Here are three things going on in the world of social media today – and why they matter.
Facebook is doing something it’s never done before.
Studying racial bias on its platforms. Instagram’s new “equity and inclusion team” will explore if the platform algorithms trained using artificial intelligence are adversely impacting Black, Hispanic and other underrepresented groups. Right now, the team is focused on Instagram but Facebook is putting together a similar team to study the main app and website.
Here’s why this matters. The company has been reluctant to look at how the products affect minority groups. Facebook has had a bad rep when it comes to racial bias. For example, advertisers promoting within housing and job markets – both federally regulated markets – were allowed to exclude certain minority groups. That’s bad. Employees have been speaking out and pushing the company to take a closer look at its policies and practices that contribute to racial injustice.
Twitter is taking on QAnon.
The cult-like conspiracy theory group has long used Twitter to spread misinformation, harassment and in general caused mayhem on and off the platform. Now, Twitter is permanently banning any accounts that share QAnon content and violates harassment and other account-based rules. Additionally, the company is suppressing the topic in search results and blocking QAnon-related URLs in shares.
Here’s why this matters. When Twitter launched, it positioned itself as the platform for free speech. And now the focus is on the health of the Twitter community as a whole. After years of harassment complaints, the company is rethinking its approach to unfettered speech. We’ve seen it already in flagging false or dangerous tweets from public officials. But it’s still inconsistent and relies heavily on user reporting as moderation with AI hasn’t had the best results yet. Twitter needs to have stronger and more consistent policies in place that protect users. After the major hack last week, it’s clear the platform is more vulnerable than they’d like to admit.
The clock is ticking for TikTok.
Federal employees are barred from downloading the TikTok app to government-issued phones. You know, because of security. The House voted to ban the app as part of a defense spending bill and would apply to Congress and staffers. This comes after reports that the Chinese-based app is collecting all sorts of data from users which could be turned over to the Chinese Communist Party.
Here’s why this matters. TikTok is actively adding staff to keep up with growing U.S. demand. The platform is a hit. The security scrutiny from government officials illustrates the unease of app use coming from non-U.S. companies. Claims that there is no security in place have been proven false on several occasions. TikTok is no more prone to hacking than most other social media platforms. Some influencers have been arguing that the government wants to ban TikTok to stop younger – voter eligible – people from sharing content that is detrimental to the current administration. Is it a coincidence that we’re hearing more about TikTok bans after the platform was used to coordinate demonstrations supporting Black Lives Matter? Something to think about.