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Facebook Tests New User Content Controls for News Feed, New Restrictions for Ad Placement

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Amid ongoing debate around the potential negative impacts of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm on broader content consumption habits, Facebook’s testing out a range of new control options, both for individuals and advertisers, which will enable people to influence what they see, and help brands avoid unwanted association via ad placement in the app.

First off, for individual users, Facebook’s looking to make its existing News Feed control options easier to find, while it’s also looking to give people the capacity to reduce certain types of content in their feeds.

Facebook Feed Controls example

As explained by Facebook:

As part of this, people can now increase or reduce the amount of content they see from the friends, family, Groups and Pages they’re connected to and the topics they care about in their News Feed Preferences.”

Facebook’s existing News Feed preferences provide more control over what you’re shown in your feed by enabling you to select favorite profiles that will then get higher priority when they post, to unfollow Pages, people and topics from a central space, and to snooze certain users/Pages.

Facebook News Feed Preferences

As you can see in the first image above, soon, you’ll have even more control options in this front, with the capacity to increase/decrease the content that you’re shown from each element – though how exactly that will work, and what impact that will have on your feed, we don’t know as yet.

It could be a good way to provide people with more control over their feed – though, of course, that does depend on how many people actually use it, with previous data showing that many people don’t change their Facebook settings, even when there’s clear reason that they should do so.

Which is why updates like this tend to be a win-win for The Social Network, because it puts the onus on users, giving them more control, while Facebook itself knows that many won’t bother, ensuring it largely maintains the status quo in usage. There’s not a lot more it can do in this respect, but hopefully, with this new push, Facebook will go to more effort to encourage people to utilize such controls, and maximize adoption, and awareness, of such tools.

Algorithmic amplification was one of the key elements of concern highlighted by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in her various testimonials about the negative impacts of the platform, with Haugen telling the US Senate that social networks should be forced to stop using engagement-based algorithms altogether, via reforms to Section 230 laws.

As explained by Haugen:

“Facebook [has] admitted in public that engagement-based ranking is dangerous without integrity and security systems, but then not rolled out those integrity and security systems in most of the languages in the world. It is pulling families apart. And in places like Ethiopia it is literally fanning ethnic violence.”

Haugen’s view is that these algorithms incentivize negative behaviors, in order to drive more engagement, and as Haugen notes, that is causing significant harm in various regions, including the US.

It’s difficult to define the true impacts of such, but it seems fairly clear that Facebook’s algorithms have changed public discourse, with news publishers, in particular, working to maximize interaction with their Facebook posts to boost overall reach, which often involves sharing more partisan, divisive, and argumentative content. That then leads to more angst and dispute.

Providing user controls to limit the impacts of such could be a good step, but we’ll have to wait and see the specifics of how Facebook looks to roll this out. Facebook says that it’ll begin testing the new control options with ‘a small percentage of people, gradually expanding in the coming weeks’. 

In addition to this, Facebook’s also expanding its Topic Exclusion controls for News Feed to a limited number of advertisers that run ads in English.

“The advertiser topic exclusion control allows an advertiser to select a topic to help define how we’ll show the ad on Facebook, including News Feed. Advertisers can select three topics – News and Politics, Social Issues, and Crime & Tragedy. When an advertiser selects one or more topics, their ad will not be delivered to people recently engaging with those topics in their News Feed.”

That essentially enables advertisers to avoid unwanted associations with these topics, and their related discussions, which could be a good way for Facebook to assure brands that they won’t end up suffering negative impacts as a result of the same.

Facebook says that, in early testing, the exclusions have been highly successful in ensuring ads are not shown alongside such discussions in the app.

Again, amid broader debate around the impacts of negative interactions on the platform, it makes sense for Facebook to provide more controls, which will help users improve their experience, in-line with their own expectations and interests, while also providing more assurance for brands.

Of course, ideally, if the research shows that there’s a positive impact overall from such changes, you would hope that Facebook would look to reduce these negative elements more broadly, but that’s another aspect that it will need to look into – and may even be forced to explore further, if Frances Haugen’s recommendations are adopted by regulators.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

The company posted a net loss of $288.5 million, or 18 cents a share, including $34 million in charges from its workforce restructuring. That compared to a profit of $23 million, or one cent, a year earlier.

Snap ended the fourth quarter with 375 million daily users, a 17% increase. In the first three months of the year, the company estimates 382 million to 384 million people will use its platform daily.

Snap has become a bellwether for other digital advertising companies. Last year, it was the first to raise concerns about the slowdown in marketer spending online and to fire a significant number of employees—20% of its workforce—to cut costs in the face of falling revenue.

The company has spent the last two quarters refocusing the organization, cutting projects that don’t contribute to user and revenue growth.

In the first quarter, Snap expects the environment to “remain challenging as we expect the headwinds we have faced over the past year to persist.”

Investors will get additional information about the state of the digital ad market when Meta and Alphabet report earnings later this week.

—Bloomberg News

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

After reinstating thousands of previously suspended accounts, as part of new chief Elon Musk’s ‘amnesty’ initiative, Twitter has now outlined how it will be enforcing its rules from now on, which includes less restrictive measures for some violations.

As explained by Twitter:

“We have been proactively reinstating previously suspended accounts […] We did not reinstate accounts that engaged in illegal activity, threats of harm or violence, large-scale spam and platform manipulation, or when there was no recent appeal to have the account reinstated. Going forward, we will take less severe actions, such as limiting the reach of policy-violating Tweets or asking you to remove Tweets before you can continue using your account.”

This is in line with Musk’s previously stated ‘freedom of speech, not freedom of reach’ approach, which will see Twitter leaning more towards leaving content active in the app, but reducing its impact algorithmically, if it breaks any rules.

Which means a lot of tweets that would have previously been deemed violative will now remain in the app, and while Musk notes that no ads will be displayed against such content, that could be difficult to enforce, given the way the tweet timeline functions.

But it does align with Musk’s free speech approach, and reduces the onus on Twitter, to some degree, in moderating speech. It will still need to assess each instance, case-by-case, but users themselves will be less aware of penalties – though Musk has also flagged adding more notifications and explainers to outline any reach penalties as well.

“Account suspension will be reserved for severe or ongoing, repeat violations of our policies. Severe violations include but are not limited to: engaging in illegal content or activity, inciting or threatening violence or harm, privacy violations, platform manipulation or spam, and engaging in targeted harassment of our users.

Which still means that a lot of content that these users had been suspended for previously would still result in suspension now, and it leaves a lot up to Twitter management in allocating severity of impact in certain actions.

How do you definitively measure threats of violence or harm, for example? Former President Donald Trump was sanctioned under this policy, but many, including Musk, were critical of Twitter’s decision to do so, given that Trump is an elected representative.

In other nations, too, Twitter has been pressured to remove tweets under these policies, and it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter 2.0 handles such, given its stated more lax approach to moderation, despite its rules remaining largely the same.

Already, questions have been raised on this front – Twitter recently removed links to a BBC documentary that’s critical of the Indian Government, at the request of India’s PM. Twitter hasn’t offered any official explanation for the action, but with Musk also working with the Indian Government to secure partnerships for his other business, Tesla, questions have been raised as to how he will manage both impacts concurrently.

In essence, Twitter’s approach has changed when it chooses to do so, but the rules, as such, will effectively be governed by Musk himself. And as we’ve already seen, he will make drastic rules changes based on personal agendas and experience.

Twitter says that, starting February 1st, any previously suspended users will be able to appeal their suspension, and be evaluated under its new criteria for reinstatement.

It’s also targeting February for a launch of its new account penalties notifications.



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4 new social media features you need to know about this week

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New social media features to know this week


Social media never stands still. Every week there are new features — and it’s hard for the busy comms pro to stay up-to-date on it all.

We’ve got you covered.

Here’s what you need to know about this week.

LinkedIn

Social media sleuth Matt Navarra reported on Twitter that LinkedIn will soon make the newsletters you subscribe to through the site visible to other users.

This should aid newsletter discovery by adding in an element of social proof: if it’s good enough for this person I like and respect, it’s good enough for me. It also might be anopportunity to get your toe in the water with LinkedIn’s newsletter features.

Instagram

After admitting they went a little crazy on Reels and ignored their bread and butter of photographs, Instagram continues to refine its platform and algorithm. Although there were big changes over the last few weeks, these newer changes are subtler but still significant.

 

 

First, the animated avatars will be more prominent on profiles. Users can now choose to flip between the cartoony, waving avatar and their more traditional profile picture, rather than picking one or the other, TechCrunch reported, seemingly part of a push to incorporate metaverse-esque elements into the app.

Instagram also appears to have added an option to include a lead form on business profiles. We say “appears” because, as Social Media Today reports, the feature is not yet listed as an official feature, though it has rolled out broadly.

The feature will allow businesses to use standard forms or customize their own, including multiple choice questions or short answer.

Twitter

In the chaotic world of Twitter updates, this week is fairly staid — with a useful feature for advertisers.

The platform will roll out the ability to promote tweets among search results. As Twitter’s announcement points out, someone actively searching for a term could signal stronger intent than someone merely passively scrolling a feed.

Which of these new features are you most interested in? That LinkedIn newsletter tool could be great for spreading the word — and for discovering new reads.

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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