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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 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 2020, 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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Social Media

New Pinterest code of conduct pushes for mindful posting

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media sites have struggled with harmful content, but Pinterest is using their new code of conduct to encourage better, not just reprimands.

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Pinterest icon on phone with 2 notifications, indicating new code of conduct.

It appears that at least one social media site has made a decision on how to move forward with the basis of their platform. Pinterest has created a brand-new code of conduct for their users. Giving them a set of rules to follow which to some may be a little restricting, but I’m not mad about it. In a public statement, they told the world their message:

“We’re on a journey to build a globally inclusive platform where Pinners around the world can discover ideas that feel personalized, relevant, and reflective of who they are.”

The revamp of their system includes 3 separate changes revolving around the rules of the platform. All of them are complete with examples and full sets of rules. The list is summed up as:

  • Pinterest Creator Code
  • Pinterest Comment Moderation Tools
  • Pinterest Creator Fund

For the Creator Code, Pinterest had this to say: “The Creator Code is a mandatory set of guidelines that lives within our product intended to educate and build community around making inclusive and compassionate content”. The rules are as follows:

  • Be Kind
  • Check my Facts
  • Be aware of triggers
  • Practice Inclusion
  • Do no harm

The list of rules provides some details on the pop-up as well, with notes like “make sure content doesn’t insult,” “make sure information is accurate,” etc. The main goal of this ‘agreement’, according to Pinterest, is not to reprimand offending people but to practice a proactive and empowering social environment. Other social websites have been shoe-horned into reprimanding instead of being proactive against abuse, and it has been met with mixed results. Facebook itself is getting a great deal of flack about their new algorithm that picks out individual words and bans people for progressively longer periods without any form of context.

Comment Moderation is a new set of tools that Pinterest is hoping will encourage a more positive experience between users and content creators. It’s just like putting the carrot before the donkey to get him to move the cart.

  • Positivity Reminders
  • Moderation Tools
  • Featured Comments
  • New Spam Prevention Signals

Sticking to the positivity considerations here seems to be the goal. They seem to be focusing on reminding people to be good and encouraging them to stay that way. Again, proactive, not reactive.

The social platform’s last change is to create a Pinterest Creator Fund. Their aim is to provide training, create strategy consulting, and financial support. Pinterest has also stated that they are going to be aiming these funds specifically at underrepresented communities. They even claim to be committing themselves to a quota of 50% of their Creators. While I find this commendable, it also comes off a little heavy handed. I would personally wait to see how they go about this. If they are ignoring good and decent Creators based purely on them being in a represented group, then I would find this a bad use of their time. However, if they are actively going out and looking for underrepresented Creators while still bringing in good Creators that are in represented groups, then I’m all for this.

Being the change you want to see in the world is something I personally feel we should all strive towards. Whether or not you produced positive change depends on your own goals… so on and so forth. In my own opinion, Pinterest and their new code of conduct is creating a better positive experience here and striving to remind people to be better than they were with each post. It’s a bold move and ultimately could be a spectacular outcome. Only time will tell how their creators and users will respond. Best of luck to them.

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Social Media

Facebook releases Hotline as yet another Clubhouse competitor

(SOCIAL MEDIA) As yet another app emerges to try and take some of Clubhouse’s success, Facebook Hotline adds a slightly more formal video chat component to the game.

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Woman forming hands into heart shape at laptop hosting live video chat, similar to Facebook's new app Hotline

Facebook is at it again and launching its own version of another app. This time, the company has launched Hotline, which looks like a cross between Instagram Live and Clubhouse.

Facebook’s Hotline is the company’s attempt at competing with Clubhouse, the audio-based social media app, which was released on iOS in March 2020. Earlier this year, The New York Times reported Facebook had already begun working on building its own version of the app. Erik Hazzard, who joined Facebook in 2017 after the company acquired his tbh app, is leading the project.

The app was created by the New Product Experimentation (NPE) Team, Facebook’s experimental development division, and it’s already in beta testing online. To access it, you can use the web-based application through the platform’s website to join the waitlist and “Host a Show”. However, you will need to sign in using your Twitter account to do so.

Unlike Clubhouse, Hotline lets users also chat through video and not just audio alone. The product is more like a formal Q&A and recording platform. Its features allow people to live stream and hold Q&A sessions with their audiences similar to Instagram Live. And, audience members can ask questions by using text or audio.

Also, what makes Hotline a little more formal than Clubhouse is that it automatically records conversations. According to TechCrunch, hosts receive both a video and audio recording of the event. With a guaranteed recording feature, the Q&A sessions will stray away from the casual vibes of Clubhouse.

The first person to host a Q&A live stream on Hotline is real-estate investor Nick Huber, who is the type of “expert” Facebook is hoping to attract to its platform.

“With Hotline, we’re hoping to understand how interactive, live multimedia Q&As can help people learn from experts in areas like professional skills, just as it helps those experts build their businesses,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “New Product Experimentation has been testing multimedia products like CatchUp, Venue, Collab, and BARS, and we’re encouraged to see the formats continue to help people connect and build community,” the spokesperson added.

According to a Reuters article, the app doesn’t have any audience size limits, hosts can remove questions they don’t want to answer, and Facebook is moderating inappropriate content during its early days.

An app for mobile devices isn’t available yet, but if you want to check it out, you can visit Hotline’s website.

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