Is social media reckoning finally happening?
Stay tuned to find out or rather deactivate your Facebook account.
👋 Welcome to the FWIW by David Tvrdon about tech, media & audio.
In this edition
🤔 Social media reckoning, for real this time?
💬 Other tech & media news
➕ Microsoft wants you to learn new things (for free)
When it comes to social media reckoning, expect a neverending story
What a week it’s been. After saying this is not a good idea, Facebook will start labeling problematic posts. Despite that, the boycott continues with more and more big brands joining in. Reddit finally banned The_Donald and other 200 hundred subreddits after policy changes. Twitch temporarily banned President Trump's account for hate speech. And YouTube removed a number of high-profile white supremacist channels, including those belonging to David Duke and Richard Spencer.
Meanwhile, a lot of people online and in the media were discussing possible solutions to this mess:
Kara Swisher straight-up canceled her Facebook page and personal account.
Shira Ovide, also from the New York Times, suggested tougher rules for “superspreaders”, meaning internet companies should treat people with big followings differently.
Stop Hate for Profit, organizers behind the boycott has a list of “recommended next steps” for Facebook regarding accountability, decency, and support.
I keep coming back to the Reddit Transparency report from earlier this year. Especially this part:
The way Reddit handles content moderation today is unique in the industry. We use a governance model akin to a democracy—where everyone has the ability to vote and self-organize, follow a set of rules, and ultimately shares some responsibility for how the platform works.
First, we have rules for what’s allowed in each community (known as a “subreddit”). These Community Rules are written and enforced not by Reddit employees, but by the community’s own volunteer moderators (known as “Mods”). These rules are tailored to the unique needs of each individual community, and are often highly specific. Volunteer community moderators are empowered to remove any post that does not follow their community’s rules, without any involvement or direction from Reddit, Inc. The self-moderation our users do every day at this community level is the most scalable solution we’ve seen to the challenges of moderating content online.
Reddit’s approach to content moderation is primarily community-led. Each community on Reddit is required to have at least one volunteer Moderator. These individuals are either assigned by default when they create the subreddit, or appointed by other moderators. Admins are Reddit employees who remove content based on violations of Reddit’s Content Policy.
Key statement: The self-moderation our users do every day at this community level is the most scalable solution we’ve seen to the challenges of moderating content online.
Back to Facebook. This method (mentioned above) is pretty unique to Reddit content structure. Facebook is different and much more structured around the idea of any post going viral. You can have a fake account with five friends posting some nonsense about chemtrails, and it could have thousands of shares.
On one hand, you have Mark Zuckerberg boasting about the power of democratization by social media and giving voice to everyone.
On the other hand, as it was mentioned so many times before, free speech is one thing, free reach is another.
And once you are responsible for the reach, you should be responsible for the actual content your algorithm is helping to spread.
It took Reddit many years to become a platform I can reference today (we all still remember back to 2013 when Reddit’s users falsely accused someone being a terrorist + back in 2015 it was home to “the most violently racist” content on the internet).
Reddit’s CEO gave an interview recently, which is highly quotable and earnest. This is an important statement:
When we started Reddit 15 years ago, we didn’t ban things. And it was easy, as it is for many young people, to make statements like that because, one, I had more rigid political beliefs and, two, I lacked perspective and real-world experience.
Over the years, we’ve been increasingly confronted with difficult decisions, and we have to weigh these trade-offs. And so here we are, believing that free speech and free expression are really important, and that’s one of the things that makes Reddit special, but at the same time, seeing that allowing everything is working against our mission.
Now, if you think about Zuckerberg, who alone is deciding the rules on Facebook at the end of the day, there is some hope he will likewise change his beliefs one day. I don’t think that day is anywhere near, but hey, I can dream.
Meanwhile, we are left with the boycott which will get back to normal in one month or so, because even big ad spenders cannot stay away from social media advertising for long.
Yes, I may seem skeptical but if you think about it, Facebook’s biggest incentive is to keep shareholders happy. And because I don’t see a Reddit-style self-moderation solution here, AI is far from a great content moderator, the only real option left is human moderators, lots of them, and that’s not going to be cheap.
[UPDATE - This came in shortly before I sent the newsletter: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees he was reluctant to bow to the threats of a growing ad boycott, saying in private remarks that “my guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.” Well, hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. 😢]
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In other news
🇮🇳⚔️🇨🇳 India vs. China. The Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps, including WeChat and TikTok, claiming they posed a threat to the "sovereignty and integrity of India." It's a marked escalation in India-China hostilities. India is TikTok's biggest foreign market, with an estimated 120 million active users. [Protocol]
Related: According to CNBC, Indian government ministers discussed the country’s 5G rollout plans and whether Chinese telecommunications equipment giants Huawei and ZTE should be allowed to participate, according to a report from the Times of India. In other words, Huawei could be banned from participating in India’s 5G network rollout.
Also: India followed suit, first it was the FCC in the U.S. that officially named both Huawei and ZTE as national-security threats. Meaning none of the agency's billions of dollars earmarked for telecommunications equipment can be spent with those companies. Truly bad week for the Chinese companies.
🤸♀️ Next up, digital fitness wars? Fitness apparel company Lululemon announced it will buy connected fitness company Mirror for $500 million. Mirror describes itself as an interactive invisible home gym - when off serves as a classical mirror, switched on turns into a display with a camera. As Axios noted, this could be the first in a series of connected fitness acquisitions, by both retail and media companies. [Axios]
😲 Detroit police chief: facial recognition software misidentifies 96% of the time. This is plainly bad news. [Motherboard by Vice]
🦄 Why is Apple unique? A longterm strategy executed well even if it means some teams have to wait years to update their apps. That’s not my opinion, Steven Sinofsky, the former President of the Windows Division at Microsoft (yes, you are reading it right) thinks that. [Learning by Shipping]
ALPHABET (GOOGLE & YOUTUBE)
👓 Alphabet buys North smart glasses maker. The Canadian startup is rumored to cost Google’s parent company around $180 million. North has struggled lately, as the company sold no more than 1,000 pairs of its glasses called Focals. Curious to see the strategy unfold behind this move as Google Glass, the first smart glasses, moved to B2B market (industrial purposes). Both Apple and Facebook are working on a version of smart glasses, expected to hit the consumer market in 2023. [Google]
Thought: Google acquired Fitbit last year, now owns a consumer smart glasses maker, develops its own OS (Android, WearOS) and one could think there is a grand strategy behind this. I sense something, though it is definitely gonna take a few years to get there. In case of wearables, Apple seems to be big steps ahead.
📺 YouTube TV sharply increases the monthly subscription to $64.99. The service launched in 2017 with a price tag of $35/month and more than 40 networks available for streaming. The price first went up to $40/month after adding TBS, TNT, CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, and others. Then to $50/month after adding Discovery’s lineup of networks. Now YouTube is adding Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and other ViacomCBS channels. There are some undeniable technological advantages that come with YouTube TV like recording a show, dark mode, or share your membership with up to 5 people. But the promise of a cheaper TV bundle is nowhere to be seen anytime soon.
Related: Dylan Byers of NBC News pushed YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki, about the pricing of YouTube TV in his podcast in April.
🔑 Google wants you to never reuse your password again. Password Checkup, the new tool checks logins against a database of 4 billion leaked credentials, to see if the password you’re typing in matches one that’s already leaked. + Mark Risher, Google’s senior director for account security, identity, and abuse told The Verge that “Passwords are one of the worst things on the internet”. Couldn’t agree more, I wrote about it a few weeks back.
🦾 Google Sheets wants to autocomplete data for you. And I am all in. Both new features, Smart Fill and Smart Cleanup seem like a great idea and something Office should have had a long time ago. [TechCrunch]
🛒 Google Shopping is taking on Amazon. Back in April, Google made news by making a significant change to its Google Shopping platform by letting any business owner that sells products online list their inventory for free (before they needed to pay an ad placement). Now Google is going even further by including those listings in the main Google Search results page (the U.S. only so far). It’s hard not to read this as another protective move against Amazon which is eating Google’s lunch more and more each year. [Google]
🎥 Netflix will introduce almost 60 original titles in July. Ever wondered how this is possible? Basically it all comes down to a longterm strategy of producing original content (plus having production all over the globe). Netflix isn’t even changing its programming due to the corona-crisis this year. Ted Sarandos, the company’s chief content officer, hinted that it may cause changes in 2021 which they are working on at the moment. [The Verge]
📰 New York Times pulled out of Apple News. And it made more news than I thought. Apple says 125 million people use the service which seems not many give there are more than billion iOS devices around the world. Apple News is still limited to a handful of countries and provides little or no revenue for participating newsrooms. It is more like a brand thing so far. All of which makes Apple look not developing the service into something more or even global. And once again, many asked where is an Apple Prime bundle of all the tech giants’ services. [NY Times]
🇺🇦 Innovate or die. In his column, Jakub Parusinski gave an insider look into the Ukrainian media thinking around paywalls, paid content, and donations. Once afraid media executives had due to the corona-crisis no other choice but to innovate and look for reader revenue. Without the crisis, the switch would have probably taken years. [The Fix]
🤦♂️ Spies, Lies, and Stonewalling: What It’s Like to Report on Facebook. No point writing more about this here, go and read the whole thing. [Columbia Journalism Review]
🍿 Is it going to be a standard to have an accompanying podcast for a movie or a TV show? WarnerMedia thinks so and signed a deal with iHeartMedia to co-produce “companion podcasts” for shows on HBO Max, TNT, and its other networks. HBO has produced a few companion shows before, the most popular being the one for Chernobyl. [Hollywood Reporter]
🎧 Future podcast listeners in India and Africa got their first app. Titled ‘Podcasts for the Next Billion’, Thomas Barrasso, a software engineer wrote about the development of the first-ever podcasting app for KaiOS. If you never heard of KaiOS, it’s OK, but is super popular in India (JioPhone, which runs on it, sold 70 mil. phones each for less than $10) and also in Africa. Now the next billion podcast listeners can jump on this train as well. [Medium]
💰 PRX and Google announced another round of the Google Podcasts creator program. A successful applicant can get up to $12,000 in funding for use as they see fit for their productions. Applications for creators around the world will open till Sunday, August 2 at 11:59 pm ET. [Apply here]
👏 Smart move. Microsoft based on LinkedIn’n Economic Graph data identified 10 jobs that are in-demand in today’s economy and are well-positioned to continue to grow in the future. These 10 jobs were identified as having the greatest number of job openings, have had steady growth over the past four years, pay a livable wage, and require skills that can be learned online. [Microsoft]
🎓 They made those courses free on LinkedIn:
LinkedIn is also offering free access to four horizontal LinkedIn Learning paths:
Jobseeker – Finding a Job During Challenging Economic Times
Critical soft skills – Master In-Demand Professional Soft Skills
Digital transformation – Digital Transformation in Practice: Virtual Collaboration Tools
Allyship and inclusive conversations – Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging for All