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Last apps standing?: Telegram, WhatsApp duck Russia bans

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Chat app Telegram has become a key channel of information about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Moscow has not moved thus far to block the platform


Chat app Telegram has become a key channel of information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Moscow has not moved thus far to block the platform – Copyright AFP NICOLAS TUCAT

Joshua MELVIN

Chat platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram have avoided being blocked by Russia — unlike some of the world’s biggest social networks — in a tenuous tolerance that experts warn could end suddenly.

Years of tension between Moscow and US-based Facebook and Twitter erupted into confrontation after the invasion of Ukraine, with the platforms targeting state-tied media and then finding themselves restricted in Russia.

YouTube, which has barred channels linked to Russian state media globally, was on Friday also facing a direct threat of being blocked after Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, accused the site’s owner Google of being “anti-Russian.”

Messaging apps, however, have gotten a pass so far in part because Meta-owned WhatsApp is less suited for mass communication, while Telegram’s ability to blast information to large groups has made it useful both for independent media and the Kremlin.

“I think it’s unlikely Russia will ban Telegram because they are so short on platforms where they can operate,” said Sergey Sanovich, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University, who noted that authorities in 2020 aborted efforts to block the service.

Telegram, criticized as having a lax content policing policy, offers a forum for Russian authorities to promote narratives friendly to their internationally condemned war.

Russia still operates accounts on platforms like Facebook, despite blocking the service at home, but this week the Silicon Valley giant took down posts from Moscow’s pages that contained misinformation about its deadly offensive.

Telegram has become an essential exchange for news on the war, with its growth accelerating after the Kremlin’s latest crackdown on independent media and the lock-out of apps like Facebook and Instagram.

An average of 2.5 million new users joined Telegram daily in the last three weeks, the firm said, about a 25 percent jump from the weeks prior.

– ‘Declaring war on YouTube’ –

But experts highlighted a risk to Telegram and its users due to a lack of default, end-to-end encryption that potentially leaves the company susceptible to government pressure to turn over information.

Alp Toker, director of web monitoring group NetBlocks, noted WhatsApp has put in place firestops that offer insulation against that sort of pressure.

“By improving their security and adopting end-to-end encryption technology, they have essentially protected their own platform from legal risk and potential demands for content access requests,” Toker added.

WhatsApp’s use for one-on-one or group chats make it less of a target for Russian authorities for now, but that could change if it became known as a key platform for protests against the war.

“Primarily, Roskomnadzor has been very concerned about channels and news and ways of disseminating information to large numbers of people, which WhatsApp and such are less good for,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at Electronic Frontier Foundation.

But Toker noted that the question hasn’t reached a critical point yet for authorities, partly because it was social media platforms, many of them now blocked, that had played a key role in organizing.

“As those (platforms) disappear, the dynamics could change and messaging apps could become the next target,” he added.

WhatsApp was one of the most popular apps in Russia in 2021, with some 67 million users or about 65 percent of internet users in the country — far ahead of TikTok, Russian social media platform VK, and even Telegram, according to data from eMarketer.

But YouTube, with 76 million viewers in 2021, drew more Russians than any of the above platforms, the data showed.

Its popularity was due in part to the access it offers to entertainment for everyday Russians, who in turn provided an audience for politicians and the government seeking their attention.

Sanovich, the Princeton researcher, said the platform had simply gotten on the wrong side of authorities.

“They have a hard time controlling YouTube in terms of censorship and YouTube’s recent moves made it less valuable as a venue for foreign propaganda,” he noted.

The lack of a sufficiently high-quality homegrown alternative has also been a complicating factor for the government in deciding what to do with YouTube.

Toker, the NetBlocks director, cautioned that the blocking of YouTube would mean confronting Google, with its suite of services like Gmail.

“Declaring war on YouTube effectively means declaring war on the rest of the company,” he noted. “Google is a major force in business and a significant connection to the outside world.”



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Leveraging Social Media To Grow Your Career In 2023

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Leveraging Social Media To Grow Your Career In 2023

Employees are ready to change their jobs, with nearly half of American workers planning to look for a new job in the coming six months. According to a new Robert Half report, which surveyed 2,500 professionals, around 46% of them said they plan on making a career or job change in the first half of the year.

Job-hopping has become a workplace trend among young working professionals in the post-pandemic labor market. A recent Gallup study found that 60% of surveyed millennials – ages 27 to 40 years – are more likely to look for different opportunities this year. The percentage of non-millennials workers looking to switch jobs is roughly 15% lower.

A majority of Generation Z candidates have also claimed that they are likely to make a job change this year. In a 2022 Lever Great Resignation report, around 65% of Gen Z professionals said that they are likely to leave their job by the end of the year. Moreover, 13% of them are twice as likely to quit their jobs in the next month.

Job-hopping has become almost synonymous in the post-COVID workforce, and younger professionals are fueling this trend by leaving unfulfilling roles and moving on to greener pastures.

Yet, with so many professionals changing jobs, or looking to switch careers, even against the backdrop of a looming recession, many of them have geared themselves towards social media as a way to build a professional brand and market themselves to potential employers.

Using Social Media For Career Growth

Keeping your social media professional can be a hard ball to juggle. In a 2020 Harris Poll survey, around 70% of employers said that every company should screen candidates’ social media throughout the hiring process. Additionally, the majority of employers – 78% – believe that all their current employees should adhere to a work–appropriate social media profile.

Employees should care about what they share and post on social media. Although the debate over whether social media screening during the hiring process is ethical is still ongoing, candidates willing to leverage social media to develop or boost their careers will need to set up a social media strategy that can help them land the job they want.

Much of our digital identity is pinned to our social media accounts, and a lot of what we share, like and the people we interact with via these channels can speak a great deal of the types of person we are outside of the workplace.

Aside from employees using these platforms to grow their network, or search for possible job opportunities, employers and recruiters are using it to look for any possible red or green flags that you might bring to the workplace.

Social media has moved beyond its traditional form, and today it’s become a digital ecosystem that helps to connect like-minded professionals and their potential employers.

How To Use Social Media To Boost Career Opportunities

Searching for a job is more than browsing through recruitment websites and job listings on LinkedIn or Google. The internet, and social media is a vast place, with near-endless possibilities, and when it comes to growing your career through social media, you will need to know a few things first.

Have A Social Strategy

It might sound strange at first, but having a social media strategy will help you come in contact with the right people faster. Your social media strategy should include building an online identity that reflects your professional and personal side.

You can use different platforms for different connections or networks, it’s all about how you present yourself through your brand. Think of the type of content you share regularly, does it reflect who you are as a professional? How often do you post, or reply to comments and messages? Are there any areas where you can improve or update the information to help you grow your network of contacts?

Write some questions down to get you started, and start working on building an online identity that can get noticed by like-minded individuals in the same industry.

Network With Industry Professionals

Nowadays it’s easier than ever before to reach out to a company or recruiter through their social media, and the same goes for connecting with professionals working in the same industry.

Instead of using social media to only share insightful content, or engage with your friends, try to grow your professional network. On top of this, it’s important to engage with these people as well, even if it’s simply exchanging a few words now and again.

Be active in your mission to get to know the people that are out there, and spend a bit of time researching their profiles to better understand the type of skills and qualifications these people may have. Networking is one of the best possible ways to move around your industry without putting in much effort.

Grow Your Skills

Looking at other people’s social media profiles, whether it’s Twitter or Indeed.com, or even Instagram will give a better idea of the type of skills you might need to develop to help grow and make the next big career jump.

Often professionals will share their skills, and what they’re experts in at the top of their social media accounts, this way it is easier for recruiters to know who the person is, and for like-minded professionals to engage with them.

If you compare the skills of several professionals already working in the field you’re interested in, you will get a better idea of where you might need to upskill yourself by completing some courses or doing a bit of reading.

When we say advertise, we don’t necessarily mean flashy and colorful digital adverts that you’d hope will get the attention of your potential employer.

Instead try and convey your expertise through the type of content you can share such as blog posts, news articles, industry research, or even projects you’ve worked on. Additionally, you can also share your job title and relevant experience in the bio section of your profile.

The better you are at showing people your expertise in a professional, yet unpretentious way, the faster your feed will fill up with similar content and other experienced individuals.

Update Your Profiles

This is relevant to almost every social media profile you have, regardless of what you use it for. People often neglect social media platforms they don’t use anymore, and while it can be tedious to spend so much time updating photos or replying to messages, decide on a couple of platforms you’d like to use and stick to them.

Make sure that the platforms you end up using have a recent photo, and that all other relevant personal information has been updated such as your job title, industry experience, and your current city. You don’t need to do this every week, only when needed, or when you’ve changed jobs or moved.

The better you curate your social media, the easier it will be for employers and recruiters to notice you as you actively begin to network.

Final Words

Social media can be a professional tool, despite it receiving so much negative clout in recent years. Although it’s hard to determine whether possible employers or recruiters will screen your social media accounts before or during the hiring process, it’s best to always keep a well-groomed online identity – especially if you’re looking to make progress in your career.

Make well-informed decisions, and think about the type of content you’re sharing. Remember to engage with like-minded professionals, and have conversations online through the information you share with your followers.

The better you are at curating one or two social media platforms for career purposes, the quicker you’ll be able to expand your network, and grow your professional skills. Don’t think too much about it, try and have a balance as much as possible, as this will help you to enjoy your social media experience while maintaining a professional, yet fun digital identity.

Published First on ValueWalk. Read Here.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Fauxels; Pexels; Thank you!

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Meta Announces the Reinstatement of Former President Donald Trump in its Apps

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Meta Announces the Reinstatement of Former President Donald Trump in its Apps

In the scheme of things, this, specifically, is not a major shift in social platform policy, or in broader approaches to handling inflammatory or incendiary usage by world leaders. But in terms of symbolic, and even iconic gestures, it is significant – and may well have huge implications for US politics, at the least.

Today, Meta has announced that former US President Donald Trump will be allowed to return to Facebook and Instagram, after he was banned from both apps over his posts around the time of the January 6th incident at the Capitol building in 2021.

As explained by Meta:

Two years ago, we took action in what were extreme and highly unusual circumstances. We indefinitely suspended then-US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following his praise for people engaged in violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. We then referred that decision to the Oversight Board — an expert body established to be an independent check and balance on our decision-making.

In response, the Oversight Board called for Meta to implement more structured parameters around how such decisions were made, and how long any resulting suspension would be in place. Based on this, Meta announced a two-year end date for the suspension, with a review to be conducted to assess the risk of reinstatement at that stage. That’s now resulted in Meta’s decision to allow Trump back into its apps.

Which, reportedly, the Trump team has been pushing for in recent weeks.

With a 2024 Presidential campaign in focus, Trump’s legal team sent a letter to Meta last week which requested that Trump be allowed back onto its platforms, in order to give him equal share of political voice. Whether that influenced Meta’s decision or not is unclear, but now, the gates have been re-opened, which will give Trump and Co. reach to millions of US voters via his Facebook Page and through paid ads.

Which, in itself, is significant. But as noted, it’s not clear as yet as to whether the process has seen Meta establish more definitive guidelines for handling similar situations in future, and what sorts of penalties it will implement as a result of such actions.

Meta’s Oversight Board has called out this exact detail in its response to Meta’s announcement:  

The Board welcomes that Meta has followed the Board’s recommendations to introduce a crisis policy protocol in order to improve Meta’s policy response to crises, and to undertake an assessment about the current security environment. However, the Board calls on Meta to provide additional details of its assessment so that the Board can review the implementation of the Board’s decision and recommendations in this case, to define varying violation severities by public figures in the context of civil unrest, and to articulate the way that the policy on public figure violations in the context of civil unrest relates to the crisis policy protocol.”

As the Board notes, Meta has updated its approach to such situations, in a new protocol overview for dealing with posts by public figures during times of civil unrest, while Trump specifically, Meta says, will now also face ‘heightened penalties for repeat offenses’.

But the parameters around its decisions as to what constitutes public risk are still not totally clear. Which leaves those decisions in the hands of Meta management, which could still be viewed as a form of political censorship, depending on the case.

And that, ideally, is not what Meta wants:  

“As a general rule, we don’t want to get in the way of open, public and democratic debate on Meta’s platforms – especially in the context of elections in democratic societies like the United States. The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying – the good, the bad and the ugly – so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box. But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real world harm – a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse – we act.

Meta also says that its ‘default’ is to let people speak, even when what they have to say is ‘distasteful or factually wrong’.

Ideally, Meta would prefer such decisions were made by an overarching regulatory body, which oversees all online platforms, but given the ways in which such a process could be abused, and the variable approaches to such in different regions, that’s a difficult proposition, which may not ever take shape.

As such, Meta is left to implement its own rules around what constitutes potential harm in this context, which it won’t always get right.

But really, there’s no other option, and such cases can only be ruled on, by Meta, as they arise.

So, will Trump come back to Facebook?

Trump’s also-suspended Twitter account was reinstated by Elon Musk back in November, and he hasn’t tweeted as yet – but that’s partly because of Trump’s stake in Truth Social, and his commitment to making that alternative platform work.

Trump Media & Technology Group has over $1 billion sunk into Trump’s own social media app Truth Social, with funding from a range Trump’s top supporters and advocates. A key proviso in that plan is that Trump has committed to posting exclusively Truth, even if his other social accounts are reinstated. There are ways in which Trump could avoid violating this, by, say, posting to Twitter or Facebook several hours after first posting to Truth, but essentially, Trump is at least somewhat locked into making Truth Social his focus.

But that won’t get him the reach or resonance that Facebook can.

Trump has over 34 million followers on Facebook, and Facebook ads have formed a key part of his previous campaigning efforts. Indeed, Trump’s team spent over $20 million on Facebook ads in 2019 alone, and while tweets became his primary weapon of choice for communicating with his audience, Facebook is also a crucial platform for promotion of his agenda.

As such, you can bet that Trump’s team is already strategizing their next Facebook ads push, now that they’re allowed back in the app.

Is that a good thing?

I mean, as Meta notes, people should be able to judge for themselves, but then again, the manipulative, targeted approaches to Facebook ads that Trump’s team has taken in the past do raise even more questions in this respect.

But that’s a whole other argument, and in basic terms, on the facts of the case, it makes sense for Meta to reinstate Trump’s account, and let him back into its apps.

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Confidence, perseverance, courage: Jackie Leigh’s voyage through adversity

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Jackie Leigh

Photo courtesy Jackie Leigh

Opinions expressed by Digital Journal contributors are their own.

When Jackie Leigh first decided to start posting content online, her life was anything but business as usual. The world was in the middle of a pandemic. She spent most of her time at home, just like anyone else. The school was out.

Still, none of that prepared her for the effects her burgeoning online presence would have on her life when things started going back to normal, and school resumed. Knowing that she worked better in a less structured environment, she attended online school.

“It’s gratifying to do what I do, but life has some tough moments, and you have to do what works best for you,” Jackie Leigh explains. “And the trick is to enjoy the good and deal with the bad, like with anything else in life.”

When it comes to enjoying the good and having an influencer career that’s reaping the rewards, her confidence was the one personality trait she found to be the most important. “I am shy and quiet, but I’m confident about myself,” she explains. “I say what I want, try to do what I want, and I don’t need to meld in a group to be safe. I’d rather be interesting and risqué than safe.”

Her confidence has also protected her from some of the more sinister aspects of having a career that involves taking pictures and posting them online. Body image issues are prominent among models and creators who cannot help but compare themselves with the impossible standards presented in photoshopped images.

Her weight isn’t something she obsesses over. It’s normal for her weight to fluctuate, and there are better things to obsess over when one is in the content creation business. Things like making sure to post the exact right picture from the dozens, and sometimes even hundreds, of photos she takes for every social media post.

While confidence helped her deal with the challenging bullying situation, her courage enabled her to persevere and continue building her online career. All of it happened at a time when her life was a bigger mess than the ordinary teenager’s life– her mom was undergoing an operation to treat her cancer at that time. Yet, she never flinched, never veered.

“I’ve never had too many friends. I’m a shy and quiet person,” she explains. “But I’m not afraid to say or do the things that others are too afraid to, and I’m not afraid of possible consequences. I don’t want to spend time at a place where I might be jumped. But having that happened to me, I learned it only gave me more power to be even more invested in what I do.”

Setbacks and all, Jackie Leigh, made her choices, and she’s firmly decided to live by them. With her career kicking off even more, this year and her expansion to other platforms, she’s hopeful she won’t need to reach for all those traits that helped her through the tumultuous first years of her online career. “It’s good to know those personality traits are there,” she adds.



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