Tuesday Tune-Up #442

Nick Carolan

Facebook changes its algorithm to prioritise original reporting
Facebook is working with academic experts and news publishers to change the way news stories are ranked in its feed. While content from news sources that users or their friends follow will still make up the majority of stories, where there are many sources, the story with original reporting (the one which broke the story, contains in-depth investigative reports, or is uncovering new facts and data) will be prioritised. Stories from sources that don’t provide transparent information about the publisher’s editorial staff will also be demoted as part of the changes.

Facebook shuts down Lasso and Hobbi
Facebook has announced that it will be shutting down its TikTok-style app, Lasso, on July 10th. Also on the chopping block is its recently launched app, Hobbi – the social network’s answer to Pinterest for content creation around personal projects and hobbies.

WhatsApp introduces contact-adding QR codes and more
WhatsApp has announced a number of new features that will be coming to the messaging platform over the next few weeks, including the ability to add contacts via QR codes. Among the other new features to be introduced is the extension of group video calls to include a maximum of eight people and the ability to share animated Stickers in chats.

LinkedIn rolls out several new updates 
LinkedIn has introduced several new features to its platform, including a new audio option for pronunciation on user profiles, and an alternative process for limiting company page invites. For Company Pages, LinkedIn has also added a new Follower analytics section, which allows admins to see a full list of every person that’s followed the Page, sorted in reverse chronology.

Twitch racks up 5 billion hours watched in Q2
After breaking its viewership records in Q1 of this year, surpassing 3 billion total hours watched in a single quarter for the first time, Twitch has broken its record again by reaching 5 billion hours watched in the second quarter of 2020. The figure represents a 62.7 per cent increase in hours watched from Q1, and an 83.1 per cent increase year-over-year. Twitch also broke records for hours streamed, unique channels, and average concurrent viewership in Q2.

Bye Guy: Dr. Disrespect banned from Twitch
Dr. Disrespect (real name Guy Beahm), a prominent Twitch streamer, has been banned from the platform without warning. This comes as a shock to the streaming community, not only due to his high-profile on the platform but because he recently signed a multi-million dollar deal to stream exclusively on Twitch in March this year. The exact reason for his permanent ban is yet to be disclosed. Recently, women from the gaming industry have been coming out on social media alleging that they were “sexually assaulted, harassed or discriminated against on the basis of their gender by fellow gamers”.

In a statement, Twitch promised to take action into “the recent allegations of sexual abuse and harassment involving Twitch streamers”. Several permanent bans of prominent streamers have been placed, and influential voices have alleged this is the reason why Guy was banned. Whatever the reason is behind Guy’s ban, there are problems within the platform’s culture that needs to be addressed. Let’s hope that this marks a change; Twitch needs to do better for women to feel safe and heard.

All eyes on 👁👄👁: How to turn a social media mystery into a fundraiser
In just 36 hours, a group of “young technologists tired of the status quo of the tech industry” raised more than $200,000 for the #BlackLivesMatter movement by adding 👁👄👁 to their Twitter handles.

So, what exactly is it and how did they do it? Well, It Is What It Is. Literally

You may have already seen the combination of emojis on many TikTok comments, but it really doesn’t mean much out of that context. What started as a bunch of tech workers adding the emojis on their Twitter name (just for fun) turned into mass speculation and created hype amongst venture capitalists, who tried to interpret the emojis like ancient hieroglyphics. Whether it was a breakthrough app, a viral campaign or Elon Musk and Grimes’ name for their next child, meme-turned-group chat generated an enormous amount of curiosity.

The group then managed to collect the emails of 20,000 people who were keen for early-access to whatever it was that they were creating, and raised over $65,000USD in donations from people who signed up for their email list. Matched contributions from anonymous benefactors saw donations reach $200,000, which has been distributed to Black and LGBTQI+ causes, including Loveland Foundation Therapy Fund, the Okra Project and the Innocence Project. Honestly, 👁👄👁 takes the cake for the most 2020 things I’ve seen.

Won’t somebody think of the children? Calls for TikTok to be banned in Australia
Let’s face it, TikTok is huge. It currently has 800 million monthly active users globally, and latest figures show that there are 6.1M Australian users. TikTok has also recently opened up its Australian office, as the app shows no signs of slowing down here.

But a recent call for TikTok to be banned in Australia could change things. Senator Jenny McAllister, chair of the Select Committee on Foreign Interference Through Social Media (established last year to ‘inquire into and report on the risk posed to Australia’s democracy by foreign interference through social media’), has raised concerns about the platform, saying, “I think Australians would expect that TikTok and other platforms will appear before the Senate committee to answer questions”.

Liberal senator Jim Molan added his voice by urging for a ban of the platform, criticising it as “a data collection service disguised as social media”. TikTok’s Australian General Manager, Lee Hunter, addressed the reports, saying that “TikTok does not share information of our users in Australia with any foreign government, including the Chinese government, and would not do so if asked. We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity”, adding that “We always welcome the opportunity to meet with policymakers to talk about TikTok, including the steps we’re taking to make it an even safer and more creative place.”

While TikTok hasn’t been without its share of media controversies, this increased local scrutiny hits different in light of India’s recent ban – an action which may mean TikTok could lose up to $6B.

Ones to watch
Instagram is testing a way to expand the Stories experience, making it a more of a central focus in the Instagram app; Facebook’s newest proof-of-concept VR headset looks like a pair of sunglasses; Discord raises $100 million and plans to move beyond gaming.

This edition of the Tuesday Tune-Up was prepared by John Pegios.