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Twitter drops the ban hammer, and Facebook ‘fesses up

November 27, 2016 - Posted by

A crisis of conscience seems to be sweeping through Silicon Valley since the Presidential Election this month. Its reaction that can best be described as “Wait? Our actions may have real world consequences? And what people read on our sites will impact their opinions? WHouston we have a problemho knew?”*

San Francisco, we’ve got a problem
Twitter’s big move was mass suspension of accounts related to the alt-right. Think a group saying things very similar to the stuff that got Milo Yiannopoulos permanently banned this summer. A key distinction here is that while Milo was suspended for violating the terms of service, not everyone on this list was violating them.

For Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg was forced to admit that yes, Facebook does have a fake news problem. In fact, fake news is actually outperforming real news in many cases.  He laid out a plan of action for combating it that includes “disrupting the fake news economics,” improving their algorithm and working more closely with third parties for verification.

Even though it never quite managed to position itself as a social media company, Google is getting in on the action too. It will be removing fake news from search results and remove ads from known fake news sites.

So why am I still crabby?
Considering how many posts I’ve written this summer about fake news and trolls, you’d think I’d be thrilled with the news. Instead, I’m underwhelmed for a couple reasons:

  • Twitter is banning a topic, not a behavior: Trolls come in all shapes and sizes these days, but Twitter isn’t protecting all its users. For example, I have a friend who has been on the receiving end of hate mail and hacking because she blogs about life on a diary farm. Women get threats for writing feminist articles. Scientists get attacked for their views on GMOs. Twitter’s ban doesn’t help any of them better protect themselves online.
  • Facebook is crowd-sourcing responsibility: Along the same lines, one of Facebook’s steps to prevent fake news is to make reporting easier. That just makes it easier for trolls to report anything they don’t like, regardless of its veracity. Plus, people aren’t great at determining what is fake and what is real. In fact, a recent survey showed teens can’t tell the difference.

Some good news
There are some signs of hope, though. For one thing, Twitter has a new “mute” feature that makes means users can avoid certain topics or phrases, no matter who is posting it. Previously, users had to block each individual harasser.

On the fake news front, a group of college students created an extension called FiB to flag unverified news (although it doesn’t currently look like it’s live). Urban legend-debunker Snopes has also branched out into fact-checking everything we’re sharing online.

And if you’re worrying about news that isn’t fake, just potentially biased, check out AllSides. This site shows stories from left, centrist and right-leaning sources for easy comparison.

 

*Ok, fine. That’s a bit snide. Call it a case of “I told you so!” from a career spent in advertising and mass communications.

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

November 14, 2016 - Posted by

Death becomes him?

And apologies to Mark Twain for the misquote.

This week, Facebook users were finding themselves memorialized, which is what the site does after someone dies. In this case, the users were very much still alive. A Facebook spokesperson said it was a just an unfortunate bug.

Speaking of not believing everything you read on Facebook…. Things are pretty ugly online right now. All that stuff we’ve been saying about fake stories and abusive users isn’t going away just because we held the election.

Be a little kinder than you need to, don’t believe everything that you read, and stay safe out there!

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

End of the line for Vine

October 30, 2016 - Posted by

Say goodbye to Vine. This week, the company announced that it would be looping no more. While the main website Death of Vinewill still be available for users to download their content, the mobile app will soon be discontinued.

It makes sense- when you can include quick video snips and hilarious gifs in every platform, there’s no need for a separate app. And Vine was at it’s best when the clips were a little goofy. (The Ringer has a thorough, although NSFW roundup to fuel your nostalgia.)

The Hits Keep Coming
The bad news about Vine was just one of many negative headlines for Twitter, who owns it. There was the one about the share price lawsuit. And the one about job cuts. Even the news about the positive quarterly earnings seemed to get less coverage than speculation about its 4 am start time of the call.

On the same call, Twitter announced that new safety features will be releasing new safety features some time in November. Considering that abuse was seen as one of the reasons no one wanted to buy Twitter this fall, it’s well past time they get it under control.

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Using social media to help save lives

October 30, 2016 - Posted by

Cyber bullying. Fear of missing out. Social media addiction. Envy of perfectly curated feeds. There’s plenty of hand-wringing over the potential negative impacts that social media can have on mental health. So it’s great to share a story about using the power of social media for good.instagram mental health

Last week, Instagram announced a new feature that allows you to send an anonymous message if you see someone hinting at self-harm, suicide, or an eating disorder. The user will get a message with links to mental health resources based on their location. The same support message will occur if a user searches for certain hashtags.

And remember:  You don’t have to wait for a new feature to launch to reach out if you’re worried about a friend. And if you need to talk to someone, the National Suicide Prevention Line is there 24/7.

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Meerkat is no more, and Facebook goes to work

October 10, 2016 - Posted by

Anyone remember Meerkat, the livestreaming app? It was Periscope 1.0, feted at SXSW ,and now, officially dead. Recode has a thorough autopsy report, and Meerkat’s parent company, Life On Air, is still in business.

The most telling quote I read about it all came from co-founder Ben Rubin: “The category of broadcast (one-to-many) wasn’t breaking as a daily habit…it’s too far away from the everyday user.”

In other words, if people aren’t using it, it doesn’t matter how much love you get from the press.

Facebook goes to work…and the store…and to VRjan-brady-bunch
I have a confession to make here, everyone—I’m really not trying to flood this blog with posts about Facebook. It’s just hard to write about social media without talking about the 9,000-pound gorilla in the room.

And it’s been a busy gorilla lately.  So let’s hit the highlights:

  • Privacy? What privacy? The EU isn’t fooling around when it comes to privacy laws
  • Marketplace is open for business – I’ve had this in my app for months now, so I didn’t realize it was a new feature. Facebook launched The Marketplace, a classified session similar to Craigslist. Users promptly flooded it with drugs, guns and live animals. Pretty sure this is why we can’t have nice things.
  • Facebook for Work moves beyond a pilot – The logic seems to be “hey, everyone knows how to use Facebook already.” The release says they’ll offer the analytics to companies who pay for an internal network, but given Facebook’s data-hungry ways, I’m very curious to know what else they’ll do with it.
  • Moving to VR – One of the strengths of social media is that it helps people stay in touch despite distance. A demo at the recent Oculus conference made it pretty clear that Facebook considers Virtual Reality a way to bring people together.
  • Events will be a standalone app – It could just be my empty social calendar, but I don’t quite get this one.  Are they coming after Eventbrite?
  • Instagram turns six – And no, they won’t be going back to a chronological timeline.

Chatbots don’t judge you.

To close this out on a non-Facebook note, this is my favorite use of chatbots to date. DuoLingo will let users practice languages with chatbots, since many found the idea of practicing with a complete stranger intimidating. Plus, chatbots won’t make fun of your bad accent. ¡Excelente!

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Spectacles, Sales Talk, and Statistics

September 26, 2016 - Posted by

Snap, Inc.’s SpectaclesSnap Spectacles
It’s been a busy week in social media. For starters, Snapchat is launching a new wearable, a pair of connected glasses that “make memories from your perspective.” Can these glasses, called Spectacles, work where Google Glass didn’t?  Maybe. The $130 price tag is much more accessible than Google Glass, and they’re being positioned as something fun (and maybe even frivolous) instead of a smart device. They certainly draw from a different design aesthetic.

A new name also signals that the company wants to be serious business. The app itself is still Snapchat, but the company will henceforth be known as Snap, Inc. It’s also rolling out new targeting options for advertisers, although how that plays against its reputation for privacy has yet to be seen.

Twitter Sale Rumors
People have been speculating (often on Twitter) that Twitter is looking for a buyer. Right now, the two main contenders seem to be Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and customer relationship management giant Salesforce.  Verizon is mentioned from time to time as well.

Considering the PR beating Twitter took this summer, the fact that it’s finally dealing with harassment could be the company’s equivalent of investing in new paint to get a house ready to sell.

Statistics (Ok, Metrics)
Technically, this a metrics story, but I really enjoyed the alliterative headline. In either case, Facebook recently ‘fessed up that it had made a serious miscalculation in its metrics for video ads. For two years.

Predictably, Facebook is assuring everyone that it didn’t impact billing or other video metrics. TechCrunch found some companies willing to say that the whole thing is NBD, you guys, since we totally don’t use that metric anyway.

Once again, it shows how much power Facebook has with marketers. If marketers want to reach their audiences where they are, it means playing ball with Facebook and relying on Facebook’s data to understand what worked. That also means relying on the company to tell them if the data is incorrect.

Little scary, isn’t it?

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Facebook’s fake news

September 20, 2016 - Posted by

From bloggers to elected officials, everyone was talking about Facebook’s trending topics section last spring. People were particularly worried about allegations of censorship, which Facebook flatly denied.

This August, Facebook officially went all-in on its algorithm, firing the human editors and counting on the AI. The move wasn’t unexpected; in fact, the only thing surprising was that they didn’t promote it more, since they had always planned to have the algorithm take over.

Or maybe that was good planning on Facebook’s part, considering it only took a few hours for a hoax article about Megyn Kelly and reports of people behaving badly with a McChicken (nswf, and it’s really not worth the search) to dominate the stream.

Oops, indeed.Cher Clueless

Professional journalists are simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief that the algorithm couldn’t hack it and worrying about the future implications for the industry. Let’s face it: Facebook is a dominant social network, if not the dominant one, and Americans increasingly get their news from social media. In fact, the average user is spending 50 minutes per day on Facebook and/or Instagram.

So for anyone, journalist or advertiser, who wants to reach users where they already are, Facebook is a pretty good bet. The thing is Facebook is in the business of making money for Facebook. That isn’t a bad thing by any means, but the implications of algorithms can be huge.

The good news: Facebook, along with Twitter, YouTube and Buzzfeed, just joined First Draft, an organization that helps newsrooms and publishers verify stories. First Draft also has some helpful tips for sharing information in ways that don’t help hoaxers build backlinks.

And remember – if you’re not sure if a story’s real, there’s always Snopes.

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Twitter is ready for some football

September 20, 2016 - Posted by

More specifically, a Jets/Bills game it streamed live on Thursday night.  According to the NFL, the livestream averaged some 243,000 viewers. (The NFL also touted 2.3 people watching at least 3 seconds of the pre-game or game, but that sounds more like a load-testing statistic than actual viewership.)Twitter Thursday Night Football

And the response was… mostly good. Re/Code, which has a full write up of the experience, admits, It was fine.Engadget went so far as to say it “mostly worked.”  Techcrunch went so far as to say “Two million people streamed the NFL on Twitter last night and loved it,” but that’s just more unbridled enthusiasm than we can handle. The biggest complaint was a delay between the live broadcast and the stream.

It’s not just the video, though. Along with the game, viewers saw a stream of curated tweets from “players, refs, reporters, self-hating Jets fans.” And you can watch the stream anywhere that you access Twitter, including their new apps for Amazon Fire, Xbox One and Apple TV. Basically, it’s the experience we all wish we had for the Olympics (dang millennials!).

This is really good press for Twitter, who could use some good press about now.  It’s also right in line with CEO-for-now Jack’s Dorsey’s persistent argument that Twitter is a way to connect people to world events real-time, not “just” a social network.  It’s also another in a series of incremental moves that Twitter has been making, including a revenue-sharing model for video creators, read receipts for direct messages, a quality filter, and disappearing live notification buttons.

So did you try the Twitter stream? Plan to check it out this Thursday? We’d love to hear about it—just tweet us, of course!

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Hello, Lifestage. Goodbye, Privacy?

August 29, 2016 - Posted by

For a while now, I’ve been wondering what hot new app will draw in teens now that the olds are braving Snapchat. Facebook is ready to win them back over with its new Lifestage app.

The app itself is pretty simple- lots of video, Snapchat-style overlays. Were it gets interesting are the settings. It’s directly targeted at high school students, and when 20 or more students from the same school activate the app, they’re automatically connected, no friending required. No one over 21 is allowed.How do you do, fellow kids?

That last part is where things get…dicey. Lifestage has no privacy settings. Anything posted is visible to everyone in the network. While the site is only visible to users, there’s no verification that the user is actually a student.

Generally, tech reporters see Lifestage as a Snapchat competitor. People who remember Facebook’s early years are having waves of nostalgia for the good old days. And there’s a fair amount of pearl-clutching around the legitimate privacy concerns.

Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center released a study on Americans’ attitudes toward privacy and data sharing. One interesting discovery was that people under 50 were considerably more comfortable sharing information on a social platform than those over 50.

Makes you wonder if teens will be more comfortable with Lifestage than adults.

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.