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Instagram CEO, ACLU slam TikTok and WeChat app bans for putting US freedoms into the balance

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As people begin to process the announcement from the U.S. Department of Commerce detailing how it plans, on grounds of national security, to shut down TikTok and WeChat — starting with app downloads and updates for both, plus all of WeChat’s services, on September 20, with TikTok following with a shut down of servers and services on November 12 — the CEO of Instagram and the ACLU are among those speaking out against the move.

The CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, wasted little time in taking to Twitter to criticize the announcement. His particular beef is the implication the move will have for U.S. companies — like his — that also have built their businesses around operating across national boundaries.

In essence, if the U.S. starts to ban international companies from operating in the U.S., then it opens the door for other countries to take the same approach with U.S. companies.

Meanwhile, the ACLU has been outspoken in criticizing the announcement on the grounds of free speech.

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“This order violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by restricting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on the two social media platforms,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, in a statement today.

Shamsi added that ironically, while the U.S. government might be crying foul over national security, blocking app updates poses a security threat in itself.

“The order also harms the privacy and security of millions of existing TikTok and WeChat users in the United States by blocking software updates, which can fix vulnerabilities and make the apps more secure. In implementing President Trump’s abuse of emergency powers, Secretary Ross is undermining our rights and our security. To truly address privacy concerns raised by social media platforms, Congress should enact comprehensive surveillance reform and strong consumer data privacy legislation.”

Vanessa Pappas, who is the acting CEO of TikTok, also stepped in to endorse Mosseri’s words and publicly asked Facebook to join TikTok’s litigation against the U.S. over its moves.

We agree that this type of ban would be bad for the industry. We invite Facebook and Instagram to publicly join our challenge and support our litigation,” she said in her own tweet responding to Mosseri, while also retweeting the ACLU. (Interesting how Twitter becomes Switzerland in these stories, huh?) “This is a moment to put aside our competition and focus on core principles like freedom of expression and due process of law.”

The move to shutter these apps has been wrapped in an increasingly complex set of issues, and these two dissenting voices highlight not just some of the conflict between those issues, but the potential consequences and detriment of acting based on one issue over another.

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The Trump administration has stated that the main reason it has pinpointed the apps has been to “safeguard the national security of the United States” in the face of nefarious activity out of China, where the owners of WeChat and TikTok, respectively Tencent and ByteDance, are based:

“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the U.S.,” today’s statement from the U.S. Department of Commerce noted. “Today’s announced prohibitions, when combined, protect users in the U.S. by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality.”

In reality, it’s hard to know where the truth actually lies.

In the case of the ACLU and Mosseri’s comments, they are highlighting issues of principles but not necessarily precedent.

It’s not as if the U.S. would be the first country to take a nationalist approach to how it permits the operation of apps. Facebook and its stable of apps, as of right now, are unable to operate in China without a VPN (and even with a VPN, things can get tricky). And free speech is regularly ignored in a range of countries today.

But the U.S. has always positioned itself as a standard-bearer in both of these areas, and so apart from the self-interest that Instagram might have in advocating for more free-market policies, it points to wider market and business position that’s being eroded.

The issue, of course, is a little like an onion (a stinking onion, I’d say), with well more than just a couple of layers around it, and with the ramifications bigger than TikTok (with 100 million users in the U.S. and huge in pop culture beyond even that) or WeChat (much smaller in the U.S. but huge elsewhere and valued by those who do use it).

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The Trump administration has been carefully selecting issues to tackle to give voters reassurance of Trump’s commitment to “Make America Great Again,” building examples of how it’s helping to promote U.S. interests and demote those that stand in its way. China has been a huge part of that image building, positioned as an adversary in industrial, defence and other arenas. Pinpointing specific apps and how they might pose a security threat by sucking up our data fits neatly into that strategy.

But are they really security threats, or are they just doing the same kind of nefarious data ingesting that every social app does in order to work? Will the U.S. banning them really mean that other countries, up to now more in favor of a free market, will fall in line and take a similar approach? Will people really stop being able to express themselves?

Those are the questions that Trump has forced into the balance with his actions, and even if they were not issues before, they have very much become so now.

TechCrunch

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Instagram adds “Text to Speech” and “Voice Effects” feature to assist content creators to …

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Instagram has brought two new features “Text to Speech” and “Voice Effects” to its platform. These features are already present on Tiktok. According to Instagram, users who create reels will be able to use these new features to make the reels better.

After Tiktok was banned in India, Instagram added a feature called Reels on its platform to attract content creators, although even after this, Reels has not been able to garner as much popularity as Tiktok, keeping this in mind Instagram is adding features like Tiktok to the reels so that more and more content creators will get attracted to the reels.

Text to speech feature will allow giving artificial voice to text. On the other hand, if we talk about Voice effects feature then with the help of the Voice Effects tool, you will be able to modify the audio and voice-over. Using these features will also be very easy, you will get a total of five-voice effect options, with the help of which you can convert ordinary audio into artificial voice including Announcer, Helium, Giant, Robot, and Singer. After recording a reel, tapping on a music note in the audio mixer will take you to the Effects menu, where you can add different sounds to your reel. Users can leverage these features on iOS and Android devices. Further in this article we will know how we can use these features to make a perfect reel.

Step 1: First of all go to the Instagram app and open the Reels section.

Step 2. After that open Instagram camera tocreate a reel or upload it from the mobile gallery.

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Step 3: Now to write new text, you have to go to the Text tool.

Step 4: After typing the text, tap on Text to Speech at the bottom.

Step 5: In this option, you will see different options of voice, out of which you can select the voice of your choice.

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Instagram Launches ‘Add Yours’ Sticker to Facilitate More Engagement in Stories

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Oh look, Instagram is once again following the lead of TikTok with a new feature, what an astounding surprise this is.

Today, Instagram has launched a new ‘Add Yours’ sticker for Stories, which enables users to prompt others to respond to their Stories content, in order to create more engaging reply threads to Stories posts.

Instagram Add Yours sticker

As you can see here, now, users can add the new ‘Add Yours’ sticker to their Stories frame, with the example using an ‘outfit of the day’ prompt, calling for followers to respond with their own #OOTD image.

Instagram Add Yours sticker

When users respond, they’re added to the profile bubble listing on the sticker, which, when tapped, enables users to go through all the other responses to the thread, building a response chain within Stories that can help prompt more engagement.

Which sounds a lot like TikTok’s Duet feature, which often sees many users adding to a Duet chain, creating long, interactive streams of content based on the original theme.

The engaging, community-based creativity of TikTok is a key element in its appeal, so it’s no surprise to see Instagram, once again, taking inspiration from its now key rival. But at the same time, it’s a bit much – Facebook’s repetition sometimes feels like it’s going too far to try and latch onto these usage trends.

I mean, it makes sense – TikTok is seeing huge engagement, and Instagram wants to hook into that wherever it can, in order to keep users from migrating away from its app, and if it can utilize similar functions, it probably should at least test and see what results it gets. But it’s a fairly obvious replication here.

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Maybe it works, so who really cares? But still, Instagram, and Facebook (or Meta) more broadly, is not very good at coming up with new, original ideas in this respect.

Which will be a key impediment to its new push to win back younger audiences, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently noting that it will make serving young adults a priority in its products, rather than optimizing for older users. Facebook knows that it needs to maintain engagement with younger user groups to maximize take-up of its advanced, metaverse-aligned offerings, and the data shows that it’s losing on this front, with Facebook usage among people under the age of 24 declining over the past decade.

Facebook usage graph

A key issue in this sense is that Facebook simply lacks cultural nous, and understanding what younger audiences respond to – which is why Snapchat is regularly able to spark and lead new trends, and now TikTok has become the main vehicle for the same. Instagram did once have that cultural presence, that direct line with creative online communities, but over time – since Facebook took over – it’s also lost touch. And while the graph above doesn’t relate to Instagram usage, you can bet that the same trends are likely happening on IG as well, hence the renewed focus from Zuck on younger groups.

Which is relevant here because of the replication. Yes, Facebook has seen success in stealing features from Snapchat and TikTok, to varying degree, with Instagram Stories being the key winner, while Reels has also been a hit for Instagram, even if usage still trails well behind TikTok. But it’s not helping Facebook win the broader cultural shift, Facebook is no longer seen as the innovator, it’s lost its cool factor in this respect, because of the constant replication.

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Or maybe not because of this, but it’s an element in the wider shift – Facebook’s become very good at bringing these features to less web-savvy users who aren’t active in these other, newer apps.

But for those that are always across the next key trends – like, say, younger audiences – Facebook’s replication just seems stale and second rate. It’s the older people catching up on things behind everyone else, then telling you about this cool new feature that you’d already been using well before they came across it.

That’s the inherent failure in Facebook’s replication approach, that it constantly leaves it a step behind, rather than being a leader – and if it’s not a leader, it loses that cool cred, and younger audience engagement as a result.

So it might work, in a broader sense, in terms of deriving in-app engagement on the back of these usage trends originating from other apps. But really, it’s like the corporatization of these shifts, and unless Facebook can change things up, and start leading the way on some of these key trends, I don’t see how it’s going to win back the youth.

Instagram had been testing the ‘Add Yours’ sticker with some users over the past month, but it’s now being rolled out to all users globally, on iOS and Android.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Instagram For E-Commerce

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Alright, let’s get this out the way. Millennials and Gen-Z have ruined everything. Now that that’s out of the way, we can get on to how they’ve changed the way e-commerce brands handle sales, marketing, customer engagement, and advertising.

We’ve seen and read enough articles online about how Millennials have ruined this industry, or that industry.

In all fairness, the way they’ve changed the e-commerce industry has had a quite positive impact for businesses and vice versa. Millennials and Gen-Z make up a majority of Instagram users, growing in their careers to have better purchasing power. In fact, a study (.pdf) has revealed that 81 percent of millennials are shopping online on a weekly basis. 

What does that mean?

Essentially, with such a large number of shoppers online, it changes the way you’d handle e-commerce and retail. The pandemic and the waves of lockdowns have exploded the use and growth of online shopping.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how digital spaces have added value to businesses, helped companies stay afloat during these times, and how physical spaces aren’t always a 100 percent necessary to run your business. But rejoice! Because this does have quite a few positive implications for businesses. 

All you need to look at is the recent trends in advertising and marketing on Instagram. The endless scrolling that Instagram users go through pretty much everyday exposes users to hundreds of ads, and the lines between posts and ads become quite blurred.


Sure, Amazon does have a firm grip in the e-commerce space, but while Amazon functions on a planned shopping model (where users pretty much know what exactly they’re looking for, and search for those products), Instagram relies more on impulse buying.
So while Amazon is established in the market, it lacks Instagram’s appeal of seamless advertising with the ease of online purchase. 

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Why Go Digital?

The pros of online shopping really do outweigh the cons. Yes, quite a few shoppers do love the experience of physically going to stores, actually seeing and trying out the products they’re buying, and speaking to a sales person to get more details of the product they’re buying.

However, with the rate at which e-commerce is scaling, businesses (and these platforms) are finding better ways of offering better online shopping experiences to customers. The most obvious pro is accessibility. Customers are no longer limited to shopping in stores specific to their city.

You no longer have to go through the disappointment of finding some great products and realising there are no stores in your city. In fact, it’s also become the case that you might find some great international brands as well, really love their products, and realise, “Yes! I can get this shipped to my place!”

According to ToughNickel, the biggest advantage is convenience. But besides the convenience, you have the bonus of not facing any undue sales pressure, wider variety, as well as easy comparison of prices to find the best deal for yourself.

While Instagram may not solve the problem of physical spaces and physically trying out products, it does solve the problem of making your business accessible online, and giving them another channel to shop.

Plus, with Instagram’s APIs now open, giving you the ability to build out chatbots and integrate with other apps, it solves the problem of communication, with chatbots being able to answer FAQs, give customers purchase options, instant information about their orders, and provide a seamless transition between chatbots and human interaction.

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As mentioned earlier, the number of users on Instagram along with the impulse to buy stuff they come across randomly while scrolling makes Instagram one of the best spaces to be present in, especially considering the shift in shopping habits by the younger generation, regardless of whether you’re a new business or not.

Author:
Anish, Developer, Tellephant

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