Twitter cracks down on bots with 'new account types' in 2021
Bots are becoming easier to identify on Twitter, with the company adjusting some of its plans for a new verification process that is set to roll out next year. This includes finding a way of distinguishing bots and other automated accounts. A memorialisation process is also in the works for users who have died, making them distinct from normal users. This is all part of the new account verification policy that will activate on January 20, 2021, working to make accounts and user intent more transparent and trustworthy.

TikTok announces new Community Guidelines focused on wellbeing
TikTok is putting wellbeing at the forefront of its Community Guidelines, strengthening its existing policies in areas like harassment, dangerous acts, self-harm and violences. These include updated resources for those struggling with self-harm or suicide, opt-in viewing screens that hide distressing content, a text-to-voice feature to make TikTok more accessible and an expanded set of COVID-19-related resources. TikTok worked with behavioural psychologists and suicide prevention experts to create new resources that include evidence-based actions users can take for searches related to self-harm. With much of TikTok’s audience young and impressionable, these are crucial steps for the platform to create a safe and supportive community. 

Snapchat releases Bitmoji Paint
Christmas has come early with the release of Snap’s fourth title from its internal games studio, Bitmoji Paint. Combining Bitmojji and painting, the game places players on a gigantic, pixelated grid and lets them paint the squares as a shared canvas. Zoom out, and you get pixel art. There are three modes- move, paint, and map- and users can also interact with other players around the world using stock emotes. There’s also a voice chat function in Snap’s game menu so you can talk to your friends while you’re doodling, making it a collaborative multiplayer gaming experience. Ba Blackstock, co-founder of Bitmoji says the game is about “letting people play together in a really new and fun and exciting way.”

Screenshots of Snapchat’s Bitmoji Paint game showing Bitmoji characters standing on grids of pixel art.

Platforms take moves to prevent COVID-19 vaccine misinformation
COVID-19 misinformation is spreading fast on social media, and platforms are introducing new features to prevent the distribution of fake information about the pandemic. On Instagram, users in areas with surging cases will see a link to their local health authority at the top of their feed and anyone searching for vaccine information will also be directed to credible health sources. These measures will be taken in addition to the platform blocking hashtags that contain vaccine misinformation. Twitter will be removing tweets making false or misleading claims about COVID-19 vaccinations. Any tweets claiming that vaccines ‘intentionally cause harm to control populations’ or invoke conspiracy theories will be subject to removal. 

Discord enables screen share for iOS and Android devices
“Let me just share my screen.” One of 2020’s most used phrases is here to stay, as popular chat app Discord has introduced mobile screen sharing. The feature lets users capture and broadcast everything on their phone's display and stream it to a group of friends. Discord first picked up screen sharing abilities in 2013, rolling it out alongside video chat. Since then, screen sharing has required a desktop or laptop, with this update bringing iOS and Android devices into the mix. Be warned, streaming your mobile’s display means sharing everything that floats across your phone’s screen, so be sure to turn on your phone’s Do Not Disturb mode if you don’t want your friends spying on your secrets.

Discord Mobile Screen share

Snapchat unveils three new holiday lenses
It’s going to be a digital Christmas for many of us this year, but fear not, Snapchat is here to keep the festivities flowing with the release of three new lenses. ‘Santa’s Beard,’ ‘Ugly Sweater,’ and ‘Family Portrait,’ all feature different augmented reality experiences. ‘Family Portrait,’ for example, transforms you into an entire family dressed for a holiday pic, while ‘Ugly Sweater’ dresses you up in a pun-tastic holiday sweater. So if you’re searching for that horrendous Christmas jumper, stop in your tracks, as Snap is here to save the day. 

Facebook modifies Messenger by adding Christmas features
Facebook is feeling festive, introducing AR effects and 360-degree backgrounds to the desktop version of Messenger for people to enjoy over the Christmas holidays. Effects include Santa’s Lap, Winter Village, Christmas Tree Hat, Grumpy Yeti, Festive Lights, and Christmas Elf. With video calls being held worldwide this Christmas Day, Facebook is bringing some va-va-voom to virtual calls with these fun features designed to spread Christmas joy. To use the filters and effects, open the messenger app on the desktop, make your call and click on the smiley face icon. 

Ones to watch
Twitter launches its voice-based ‘Spaces’ social networking feature into beta testing and Facebook looks to take on Cameo with a new celebrity streaming option.