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First war of the TikTok era sees tragedy, humor and deceit

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Despair and tragedy mix with humor and misinformation in video snippets posted on TikTok by creators focusing on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

Despair and tragedy mix with humor and misinformation in video snippets posted on TikTok by creators focusing on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. – Copyright AFP Dimitar DILKOFF

Thomas URBAIN

Heart-rending videos of artillery strikes are being served up alongside funny snippets such as bomb-shelter cooking tips and invasion misinformation as the war in Ukraine plays out on TikTok.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, millions of people have tuned into the hugely popular social networking service for news and views of what is happening on the battleground.

That was not lost on US officials who hosted a video call to brief popular TikTok “influencers” on details about the war, according to posts at the social network.

“Lots of people have been turning to digital creators to learn about the invasion of Ukraine,” read a tweet Friday by Gen-Z for Change, a nonprofit focused on using social media to promote civil discourse.

“Yesterday, we joined the @WhiteHouse and @WHNSC for a briefing on the United States’ strategic goals in Ukraine so we’re better able to debunk misinformation,” it added, referring to the White House National Security Council.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, music-themed video clips at Marta Vasyuta’s account gave way to images of soldiers and the ravages of war.

Stuck in London, the 20-year-old Ukrainian exchange student uses TikTok to share glimpses of the tragedy inflicted on people still in her home country.

“My mission is to spread information; to not stop talking about that, because it really matters,” said the economics student from Lviv whose videos have logged millions of views.

Valeria Shashenok stayed in the city of Cherniguiv northeast of Kyiv and switched to English to broaden the reach of her sometimes surreal wartime TikTok posts.

In one, she shows how to cook borscht in a bomb shelter. In another, she walks through rubble to a Rihanna music remix.

The 20-year-old photographer is among those who have not given up on the playful nature of videos considered a trademark of TikTok, which boasts more than a billion users.

“I try to keep the humor, because it is my nature,” said 23-year-old TikTok creator Rimma, who asked for her second name to be withheld.

“I’m living through this trauma; my life is ruined, and there is nothing left for me but irony.”

Her TikToks include a clip of her in a basement in Odessa, quipping that Ukrainians’ idea of going for a walk is now a jaunt to the nearest shelter.

She said the line between what is funny and what is hurtful is no longer clear, given the suffering and fear afflicting so many.

But the appetite for wartime content at TikTok appears strong, with Vasyuta and Shashenok seeing subscriber ranks multiply at their accounts.

– Youthful sass –

While breaking news events such as conflicts have been featured on social media for years, TikTok tends to feature spontaneity and a bit of sass that has proven particularly popular with younger audiences.

In the United States — where members of “Gen Z,” born in the late 1990s, shun traditional television — online platforms like TikTok are prime sources of news.

“I hope that the kids who watch this war unfold on TikTok become opposed to war (and) realize the horrors and dangers of it,” said US high school history teacher Chris Dier, who is also a TikTok creator.

“What I don’t want is for it to desensitize them and normalize war.”

Young TikTok users are also “bombarded” with propaganda that they likely need help navigating, said Dier.

TikTok told AFP that it has ramped up resources to detect and counter “emerging threats” and “harmful disinformation” on the platform.

On March 6, the subsidiary of China-based ByteDance suspended the uploading of videos in Russia in reaction to a new law making it a crime to “discredit” the Russian military.

The flow of pro-Russian messages has noticeably declined at TikTok, with the most popular account being state-backed news agency RIA Novosti, which is known for false or discredited claims, such as the alleged existence of secret bioweapons labs in Ukraine.


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Meta Could be Exploring Paid Blue Checkmarks on Facebook and Instagram

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Meta Could be Exploring Paid Blue Checkmarks on Facebook and Instagram

It seems like Elon Musk’s chaotic management approach at Twitter is having some broader impacts, with more companies reportedly considering lay-offs in the wake of Musk culling 70% of Twitter staff (and keeping the app running), and Meta now apparently also considering charging for blue checkmarks in its apps.

Yes, the Twitter Blue approach to making people pay for verification, which hasn’t proven overly popular on Twitter itself, is now also seemingly in consideration at Meta as well.

According to a new finding by reverse engineering pro Alessandro Paluzzi, there’s a new mention in the codebase of both Facebook and Instagram of a ‘paid blue badge’.

Paluzzi also shared a screenshot of the code with TechCrunch:

That does appear to refer to a subscription service for both apps, which could well give you a blue verification badge as a result.

Mets has neither confirmed nor denied the project, but it does seem, at least on the surface, that it’s considering offering checkmarks as another paid option – which still seems strange, considering the original purpose of verification, which is to signify noteworthy people or profiles in the app.

If people can just buy that, then it’s no longer of any value, right?

Evidently, that’s not the case, and with Twitter already bringing in around $7 million per quarter from Twitter Blue subscriptions, maybe Meta’s looking for a means to supplement its own intake, and make up for lost ad dollars and/or rising costs of its metaverse development.

It seems counter-intuitive, but I guess, if people will pay, and the platforms aren’t concerned about there being confusion as to what the blue ticks actually mean.

I guess, more money is good?

Meta has, in the past, said that it won’t charge a subscription fee to access its apps. But this, of course, would be supplemental – users wouldn’t have to pay, but they could buy a blue checkmark if they wanted, and use the implied value of recognition for their own purposes.

Which seems wrong, but tough times, higher costs – maybe every app needs to start digging deeper.

Meta hasn’t provided any info or confirmation at this stage, but we’ll keep you updated on any progress.



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YouTube Shorts Exceed 50B Daily Views, Meta’s Reels Doubles Plays 02/03/2023

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YouTube Shorts Exceed 50B Daily Views, Meta's Reels Doubles Plays 02/03/2023

YouTube Shorts and Meta’s Reels are both making
headway in the intensely competitive video shorts sector.  

During Alphabet’s Q4 earnings call on Thursday, CEO Sundar Pichai reported that YouTube Shorts has surpassed 50 billion
daily views. That’s up from the 30 billion reported in Q1 2022.

However, it still …



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Podcast Marketing Statistics for Businesses [Infographic]

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Podcast Marketing Statistics for Businesses [Infographic]

Podcasts have become an increasingly popular content format, providing on-demand, topical material covering virtually any subject that you can think of.

Indeed, according to estimates, over 130 million people will listen to podcasts monthly in the US this year, which could also provide significant opportunities for marketers to tap into this captive audience, and reach them with relevant ads and offers.

If you’re considering getting into podcasting or podcast advertising, this will help. The team from Spiralytics have put together a collection of podcast consumption stats and notes, which could help guide your thinking around the format.

Check out the full infographic below.

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