Meta has added some new, holiday-themed elements to Messenger, including seasonal AR effects, new Soundmojis to help spread Christmas cheer and fun additions for Messenger Kids.
First off, there’s a new AR effect, created in partnership with beauty influencer Ashley Strong, which adds ‘sparkles and shiny snowflakes that appear from your eyes when you blink’.
“With this effect, you can magically freeze the screen – just open your mouth for a cold breath to start to appear and freeze the screen.”
Not entirely sure if Christmas or Ice King from Game of Thrones, but it’s a new feature either way.
Messenger’s also got some new word effects – now, when you wish people a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Kwanzaa, you can also spark a flood of related emojis up the screen to give your messaging an extra themed kick.
Meta also notes that you can ‘plan some seriously lit end-of-year parties’ with its new New Year’s Eve chat theme for Messenger and Instagram DMs, which also includes word effects.
I don’t really like Meta’s attempts at cool lingo in their announcements, which may be a part of its broader plan to re-connect with the youth. But yes, lit parties, via Messenger. Rock on.
There are also new soundmojis, Meta’s attempt to bring another, unique dimension to emoji usage.
“Visit your Messenger expressions tray, select the loudspeaker icon, and find the present and Christmas tree emojis for a special holiday song surprise!”
While Meta’s also taking the opportunity to encourage more funds exchange activity within messaging, with new, themed funds transfer visuals when sending money in the app.
The more people moving their money in Meta’s apps, the easier it will be for Meta to then encourage eCommerce activity, so while this is a lesser element in the broader announcement here, it may be the most impactful in terms of Meta’s strategic plans.
In addition to this, Meta has also added a range of new holiday elements to Messenger Kids, including an option to chat with Santa (with the messages going to the parents), new holiday games and themed AR effects.
I mean, it’s getting pretty close to the wire if you wanted to use the Santa chat feature as a means to find out what your child really wants this Christmas, but it could be another way to get kids excited about the holiday – which still feels like it’s sprung up way too early this time around.
Some of these are fun, and will add an extra element to your holiday messages, some are a bit meh – but either way, they provide more options to facilitate engagement and interaction via message for the season.
You can check out the new features in the latest version of the Messenger app.
UK teen died after ‘negative effects of online content’: coroner
Molly Russell was exposed to online material ‘that may have influenced her in a negative way’ – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Philip FONG
A 14-year-old British girl died from an act of self harm while suffering from the “negative effects of online content”, a coroner said Friday in a case that shone a spotlight on social media companies.
Molly Russell was “exposed to material that may have influenced her in a negative way and, in addition, what had started as a depression had become a more serious depressive illness,” Andrew Walker ruled at North London Coroner’s Court.
The teenager “died from an act of self-harm while suffering depression”, he said, but added it would not be “safe” to conclude it was suicide.
Some of the content she viewed was “particularly graphic” and “normalised her condition,” said Walker.
Russell, from Harrow in northwest London, died in November 2017, leading her family to set up a campaign highlighting the dangers of social media.
“There are too many others similarly affected right now,” her father Ian Russell said after the ruling.
“At this point, I just want to say however dark it seems, there is always hope.
“I hope that this will be an important step in bringing about much needed change,” he added.
The week-long hearing became heated when the family’s lawyer, Oliver Sanders, took an Instagram executive to task.
A visibly angry Sanders asked Elizabeth Lagone, the head of health and wellbeing at Meta, Instagram’s parent company, why the platform allowed children to use it when it was “allowing people to put potentially harmful content on it”.
“You are not a parent, you are just a business in America. You have no right to do that. The children who are opening these accounts don’t have the capacity to consent to this,” he said.
Lagone apologised after being shown footage, viewed by Russell, that “violated our policies”.
Of the 16,300 posts Russell saved, shared or liked on Instagram in the six-month period before her death, 2,100 related to depression, self-harm or suicide, the inquest heard.
Children’s charity NSPCC said the ruling “must be a turning point”.
“Tech companies must be held accountable when they don’t make children’s safety a priority,” tweeted the charity.
“This must be a turning point,” it added, stressing that any delay to a government bill dealing with online safety “would be inconceivable to parents”.
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