Welcome to a special episode of Hashtag Trending as we bring you through our predictions for social media in 2020.
Last year we made the prediction that augmented reality and virtual reality would begin to see much more use in Facebook and Snapchat. We were fresh off Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus and Apple had just invested into Finisar. And while we did not see AR and VR take root in those platforms in quite the way that we expected, that does not mean that the rise of AR and VR has failed to materialize, and we are doubling down on our prediction to see those technologies infiltrate social media. According to stats from Statista, the global economic impact of these technologies is set to rise by over 50 per cent, from just under 20 billion USD to just under 30 billion USD, and we see no way that growth does not spill over into social media.
2019 was not a great year for Facebook by any stretch of the imagination. Controversy seemed to constantly swirl around them. From a lack of confidence in its leadership to worries that not enough is being done to monitor the tech giant, and not least notably, its refusal to fact check political ads. And with that controversy, we believe that 2020 will be the year we truly see the downfall of Facebook, at least as a marketing tool. We are already starting to see the stepping stones to this reality, as the number of young users – which includes anyone aged 12 to 34 in this case – has gone down by 17 per cent over the last two years, according to a study from Edison Research. And as the users flee, so too will all the advertising dollars.
As we see the likely demise of advertising on Facebook, we believe another tech superpower will come in to fill the gap that was left behind by the big blue F. Who is that tech giant, you ask? Well Amazon of course! As if they needed to invade every corner of this world anymore, they seem to be gearing up to take over the online ad space. This prediction is backed up by eMarketer, an analyst firm. They expect to see Amazon’s market share rise from 2 per cent to 3 per cent, on the backs of being able to offer what they call the complete digital wallet. This means that Amazon can offer the full e-commerce experience that other platforms like Facebook cannot.
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COMMENTARY: How comics can teach media literacy and help identify fake news – Global News
At this point, most of us know the drill when it comes to COVID-19: proper hand hygiene, mask wearing and social distancing.
But does setting fire to cell towers make your list? Probably not. A conspiracy theory linking 5G mobile technology to the COVID-19 outbreak has ignited fears worldwide, prompting just this response from a few individuals in Québec, who set ablaze seven mobile towers.
Although such destructive responses are rare, thousands of digital consumers have absorbed aspects of this falsehood, pushing fringe beliefs into the mainstream despite refutations from the World Health Organization and multiple agencies in Canada and the United States. What started as a conspiracy turned into a real crisis for the people who immediately believed what they’d heard.
My research focuses on critical media studies and ideological representations in news and popular culture. I regularly offer workshops to schools and community groups that engage the public in contemporary media literacy issues. My book, Won’t Get Fooled Again: A Graphic Guide To Fake News, helps readers identify the underlying purpose of the messages they receive and learn how to do basic research before accepting the validity of what’s being presented to them.
New study suggests social media feeds source of COVID-19 fake news
Dealing with fake news
As consumers, we need to learn how to filter content and become our own educators, editors and fact-checkers to ensure the information we act upon is trustworthy. In a constantly changing informational and political environment, it’s no wonder we often struggle to separate fact from fiction.
Articles, videos and other forms of content can generate large amounts of money for the websites that host these pieces. Most of their income comes from clicks on advertisements, so the more people who visit their sites, the better chances they have of boosting ad revenue. This feedback loop has led many publishers to lean on false information to drive traffic.
The threshold for making believable fake news has fallen as well. A conspiracy theorist, for example, can create a web page using a professional template with high-quality photos in just a few clicks. Once the content has been added, sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms requires even less effort.
These misinformation and fake-news campaigns amplify and circulate through false digital accounts using automated programs known as bots that use certain keywords to influence and impact conversations among like-minded clusters of people. The results can foment discord on hot-button Canadian policy issues — like immigration and refugees — possibly disrupting election outcomes.
Generating anxiety and undermining truth
Canadians are expressing anxiety about the social impact of fake news, with 70 per cent fearing it could affect the outcome of a federal election. The Pew Research Center warns that fake news may even influence the core functions of the democratic system and contribute to “truth decay.”
Dubious and inflammatory content can undermine the quality of public debate, promote misconceptions, foster greater hostility toward political opponents and corrode trust in government and journalism.
The effects of misinformation have been evident throughout the COVID-19 epidemic, with many citizens confused as to whether a mask will decrease the chances of spreading the infection. Similar tactics are being levelled against Black Lives Matter protesters, such as labelling them all as rioters when videos and photos show most behaving peacefully.
Conspiracy theories about the “Chinese virus,” amplified by politicians in Canada and the U.S., have fanned the flames of anti-Asian sentiments following the spread of COVID-19. Data from law enforcement and Chinese-Canadian groups has shown an increase in anti-Asian hate incidents in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Who and how to trust
Aside from a few social media platforms that identify misleading content and provide a brief explanation, most information online or in print can appear factual. So how can we figure out which sources to trust?
As a sociologist who focuses on critical media studies, I formed focus groups and collected input from my students to create a resources to guide readers through identifying fake news. While regulation and legislation are part of the solution, experts agree we must take swift action to teach students how to seek verification before acting on fake news.
In my findings, students identified several reasons why media outlets post or re-publish fake news, including making mistakes, being short-staffed, not fact-checking and actively seeking greater viewership by posting fake news.
The students pointed to holistic media literacy and critical thinking training as the best responses. This finding runs counter to the tactics currently used by publishers and tech companies to label or “fact-check” disputed news.
One student summarized this mindset best: “As citizens and consumers, we have a responsibility to be critical. Don’t accept stories blindly. Hold those in power responsible for their actions!”
Getting multiple perspectives is a great way to expand our digest of viewpoints. Once we can see a story from more than one angle, separating truth from falsehood becomes much simpler.
At this point, I transitioned from recording perceptions of fake news to determining how to identify it. Providing students with information about the nature and agendas of fake news, in an immersive format, seemed to be a key step in engaging and cultivating their critical literacy capabilities. Information delivery was a key consideration.
Illustrating the narratives
Researchers have shown graphic narratives can accelerate cognition by focusing the reader’s attention on crucial information. Images clarify complex content, especially for visual learners. Comic books require readers to create meaning using multiple factors that helps develop a complex, multi-modal literacy.
A major goal of my book involves unpacking the motivations behind the news we consume. Consider why a particular person was interviewed: Who do they represent? What do they want us to believe? Is another point of view missing?
Won’t Get Fooled Again: A Graphic Guide to Fake News is the culmination of my research and the insights drawn from media literacy scholarship. This guide helps readers understand what fake news is, where it comes from, and how to check its accuracy.
If there’s one habit my students and I hope everyone will develop, it’s this: pause before sharing news on social media. Double-check anything that immediately sparks anger or frustration and, remember, fake news creators want a reaction, not thoughtful reflection.
How Donald Trump's Presidency Has Changed The Media – NPR
Kelowna woman learns lesson from public shaming on social media
A Kelowna woman wants others to know of the repercussions of inflammatory social media posts after an experience she had last week.
On Oct. 20, Shelley Hughes saw a man screaming and uttering threats near her home. She posted about it in a neighbourhood Facebook group saying the man looked like a known criminal in the area and a fair number of comments racked up. She later learned the man was actually a 16-year-old who was having a mental breakdown, she said.
“Things got a little bit out of control on the Facebook group,” Hughes said, adding that she got in touch with the teenager’s mother and learned about their story.
“We have to be mindful about what we post, including me, because I was participating in the rhetoric,” Hughes said. “Yes we do post to watch out for each other but we have to be clear. It was a lesson for everyone how quickly it can get out of hand.”
Hughes posted a follow up to her original post, explaining the family had fallen on hard times.
“We need to pull together,” she said. “We need to bring some compassion. It takes a village so let’s be this village.”
The Facebook group is meant to be a neighbourhood watch but sometimes the comments get out of hand, she said.
Her message is to be mindful of the facts before turning to social media.
“It can be used as a useful, positive tool but also in a very bad way,” Hughes said.
She hopes by sharing the story and the lesson she learned that others will follow suit. She said the community has been supportive when she posted a second time explaining the situation.
“Our community needs to get back to being that village and slamming people on social media is not the way to do it. Have I learned a lesson? I have. What do we do with a lesson? We learn from it and we respond to it,” Hughes said.
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