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Instagram Tests Hiding Likes in Canada

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  • Instagram will test hiding like counts from photos and videos in an effort to get users to focus on content rather than likes.
  • The test will begin this week and will only be rolled out in Canada.
  • The like feature is a core element of the platform, but many feel that it has a negative impact on both the quality of the content and users’ mental health.

Hiding Likes

Instagram said Tuesday that it plans to test a new feature that will hide users’ public like counts on videos and photos.

At its F8 developer conference, the Facebook-owned company said the test will begin this week and will only be rolled out in Canada for now. The likes will be hidden in the feed, permalinked pages, and on profiles.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said, “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram, and spend a bit more time connecting with the people they care about.”

Source: Instagram

Changes Expected

Many had suspected that this test might be on its way. In April, Code hunter Jane Wong, a Hong Kong-based woman who searches for unreleased features in popular apps, published screenshots of the test.

At that time a spokesperson for Instagram denied rumors of the test saying, “We’re not testing this at the moment, but exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we’re always thinking about.”

The new move is also similar to one rolled out late last year. In November, the company announced that they were testing profile designs that de-emphasized follower counts by placing them off-center and in a smaller font.

Instagram Pressure

Experts will be interested to see the impact this change has on the content as well as the perception of the platform. While the like feature can be encouraging to users who enjoy seeing their content perform well, the metric has been understood by some as a way to track popularity and measure self-worth.

Social media users now often chase likes, which some argue has led to an increase in less interesting, but more “likable,” content. Some users have even gone so far as to pay for likes and followers to keep up a popular persona. Along with that, the chase for likes has also been linked to damaging perceptions of one’s self, leading to the rise of highly edited photos.

According to a 2017 report from the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health. Matt Keracher, the author of the report, said that the app draws women to “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality.”

Others have noted that Instagram’s current culture has created pressure to curate posts that will look cohesive on one’s profile and get the most attention. The trend of needing “instagramable” photos that will perform well has even inspired the creation of popular photo spots and social media friendly restaurants.

It’s unclear if the company will roll out the test in other locations as of now. The feature is such a core component of the app and it’s brand, that any changes to could fundamentaly change the platform as we know it.

While this test only hides the like feature, many wonder if a total removal of it is out of the question. If rolled out more broadly, there is also concern that hiding and potentially removing likes could also change the influencer marketing industry and social media marketing in general.

However many feel that a total removal is unlikely as the feature is important in helping inform the algorithm that decides which posts, ads, and creators users might want to see.

Could Twitter Be Next?

Other social networks, such as Twitter have also seemed open to the idea of making likes and follower counts less prominent on the platform.

On stage at the TED conference in April, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey discussed what he would do differently if he were to invent Twitter all over again. “I don’t think I would create ‘likes’ in the first place,” Dorsey said, adding that he also wouldn’t make the follower count as prominent.

Twitter’s prototype app, twttr, which is designed for testing new features, currently explores this idea as it lets people read tweets in a tighter design without being distracted by likes and retweets if they wish to try it.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (CNN) (Fortune)

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Facebook Is Reviewing More Than 2,200 Hours of Footage for Next-Gen AI 

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The project, which could prove to be revolutionary, is already raising some big privacy concerns. 


Facebook’s Next-Gen AI

Facebook announced Thursday that it has captured more than 2,200 hours of first-person video that it will use to train next-gen AI models.

The company said it aims to make the AI, called Ego4D, capable of understanding and identifying both real and virtual objects through a first-person perspective using smart glasses or VR headsets. In effect, that could potentially help users do everything from remembering where they placed forgotten items to recording others in secret. 

Facebook listed five key scenarios the project aims to tackle and gave real-world examples of how each may look for people who will eventually use the AI.

  • “What happened when?” With that scenario, Facebook gave the example, “Where did I leave my keys?”
  • “What am I likely to do next?” There, Facebook gave the example, “Wait, you’ve already added salt to this recipe.”
  • “What am I doing?” For example, “What was the main topic during class?”
  • “Who said what when?” For example, “What was the main topic during class?”
  • “Who is interacting with whom?” For example, “Help me better hear the person talking to me at this noisy restaurant.”

Facebook said the amount of footage it has collected is 20 times greater than any other data set used by the company.

Privacy Concerns

In the wake of recent controversy surrounding Facebook, it’s important to note that the footage wasn’t reaped from users. Instead, the company said it, and 13 university partners, compiled the footage from more than 700 participants around the world.

Still, that hasn’t alleviated all privacy concerns. 

In an article titled, “Facebook is researching AI systems that see, hear, and remember everything you do,” The Verge writer James Vincent said that although the project’s guidelines seem practical, “the company’s interest in this area will worry many.”

In addition to the recent testimony and data leaks from whistleblower Frances Haugen, Facebook has also faced other privacy issues, as well as billions in fines

Vincent pointe out that the AI announcement doesn’t mention anything in the way of privacy or removing data for people who may not want to be recorded.

A Facebook spokesperson later assured Vincent that privacy safeguards will be introduced to the public in the future.

“For example, before AR glasses can enhance someone’s voice, there could be a protocol in place that they follow to ask someone else’s glasses for permission, or they could limit the range of the device so it can only pick up sounds from the people with whom I am already having a conversation or who are in my immediate vicinity,” the spokesperson said.

Among positive reception, some believe the tech could be revolutionary for helping people around the house, as well as for teaching robots to more rapidly learn about their surroundings.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (CNBC) (Axios)

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FDA Issues Its First E-Cigarette Authorization Ever

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The authorization only applies to tobacco-flavored products, as the FDA simultaneously rejected several sweet and fruit-flavored e-cigarette cartridges. 


FDA Approves E-Cigarette

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an e-cigarette pen sold under the brand name Vuse on Tuesday, as well as two tobacco-flavored cartridges that can be used with the pen.

This marks the first time the FDA has ever authorized the use of vaping products. In a news release, the agency said it made the decision because “the authorized products’ aerosols are significantly less toxic than combusted cigarettes based on available data.”

“The manufacturer’s data demonstrates its tobacco-flavored products could benefit addicted adult smokers who switch to these products — either completely or with a significant reduction in cigarette consumption — by reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals,” the agency added. 

The company that owns Vuse, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, also submitted several sweet and fruit-flavored pods for review; however, those were all rejected. While the FDA did not specify which flavors it rejected, it did note that it has yet to make a decision on whether to allow menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, including ones sold under Vuse.

FDA Is Reviewing All Vape Products Still on the Market

In January 2020, the FDA banned pre-filled pods with sweet and fruity flavors from being sold. While other e-cigarette related products, including some forms of flavored vapes, were allowed to stay on the market for the time being, they were only able to do so if they were submitted for FDA review.

The FDA’s primary issue with fruity cartridges stems from statistics showing that those pods more easily hook new smokers, particularly underage smokers.

In fact, in its approval of the Vuse products, the FDA said it only authorized them because it “determined that the potential benefit to smokers who switch completely or significantly reduce their cigarette use, would outweigh the risk to youth, provided the applicant follows post-marketing requirements aimed at reducing youth exposure and access to the products.”

While some have cheered the FDA’s decision, not everyone was enthusiastic. Many critics cited a joint FDA-CDC study in which nearly 11% of teens who said they vape also indicated regularly using Vuse products. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Wall Street Journal) (The Washington Post)

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Kaiser Permanente Health Workers Vote To Authorize Strike Over Pay, Staffing, and Safety

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The vote could inspire unioned Kaiser workers in other states to eventually approve strikes of their own. 


Workers Approve Strike

Over 24,000 unioned nurses and other healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals voted Monday to authorize strikes against the company in California and Oregon.

The tens of thousands of workers who cast a ballot make up 86% of the Kaiser-based healthcare professionals represented by either the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) or the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. An overwhelming 96% voted to approve the strike.

According to both unions, the list of workers includes nurses, pharmacists, midwives, and physical therapists.

The vote itself does not automatically initiate a strike; rather, it gives the unions the power to call a strike amid stalled contract negotiations between Kaiser and the unions. If the unions ultimately tell their members to begin striking, they will need to give a 10-day warning. 

The California and Oregon contracts expired Sep. 30, but several more Kaiser-based union contracts are rapidly approaching their expiration dates as well. That includes contracts for more than 50,000 workers in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, Washington state, and D.C. Notably, the demands from those workers echo many of the demands made by California and Oregon’s union members. 

The Demands 

At the center of this potential strike are three issues: staffing problems, safety concerns, and proposed revisions to Kaiser’s payment system. For months, nurses have been publicly complaining about long shifts spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages, and an over-reliance on contract nurses.

Because of that, they’re seeking to force Kaiser to commit to hiring more staff, as well as boost retention.

But the main catalyst for any looming strikes is pay. According to UNAC/UHCP, Kaiser wants to implement a two-tier payment system, which would decrease earnings by 26% to 39% for employees hired from 2023 onward. On top of that, those new employees would see fewer health protections.

The unions and their members worry such a system could lead to an increased feeling of resentment among workers since they would be paid different rates for performing the same job. They also worry it could exacerbate retention and hiring issues already faced by the hospital system. 

Additionally, the workers want to secure 4% raises for each of the next three years, but Kaiser’s currently only willing to give 1%, citing a need to reduce labor costs to remain competitive.

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (The Washington Post) (KTLA)

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