Connect with us


Human Writes: Social media is polarising the world




Doesn’t it seem that people are now more opinionated than ever before? Don’t you know people who will dogmatically defend their opinions to death, as if it makes one iota of difference to your relationship or anything else that really matters?

Everyone has opinions about everything these days. Take something as innocuous as a facemask. Even this life-saving accessory of 2020 became contentious.

We should remember that opinions are like, um, our rear ends. We all have one. But please don’t eagerly volunteer to share yours – it’s not polite.

We live in a world more polarised by opinion than ever before. In the United States, the political divide is ripping apart families and friendships, while in the United Kingdom, bitter bickering over Brexit is fracturing the country.

The vast majority of Americans believe political discourse is now far more ugly and negative than in previous years, surveys show. So toxic is the political climate that 62% of Americans now say they avoid saying certain things because it might offend others, according to a survey done by the Cato Institute, an American think tank. Then there’s France, where we saw how dangerous it can be to express a viewpoint. So many subjects are contentious these days – immigration, vaccination, pseudoscience, religious policies, corruption.

Locally, so much is “sensitive”. What amazes me is the blind loyalty of some Malaysians to politicians convicted of crime and corruption.

Here’s the thing. Facts and arguments don’t always shift people’s opinions. “Confirmation bias” means people choose to uphold information that supports their beliefs and reject whatever contradicts them. We live in delusion, with opinions often based on feelings rather than reason.

And it appears we’re more opinionated than ever. Maybe I’m fantasising but I recall a time when we didn’t war over words so much and every damn thing didn’t turn into a battleground of opinions.

That time was before the advent of social media. News was more objective then, or at least news producers tried to be. Nowadays, we’re bombarded with opinions. TV news anchors shamelessly editorialise news. DJs rant on radio shows. And social media? That’s one big battleground, where people constantly fire off rockets of fury and rage, and heartlessly tear apart some poor victim for some immaterial indiscretion.

Online, there are no social consequences from confrontation, especially when people are anonymous or using an online persona. We’re not even interrupted mid-sentence! Keyboard warriors can become like drivers behind the wheel of a car, flying off into unreasonable rages.

The ugliest corner of social media is the comments section. I’ve seen shocking racist vitriol among Malaysians there – stuff we’d never dare say in person.

Social media has been described as an “echo chamber” – users control content through liking, subscribing and blocking what they like or don’t like, thus creating a space that echoes back their opinions. In these “filter bubbles”, or information bubbles, the person is enveloped with information that validates their beliefs and biases. Thus, racist rhetoric and hateful ideas get amplified.

This is where it gets very dangerous. Studies have shown echo chambers exacerbate rage, accelerate radicalisation and enable recruitment by extremist groups. Isis, for example, has actively used social media for recruitment and support, such as their “one billion campaign” on YouTube appealing for support among Muslims. Recent analyses of policy documents in Britain show nearly all terrorism cases there have a “digital footprint”.

The “truth” has often become a battered casualty online – “post-truth” and “fake news” are today’s bywords. False, slanted or decontextualised information abounds on the Internet.

The “infodemic” of misinformation was a problem in the Covid-19 pandemic response. And then there are anti-vaxxers who reject all scientific or government advice, no matter how strong the evidence is – anything beyond their bubble is not trusted.

Disturbingly, in a huge data breach, Facebook profiles were acquired by a firm using data to influence elections. Cambridge Analytica was accused of influencing outcomes in UK’s Brexit referendum and the US presidential election in 2016. Social media was also used by political parties – by “cybertroopers”, specifically – in Malaysia in the last election. Fake news, polarised politics and political meddling – social media companies clearly have much to work on (which is why some people refuse to have a Facebook account).

In the meantime, we have a moral obligation to examine and confront our own biases (yes, we all have biases). If you know you’re prejudiced against a particular race, go meet someone from that race who embodies a challenge to your negative ideas. That’s my opinion – and please tell me how you fare.

In face-to-face contact, we can read intention and build connections through nonverbal cues and eye contact, thus enabling empathy; conversations can break virtual walls by identifying common traits or interests and a shared humanity.

Real life also sets immediate boundaries on behaviour. As Mike Tyson once said: “Social media made y’all way too comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the face for it.”

Human Writes columnist Mangai Balasegaram writes mostly on health but also delves into anything on being human. She has worked with international public health bodies and has a Masters in public health. Write to her at [email protected] The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Read More


Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps



Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.

Source link

Continue Reading


Meta ‘Year of Efficiency’ call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed



Meta 'Year of Efficiency' call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., center, departs from federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With one simple slogan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg temporarily quelled investor discontent with his company’s multibillion-dollar investment into the futuristic metaverse.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said as part of the release of Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Following a 64% plunge in Meta’s share price in 2022, Wall Street cheered the report, sending the stock up almost 20%, extending a rally that began late last year. Based on after-hours pricing, Meta is trading at its highest since July.

Growth is not what’s getting investors excited. Meta reported better-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter, but sales still sank 4% from a year earlier, marking the third straight quarterly decline. And the forecast range for the first quarter suggests that year-over-year revenue could increase, but it could also fall again.

Rather, Zuckerberg’s commitment to cost cuts and efficiency is a sign that increasing profitability is important to Meta, which was known as a growth machine prior to last year’s slump.

“The first 18 years I think we grew it 20%, 30% compound or a lot more every year,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “And then obviously that changed very dramatically in 2022, where our revenue was negative for growth, for the first time in the company’s history.”

In looking to the future, Zuckerberg struck a realistic tone.

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue,” he said, regarding the recent drop in revenue. “But I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.”

Meta lowered its estimates for total expenses in 2023 to be in the range of $89 billion to $95 billion, down from its prior outlook of $94 billion to $100 billion. In November, the company announced it would lay off over 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff.

Zuckerberg said Meta will be more “proactive on cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be crucial” and that it will emphasize “removing layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”

Meta is also reducing spending as it builds new data centers that are intended to be more efficient while still able to power the company’s various artificial intelligence technologies. Capital expenditures are now expected to be in the range of $30 billion to $33 billion for 2023 instead of $34 billion to $37 billion.

Zuckerberg is selling investors on a story they want to hear, acknowledging that the company got bloated and needed more financial discipline. One of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, wrote a personal essay just a few days ago echoing that sentiment.

Still, Meta has plenty of challenges ahead, in terms of both costs and reviving its core ad business.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for developing the nascent metaverse, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Finance chief Susan Li told analysts that the company isn’t planning for any reduction in that unit anytime soon. Zuckerberg still sees it as the company’s future.

Digital advertising, meanwhile, is suffering from a struggling economy, and Li gave no indication that companies are planning to dramatically increase their spending in 2023.

Meta has also yet to recover from Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update that made it harder to target users with ads. Li said the company has been improving its online advertising system, but Apple’s update is “still certainly an absolute headwind to our revenue number.”

During the question and answer part of the call, Zuckerberg was asked about Meta’s progress in generative artificial intelligence, which has become the latest hot thing in Silicon Valley. His answer indicated that Meta is pursuing opportunities there, but will be cautious in how quickly it proceeds. Running these programs is expensive, and Meta needs to ensure it can develop them affordably, he said.

Zuckerberg said that while Meta is researching how best to incorporate the new technology, he wants “to be careful not to get too ahead of the development of it.”

Correction: Meta’s earnings report and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments occurred after the market close on Wednesday. An earlier version misstated the day.

WATCH: Meta grows in daily active users, shares pop on revenue beat

Source link

Continue Reading


Pinterest Focuses on Travel Inspiration and Education for Black History Month



Pinterest Focuses on Travel Inspiration and Education for Black History Month

Pinterest is taking a unique approach to Black History Month, with a new ‘Find Your Routes’ Black Travel Hub initiative, which aims to highlight places that have strong connections to Black history, while also showcasing Black-owned businesses.

As explained by Pinterest:

“Find Your Routes” is inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book aka “The Green Book”. The Green Book was a guidebook for Black travelers during the Jim Crow era that provided a list of accessible hotels, boarding houses, taverns, restaurants, service stations and other establishments throughout the country that served Black Americans patrons.”

The Black Travel Hub, which you can find here, will present a range of travel options, along with their history, with creators from the US, Colombia, Jamaica, Brazil and more, all taking part in presenting their city.

It could be a good way to provide education alongside inspiration in the app, while also helping people to connect, and support highlighted communities.

Pinterest will also be showcasing Black-owned businesses on Pinterest TV, while internally, it’s also hosting a company-wide event ‘to help employees gain knowledge about the history, present, and future of Black travel through the lens of Black Pinployees’.

As noted, it could be a good way to both spark important conversations, and inspire new travel journeys, which include an extra level of cultural understanding and education, along with a leisure break.

It’s an interesting take on the celebration either way, and it’ll be worth noting what sort of reaction the initiative gets, and whether it inspires more travel as a result.

Source link

Continue Reading