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In Ruling on Trump’s Ban, Facebook’s Oversight Board Has the Opportunity to Change the Platform’s Approach



Facebook’s independent Oversight Board project is the biggest, and most promising experiment in improving social media moderation at present, with an independent team of experts in a range of fields empowered to overrule platform decisions on both content removals and complaints, with Facebook expanding its scope to include the latter just this week.

That gives users another option to seek action, beyond Facebook’s own arbitrators, who have proven, at times, to be inconsistent, inflexible, and even unresponsive on similar concerns and requests. 

Really, this is what’s needed. Amid confusion around how to tackle issues like QAnon, COVID-19 misinformation, comments provoking violence and more, Facebook, as with other social platforms, has struggled to find the right balance, often ignoring experts to pursue its broader ideals of free speech and free expression among its users.

Ideally, Facebook would prefer to take a completely hands-off approach – ‘we build the platform, people interact as they choose’. But when you’re operating the largest single collection of connected humans in history, there are certain responsibilities that come with that. Facebook explicitly acknowledges such on more extreme cases of criminal activity, but it has seemingly struggled to grasp the fact that its various tools can cause real-world harm in many other ways.

But now, in the wake of the Capitol Riots, that perspective appears to have changed, at least somewhat. And within this, the importance of Facebook’s Oversight Board project is now more significant than ever.

And soon, the board will face its first major test, in deciding whether to let former US President Donald Trump return to the platform, either overturning or upholding Facebook’s ban.

Facebook initially banned Trump back in January, the day after the Capitol riot, citing Trump’s ongoing use of social media to provoke dissent which had lead to the incident. Facebook has upheld that ben ever since, even removing clips of Trump posted by friends and relatives in order to keep him off its apps.

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The action against the former President has seen support and criticism in equal measure, with many raising significant concerns about Facebook’s power to silence whomever it chooses.

But in the end, this major decision will come down to the new independent board, which is working through the case right now, and will soon publish its findings.

The board released an update on the case today, noting that:  

“The Board will announce its decision on the case concerning former US President Trump’s indefinite suspension from Facebook and Instagram in the coming weeks. We extended the public comments deadline for this case, receiving 9,000+ responses. The Board’s commitment to carefully reviewing all comments has extended the case timeline, in line with the Board’s bylaws. We will share more information soon.”

The sheer volume of public responses underlines the significance of this case, and many do believe that the Board will in fact reinstate Trump, reversing The Social Network’s original decision.

That could have significant implications in future – as noted by tech journalist Casey Newton this week:

“If Trump does return to Facebook, it’s easy to imagine him landing right back in the Oversight Board queue. The Twitter-like statements he issues from Mar-a-Lago these days are chockablock with lies about how he “won” the election in a “landslide” that, if placed on Facebook, could amplify the potential for real-world harm. There is a chance that the Oversight Board could be asked to weigh in on every single thing Trump posted on Facebook if he returned.”

Of course, it’s not the Oversight Board’s job to determine the future implications, it needs to rule on each case, based on its own merit. And within that, there is a strong chance that the Board will vote in Trump’s favor, giving the former President a direct line to his millions of supporters, likely sparking a new round of political dissent and division as he moves towards the next stage, whatever that may be.

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Trump has reportedly been very keen to return to social media, and regain his unfiltered link to his fans. Trump’s team has been investigating variations of its own social platform, which would look to take a more open, free speech approach, but even if Trump and Co. could come up with a viable alternative platform, it would never provide Trump with the reach that he can see through Facebook and Twitter, which is, arguably, what initially saw him rise to power. 

There are significant concerns within that, but the remit of the Oversight Board is to determine the facts of the case for Trump’s initial ban, and rule on Facebook’s action.

Did Trump deserve to be banned? It’s hard to argue against the fact that Trump did incite his followers to protest the election result, which eventually lead to the Capitol riot, but given Facebook’s past inconsistency in policing Trump’s claims, there is also a question as to whether its rules were clear enough to Trump and his team, and where the line existed on what Trump could and couldn’t say. 

And Trump also didn’t directly ask his followers to storm the Capitol, as such. But did he provoke them enough to justify a ban? Should world leaders be exempt from such rules, given they’re elected by the people, and the people then have the right to hear what they have to say?

When considering the broader implications, it’s clear that this case is about much more than just the banning of Donald Trump – the eventual findings could have major implications for Facebook’s policy on the same moving forward, establishing clearer rules on how people can use the platform, and how elected officials, specifically, are able to communicate via social media.

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In this sense, it will be fascinating to read the full rundown of this case, and to view Facebook’s response.

This could be a major turning point for such policy, which could lead to the implementation of more specific rules on the same moving forward. Which is what we really need. While many will agree with the Trump ban, what’s rerquired now is a specific and detailed overview of what the social platforms will and won’t allow, clarifying the approach from here on out.

That will lead to fewer headaches, less confusion, and ideally, less societal division moving forward. 

The core element lies in acknowledging the harm that can be caused by posts and tweets, and their amplifcation within each app. Facebook, in many ways, still refuses to accept this, but this ruling could make the importance of such absolutely clear.

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Snapchat Publishes New Report into the Importance of Privacy Tools in Facilitating Online Sharing



Snapchat Publishes New Report into the Importance of Privacy Tools in Facilitating Online Sharing

Snapchat has published a new report which provides some deeper insight into the importance of online privacy, and the key concerns that users have in regards to the content that they share online.

The report, based on a survey of over 13,500 people in 11 markets, uncovers some valuable considerations for both platforms and marketers, and reinforces the logic behind some of the latest social app developments, in regards to increased user control, encryption, and more. It also sheds light on how such controls – or the lack of them – can influence people’s behavior online.

It’s an interesting overview – you can download Snap’s full, 28-page report here, but in this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key points.

First off, Snap notes that both Snapchatters and non-Snap users are concerned about online privacy, with 81% of respondents noting that online privacy is important. At the same time, only 65% indicated that they’re satisfied with their current privacy options.

That’s a key gap in the current digital connection process which underlines the need for increased control measures on this front, and more options, like private messaging and audience controls, to help reassure users.

Which is the next key point – the report highlights the three key benefits of digital privacy, based on responses.

Snapchat privacy report

Each aspect facilitates more open communication, and without relevant measures in place, social platforms are not able to cater to these needs.

Self-expression is one of the most important elements, with users feeling more free to communicate when they’re comfortable with the available privacy tools and options.

Snapchat privacy report

Indeed, the majority of respondents indicated that privacy concerns impact what they share online, and how they communicate.

Snapchat privacy report

It’s an interesting consideration – originally, with the arrival of MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, there was a new sense of freedom and capacity to share your voice, and connect with like-minded people around the world, based on shared interests. Over time, that’s gradually shifted, as more controversies and concerns have arisen from over-sharing or past post insights, which has seen more people become more enclosed once again, and shy away from public sharing.

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Which makes sense, but it also means that what we see online is often not representative of the breadth of views out there, because many people are concerned about what sharing their thoughts and opinions could mean, and how it could potentially be used against them. Which is why more privacy controls can open up greater levels of expression and engagement, and why more people are looking to advanced tools, like messaging encryption, to gain that extra level of assurance.

Which is also why Snapchat has been able to maintain and grow its audience, despite rising competition in the space.

Snapchat privacy report

Snapchat has always presented itself as a key alternative for more intimate, private discussion, a place for friends to connect, not to broadcast your life to the world. And while that is also more restrictive, in a content sense, Snap’s approach has clearly resonated with a lot of people, and enabled it to carve a niche in the broader social and messaging space.

The report also goes into depth on the full reasons that influence how and why people share on social, and the tools that people rely on to enhance their experience.

Snapchat privacy report

There are some interesting insights and considerations here, which, as noted, largely reflect the latest social media innovations in improved audience controls, evolving private messaging tools, safety functions, reporting and more.

Without these elements, people simply won’t share, and won’t engage online at the same rate. And as we move into the next stage of digital connection, where we’re likely to spend even more time online, and potentially expose even more of ourselves, such measures will remain critically important in order to keep people safe.

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You can read Snapchat’s full ‘Global Perceptions of Privacy’ report here.

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New Report Underlines the Importance of Social Media in Connecting with Gen Z Consumers



New Report Underlines the Importance of Social Media in Connecting with Gen Z Consumers

Consumer expectations are rising, as is the importance of shared brand values, according to the latest data from market research provider Qualtrics.

To glean some insight into the shifting state of customer expectations, Qualtrics surveyed 9,000 consumers, across a breadth of age brackets, to measure the variance in importance on a range of measures between Gen Z, Baby Boomers and everything in between.

The findings highlight some key considerations for all brands – first off, the data indicates that Gen Z is the most likely to be upset by a negative interaction with a company.

Gen Z is the generation least likely to report being happy with their customer experience (on a scale of upset to delighted). Gen Z was the most upset by their interactions with federal agencies (only 13% gave a positive rating), followed by investment firms and airlines. Gen Z gave the highest ratings to social media and retail stores.

Gen Z consumers have grown up with social media and eCommerce, and they increasingly expect brands to cater to their specific needs, while they also know that they have both the means to publicly criticize a company due to negative interactions, and the capacity to easily switch, with a simple online search providing a range of competitor brands.

That’s increased their expectations around customer service and response, and it’s important for brands to consider this in their engagement and actions.

Younger consumers also value public health response, with Gen Z respondents twice as likely as Baby Boomers to stop purchasing from a brand because they felt their safety measures were insufficient. Which also works the opposite way too.

Gen Z consumers also put more emphasis on brand values – potentially a side effect of the social media era – with younger shoppers almost three times as likely as Baby Boomers to say that they were very familiar with the brand values of the products they choose.

Qualtrics consumer survey

With brands now able to communicate more about their business online, that’s opened up more capacity for consumers to also get an understanding of their stances and approach, and that expanded capability to connect with a brand on a deeper level can be a very powerful draw to generate stronger bonds and business.

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Indeed, for Gen Z consumers, maintaining a social media presence was the second-highest ranked way for brands to maintain relevance. No other generation ranked social media presence in the top three.

If that insight doesn’t underline the importance of building and maintaining a social media presence, I’m not sure what will – younger consumers want to feel more connected with every business that they buy from, and social media is the key linkage that facilitates such for this group.

There’s a range of additional insights in the full report from Qualtrics, which you can check out here. Some key considerations for marketers, especially those looking to connect with younger audiences.

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Instagram Adds New Stickers and AR Features to Celebrate Lunar New Year



Instagram Adds New Stickers and AR Features to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Instagram has added some new features to help users celebrate Lunar New Year, including new, themed stickers and a custom AR effect.

As you can see here, the new stickers commemorate the Year of the Tiger, with art by Hong Kong-based Ophelia Pang. The stickers provide a simple way to mark the event, which will be celebrated from January 31st to February 15th.

In addition, Instagram’s also added a #MyLNY2022 AR effect, which provides another way to engage with the celebration.

There’s actually a range of Lunar New Year effects available in the app, which you can find by using the search option at the end of the effects carousel.

Instagram released a similar set of Lunar New Year tools last year, which is part of its broader focus on maximizing engagement around cultural events.

 As explained by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri:

“When it comes to celebrating cultural moments, we want to be a platform where creators showcase their work.

Showcasing creativity is where Instagram is increasingly looking to align itself, as it works to differentiate the app from TikTok, which is more based on communal expression and meme-based sharing. If Instagram can put more focus on creative output, specifically, that could be a way to lean into the rising Web3 movement, in which, theoretically, creators could be better rewarded and celebrated for their work.

These Lunar New Year tools showcase the art of some creators, but the larger vision for Instagram is that it may be better placed to provide a platform for more artists in the same way, which could help it regain its momentum in the face of the TikTok challenge.

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You can check out Instagram’s Lunar New Year tools in the app.

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