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Twitter Previews Potential New Account Safety Tools, Launches New Update for Birdwatch



Twitter’s looking to provide more options and transparency over its rule violations and moderation processes, with a range of new tools currently in consideration that could give users more ways to understand and action each instance.

The first idea is a new Safety Center, which Twitter says would be ‘a one-stop shop for safety tools’.

Twitter Safety Center proposal

As you can see here, the Safety Center concept, which would be accessible via the Twitter menu, would give users a full overview of any reports, blocks, mutes and strikes that they currently have in place on their account. The Safety Center would also give Twitter a means to provide updates on any outstanding reports (via the ‘Report Center’ tab).

The platform would also alert users if they’re close to being suspended due to policy violations, which may prompt them to re-think their behavior, while it would additionally include a link to Twitter policy guidelines.

The impetus here is to get more users more aware of Twitter’s rules, and keep them updated on their activity. One one hand, that could raise awareness, but it may also give people more leeway to push the boundaries, with a constant checking tool to see if they might get suspended, when they’d need to dial it back.

Twitter’s second concept is a new Policy Hub, which would provide a full overview of its rules and policies.

Twitter privacy hub concept

By making these documents more readily accessible, it could help to set clearer parameters around where Twitter draws the line – though its effectiveness, of course, would be dependent on users actually checking it.

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A more direct concept, which could be more effective, is ‘Safety School’, which would give users a chance to avoid suspension for platform violations if they instead take a short course or quiz to learn about the rule/s that they broke.

Twitter Safety School

It’s difficult to make out the full detail in this image, but essentially, the process would add a new warning to violating tweets which reads (at this stage):

“Heads up. Your latest Tweet breaks our policy on hateful conduct. You need to attend Safety School to avoid being suspended.”

Users would then be put through an overview of the specific rule that they broke, which could help to raise awareness of platform policies.

Another interesting concept Twitter is considering is a new ‘Weekly Safety Report’, which would show users how many people in their network are using its block and mute tools.

Twitter safety update

That could make it more acceptable for you to do the same. If you understood that many people on the platform are using these tools, including people you know, that could reduce the stigma around potentially damaging relationships by shutting users off.

Or it could be a source of concern – maybe these people are muting you. 

As you can see in the example above, the display would also tell you how many of the accounts in your network regularly violate platform rules, so you know how many bad eggs you have in your Twitter flock.

Twitter’s also working on a new appeals process for rule violations in-stream.

Twitter appeals

That could make it easier for users to take action when they feel a restriction has been put in place unfairly, or incorrectly, which tarnishes their profile standing.

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The peer elements here could add something more to the transparency, and accountability, of Twitter’s rule enforcement – though there may not be overly effective for users that have large followings that they don’t regularly interact with. Some people might have a lot of followers who they’re not heavily engaged with, so ideally, the tools that analyze your network only take into account those that you follow, as opposed to those that follow you.

That’s, logically, how the system would work, but there are some provisos based on how Twitter defines ‘your network’ in this sense.

On a related note, Twitter has also announced a new addition to its Birdwatch crowd-sourced fact-checking process, which will prompt users to review Birdwatch notes to add more weight to ratings.

Twitter says that this addition will ensure a ‘more diverse range of feedback’ on Birdwatch alerts, increasing the accuracy of such reports.

It’s hard to tell whether the Birdwatch proposal will work, but it’s an interesting concept, using its user-base to better detect low quality or false content, in order to reduce its overall impact and reach. 

In some ways, that’s more like Reddit, which relies on its user community to up and downvote content, which generally weeds out things like false reports. Interestingly, Twitter’s also considering up and downvote options for tweets, so it seems that the platform is indeed looking to Reddit as a potential inspiration for its efforts on this front.

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Which, again, does make sense, but it’s hard to tell whether Twitter’s user community is as aligned with content quality on the platform as Redditors are within their subreddits, which they likely feel more ownership of, and community within.

Maybe, through additions like this, Twitter can build on that, which would make tools like Birdwatch a more valuable addition.

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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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