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X’s New Policy Stances are Being Put to the Test With Israel Conflict

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New Analysis Reveals How X is Evolving its Feed Algorithm, and What it’s Looking to Emphasize

X’s new, more “free speech” aligned approach to content moderation is being put to the test, with various groups seemingly now using X’s more lax enforcement processes to spread misinformation around the war in Israel, which was sparked by militant group Hamas launching a large-scale assault on Israeli citizens over the weekend.

Amid rising tensions, many people in the region have turned to X for real-time updates, which has once again made it a valuable breeding ground for partisan propaganda.

Indeed, according to analysis conducted by disinformation protection group Alethea, various coordinated groups are now posting false and inflammatory X updates related to the Israel-Hamas war.

As reported by NBC News:

[Various] accounts — many of which previously focused on more innocuous topics like professional basketball or life in Japan — previously showed no outward association, but suddenly began posting similar content over the weekend as news of the attacks broke. In many cases, the accounts would post the exact same phrases. It’s not clear if the accounts were created for the express purpose of posting the misinformation, or if they were hacked or sold.”

In response, X says that it’s treating the conflict “as a crisis requiring the highest level of response”, which has resulted updates to Community Notes to get them up on posts faster, in order to maximize crowd-sourced fact-checking, while it’s also announced a change to its Public Interest Policy, which will see more people able to keep posts related to the conflict active, in the interests of ensuring users are better informed.

But the reports of widespread disinformation have also sparked deeper scrutiny, with EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton issuing a public call to X owner Elon Musk directly, asking him to “urgently ensure that your systems are effective” in dealing with misinformation and hate speech in the app.

In response, Musk called on Breton to provide examples of these alleged infringements, to which Breton said that Musk is able to action such based on reports like the one from Alethea, along with other independent analysis groups, which have also found similar trends.

Though, of course, Musk’s various supporters, who now get priority exposure in the app through X Premium, have taken Breton’s response as a signal that there actually is no such evidence, which is largely Musk’s aim in making such public stances. Musk has now deployed this tactic several times, effectively dismissing such claims by calling for specific data to be shared in public, though he too could also share the same specifics by providing data on exactly what X has and has not actioned.

In fact, Musk and his team are logically the best placed to provide such disclosure, as outside research groups, many of whom are now hampered by reduced insight, due to X upping the price of its API access, are only able to assess a fraction of overall posts in the app.

X has all of the data, and Elon’s keen to tout the open, transparent nature of his team. Why not share all the info that it has to counter any such claims, letting analysts then dig into what’s actually happening, based on X’s perspective. 

Then again, much of the concern stems from the fact that Musk has also cut various elements of X’s moderation systems, including regional staff reductions and software replacements, in addition to its new rules around what is and is not acceptable in the app. Musk himself has also been sharing his own views on the conflict, and being the most-followed user in the app, that’s also helped to contribute to the broader debate around the facts of the conflict, sparking more attention on certain elements.

Which, in turn, is also spooking regulators and officials, though the actual evidence, from either side, is fairly thin right now, at least in terms of what’s been shared in public.

But effectively, no one believes that X is going to be able to maintain adequate enforcement of misinformation around major conflicts like this, based on the noted changes at the app. Which is putting X under more scrutiny, and while other platforms are also dealing with misinformation in their own apps, it’s X, in particular, that’s under the microscope, which is being amplified even more by Elon’s self-involvement in the discussion and discourse.

The situation is still evolving, so we don’t have the evidence as yet. But the signs, based on various reports, are that more mis- and disinformation is proliferating on X, and that the company’s heavier reliance on crowd-sourced fact-checking, via Community Notes, is likely not enough to address all incidences as effectively as it would have been under past Twitter management.

But that system wasn’t perfect either, so it could be that X is also being unfairly targeted, due again, to its cost-cutting measures. X still remains hugely influential in such situations, and officials are keeping a close eye on how it’s able to manage such, in line with Elon’s stated “free speech” approach, and that could mean that X is going to be under more pressure than ever, simply because it’s put the spotlight on itself in this respect.

It’s also somewhat interesting to note how X, and Elon himself, is addressing this latest incident, in variance to its approach to other conflicts.

Elon, thus far, seems a lot less interested in commenting on government requests in India, or tensions in China, which could be because his other company, Tesla, is looking to expand its business interests in both regions. That’s less of a concern in Israel, which is another wrinkle to monitor within Elon’s various stances and statements.

In any event, we don’t have all the evidence right now, but independent groups are criticizing X’s lack of enforcement capacity, while X is claiming to be doing all that it can to address such, as quickly as possible.

It’s a crucial test, which could end up leading to a bigger review of the future of the app.



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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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X Expands Audio and Video Calls to Non-Paying Users

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New Report Finds That X May Be Inflating its Ad Performance Results

Look, I don’t know why this would be considered revolutionary or an advance, or even a significant step in any direction really. But for some reason, Elon Musk and his team believe that facilitating audio and video calls in X is a really big deal.

And now, it’s expanding its audio and video calling features to all non-Premium subscribers in the app, so you don’t even have to be a paying user to access the new connection options.

X launched audio and video calls with X Premium subscribers on iOS last October, then brought them to paying users on Android last month. And now, it’s expanding access once again.

But, like, you can already make audio and video calls on your phone, on WhatsApp, in Messenger, etc. Like, nobody is hanging out waiting to be able to make calls on X.

But Elon says that he’s getting rid of his phone number, because X will now replace his telecommunications, and given the reflexive head-nodding among his most dedicated disciples in response to his every utterance, no doubt many of them will also follow suit.

But I’m guessing not many other people will actually care.

But, if you do, soon, you’ll be able to kick off an audio or video call with your X connections, and there could be some value within that for brands that are looking to use the platform for customer service.

I suspect most X users won’t even notice, but for those who are conducting a lot of connection activity in the app, it is worth considering as a strategic expansion.



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Reddit files to go public as ‘RDDT’ on NYSE

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Online discussion platform Reddit is looking to ramp up revenue from ads, commerce, and allowing access to its data for training of large language models powering artificial intelligence

Online discussion platform Reddit is looking to ramp up revenue from ads, commerce, and allowing access to its data for training of large language models powering artificial intelligence – Copyright AFP/File SAMUEL ALABI

Glenn CHAPMAN

Reddit on Thursday told US stock regulators that it plans to go public on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “RDDT.”

Reddit did not provide details regarding the number or price of shares nor when the initial public offering would occur.

Co-founder and chief executive Steve Huffman said in a letter included with the filing that money raised by the share offering would be used to make Reddit a stronger, bigger company.

Founded in 2005, the platform is home to more than 100,000 online communities devoted to a sweeping range of topics and was visited by an average of 76 million people daily in December, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“They come to Reddit to participate in a vibrant community, a constantly evolving place where anyone, anywhere, can connect with like-minded people and dive into any topic,” Huffman said in the letter.

“The conversation ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, the trivial to the existential, the comic to the serious.”

Communities on the platform are referred to as “subreddits,” and one devoted to music star Taylor Swift eclipsed a million members last year, according to the filing.

Reddit had a net loss of $90.8 million in 2023 on revenue of $804 million, according to the filing.

Reddit is known for “Ask Me Anything” sessions during which influential people ranging from tech titans and famous athletes to celebrities and politicians field questions from users.

A Wall Street Bets subreddit fueled a GameStop share runup in 2021 in a frenzy that inspired a US congressional inquiry and a film titled “Dumb Money.”

Huffman credited Reddit communities with “campaigning for net neutrality in 2015, starting the March for Science in 2017, or standing up for retail investors, as r/wallstreetbets did in 2021.”

– AI training –

Plans to bring in money include advertising and licensing data for training large language models (LLMs) that power artificial intelligence, according to the filing.

“Reddit’s vast and unmatched archive of real, timely, and relevant human conversation on literally any topic is an invaluable dataset for a variety of purposes, including search, AI training, and research,” Huffman wrote.

“We expect our data advantage and intellectual property to continue to be a key element in the training of future LLMs.”

Last year moderators of communities at Reddit held a major protest over new fees for developer access to the platform.

Huffman had been unwilling to allow companies that build AI chatbots like ChatGPT to have free access to the site to perfect their large-language models.

AI companies had used a free interface to access the massive amounts of data at Reddit to train artificial intelligence models.

“Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use,” Huffman wrote in a Reddit post at the time.

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