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Twitter’s Rules Around Speech are Focused on Avoiding Harm, Not Maintaining Control

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Musk Will Seek Evidence from Twitter’s Former Product Chief as He Looks to Exit His Takeover Deal

An inevitable element of the Elon Musk takeover at Twitter is political division, with Elon essentially using left and right-wing antagonism to stoke debate, and boost engagement in the app.

Musk is a vocal proponent of free speech, and of social platforms in particular allowing users to say whatever they want, within the bounds of local laws. Which makes sense, but at the same time, social platforms, which can effectively provide reach to billions of people, also have some responsibility to manage that capacity, and ensure that it’s not misused to amplify messages that could potentially cause real world harm.

Like, for example, when the President tweets this:

Free speech proponents will say that he’s the President, and he should be allowed to say what he wants as the nation’s democratically elected leader. But at the same time, there’s a very real possibility that the President effectively saying that people are allowed to shoot looters, or that protesters will be shot, could lead to direct, real world harm.

“No it won’t, only snowflakes think that, real people don’t take these things literally.”

But the thing is, some people do, and it’s generally only in retrospect that we assess such and determine the causes of angst, confusion, and indeed harm that can be caused by such messaging.

Social platforms know this. For years, in various nations, social media apps have been used to spread messaging that’s lead to violence, civil unrest, and even revolts and riots. In many instances, this has been because social apps have allowed messaging to be spread which is not technically illegal, but is potentially harmful.

There have been ethnic tensions in Myanmar, fueled by Facebook posts, the mobilization of violent groups in Zimbabwe, the targeting of Sikhs in India, Zika chaos in South Africa. All of these have been traced back to social media posts as early, incendiary elements.

And then there was this:

Tweet from Donald Trump

The final series of tweets that finally saw Trump banned from Twitter effectively called on his millions of supporters to storm the Capitol building, in a misguided effort to overturn the result of the 2020 election.

Politicians were cornered in their offices, fearing for their lives (especially those that Trump had called out by name, including former VP Mike Pence), while several people were killed in the ensuing confusion, as Trump supporters entered the Capitol building and looted, vandalized and terrorized all in their path.

That action had essentially been endorsed, even goaded, by Trump, with Twitter providing the means to amplify his messaging. Twitter recognized this, and decided that it did not want to play a part in a political coup, so it banned Trump for this and his repeated violations of its rules.

Many disagreed with Twitter’s decision (note: Facebook also banned Trump). but again, this wasn’t the first time that Twitter had seen its platform used to fuel political unrest. It’s just that now, it was in the US, on the biggest stage possible, and in the midst of what many still view as a ‘culture war’ between the woke left, who want to restrict speech in line with their own agenda, and the freedom-loving right, who want to be able to say whatever they like, without fear of consequence.

Musk himself was opposed to Twitter’s decision.

Elon, of course, has his own history of issues based on his tweets, including his infamous ‘taking Tesla private at $420’ comment, which resulted in the FCC effectively forcing him to step down as chairman of Tesla, and his 2018 tweet which accused a cave diver of being a pedophile, despite having no basis at all to make such a claim. Musk saw no problem with either, even in retrospect – and he even went as far as hiring a private investigator to dig up dirt on the cave diver to dilute the man’s defamation suit.   

Free speech, as Musk sees it, should enable him to say such, and people should be able to judge for themselves what that means. Even if it impacts investors or harms an innocent person’s reputation, Musk sees no harm in making such statements. 

As such, it’s unsurprising that Musk has now overseen Trump’s account being reinstated, as part of his broader push to overturn Twitter’s years of perceived suppression of free speech.

And as noted, Elon is using this ‘culture war’ as a pretense to maximize his following, and ideally monetize such through his soon to be re-released $8 subscription scheme.

If enough people sign up, he can reduce the platform’s reliance on ads, and make the rules around speech in the app whatever he wants, and get a win for his army of dedicated supporters – but the thing is, the ‘war’ that Elon’s pushing here doesn’t actually exist.

The majority of Twitter users don’t see there being a divide between the ‘elite’ blue checkmark accounts and the ‘regular’ users. The majority don’t have some fundamental opposition to people posting whatever they like, and there’s no broader push from on-high to control what can and cannot be shared, and who or what you can talk about. The only significant action that Twitter’s taken in the past on this front has been specifically to avoid harm, and to limit the potential for dangerous actions that might be inspired by tweets.

Which, in amongst all the ‘free speech’, ‘culture war’ propaganda, is what could eventually end up being overlooked.

Again, it’s only in retrospect that we can clearly see the connections between what’s shared online and real world harm, it’s only after years of seeing the anger bubbles swell on Facebook and Twitter that things truly started to boil over. The risk now is that we’re about to see these bubbles get bigger once again, and despite the lessons of past, despite seeing what can happen when we allow dangerous movements to grow via every borderline tweet and comment, Musk is leading a new charge to fan the flames of division once again.

Which is really the only thing that journalists and commentators are warning against. It’s not driven by corporate leanings or government control, it’s not some ‘woke agenda’ that’s being infused throughout the mainstream media, in order to stop people from learning ‘the truth’. It’s because we’ve seen what happens when regulations are loosened, and when social platforms with huge reach potential allow the worst elements to propagate. We know what happens when speech that may not be illegal, but can cause harm, is amplified to many, many more people.

The ideal of true free speech is that it allows us to address even the most sensitive of topics, and make progress on the key issues of the day, by hearing all sides, no matter how disagreeable we personally may find them. But we know, from very recent history, that this is not the most likely outcome of loosening the safeguards online.

Which is the misnomer of Musk’s ‘culture wars’ push. On the face of it, there’s a battle to be won, there’s a side to choose, there an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ – but in reality, there’s not.

In reality, there’s risk and there’s harm. And while there are extremes of cultural sensitivity, on either side of the debate, the risk is that by getting caught up in a fictional conflict, we end up overlooking, or worse, ignoring the markers of the next violent surge.

That could lead to even more significant harm than we’ve seen this far, and the only beneficiaries will be those stoking the flames.



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Meta says Trump to be allowed back on Facebook, Instagram

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Meta wants the UK to keep some EU e-commerce rules instead of scrapping them in its planned bonfire of Brussels legislation

Meta image: — © AFP INDRANIL MUKHERJEE

Glenn CHAPMAN

Social networking giant Meta announced Tuesday it would soon reinstate former president Donald Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram with “new guardrails,” two years after he was banned over the 2021 US Capitol insurrection.

“We will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said in a statement, adding that the move would come with “new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”

Going forward, the Republican leader — who has already declared himself a 2024 presidential candidate — could be suspended for up to two years for each violation of platform policies, Clegg said.

It was not clear when or if Trump will return to the platforms, and his representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But the 76-year-old tycoon reacted in typically bullish fashion, crowing that Facebook had lost “billions of dollars in value” in his absence.

“Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!” he said on his Truth Social platform.

Facebook banned Trump a day after the January 6, 2021 uprising, when a mob of his supporters seeking to halt the certification of his election defeat to Joe Biden stormed the US Capitol in Washington.

The former reality TV star had spent weeks falsely claiming that the presidential election was stolen from him and he was subsequently impeached for inciting the riot.

In a letter asking for the ban to be overturned, Trump’s lawyer Scott Gast said last week that Meta had “dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse.”

He asked for a meeting to discuss Trump’s “prompt reinstatement to the platform” of Facebook, where he had 34 million followers, arguing that his status as the leading contender for the Republican nomination in 2024 justified ending the ban.

American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero said Meta was making “the right call” by allowing Trump back onto the social network.

“Like it or not, President Trump is one of the country’s leading political figures and the public has a strong interest in hearing his speech,” Romero said in a release.

“Indeed, some of Trump’s most offensive social media posts ended up being critical evidence in lawsuits filed against him and his administration.”

The ACLU has filed more than 400 legal actions against Trump, according to Romero.

– Extremism engine? –

Advocacy groups such as Media Matters for America, however, vehemently oppose allowing Trump to exploit Facebook’s social networking reach.

“Make no mistake — by allowing Donald Trump back on its platforms, Meta is refueling Trump’s misinformation and extremism engine,” said Media Matters president Angelo Carusone.

“This not only will have an impact on Instagram and Facebook users, but it also presents intensified threats to civil society and an existential threat to United States democracy as a whole.”

A US congressional committee recommended in December that Trump be prosecuted for his role in the US Capitol assault.

His Twitter account, which has 88 million followers, was also blocked after the riot, leaving him to communicate through Truth Social, where he has fewer than five million followers.

Trump’s shock victory in 2016 was credited in part to his leverage of social media and his enormous digital reach.

New Twitter owner Elon Musk reinstated Trump’s account last November, days after the brash billionaire announced a fresh White House run. He has yet to post.

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Things May Finally Be Looking Up for Meta Stock

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Things May Finally Be Looking Up for Meta Stock

Last year was brutal for Meta Platforms (META 3.01%). The Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger parent’s ad revenue suffered as a weak macroeconomic environment and changes to ad tracking and measurement on Apple‘s mobile operating system combined to create a significant headwind.

This headwind wreaked havoc on the stock, with shares of the tech company declining 65% last year. But The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that there may be some signs of improvement in Meta’s business — something that could prove to be a catalyst for the stock.

Here’s a look at why 2023 could be a decent year for Meta’s business and possibly its stock, too.

Meta’s nightmare 2022

It’s not surprising that Meta’s stock took a beating last year. The bad news started early in 2022, when Meta reported its fourth-quarter 2021 results and said first-quarter revenue growth would slow dramatically due to Apple’s iOS changes, a weak macroeconomic environment, and a shift of user engagement within the company’s apps to its TikTok-like Reels format, which was monetizing at a lower rate than its more mature formats. 

These trends largely persisted throughout 2022, as revenue growth decelerated dramatically in Q1 and turned negative by Q2. Revenue growth continued to decline on a year-over-year basis in Q3, and management said it expected fourth-quarter revenue to decline between 3% and 11% year over year. The midpoint of this range would be worse than the company’s 4% revenue decline in Q3.

A turnaround may be underway

While Meta’s performance was dismal last year, management emphasized on several occasions that it was confident it could turn things around eventually. In particular, the social media company believed it would be able to build out solutions to make its ad tracking and measurement less reliant on Apple’s mobile operating system’s capabilities. Further, Meta said throughout the year that even though its Reels format may be a headwind today, it would become a tailwind as the company improved its monetization.

Based on a report from WSJ on Friday, Meta has been making progress on these fronts. Investment in artificial intelligence tools to improve ad-targeting and forecasting and a shift to ad products that are less reliant on Apple’s mobile operating system are paying off, WSJ reports. “Executives told employees in October that Meta expected to begin rebounding from Apple’s change as soon as that quarter, which ended Dec. 31,” wrote WSJ‘s Jeff Horwitz and Salvador Rodriguez, citing “internal documents” at Meta.

Of course, it’s still impossible to know what Meta’s fourth-quarter results may look like. We’ll find out when the company reports fourth-quarter results on Feb. 1. It’s worth noting that Meta’s third-quarter report was released toward the end of October — the same month WSJ said executives reported these improvements to employees, and almost a month into Q4. Management, therefore, likely attempted to conservatively bake in any improvements it was seeing into its fourth-quarter revenue guidance.

While it’s possible Meta surprises to the upside for its fourth-quarter 2022 results, the internal documents WSJ cites at least provide an encouraging backdrop for a potential turnaround in the company’s top-line trajectory in 2023.

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. Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. His clients may own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Apple and Meta Platforms. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Twitter Publishes 2023 Marketing Calendar to Assist with Campaign Planning

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Twitter Publishes 2023 Marketing Calendar to Assist with Campaign Planning

Looking to map out your content calendar for the year ahead?

This will help – Twitter has published its annual events calendar, which highlights all of the key dates and celebrations that you need to keep in mind in your planning.

The interactive calendar provides a solid overview of important dates, which could assist in your strategy. You can also filter the list by region, and by event type.

Twitter marketing calendar 2023

You can also download any specific listing, though the download itself is pretty basic – you don’t get, like, a pretty calendar template that you can stick on your wall or anything.

Twitter marketing calendar 2023

Twitter used to publish downloadable calendars, but switched to an online-only display a couple of years back. Which still includes all the same info, but isn’t as cool looking.

Either way, it may help in your process, as you map out your 2023 approach.

In addition to this, Twitter’s also published an overview of some of the major events that it’ll be looking to highlight in the app throughout the year, along with a pitch to advertisers, amid the more recent chaos at the app.

As per Twitter:

We’re moving more quickly than ever, and we’re still the place people turn to see and talk about what’s happening. A great example is the recent FIFA Men’s World Cup. We saw a whopping 147B impressions of event-related content on the platform, up nearly +30% from 2018. We also generated 7.1B views on World Cup video1, with everything from memes to nail-biter outcomes to history being made.”

There’s also this:

Not only is Twitter alive with content and conversation around big moments, but we are also growing. We saw global mDAU acceleration in Q4 to 253.1M, driven by an average sign-up rate of more than 1 million new daily users across Q42.”

That’s the first official usage stat Twitter has shared since Elon Musk took over at the app, and is a significant jump on the 238 million mDAU that Twitter reported in Q2 last year, its last market update before the sale went through.

It’ll be interesting to see if that usage level holds, as Twitter works through its latest changes and updates.

You can check out Twitter’s 2023 marketing calendar here.



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