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Facebook’s Forecast wants ‘qualified’ predictions, but no one’s asking why

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is asking a bunch of so-called experts to chime in on what the future holds, but can we trust them with the information we’re giving them?

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Forecast app

These days, trolls don’t necessarily lurk beneath bridges in order to ensnare unsuspecting travelers. Instead, they hide out in the comment sections on social media posts, ready to incite wrath and stir up controversy with their incendiary remarks. Because Facebook knows how quickly reasonable discourse can quickly devolve thanks in part to these online trolls, they’ve made a move to establish intelligent discussions through their new “Forecast” app.

The premise of Forecast is fairly straightforward. Facebook has invited an assortment of so-called experts (whether they work in the medical field or academia, or some other field) to cast their vote on predictions about the future. Not only will they share their vote, though, they’ll also pitch in their own two cents about these predictions, sparking what is expected to be insightful and reasonable conversation about the topics.

However, while the premise is exciting (smart people! not basement dwellers! talking about serious stuff!), there’s more than a small amount of risk associated with Forecast. For starters, what exactly is Facebook planning on doing with all of this information that is being volunteered on their app? And secondly, are they going to take precautions to help prevent the spread of misinformation when these results are eventually published?

The fact is, Facebook is notorious for propagating and spreading misinformation. Now, I’m not blaming Facebook itself for this issue. Rather, the sheer volume of its user base inevitably leads to flame wars and dishonesty. You can’t spell “Fake News” with at least a couple of the same letters used in Facebook. Or something like that. The problem arises when people see the results of these polls, recognize that the information is being presented by these hand-picked experts, and then immediately takes them at face value.

It’s not so much that most people are simple minded or unable to think for themselves; rather, they’re primed to believe that the admittedly educated guesses from these experts are somehow better, smarter, than what would be presented to them by the average layperson. The bias is inherent in the selection process of who is and isn’t allowed to vote. By excluding everyday folks like you and me (I certainly wasn’t given an invite!), undue prestige may be attributed to these projections.

At the moment, many of these projections are silly bits of fluff. One question asks, “Will Tiger King on Netflix get a spinoff season?” Another one wonders, “Will Mulan debut on Disney+ at the same time as or instead of a theatrical release?” But other questions? Well, they’re a little more serious than that. And speculating on serious issues (such as COVID-19, or the presidential election) can lead to the spread of serious — and potentially dangerous — misinformation.

Facebook has implemented very strict guidelines about what types of questions are allowed and which ones are forbidden. That, at least, is a step in the right direction. It’s no secret that expectation can actually lead to the predicted outcomes, directly influencing actions and behaviors. While it’s too early to tell if Forecast will ever gain that much power, it undoubtedly puts us in a position of wondering if and when intervention may be necessary.

But I’ll be honest with you: I don’t exactly trust Facebook’s ability to put this cultivated information to good use. Sometimes a troll doesn’t have to be overtly provocative in order to be effective, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see someone in a position of power exploit the results of these polls to influence the public. It’ll be interesting to see if Forecast is still around in the next few years, but alas, there’s no option for me to submit my vote on that to find out.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Social Media

If you’re not on Clubhouse, you’re missing out – here’s why

(SOCIAL MEDIA) What exactly is Clubhouse, and why is it the quarantine app sensation? There’s a few reasons you should definitely be checking out right now!

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Clubhouse member hanging out on the app, on a couch with mask on their face.

The new exclusive app Clubhouse is challenging what social media can be – and it might possibly be the best thing to blow up during quarantine.

Developed by ex-Google employee Rohan Seth and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davison, Clubhouse has only been gaining in popularity since lockdown. Here’s why you need to join immediately:

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is like if subreddit pages were live podcasts. Or maybe if niche, topic-centric Zoom chatrooms could connect you with people from all over the world. But it’s ONLY audio, making it perfect for this period of lockdown where no one truly looks their best.

From networking events to heated debates about arts and culture to book clubs, you can truly find anything you want on Clubhouse. And if you don’t see a room that peaks your interest, you can make one yourself.

Why is it special?

Here’s my hot take: Clubhouse is democratizing the podcast process. When you enter a room for women entrepreneurs in [insert your industry], you not only hear from the established experts, but you’ll also have a chance to listen to up-and-coming users with great questions. And, if you want, you can request to speak as well.

If you click anyone’s icon, you can see their bio and links to their Instagram, Twitter, etc. For professionals looking to network in a deeper way, Clubhouse is making it easier to find up and coming creatives.

If you’re not necessarily looking to network, there’s still so much niche material to discover on the app. Recently, I spent an hour on Clubhouse listening to users discuss the differences in American and British street fashion. It got heated, but I learned A LOT.

The celebrities!

Did I mention there’s a TON of celebrities on the app? Tiffany Haddish, Virgil Abloh, and Lakeith Stanfield are regulars in rooms – and often host scheduled events. The proximity to all kinds of people, including the famous, is definitely a huge draw.

How do you get on?

Anyone with an iPhone can make an account, but as of now you need to be “nominated” by someone in your contacts who is already on the app. Think Google+ but cooler.

With lockdown giving us so much free time that our podcasts and shows can’t keep up with the demand, Clubhouse is a self-sustaining content mecca. Rooms often go on for days, as users in later time zones will pick up where others left off when they need to get some sleep. And the cycle continues.

Though I’m still wrapping my brain around it, I can say with fair certainty that Clubhouse is very, very exciting. If you have an hour (or 24) to spare, try it out for yourself – I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

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TikTok: A hotbed of cultural appropriation, and why it matters

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Gen Z’s favorite app TikTok is the modern epicenter for cultural appropriation – why you as a business owner should care.

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TikTok creator with a phone recording on a stand, but dances can be a sign of cultural appropriation.

Quarantine has been the catalyst for a sleuth of new cultural phenomena – Tiger King, Zoom, and baking addictions, to name a few. Perhaps most notably, TikTok has seen user numbers skyrocket since lockdown. And I don’t think those numbers are going down any time soon.

TikTok is a very special place. More so than any other social media apps I’ve engaged with, TikTok feels like a true community where total strangers can use the app’s duet or audio features to interact in creative, collaborative ways.

However, being able to use another user’s original audio or replicate their dance has highlighted the prevalence of cultural appropriation on TikTok: the app, as wholesome as it may be at times, has also become a hot bed for “virtual blackface”.

The most notable example of appropriation has to do with the Renegade dance and Charli D’Amelio – who is young, White, and arguably the most famous TikTok influencer (she is second only to Addison Rae, who is also White). The dance, originally created by 14-year-old Black user Jalaiah Harmon, essentially paved the way for D’Amelio’s fame and financial success (her net worth is estimated to be $8 million).

Only after Twitter backlash did D’Amelio credit Harmon as the original creator of the dance to which she owes her wealth – up until that point, the assumption was the dance was hers.

There is indeed a myriad of exploitative and appropriative examples of TikTok videos. Some of the most cringe-worthy include White users pantomiming black audio, in many cases affecting AAVE (African American Vernacular English). Styles of dance and music that were pioneered by Black artists have now been colonized by White users – and many TikTokers are not made aware of their cultural origins.

And what’s worse: TikTok’s algorithms favor White users, meaning White-washed iterations of videos tend to get more views, more engagement and, subsequently, more financial gains for the creator.

As you can imagine, TikTok’s Black community is up in arms. But don’t take it from me (a non-Black individual) – log onto the app and listen to what Black users have to say about cultural appropriation for yourself.

Still, the app is one of the fastest growing. Companies are finding creative ways to weave their paid ads and more subliminal marketing strategies into the fabric of the ‘For You’ page. In many ways, TikTok is the next frontier in social media marketing.

With a few relevant locational hashtags and some innovative approaches to advertising, your business could get some serious FREE attention on TikTok. In fact, it’s the future.

As aware and socially conscious small business owners, we need to make sure that while we are using the app to get ours, that the Black creators and artists who made the app what it is today are also getting theirs. Anything short of direct accountability for the platform and for caustic White users would be offensive.

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Promoted tweets getting over-promoted? Time for Twitter backlash

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter has enacted changes to how frequently Promoted Tweets – i.e., ads – are seen by users, and in true Twitter fashion, there’s mixed opinions.

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Smartphone open to Twitter with promoted tweets open on the top of the feed.

Did anyone else ever watch the Strong Bad Emails cartoons from Homestarrunner? One of the running gags there – and subsequently one of my favorite bits – was when he’d just delete a fan’s email outright while insulting the author. Strong Bad was great at laying down the delete hammer and had zero cares in the world about doing it.

The idea that you – as a user, person, entity – can reclaim a little bit of omniscient authority is powerful. Generally, we like being in control of our lives, and the ability to exercise that authority resonates deeply.

Digital companies are still coming to terms with the idea that their users maintain some ability to revolt against their new policies, trying to straddle the line between new features and improved tools while still keeping an existing audience happy. Typing “hate the new” into Google will show results solely around new interfaces and an endless string of abhorrence. The new Facebook layout is bad. The new Gmail is bad and here’s how to revert it.

I’m sure others exist for any widely used app or service. Sometimes even new logos incite rage. I’m not here to make a statement either way, but usually there’s some ground in between pure opinion and justifiable discussions about user interface and experience. Regardless, change can make users upset.

Twitter recently rolled out changes to how Promoted Tweets work. You should know first that a promoted tweet is just an ad, and were originally set to appear only once per timeline. However, recent updates to Twitter’s internal services has resulted in some users reporting the same ad being shown multiple times in rapid succession, and even repeatedly over and over.

Think about Google search results – there are definitely ads at the top of the first page, and they are usually relevant to the topic at hand and only show up in that area. A user can quickly scroll downward past this and look through other results. But imagine how frustrating it might be to have a first page riddled primarily with ads, effectively choking out other results.

Twitter maintains that, “we’re thoughtful in how we display Promoted Tweets, and are conservative about the number of Promoted Tweets that people see in a single day.” This has led some users to believing this behavior indicates some kind of issue with their internal systems. I like to think about the scene in Office Space where Michael Bolton (not the singer) mentions that he may have put a decimal in the wrong place; that is, there’s a configuration error at Twitter instead of some kind of sea change.

However, Twitter has said this is not a glitch. In fact, they stated it was intentional, and further clarified that, “We regularly experiment and deploy changes to our advertising experience. We are constantly innovating and testing, and will continue to adapt as we learn.” Despite worldwide complaints, Twitter has not officially acknowledged this situation as problematic.

As a result, many users have taken to blocking the advertisers involved with the Promoted Tweets. Much like Strong Bad exercising his ultimate authority over his domain, this means that companies are in danger of losing their ability to reach users entirely. As this number grows, the consequences could widespread, and it will be interesting to see if Twitter changes their outlook and/or has potential pressure from advertisers. Twitter has stated that this may simply be temporary to exhaust a surplus of ad inventory, and this remains to be seen.

As users continue to voice their complaints, it will be interesting to see how the situation ultimately resolves.

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