The Social Media Report #14
A look at the week's news at the intersection of social media and society
In this edition we take a look at the progress from Big Tech and international lawmakers on future regulation of social media, innovation in tech and digital, sea shanties because why not, and a rundown of my must reads from this week.
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The week in review
Facebook Oversight Board brought in over Trump. First announced as an entity in May last year, the Facebook Oversight Board consists of a group of luminaries in fields ranging from politics to media, including former prime ministers and newspaper editors, researchers and technologists. Facebook announced this week that the decision as to whether Donald Trump should continue be banned from Facebook will be reviewed by the Oversight Board. This is a unique approach to making decisions over high profile and questionable content by a social network, and following Twitter’s outright removal of the @realdonaldtrump account, Facebook has decided to take a different route.
What is The Oversight Board and why does this matter? The Oversight Board makes decisions on what content Facebook and Instagram should allow or remove, based on respect for freedom of expression & human rights. It’s been taking cases since October 2020 but properly kicked into gear in December. For me, the reason this matters is incapsulated by Nick Clegg’s statement, below.
Clegg is a former politician himself, the one time co-Prime Minister of the UK is now one of Facebook’s communications chiefs, and he points out that Facebook has to make such a move because of failures of those who are democratically accountable, and in the absence of suitable laws. He’s right, many do think tech companies have too much power, which is why Poland moved to ban actions such as those Facebook is taking right now. But what Poland is doing wouldn’t have stopped the riots either.
How can the laws catch up? It’s clear that pace is the answer. Changes in global policy towards content and profiles on social media needs to happen fast, legal frameworks need to keep apace, and, actually, they need to be a step ahead. Progressive policies that cater for the future, not play catch up with the past, could help protect society and foster innovation. But it needs to happen at the kind of pace that only big tech knows. This would require collaboration with Big Tech, not endless, backward senate hearings. I hope that the kind of innovation former politicians are experiencing on the inside, people like Nick Clegg, can permeate back through parliaments, and that we can see a shake up in the impending social media regulation that will be kicking off in February in Brussels.
My must reads from this week
On to the most interesting stories that I have been reading this week.
Updates from Twitter’s project Bluesky: Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey has updated us on Bluesky, which is Twitter’s initiative to create a new kind set of standards (ie tech and way of working) for a safer social media.
Clubhouse expansion on the cards? sources tell The Information that a round of funding is being planned for social network Clubhouse to fuel expansion at a $1bn valuation. I’ve been spending more time in Clubhouse of late (come to my show, ‘Trending’, if you want an audio version of this newsletter for example) and there’s so much that the social network needs to do technically in order to properly scale. It’s still in private Beta, so all to play for of course.
European tech regulation hearing on 1st Feb: the European Parliament has invited the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Alphabet to Brussels on 1st February to discuss / hear proposals.
POTUS on Twitter: Joe Biden is now the president, and he was given a new, official account on Twitter, @POTUS. It started with 0 followers, by the end of his first day he hit 4m. Three days in, he’s now at 6m. @realdonaldtrump was at 88m just before it was deleted.
Parler fails to be reinstated: there’s a court case going on, but “Parler’s allegations at this time are both inaccurate and unsupported.”
Project Loon shuts a successful experiment: Alphabet has closed its moonshot, Project Loon, using high flying balloons to provide internet access to remote places.
Linked to the above: Starlink launches another fleet of internet satellites: another of Elon Musk’s disruptions.
Signal app’s COO speaks on the company’s future vision: the interview covers all the basics, and underline’s Signal’s vision to remain the secure option.
Morality in AI is key to global success: the former US department of defence is interviews in Wired.
Professor Sue Black interviewed by Naga Munchetty: I listened to this live on the BBC, and was inspired. I’ve seed Prof Sue Black speak before, but in this interview she describes how she first got into technology and much more. Well worth a listen (starts at 2:40).
Innovation needs trouble: Harvard Business Review takes a look at the influences specifically of chaos and trouble on innovation.
Robots in training: to be construction workers.
One to follow in cyber security: how the Biden administration is approaching the building of its cyber defence operation.
Elon Musk puts up $100m for carbon capture invention: announced through a tweet, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX is putting up the equivalent of five cents in every $100 of his personal wealth.
Bernie Sanders is cold: all manner of brands jumped on this meme. Here’s Ad Age’s top 18.
Sea shanties: one of the biggest viral memes of the week was the postman from Scotland who sings sea shanties on TikTok. Shortly after he became an internet sensation, someone took to an old photo of four lads from the Midlands and things stepped up to another level. As one tweeter put it: “2018: Deepfakes could seriously destabilise global politics in the coming years and we should be alert to the dangers of disinformation spreading at a faster rate than ever before.
Join me on Clubhouse: I’m hosting a chat called Trending on weekdays. Either join in an upcoming event or my profile on Clubhouse is @drewbenvie. The social network is still in private Beta, but if you need an invite just tweet me @drewb.
Openings at Battenhall in the US and UK: if you work in communications and social media, get in touch.
Upcoming event: I’ll be speaking at PR Moment’s event, PR and Instagram in February, tickets are £30, available here.
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.
You can follow The Social Media Report on Twitter at @TheSMReport. Suggestions for stories can be emailed to email@example.com.
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