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“Making A Murderer” viewers flock to Yelp to blast prosecutor Kratz

After watching the Netflix documentary series, “Making A Murderer,” people have flocked to the web to voice their outrage at the convictions of two Wisconsin natives.

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“Making A Murderer” documentary enrages America

The first places that many consumers visit for feedback on the quality of service for a local business is typically Yelp, Google Reviews, or other review sites — but what about how justice has been served?

That’s how viewers of Netflix’s explosive true-crime documentary, “Making A Murderer” are voicing their opinion about several people and their businesses portrayed in the ten-part series. The documentary focuses on the controversial murder investigation and subsequent trials surrounding the homicide of Teresa Halbach.

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While most online debates are typically held in forums such as Reddit or on Twitter, it has been reported that many viewers who are displeased with the outcome of the trial as represented in “Making a Murderer” are taking instead to Yelp to express their outrage in a more direct manner.

More specifically, viewers are posting negative reviews on the legal firm pages for one of the defense attorneys as well as Ken Kratz, the former prosecuting attorney who now uses the case to promote his private law firm.

Note from the Editor: The same has happened, but to a lesser extent at Len Kachinsky’s firm, Sisson Law, formerly Sisson & Kachinsky Law. According to Inquisitr, the firm has hidden the bio of Brendan Dassey’s court-appointed representation, and Kachinsky has been posting on his own Facebook page about anxiety over his cancer.

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Yelp alerts users to nature of reviews

Because of the amount and nature of recent reviews, Yelp has placed an active cleanup alert on Kratz’s law firm page and directs posters to use the Yelp Talk forum to voice their opinion on the news.

From the alert — “While we don’t take a stand one way or the other when it comes to these news events, we do work to remove both positive and negative posts that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage itself than the reviewer’s personal consumer experience with the business.”

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According to its Content Guidelines page, the intent of Yelp is for users to contribute reviews, and make sure that contributions are relevant and appropriate. As stated in the Relevance section, “…reviews aren’t the place for rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.”

Makes sense, but then Yelp indirectly calls viewers “vigilantes”

While Yelp itself may not take a public stand on these news events, someone at Yelp has enough of an opinion of these negative reviews. While attempting to capture an image of the alert, we noticed that the web page source code references this alert as “vigilante” as shown in this screen capture.

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Note from the Editor: While it remains Yelp’s goal to keep a pure ratings and review environment, calling users “vigilante” appears to be a new tactic we cannot find elsewhere on the site. Further, as a news organization, we believe strongly in the First Amendment right to free speech, and labeling people who disagree with a controversial outcome of a series of cases “vigilante” is questionable at best.

We have documented all reviews as of publication (see links above), as another case led to a scrubbing of a Yelp account long after the fact. In 2014, an Oklahoma bar owner said “no faggots” in his bar, and Yelp users created a parody site to call his business the “Best Gay Club” in the city with hundreds of “reviews”. That Yelp page now has no more than four “real” looking reviews, marking an alternative path Yelp has taken.

The controversy and debate over “Making A Murderer” continues long after the cameras have stopped rolling. Filmmaker Moira Demos stated in this December 30th CBS News article that “our question going in was never about guilt or innocence or about trying to solve this crime. It was really an exploration into the system.”

Kratz told CBS News that the Netflix series “leaves out key DNA and other evidence.”

Is hacker collective, Anonymous involved now?

In an interesting twist, a Twitter account allegedly associated to hacker collective Anonymous and a related group, Ghost Security, stated that the groups would be releasing hacked data that would expose wrongdoing in the murder case. Media sites and discussion forums had picked up that story, but it has now been reported as false.

According to the Ghost Security Twitter account, “#GhostSec is not at all affiliated with #MakingAMurderer” and directs media inquiries to the original poster. Whether this claim is merely someone trolling under the hacktivist moniker, or actually has relevant information remains to be seen.

The complications of public perception

A key observation of these events represented by and surrounding the documentary “Making a Murderer” is of the many facets and influences of public perception (which is ironically a continuing theme throughout the documentary). The perception created and presented by the news media as well as the television and film industry has always existed and been a profound influence of public opinion, but now there is the perception that can be created and propagated on social media and review sites by armchair vigilantes and judges.

Viewers may erroneously apply Occam’s razor for their own verdict despite not having all the evidence presented to the court. On the other hand, drawing attention to a controversial matter through documentary filmmaking and social media can be paramount in addressing an injustice. Errol Morris’ 1988 documentary film, THE THIN BLUE LINE, is a prime example of a film and its surrounding publicity influencing the outcome of a conviction, with the exoneration of its main subject Randall Dale Adams. A year after the film’s release, Adams’ case was reviewed and he was released after thirteen years of a life sentence for a crime that he did not commit.

On a less somber note, a simple lesson to be learned from the public use of review sites for expressing opinion is that as a business owner you should have some control and oversight of your online presence. While having the time and resources required to manage your content can be taxing and time-consuming, it’s important to be aware and be responsive of feedback on any crowd-sourced review site. Devoting time to online engagement beyond damage control is a way to ensure client acquisition and retention.

#MakingAMurderer

Story update, January 3: We were able to locate another instance of Yelp using the term “vigilante” and have removed the reference to Yelp in the title of this story.

Debbie Cerda is a seasoned writer and consultant, running Debra Cerda Consulting as well as handling business development at data-driven app development company, Blue Treble Solutions. She's a proud and active member of Austin Film Critics Association and the American Homebrewers Association, and Outreach Director for science fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin. She has been very involved in the tech scene in Austin for over 15 years, so whether you meet her at Sundance Film Festival, SXSWi, Austin Women in Technology, or BASHH, she'll have a connection or idea to help you achieve business success. At the very least, she can recommend a film to watch and a great local craft beer to drink.

Social Media

Twitter to start charging users? Here’s what you need to know

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media is trending toward the subscription based model, especially as the pandemic pushes ad revenue down. What does this mean for Twitter users?

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Twitter and other social media apps open on a phone being held in a hand. Will they go to a paid option subscription model?

In an attempt to become less dependent on advertising, Twitter Inc. announced that it will be considering developing a subscription product, as well as other paid options. Here’s the scoop:

  • The ideas for paid Twitter that are being tossed around include tipping creators, the ability to pay users you follow for exclusive content, charging for use of the TweetDeck, features like “undo send”, and profile customization options and more.
  • While Twitter has thought about moving towards paid for years, the pandemic has pushed them to do it – plus activist investors want to see accelerated growth.
  • The majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from targeted ads, though Twitter’s ad market is significantly smaller than Facebook and other competitors.
  • The platform’s user base in the U.S. is its most valuable market, and that market is plateauing – essentially, Twitter can’t depend on new American users joining to make money anymore.
  • The company tried user “tips” in the past with its live video service Periscope (RIP), which has now become a popular business model for other companies – and which we will most likely see again with paid Twitter.
  • And yes, they will ALWAYS take a cut of any money being poured into the app, no matter who it’s intended for.

This announcement comes at a time where other social media platforms, such as TikTok and Clubhouse, are also moving towards paid options.

My hot take: Is it important – especially during a pandemic – to make sure that creators are receiving fair compensation for the content that we as users consume? Yes, 100%. Pay people for their work. And in the realm of social media, pictures, memes, and opinions are in fact work. Don’t get it twisted.

Does this shift also symbolize a deviation from the unpaid, egalitarian social media that we’ve all learned to use, consume, and love over the last decade? It sure does.

My irritation stems not from the fact that creators will probably see more return on their work in the future. Or on the principal of free social media for all. It stems from sheer greediness of the social media giants. Facebook, Twitter, and their counterparts are already filthy rich. Like, dumb rich. And guess what: Even though Twitter has been free so far, it’s creators and users alike that have been generating wealth for the company.

So why do they want even more now?

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Social Media

TikTok enters the e-commerce space, ready to compete with Zuckerberg?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Setting up social media for e-commerce isn’t an uncommon practice, but for TikTok this means the next step competing with Facebook and Instagram.

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Couple taking video with mobile phone, prepared for e-commerce.

Adding e-commerce offerings to social media platforms isn’t anything new. However, TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese firm ByteDance, is rolling out some new e-commerce features that will place the social video app in direct competition with Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook and Instagram.

According to a Financial Times report, TikTok’s new features will allow the platform to create and expand its e-commerce service in the U.S. The new features will allow TikTok’s popular users to monetize their content. These users will be able to promote and sell products by sharing product links in their content. In return, TikTok will profit from the sales by earning a commission.

Among the features included is “live-streamed” shopping. In this mobile phone shopping channel, users can purchase products by tapping on products during a user’s live demo. Also, TikTok plans on releasing a feature that will allow brands to display their product catalogs.

Currently, Facebook has expanded into the e-commerce space through its Facebook Marketplace. In May 2020, it launched Facebook Shops that allows businesses to turn their Facebook and Instagram stories into online stores.

But, Facebook hasn’t had too much luck in keeping up with the video platform in other areas. In 2018, the social media giant launched Lasso, its short-form video app. But the company’s TikTok clone didn’t last too long. Last year, Facebook said bye-bye to Lasso and shut it down.

Instagram is trying to compete with TikTok by launching Instagram Reels. This feature allows users to share short videos just like TikTok, but the future of Reels isn’t set in stone yet. By the looks of it, videos on Reels are mainly reposts of video content posted on TikTok.

There is no word on when the features will roll out to influencers on TikTok, but according to the Financial Times report, the social media app’s new features have already been viewed by some people.

TikTok has a large audience that continues to grow. By providing monetization tools in its platform, TikTok believes its new tools will put it ahead of Facebook in the e-commerce game, and help maintain that audience.

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Social Media

Your favorite Clubhouse creators can now ask for your financial support

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Clubhouse just secured new funding – what it means for creators and users of the latest quarantine-based social media darling.

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Woman talking on Clubhouse on her iPhone with a big smile.

Clubhouse – the live-voice chat app that has been taking the quarantined world by storm – has recently announced that it has raised new funding in a Series B round, led by Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.

The app confirms that new funding means compensation for creators; much like the influencers on TikTok and YouTube, now Clubhouse creators will be able to utilize features such as subscriptions, tipping, and ticket sales to monetize their content.

To encourage emerging Clubhouse creators and invite new voices, funding round will also support a promising “Creator Grant Program”.

On the surface, Clubhouse is undoubtedly cool. The invite-only, celebrity-filled niche chatrooms feel utopic for any opinionated individual – or anyone that just likes to listen. At its best, Clubhouse brings to mind collaborative campfire chats, heated lecture-hall debates or informative PD sessions. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m actually obsessed.

And now with its new round, the video chatroom app will not only appear cool but also act as a helpful steppingstone to popular and emerging creators alike. “Creators are the lifeblood of Clubhouse,” said Paul & Rohan, the app’s creators, “and we want to make sure that all of the amazing people who host conversations for others are getting recognized for their contributions.”

Helping creators get paid for their labor in 2021 is a cause that we should 100% get behind, especially if we’re consuming their content.

Over the next few months, Clubhouse will be prototyping their tipping, tickets and subscriptions – think a system akin to Patreon, but built directly into the app.

A feature unique to the app – tickets – will offer individuals and organizations the chance to hold formal discussions and events while charging an admission. Elite Clubhouse rooms? I wonder if I can get a Clubhouse press pass.

Additionally, Clubhouse has announced plans for Android development (the app has only been available to Apple users so far). They are also working on moderation policies after a recent controversial chat sparked uproar. To date, the app has been relying heavily on community moderation, the power of which I’ve witnessed countless times whilst in rooms.

So: Is the golden age of Clubhouse – only possible for a short period while everyone was stuck at home and before the app gained real mainstream traction – now over? Or will this new round of funding and subsequent development give the app a new beginning?

For now, I think it’s safe to say that the culture of Clubhouse will certainly be changing – what we don’t know is if the changes will make this cream-of-the-crop app even better, or if it’ll join the ranks of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook in being another big-time social media staple.

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