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Meta Moves to the Next Stage of its Messaging Integration Plan, with E2E Encryption on Messenger Group Chats

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Meta Moves to the Next Stage of its Messaging Integration Plan, with E2E Encryption on Messenger Group Chats


Despite governments and law enforcement groups in almost every country voicing their opposition to Meta’s plan to integrate all of its messaging tools, which will also see the expansion of end-to-end encryption across all of its messaging apps, Zuck and Co. are plowing ahead anyway, with Messenger users now able to implement encryption in all group chats in the app.

As explained by Meta:

“Last year, we announced that we began testing end-to-end encryption for group chats, including voice and video calls. We’re excited to announce that this feature is available to everyone. Now you can choose to connect with your friends and family in a private and secure way.”

It’s the latest step in Meta’s broader integration plan, which will eventually enable users to cross-communicate between WhatsApp, Messenger and IG Direct, with your inbox mirrored in each, and the same data protections applied to each surface.

Which also, inevitably, means more chats will be fully-encrypted, and untrackable by law enforcement. Many have raised concerns about the limitations this could put on investigations into potential criminal activity, but Meta’s view is that all users should have more choice about the data that they share, and who, if anyone, can access such.

Which is the same reasoning Apple’s used with its ATT update, which limits personal data tracking on iOS devices, and the same logic that Google’s applying in its moves to eliminate cookie tracking.

And there definitely is a broader push to provide more consumer protections over such, especially as we spend more and more time online – but it is also interesting to note that in each of these cases, the platforms themselves also glean benefits by limiting outside data access.

For Apple, it still collects user data, which it’s still able to use for its own ad targeting and tracking purposes, much like Google will be able to with its new ‘Topics’ approach.

In Meta’s case, it could be argued that Meta benefits from hiding more conversations, as it can’t be blamed for causing division and angst if no one has any way of knowing what its users are sharing.

The expanded integration of its messaging back-end also welds its various tools together, which would make it harder to split the company up, if indeed Meta’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp were at some stage found to be in violation of antitrust law. The FTC is still pursuing Meta on this front, and many have noted that the merger of its messaging tools would potentially offer some protection against this – which is another reason why some are calling for Meta’s integration plan to be blocked.

But that opposition doesn’t appear to be slowing its progress, with the latest stage of its integration now in the books, as it moves onto the next element.

In addition to the expanded encryption options, Meta’s also adding new notifications when someone takes a screenshot of a disappearing message, providing more transparency in the process.

Meta’s also adding GIFs and Stickers to end-to-end encrypted chats, as well as Reactions.

Messenger update

“With reactions, you’ll be able tap and hold on a message to bring up the reactions tray to make your choice of reaction. You can also double tap a message to “heart” it.”

Users will also now be able to reply to specific messages in end-to-end encrypted chats, either by long pressing or swiping, while Meta’s also adding a new option that will enable you to forward a message from an encrypted chat stream.

“Long-pressing on a message will give you the option to forward. One you tap the ‘forward’ button, a share sheet will be displayed so you can share with one or many people or groups. You’ll also be able to create a new group before forwarding a message.”

Meta’s also rolling out new video editing tools, including the ability to add stickers, use mark-up tools, and add text to your clips, along with cropping and audio editing options.

Messenger update

Functionally, most of these tools don’t add anything new to the broader messaging experience, but it’s the first time that they’ve been made available within encrypted chats on Messenger, which could get more people using encrypted chats for more purpose.

And many people do prefer the safety and protection of communicating via more secure, more private messaging.

There’s a reason why WhatsApp has over 2 billion users, because with encrypted messaging by default, amid ongoing media coverage around the dangers of social sharing, and how it can come back to haunt you, more people are indeed turning to WhatsApp instead of the more common messaging tools, as a means to keep in touch, and share whatever you feel, without fear of outside judgment.

But that does, as noted, also facilitate other forms of communication, including criminal activity.

How harmful that is now, and might be in future, is difficult to say, but the key concern expressed by government officials and law enforcement is that encryption removes the capacity to track perpetrators of crimes, and in particular, the sharing of child abuse material, which then gives these criminals essentially free license to more widely distribute such across Meta’s massive network.

The other side of this is that more people want more privacy. The European Union has spent years implementing advanced privacy laws to protect people’s digital data, while a recent report from the UK Information Commissioner found that encrypting communications actually strengthens online safety for children “by reducing their exposure to threats such as blackmail, while also allowing businesses to share information securely”.

Which is more of a concern? Is there more harm in potentially allowing criminal activity to occur in these hidden networks, with police and investigators blinded in pursuit, or is there more protection in keeping user conversations safe, and limiting instances of people having the content that they share online weaponized against them?

There’s no right answer, and likely no way to get to a definitive consensus, but either way, Meta’s pushing ahead with the plan, either for its own benefit or the greater good of society.

How you feel on this will come down to your own personal perspective.



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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

The company posted a net loss of $288.5 million, or 18 cents a share, including $34 million in charges from its workforce restructuring. That compared to a profit of $23 million, or one cent, a year earlier.

Snap ended the fourth quarter with 375 million daily users, a 17% increase. In the first three months of the year, the company estimates 382 million to 384 million people will use its platform daily.

Snap has become a bellwether for other digital advertising companies. Last year, it was the first to raise concerns about the slowdown in marketer spending online and to fire a significant number of employees—20% of its workforce—to cut costs in the face of falling revenue.

The company has spent the last two quarters refocusing the organization, cutting projects that don’t contribute to user and revenue growth.

In the first quarter, Snap expects the environment to “remain challenging as we expect the headwinds we have faced over the past year to persist.”

Investors will get additional information about the state of the digital ad market when Meta and Alphabet report earnings later this week.

—Bloomberg News

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

After reinstating thousands of previously suspended accounts, as part of new chief Elon Musk’s ‘amnesty’ initiative, Twitter has now outlined how it will be enforcing its rules from now on, which includes less restrictive measures for some violations.

As explained by Twitter:

“We have been proactively reinstating previously suspended accounts […] We did not reinstate accounts that engaged in illegal activity, threats of harm or violence, large-scale spam and platform manipulation, or when there was no recent appeal to have the account reinstated. Going forward, we will take less severe actions, such as limiting the reach of policy-violating Tweets or asking you to remove Tweets before you can continue using your account.”

This is in line with Musk’s previously stated ‘freedom of speech, not freedom of reach’ approach, which will see Twitter leaning more towards leaving content active in the app, but reducing its impact algorithmically, if it breaks any rules.

Which means a lot of tweets that would have previously been deemed violative will now remain in the app, and while Musk notes that no ads will be displayed against such content, that could be difficult to enforce, given the way the tweet timeline functions.

But it does align with Musk’s free speech approach, and reduces the onus on Twitter, to some degree, in moderating speech. It will still need to assess each instance, case-by-case, but users themselves will be less aware of penalties – though Musk has also flagged adding more notifications and explainers to outline any reach penalties as well.

“Account suspension will be reserved for severe or ongoing, repeat violations of our policies. Severe violations include but are not limited to: engaging in illegal content or activity, inciting or threatening violence or harm, privacy violations, platform manipulation or spam, and engaging in targeted harassment of our users.

Which still means that a lot of content that these users had been suspended for previously would still result in suspension now, and it leaves a lot up to Twitter management in allocating severity of impact in certain actions.

How do you definitively measure threats of violence or harm, for example? Former President Donald Trump was sanctioned under this policy, but many, including Musk, were critical of Twitter’s decision to do so, given that Trump is an elected representative.

In other nations, too, Twitter has been pressured to remove tweets under these policies, and it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter 2.0 handles such, given its stated more lax approach to moderation, despite its rules remaining largely the same.

Already, questions have been raised on this front – Twitter recently removed links to a BBC documentary that’s critical of the Indian Government, at the request of India’s PM. Twitter hasn’t offered any official explanation for the action, but with Musk also working with the Indian Government to secure partnerships for his other business, Tesla, questions have been raised as to how he will manage both impacts concurrently.

In essence, Twitter’s approach has changed when it chooses to do so, but the rules, as such, will effectively be governed by Musk himself. And as we’ve already seen, he will make drastic rules changes based on personal agendas and experience.

Twitter says that, starting February 1st, any previously suspended users will be able to appeal their suspension, and be evaluated under its new criteria for reinstatement.

It’s also targeting February for a launch of its new account penalties notifications.



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4 new social media features you need to know about this week

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New social media features to know this week


Social media never stands still. Every week there are new features — and it’s hard for the busy comms pro to stay up-to-date on it all.

We’ve got you covered.

Here’s what you need to know about this week.

LinkedIn

Social media sleuth Matt Navarra reported on Twitter that LinkedIn will soon make the newsletters you subscribe to through the site visible to other users.

This should aid newsletter discovery by adding in an element of social proof: if it’s good enough for this person I like and respect, it’s good enough for me. It also might be anopportunity to get your toe in the water with LinkedIn’s newsletter features.

Instagram

After admitting they went a little crazy on Reels and ignored their bread and butter of photographs, Instagram continues to refine its platform and algorithm. Although there were big changes over the last few weeks, these newer changes are subtler but still significant.

 

 

First, the animated avatars will be more prominent on profiles. Users can now choose to flip between the cartoony, waving avatar and their more traditional profile picture, rather than picking one or the other, TechCrunch reported, seemingly part of a push to incorporate metaverse-esque elements into the app.

Instagram also appears to have added an option to include a lead form on business profiles. We say “appears” because, as Social Media Today reports, the feature is not yet listed as an official feature, though it has rolled out broadly.

The feature will allow businesses to use standard forms or customize their own, including multiple choice questions or short answer.

Twitter

In the chaotic world of Twitter updates, this week is fairly staid — with a useful feature for advertisers.

The platform will roll out the ability to promote tweets among search results. As Twitter’s announcement points out, someone actively searching for a term could signal stronger intent than someone merely passively scrolling a feed.

Which of these new features are you most interested in? That LinkedIn newsletter tool could be great for spreading the word — and for discovering new reads.

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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