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Civil Rights Groups Call on Advertisers to Pause Facebook Ad Spend in July

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Despite ongoing criticism of its policies, and its approach to divisive comments and content, Facebook has thus far stood firm on its stance that it should intervene as little as possible, and leave such commentary active, in many cases, in order to let users see what other people have to say.

Will this make Zuck and Co. re-think that stance?

This week, a collection of civil rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants and Common Sense Media, have teamed up to launch a new campaign calling on major advertisers to pause their Facebook ad spend in July, in order to send a message to the company that its lack of action is not good enough.

As per StopHateforProfit.org:

We are asking all businesses to stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality and justice and not advertise on Facebook’s services in July.”

Concerns around Facebook’s policies on such have always lingered, but the issue has been amplified by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and in particular, Facebook’s refusal to take any action on this post from US President Donald Trump.

Trump post on Facebook

Trump also posted the same comment on Twitter, and Twitter chose to put a warning on the tweet, as it violated platform policies regarding “the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line”.

Facebook refused to take any action on the comment, as per its normal approach to Trump’s posts, which has prompted the civil rights organizations to launch their campaign, and seek to mobilize advertisers to hit Facebook’s earnings, in the hopes of prompting further action,

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Will that work?

In order for the campaign to cause Facebook any real issues, a lot of businesses would need to take part, which is a big ask, but thus far The North Face has joined the cause, while digital-advertising firm 360i, which represents McCormick & Co., Discover Financial Services and Unilever, among others, has also urged its clients to join the boycott.

Again, that won’t be enough to cause a serious dent in Facebook’s finances, but simply by taking part, and promoting the campaign, it hurts Facebook’s reputation. More brands sharing the message means more awareness of the concerns around Facebook’s ad policies – so while it may not deal a crippling blow to Facebook’s business, it will help to boost concerns, which could also prompt Facebook to take more action.

And really, it’ll only take a few major brands joining the cause to cause a serious PR issue for The Social Network. Right now, Facebook might not be any more concerned than it had already been, in regards to the campaign launch, but if a few more big names announce their support, that could be a big issue, perceptually, if not financially.

But Facebook has remained firm on its stance thus far, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly stating that the voters should be able to see what elected officials, in particular, have to say, whether they like such comments or not. People can respond to such by voting, and in this sense, Facebook sees itself as playing an important part in civic discourse, by providing a platform for people to see what their leaders have to say, on everything.

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That level of interaction wouldn’t be possible without social media, so it’s a good thing, in Facebook’s estimation, that people have that connection with their leaders.

The problem is that this takes an idealistic view, and doesn’t account for the fact that many people will take comments from the President at their word – no matter how truthful, or not, or accurate, or not, they may be. 

When the President says that the media is the ‘enemy of the people’, that has real world consequences for journalists, when the President says that Antifa is a terrorist organization, that sparks real concern, and indeed, hate. And these are not the most egregious examples of what Facebook is letting through.

Maybe, this latest protest action will prompt more internal discussion around such, and send a stronger message to Facebook about the related impacts.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers

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Meta's Developing and 'Ethical Framework' for the Use of Virtual Influencers


With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.

The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.

As explained by Meta:

From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”

Some of the more well-known examples on this front are Shudu, who has more than 200k followers on Instagram, and Lil’ Miquela, who has an audience of over 3 million in the app.

At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.

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Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.

The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.

Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.

Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.

Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.

It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.

But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.

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That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.

Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?

It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.

But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.

You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.





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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps

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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps


Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.

The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.

It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.

Meta security guide

For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.

Meta security guide

While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.

Meta security guide

There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.

It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.

Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump


Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with relatives of slain commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of the second anniverary of his death in a US drone strike in Iraq – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Tom Brenner

Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.

“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.

The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.

The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.

According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.

The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.

As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.

He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.

On January 3, the second anniversary of the strike, the supreme leader and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi once again threatened the US with revenge.

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Trump’s supporters regularly denounce the banning of the Republican billionaire from Twitter, underscoring that accounts of several leaders considered authoritarian by the United States are allowed to post on the platform.



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