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Facebook’s Testing an Auto-Status Feature for Messenger

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Facebook is working on a new ‘Auto Status’ option for Messenger, which, when switched on, would use location tracking, as well as other device tools, to indicate what you’re up to at any given time.

Messenger auto-status

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, Messenger’s ‘Auto Status’ would use things like your location, the weather and other indicators available within your device to provide a visual representation of what you’re doing at any given time. That visual would then be layered on top of your profile image in the app – you can see in the first frame that Jane’s profile shot has a bike image layered on top.

Users would be able to select which Messenger contacts they want to share this information with, so it wouldn’t be visible to everyone, while Auto Status notifiers would also not be location-specific – “No addresses or place names, just types of locations, like ‘at a cafe'”.

The visual pointers could be helpful for keeping your close connections updated as to your whereabouts – younger users, for example, might switch it on to share with their parents so that they have some idea of where they are and what they’re doing, without having to call or send a message. It could also, as TechCrunch notes, serve as a prompt for meeting up in real life – if a close friend sees that you’re at a cafe, he/she might get in touch and ask to join.

The functionality replicates the same option that Instagram added to its Threads app, which it launched in October last year. 

Instagram Threads

Threads is designed for sharing with close friends only – research shows that some 85% of the messages shared on Instagram are distributed to the same three friends, so Instagram sought to tap into this more intimate discussion with a dedicated tool aligned to such. 

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Early data showed, however, that Threads wasn’t catching on, with fewer users downloading the separate Threads app than those who had previously downloaded Instagram’s standalone IGTV or Boomerang apps.

Still, it seems that Facebook sees potential in Auto Status, the key differentiator of Threads. Maybe, by adding the functionality to Messenger, and showcasing it to a larger audience, Auto Status will catch on and become a more relevant tool for users.

Its addition to Messenger could also suggest that Facebook is looking to bring Auto Status to Instagram’s main app, and likely WhatsApp as well – with Facebook working internally towards integrating its back-end messaging infrastructure, any feature that’s launched in any of its messaging apps is likely also being built to function within each of its other messaging tools.

Facebook has confirmed that it’s in early testing of Auto Status for Messenger, but says it has no plans for any external rollout as yet. 

Interesting tool or a little too much info? In some ways, you can imagine it will provide functional value, while in others, it could serve as a creepy reminder of just how much Facebook’s apps are tracking your everyday movements.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how Messenger users respond, if indeed it does make it to an official launch. 

Socialmediatoday.com

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China accused of interference as Australia PM’s WeChat account vanishes

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened his WeChat account in 2019 ahead of Australian elections that year


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened his WeChat account in 2019 ahead of Australian elections that year – Copyright NO BYELINE/AFP STRINGER

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s WeChat account has disappeared, prompting accusations of Chinese “interference” from senior members of his government Monday.

Morrison’s account on the Chinese social media app, which was launched in February 2019, appears to have been replaced with one titled “Australian Chinese new life.”

WeChat is the overwhelmingly dominant messaging and social media platform in China, where Western services such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter are blocked.

There was no immediate comment from Morrison but a senator from his ruling centre-right Liberal Party accused Beijing of being behind the change.

“What the Chinese government has done by shutting down the prime minister’s account is effectively foreign interference in our democracy,” James Paterson told 2GB radio on Monday.

Paterson called on Australian politicians to boycott WeChat in response.

According to the account’s about page, the “Australian Chinese new life” name was registered on October 28, 2021.

But the account has posts dating back to February 1, 2019, including Morrison’s first, which reads: “I’m very happy to open my official WeChat account”.

AFP has contacted WeChat’s parent company Tencent for comment.

Morrison first launched his WeChat account to communicate with Australia’s sizable Chinese-Australian community ahead of elections in 2019.

That year, Morrison was asked by reporters whether there was a risk his account could be censored by the Chinese Communist Party.

“We haven’t experienced any such censorship,” he said.

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In December 2020, WeChat removed a post from Morrison that defended Australia’s investigation into allegations of war crimes perpetrated by Australian soldiers.

The post also criticised Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who had tweeted a fake image of an Australian soldier holding a knife.

The last post on the “Australian Chinese new life” account is from July 9, 2021.

The Daily Telegraph reported Morrison has been locked out of his account since then.

All of the posts on the “Australian Chinese new life” account relate to Australian government announcements or messages from Morrison.



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TikTok’s Working on a New, Opt-In Function to Show You Who Viewed Your Profile

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TikTok's Working on a New, Opt-In Function to Show You Who Viewed Your Profile


I’m not entirely sure what value this might bring, but TikTok is reportedly working on bringing back the option to see who viewed your profile in the app over the preceding 30 days, which would provide more transparency over user interest.

As you can see in these screenshots, uncovered by app researcher Kev Adriano (and shared by Matt Navarra), TikTok looks to be testing an opt-in functionality that would enable you to see who’s checking out your TikTok profile, while users would also be able to see when you’ve checked out their profile as well when this feature is switched on.

Which TikTok used to have, as a means to increase connections in the app.

TikTok profile views notification

As you can see here, TikTok used to provide a listing of people who’d checked out your profile, with a view to helping you find others to follow who may have similar, shared interests. TikTok removed the functionality early last year, amid various investigations into its data sharing processes, and with several high-profile cases of TikTok stalkers causing real-world problems for platform stars, it made sense that it might not want to share this information anymore, as it likely only increases anxiety for those who may have concerns.

But I guess, if stalkers wanted to check out your profile they wouldn’t turn the feature on, so maybe, by making it opt-in, that reduces that element? Maybe.

I don’t know, I don’t see a heap of value here, and while I can understand, when an app is starting out, how this sort of awareness might help to increase network connections, I’m not sure that it serves any real value for TikTok, other than providing insight into who’s poking around, and likely increasing concerns about certain people who keep coming back to check out your profile again and again.

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Maybe there’s a value for aspiring influencers, in reaching out to potential collaborators who’ve checked out their stuff, or maybe it works for hook-ups, if that’s what you want to use TikTok for, which is why the opt-in element is important.

But much like the same feature on LinkedIn, mostly, it seems pretty useless. I mean, it’s somewhat interesting to know that somebody from a company that you’d like to work for checked out your profile, but if they did, and they didn’t feel compelled to get in touch, who really cares?

There is a limited value proposition here, in that getting in touch with those who did check out your profile could result in a business relationship, similar to the above note on potential collaborators on TikTok. But I’d be interested to see the actual percentage of successful contacts made is as a result of these insights.

I can’t imagine it’s very high – but maybe, if you give users the choice, and they explicitly opt-in, there is some value there.

Seems like stalker tracking to me, and potential angst and conflict as a result.

There’s no official word from TikTok as to whether this option will ever be released at this stage.





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‘Flurona’ is a great example of how misinformation can circulate

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'Flurona' is a great example of how misinformation can circulate


This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. Image captured and colorized at NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana.
Source – NIAID, CC SA 2.0.

In early January, Israel confirmed its first case of an individual infected with both the seasonal flu and COVID-19 at the same time, authorities reported. The two infections were found in an unvaccinated pregnant woman who had mild symptoms.

At the rime, the Times of Israel said, “Some reports suggested this marked the first such dual case in the world, but reports of patients with both flu and COVID-19 surfaced in the US as early as spring 2020.”

And it was the Times of Israel that helped the story to go viral by using a catchy, made-up name – “flurona” – and reporting that this is the “first” such case in the country, which some people read as the first case ever.

One news outlet went about amplifying the anecdotal report into “a new nightmare to keep us awake at night.” All the hype over this supposedly new and nightmarish disease did nothing more than fuel the amount of misinformation already bogging down social media platforms.

Scientific American suggests that physicians and scientists just don’t seem to be able to get the right message across to the public about what is real, what is treatable, and what is downright false.

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Yes, you can catch the flu and Covid

Let’s look back a bit to the start of the pandemic. In March 2020, hospitals were being overrun with patients. At that time, COVID testing was still rather sluggish and expensive. So doctors often ordered several tests for patients, trying to identify — or eliminate from suspicion — other possible infections.   

And yes, any number of patients were found to have not only COVID-19 but nearly 5 percent of patients tested had another viral respiratory infection, too. At first, doctors worried more for these patients, whose immune systems were fighting two battles at once. 

“What we found was actually that patients who had Covid plus another infection — they had lower rates of inflammation in their body and were less likely to be admitted to the hospital,” said Dr. Sarah Baron, a physician who helped author a study in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy to describe the findings.

While the study was small in the number of patients involved, it may offer an intriguing look at how one virus suppresses the effects of another – something called viral interference.

Researchers have known about viral interference since the 1960s when a group of scientists noticed that a live vaccine against polio and other enteroviruses also seemed to protect against unrelated viral respiratory diseases like influenza.  

For the week ending December 25, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 6.2 percent of people tested for flu were positive, and 1,825 people were admitted to U.S. hospitals with flu that week.

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So I would suggest to everyone that first – remember there are many reliable news sources on the Internet. Secondly, if a story you read sounds outrageous, take a few minutes to research it. You may just find out how inaccurate it may be.



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