Facebook Update: Fact Checks, Cryptocurrency – Spotlight #313

Good Monday morning. It’s Indigenous People’s Day in four states: Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont, and South Dakota. Not only is Columbus Day inappropriate based on what historians now tell us, but it was a recent invention that Congress first approved as a holiday in 1937. It’s still on the federal calendar as a holiday so there is no mail delivery and most federal offices are closed. 

Today’s Spotlight takes about 4 minutes to read. Want to chat about something you see here? Press your email reply button or click the silver “Write George” button below.

2. News To Know Now

1. Turk Telekom, partially owned by the government, cut access to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms for 48 hours while Turkey first invaded Syria last week according to the Internet Society’s NetBlocks initiative. An even larger Internet blackout began this weekend in Ecuador as large anti-government protests were reported.

2. Instagram has removed the “Following” tab that allowed people to learn which accounts were followed by other people. Instagram also rolled out a new app called Threads that mimics the  Snapchat functionality allowing users to quickly send images and messages to a group of close friends. Color me naive, but that seems a lot like social media’s initial purpose.

3. Color me skeptical, too, after hearing about an Accenture survey that reports half of U.S. consumers will  choose slower ground transportation and have items shipped together “for a lighter carbon footprint.”

Did you miss our annual look at how politicians, law enforcement, and others use government data mining to manage people and resources–even to fight crime?

We’ve pulled it all together for you in one easy-to-read report.

3.  Facebook Update: Won’t Fact Check Politicians

Facebook will not fact check ads placed by political campaigns according to Sir Nick Clegg, a Facebook senior executive and former deputy British Prime Minister. Clegg has specifically said that Facebook has no intention of intervening “when politicians speak.”

The move immediately inspired an advertisement from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announcing that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had endorsed Donald Trump’s reelection bid. That’s not true, of course, but it’s a smart ad placement from Warren whose social media advertising is among the best of the Democratic presidential hopefuls. 

Anyone can sort and view ads placed on Facebook at the company’s Ad Archive.

Facebook has realized for years that the ads are a bigger problem than local news stories. That’s confirmed by a recent Nieman Lab analysis that looked at 300,000 local stories and found that 40% werre related to sports or obituaries. Emergency information accounted for another 28%. 

That does not mean that news articles on Facebook are accurate.  It means that the ads are especially inaccurate, and that stories from trusted local media sources address community needs and do well with consumer engagement. Have a look at one of the report’s top line graphs below and click through to get more.

Facebook’s hope for cryptocurrency will undoubtedly be tested by politicians when Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee about its Libra product on October 23. We’ll be watching this product closely this week after PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, and Square all canceled their involvement with the new product last week.

And Facebook’s biggest problem likely remains the antitrust review conducted by a coalition of state AG offices. The Washington Post reported last week that “roughly 40 states” are participating in the review of Facebook’s advertising and consumer data practices.

4.  Google Search Updates

Google is also facing antitrust and other government reviews, but has the enviable position of market share. Analytics provider StatCounter reported that for the 12 months ending in September, Google accounted for about 88% of U.S. search and about 93% of worldwide search.

We told you two weeks that Google had recently updated its core algorithm, a much larger update than the daily tweaks and adjustments the company makes. UK firm Sistrix is already reporting that some of the sites seeing traffic increases include tabloid the Daily Mail, Brighton paper The Argus, and Country Life magazine.  That doesn’t mean that this was only an update to improve media site visibility although we’ve written often about Google’s focus on EAT (Expertise-Authority-Trust) as a quality indicator. 

5. Debugged: Greta Thunberg was not with George Soros

Images of climate activist Greta Thunberg supposedly posing with philanthropist George Soros are doctored, according to a FactCheck.org analysis. Conspiracy theory sites like “The Gateway Pundit” have tried to link the 16-year-old with the nearly 90-year-old billionaire.

Thunberg was pictured with fellow climate activist Al Gore, and the picture is ten months old.

6. Also in the Spotlight

European privacy laws continue to be aggressively interpreted. Europe’s top court has ruled that pre-checked consent boxes for tracking website users via cookies are not valid. TechCrunch has more.

Grammarly, the software that tells you to stop using passive voice among other things, received a $90 million investment in a second funding round that values the company at more than $1 billion, Venture Beat reports.

A University of Mexico archaeologist using a free map made with light detection and ranging technology has discovered the ruins of 27 previously unknown Maya ceremonial centers. Some even contain a type of construction archaeologists hadn’t seen before. This is easily our favorite story this week and you can read it in full in The New York Times.

7. Great Data: Using Great Presentation

Video is underused as a reporting media. And a little goes a long way, but this 150 second animation of the growth of different social media networks since 2003 is worth your time for the way it shares data.  Have a look below.

8. Protip: Google’s Digital Wellbeing Tools

We’ve written a lot of words about technology’s effect on reading comprehension, attention span, and linguistic changes. The overwhelming effect is on interpersonal engagement, though, and Google is introducing requirements for digital wellbeing tools to be used on all Android devices.

See what they look like and how to use them.

9. Bizarre Bazaar (strange stuff for sale online)

Shaun Dakin spotted this great use of an Instagram profile page to link to other social media channels, and of course, to the Amazon page selling this calendar of Harslo the Balancing Hound. 

Seems that Harslo has built up an audience of 107,000 Instagram followers, almost that many on Facebook, and some great media hits for balancing stuff on his head.

He’s a cute doggo.

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