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Blocked Hashtags, Violence Metrics, Bans – How Social Media Has Dealt with the US Election

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For the last four years, the 2020 US Election has been projected as the ultimate test of social media networks and their capacity to respond to allegations of mass manipulation, foreign interference, fake news and more.

Facebook and Twitter, in particular, have worked to add in a range of new measures and tools to better protect the integrity of the critical vote, including new ad transparency measures, improved detection systems to stamp out ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior‘, updated response processes, etc.

So how have they done? Amidst the ongoing confusion around the results, as they continue to trickle in, how have the major social networks performed with respect to combating mass manipulation and counter-messaging through their apps?

Here’s a look at some of the key points of focus, and action, over the past week. 

Accurate Updates

Facebook has been working to keep users updated on the latest, accurate polling information by adding prominent banners to feeds, in both Facebook and Instagram, which remind users that the votes are still being counted.

Facebook vote count banner

Yesterday, Facebook announced that it will soon share a new banner, once a winner of the election is projected by official sources, providing more context on the process.

These official updates serve as a counter to the speculation online, and do seem to be having some impact in quelling angst around the result. 

Though speculation of voter fraud, as provoked by the US President, is also having an impact – which Facebook is reportedly measuring, in real-time, via its own internal systems.

Predicting Violence

According to BuzzFeed News, Facebook has an internal measurement tool which it uses to predict the likelihood of potential real-world violence, based on rising discussion trends.

Facebook violence measure

As explained by BuzzFeed:

“In a post to a group on Facebook’s internal message board, one employee alerted their colleagues to a nearly 45% increase in the metric, which assesses the potential for danger based on hashtags and search terms, over the last five days. The post notes that trends were previously rising “slowly,” but that recently “some conspiracy theory and general unhappiness posts/hashtags” were gaining popularity.”

Which is interesting, for several reasons.

For one, it shows that Facebook is aware of the influence it can have on real-world action, and that it understands that allowing certain trends to spread and grow can be dangerous. That means that Facebook is constantly measuring how far it can push things, and when it needs to slow trends up, in order to avoid them spilling over.

So for all it’s playing down of its potential to influence major incidents, Facebook knows that it does, and it allows certain controversial discussions to continue, uninhibited, until it deems that it needs to act.

That seems concerning, that Facebook is putting itself in a position to manage the balance between maximizing engagement and facilitating potential unrest. 

The very existence of the metric shows that Facebook could likely do more to stop such movements before they gain traction.

It also shows that Facebook can’t play dumb on other topics, like QAnon or anti-vaxxers, as based on this data, it would be well aware of their potential for harm, well before they become problematic.

Many experts had called on Facebook to do more about QAnon for years, before Facebook finally took action. This metric, if it does exist, suggests that Facebook knew the risk all along, and only chose to act when it felt it was absolutely necessary. Which could be too late for any victims caught in the early crossfire. So who decides when the risk is too high, and should Facebook be in charge of making that call?

This will no doubt come under further investigation in the wake of the election.

Blocked Hashtags

Based on these insights, Facebook also took the additional step this week of blocking certain hashtags linked to the rising criticism of the vote-counting process.

Following US President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the vote tallying process was ‘illegal’ and ‘rigged’, groups of Trump supporters gathered outside several vote counting centers across the US and began calling for poll workers inside to ‘stop the count’. 

Again, with the threat of real-world violence rising, Facebook took action, blocking the hashtags #sharpiegate (in relation to the manual editing of vote slips), #stopthesteal and #riggedelection. TikTok also blocked these hashtags, while Twitter has continued to add warnings to all posts it detects which may contain election misinformation.

Indeed, incoming US Senator Marjorie Taylor Greene has seen a raft of her tweets hidden due to violations of Twitter’s election misinformation policy.

Tweets by Marjorie Taylor Greene

In addition to this, Facebook has also removed several groups which had been created on the back of questions around the election results, due to concerns that they could be used to organize violent protests in response.

Slowing Momentum

Facebook is also reportedly looking to add more friction to sharing of political posts in order to slow the momentum of conspiracy-fueling content.

As per The New York Times:

Facebook plans to add more “friction” – such as an additional click or two – before people can share posts and other content. The company will also demote content on the News Feed if it contains election-related misinformation, making it less visible, and limit the distribution of election-related Facebook Live streams.”

Again, potentially based on its violence predictor, Facebook is looking to add more measures to reduce the spread of harmful misinformation, and material that could incite further tension within the community.

But a lot of content is still getting through – it’s not difficult to find various videos and posts on the platform which raise questions about the voting process. 

It’s likely, of course, that Facebook can’t stop all of it, which is why adding more friction could be key to at least reducing dissent.

Removing Bannon

In another significant move, former Trump advisor Steve Bannon has been permanently banned from Twitter after calling for the beheadings of two top American public servants, in order to send a warning to others.

Bannon made the suggestion in a video, which has since also been removed from Facebook and YouTube as well.

Bannon was looking to equate modern-day politics to medieval times, saying:

“Second term kicks off with firing [FBI Director Christopher] Wray, firing [Dr. Anthony] Fauci. Now I actually want to go a step farther but I realize the President is a kind-hearted man and a good man. I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England. I’d put the heads on pikes, right, I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats – ‘you either get with the program or you’re gone – time to stop playing games.”

Bannon’s point was theoretical, not literal, but the concern here is that it’s entirely possible that not all of his listeners and/or supporters would derive the same meaning.

Bannon’s statement is another example of the importance of curbing violent rhetoric in public address, regardless of intention, as it can have significant consequences. Now, Bannon faces a ban, on several platforms, and could find it much harder to gain amplification for his future messaging as a result.

The Wash-Up

While the results of the election are not yet known, and may not be for some time, it does seem, at this stage, that the additional efforts and measures implemented by the major social platforms have been mostly effective in limiting the spread of misinformation, and quelling at least some of the angst around the results.

But we won’t know for a while yet. At present, there seems to be little discussion about foreign manipulation or similar, but it’s possible that it just hasn’t been detected. And while Facebook and Twitter are working quickly to add warning labels and limit distribution now, once the final results are announced, that could prove to be another key test.

There’ll still be a lot of assessment to come, and division in US society is still significant. But there are positive signs that the platforms themselves have done all they can, by most assessments.  

Socialmediatoday.com

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Fed-up accountant 'shocked and disappointed' after his Facebook account is taken down again

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Fed-up accountant 'shocked and disappointed' after his Facebook account is taken down again

A fed-up accountant has spoken of his “disappointment” after his Facebook page was taken down AGAIN. Last July, we told how Suleiman Krayem feared …

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Twitter Tests New Quick Boost Option for Tweets

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Twitter Tests New Quick Boost Option for Tweets

Here’s the difficult thing with Twitter no longer having a comms department – now, there’s nowhere to go to confirm info about the app’s latest updates and features, and where each is available, etc.

Case in point – this week, Twitter appears to have launched a new in-stream boost option for tweets, which provides a quick and easy way to promote your tweet without having to launch a full ad campaign.

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by Jonah Manzano (and shared by Matt Navarra), the new boost option would be available direct from a tweet. You’d simply tap through, select a budget, and you would be able to boost your tweet then and there.

Which seems to be new, but also seems familiar.

It’s sort of like Twitter’s Quick Promote option, but an even more streamlined version, with new visuals and a new UI for boosting a tweet direct from the details screen.

Tweet boost

So it does seem like a new addition – but again, with no one at Twitter to ask, it’s hard to confirm detail about the option.

But from what we can tell, this is a new Twitter ad process, which could provide another way to set an objective, a budget, and basic targeting parameters to reach a broader audience in the app.

Which could be good, depending on performance, and there may well be some tweets that you just want to quickly boost and push out to more people, without launching a full campaign.

It could also be a good way for Twitter to bring in a few more ad dollars, and it could be worth experimenting with to see what result you get, based on the simplified launch process.

If it’s available to you. We’d ask Twitter where this is being made available, but we can’t. So maybe you’ll see it in the app, maybe not.

Thus is the enigma of Twitter 2.0.



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Twitter faces lawsuit by advisory firm for $1.9 million in unpaid bills

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Twitter faces lawsuit by advisory firm for $1.9 million in unpaid bills

US-based advisory firm Innisfree M&A Incorporated sued Twitter on Friday in New York State Supreme Court, seeking about $1.9 million compensation for what it says are unpaid bills. Reuters File Photo

New York: US-based advisory firm Innisfree M&A Incorporated sued Twitter on Friday in New York State Supreme Court, seeking about $1.9 million compensation for what it says are unpaid bills after it advised the social media company on its acquisition by Elon Musk last year.

“As of December 23, 2022, Twitter remains in default of its obligations to Innisfree under the agreement in an amount of not less than $1,902,788.03,” the lawsuit said.

Twitter and a lawyer for Innisfree did not respond to queries.

Elon Musk in October closed the $44 billion deal announced in April that year and took over microblogging platform Twitter.

In January 2023, Britain’s Crown Estate, an independent commercial business that manages the property portfolio belonging to the monarchy, said that it had begun court proceedings against Twitter over alleged unpaid rent on its London headquarters.

Advertising spending on Twitter Inc dropped by 71% in December, data from an advertising research firm showed, as top advertisers slashed their spending on the social-media platform after Musk’s takeover.

The banks that had provided $13 billion in financing last year for the Tesla chief executive’s acquisition of Twitter abandoned plans to sell the debt to investors because of uncertainty around the social media company’s fortunes and losses, according to media reports.

Recently, Twitter made its first interest payment on a loan that banks provided to help finance Musk’s purchase of the social media company last year.

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