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Instagram Warns of Major Impacts to Ad Targeting as a Result of Apple’s iOS 14 Update



With Apple pushing ahead with plans to introduce new changes in iOS 14 which will explicitly prompt users to opt-into data tracking for each app on their device, digital ad networks have expressed deep concerns over how those changes will impact their core businesses.

Last month, Facebook sent out a warning to Audience Network advertisers, explaining that the changes to Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) system could potentially cripple its expanded ad network once it’s rolled out. And this week, in an interview with CNBC, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri has also flagged concerns the update, and how it could impact Instagram advertisers moving forward.

As a brief explainer, IDFA enables app owners to track individual user data within apps, including actions taken in the app, device info, acquisition insights, etc. iOS users can currently opt-out of IDFA tracking, but the settings for such are not readily accessible, and require some digging to find. The update to iOS 14 will make IDFA explicitly opt-in, with a new pop-up prompt for each app.

Apple IDFA warning

The concern is that this will see many more users opting out, significantly reducing tracking capacity, and subsequent ad targeting options as a result. In response to these concerns, last week, Apple announced that it would delay the roll-out of the IDFA changes until next year in order to give developers more time to prepare.

But according to Mosseri, that’s not likely to provide much relief:

“If the ecosystem changes in a way that advertisers can’t really measure their return on investment, that’s really going to be, yes, somewhat problematic for our business, [but] it’s going to be much, much more problematic for all the small businesses.”

Mosseri says that millions of SMBs rely on the ad tools offered by Facebook and Instagram in order to target specific audiences, and reach those customers with cost-effective promotions. The IDFA changes will impact that process, and potentially make it much more difficult to effectively maximize the positive benefits of advanced ad targeting.

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Whether you agree with that or not will come down to your individual perspective, but it does make sense that by giving people a large warning prompt on data tracking, that more people will switch it off, even if it’s actually more beneficial for them to leave that reporting process active in order to better tailor ads to their preferences.

Essentially, the counterpoint to the privacy argument is that app users will still see ads, they just won’t be as relevant. Which is likely a worse outcome in most cases.

As an alternative, Mosseri says that Facebook will be working to present improved data-tracking control options which will better explain the process and help inform people, as opposed to scaring them with such prompts.

“We believe that there’s a way to be really responsible and give people control over their data and transparency into their data but without cutting off our understanding and therefore operating blind.”

Mosseri says that Facebook will be making this case to Apple in the coming months, in the hopes of changing its approach to its IDFA warnings.

This is key area for all digital marketers to note, and while we don’t know what the full impacts will be, it could significantly change your ad targeting process, if the changes eventually do roll out as planned.

In addition to IDFA, Mosseri also offered some brief, early insight into the performance of Reels, Instagram’s TikTok clone functionality, which it recently expanded to (almost) all users after its initial launch in selected regions.

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“We’re seeing some early momentum, and we’re growing particularly fast in countries like India, but it’s early days and there’s a long, long way to go.”

Instagram responded to the early momentum of Reels in India by adding a dedicated Reels tab for Indian users last week, which it’s now also testing in other regions as well. 

Instagram Reels tab

That extra exposure could help push Reels usage – especially in India, where TikTok has now been banned for more than two months. If Reels gains momentum, it’ll be much harder for TikTok to re-enter the Indian market, where it reportedly had more than 200 million active users, while more recent reports have also indicated that China may push for a ban of TikTok in the US, as opposed to agreeing to a sell-off, and being seen as conceding to the US Government’s ruling on the app. 

That could see more TikTok users at least testing the waters with Reels, as an alternative, in the case of a ban.

For its part, Mosseri says that Reels is less about TikTok itself, and more about moving with the times. 

“We’ve seen short-form, performative video grow, not only on Instagram but on other platforms as well, and we have to adapt to those big shifts, because one of the biggest risks for us is that the world changes around us. We obviously have competition, but the bigger risk when you’re a platform like us is that you just become less relevant.”

So it’s less about blunting TikTok’s momentum, and more about being progressive, based on trends. Or both – either way, expect Instagram, and Facebook more broadly, to stick with its process of copying the functionalities of rising apps.

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Mosseri also offered some brief commentary on the potential TikTok sell-off, and the benefits of such, as it might be, for Instagram:

“Any short-form benefit, in terms of stifling a competitor right now, I think is greatly outweighed by the risks of a more fragmented internet. We benefit greatly from the ability to operate in countries all around the world, and if we move to a place where countries start to silo the internet within them, and we can’t operate in that way, I think [that’s] much more problematic than any short-term benefit is beneficial.”

Worth noting too that the European Union privacy regulator this week sent Facebook a preliminary order to suspend the transfer of data about EU users back to the US. That move could have significant impacts, with concerns about data misuse potentially leading to a new, more contained approach to user data, which could severely impact the operations of the major digital platforms. 

The TikTok sell-off seems, in many ways, more about the US making a statement against China (US President Donald Trump has repeatedly noted that the sell-off decree is a form of punishment for China failing to contain COVID-19), but the fundamental legal ground for the shift relates to data-sharing, and how user data can be abused by different nations.

There are safeguard agreements already established on this front, but by highlighting the concern, the US Government also appears to be amplifying fears about the same in all regions, which could lead to a wholly different approach to data storage moving forward.  

It’s another interesting debate to be had within the fast-evolving digital battleground.

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Twitter Expands its Test of User-Reported Misinformation, Expanding Platform Insight



Twitter Looks to Extend its Keyword Blocking and Mute Options to More Elements

After seeing success with its initial test of a new, manual reporting option, enabling users to flag tweets that contain potentially misleading claims, Twitter is now expanding the test to more regions, with users in Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines now set to get access.

Launched in August last year, Twitter’s latest effort to combat misinformation focuses on audience trends and perception of such as a means to determine common issues with the platform, and what people feel compelled to report, pointing to things that they don’t want to see.

The process adds an additional ‘It’s misleading’ option to your tweet reporting tools, providing another means to flag concerning claims.

Which is obviously not a foolproof way to detect and remove misleading content – but as noted, the idea is not so much focused on direct enforcement, as such, but more on broader trends based on how many people report certain tweets, and what people report.

As Twitter explained as part of the initial launch:

“Although we may not take action on this report or respond to you directly, we will use this report to develop new ways to reduce misleading info. This could include limiting its visibility, providing additional context, and creating new policies.”

So essentially, the concept is that if, say, 100, or 1,000 people report the same tweet for ‘political misinformation’, that’ll likely get Twitter’s attention, which may help Twitter identify what users don’t want to see, and want the platform to take action against, even if it’s not actually in violation of the current rules.

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So it’s more of a research tool than an enforcement option – which is a better approach, because enabling users to dictate removals by mass-reporting in this way could definitely lead to misuse.

That, in some ways, has borne true in its initial testing – as explained by Head of Site Integrity Yoel Roth:

On average, only about 10% of misinfo reports were actionable -compared to 20-30% for other policy areas. A key driver of this was “off-topic” reports that don’t contain misinfo at all.

In other words, a lot of the tweets reported through this manual option were not an actual concern, which highlight the challenges in using user reports as an enforcement measure.

But Roth notes that the data they have gathered has been valuable either way:

We’re already seeing clear benefits from reporting for the second use case (aggregate analysis) – especially when it comes to non-text-based misinfo, such as media and URLs linking to off-platform misinformation.

So it may not be a great avenue for direct action on each reported tweet, but as a research tool, the initiative has helped Twitter determine more areas of focus, which contributes to its broader effort to eliminate misinformation within the tweet eco-system.

A big element of this is bots, with various research reports indicating that Twitter bots are key amplifiers of misinformation and politically biased information.

In early 2020, at the height of the Australian bushfire crisis, researchers from Queensland University detected a massive network of Twitter bots that had been spreading misinformation about the Australian bushfire crisis and amplifying anti-climate change conspiracy theories in opposition to established facts. Other examinations have found that bot profiles, at times, contribute up to 60% of tweet activity around some trending events.

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Twitter is constantly working to better identify bot networks and eliminate any influence they may have, but this expanded reporting process may help to identify additional bot trends, as well as providing insight into the actual reach of bot pushes via expanded user reporting.

There are various ways in which such insight could be of value, even if it doesn’t result in direct action against offending tweets, as such. And it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter’s expansion of the program improves the initiative, and how it also pairs with its ongoing ‘Birdwatch’ reporting program to detect platform misuse.

Essentially, this program won’t drive a sudden influx of direct removals, eliminating offending tweets based on the variable sensibilities of each user. But it will help to identify key content trends and user concerns, which will contribute to Twitter’s broader effort to better detect these movements, and reduce their influence.

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Twitter’s Latest Promotional Campaign Focuses on Celebrities Who’ve Manifested Success Via Tweet



Twitter's Latest Promotional Campaign Focuses on Celebrities Who've Manifested Success Via Tweet

Twitter has launched a new advertising campaign which is focused on ‘manifesting’ via tweet, highlighting how a range of successful athletes and entertainers made initial commitments to their success via Twitter long before their public achievements.

Through a new set of billboard ads across the US, Twitter will showcase 12 celebrities that ‘tweeted their dreams into existence’.

As explained by Twitter:

To honor these athletes and other celebrities for Tweeting their dreams into existence, Twitter turned their famous Tweets into 39+ billboards! Located across 8 cities (NYC, LA, SF, Chicago, Toronto, Houston, Tampa, Talladega), most of the billboards can be found in the hometowns or teams’ locations of the stars who manifested their dreams, such as Bubba Wallace in Talladega and Diamond DeShields in Chicago.”

Twitter Manifest campaign

Beyond the platform promotion alone, the billboards actually align with usage trends at this time of year, as people work to stick with their New Year’s resolutions, and adopt new habits that will improve their lives. Seeing big-name stars that have been able to achieve their own dreams, which they’ve publicly communicated via tweet, could be another avenue to holding firm on such commitments, while Twitter also notes that tweets about manifestation are at an all-time high, seeing 100% year-over-year growth.

Maybe that’s the key. By sharing your ambitions and goals publicly, maybe that additional accountability will better ensure that you stick to your commitments – or maybe it’s all just mental, and by adding that extra public push to yourself, you’ll feel more compelled to keep going, because it’s there for all to see.

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In addition to the promotional value of the campaign, Twitter’s also donating nearly $1 million to charities as selected by each of the featured celebrities.

“Some of the charities include Boys and Girls Club, Destination Crenshaw, The 3-D Foundation, and UNICEF Canada.”

It’s an interesting push, which again comes at the right time of year. Getting into a new routine is tough, as is changing careers, publishing your first artwork, speaking in public, etc. Maybe, by seeing how these stars began as regular people, tweeting their dreams like you or I, that could act as a good motivator that you too can achieve what you set out to do, and that by posting such publicly, you’re making a commitment, not to the random public, but to yourself, that you will do it this year.

Sure, 2022 hasn’t exactly got off to a great start, with a COVID resurgence threatening to derail things once again. But maybe, this extra push could be the thing that keeps you focused, like these celebrities, even amid external distractions.  

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Snapchat Adds New Limits on Adults Seeking to Connect with Minors in the App



Snapchat Adds New Limits on Adults Seeking to Connect with Minors in the App

After Instagram added similar measures last year, Snapchat is now implementing new restrictions to limit adults from sending messages to users under the age of 18 in the app.

As reported by Axios, Snapchat is changing its “Quick Add” friend suggestion process so that it’s not possible for people to add users aged under 18 “unless there are a certain number of friends in common between the two users”. That won’t stop such connection completely, but it does add another barrier in the process, which could reduce harm.

The move is a logical and welcome step, which will help improve the security of youngsters in the app, but the impacts of such could be far more significant on Snap, which is predominantly used by younger people.

Indeed, Snapchat reported last year that around 20% of its total user base was aged under 18, with the majority of its audience being in the 13-24 year-old age bracket. That means that interaction between these age groups is likely a significant element of the Snap experience, and restricting such could have big impacts on overall usage, even if it does offer greater protection for minors.

Which is why this is a particularly significant commitment from Snap – though it is worth noting that Snapchat won’t necessarily stop older users from connecting with younger ones in the app, it just won’t make it as easy through initial recommendations, via the Quick Add feature.

So it’s not a huge change, as such. But again, given the interplay between these age groups in the app, it is a marker of Snap’s commitment to protection, and to finding new ways to ensure that youngsters are not exposed to potential harm within the app.

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Snapchat has faced several issues on this front, with the ephemeral focus of the app providing fertile ground for predators, as it automatically erases any evidence trail in the app. With that in mind, Snap does have a way to go in providing more protection, but it is good to see the company looking at ways to limit such interactions, and combat potentially harmful misuse.

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