Facebook Vanish Arrives – Spotlight #362

Good Monday morning. It’s November 16th. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg appear (yes, again)  before the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday to testify about their companies’ handling of the 2020 election.

One item sure to be discussed: Facebook has extended its ban on political advertising for another month. That ban includes social issues as diverse as the environment, taxes, and gun rights for any advertiser.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,034 words — about a 4 minute read.

1. News to Know Now

a. Amazon breached European antitrust rules according to an action filed by the EC. A second probe is also underway regarding how Amazon chooses sellers to offer products via Prime. (CNBC)

b. Disinformation continues flowing on social media even with a political and advocacy ad blackout. Facebook removed pages and groups linked to former Trump administration official Steve Bannon for falsely claiming the presidential election was fraudulent.

Bannon isn’t alone. Shaun Dakin flagged a group for us that is posing as an environmentally friendly page focused on sustainability. The group claims to be a Delaware-based LLC managed by a firm in California, but Facebook has labeled it as Russian state media. Bad actors often build large audiences around other topics before sending disinformation to them.

c. Russian and North Korean hackers are also targeting COVID-19 vaccine research according to an important announcement from Microsoft on Friday. The post is an open call for the world’s governments to act with NGOs to protect this infrastructure. Read it here.

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News

Great Trackers
Johns Hopkins Dashboard or Animations
COVID-19 Forecast Hub
Google County Level Mobility Reports
Long-Term Care COVID Tracker

COVID-19 Tech News

5 Key Errors Undermine COVID-19 Data Shared on Twitter — Informatics
DeSantis data hire: Uber-driving, COVID-conspiracy sports blogger — Miami Herald
Facebook Shares Insights into COVID Impacts on SMBs — Social Media Today
Hot New COVID Tech is Wearable And Tracks You — New York Times
How Ticketmaster Plans to Check Your Vaccine Status — Billboard
NZ to adopt Apple and Google’s automated tracing — New Zealand Herald

3. Search Engine News

We’ve told you a lot about what Google has been calling “Core Vital Statistics”–metrics describing how a visitor experiences a webpage. Google warned earlier this year that these page experience metrics would be used as a ranking signal. Google announced last week that these factors will influence ranking beginning in May. That’s 165 days from now.

Your organization will need to pay attention to how fast a page’s main content loads and the way that it renders. No-nos include loading things after the page loads so that the display shifts, which is Google’s technical terms for everything on the page moving up or down after it loads.

Your search team is going to want to strip your website’s pages of many of its pretty and cool things. Remember that Charles Lindbergh famously left a parachute and radio behind in order to conserve fuel on his record-breaking flight. You won’t have to trim the edges from your maps like he did, but consider if you really need a map showing your location or whether an address and a map link are sufficient.

We know that Google warns about issues like encryption, page speed, and mobile-friendliness well in advance of making significant ranking changes. And while they sometimes delay those ranking changes, they do eventually launch.

4. In the Spotlight — Facebook Vanish Arrives

“Some people are going to get into trouble with this.”

— my wife, after I practiced using Facebook Messenger Vanish with her.

Disappearing messages have been around for years and are most prevalent on Snapchat. Facebook is again facing a clamor of copying Snap’s functionality with its launch of Facebook Vanish. The feature is live on Facebook Messenger in the U.S. and coming to Instagram.

This is very different from secret conversation mode. Each person in Vanish Mode must agree to start a Vanish Mode chat with each other. The conversation is separate from any existing conversation with that person. The ephemeral magic happens when you view another screen on your device and return to the Vanish Mode chat to find everything gone.

All messages are deleted after the person has seen them and switched to another screen although you will get an alert message if the other person uses their device to take a screenshot. Reminder: they can always take a screenshot with another device.

None of this applies to group chats today. There’s plenty of misinformation floating around online so here is the official Facebook Vanish announcement.

5. Debunked: Parler

A meme making the rounds claims that George Soros owns the conservative social media site Parler (pronounced: parlor).

This is getting conflated with documented news that shows David Mercer and his daughter Rebekah are investors in the site. The Mercers previously sponsored Breitbart News and have provided funds for other Steve Bannon ventures.

The Associated Press included the hoax in its weekly roundup.

6. Following Up: Walmart & Cruise Partner for Self-Driving Car Delivery

We’ve told you in the past about GM’s Cruise unit receiving authorization to test its vehicles in San Francisco. The company announced last week that it is partnering with Walmart in Scottsdale to deliver groceries and packages with self-driving vehicles monitored by a human.

Morning Brew has news and analysis.

7. Protip: Moving from or Organizing Google Photos

People are not happy with Google’s announcement that images uploaded to Google Photos count against a user’s free storage limits. Lifehacker has you covered if you want to reduce the space you’re using there or if you decide to move entirely.

Do not delete photos until you know they’re safe elsewhere.

Screening Room: Jackman & Reynolds Christmas

One of the internet’s best loved “feuds” is back as actors Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds partner with Sam’s Club for charity. I can’t wait for their reboot in 15 years of “Grumpy (But Buff) Old Men.”

9. Coffee Break: Octopus Play

Great, now the octopi are sentient. That’ll change ordering at restaurants.

Have a look at this 75 second excerpt from a CBC documentary about an octopus initiating a game with its human handler.

And so a game was born …

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