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Inside Social

Inside Social (Aug 15th, 2019)

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1. Instagram is seeing a spate of inauthentic activity from "growth hackers," likely based out of Russia. If you've seen a bunch of strange views on your Instagram Stories from people who don't follow you (and who speak Russian), you're not alone. Instagram says these views are coming not from some government-led disinformation campaign, but from hackers who are trying to gain followers for accounts by "mass watching" stories, and hoping the users who posted the stories follow them back. UK social media agency Hydrogen discovered the uptick in fake views in June, saying that as a consequence of Facebook's crackdown on bots, "mass viewing of Instagram Stories is the new buying followers of 2019." – TECHCRUNCH

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2. Twitter's press event this week to announce the changes it's making to improve the health of the collective conversation on the platform only served to highlight its ongoing failures, Wired says. Ostensibly, Twitter invited members of the media in to tout its push for topics that people can follow, and to talk about how it had revised and clarified its terms of use earlier this year. Executives took the microphone to portray Twitter as a never-ending party where there's always some interesting conversation to be had. But as Wired puts it, "If Twitter is a party, then it’s a party where the punch is spiked with PCP and the carbon monoxide alarm won’t stop blaring, because all the guests are slowly succumbing to toxic fumes." – WIRED

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3. Throwback Thursday: Whatever happened to "What the Buck?!" star Michael Buckley? One of YouTube's earliest breakout stars, Michael Buckley, began posting vlogs under the title "What the Buck?!" in 2006. The show started as a segment on a Connecticut public-access TV show he launched with a friend in July 2005. He says that after a cousin started posting clips of the show on YouTube, things "snowballed," and he launched his YouTube channel, Buck Hollywood, in May 2006. At its peak, the channel had 1.43 million subscribers, and he racked up over 460 million video views. 

But internet fame dissolved about as quickly as it came, and Buckley did not parlay that early success into an ongoing career — he now lists his career as "life coach." Speaking to Ars Technica in 2017, Buckley said, "You start making money, and you think you’ve tricked the world. How did this happen? I was doing this for fun, and for free, and now I have thousands of dollars in my Adsense account. This is crazy. It’s nutty."

Buckley still makes occasional videos, but he ended "What the Buck?!" in 2016, saying he just wasn't as into pop culture as he was a decade earlier. Also, he added, "I’m 41 years old. The jig is kinda up."

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4. YouTube and Facebook are both reportedly complying with the vast majority of content-blocking requests from the Communist-led Vietnamese government. In a presentation to the Vietnamese parliament in Hanoi, information minister Nguyen Manh Hung announced this week that Facebook was now meeting 70 to 75 percent of the government's requests, compared to 30 percent earlier. And, he said, YouTube is now meeting 80 to 85 percent of requests, compared to 60 percent a year earlier. While Facebook is popular in Vietnam, and most social media is permitted (unlike in China), the government still censors it widely, and Facebook has said in the last year that it was restricting access to five times more content in Vietnam than it previously had. A law that took effect in January required Facebook to set up offices in Vietnam and to store user data on local servers there – something Facebook has not done in Russia despite that government's demands. – REUTERS

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6. Following Wednesday's story about how Facebook was having contractors listen to people's private voice memos on Messenger in order to double-check the work of its AI transcription software, a U.S. senator is asking Mark Zuckerberg if he gave "incomplete" testimony before Congress in April 2018. Zuckerberg was asked at the time whether the Facebook app ever listened in on users, and he said no, but a follow-up letter from Facebook with clarifications did admit that the company accessed users' audio recordings when they opted into a specific service — without elaborating. Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) penned a letter to Zuckerberg Thursday noting that the company did not explain what it did with this audio, or "the extent of Facebook’s use of this practice or the reasons for the discrepancy in your testimony on this issue during the hearing." – REUTERS

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7. The YouTube mobile app has added an AR feature that allows users watching makeup tutorials to virtually try on makeup. The feature pops up as a screen below the video you're watching, and you can try on a lip color, for instance, while the video keeps playing. – TECHCRUNCH

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8. Social media has begun to infect the stodgy world of resume writing. Gen Z job seekers are, for better or worse, making their resumes look like Tinder profiles and Instagram posts — and, in some cases, using Bitmoji. Most employers will tell you not to do this. – WALL STREET JOURNAL

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9. WhatsApp reportedly played a major roll in this year's election in Nigeria. WhatsApp users interviewed by The Next Web said there was a lot of discussion of the candidates on WhatsApp, and the platform was widely used to spread misinformation about them as well. – THE NEXT WEB

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10. In brief, Vine-like comedy videos featuring his pet duck named Jerry, TikTok user Brendan Balaskovitz has become a viral star. Jerry has done the Yeehaw Challenge, chowed on McDonald's fries, and done plenty more — and the channel now gets so many views that Balaskovitz quit his job to focus on TikTok. – THE VERGE

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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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