Twitter is considering a range of new features designed to provide more protection and control for users, giving you more capacity to manage your in-app interactions and protect your content, in order to avoid being held to account for outdated views that you may have shared.
As reported by Bloomberg, Twitter is considering the new additions to help users feel more open in the app, without fear of judgment and criticism.
Among features being considered, according to Bloomberg’s report, are:
- Archive old tweets – This option would enable users to archive their old tweets after a certain period of time so that they’re no longer visible to others. Users would be able to manually set a time as to when the archive would kick in, with 30, 60, and 90-day thresholds, or hiding tweets after a full year, being tested as potential options.
- Remove individual accounts as followers – This has recently been spotted in testing, with Twitter working on an option that would enable users to remove specific profiles from their Follower list, without having to use the current block and unblock workaround. That could make it a less confrontational way to avoid certain users in the app.
- Remove yourself from a conversation – Also spotted in testing last month, this option would enable users to untag themselves from any discussion, and keep them from being mentioned again within that thread. The option was originally called ‘unmention yourself’, but Twitter says that the updated wording better clarifies what the function is.
- Hiding tweets that you’ve liked – Likes have always been a little confusing for Twitter users, with some seeing them as a level of endorsement, and others using them as a marker of things they want to read later, or similar. By hiding your liked tweets, that could remove any confusion, while also letting users feel more free in what they do on the platform, without consideration of judgment for such.
Which is the real focus of all of these updates – Twitter wants to give users more options to feel free and open in how they share and engage on the platform, without fear of being torn down by Twitter mobs or having their old comments come back to haunt them, which may cause people to hold back on posting tweets and engaging in the comments.
Because that can be a problem. As we’ve seen with various high-profile cases, your past, ill-advised tweets can come back to haunt you, and can be used against you, particularly if you end up taking on a prominent, public-facing role.
Film director James Gunn, for example, lost his job as director of the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ sequels back in 2018 after his old tweeted remarks were re-surfaced, while just recently, newly appointed ‘Jeopardy’ host Mike Richards was fired after offensive remarks he’d made in the past were discovered, make his position untenable.
The short, sharp nature of Twitter, aligned with real-time response, can be perfect for those off-the-cuff, in-the-moment replies and comments, but cases like these highlight the dangers of such, and that could make more people more hesitant to share in the app, which could be limiting further tweet engagement.
That’s why Twitter tried out ephemeral Fleets as a less binding way to share your thoughts in the app, and a timed auto-delete option for your tweets would also align with this.
Along a similar line, Twitter has also added a new ‘Safety Mode’ option this week, which aims to offer a level of protection from tweet pile-ons and ‘Cancel Culture’, which can also cause people to be more hesitant about sharing their thoughts in the app.
Essentially, Twitter wants users to comment and engage as much as possible, and elements like these are an impediment to that, which is why it’s now exploring new ways to help users feel more free in what they tweet, while also giving people more ways to avoid the more negative elements, and ending up unwitting targets of abuse and scorn in the app.
Will that work?
Certainly archiving tweets makes sense – though there is always the Wayback Machine and other resources that will help online sleuths uncover old comments, if they really want to look.
But it could provide another level of assurance for users, and a better sense of freedom – because yes, some of the dumb things we tweeted in years past will be just that; dumb, ill-informed opinions that we’ve now moved past, as part of our evolution and education, which really should be commended, rather than used as a bat to beat you with.
This is especially true for younger people, who’ve grown up online, and have gone through their upbringing with social media as an outlet. People are going to have posted stupid things, which, in retrospect, they’ll wish that they hadn’t.
An auto-archive option would definitely provide benefit in this respect, while more controls over who follows and mentions you, and removing Liked tweets from view, also seem like potentially helpful, beneficial considerations.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.
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.
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.
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.
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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