You grab your camera and head out on the road. Travel the world they tell you, promising riches and fame — or at least a free scarf from Abercrombie & Fitch. Amass a legion of fans and you’ll rake in the cash claim the handlers, the company representatives, and possibly your own family and friends, hinting at what can happen when the sponsorships finally arrive.
Of course, not everyone can be Kylie Jenner. In fact, most of us won’t ever crack 20,000 followers on any platform, judging from a quick check through multiple feeds. And, by most of us, I mean 99% of the people who try to find fame and stardom on platforms like Instagram, who post videos constantly on YouTube, or try to garner some status on TikTok.
It’s far more typical to have a few thousand followers, if that. We’re all destined to toil away taking photos of mountain vistas or posting selfies with friends and watching as a mere 20 or 30 people like our posts.
I’m one of them, actually. While I’ve worked as a journalist for the last 20 years, my social media feeds are a drop in the bucket. I haven’t cracked 1,000 followers on Instagram yet, and my Twitter account has a paltry 19,000 followers — a low sum considering I’ve been using social media for over 10 years.
Honestly, influencer marketing has never been the most reputable profession. Suddenly, someone with a million followers starts championing Tide laundry detergent for no apparent reason or mentions an affinity for a certain skin lotion brand. We keep clicking, and that makes us all part of the problem, but I would argue it has almost come to an end this year.
The Gabby Petito case (read about it here) raises new questions in my mind about the allure of influencer marketing as a legitimate pursuit. One report mentioned how Petito traveled in a van because she was trying to gain more followers. Her account has since exploded in popularity, but before her death, she had only a few hundred Instagram followers.
What makes us want to gain followers in the first place? That’s a really important question for our age. Back when I first started using social media I thought it made perfect sense to keep raising my numbers. There was even an app way back when called Klout that added another layer of notoriety (as if we needed one) on your own influence.
A few years ago, I stopped trying. And yet, I keep posting. Originally, I was telling myself it was helpful to others, when in reality, the goal was to share links like everyone else. I wouldn’t say this makes me an influencer, because the truth about trying to actually gain celebrity status is that you first have to expose everything then expose even more, a vain pursuit of something that is elusive and unreal.
Social media sleuths have poured over Gabby’s still open account, looking for clues about her state of mind. All I see are brightly lit photos and a real sense of sadness over what could have been. I haven’t seen any reports about how many likes her posts had when she was still alive, long before she was making headlines, but my guess is that they were in the dozens. Your likes are always a percentage of your influence.
I’ve also heard reports, some whispered by unnamed sources or divulged by company reps who do not wish to be identified, that the fastest way to amass a following is to pay for it. (There’s even an app that can give you an estimate about how many fake followers someone has.) For those in a “pre-fame” state, it leaves you a bit broke.
So where does this leave us?
For starters, it’s time to ask tough questions about influencer marketing and what it means for everyday people like Gabby Petito trying to gain a huge following. If the allure of social media stardom had not existed, would she have tried to build her following in the first place?
Of course, anyone has the right to seek more followers, and I’m not even against the sponsorships. It makes me wonder if there is any real accountability or support from the social media companies for the thousands or perhaps millions of people trying to pursue the influencer lifestyle, travelling without an entourage or even good health insurance.
The promise is that you will find sponsorships, and the sponsors will wait patiently for you to become famous, but in the meantime, it feels like a recipe for disaster.
For Gabby Petito, it definitely was.
Social media giants YouTube, TikTok, Snap questioned at Senate hearing over kids’ safety – Global News
Bearing down on hugely popular social media platforms and their impact on children, the leaders of a Senate panel have called executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to face questions on what their companies are doing to ensure young users’ safety.
The Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection is fresh off a highly charged hearing with a former Facebook data scientist, who laid out internal company research showing that the company’s Instagram photo-sharing service appears to seriously harm some teens.
The panel is widening its focus to examine other tech platforms, with millions or billions of users, that also compete for young people’s attention and loyalty.
The three executives — Michael Beckerman, a TikTok vice president and head of public policy for the Americas; Leslie Miller, vice president for government affairs and public policy of YouTube’s owner Google; and Jennifer Stout, vice president for global public policy of Snapchat parent Snap Inc. — are due to appear at a subcommittee hearing Tuesday.
The three platforms are woven into the fabric of young people’s lives, often influencing their dress, dance moves and diet, potentially to the point of obsession. Peer pressure to get on the apps is strong. Social media can offer entertainment and education, but platforms have been misused to harm children and promote bullying, vandalism in schools, eating disorders and manipulative marketing, lawmakers say.
“We need to understand the impact of popular platforms like Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube on children and what companies can do better to keep them safe,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the subcommittee’s chairman, said in a statement.
The panel wants to learn how algorithms and product designs can magnify harm to children, foster addiction and intrusions of privacy, Blumenthal says. The aim is to develop legislation to protect young people and give parents tools to protect their children.
The video platform TikTok, wildly popular with teens and younger children, is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. In only five years since launching, it has gained an estimated 1 billion monthly users.
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TikTok denies allegations, most notably from conservative Republican lawmakers, that it operates at the behest of the Chinese government and provides it with users’ personal data. The company says it stores all TikTok U.S. data in the United States. The company also rejects criticisms of promoting harmful content to children.
TikTok says it has tools in place, such as screen time management, to help young people and parents moderate how long children spend on the app and what they see. The company says it focuses on age-appropriate experiences, noting that some features, such as direct messaging, are not available to younger users.
Early this year after federal regulators ordered TikTok to disclose how its practices affect children and teenagers, the platform tightened its privacy practices for the under-18 crowd.
A separate House committee has investigated video service YouTube Kids this year. Lawmakers said the YouTube offshoot feeds children inappropriate material in “a wasteland of vapid, consumerist content” so it can serve ads to them. The app, with both video hosting and original shows, is available in about 70 countries.
A panel of the House Oversight and Reform Committee told YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki that the service doesn’t do enough to protect children from potentially harmful material. Instead it relies on artificial intelligence and self-policing by content creators to decide which videos make it onto the platform, the panel’s chairman said in a letter to Wojcicki.
Parent company Google agreed to pay $170 million in 2019 settlements with the Federal Trade Commission and New York state of allegations that YouTube collected personal data on children without their parents’ consent.
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Despite changes made after the settlements, the lawmaker’s letter said, YouTube Kids still shows ads to children.
YouTube says it has worked to provide children and families with protections and parental controls like time limits, to limit viewing to age-appropriate content. It emphasizes that the 2019 settlements involved the primary YouTube platform, not the kids’ version.
“We took action on more than 7 million accounts in the first three quarters of 2021 when we learned they may belong to a user under the age of 13 — 3 million of those in the third quarter alone — as we have ramped up our automated removal efforts,” Miller, the Google vice president, says in written testimony prepared for the hearing.
Snap Inc.’s Snapchat service allows people to send photos, videos and messages that are meant to quickly disappear, an enticement to its young users seeking to avoid snooping parents and teachers. Hence its “Ghostface Chillah” faceless (and word-less) white logo.
Only 10 years old, Snapchat says an eye-popping 90% of 13- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. use the service. It reported 306 million daily users in the July-September quarter.
The company agreed in 2014 to settle the FTC’s allegations that it deceived users about how effectively the shared material vanished and that it collected users’ contacts without telling them or asking permission. The messages, known as “snaps,” could be saved by using third-party apps or other ways, the regulators said.
Snapchat wasn’t fined but agreed to establish a privacy program to be monitored by an outside expert for the next 20 years — similar to oversight imposed on Facebook, Google and Myspace in privacy settlements in recent years.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Trudeau’s heritage minister has a chance to reset social media regulations. Will he take it? – Global News
Justin Trudeau’s new heritage minister has a chance to reset the Liberal government’s controversial plans to regulate social media and internet giants. The question is whether he will take it.
Trudeau tapped veteran MP and cabinet minister Pablo Rodriguez to lead the heritage portfolio Tuesday, part of a wider reset of his cabinet after September’s general election.
The heritage file has presented surprising political risks for Trudeau’s ministers. Melanie Joly ran into trouble over a deal with Netflix that saw the streaming giant promise a $500-million investment in Canadian content, but did not subject the company to Canadian sale taxes.
More recently, rookie minister Steven Guilbeault introduced Bill C-10, a poorly received attempt to modernize broadcasting rules to reflect the new internet-driven landscape.
Canadian heritage minister won’t say whether Bill C-10 could regulate users’ social media algorithms
The legislation was meant to bring internet content under broadcasting rules, in recognition that Canadians consume media differently in the internet age than when the Broadcasting Act was last reformed in 1991.
But it became a political lightning rod after the Liberals removed protections for user-generated content, which critics argued would subject Canadians’ social media accounts to CRTC regulations. And it wasn’t just opposition parties that were critical of the bill; it was widely panned by civil society organizations and academics.
Rodriguez, who served as Trudeau’s House leader in the last Parliament, is a longtime Quebec MP and seen as a steady hand in the Liberals’ front bench. He also remains Trudeau’s Quebec lieutenant in cabinet.
That responsibility could play a role in C-10’s fate. While the legislation was widely criticized, it was politically popular in Quebec – where C-10’s stated purpose of making Canadian content more “discoverable” on streaming platforms was well received.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Facebook, YouTube take down Bolsonaro video over false vaccine claim
Facebook and YouTube have removed from their platforms a video by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in which the far-right leader made a false claim that COVID-19 vaccines were linked with developing AIDS.
Both Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube said the video, which was recorded on Thursday, violated their policies.
“Our policies don’t allow claims that COVID-19 vaccines kill or seriously harm people,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.
YouTube confirmed that it had taken the same step later in the day.
“We removed a video from Jair Bolsonaro’s channel for violating our medical disinformation policy regarding COVID-19 for alleging that vaccines don’t reduce the risk of contracting the disease and that they cause other infectious diseases,” YouTube said in a statement.
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), COVID-19 vaccines approved by health regulators are safe for most people, including those living with HIV, the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, known as AIDS.
Bolsonaro’s office did not respond immediately to a request for comment outside normal hours.
In July, YouTube removed videos from Bolsonaro’s official channel in which he recommended using hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin against COVID-19, despite scientific proof that these drugs are not effective in treating the disease.
Since then, Bolsonaro has avoided naming both drugs on his live broadcasts, saying the videos could be removed and advocating “early treatment” in general for COVID-19.
Bolsonaro, who tested positive for the coronavirus in July last year, had credited his taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, for his mild symptoms. While Bolsonaro himself last January said that he wouldn’t take any COVID-19 vaccine, he did vow to quickly inoculate all Brazilians.
In addition to removing the video, YouTube has suspended Bolsonaro for seven days, national newspapers O Estado de S. Paulo and O Globo reported, citing a source familiar with the matter.
YouTube did not respond to a separate Reuters request for comment regarding the suspension on Monday night.
(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Additional reporting by Gram Slattery in Rio de Janeiro and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Writing by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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