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TikTok Will Provide More Insight into Content Trends and Moderation via New Research Initiative

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TikTok Updates Ad Policies to Limit Unwanted Exposure Among Younger Users in Europe

Under increasing scrutiny from regulators, and amid various lingering questions and concerns about its ownership and its content approach, TikTok is looking to provide more assurance that it’s not censoring certain content, or amplifying certain perspectives, via new API access points which will enable academics and researchers to glean more insight into exactly how its systems work.

Under a new program, TikTok will soon enable researchers to access public and anonymized data about content and activity on the platform. It will also facilitate insights into its content moderation systems, via API access points, with stringent restrictions on who can access the tools.

That could shine some more light on exactly why TikTok’s ‘For You’ feed is so addictive, by enabling researchers to determine what users are engaging with, as well as what its moderation teams look to remove. Though it won’t, however, provide insights into TikTok’s AI systems, and the details that it can extract from each uploaded clip, and how it then uses those data points to decide what to show each user, based on their interests.

Which is really the ‘secret sauce’ of the app, and likely its most controversial element, with TikTok’s advanced algorithms able to pinpoint very specific elements within video clips, which it can then use for content sorting.

For example, back in 2020, a leaked internal document showed that TikTok moderators had been instructed to suppress content that featured people who were ‘too ugly, poor, or disabled for the platform’. TikTok has said that such regulations were quickly removed from its guidance, but the very concept that TikTok is even able to do this, based partly on algorithm identification, suggests that its systems are able to use such parameters as ranking tools – which means that TikTok can, and likely does, use physical traits like this to show people more of what the like, and less of what they don’t.

In other words, TikTok’s AI can detect physical elements, and use them as matching parameters, in order to keep users scrolling. I suspect that this type of object ID, built into TikTok’s system, could be uncovered via more intense scrutiny of its systems, which could well be why its algorithms are not included in this new API access.

Then again, it could also be a question or proprietary information, and keeping the secrets of its success close. And it may also not be the concern that it may seem, with its AI system potentially built on the same types of parameters as Instagram or Facebook, with no truly controversial aspects.

Though it is also worth highlighting a recent report which suggests that TikTok has been advising its staff not to talk about certain sensitive elements, including its AI tools.

According to a report from Gizmodo, TikTok has been giving staff a ‘Master Messaging document’, which outlines key points that the company wants to present, or not, to the public.

As per Gizmodo:

Right near the top of the list? “Downplay the parent company ByteDance, downplay the China association, downplay AI.” All three bullet points are the second, third and fourth lines of the document, second only to “Emphasise TikTok as a brand/platform.” Further down, the company advises its employees to stress that, though young people love TikTok, “the app is only for users aged 13 and over.”

Add to this the fact that TikTok is removing more content due to ‘nudity and sexual activity’ and it paints a picture of concern in some aspects, which could be exposed if it were to enable broader insight into its algorithmic systems.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see what comes up as a result of these new investigations, and what it can reveal about how the app operates, in regards to user trends, moderation, etc.

TikTok says that it’s also granting the same API access to its independent US Content Advisory Council, as well as its regional Safety Advisory Councils for deeper analysis.

It could be a good move to help TikTok solidify support and understanding, and reduce pressure on the app, while also providing more understanding of what’s driving its success.

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How To Remove Your Personal Data From The Internet (And Why You Should)

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How To Remove Your Personal Data From The Internet (And Why You Should)

Digital exposure comes with several downsides, the first one being the potential for identity theft and financial fraud. Imagine someone gaining access to your bank account or credit card information just because they stumbled upon your personal details online. It’s a scary thought, but it’s a real possibility when your data isn’t adequately protected.

Privacy breaches and data leaks are another significant concern. Think about all the times you’ve entered your information on various websites or social media platforms. Each time you do, there’s a chance that your data could be compromised. Whether it’s due to hacking, inadequate security measures, or even just a simple mistake, once your information is out there, it’s vulnerable to being accessed by unauthorized parties.

However, it’s not just criminals you have to worry about. The more personal data you have online, the more you open yourself up to targeted advertising and unwanted marketing. Have you ever searched for something online, only to have ads for that exact thing follow you around everywhere you go? It’s not a coincidence – it’s the result of companies collecting and using your data to target you with ads.

Finally, let’s not forget about the darker side of the internet — harassment and stalking. Unfortunately, the anonymity afforded by the internet can embolden some individuals to engage in harmful behavior in the form of cyberbullying or online harassment, which can have serious consequences for your safety and well-being.

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More Generative AI Tools are Coming to Social Apps – Is That a Good Thing?

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More Generative AI Tools are Coming to Social Apps - Is That a Good Thing?

The latest developments in generative AI have opened up a range of new possibilities and potential use cases, But are we sure that there’s a value to them within social media apps?

Sure, there are some helpful, practical use cases like image editing for ad backgrounds, and creating optimized ad copy for varying purpose.

But for regular users, does generative AI really enhance the social app experience?

For years, people have complained about spam messaging polluting their DMs, and artificial engagement prompted by, say, anniversary and birthday updates. These types of posts feel disingenuous, non-engaging, and don’t really add value to the “social” experience.

But now, with Gen AI, social apps are trying to make such even more prominent, with almost every app now experimenting with different forms of generative AI, which can be used to create content that humans can then post to their profiles, cosplaying actual engagement.

LinkedIn, for example, has an AI post composer, which will write your updates for you in-stream, and Facebook’s also experimenting with the same, while X claims that, soon, you’ll be able to transfer responses from its Grok AI chatbot into your updates.

Why would people want that? Why would users want to post robot responses, and attempt to pass them off as their own thoughts and opinions?

Spammers and scammers will love it, no doubt, and engagement farmers will be keen to “optimize” their updates through these tools. But are those the types of posts that actually enhance social media interaction?

Of course, that’s seemingly an afterthought, because now you can create a profile image of yourself as an 18th century warrior. Isn’t that cool?

As a novelty, sure, that’s kind of interesting. But how many generative AI images can you create to depict yourself in different scenes before it starts to weigh on you that you’re not actually doing any of these things?

Social media, by definition, is “social”, which involves humans interacting with each other, sharing their own experiences, and the things that are filtering through their real human brain, in order to then feel more connected to the world around them. That’s been the universal value of the medium, building on books and movies in facilitating more understanding and connectedness, so we all feel less alone and more engaged with the world around us.

How do bot updates help with that?

And of course, this is all, inevitably, still going to get a lot worse.

LinkedIn says that it’s re-building its foundations around AI, in order to power “the next ten years of product development and innovation”. Which means more AI integration, and more bot-generated content, and as these tools continue to iterate on the latest trends, in order maintain relevance, they’ll also be training on more and more AI-generated updates that are flowing through their circuits.

Which means that AI tools will increasingly be powered by AI responses, diluting human input out of the process with every refresh.

The “social” aspect is becoming more automated, more stale, and less human with every such integration.

Of course, the counter is that people can already use AI tools outside of social apps anyway, so whether they’re integrated or not, they’re going to be utilized for the same purpose. Which is partly true, but still, adding them in-stream, making it easier for people to just tap a button to generate a response, seems like a step in the wrong direction either way.

That’s not to say that Gen AI tools are not useful. As noted, there are practical use cases for optimized, simplified tools that can complement human creation.

But bleaching humanity out of the source code is simply not a pathway to value.

And whether we realize it or not, the Gen AI shift is going to take far more significant turns yet.  

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3 Things You’ll Regret Not Knowing Before Buying Meta Platforms Stock Right Now

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3 Things You'll Regret Not Knowing Before Buying Meta Platforms Stock Right Now

It’s been a wonderful time to be a shareholder in Meta Platforms (META -0.43%). After hitting a low around the start of November 2022, the business has seen its shares skyrocket nearly fivefold (as of Feb. 20). Investor enthusiasm is through the roof.

Despite this monster performance, the FAANG stock, which is near its all-time highs, trades at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of just 23.5 right now. This might prompt you to rush to buy shares.

But before you do, here are three things you must know about this dominant tech giant.

Massive, but growing

Meta Platforms owns and operates some of the most popular social media services on the face of the planet.

Between its various platforms — like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Threads — the business counted a whopping 4 billion monthly active users (MAUs) as of the end of last year. This means that almost half of the world’s 8.1 billion people interact with a Meta digital property once a month. That’s hard to wrap your head around.

While it’s reasonable to assume the company can’t get any larger, it’s worth pointing out that MAUs were up 6% year over year in the fourth quarter. Because the U.S., Canada, and European markets are much more mature, Meta is finding success posting better growth in other geographies, like the Asia-Pacific region.

This massive scale has resulted in powerful network effects. The more users on a particular social media platform, the more valuable it is to users. Anyone can start a new app tomorrow, but it would be almost impossible to expand the way Meta’s services have, which protects its competitive standing.

Digital advertising is key

Providing free services to billions of users means that Meta, unsurprisingly, is a digital advertising powerhouse. Of the $135 billion in revenue it brought in in 2023, 98% came from selling ads. This puts it behind Alphabet in the global rankings when it comes to digital ad revenue.

Because of the valuable data Meta is able to extract from its gigantic user base, it’s no wonder that businesses of all sizes find it extremely effective to target audiences using the company’s platforms. The ongoing integration of artificial intelligence (AI) features will only improve this for marketers.

The downside is that the digital advertising market has shown itself to be somewhat cyclical. When interest rates rise, inflationary pressures persist, consumer spending gets pressured, and everyone is uncertain where the economy is headed, it makes sense that ad spending will be among the first thing that executives cut. Meta reported a 1% decline in revenue in 2022 thanks to these headwinds. However, things picked up in a huge way last year: Sales jumped 16%.

It also helps that digital ad revenue drove a fantastic 54% operating margin for the family of apps segment in Q4. Add this to Meta’s net cash position of $47 billion, and there should be zero concern about the business being able to navigate any unfavorable macro conditions.

Meta’s metaverse ambitions

Love him or hate him, credit goes to Meta’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, for building one of the world’s most valuable and dominant enterprises in just two decades. By being a forward-thinking innovator, he’s always trying to position the business for whatever tech shifts that might come.

Zuckerberg thinks that next shift could be the metaverse. As a result, he’s focused heavily on creating new hardware and software products in the hopes of attracting 1 billion users to spend and interact in virtual worlds.

He’s putting his money where his mouth is. Meta’s Reality Labs division posted an operating loss of $16 billion in 2023, and more losses are expected. And it doesn’t make much money, producing $4 billion in revenue combined in the last two years.

But given a proven track record of success, as well as vast financial resources from the company’s thriving social media apps, investors should doubt Zuckerberg at their own risk.

If you’re looking to scoop up shares of Meta, you now know three very important aspects of the business that can lead to a more informed decision.

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Neil Patel has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Alphabet and Meta Platforms. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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