A mobile device with several social media apps (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

“Social Media Roundup” is a weekly roundup of news pertaining to all of your favorite websites and applications used for social networking. Published on Sundays, “Social Media Roundup” will help you stay up-to-date on all the important social media news you need to know.


Trending Topics Being Removed

Screenshot: Amit Chowdhry

Facebook’s Trending section

Facebook has decided to remove the Trending news section of the social network. Facebook had launched the Trending news section four years ago.

“We introduced Trending in 2014 as a way to help people discover news topics that were popular across the Facebook community. However, it was only available in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers on average,” said Facebook in a news post. “From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful. We will remove Trending from Facebook next week and we will also remove products and third-party partner integrations that rely on the Trends API.”

Going forward, Facebook plans to launch new ways for users to stay informed about timely breaking news. This includes a “Breaking News Label” being tested with 80 publishers across North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia, a “Today In” section that connects people with important news from local publishers and a “News Video in Watch” section on Facebook Watch in the U.S. where people can see live coverage, daily news briefings and weekly deep dives.

Collaboration With Scientists To Fight Misinformation

Facebook is being proactive about preventing the social network from being abused for future elections around the world such as the U.S. midterm elections in November, Turkey in June and Mexico in July. For example, Facebook partnered with the non-profit organization Social Science Research Council last month to assess the impact of social media on elections.

Research scientists at the Social Science Research Council will have access to Facebook’s data on human behavior. This is the first time that researchers will be able to access Facebook’s data and publish the results without pre-approval, according to Wired.

Gary King, the director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, said that Facebook is going to provide encrypted laptops to conduct the research. Facebook will log the clicks and keystrokes to ensure data is not compromised in the process. “It’s not a laptop you’d ever use to send personal messages. That’s not its purpose. Its purpose is to provide a level of security similar to what you’d find in a locked room in Menlo Park. Its purpose is to avoid another Cambridge Analytica,” said King via Wired.

However, Facebook will only provide the researchers access to data that is relevant to their proposed studies. And the data that is available through the initiative is going to protect the privacy of the individuals. Data will not be stored on the laptop and researchers will have to receive permission before removing data from the devices.

Messenger Stories Gain Polls Feature

Polls In Messenger Stories

Messenger has recently announced that it has added polls to the Stories feature. Facebook’s main app and Instagram social network already have an option to add polls to photos and videos.

Just like the Facebook and Instagram apps, users can select a poll sticker with questions and answers after uploading photos or videos. From there users can swipe up the poll to see how users voted after the poll sticker was posted.

Instagram originally introduced its polls feature in October and followed that up with an emoji polling slider feature recently.

AI Chips For Preventing Violent Livestreams

Often times Facebook Live is used during homicides, suicides and other shocking footage. In order to prevent this type of content from spreading, Facebook relies on artificial intelligence, human moderators and a flagging system. According to Bloomberg, Facebook is working on creating its own artificial intelligence hardware that would handle Facebook’s algorithms.

By building their own chips, Facebook would use less computing power which makes the algorithms run faster. Facebook’s AI filters are currently able to detect violent videos in around 10 minutes, but some of them remain for hours before getting removed. These chips should be able to speed up that process.

COO Sheryl Sandberg And CTO CTO Mike Schroepfer Interviewed At Code Conference

At the Code Conference, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and CTO Mike Schroepfer appeared to discuss how Facebook plans to fix several issues like fake news and the prevention of another scandal like Cambridge Analytica. Sandberg acknowledged that Facebook moved slowly in resolving issues. But said that the company is now taking action much quicker.

“We definitely know we’re late,” said Sandberg at the Code Conference via Variety. “We said we’re sorry, but sorry isn’t the point. The point is the action we’re taking. On all of these fronts, we’re thinking about responsibility in very different ways.”

One of the efforts by Facebook has been cutting down on fake accounts. Specifically, 1.3 billion fake accounts were taken down in the last 6 months alone. And Sandberg also emphasized Facebook is improving transparency going forward.

Oculus Venues App

Oculus Venues

Oculus VR, the virtual reality headset and platform company owned by Facebook, has revealed a social VR app called Oculus Venues. This app will allow Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR headset users to watch events with their friends in real-time. According to VentureBeat, Oculus VR said this was like having a front-row seat to a sports event or concert.

Oculus is going to suggest Venues in the Explore feed so you can subscribe to it. Some of the events that will be available include content from Showtime, screenings of Lionsgate films, NBA League Pass games, etc.


Promoted Full-Screen Video Tool For Advertisers

This past week, Pinterest said that its users said videos from brands “add to the experience (1.6x)” and they are “more likely to make a purchase after viewing a video (2.6x).” Now Pinterest is testing Promoted Video with a new max. width video format is starting to be tested with advertisers like adidas, Kohl’s, American Express, Tropicana, Chevrolet, P&G and Paramount Pictures.

“With Promoted Video at max. width, your video stands out to drive impact and brand awareness,” said Pinterest in a blog post. “The format is easy to spot; it spans wider than our standard format in feeds and in search on mobile, so people can sit back and watch your story.”


Telegram Update Runs Into Issues

Back in April, messaging app Telegram revealed that it was banned in Russia. Apparently, the Russian government banned Telegram because the messaging app company refused to share the encryption keys for private conversations of users.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said that the company was able to survive the “most aggressive attempt of internet censorship in Russian history with almost 18 million IP addresses blocked.” This was possible because members following the #DigitalResistance movement had set up socks5-proxies and VPNs to get around the ban in Russia.

However, Telegram seems to be having trouble getting an update approved by Apple for its iOS app. Apparently, Telegram has been trying to update its app since mid-April.

“Apple has been preventing Telegram from updating its iOS apps globally ever since the Russian authorities ordered Apple to remove Telegram from the App Store. Russia banned Telegram on its territory in April because we refused to provide decryption keys for all our users’ communications to Russia’s security agencies. We believe we did the only possible thing, preserving the right of our users to privacy in a troubled country,” added Durov in a separate update. “Unfortunately, Apple didn’t side with us. While Russia makes up only 7% of Telegram’s userbase, Apple is restricting updates for all Telegram users around the world since mid-April. As a result, we’ve also been unable to fully comply with GDPR for our EU-users by the deadline of May 25, 2018. We are continuing our efforts to resolve the situation and will keep you updated.”


CEO Evan Spiegel Also Wants Facebook To Copy Its Data Protection Practices

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel was also interviewed at the Code Conference where he poked fun at Facebook’s data protection issues. The backstory here is that Facebook integrated a feature similar to Snapchat Stories in the main Facebook app and website, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. “We would really appreciate it if they copied our data protection practices also,” said Spiegel at the Code Conference.

Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos did not take Spiegel’s comments at the conference likely as he responded on Twitter about it. Stamos said that “Snapchat’s implicit promise that photos really disappear combined with poor API security” ended up leading to personal and sensitive content being leaked. “So no, I don’t think copying Snapchat would be a smart move.”

When Kara Swisher asked Spiegel how he felt about Facebook’s adding features like ephemeral stories and augmented reality masks to its apps, he responded that his wife Miranda Kerr cared more. Making the rivalry even more intense, it is also rumored that Spiegel turned down an acquisition offer from Facebook several years ago.

And now, Snap is feeling the pressure of Facebook’s addition of stories to its apps. Instagram Stories was hitting 300 million daily active users as of November 2017 while the Snapchat app as a whole was used by 173 million total around the same time.

Following criticism of the Snapchat redesign, Snap’s stock price substantially dropped. At the conference, Spiegel said this was a “really great lesson” as it teaches the importance of a long-term vision.

Developer Kit

According to TechCrunch, Snap is reportedly building a system that would allow users to log into other apps with their Snapchat login credentials. Other companies that already offer a similar service include Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter.

This feature would be powered by a developer platform known as Snapkit. It is believed that Bitmoji avatars may be integrated into the Snapkit as well. This provides more options for app developers for login systems. And it would be a way for Snapchat to keep users engaged.


Removal Of Younger Users

To comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Twitter is removing accounts that are were marked as below age 13 at the time of sign up or after. According to Motherboard, this may especially cause some issues for users that signed up before the age 13 and spent years establishing a brand on Twitter. This also presents problems for newer brands that listed when their company was founded as the age.

GDPR rules require Twitter to delete user content before they were age 13. This is tricky because Twitter is not able to separate prohibited tweets from the ones that were sent out after the user turned age 13. So accounts are being banned instead. Users that were banned are able to create new Twitter accounts and handles, but starting from scratch may not be worth it.


Group Audio And Video Calls Starts Rolling Out On Android

At the F8 conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that WhatsApp would soon gain group audio and video calls. This feature has been rolling out slowly over time on iOS and Android.

An Android Police reader known as Reuben found that group audio and video calling worked best on WhatsApp beta 2.18.162 (APK Mirror). However, the update is being rolled out server side so you may not see it yet even with that APK.

To set up a group audio or video call, you would need to tap on the add contact icon at the top right of the app. And when you receive an incoming call where two or more contacts are already participating, you will see the photo icons of the users who are on the call.


Platform Preferred By Teens

According to Pew Research Center, teenagers are flocking more towards YouTube more than other platforms. Of the teenagers (ages 13-17) surveyed, 85% confirmed they use YouTube compared to Instagram at 72% and Snapchat at 69%.  The percentage of U.S. teens that use Twitter was 32% while Tumblr saw 9% and Reddit saw 7%. However, teenagers are continuing to move away from Facebook.

“Today, roughly half (51%) of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat,” said Pew in its report. “Notably, lower-income teens are more likely to gravitate toward Facebook than those from higher-income households – a trend consistent with previous Center surveys. Seven-in-ten teens living in households earning less than $30,000 a year say they use Facebook, compared with 36% whose annual family income is $75,000 or more.”

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