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Is COVID-19 Social Media’s Levelling Up Moment? – Forbes

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First came the crisis. Then the conspiracies. On Facebook, YouTube and other platforms, posts began popping up and going viral: 5G causes COVID-19; drinking bleach can cure it; Bill Gates is behind it. 

For me, this felt like a bad case of deja vu: another global news event, another flurry of opportunists using social media to spread misinformation at the worst possible time. 

But, then, something happened, both unexpected and long overdue. In contrast to the slow, tepid responses to everything from Russian election interference to doctored videos, networks acted swiftly, if not always entirely effectually.   

False stories were hunted down and actively removed; others were slapped with warning labels or downgraded to limit reach. Facebook has gone so far as to send out alerts to users who may have crossed paths with misinformation about COVID-19.       

The results are far from perfect. But, in the face of a global pandemic, social networks are finally mustering the resolve and technical savvy to get a handle on fake news. For us, and for the networks themselves, it’s not a moment too soon. But will it last? 

A social fall from grace

Social media has followed the arc of so many new technologies. Initially, possibilities seemed endless. People everywhere found a new way to connect with friends and family. Businesses were able to reach customers directly. During the Arab Spring, my own platform was used by protestors in Egypt rallying against an oppressive regime. 

But ads and invasive data collection took a toll. Trolls and cyberbullies showed up. Social platforms still offered useful ways for people and businesses to connect, but it grew harder to separate signal from noise. Then, Cambridge Analytica happened — the weaponization of social media by a foreign power during the 2016 U.S. Election, right under our noses.   

In its wake, networks floundered in a sea of fake news, their own algorithms propagating an echo chamber of hate and misinformation. Growth slowed and backlash spread, as users deleted their accounts en masse. Even in the face of political and popular pressure, platforms seemed ill-equipped, or disinclined, to make meaningful change. Years after Cambridge Analytica, patently fake and damaging videos — like the infamous Nancy Pelosi deepfake — could still circulate freely.  

A crisis and a return to roots 

Then came COVID-19. In the face of crisis, social media usage has surged once more. A study of 25,000 consumers across 30 markets showed engagement increasing 61% over normal usage rates. Messaging across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp has increased 50% in countries hardest hit by the virus. Twitter is seeing 23% more daily users than a year ago. When it matters most, people (even #DeleteFacebook diehards) are turning to social media for updates and connection.

Businesses, as well, have found renewed value. We’ve seen a 15-20% increase in posts from our 18 million users, as companies reach out to customers and employees. Moreover, how they use social media is changing. Our data shows marketing and ads have given way to direct engagement — one-on-one interaction with other people. 

Whether it’s the mayor of Newark tackling questions on Facebook Live, TransLink highlighting the heroism of essential workers, or Make A Wish turning to Instagram to reach kids in need, businesses are prioritizing connection over conversions. You see this at the individual level, as well, as messages of support and solidarity overshadow selfies. 

And, behind the scenes, platforms are beginning to rise to the occasion. The global threat, not to mention global soul-searching, occasioned by COVID-19 has seen social networks themselves assume an unusually activist stance in attempting to root out misleading content. Interventions that seemed unlikely or infeasible before are now commonplace. 

After a live-stream alleging a link between 5G and COVID-19 went viral, YouTube immediately pulled the video, barring content contradicting WHO and health authorities. Facebook swiftly deleted two major anti-5G groups, whose 60,000-plus members called for destroying 5G masts. WhatsApp limited message forwarding to slow the casual spread of rumors. 

These steps might not seem revolutionary, and plenty of misinformation still got out (and continues to circulate). But something is different this time. In a moment of crisis, the fall-out from fake news has grown too big — existential, in fact — for networks to ignore. 

What’s next for social media

Admittedly, this is a unique moment. For people like me who live and breathe this stuff, the confluence of people using social media for good and networks rallying to support their efforts has been inspiring. Whether it will last remains unclear. As the immediate health crisis recedes, so too will the spotlight on social media and the urgency to get things right. Already, the solidarity of early days is splintering. But I’m hopeful this can mark a turning point in the reinvention of a transformative technology. 

“We’ve always hoped that our digital tools would create connections, not conflict. We have a chance to make it happen,” observes New York Times’ columnist Kevin Roose. Let’s not waste that opportunity. For users, it’s worth remembering that any technology is only as good as the intentions of those using it. For networks, it’s time to fully embrace the responsibility that comes with your crown. Letting lies spread isn’t that different from spreading lies. 

And for a vision of all social media truly can be — edifying, entertaining, even inspiring — look no further than … Steak-umm. That’s right. The frozen meat snack’s Twitter feed has become an unlikely beacon during the crisis, dispensing fact and fighting myth. A recent tweetstorm starts: “friendly reminder in times of uncertainty and misinformation: anecdotes are not data …” 

Well said, Steak-umm. And I’m glad to say this post went viral — for all the right reasons.  

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Trump tweets threat to shutter social media companies after Twitter warning – CBC.ca

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U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to regulate or shut down social media companies, one day after Twitter Inc. for the first time added a warning to some of his tweets prompting readers to fact-check the president’s claims.

Trump, without offering any evidence, reiterated his accusations of political bias by such technology platforms, tweeting: “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”

He added: “Clean up your act, NOW!!!!”

Representatives for Twitter and Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment on Trump’s tweets. Shares of the companies were down in pre-market trading following his posts.

In the pair of early morning posts, the Republican president again blasted mail-in ballots as being rife with fraud — though there is no evidence that’s the case, and many Americans have used mail-in ballots in previous elections. Five states currently use only mail-in voting for all elections.

Trump posted similar tweets about the ballot topic on Tuesday, which had moved Twitter to add an alert, signified by a blue exclamation mark, below the tweets to warn his claims may be inaccurate or unsubstantiated, and direct readers to a page of news articles and information about the topic.

(@realDonaldTrump/Twitter)

Twitter said it was the first time it had applied a fact-checking label to a tweet by the president, in an extension of its new “misleading information” policy, which was introduced earlier this month to combat misinformation about the coronavirus.

The dramatic shift by the tech company, which has tightened its policies in recent years amid criticism that its hands-off approach has allowed misinformation to thrive, had prompted Trump to accuse it of interfering in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

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Social media isn't a one-size-fits-all marketplace. This training explains it all – The Next Web

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TLDR: The courses in The 2020 Social Media Marketing Bootcamp Certification Bundle explain how to launch effective digital campaigns to drive sales on all the top social media platforms.

There’s more to being a social media expert than logging into Facebook every day or making sure you’re keeping a close eye on your Twitter mentions. True social media experts need to fully understand their target audience, where they congregate and how to connect with them effectively. And with dozens of venues and approaches to choose from, that’s no simple task.

With training like The 2020 Social Media Marketing Bootcamp Certification Bundle ($29.99, over 90 percent off from TNW Deals), those looking to harness the power of social media behind their brand have an easy-to-follow blueprint for raising awareness, engaging potential customers, and converting sales, all via the world’s biggest social platforms.

The collection includes seven courses featuring more than 34 hours of instruction for assembling the best marketing strategies possible for deployment on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and more.

The training starts with the Digital Marketing Foundations 101 course, which launches even first-timers toward all the steps in building a digital marketing plan. This immersive training looks at all the basics, from email marketing, building a website, SEO, digital advertising, measurement, and analytics.

Next, Social Media Foundations 101 and Social Media Strategy are a pair of introductory courses that get beyond theory into actual digital marketing practice. This training offers solid plans for creating a stellar business presence on social media, defining marketing goals, target audiences, and content strategies, and understanding how each social media platform fits into your business strategy.

The remaining courses dig into tactics for learning the strengths and weaknesses of the best platforms for finding and developing a social media following for your brand. Facebook Marketing, Instagram Marketing, and LinkedIn Marketing may seem like similar areas of study, but once you get inside the mechanics of each outlet, you’ll start to understand the differences in each audience.

Finally, Facebook Advertising goes inside paid advertising on the powerful platform, explaining how to master ad targeting and buying options to get the most reach for your money.

Each course in the bundle is a $299 value, but by picking up the entire collection right now, you cut your final price down to just $29.99.

Prices are subject to change.

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Read our daily coverage on how the tech industry is responding to the coronavirus and subscribe to our weekly newsletter Coronavirus in Context.

For tips and tricks on working remotely, check out our Growth Quarters articles here or follow us on Twitter.

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Torstar buyer says Canso picked to provide financing because of media experience – OrilliaMatters.Com

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TORONTO — A private investment company that is a major backer of Postmedia Network Corp. has agreed to provide financing for NordStar Capital’s acquisition of Torstar Corp., the owner of the Toronto Star and other newspapers.

NordStar said in a statement it considered several sources of outside funding and chose Canso Investment Counsel Ltd. because of its experience in the Canadian media industry.

The statement also addressed long-standing speculation that there might be a move afoot to merge Torstar and Postmedia, which own two of the country’s biggest media businesses.

“The financing arrangements for the NordStar bid are not, in anyway whatsoever, connected directly or indirectly with any other media company.”

Canso didn’t immediately respond to a request for information about its involvement with the NordStar deal.

However, talk of an eventual deal to consolidate Canada’s newspaper industry was fuelled by the involvement of Canso — which provided $93.5 million after fees in September for a refinancing of Postmedia’s debt.

NordStar’s statement said it didn’t include Canso in the initial press release but “their participation would have been disclosed in due course as part of customary public fillings.”

NordStar is a new company formed by Toronto businessmen Jordan Bitove and Paul Rivett, whose backgrounds are in corporate finance.

In order to buy Torstar, they required the support of five families that have controlled the company for decades — the Atkinsons, Hindmarshs, Campbells, Thalls and Honderichs.

The five stepped in to run the Star after founder Joseph Atkinson died in 1948, leaving the paper to a charitable foundation to be run by trustees.

In announcing the deal on Tuesday, Torstar chair John Honderich said it was “time to pass the torch.”

Unifor national president Jerry Dias says his big concern is that Canada could lose the Toronto Star’s voice for the progressive social issues if it’s combined with the company that owns the National Post, which has taken a more conservative stance.

“Let’s be candid, people are nervous with Canso being the money behind the National Post and now the Star. For us, the broader issue is how comfortable are we eliminating progressive voices in this country? That’s what the big issue is.”

———

Torstar holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with subsidiaries of the Globe and Mail and Montreal’s La Presse.

— with files from Tara Deschamps

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:TS.B)

The Canadian Press

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