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Twitter Announces New, Exclusive Video Programming at 2021 NewFronts Event



Twitter has announced a range of new video partnerships at its annual NewFronts event, including exclusive sports content from the MLB, WNBA and NHL, new news broadcasts from NBC, and other, exclusive video agreements that will further expand Twitter’s partner content slate.

The big focus this year, at least from a sporting perspective, will be the Tokyo Olympics – if, of course, the event does indeed go ahead amid the ongoing pandemic.

Twitter confirmed in 2019 that it had secured a deal for exclusive Olympics content (when it was scheduled for 2020), and today, the platform provided further details its arrangement with NBC, which will include an original live video show for Twitter called ‘Talkin’ Tokyo’, hosted by Adam Rippon and featuring other Olympic celebrities.

NBC will also host a daily poll which will let Twitter users vote on a ‘live look-in’ on NBC’s Primetime or Primetime Plus Olympic broadcasts each night, while it will also supply real-time video highlights throughout each day of the event.

On other sports, Twitter will also continue to broadcast live content and highlights from MLB, live pre-game shows for the NHL, while it will also air 12 live WNBA games throughout the season.

Twitter has also announced a new agreement with Riot Games to broadcast a live watch party for the League Championship Series (LCS), which will tie into the rising gaming discussion on the platform.

On news content, Twitter has announced an expanded partnership with NBCUniversal, which will look to share exclusive content from TODAY, CNBC and Noticias Telemundo to the platform ‘in totally new ways’. And interestingly, NBC News will also extend its ‘Inspiring America’ content series to audio via Twitter Spaces, the first new exclusive content deal for the platforms new audio functionality.

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Twitter’s also announced a new programming deal with Billboard, which will include a focus on the most discussed songs in tweets, while it’s also outlined new video programming partnerships with Genius, Refinery29 and Tastemade.

That will expand Twitter’s slate of video content, which advertisers will then be able to promote against. Twitter also recently launched its new Curated Categories for video ads, which will provide more options for brands to align their video promotions with its premium video broadcasts.

Twitter curated categories

As explained by Twitter:

Curated Categories include niche topics like light-hearted content, football, basketball, soccer, or gaming personalities and allow advertisers to run their pre-roll against video content from publishers covering the topic of choice. The publishers included in each of our Curated Categories are always hand-selected by Twitter teams for their relevance and conversation driving ability within their category’s topic, ensuring a deeper level of contextual alignment for brands.” 

That’ll provide more opportunities to tap into highly engaged conversation groups on Twitter, with sports, in particular, providing a lot of opportunity based on these new announcements.

There is strong potential here, and while video has never really taken off on the platform the way Twitter would have hoped, its ongoing content deals still facilitate direct audience connection, and Twitter users are increasingly watching more video content on the platform every year. 

Amid the various COVID lockdowns around the world, video views on Twitter increased by 62% from 2019 to 2020, while it also saw a 72% year-over-year increase in overall on-platform watch time. Those trends will normalize somewhat as the vaccine roll-outs continue on, but they do show that people are increasingly looking to video content, and video consumption habits are changing, which is important to note.

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Twitter also says that more than 70% of user sessions now include video.

In addition to this, Twitter says that its Amplify pre-roll offering has proven increasingly popular over time, and is generating good results for brands.

There’s a range of potential opportunities here, and as people’s approaches to video content shift, it’s worth considering how your promotional strategies are evolving in-line.

Maybe, through tools like Curated Categories, and these new video programs, there could be a new outreach strategy waiting in the tweets.

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Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers



Meta's Developing and 'Ethical Framework' for the Use of Virtual Influencers

With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.

The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.

As explained by Meta:

From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”

Some of the more well-known examples on this front are Shudu, who has more than 200k followers on Instagram, and Lil’ Miquela, who has an audience of over 3 million in the app.

At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.

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Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.

The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.

Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.

Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.

Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.

It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.

But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.

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That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.

Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?

It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.

But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.

You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.

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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps



Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps

Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.

The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.

It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.

Meta security guide

For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.

Meta security guide

While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.

Meta security guide

There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.

It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.

Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump



Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with relatives of slain commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of the second anniverary of his death in a US drone strike in Iraq – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Tom Brenner

Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.

“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.

The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.

The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.

According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.

The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.

As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.

He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.

On January 3, the second anniversary of the strike, the supreme leader and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi once again threatened the US with revenge.

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Trump’s supporters regularly denounce the banning of the Republican billionaire from Twitter, underscoring that accounts of several leaders considered authoritarian by the United States are allowed to post on the platform.

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