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Zuckerberg, Dorsey Appear Before Senate in Hearing Over Potential Reforms for Section 230



Will Section 230 be reformed, and if so, what will that mean for digital media more broadly?

After months of calls for reforms to internet protection laws, today, the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google all faced a US Senate Committee hearing which sought to establish the parameters for a possible re-think of Section 230 laws, which, technically, provide a level of protection for digital platforms over the content posted by users.

Kind of. First, before looking at today’s discussion, which honestly didn’t seem to progress anything, let’s take a look at the actual wording of Section 230 to understand what, precisely, is at stake.

The specific regulation in question is this:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”

The key element in this instance is the provider part – the law states that no web service provider will be treated as the publisher with respect to what users post. That means, for example, that if someone on Twitter says something defamatory about you, you can’t sue Twitter for hosting that content. 

As noted, in recent months, this has become a key point of debate, most specifically because of Twitter’s decision back in June to add a warning label to these tweets.

In response, US President Donald Trump accused Twitter of bias, adding to previous concerns he had raised about social platforms potentially restricting conservative speech.

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A few days later, Trump got the ball rolling on the push for a change to the law, which eventually lead to a White House Executive Order calling for the review of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Which has lead us to here, with Zuck, Dorsey and Pichai appearing before the Senate. But as with the lead-up, much of the proceedings seemed more aligned with pushing an agenda, as opposed to genuine discussion about the technicalities of the law.

Several Senators took the opportunity to criticize Dorsey over Twitter’s actions to, in their view, censor conservatives unfairly. Dorsey was given various examples of other world leaders who’ve violated Twitter’s rules, but haven’t seen punishment, while Trump has had warnings added to his tweets.

Senator Ted Cruz went on the full offensive:

“Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear, and why do you persist in behaving as a Democratic super pac, silencing views to the contrary of your political beliefs.”

Cruz was specifically referring to a recent New York Post story about Presidential Candidate Joe Biden’s son and his business dealings. The report has been largely criticized for its factual inaccuracies, which lead to both Twitter and Facebook initially moving to halt sharing of the article. But Twitter actually stopped people sharing the report based on its Hacked Materials Policy, not based on misinformation. Twitter has since reversed its decision, and users can no share the article freely, but many saw those initial responses as censorship, and they took the opportunity to raise the issue with Dorsey personally,

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Which many have speculated was the actual purpose of today’s session, at least in the view of some Senators. With just days till the election, the emphasis appeared to be on trying to scare both Twitter and Facebook into holding off on blocking the circulation of certain reports, which may be classified as misinformation, in the lead up to polling day.

Indeed, Pichai saw little questioning, and Dorsey copped the brunt of the discussion.

For their part, the platforms argued that paring back Section 230 protections could harm free expression on the internet, and could stop platforms from undertaking critical work “such as removing hate speech and harassment that impacts the safety and security of their communities”.

Zuckerberg did note that Section 230 should be updated to ensure that “it’s working as intended”, but as noted, there was little discussion on the detail in today’s session. The Judiciary Committee will analyze the same regulation on November 17th. 

Given the lack of clear progress in the session, it’s still too early to say what could happen to the open web if indeed Section 230 laws are changed.

If anything, evidence points to the fact that right-leaning publications and Pages actually get more reach via social networks than left-leaning publishers, despite the suggestions of restriction, so the broader push on reforming the law to protect Conservative speech seems misguided, and likely won’t result in the outcome those calling for change expect.

But an updated Section 230 would have impacts. What exactly they might be, we won’t know until some real proposals are put in place, but it could have wide-reaching impacts for how platforms moderate content, and the effort required to do so. And that could limit competition, making it more difficult for smaller players to get in. 

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Right now, the direction isn’t clear, but the debate will continue on for some time yet.

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Snapchat Publishes New Report into the Importance of Privacy Tools in Facilitating Online Sharing



Snapchat Publishes New Report into the Importance of Privacy Tools in Facilitating Online Sharing

Snapchat has published a new report which provides some deeper insight into the importance of online privacy, and the key concerns that users have in regards to the content that they share online.

The report, based on a survey of over 13,500 people in 11 markets, uncovers some valuable considerations for both platforms and marketers, and reinforces the logic behind some of the latest social app developments, in regards to increased user control, encryption, and more. It also sheds light on how such controls – or the lack of them – can influence people’s behavior online.

It’s an interesting overview – you can download Snap’s full, 28-page report here, but in this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key points.

First off, Snap notes that both Snapchatters and non-Snap users are concerned about online privacy, with 81% of respondents noting that online privacy is important. At the same time, only 65% indicated that they’re satisfied with their current privacy options.

That’s a key gap in the current digital connection process which underlines the need for increased control measures on this front, and more options, like private messaging and audience controls, to help reassure users.

Which is the next key point – the report highlights the three key benefits of digital privacy, based on responses.

Snapchat privacy report

Each aspect facilitates more open communication, and without relevant measures in place, social platforms are not able to cater to these needs.

Self-expression is one of the most important elements, with users feeling more free to communicate when they’re comfortable with the available privacy tools and options.

Snapchat privacy report

Indeed, the majority of respondents indicated that privacy concerns impact what they share online, and how they communicate.

Snapchat privacy report

It’s an interesting consideration – originally, with the arrival of MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, there was a new sense of freedom and capacity to share your voice, and connect with like-minded people around the world, based on shared interests. Over time, that’s gradually shifted, as more controversies and concerns have arisen from over-sharing or past post insights, which has seen more people become more enclosed once again, and shy away from public sharing.

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Which makes sense, but it also means that what we see online is often not representative of the breadth of views out there, because many people are concerned about what sharing their thoughts and opinions could mean, and how it could potentially be used against them. Which is why more privacy controls can open up greater levels of expression and engagement, and why more people are looking to advanced tools, like messaging encryption, to gain that extra level of assurance.

Which is also why Snapchat has been able to maintain and grow its audience, despite rising competition in the space.

Snapchat privacy report

Snapchat has always presented itself as a key alternative for more intimate, private discussion, a place for friends to connect, not to broadcast your life to the world. And while that is also more restrictive, in a content sense, Snap’s approach has clearly resonated with a lot of people, and enabled it to carve a niche in the broader social and messaging space.

The report also goes into depth on the full reasons that influence how and why people share on social, and the tools that people rely on to enhance their experience.

Snapchat privacy report

There are some interesting insights and considerations here, which, as noted, largely reflect the latest social media innovations in improved audience controls, evolving private messaging tools, safety functions, reporting and more.

Without these elements, people simply won’t share, and won’t engage online at the same rate. And as we move into the next stage of digital connection, where we’re likely to spend even more time online, and potentially expose even more of ourselves, such measures will remain critically important in order to keep people safe.

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You can read Snapchat’s full ‘Global Perceptions of Privacy’ report here.

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New Report Underlines the Importance of Social Media in Connecting with Gen Z Consumers



New Report Underlines the Importance of Social Media in Connecting with Gen Z Consumers

Consumer expectations are rising, as is the importance of shared brand values, according to the latest data from market research provider Qualtrics.

To glean some insight into the shifting state of customer expectations, Qualtrics surveyed 9,000 consumers, across a breadth of age brackets, to measure the variance in importance on a range of measures between Gen Z, Baby Boomers and everything in between.

The findings highlight some key considerations for all brands – first off, the data indicates that Gen Z is the most likely to be upset by a negative interaction with a company.

Gen Z is the generation least likely to report being happy with their customer experience (on a scale of upset to delighted). Gen Z was the most upset by their interactions with federal agencies (only 13% gave a positive rating), followed by investment firms and airlines. Gen Z gave the highest ratings to social media and retail stores.

Gen Z consumers have grown up with social media and eCommerce, and they increasingly expect brands to cater to their specific needs, while they also know that they have both the means to publicly criticize a company due to negative interactions, and the capacity to easily switch, with a simple online search providing a range of competitor brands.

That’s increased their expectations around customer service and response, and it’s important for brands to consider this in their engagement and actions.

Younger consumers also value public health response, with Gen Z respondents twice as likely as Baby Boomers to stop purchasing from a brand because they felt their safety measures were insufficient. Which also works the opposite way too.

Gen Z consumers also put more emphasis on brand values – potentially a side effect of the social media era – with younger shoppers almost three times as likely as Baby Boomers to say that they were very familiar with the brand values of the products they choose.

Qualtrics consumer survey

With brands now able to communicate more about their business online, that’s opened up more capacity for consumers to also get an understanding of their stances and approach, and that expanded capability to connect with a brand on a deeper level can be a very powerful draw to generate stronger bonds and business.

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Indeed, for Gen Z consumers, maintaining a social media presence was the second-highest ranked way for brands to maintain relevance. No other generation ranked social media presence in the top three.

If that insight doesn’t underline the importance of building and maintaining a social media presence, I’m not sure what will – younger consumers want to feel more connected with every business that they buy from, and social media is the key linkage that facilitates such for this group.

There’s a range of additional insights in the full report from Qualtrics, which you can check out here. Some key considerations for marketers, especially those looking to connect with younger audiences.

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Instagram Adds New Stickers and AR Features to Celebrate Lunar New Year



Instagram Adds New Stickers and AR Features to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Instagram has added some new features to help users celebrate Lunar New Year, including new, themed stickers and a custom AR effect.

As you can see here, the new stickers commemorate the Year of the Tiger, with art by Hong Kong-based Ophelia Pang. The stickers provide a simple way to mark the event, which will be celebrated from January 31st to February 15th.

In addition, Instagram’s also added a #MyLNY2022 AR effect, which provides another way to engage with the celebration.

There’s actually a range of Lunar New Year effects available in the app, which you can find by using the search option at the end of the effects carousel.

Instagram released a similar set of Lunar New Year tools last year, which is part of its broader focus on maximizing engagement around cultural events.

 As explained by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri:

“When it comes to celebrating cultural moments, we want to be a platform where creators showcase their work.

Showcasing creativity is where Instagram is increasingly looking to align itself, as it works to differentiate the app from TikTok, which is more based on communal expression and meme-based sharing. If Instagram can put more focus on creative output, specifically, that could be a way to lean into the rising Web3 movement, in which, theoretically, creators could be better rewarded and celebrated for their work.

These Lunar New Year tools showcase the art of some creators, but the larger vision for Instagram is that it may be better placed to provide a platform for more artists in the same way, which could help it regain its momentum in the face of the TikTok challenge.

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You can check out Instagram’s Lunar New Year tools in the app.

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