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3 reforms social media platforms should make in light of ‘The Social Dilemma’ – TechCrunch

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“The Social Dilemma” is opening eyes and changing digital lives for Netflix bingers across the globe. The filmmakers explore social media and its effects on society, raising some crucial points about impacts on mental health, politics and the myriad ways firms leverage user data. It interweaves interviews from industry executives and developers who discuss how social sites can manipulate human psychology to drive deeper engagement and time spent within the platforms.

Despite the glaring issues present with social media platforms, people still crave digital attention, especially during a pandemic, where in-person connections are strained if not impossible.

So, how can the industry change for the better? Here are three ways social media should adapt to create happier and healthier interpersonal connections and news consumption.

Stop censoring

On most platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, the company determines some of the information presented to users. This opens the platform to manipulation by bad actors and raises questions about who exactly is dictating what information is seen and what is not. What are the motivations behind those decisions? And some of the platforms dispute their role in this process, with Mark Zuckerberg saying in 2019, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”

Censorship can be absolved with a restructured type of social platform. For example, consider a platform that does not rely on advertiser dollars. If a social platform is free for basic users but monetized by a subscription model, there is no need to use an information-gathering algorithm to determine which news and content are served to users.

This type of platform is not a ripe target for manipulation because users only see information from people they know and trust, not advertisers or random third parties. Manipulation on major social channels happens frequently when people create zombie accounts to flood content with fake “likes” and “views” to affect the viewed content. It’s commonly exposed as a tactic for election meddling, where agents use social media to promote false statements. This type of action is a fundamental flaw of social algorithms that use AI to make decisions about when and what to censor as well as what it should promote.

Don’t treat users like products

The issues raised by “The Social Dilemma” should reinforce the need for social platforms to self-regulate their content and user dynamics and operate ethically. They should review their most manipulative technologies that cause isolation, depression and other issues and instead find ways to promote community, progressive action and other positive attributes.

A major change required to bring this about is to eliminate or reduce in-platform advertising. An ad-free model means the platform does not need to aggressively push unsolicited content from unsolicited sources. When ads are the main driver for a platform, then the social company has a vested interest in using every psychological and algorithm-based trick to keep the user on the platform. It’s a numbers game that puts profit over users.

More people multiplied by more time on the site equals ad exposure and ad engagement and that means revenue. An ad-free model frees a platform from trying to elicit emotional responses based on a user’s past actions, all to keep them trapped on the site, perhaps to an addictive degree.

Encourage connections without clickbait

A common form of clickbait is found on the typical social search page. A user clicks on an image or preview video that suggests a certain type of content, but upon clicking they are brought to unrelated content. It’s a technique that can be used to spread misinformation, which is especially dangerous for viewers who rely on social platforms for their news consumption, instead of traditional outlets. According to the Pew Research Center, 55% of adults get their news from social media “often” or “sometimes.” This causes a significant problem when clickbait articles make it easier to offer distorted “fake news” stories.

Unfortunately, when users engage with clickbait content, they are effectively “voting” for that information. That seemingly innocuous action creates a financial reason for others to create and disseminate further clickbait. Social media platforms should aggressively ban or limit clickbait. Management at Facebook and other firms often counter with a “free speech” argument when it comes to stopping clickbait. However, they should consider the intent is not to act as censors that are stopping controversial topics but protecting users from false content. It’s about cultivating trust and information sharing, which is much easier to accomplish when post content is backed by facts.

“The Social Dilemma” is rightfully an important film that encourages a vital dialogue about the role social media and social platforms play in everyday life. The industry needs to change to create more engaged and genuine spaces for people to connect without preying on human psychology.

A tall order, but one that should benefit both users and platforms in the long term. Social media still creates important digital connections and functions as a catalyst for positive change and discussion. It’s time for platforms to take note and take responsibility for these needed changes, and opportunities will arise for smaller, emerging platforms taking a different, less-manipulative approach.

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Judge refuses to dismiss media charges in Pell trial – CTV News

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA —
A Supreme Court judge in Australia’s Victoria state on Friday dismissed submissions from news media organizations and journalists that there is no case to answer on charges they breached a gag order on reporting about Cardinal George Pell’s sex abuse convictions in 2018.

More charges were tossed out in the case against Australian media outlets prosecuted over reporting of Pell’s abuse convictions. But the judge refused to throw out the bulk of the 87 charges of contempt of court for stories published after the cardinal’s guilty verdict.

His child sexual abuse convictions were overturned by Australia’s High Court earlier this year and the cardinal is back in Rome.

More than two dozen media organizations, reporters and editors were charged with breaching of suppression orders and other reporting rules in the days following the guilty verdicts.

In a mid-trial ruling on Friday, Justice John Dixon dismissed eight contempt charges against Nationwide News, Sydney radio station 2GB, Queensland Newspapers and the Nine Entertainment-owned Fairfax Media.

But he rejected arguments by 27 media outlets, journalists and editors that they had no case to answer for the remaining 79 charges.

Prosecutors last month dropped 13 charges against News Corp. staff and publications. The trial is scheduled to resume on Jan. 28.

Such suppression orders are common in the Australian and British judicial systems. But the enormous international interest in an Australian criminal trial with global ramifications highlighted the difficulty in enforcing such orders in the digital age.

Pell was convicted on Dec. 11, 2018 of sexually abusing two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral when he was the city’s archbishop in the late 1990s.

The trial of Pope Francis’ former finance minister and the most senior Catholic to be charged with child sex abuse was not reported in the news media because of the suppression order that forbade publication of details in any format that could be accessed from Australia.

Details were suppressed to prevent prejudicing jurors in a second child abuse trial that Pell was to face three months later.

That second trial was cancelled due to a lack of evidence, and Australia’s High Court in April overturned all convictions after Pell had spent 13 months in prison.

No foreign news organization has been charged with breaching the suppression order. The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment would prevent such censorship in the United States, so attempting to extradite an American for breaching an Australian suppression order would be futile.

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Japanese PM Suga to hold news conference amid third coronavirus wave: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is set to hold a news conference to provide an update on the country’s pandemic response on Friday, his first since coronavirus case numbers surged in November.

Suga is expected to explain his backing of a widely criticised travel subsidy campaign meant to help revive the economy amid infection controls.

In recent weeks, a third wave of the coronavirus has arrived in parts of the country, and some medical groups and experts blame it on a government campaign to encourage domestic tourism.

His news conference will take place at 6 p.m. local time (0900 GMT), according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Suga’s approval ratings have dipped, with many unhappy with his handling of the pandemic, polls showed. That could deal a blow to his plan to prop up local economies and may threaten the chances of his premiership beyond next autumn.

The government has paused its “Go To Travel” campaign in two cities, but Suga said on Thursday the travel subsidy programme would be extended beyond the original end date of January 2021.

“We need to support the tourism industry, which is indispensable for the local economy,” Suga told a tourism strategy meeting.

The world’s third-largest economy rebounded in the third quarter from a pandemic-induced slump, thanks to surging consumption and exports, but some analysts worry about slowing growth ahead because of the resurgence in infections.

Suga also faces a political controversy involving his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, who resigned in September.

He was widely seen as Abe’s right-hand man during his tenure and has defended him in parliament.

Tokyo prosecutors are considering a summary indictment of two officials in Abe’s office over alleged violations of a funding law, the daily Asahi reported on Friday.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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Japanese PM Suga to hold news conference amid third coronavirus wave: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is set to hold a news conference to provide an update on the country’s pandemic response on Friday, local media reported, his first since coronavirus case numbers surged in November.

Suga is expected to explain his backing of a widely criticised travel subsidy campaign meant to help revive the economy amid infection controls.

In recent weeks, a third wave of the coronavirus has arrived in parts of the country, and some medical groups and experts blame it on a government campaign to encourage domestic tourism.

His news conference is scheduled for late Friday, Jiji Press said, but the Prime Minister’s Office has yet to confirm it.

Suga’s approval ratings have dipped, with many unhappy with his handling of the pandemic, polls showed. That could deal a blow to his plan to prop up local economies and may threaten the chances of his premiership beyond next autumn.

The government has paused its “Go To Travel” campaign in two cities, but Suga said on Thursday the travel subsidy programme would be extended beyond the original end date of January 2021.

“We need to support the tourism industry, which is indispensable for the local economy,” Suga told a tourism strategy meeting.

The world’s third-largest economy rebounded in the third quarter from a pandemic-induced slump, thanks to surging consumption and exports, but some analysts worry about slowing growth ahead because of the resurgence in infections.

Suga also faces a political controversy involving his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, who resigned in September.

He was widely seen as Abe’s right-hand man during his tenure and has defended him in parliament.

Tokyo prosecutors are considering a summary indictment of two officials in Abe’s office over alleged violations of a funding law, the daily Asahi reported on Friday.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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