- Facebook announced that it would be ramping up its measures to fight foreign interference, increase transparency, and reduce misinformation heading into the 2020 election.
- Some of its plans include giving candidates added protection on their accounts, allowing users to see how much candidates spend on ads, and putting labels on posts that contain misinformation.
- This comes during a controversial time for Facebook, which removed foreign accounts because of inauthentic behavior and attempting to influence the election on the same day it announced its plans.
- The company has also come under fire for deciding to not remove candidate’s posts that contain misinformation, though in a conference call announcing Monday’s changes, Mark Zuckerberg did say there could be exceptions.
Facebook’s New Initiatives
Facebook has announced a list of initiatives it will take to reduce misinformation and address other concerns ahead of the 2020 election.
In a Monday blog post called “Helping to Protect the 2020 US Elections,” the company broke down its plans to “protect the democratic process.”
“The bottom line here is that elections have changed significantly since 2016 and Facebook has changed, too,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call announcing the changes.
The first measure the social media giant is taking aims to fight against foreign interference. The company plans to combat inauthentic behavior and add extra protection for candidate accounts. This will be done via a new tool called Facebook Protect that candidates can sign up for. Along with increasing security on the accounts, it also will monitor for hacking threats.
The next announced plan is to increase transparency on the site. Facebook said it will make pages more transparent and show the confirmed owner of pages, label state-controlled media, and help users understand political ads. Part of this will include allowing users to see how much presidential candidates are spending on Facebook ads, and will even break down where money is being directed geographically.
The last part of their initiative is to reduce the spread of misinformation on the platform. The company plans to invest $2 million in media literacy projects so users can better understand what is on their feed. It is also banning ads that encourage people not to vote.
Fact-checking labels will also be added to posts that contain misinformation. Third-party fact-checkers will verify whether or not the information is false or partially false. Users can then see an explanation as to why the information being presented is inaccurate.
Recent Controversies around Facebook
These announcements come at a time when Facebook’s role in the election has been more scrutinized by the pubic than ever. As far as fact-checking misinformation, the site faced a lot of backlash when it said it would not remove posts from political leaders that broke Facebook policy, including spreading false facts. At the time, Zuckerberg said he did not think it was right for a private company to censor politicians.
Among the critics of this choice was presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who ended up making a fake ad saying that Zuckerberg endorsed President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. She quickly said this was not true then added, “But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform — and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”
On Monday’s conference call, Zuckerberg did note there were instances where exceptions to this policy would have to be made. Among possible instances where this could apply, Zuckerberg listed, “if a politician is calling for violence or inciting violence, if there is a risk of imminent physical harm, and of course voter suppression, which is calling to remove other people’s voice.”
This sweeping plan of initiatives also came on the same day that Facebook said it had uncovered Russian and Iranian operations to influence the 2020 election. In a separate blog post, Facebook announced that it had “removed four separate networks of accounts, Pages and Groups for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram.”
Three of those networks came from Iran, while the other came from Russia. According to a Washington Post report, the Russian account, in particular, boasted support for Trump while laying attacks against candidate Joe Biden.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Verge) (Reuters UK)
Next Round of the Streaming War Kicks-Off With Disney+ Launch
- After months of anticipation, Disney+ officially launched. While its content was met with largely decent reviews, it did face criticism from fans who were upset that the site crashed and had connection problems on its first day.
- Meanwhile, an executive at Apple TV+ stepped down after the platform premiered two weeks ago to less than exciting reviews.
- Apple and Disney are the latest to introduce their own streaming services, with more to follow. With Disney+ now in full swing, many wonder what the future of streaming will look like, and what will happen to platforms like Netflix.
With the launch of Disney+ in full swing, the streaming wars are seeing its latest– and potentially biggest– battle.
On Tuesday, Disney’s highly anticipated streaming service launched in the United States. Containing content that ranges from Disney’s classic animated films, to Star Wars and Marvel productions, the buildup to Disney+ was filled with fanfare and anticipation.
When users went to watch both old and new shows, however, many hit a bump in the road. Several fans reported having connection issues with the service. In an appropriate nod to the studio’s catalog, Ralph and Venellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet deliver the bad news in an error message.
Fans online reported receiving this message when trying to view content, load shows, and log in to or edit their profiles. Disney was the number one trending topic on Tuesday morning, accompanied by hashtags like #DisneyPlusDown and #DisneyPlusFail. Disney+ responded on Twitter, saying demand for the service “exceeded our highest expectations.”
Despite this bump in the road, the content on Disney+ has generated a relative amount of praise. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has been hailed by USA Today as “nostalgia done right”
The Mandalorian, the highly anticipated Star Wars series, has also seen fairly decent reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it a “safe” but “entertaining blockbuster” while The Verge said it proved Star Wars can work on the small screen.
The Mandalorian became a trending topic of its own, followed by other nostalgic Disney shows like Gargoyles and Lizzie McGuire.
Apple TV+ Executive Leaves
Disney, however, was not the only streamings service making headlines. The Hollywood Reporter announced that Kim Rozenfeld is leaving his role as the head of scripted, unscripted and documentary programming at Apple TV+.
Rozenfeld will still remain with the company in some capacity. According to the Reporter, he will work as a producer and has a first-look deal with Apple.
Apple TV+ launched two weeks ago to less than enthusiastic reviews. Of its four scripted originals, the service heavily marketed its celebrity-packed series The Morning Show. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon, the show was picked up for a second season before it even aired. Reviews for it ended up being less than favorable.
Each of the service’s original shows generated low buzz in comparison to larger projects at other streaming services like Netflix. Variety published a study done by Parrot Analytics that looked at the demand for new shows in 2019 following their first 24 hours of release. Apple TV+’s content all fell at the bottom of the list, with The Morning Show squarely in last place.
Not all press for Apple TV+ was negative, though. Starting at $5 a month, it is among the more affordable streaming options. The remainder of its scripted shows also got the green light for second seasons.
Future of Streaming
These stories do shine a light onto the world of streaming and the so-called “streaming wars” that studios, networks, and other services are finding themselves fighting. In the cases of Disney+ and Apple TV+, both have had problems as they launched, a technical error in one case and a business shake-up in another. Still, based on excitement and critical review alone, it does feel that Disney+ is leading the charge as far as services that could become a serious threat to dethrone Netflix as the king of streaming.
Disney owns multiple facets of the entertainment industry, including ABC, Marvel, ESPN, 20th Century Fox, and earlier this year gained full control of Hulu. With all these properties in its back pocket, it has almost always seemed the obvious leader in this fight.
With other companies poised to launch services of their own, it begs the question: how do they plan to compete with Disney’s large catalog of content?
Right now, it seems NBC Universal will have their service, Peacock, be free to users with ads. On the other hand, HBO Max, which comes from Warner Media, is aiming to be on the more expensive side of the spectrum at $14.99 per month. Both have been in ongoing battles to get their content back from places like Netflix to put on their own services. Peacock has secured The Office and HBO Max grabbed Friends. Those two shows are among the most popular on Netflix.
See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNBC)
Apple Card Faces Investigation After Accusations of Gender Discrimination
- A popular Twitter thread has accused Apple Card, which is put out in partnership with Goldman Sachs, of gender bias.
- A programmer said he got 20 times the credit card limit as his wife, despite the fact that they file joint tax returns and the fact that she has a higher individual credit score than he does.
- Others said they faced similar problems, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who now holds a ceremonial role at the company.
- Goldman Sachs insisted that gender is not a factor in card applications and approvals, but New York’s Department of Financial Services said it will investigate.
Thread Accusing Apple Card of Gender Bias Goes Viral
The New York Department of Financial Services says it will be looking into potential gender discrimination from Apple Card after several people, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, accused it of having a bias.
Problems with Apple Card, which is made in partnership with Goldman Sachs, first made their way to the surface when programmer and author David Heinemeier Hansson posted a twitter thread accusing it of sexism. He wrote that it approved him of a higher limit than his wife.
According to Hansson, even after his wife paid off her card in full, she was not allowed to spend until the next billing period.
He initially said that customer service was overall unhelpful when trying to address the problem. One day after posting his thread, however, he followed up to say that his wife’s limit was bumped up.
As for his wife’s experience with Apple, he says she spoke to two representatives. He claims that the first said it was not discrimination and blamed it on the algorithm.
The second encouraged his wife to check her credit score again. Hansson and his wife both ended up checking their scores and learned that his wife actually had a higher score than he did.
He continued to share his frustrations with this algorithm and its lack of transparency.
Steve Wozniak and Others Back Up the Claim
Once this thread blew up, many others said they had experienced a similar problem.
Just read this thread. My wife has a way better score than me, almost 850, has a higher salary and was given a credit limit 1/3 of mine. We had joked that maybe Apple is just sexist. Seems like it’s not a joke. Beyond f’ed up.— Carmine Granucci (@whoiscarmine) November 9, 2019
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who now holds a ceremonial role at the company, also replied to Hansson. Wozniak said his wife got ten times less than he did, despite them having shared assets and accounts.
I’m a current Apple employee and founder of the company and the same thing happened to us (10x) despite not having any separate assets or accounts. Some say the blame is on Goldman Sachs but the way Apple is attached, they should share responsibility.— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) November 10, 2019
He also said his wife had difficulty with customer service, and could not use her card after paying it off as well.
Janet made the phone calls to the number given but got nowhere. She also has paid off her card totally but still can’t use it until the next billing cycle.— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) November 10, 2019
In a Sunday interview with Bloomberg, Wozniak elaborated on his concerns about Apple Card and the algorithm behind it.
“These sorts of unfairnesses bother me and go against the principle of truth. We don’t have transparency on how these companies set these things up and operate,” he told the outlet. “Our government isn’t strong enough on the issues of regulation. Consumers can only be represented by the government because the big corporations only represent themselves.”
“Algos obviously have flaws,” he added. “A huge number of people would say, ‘We love our technology but we are no longer in control.’ I think that’s the case.”
Goldman Sachs and New York’s DFS Respond
While some did respond to both Hansson and Wozniak saying they did not experience this, tweets accusing Apple Card of gender bias blew up, prompting several responses.
Goldman Sachs released a statement on Sunday saying that, “In all cases, we have not and will not make decisions based on factors like gender.”
“With Apple Card, your account is individual to you; your credit line is yours and you establish your own direct credit history,” the statement read. “Customers do not share a credit line under the account of a family member or another person by getting a supplemental card.”
They also said that applications are evaluated independently, looking at things like income, credit score, and debt management.
Linda Lacewell, the Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services said she would be looking into the matter.
“We will work to investigate what may have gone wrong, and if the algorithm used by Apple Card did indeed promote unlawful discrimination we will take appropriate action,” she wrote in a Medium post on Sunday. “But this is not just about looking into one algorithm — DFS wants to work with the tech community to make sure consumers nationwide can have confidence that the algorithms that increasingly impact their ability to access financial services do not discriminate and instead treat all individuals equally and fairly no matter their sex, color of skin, or sexual orientation.”
She encouraged consumers who have been affected by this, as well as tech leaders who have commentary on it, to reach out to New York’s DFS.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Verge) (Bloomberg)
Instagram Will Test Hiding Likes in the US Starting This Week
- Instagram will start testing a feature this week that hides like counts on posts for some users in the United States.
- The feature has already been piloted in countries including Australia, Ireland, and Canada.
- Some say the change will help improve people’s well-being and allow them to focus on the content they post.
- Others doubt Instagram’s intentions, are concerned about its potential impact on businesses, and have suggested that features in the comment section are more of a problem.
Instagram CEO Announces Change
Instagram likes will disappear from public view for some accounts in the U.S. this week in an effort to help users focus more on content.
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri officially announced the long-rumored plan at a Wired tech event in San Francisco on Friday and followed it up with a Twitter post.
“It’s about young people,” Mosseri said at the Wired25 conference. “The idea is to try to ‘depressurize’ Instagram, make it less of a competition and give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them.”
Mosseri added, “We will make decisions that hurt the business [in the short term] if they’re good for people’s well-being and health — because it has to be good for the business over the long-term.”
The change shouldn’t come as a complete surprise since Mosseri has talked about making this move in the past. In fact, Instagram has already been testing hidden likes for a few months in places like Canada, Brazil, Japan, Ireland, New Zealand, Italy, and Australia.
However, Instagram won’t be getting rid of likes altogether. Users will still be able to view their likes themselves, they just won’t be displayed publically to their followers anymore.
Reactions to the Change
The decision has received pretty mixed responses from users. Many are concerned about how this will impact marketing strategies for businesses, influencers, or emerging artists that use the platform for promotion. However, Karen Civil, a social media strategist, argued that influencers shouldn’t pay too much attention to how many likes their posts get.
Many others have supported the move, as they believe it will stop people from allowing likes to control their content. Some, like Kim Kardashian-West, have specifically focused more on how this move could impact people’s well-being.
“As far as mental health… I think taking the likes away and taking that aspect away from [Instagram] would be really beneficial for people,” she said Wednesday at the New York Times’ DealBook Conference ahead of the official announcement.
“I know the Instagram team has been having a bunch of conversations with people to get everyone’s take on that and they’re taking it really seriously, and that makes me happy,” she added.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also praised the move on Saturday by retweeted Mosseri’s post and adding, “Great step.”
Meanwhile, Rapper Cardi B argued that the comment section should be a bigger concern. In a video posted to Instagram, she said she noticed toxic behavior increasing on the platform after users were given the option to like and reply to comments.
“If anything is affecting Instagram right now, I really feel it’s the way the comments have been done or have been changing these past few years.”
“Because I feel people been saying the most weirdest shit, been starting the craziest arguments, been starting to race bait, all because of comments, because they want to get to the top, they want to get the most reactions.”
Fellow artist Nicki Minaj also chimed in on the news, vowing to stop using the platform altogether.
She argued that the move is bad for independent artists who use Instagram for power and exposure. She also suggested, among other things, that Instagram might be hiding likes to manipulate what posts users see on their feed.
A Wave of Demetrication
Instagram appears to be the latest platform experimenting with what many describe as “demetrication,” where social media companies reduce the importance of public metrics.
Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, has also been testing hiding likes on its platform for users in Australia. Earlier this year, YouTube changed the way it displays subscriber counts.
On several occasions, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey has hinted that he too was reconsidering whether the platform should publicize metrics. Twitter denied that it plans to remove likes and retweets but did say it was looking at the features as part of wider moves to “improve the health” of conversations happening on the site.