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The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act impacts your business

Today, major changes were made to COPPA that all website owners need to be aware of, but major questions remain unanswered.

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COPPA

New changes to a decade old law

A decade and almost a half ago, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) went into effect, which made it incredibly difficult for website owners to collect information about the users it determined to be under the age of thirteen.

Note that it didn’t make it illegal, it just made it difficult. They could still ask for parental permission to gather information about the kid…b ut the amount of paperwork involved in the process was so extreme that, for the most part, Family Website runners simply decided to treat all users as if they were 12 or younger. You know, to save time.

According to a statement made by Reuters1 today, the FTC has proposed some changes, citing things like cellular devices and social media integration as reasonable reasons to make things all at once easier and harder on website owners.

Unanswered questions pertaining to COPPA

If the proposal passes, website owners will be responsible for third party data collectors who gather data on users who are under thirteen but who haven’t gotten verifiable parental permission to give their information out.

Here are some questions that aren’t answered but should be:

  • Who, exactly, benefits in this situation if the website owner gets dinged for third party activity?
  • Why wouldn’t a third party system be held responsible for being told not to collect the data and then collecting it anyway?
  • What, exactly, constitutes “verifiable” parental consent?
  • Are there really that many kids aged twelve and under running around with internet enabled smart phones that haven’t had parental blockers and passwords put on them?
  • Do these kids really have unfettered and non-parentally supervised access to social media sites like Facebook?
  • Why is thirteen (the age at which peer pressure starts to get significantly more intense) conveniently the magic age at which we decide a person is no longer in need of protection against marketers?
  • Why does Facebook always seem to win?
  • And, most importantly (and we ask in jest): did they choose the name “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act” just so they would have an excuse to say the word “Copper” with a bad Brooklyn accent a lot?

1 Reuters report

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Twitter branches out into voice chat – what could go wrong?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) We’re learning more about Twitter’s forthcoming audio chat rooms, but what is Twitter learning about moderation?

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Twitter open on a smartphone on table next to a cup of warm brown tea.

Twitter wants you to talk more with more people. Like, actually form words. With your mouth.

In November, the micro-blogging giant announced it’s testing its new Audio Spaces feature, which allows users to create audio-only chat rooms – making it what Wired calls a copycat of the new and buzzy Clubhouse app.

Twitter itself hasn’t released many details, but tech blogger/app-feature detective Jane Manchun Wong has been tweeting some of the deets.

How it works

Here’s what we know about the private beta version, according to Wong: Users create a chat room and can control who is admitted to the group, whether it’s the public, followers, or followees. Group size is currently limited to 10. Members can react with a set set of emojis: “100,” raised hand, fist, peace sign, and waving hand. Spaces conversations are not recorded, but they are transcribed for accessibility. It uses Periscope on the back end.

One thing that’s not clear: The actual name. Twitter’s announcements have been calling it Audio Spaces, but the product’s handle is @TwitterSpaces.

It’s Twitter! What could go wrong?

The big gorilla in the chat room is moderation – as in, how do you keep humans from being terrible on Twitter?

We can all be forgiven for skepticism when it comes to Twitter’s aim to keep Audio Spaces safe(ish). Twitter can be a toxic stew of personal insults and even threats. Interestingly, Twitter is starting its test by inviting users who are often targets: Women and people from marginalized groups. Great idea! Who better to help craft community guidelines?

Requiring platforms to shut down hate speech and violent threats is having a moment, and Clubhouse is already in the controversy mix. Even as invite-only, the app has had some high-profile failures to moderate with threats toward a New York Times reporter and a problem anti-semitic conversation. It seems likely Twitter is paying attention.

Also on the safe(ish) side: The space creator is all powerful and can mute or kick out bad actors. Spaces can also be reported. Then there’s the transcription, which sets Audio Spaces apart from similar apps. Chat transcription was aimed at accessibility but, TechCrunch suggests that might help keep things civil and appropriate if people know their words are being written down. Hmm. Maybe?

Also… Why?

It doesn’t appear that there was a groundswell of demand from users, but Audio Spaces at least is something different from the feature pile-on making the social media big dogs start to look the same, as in Twitter’s also-new Fleets, Instagram’s and Facebook’s Stories, Snapchat’s… Snapchat. (See also Instagram’s Reels, Snapchat’s Spotlight, TikTok’s… TikTok.)

Clubhouse does appear to be hugely popular in Silicon Valley – and it has the investment capital to show it – so maybe there’s something to this audio-only chat thing. But we’ve already seen pandemic-fueled Zoom-happy-hour-fatigue, as users have gotten frustrated with too many people talking at the same time. Video chat can give users at least a few more clues about who is talking and who might be about to talk. Audio-only chat seems like it could quickly devolve into a chaotic cacophony.

But, Twitter says, conversation will flow naturally, and it advises users to “be present.”

“Just like in real life, the magic is in the moment,” it says.

It’s beta testers will surely have a lot to say about “magic” and “moderation.”

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Facebook’s latest acquisition dives into backend of social media marketing

(SOCIAL MEDIA) This $1 billion dollar acquisition of a CRM shows Facebook diving into the back end of social media for the first time.

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Woman checking social media on her phone on a balcony overlooking city traffic.

A social media giant is stepping into the Customer Relationship Management Realm.

On November 30, Facebook announced that it had acquired the CRM platform Kustomer for a deal valued at a whopping $1 billion. Founded in 2015, Kustomer boasts to be a customer service focused platform that is made to support high volume transactions. In a statement on the company’s website, Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum believes that the platform’s complementary relationship with Facebook will create a mutually beneficial relationship.

“With our complementary capabilities, we will be able to help more people benefit from customer service that is faster, richer and available whenever and however they need it–via phone, email, text, web chat or messaging.” Birnbaum said, “In particular, we look forward to enhancing the messaging experience which is one of the fastest-growing ways for people and businesses to engage.”

The move may seem unusual at first. In the past, Facebook has opted to purchase customer-facing applications and software, instead of back-end applications. Such purchases include Spanish cloud video gaming company PlayGiga in 2019, and popular gif catalog service Giphy this past May. These applications are often used to build out new features for Facebook’s core platform and users.

Considering Facebook makes around 99% of its revenue through advertising, however, the acquisition makes sense. Through Kustomer, Facebook hopes to provide better support to companies wishing to use the social media conglomerate as a channel for attracting customers. By providing end-to-end support for these businesses, Facebook hopes to drive revenue and become a core channel used to sell products and services.

Only time will tell if the investment in a CRM platform can help drive companies to use Facebook as a primary sales channel. Ultimately, the end goal for Facebook is to increase its advertising revenue, and one could expect the organization to integrate Kustomer with popular existing applications like Instagram and Whatsapp.

The acquisition will have to pass a regulatory review, however, before Kustomer can officially become part of the Facebook family. While that is likely to go off without a hitch, Facebook needs to handle some bigger regulation issues before it can take advantage of its new CRM software.

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This non-judgmental app can help you switch to a plant-based diet

(SOCIAL MEDIA) There are many reasons people choose plant-based diets. If you’re looking to try it out, this app helps you stay on track.

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No Meat Today, a judgement-free plant-based diet tracking app.

The interest in plant-based proteins continues to grow. Healthline suggests that Americans are shifting toward plant-based meat substitutes because of shortages in the grocery store due to the pandemic, but there are many reasons to make the switch.

Plant-based proteins are considered more sustainable than traditional meat. Nutritionally, plant-based meat alternatives are often healthier. Regardless of the reason, if you’re one of the many Americans who are changing your diet, there’s a new app that can help you stay on track without making you feel judged if or when you do eat meat.

Your companion to eating less meat

No Meat Today is an app available in the App Store. You can get on a waitlist in Google Play. It’s a fun app that asks you, “Did you eat meat today?” You can even define what meat means to you, red meat, fish and seafood, poultry, eggs and/or dairy. As you eat less meat, your “planet” attracts cows. The design is simple, “don’t eat meat, get a cow.” If you eat too much meat, your cows go away. There’s no judgement if you lose a cow.

The creator, Arnaud Joubay says, “I’m not here to tell anyone what they should do, only to offer a friendly app to those who want to do the same.” It’s recommended to look back at your history to decide whether you want to eat meat or not.

Reviews

The app was just released earlier this year. Most of its features are free, but you can pay $4.99 for all the features for one year. There have been some very cute cows released for special days. In the App Store, reviews are positive, but the caveat is that the creator asks you to contact him first if you if your review isn’t 5-stars. It’s a cute app that can motivate you to eat less meat.

Here’s the link to the product page.

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