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Inside Social

Inside Social (Aug 12th, 2019)

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1. In the minutes and hours after the news broke that Jeffrey Epstein had committed suicide in jail on Saturday morning, Twitter became a hotbed of conspiracy hashtags about the Clintons and President Trump. In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Charlie Warzel writes that the hashtag war, which had help from Fox News correspondents and Trump's own appointees, was "a grim testament to our deeply poisoned information ecosystem — one that’s built for speed and designed to reward the most incendiary impulses of its worst actors." Warzel says that Twitter "has come to largely program the political conversation and much of the press," especially in times of crisis and in moments of big breaking news, and it's very structure has fundamentally hurt journalism. When "Trending Topics," which are influenced by this toxic behavior, become a metric for a story's importance, it's further proof of how poisoned the public discourse has become, Warzel says. Meanwhile, Twitter users continued to abuse the wrong Jeffrey Epstein. – NEW YORK TIMES

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2. In its plans to launch a new News tab this fall in partnership with major media organizations, Facebook is setting itself apart from Google in offering to both pay for news content and direct web traffic to original sources. Facebook's new initiative to curate and promote "trustworthy news," as Mark Zuckerberg has previously discussed doing, signals a major shift in how the company is seeking to placate and compensate traditional media, after years of criticism that it has hurt newspapers nationwide by siphoning ad revenue. The deals, which are in the works with ABC News, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, the New York Times, the Washington Post and others, are reportedly worth as much as $3 million apiece, and publications will have the option of having Facebook host the content, or having Facebook merely host landing pages with links back to their own websites. This follows a study earlier this year that suggested Google had made billions of dollars from its own News tab, without compensating the media. – WALL STREET JOURNAL

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3. Children have been viewing videos of mass shootings, like the one in El Paso, on Snapchat. One video from the Walmart shooting in El Paso showing a shopper fleeing the shopping center while the shooting was taking place originated on Snapchat. Yet many parents are not aware that their children can be exposed to such content on the platform — believing that it's solely being used for kids to communicate with their friends. One psychologist who lectures about social media says that most parents aren't aware of Snapchat's Discover section, which acts as a news feed that can sometimes contain disturbing content. – PSYCHOLOGY TODAY

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4. People are tweeting more than ever about video games. The number of tweets related to video games and gaming in general is up 20 percent year over year, with 500 million tweets in the first half of the year alone. Some of this uptick has to do with major news stories related to gaming, including the president's attempt to blame video game culture for the recent spate of mass shootings, and popular gamer Ninja departing Twitch. But it also signals that Twitter has remained largely embraced by the gaming community for public conversation. Ninja, meanwhile, spurred more conversation Sunday by saying he was "disgusted" with Twitch for promoting other streamers on his former channel. – WIRED

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5. Amazon-owned video-game streaming platform Twitch has been having some trouble with pornographic and white supremacist content. In one incident over the weekend, a channel streaming pornography — including porn content involving characters from the game Fortnite — became the most-watched stream on the platform and remained live for two hours before being pulled down. (Also, it was being promoted on popular user Ninja's former channel about Fortnite.) Another incident involved a combination of porn and white supremacist content, including footage of the Christchurch shooting. – BUSINESS INSIDER

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6. Facebook backed away from acquiring a startup last year in order to avoid more antitrust scrutiny, and the project to unite the backends of its messaging systems may have the same motive. The company reportedly cut short some acquisition talks with group-focused video platform Houseparty in December, deciding it wasn't worth the possible antitrust accusations. And Mark Zuckerberg's much-publicized plan to unite WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram may simply be aimed at making it more difficult to break the company up. – NEW YORK TIMES

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7. YouTube is sending more users who watch conspiracy-theory content to Fox News videos. After tweaking its algorithm to stop recommending conspiracy theorists and potential misinformation, one big winner has been Fox News, whose videos now appear more frequently among recommended content when noted members of the QAnon or Pizzagate sect post new content of their own. Those users are complaining that the company has stolen away views and handed them to Fox. – HUFFPOST

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8. Twitter is testing a new feature that sends notifications of replies to a user in a given conversation. Users can opt to only be notified if the original author of a tweet thread replies, if someone the user follows replies, or if anyone replies — allowing users to sort out and ignore replies they don't care to see. – ENGADGET

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9. Instagram account flipping has become a decent source of income for some. While the bubble remains unpopped in the realm of Instagram marketing, theme accounts like those devoted to niche topics like fashion can be bought, improved, and then resold for a profit by industrious social media mavens. One 23-year-old says he's made $120,000 flipping accounts in just a couple of years — even though Instagram technically forbids this. – MARKETWATCH

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10. Olivia Jade, the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin who became one of the faces of the college admissions fraud scandal known as Varsity Blues earlier this year, made one of her first reappearances on Instagram since the scandal broke on Sunday. A defiant Jade flipped off the camera with both hands, tagging celebrity news publications like People, The Daily Mail, and Perez Hilton. – FOX NEWS

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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.

Editor: David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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