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Inside Social

Inside Social (Aug 21st, 2019)

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1. A conservative-led bias audit of Facebook yielded anecdotal complaints from Facebook users about perceived mistreatment and the ever-moving bar of "hate speech," however no evidence appears to have been found for "shadow banning" or other practices. Axios notes that the release of the audit, led by Senator John Kyl (R-Arizona), shows that Facebook is taking complaints from conservative circles seriously. And an op-ed by Kyl in the Wall Street Journal bolsters this, suggesting that the company has made substantive changes in response to the auditors' concerns. Those changes primarily amount to greater transparency in how the News Feed algorithm works, and an update to the policy banning photos of medical tubes attached to the human body — the change will allow anti-abortion activists to post photos of infants born prematurely who survive. Media Matters follows up with its own data, collected through 2018, that showed no marked difference between Facebook engagement rates for right-leaning and left-leaning pages. – MEDIA MATTERS

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2. An old hoax from Facebook has made it onto Instagram, and it's duped celebrities and politicians into reposting it. An image with a block of text has gone viral claiming that Instagram is changing its privacy policy and making all posts and messages, even those you've deleted, publicly available and able to be used against you in court. It contains a message forbidding Instagram from using your material, and encourages those who see it to repost it, as if this would have some legal impact. Celebrities including Rob Lowe, Debra Messing, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry have all done so. Instagram chief Adam Mosseri took to Twitter to debunk the hoax once more. As Snopes explains, this hoax may date back to 2007, and appeared widely on Facebook in 2012, but apparently not enough people pay enough attention to the internet. – NBC NEWS

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3. YouTube is being called out for allowing Chinese state media to run ads containing misinformation about the protests in Hong Kong. Much like Twitter, which was called out earlier this week for letting the Chinese government purchase sponsored tweets spreading anti-protester propaganda, YouTube is now facing pressure for running ads from China Central Television that compare the protesters to terrorists. It's unclear whether the ads violate any of Google/YouTube's guidelines, but the ads are clearly part of a broad influence campaign by Chinese officials — which has included fake accounts and pages on Facebook — to sway international opinion about the protests. YouTube has not yet commented on the matter, but in response to pressure this week, Twitter announced that it would stop accepting promoted tweets funded by state-sponsored media in China. – THE VERGE

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4. Google is delaying the shutdown of Hangouts for business users of G Suite. Google has plans to migrate business users into its Slack competitor, called Hangouts Chat, and the video conferencing tool Hangouts Meet. The shutdown of the original Hangouts within G Suite was slated for October, but Google says its heard from many IT teams and companies that they need more time to make the switch. Hangouts for G Suite will now be around through December. – 9 TO 5 GOOGLE

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5. Porn bots, similar to those commenting all over Instagram, are flooding Twitter with spam posts. Posts depicting scantily clad women say nonsensical things that include strings of trending-topic words in order to pop into the feeds for those topics. Like the Instagram versions, the purpose of all of them is to get users to click through to sketchy porn sites. – ENGADGET

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6. YouTube is killing off its two-year-old direct-messaging feature. The Messages feature, introduced in YouTube's mobile and desktop apps in 2017, was meant to enable direct communication with creators and other users. But it's being killed off in favor of making all conversations public, in comments. One possible reason: the feature was very popular with kids, who are now really upset. – 9 TO 5 GOOGLE 

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7. As part of Twitter's "Conversations" initiative, the company has acqui-hired the team from the narrative-tool startup LightwellThe team will be responsible for trying to tame some of the chaos of Twitter's single-river flow of tweets in order to frame conversations around particular narratives. Meanwhile the Lightwell core product will no longer be developed. – TECHCRUNCH

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8. In a move that is likely to negatively impact revenue, YouTube is considering removing all targeted ads from children's content. The move appears to be in direct response to crackdowns and investigations by the FTC into children's presence on and use of YouTube. – BLOOMBERG

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9. Educators say they're increasingly perturbed by the ways Gamergate has invaded their classrooms. One college professor who teaches a class called "Games & Society" at UC Irvine describes a creepy scene from late 2017 in which about a dozen male students who weren't enrolled in the class showed up to film a lecture that was about gender and gaming — likely to share on Reddit or 4chan. – THE VERGE

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10. Trying to appeal to the kids, Snoop Dogg's latest album release comes with a Snapchat "Easter egg." After scanning a code, Snapchat users can point the app's camera at the album cover and see an AR version of Snoop come to life. – NEXT REALITY

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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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