The Social Media Report #13
A look at the week's news at the intersection of social media and society
In this edition we take a look at the impact social media has had on world power, in light of the impeachment of President Trump, the reaction from world leaders on big tech’s power over public discourse online, and a rundown of my must reads from this week.
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The week in review
From impeachment to inauguration: as the technology platform bans imposed on Donald Trump dominoed through Silicon Valley, impeachment followed and now, inauguration day awaits, and again all eyes are on social media and how apps and networks are spreading activists’ messages online. The social networks are now preparing for a big week ahead, with extra vigilance to police content, and even Airbnb has pressed its big red button. But as big social clamps down, and with Parler gone, encrypted networks and messaging apps have risen to the fore, such as Telegram, which saw 11.9m new downloads in the week of the Capitol riot alone.
As the biggest week in the brief history of social media closes, the actions of social networks have been debated at the highest levels as world leaders questioned the power now in the hands of the tech elite. Was it the right move for Twitter to delete @realdonaldtrump? Should Twitter have been made to apply for special powers to do what it did? Who else could now be in Twitter’s crosshairs? Or was that the last of it before new laws are eschewed in to protect world leaders, no matter the situation?
Should social networks have the power to ban a world leader? Poland has now become the first nation whose government has officially denounced the actions of Twitter and Facebook in suspending Donald Trump. The country has drafted a law to ensure social networks themselves should not decide which views are right and which are not. Poland’s freedom of speech protection bill was revealed on Friday, and will have social networks fined up to £10m for deleting social posts unjustifiably.
What comes next will be interesting on a political level, as I think many other nations will also make moves to protect their leaders from the actions of social networks. They are used to moving slowly, but now is the time to act for those nations who have been pushing for change for months and years.
This week, it’s the inauguration of Joe Biden. He will be given a new @potus Twitter account with zero followers. He is known as a pro regulation politician, and while he has his own high profile account on Twitter and his team will be making use of the full array of social media platforms to reach his audience, we should expect team Biden to be sailing far less close to the wind.
My must reads from this week
On to the most interesting stories that I have been reading this week.
Regulation of social media
Time to save the internet: John Thornhill at The FT suggests that regulators are finally catching up with big tech.
Calls for social media to be more global: The New York Times’ Adam Satariano asks human rights activists about their thoughts on social networks being more globally-minded.
Poland moves to protect leaders from tech bans: including fines for any time a social network censors a political leader.
Should big tech form a regulation coalition? A long read from HBR on the best way to approach regulation from the inside out.
Investors reckon social networks face a reckoning: a view from investment trusts on this week’s news.
Facebook events facing closer supervision: The FT’s Hannah Murphy spots a new clampdown from Facebook on the banning of Facebook Events in the run up to inauguration day.
TikTok updates the algorithm for teen safety: long overdue move to make under-16s private by default.
Clubhouse adds first anti-harassment feature: Matt Navarra spots an update that includes “long press to remove a troll” - simple as that.
Smart watches and Covid: how smart watches could detect Covid symptoms early to help fight the spread of the pandemic.
Big tech brand leave big cities: fascinating interviews with a range of execs on relocating out of big cities from the New York Times.
Automated flying drones approved: the FAA has approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights.
The New Public is something I have just signed up to. It describes itself as a place for thinkers, builders, designers and technologists to share inspiration, and make better digital public spaces. Its festival was live last week and the videos from it will go up here shortly.
Highlights from the latest Battenhall social media trends briefing: the online event took place on Tuesday, highlights are here and our wrap-up blog post here.
Welcome to my new, old colleague, Anton: he joins Battenhall as SVP based in Los Angeles. Anton worked with me at Battenhall when we launched, from 2013-2015 and it’s great to have him back. Press coverage and our blog post.
The Social Media Report is written by Drew Benvie, founder & CEO of Battenhall, The Drum, CIPR and GDXA’s social media consultancy of the year 2020.
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