools you all know and love.

Here’s what is known about Tumblr’s Post+ (so far):

Tumblr users who have Post+ can pick and choose which posts they want public and which posts they want only their supporters to see.

Creators who use Post+ have the ability to choose from a select set of predefined subscription pricing structures for their supporters. TechCrunch reported that the subscriber-only content starts at $3.99 per month, with additional tiers at $5.99 and $9.99.

You must be a Tumblr user in order to become a paying Post+ supporter.

If you subscribe to a creator’s Post+, your blog name and any information you share publicly on your blog will be available to the owner of the blog you are subscribing to. No personal information is shared.

Subscribers will be notified when the Post+ creator(s) they subscribe to shares something new.

You can cancel your Post+ subscription if you choose to. But, you have to cancel it at least 24 hours before the end of your current subscription period in order to avoid being charged for the next subscription period. You cannot get a refund.

According to Tumblr, +Posts can be reblogged! This is encouraged. Each reblogged +Post has a teaser section at the top of the post that is publicly viewable. Any content added to the reblog is also visible publicly.

TechCrunch reported that Post+ “lets creators choose which content they want to put behind a paywall, whether that’s original artwork, personal blog posts or Destiel fanfic”. But, that information doesn’t appear on Tumblr’s Post+ information. My hope is that Tumblr is not suggesting that people attempt to monetize content owned by big companies.

You cannot block a blog after they have become a paying supporter of your Post+ without help from Tumblr Support.

Tumblr was sold to Automattic (who owns in 2019.

Clubhouse is No Longer Invite-Only

Clubhouse posted a blog called “Opening Day” on its website to inform everyone that the app is now out of beta and open to everyone. They also made a new Clubhouse logo.

Twelve never-boring months later, we’re thrilled to share that Clubhouse is now out of beta, open to everyone, and ready to begin its next chapter. This means we have removed our waitlist system so that anyone can join. If you have a club, you can post your link far and wide. If you are a creator with an audience, you can bring them all on. If you’re hosting a public event, anyone can attend. You can bring close friends, classmates, family members, coworkers, and anyone else you like – on iOS or Android.

It is my understanding that there are many people who were using Clubhouse when it was in beta, and enjoying the experience. As such, this new change will likely make them happy.

There were some big problems with Clubhouse. In February of 2021, Will Ormus posted a blog in which he provided details that make it clear that Clubhouse does not respect your privacy.

Clubhouse requires access to user’s contacts.This could include a persons doctor, acquaintances that they haven’t talked with in years, and a person’s drug dealer. Another problem is that Clubhouse will try to connect users to other users that have them in their contacts. This could be dangerous for people who have left an abusive partner, or who have been stalked by someone.

In April of 2021, CyberNews reported that Clubhouse’s SQL database containing 1.3 million user records was scraped and linked for free on a “popular hacker forum”. The information came from user profiles, and included user ID, name, photo URL, username, Twitter handle, Instagram handle, number of followers, number of people following the user, account creation date, and invited by profile name.

Clubhouse denied that the scraping had occurred, and said the public profile information in the app was viewable by anyone who can access the app.

Whether or not you choose to join Clubhouse is up to you, of course. Personally, I don’t feel that I can trust it with my contact list.