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Clubhouse Announces Exclusive Content Deal with NFL, its First Official Sports Partnership



While competitors continue to emerge, Clubhouse is looking to capitalize on its opportunities with the announcement of a new, exclusive content deal with the NFL, which will see the league broadcast via a range of Rooms in the lead-up to the 2021 NFL Draft.

As explained by Clubhouse:

“With Clubhouse’s highly interactive audio-based social platform, fans can drop in on the NFL’s rooms to follow the picks live as they’re announced, and listen in on discussions featuring key NFL figures – from athletes and coaches to network personalities. Fans also have the opportunity to join the conversation and be invited on stage by moderators to ask questions or share their reactions to the Draft.”

The deal makes the NFL the first major sports league to collaborate with Clubhouse on official programming, and could help Clubhouse connect with more NFL fans around the event.

Though it will also highlight a key weakness, in that despite Clubhouse broadcasting popular, exclusive content, only people who’ve been invited to the app will be able to join. That reduces the effectiveness of the partnership somewhat – but still, Clubhouse says that it already hosts a range of regular NFL-related rooms, so it will provide new opportunities to enhance community connection and reach.

The NFL regularly tests out new platforms with a view to expanding its online presence and connection opportunities. Its official account on TikTok, for example, was the fastest-growing pro sports account in 2019, latching onto the initial momentum of the app, while the NFL has also signed live-streaming deals with both Facebook and Twitter at different times, and maintains exclusive content arrangements with Snapchat.

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Given this, it’s no surprise to see the league partner with Clubhouse as well, while the deal also reflects Clubhouse’s emerging business strategy, which could see it establish more content deals with major sports leagues moving forward, as a means for provide higher quality, exclusive content, and attract more users.

But as noted, the challenges before it are rising.

Last week, both Facebook and Reddit announced their own Clubhouse-like audio social tools, neither of which is likely to generate the same amount of hype as Clubhouse, but both of which could cause significant problems for the app as Clubhouse looks to expand its user base.

The value of Clubhouse lies in its communities, in niche, specific discussions around focused topics that can see huge interest and engagement within those smaller sub-groups. Many participants in those chats are likely also members of related Facebook groups, and/or similar subreddits, which could mean that once those same, Clubhouse-type connection tools are available within these options instead, they don’t even bother to download the app, or seek out a Clubhouse invite.

That may not seem like a major concern, but Facebook groups are used by 1.8 billion people every month, and Reddit sees strong engagement on a wide range of niche topics. Add Twitter Spaces into the mix, and that’s a lot of people who might find similar, if not more value in these various Clubhouse alternatives, reducing the need for them to download a new app, and seek out new groups.

Really, Clubhouse needs to expand, and soon, most notably via an Android app, but also by opening up to all users. Or it definitely runs the risk of losing out entirely on the trend that it began.

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Still, right now, the opportunity is there. In its weekly Town Hall summary, Clubhouse also noted that more than 300,000 Rooms are created in the app every day, while it’s also working to improve its Room recommendations, with new localization filtering and improved club suggestions.

And it is launching a live test of its Android version, likely this week.

There’s clearly significant potential there, but it’s being diluted week-by-week. Hopefully, for Clubhouse’s sake, it doesn’t miss its biggest opportunity.

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



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



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



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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