media update’s Jenna Cook investigates the biggest social media stories to reveal why they made headlines in March.

Are social media platforms doing enough to censor harmful content?

The news: On Friday, 15 March, videos showcasing the New Zealand massacre emerged on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit. According to Facebook, the video “was viewed fewer than 200 times during its live broadcast and that nobody reported [it] while the live stream was ongoing”.

However, that wasn’t all. In an article for The Washington Post, the writers say “[The alleged shooter] left behind a social media trail on Twitter and Facebook that amounted to footnotes to his manifesto.”

They continue, “Over the two days before the shooting, he posted about 60 of the same links across different platforms, nearly half of which was to YouTube videos that were still active late [on] Friday.”

Why it’s making headlines: The question is: How is content of this nature able to make it past the rigorous screening processes on these various social media platforms?

Facebook vice president, Chris Sonderby, says, "We continue to work around the clock to prevent this [kind of] content from appearing on our site, using a combination of technology and people".

But are social media platforms really doing all they can to prevent it? “The rapid and wide-scale dissemination of this hateful content — live-streamed on Facebook, uploaded on YouTube and amplified on Reddit — shows how easily the largest platforms can still be misused,” said Senator Mark Warner in The Washington Post.

It’s up to social media platforms to create a safe and healthy environment for users. And while they’re working to impose stricter regulations when it comes to harmful — there’s no telling how long that’ll take.

Facebook wants to evolve into a privacy-focussed platform

The news: On Wednesday, 6 March, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shared his intentions to shift the current nature of social media. “We’re building a foundation for social communication aligned with the direction people increasingly care about: messaging each other privately,” says Mark Zuckerberg in an article in the New York Times.

He said that he is going to focus on taking Facebook from a “digital town square” to a “digital living room”. And he aims to achieve this by encouraging private communication (end-to-end encrypted messages to sent between users who are acquainted) as opposed to public posts.

Why it’s making headlines: This shift comes as part of Zuckerberg’s plan to integrate Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram. In another New York Times article, Facebook says the plan is to “build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private.”

This move has many people questioning if it’s really possible for the social media site to create a platform that’s focussed on privacy. It’s not hard to imagine why, as Facebook has been a little sketchy in the past when it comes to users’ private information.

So while the merge is in its early phase, and only due to be completed in 2020, it’ll be interesting to see how well (if at all) the company manages to integrate these platforms.

Twitter announces plans for a new feature

The news: Earlier this month, Twitter confirmed that it’s working on a new feature that’ll allow users to subscribe to single threads.

“The new subscription feature would allow someone to follow a thread without directly signaling their interest, or having to join in the conversation themselves. With a click of a button, users could instead opt to receive notifications when new tweets were added to that conversation,” says Sarah Perez in an article for TechCrunch.

The feature was first discovered on the Android app version of Twitter by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong. Below is an example of what the feature currently looks like:

*Image courtesy of Jane Manchun Wong

According to Wong, the feature simply positions a button reading ‘Subscribe to conversation’ in the top right corner of a tweet.

Why it’s making headlines: While there’s no official word on when this feature will be rolled out, the social media platform simply says, “This is part of our work to make Twitter more conversational”. This feature comes just one month after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that they’re thinking about introducing a feature that’ll allow users to clarify their tweets.

So users should expect to see a whole host of changes to the platform in the coming months — changes that will hopefully give Twitter a more simplified and structured experience.

Instagram launches a new revenue stream

The news: Last week, Instagram launched its new feature, Checkout. It was developed so that brands and businesses no longer need to direct consumers to their online stores — consumers can now use the the social media platform to make purchases.

Here’s a quick look at how the purchasing process will work:  

“We started using product tags to make shopping more convenient for our customers,” says Warby Parker and Neil Blumenthal in an article for TechCrunch. “Checkout takes this experience one step further, making it even more intuitive and seamless for people who have discovered products they want to purchase instantaneously.”

Essentially, when a brand wants to sell a specific product, they’ll first need to create a post. The post should include the item/s that they wish to sell. They can then apply a ‘check-out’ feature to the post by tagging it — similarly to the way users tag accounts to posts. Finally, they’ll need to publish the post on their feed or story.

Once users view the post, they’ll be able to click on the tag/s. A ‘Check out with Instagram’ button will then appear — as opposed to the familiar ‘View on website’ button. Users will then be redirected to a page where they can enter their credit card information and shipping address.

This information will be stored for future purchases. A spokesperson at Instagram said, “With [users] protected payment information in one place, they can shop their favorite brands without needing to log in and enter their information multiple times”.

Why it’s making headlines: This feature comes in the wake of a huge move by Facebook, and it’s family of apps (Instagram included), to spend 2019 really focusing on e-commerce.

In a previous media update article, we looked at how Instagram’s ‘fundraiser sticker’ was the social media platform’s first attempt to store users’ credit card information.

And while the platform says that the idea behind keeping the information on file is to streamline the overall online shopping experience for users and brands — there’s still no word on whether or not users will be able to first grant Instagram permission to store their information.

How do you think Instagram’s Checkout will change the world of online shopping? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Have you put out countless posts about your brand, but no one seems to be engaging with them? Maybe it’s time to head back to the drawing board with our Five rules for writing engaging social media posts.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy