“Snapchatters are some of the most expressive and creative mobile storytellers in the world and Spotlight gives them an opportunity to share their creations broadly,” the company said in a news release yesterday. “With over 4 billion Snaps created each day, Spotlight empowers the Snapchat community to express themselves and reach a large audience in a new way.”
Snap intends to seed its new feature by essentially launching a virtual talent search; it will offer a daily pool of more than $1 million to be paid out to makers of the most popular submissions until at least the end of the year. That could give it a competitive edge over TikTok, which has surged in popularity during the pandemic, and Instagram, which also recently launched a similar in-app feature called Reels.
Yet expanding the ability of user-generated content to go viral could open up Snap to familiar political headaches.
So far, the platform has been insulated from many of the regulatory problems encountered by other social media companies because of the way it is fundamentally designed. Snap's focus on disappearing messaging among friends or smaller groups has meant that harmful content or misinformation has not been able to go viral on the service, unlike rivals Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and recently TikTok.
But that could change with the launch of Spotlight, as the 250 million people using the app could suddenly have a much larger platform to share content on – especially at a politically fraught time when social networks are struggling to address a deluge of misinformation about the election as President Trump hasn't officially conceded.
Snap is trying to beef up its content moderation efforts in response.
The company will initially task human moderators to review all content before it can be featured on Spotlight, Snap spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said. Snap is also hiring more content moderators, she said.
In the coming weeks, the company will begin using a combination of human and machine-learning moderation to review Snaps for Spotlight. That could make matters more complicated, as algorithms are not able to recognize nuance in content as effectively as humans. Snap has said that its community guidelines — which prohibit misinformation that can cause harm or the manipulation of media for misleading purposes — apply to the new feature. There won't be public comments Spotlight, however, insulating it from some of the most divisive corners of social media.
“Spotlight was designed to entertain the Snapchat community while living up to Snapchat’s values, with their wellbeing as a top priority,” the company said in a statement.
Snap is expanding its offerings as regulatory scrutiny of social media is increasing.
The platform is moving into new territory as there's increasing momentum to regulate social media in Washington. The incoming Biden administration has been publicly critical of Facebook, and it is expected to crack down on misinformation on social media and potentially impose greater restrictions on content moderation through changes to Section 230. The decades-old law provides tech companies legal immunity for content moderation decisions, but Biden has suggested revoking it.
So far, Snap has not faced the same regulatory scrutiny as other social media companies. As executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and even Reddit have testified on the Hill, Snap has avoided it. Its ability to continue to evade such a spotlight may hinge on effectively enforcing its community guidelines in Spotlight.
The move also puts more pressure on TikTok as it faces an uncertain regulatory future.
Snap and TikTok are both popular among young users, and the new contest could heat up competition as the latter is navigating an uncertain political future. TikTok has been in limbo since the Trump administration ordered its Chinese parent company ByteDance to sell it, or threatened to ban it entirely from the United States.
So far, those threats haven't materialized, and it remains unclear exactly how the incoming Biden administration will handle concerns TikTok presents a national security threat because of its Chinese ownership. A key Trump administration deadline for ByteDance to divest is approaching on Friday.
However, the president and administration officials have said little publicly about the state of the deal since Election Day, and the deadlines have repeatedly been extended.
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A small group of social media accounts are ‘superspreaders’ of voter fraud misinformation.
New research highlights how a small group of right-wing personalities with large social media followings helped spread voter fraud narratives, Sheera Frenkel at the New York Times reports.
Top influencers such as Eric Trump, conservative media personalities Diamond and Silk and activist Brandon Straka accounted for a disproportionate share of interactions on public posts referencing “Stop the Steal,” according to new research from the human rights group Avaaz, the Elections Integrity Project and the Times. Across Facebook, these figures accounted for 6 percent of the 3.5 million likes, comments and shares on these posts.
And President Trump has an even larger influence on the discourse. All of the 20 most-engaged Facebook posts over the last week containing the word “election” were from Trump, according to Crowdtangle, a Facebook-owned analytics tool. Independent fact checkers found all of those claims to be misleading.
“Because of how Facebook’s algorithm functions, these superspreaders are capable of priming a discourse,” said Fadi Quran, a director at Avaaz. “There is often this assumption that misinformation or rumors just catch on. These superspreaders show that there is an intentional effort to redefine the public narrative."
Prominent accounts have continued to help voter fraud claims gather momentum in recent weeks.
Facebook said the company is applying labels to posts that misrepresent the election process, and the company is redirecting people to a voting center. But the company did not comment on why accounts that repeatedly share misinformation are not penalized.
Amazon workers in Alabama filed notice to hold a union vote.
Such a vote could instigate a critical labor battle with the e-commerce giant, which has long opposed unionization of its workforce, my colleague Jay Greene writes. Employees at a facility in Bessemer, Ala., told the National Labor Relations Board they want to create a bargaining unit that would cover 1,500 full-time and part-time workers.
Much of the company's staff in Europe belongs to unions, but to date, the company has successfully fought off efforts at other locations in the United States. Yet there's greater focus on the working conditions of these employees following workers' efforts to protest the company's handling of coronavirus safety. (Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
A website created he Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union encourages the Alabama warehouse workers to join the organizing drive to ensure they have access to better safety conditions, as well as improved pay.
“We face outrageous work quotas that have left many with illnesses and lifetime injuries,” the union said on the site. “With a union contract, we can form a worker safety committee, and negotiate the highest safety standards and protocols for our workplace.”
Amazon argues that its warehouses are safe and that it has a minimum wage of $15, in addition to benefits such as health and dental insurance, spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said in an emailed statement. “We don’t believe this group represents the majority of our employees’ views."
More key Amazon news:
Secret Amazon Reports Expose the Company’s Surveillance of Labor and Environmental Groups by Vice's Lauren Kaori Gurley
Apple's global head of security was charged with bribery.
Thomas Moyer, who has run Apple's security department since 2013, allegedly promised to donate iPads to the Santa County Clara Sheriff's Office in exchange for concealed-weapon permits, according to an indictment made public Monday. The charges are part of a wider probe into the sheriff's office, my colleague Reed Albergotti reports.
The sheriff's office allegedly held up Moyer's application for concealed-weapons permits until he agreed to get Apple to donate $70,000 worth of iPads to the department.
Moyer denied the allegations through his attorney Ed Swanson. The donation to a new sheriff's office education center was not connected with four concealed-carry permits issued to Apple's employees, Swanson said.
“He did nothing wrong and has acted with the highest integrity throughout his career. We have no doubt he will be acquitted at trial,” Swanson said in a statement.
The sheriff's officer said the allegations signaled “a difficult time for our organization.”
“As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest moral and ethical standards,” office said in a statement.
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