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Inside Social

Inside Social (Jun 12th, 2019)

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1. An American company owned by Google/Alphabet paid a professional Russian internet troll for a disinformation campaign, as an experiment to show how easy it is to find trolls for hire. The "influence operation" cost $250, was paid for by Alphabet subsidiary Jigsaw, and included 730 Russian-language tweets from 25 separate accounts, as well as 100 posts to forums and blog comment sections. The target was an anti-Stalin website that Jigsaw and a third-party security firm had created themselves — part of an ongoing debate in Russia about how to view the legacy of the infamous dictator. Jigsaw says it was careful not to launch any campaign about current-day events, but critics already say that paying a Russian troll to do anything looks bad for Alphabet. — WIRED

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2. Some internal emails from 2012 have surfaced allegedly suggesting that CEO Mark Zuckerberg was far more closely involved in "problematic" decisions around data privacy at the time than has previously been known. The emails were described to, but not obtained by, the Wall Street Journal, and they are reportedly being looked at closely by the Federal Trade Commission as the agency decides how to censure Facebook for violations of its 2011 consent decree. The emails were apparently written after the consent decree was announced, but prior to it taking effect. Facebook both denies the emails' existence and likely does not want them becoming public if they do exist, which they would if the FTC decided to litigate its case in court rather than settle. We learned last month that Facebook is anticipating a settlement fine of $3 billion to $5 billion. — WALL STREET JOURNAL

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3. By the Numbers: The rise and fall of social networks. An amusing animated bar graph set to dramatic music shows the rise and fall of various social platforms between 2003 and 2019. It's the work of The Next Web, and in addition to tracking the rise of Facebook as it overtook all other platforms during that period, it also documents the rapid rise and fall of Friendster and MySpace, and shows how quickly Chinese social app WeChat is catching up to Facebook, already clocking 1 billion monthly active users (the same as Instagram).

2003
Friendster - 4.5 million 
LinkedIn - 100,000

2010
YouTube - 478 million
Facebook - 465 million
Google Buzz - 158 million
MySpace - 68 million
Twitter - 39 million

2019
Facebook - 2.2 billion
YouTube - 1.9 billion
Instagram - 1 billion
WeChat - 1 billion
Tumblr - 624 million
Twitter - 335 million

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4. Instagram is leaving up a deep-faked video of Mark Zuckerberg appearing to brag about stolen personal data and controlling the lives and futures of billions of people. The video was created as part of an installation by UK artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe called Spectre, and in the video, the faked Zuckerberg says, "I owe it all to Spectre. Spectre showed me that whoever controls the data controls the future." The video is a true test of Facebook's content policies around disinformation, which recently came under fire when a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi circulated that was intentionally slowed down to make her sound drunk. – USA TODAY

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5. There's been a rapid rise in tourism to Chernobyl and the abandoned Ukranian city of Pripyat in the wake of the HBO mini-series, and thus there's been a rise in Instagram thirst-trap photos near the plant. One female influencer who's pictured half-naked by an abandoned building in a hazmat suit has drawn much ire from commenters. – NEW YORK POST

6. Journalist David Neiwert says that Twitter suspended him for displaying the cover of his book, which is about the rise of the alt-right. The book cover apparently tripped Twitter's "sensitive media policy" because it shows images of KKK hoods. – DAILY BEAST

7. Those gender-swap and baby-face lenses apparently inspired a massive uptick in Snapchat downloads. The app was downloaded 41.5 million times in May, up from 16.8 million in April, and that's compared to 17.6 million downloads in May of last year. – SOCIAL MEDIA TODAY

8. You can actually customize your interests in Snapchat Discover and tell it the kinds of videos you want to see.

9. A week after YouTube announced broad new policies around hate speech and hate groups, a number of prominent accounts belonging to white supremacists and others remain live on the site.

10. Britney Spears, who is on an indefinite break from performing, has been inspiring conspiracy theories and plenty of questions among her fans via her unconventional, highly un-curated Instagram presence.

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Inside Social is written and curated by Jay Barmann. Jay has spent a decade covering the social media space and the tech world in general for SFist.com, the San Francisco branch of Gothamist. As editor of Grub Street San Francisco, he also covered the food world around the Bay Area. As a freelance writer he has written for SF Weekly, 7x7, Curbed SF, Eater SF, Eventbrite, New York Magazine, and San Francisco Magazine, among others. Follow him on Instagram at @conflator or Twitter at @jaybarmann.

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside), David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology), and Bobby Cherry (senior editor at Inside, who’s always on social media).

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