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2020 Campaigns Have Few Responses for Misinformation

Less than a year before the 2020 election, and false political information is moving furiously online. Avaaz, a global human rights organization, has reported that the top 100 false political stories were shared by Facebook users over 2.3 million times in the United States in the first 10 months of 2019. Still, few politicians (or their staff) are prepared to quickly notice and combat incorrect stories about them, according to dozens of campaign staff members and researchers who study online misinformation. Several of the researchers said they were surprised by how little outreach they had received from politicians. Campaigns and political parties say their hands are tied, because social sites such as Facebook and YouTube have few restrictions on what users can say or share, as long as they do not lie about who they are.

As a voter and a parent, what can you do? Review the basics on how to detect misinformation and share with your children. Misinformation hurts everyone by normalizing prejudices, and even justifying and encouraging violence.


How Do Successful People Use Technology?

Forbes recently highlighted data put together by ResumeLab, a company known for their job application-building software, on how 1,000 self-identified “highly successful” professionals use technology. The results show some interesting factoids about the tech habits of those that consider themselves successful: preferring laptops over desktops, using health apps, and only spending a small amount of time on social media per day, with Facebook being the most-used social media platform.

Facebook and Instagram Ban Influencers From Promoting Guns and Vaping

Facebook and Instagram already ban ads for guns and e-cigarettes, but now they have announced that they will also be banning "branded content" (influencer posting) that promotes weapons, tobacco and vaping. Enforcement for the new rules should take effect in the "coming weeks," Facebook says. They are also working on tools to help creators honor the new policy, such as setting minimum age requirements on their content. This is the first time Instagram is limiting what influencers can pitch in their feeds, and it's considered overdue by some. Facebook and Instagram have both come under fire for letting social media stars advertise harmful products, including those who stars who are sometimes underage themselves.

Not Sure If Your Caption Might Be Considered Bullying? AI to Let You Know

In an effort to make the platform a more positive place, Instagram has rolled out a new feature that prompts users when something they are about to post might be offensive. Users can ignore the prompts and proceed to post the content, but Instagram is hoping the alerts might make people think twice before posting something they might regret.

Whether or not this proves effective is still up in the air. Instagram said that its efforts to reduce bullying in comments have been "promising," but that doesn't guarantee similar performance for the posts themselves. Someone caught up in the heat of the moment might hit "share anyway," and not worry about the consequences. And there will be moments where a vicious tone may not represent bullying at all -- calling the policy of a politician or public figure stupid may not be constructive, but it's not bullying. Still, this could be helpful if it leads even a handful of people to mend their ways.

Facebook Enlists Community Reviewers As Fact Checkers

Facebook is trying a new approach to fact checking by using “community reviewers”, a diverse group of contractors hired through partners like YouGov, to check potentially false reports. Facebook will use its machine learning process to identify misinformation in posts, as it does already. When content is tagged as potentially false, Facebook's system will then send the post on to the new team of community reviewers. The community reviewers will be prompted to check the post by conducting their own additional research, and if they find the post to be incorrect, they'll be able to send their findings and resources to Facebook's fact-checkers for their official assessment.

By enabling more people to provide input into the fact-checking process, Facebook's aim is to improve both the relative accuracy of its findings, and to lessen accusations that it is favoring one side of politics over another. Critics, however, say this new ‘diverse’ review system is just cover for their policy on not fact-checking political ads and should be brought up when discussing misinformation with your children.

YouTube Steps Up Harassment Policy

YouTube has promised to ramp up its fight against hate and harassment. The video service recently announced changes to its harassment policy,  which include a ban on implicit threats of violence and insults that target someone for their race, gender expression or sexual orientation. Under its new harassment policy, the service aims to also take down videos that simulate violence against an individual, or that suggest that violence may happen. The post specifically added the policy will also be applied to videos posted by public officials – a distinction that could set YouTube apart from its competitors. Twitter, for instance, has long exempted public figures from its hate speech policies, to the dismay of critics who have argued that President Trump repeatedly violates those policies. Instead, Twitter said in June that it would flag tweets from public figures that were violating its policies labeling the violation as such.

Instagram Will Now Ask for Birthdates

Instagram, one of the most popular social media platforms for teenagers, has started requiring users to share their birth date when signing up -- rather than only affirming they are 13 or older. They are doing this in part to prevent passage of costly child safety and data privacy regulations, as lawmakers and family safety groups across the world criticize the app for exposing children to inappropriate material. Lisa Hinkelman of the nonprofit Ruling Our Girls and other experts say kids will find a way around such (non verified) safeguards and suggest that educators and parents focus on educating them about social media instead.

YouTube Trends

Trends on YouTube reflect shifting cultural outlooks and consumer behaviors, according to recent data analysis. Google's Gina Shalavi writes that the globalization of content continues with 60% of videos made by US creators now viewed by people in other countries. Entertainment and shopping have become increasingly linked with the popularity of videos showing virtual hauls or shopping sprees, and there has been a marked rise in the viewing of content focused on sustainability and environmental protection, such as videos featuring "clean beauty" in their title.

Parents: Don’t Count Out Snapchat

Social media apps come and go with teens, but it looks like Snapchat is making a comeback. Snapchat is projected to rebound in 2020 with a 14.2% increase in global consumer usage and is expected to generate $1.53 billion in net ad revenues, eMarketer predicts. The research firm also predicts users in the 12 to 17 and 35 to 64 age range will increase by double digits percentages, and attributes overall growth to a redesigned Android interface and filters and other new features.

The Pressure of “Likes” Lessened?

Instagram "likes" have become private for a portion of the platform's US users as part of a test it has been running in seven countries, according to Adam Mosseri, CEO. He notes, "It's about young people -- the idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition." While marketers will still have access to "like" metrics, a recent HypeAuditor study found a drop in like counts in those countries where the policy is in effect.