- 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.
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.”
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.
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.
The Boeing MAX 8 Scandal & Controversy Explained!
When Boeing first introduced the 737 MAX 8, the new plane was supposed to help usher in a new generation of commercial aircraft. Then two MAX 8’s crashed within five months of each other, killing a total of 346 people.
Since then, the controversy around Boeing has kept growing and growing as numerous investigations revealed a number of highly questionable and even negligent business and regulatory practices that ultimately led to the crashes.
Even now, more than a year after the first crash, Boeing is still in the news and under the microscope as it struggles to keep up appearances.
Facebook to Pay $550 Million to Settle Facial Recognition Suit
- Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in Illinois that claimed its “Tag Suggestions” feature illegally harvested facial data from millions of users in Illinois without their permission.
- Facebook disclosed the settlement while also announcing it made $21 billion last quarter.
- Some championed the settlement as a victory for consumer privacy rights.
- Others argued that no matter how much Facebook pays in lawsuits and settlements, the company has continued to grow and has not fundamentally changed its business practices.
Facebook Announces Settlement
Facebook announced Wednesday that it had agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit involving facial recognition technology.
The lawsuit was filed in Illinois in 2015 and claimed that Facebook’s “Tag Suggestions” feature violated the state’s 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
The “Tag Suggestion” tool uses facial recognition software to scan users’ faces and then suggest the names of other users who might be in the picture.
The lawsuit alleged that Facebook used it to illegally harvest facial data from millions of users in Illinois without their permission or without telling them how the data was kept.
Illinois is one of three states that has its own biometric privacy laws, and BIPA is arguably the strongest of all three.
Under BIPA, companies that collect biometric data, which includes data from finger, face, and iris scans, must get prior consent from consumers and detail how the data will be used and how long the company will keep it. BIPA also allows private citizens to sue.
The lawsuit accused Facebook of failing to comply with those restrictions.
Facebook, for its part, argued that the people who it collected data from without consent could not prove that they experienced any concrete harm, like financial losses. However, the company still ultimately decided to settle.
Once the federal judge overseeing the case approves the settlement, people eligible to claim money are expected to receive a couple hundred dollars.
Other Settlements & Controversies
Many privacy experts and advocates applauded the settlement and said it was a victory for consumer privacy rights.
But others argued that the settlement does not really change anything, because it is not a big deal for Facebook. While $550 million might seem like a lot, for Facebook, its basically pocket change.
Even the way Facebook announced the settlement seemed to emphasize that point. The tech giant disclosed the settlement while announcing its financial results for 2019, reporting that revenue rose 25% to $21 billion in the last quarter alone.
Not only did that indicate how minor the Illinois settlement was for the company financially, it also showcased their incredible ability to weather scandals and controversy.
Over the last few years, Facebook has received a lot of backlash, largely over privacy concerns and the spread of misinformation on the platform.
Most recently Facebook has been under fire for its decision to essentially let politicians lie in political ads.
In July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Facebook $5 billion over privacy violations— the largest fine the FTC has ever imposed on a tech company by far.
Facebook’s Continued Growth
But even in the face of massive financial costs and prominent controversies, Facebook still continues to grow.
In an article published by Axios, writer Sara Fischer described Facebook’s ability for continued growth despite those obstacles.
“Facebook closed out the second decade of the millennium stronger than ever,” she wrote. “Facebook’s continued ability to post double-digit revenue growth every year speaks to how well it has been able to innovate and adapt, even in the face of regulatory headwinds and increased competition.”
Fischer gave the example of North America and Europe where Facebook has gotten more money per user each year despite the fact that its user growth in those regions has stayed relatively stagnant.
She also mentioned the Illinois case, FTC fine, and other growing concerns over privacy and advertizing Facebook has warned its investors about.
“So far these fines have proven moot in getting the tech giant to fundamentally change its business, which continues to grow substantially,” she said.
While Facebook did agree to be more transparent about how it uses facial recognition technology as part of the FTC settlement, many are skeptical that the Illinois case will bring about any substantive change.
However, in an investor call following the release of Facebook’s earnings report Wednesday, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said that he wanted to be more transparent about the company’s values.
“One critique of our approach for much of the last decade is that because we wanted to be liked, we didn’t want to communicate our views as clearly, because we worried about offending people,” he said.
“Our goal for the next decade isn’t to be liked, but understood. In order to be trusted, people need to know what we stand for.”
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Verge) (The New York Times)
New 2020 Emoji Include Transgender Flag and More Gender-Inclusive Options
- Over 100 new emoji were revealed on Wednesday, set to be released sometime in 2020.
- The new additions will consist of 62 brand-new emoji as well as 55 gender and skin-tone variants.
- The transgender flag, a woman in a tuxedo, and a more gender-inclusive alternative to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will be among the new options.
- Other emoji introduced include boba tea, a dodo bird, a smiley face with a tear, and an anatomical heart.
More than 100 new emoji will be available for mobile phone users this year, providing both fun new icons as well as more inclusive and diverse options.
The list was unveiled on Wednesday by the Unicode Consortium, an organization devoted to developing and maintaining software internalization standards and data.
There will be 62 brand-new emoji as well as 55 gender and skin-tone variants, reflecting a push toward a more inclusive collection. Among the new icons will be the transgender symbol as well as the transgender pride flag, an idea proposed by advocates and artists with the help of Google and Microsoft.
Along this same vein, more gender-inclusive options will be seen with this new wave. Both a woman and a non-binary figure in a tuxedo will soon be available, as well as a man and a non-binary figure in a wedding veil.
To complement the already-existing Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus options, a more gender-inclusive alternative will be included as well — under the name of Mx. Claus.
There will also be new emoji depicting parents feeding a baby.
Other new emoji include a smiley face with a tear, two figures hugging, boba tea, and an anatomical heart. The animal section is getting a boost too, as a beaver, a seal, a polar bear, and even a dodo bird will be introduced.
The release date of the new emoji depends on each individual vendor, but Unicode Consortium noted that typically the new icons are rolled out in the fall.
Praise for New Emoji
After the new additions were revealed, many took to Twitter to express their joy about the more inclusive options.
“Incredible power in the new 2020 emojis,” one person wrote.