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How news outlets are positioning Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech

(MEDIA NEWS) As Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech hits the airwaves, media outlets act less predictably than some would think. And most are missing what we believe will be the ultimate outcome.

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Former President Trump

In a bold move against “Big Tech,” former U.S. president Donald Trump is suing social media organizations that banned him earlier this year. The class action lawsuit, led by Trump himself, hopes to address the increasing impunity exhibited by these tech companies; there are multiple avenues of coverage that all predict different outcomes, the most likely of which is stronger regulation for tech companies.

Part of the larger issue is that the word “tech” is inherently misleading in the context of companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – all of which are named in Trump’s lawsuit. While others waffled on understanding the difference between tech and media, we have insisted that one can only be categorized as a “technology” company if its primary product is hardware or software; “media” companies involve the dissemination of content using a digital platform.

But companies that might otherwise qualify as solely media-based have been blurring the lines for years, leading to a dearth of understanding regarding their very categorization – and how to enforce the laws that accompany that denomination.

Classifying companies like Facebook and Twitter as tech companies, therefore, is problematic in that the regulation often applied to media companies cannot be applied to them, despite a clear need for regulatory consistency.

In any event, the lawsuit itself alleges that these companies formed a monolithic stance, one whose “status thus rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor,” subjecting the companies in question to legal scrutiny under the first amendment – a right that Trump’s attorneys argue was violated when the former president was banned from using these sites.

There are several trains of thought regarding this lawsuit, the majority of which follow the expected party lines; however, one consistent player is Section 230, which is legislation that prevents social media companies from being held accountable for the content that their users create, publish, or share.

Right-leaning news outlets are focusing on possible infringement of free speech and the increasing prominence social media companies play in dictating real-world outcomes, with Fox News quoting Mark Meckler (former interim Parler CEO) as saying the lawsuit could “break new ground.” Trump himself pointed to Twitter’s continued entertainment of violent foreign “dictators” in his absence, alleging support for the idea that conservatives are being censored on social media.

Trump is also quoted as referring to social media as “the de facto censorship arm of the U.S. government” in light of companies like Facebook and Twitter enforcing policies against misinformation, largely at the behest of left-leaning government officials.

This aligns with the “state actor theory” in which social media companies are held with the same regard as government agencies in recognition of the power they wield.

A social media company’s status as a private entity, Trump argues, does not protect it from liability in an ecosystem in which these companies have as much influence as they do, arguing instead for the abolishing of Section 230.

Conservative news outlets are predominantly optimistic about the lawsuit’s success, with sources such as Meckler pointing out that this constitutes “a developing area of the law” that could result in a crackdown on Section 230 – something that would change the way social media companies operate for the foreseeable future.

Left-leaning news outlets are more focused on the flaws in the lawsuit, however, with The Daily Beast asserting that “constitutional law experts almost laughed at the legal arguments presented in the suits.”

“The argument here that Facebook should be considered a state actor is not at all persuasive,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

Jaffer also points out inconsistencies in the lawsuit’s motivations: “It’s also difficult to square the arguments in the lawsuit with President Trump’s actions in office. The complaint argues that legislators coerced Facebook into censoring speech, but no government actor engaged in this kind of coercion more brazenly than Trump himself.”

These outlets similarly reference Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter cooperating with the CDC to prevent the spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 – something that Trump’s legal team has cited as evidence that social media companies were colluding with Democrats.

Left-leaning sources acknowledge that the lawsuit could be damaging should it succeed in repealing or altering the parameters around Section 230, but they primarily view this lawsuit as more of a fundraising attempt than a legitimate gripe with the law.

“They know that they’re going to lose and this is a fundraising, publicity stunt that maybe lets them take a section 230 case up the appellate ladder,” says Ari Cohn, a lawyer with TechFreedom.

Cohn also asserted that the argument about Facebook as a state actor is old news, and other sources explained that the lawsuit is most likely a distraction from other stories more than anything else.

There are some fringe takes regarding this lawsuit as well, with Daily Wire calling the lawsuit a “publicity stunt” that is “dead on arrival” due to misinterpretations of Section 230 and the inaccurate logic that led up to the portrayal of Facebook as a “state actor”.

Similarly, centrist news org, The Hill, emphasizes that “the case is frivolous, and… will almost certainly be dismissed in court because private companies are not subject to comply with the First Amendment, which upends the basis of the complaint’s argument.”

Whether or not this lawsuit finds traction, the most reasonable outcome to expect is a closer look at how social media companies are classified, what their role is in public dealings, and which laws pertain to them while they occupy the liminal space between technology and media dissemination.

“Tech” companies have operated without proper regulation for far too long, and while the context here is divisive, the idea of holding these companies accountable to consistent legal expectations should not be.

Social Media

*New* TikTok Insights launch: Content creators finally get audience analytics

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The popular short-form app, TikTok, finally launches the anticipated Insights feature, where content creators can view target audience data.

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Two girls filming on TikTok.

Marketers searching for the zeitgeist which means TikTok scrollers pause to watch their content and then click through to buy a product have a new tool to help make that happen.

  • TikTok Insights offers marketers bite-size bits of user demographic information that will help build content that leads to sales.
  • With TikTok Insights you can learn more about your audience’s behavior, their interests, and their general sentiment toward brands.
  • TikTok Insights is free to use. Marketers can find TikTok user demographics by using filters to determine what they’re looking for.

The demographic info can be age-focused, focused on specific types of marketing, or even as specific as holiday or event marketing.

This is a step in the direction marketers have been asking for as they create content for the TikTok platform; however, creators looking for detailed analytics like they get from meta need to wait. Insights doesn’t offer that for now.

Like TikTok says in its own analytic information,

“While analytics are helpful in understanding the performance of your videos, you don’t need to create future videos based primarily around them. It’s best to consider the bigger picture, lean lightly on analytics, and use them as a source for insight rather than strategy.”

Marketers trying to key into reaching TikTok’s billion users worldwide are left, right now, searching for the magic that leads to consumers making the jump from the platform to using their purchasing power.

For marketers that means keeping things creative and collaborative, two key factors in TikTok’s success. And that success is huge. Users spend an average of 52 minutes on the platform when they log in and a staggering 90% of users say they log on every day.

TikTok Insights will help marketers find ways to connect, but the content TikTok is looking for is authentic.

And while entrepreneurs can bid for advertising like other social media platforms, they need to remember when planning that spend, that most TikTok marketing success stories are more accidental than planned. Have fun with that knowledge. Instead of pressure to create the perfect plan, TikTok Insights allows marketers to keep it creative and to find a way to tie it into what they enjoy about the platform.

Like all other social media marketing, focus on creating content that stops the consumer from their continual scroll. Make it a challenge and keep it real.

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Social Media

Grindr got busted for selling users’ data locations to advertisers

(SOCIAL MEDIA) User data has been a hot topic in the tech world. It’s often shared haphazardly or not protected, and the app Grindr, follows suit.

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Grindr on phone in man's hands

If you’re like me, you probably get spam calls a lot. Information is no longer private in this day and age; companies will buy and sell whatever information they can get their hands on for a quick buck. Which is annoying, but not necessarily outright dangerous, right?

Wrong.

Grindr has admitted to selling their user’s data, however, they are specifically selling the location of their users without regard for liability concerns. Grindr, a gay hook-up app, is an app where a marginalized community is revealing their location to find a person to connect to. Sure, Grindr claims they have been doing this less and less since 2020, but the issue still remains: they have been selling the location of people who are in a marginalized community – a community that has faced a huge amount of oppression in the past and is still facing it to this day.

Who in their right mind thought this was okay? Grindr initially did so to create “real-time ad exchanges” for their users, to find places super close to their location. Which makes sense, sort of. The root of the issue is that the LGBTQAI+ community is a community at risk. How does Grindr know if all of their users are out? Do they know exactly who they’re selling this information to? How do they know that those who bought the information are going to use it properly?

They don’t have any way of knowing this and they put all of their users at risk by selling their location data. And the data is still commercially available! Historical data could still be obtained and the information was able to be purchased in 2017. Even if somebody stopped using Grindr in, say, 2019, the fact they used Grindr is still out there. And yeah, the data that’s been released has anonymized, Grindr claims, but it’s really easy to reverse that and pin a specific person to a specific location and time.

This is such a huge violation of privacy and it puts people in real, actual danger. It would be so easy for bigots to get that information and use it for something other than ads. It would be so easy for people to out others who aren’t ready to come out. It’s ridiculous and, yeah, Grindr claims they’re doing it less, but the knowledge of what they have done is still out there. There’s still that question of “what if they do it again” and, with how the world is right now, it’s really messed up and problematic.

If somebody is attacked because of the data that Grindr sold, is Grindr complicit in that hate crime, legally or otherwise?

So, moral of the story?

Yeah, selling data can get you a quick buck, but don’t do it.

You have no idea who you’re putting at risk by selling that data and, if people find out you’ve done it, chances are your customers (and employees) will lose trust in you and could potentially leave you to find something else. Don’t risk it!

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Social Media

BeReal: Youngsters are flocking in droves to this Instagram competitor app

(SOCIAL MEDIA) As Instagram loses steam due to its standards of “perfection posting,” users are drawn to a similar app with a different approach, BeReal.

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social media - bereal app

BeReal is one of several “Real” apps exploding in growth with young users who crave real connections with people they know in real life.

According to data.ai, BeReal ranks 4th by downloads in the US, the UK, and France for Q1 2022 to date, behind only Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

BeReal flies in the face of what social media has become. Instead of curated looks that focus on the beautiful parts of life, BeReal users showcase what they’re doing at the moment and share those real photos with their friends. Their real friends.

It’s real. And real is different for a generation of social media users who have been raised on influencers and filters.

As the app says when you go to its page:

Be Real.

Your Friends

for Real.

Every day at a different time, BeReal users are notified simultaneously to capture and share a Photo in 2 Minutes.

A new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.

BeReal app

The app has seen monthly users increase by more than 315% according to Apptopia, which tracks and analyzes app performance.

“Push notifications are sent around the world simultaneously at different times each day,” the company said in a statement. “It’s a secret on how the time is chosen every day, it’s not random.”

The app allows no edits and no filters. They want users to show a “slice of their lives.”

Today’s social media users have seen their lives online inundated with ultra-curated social media. The pandemic led to more time spent online than ever. Social media became a way to escape. Reality was ugly. Social media was funny, pretty, and exciting.

And fake.

Enter BeReal where users are asked to share two moments of real life on a surprise schedule. New apps are fun often because they’re new. However, the huge growth in the use of BeReal by college-aged users points to something more than the new factor.

For the past several years, experts have warned that social media was dangerous to our mental health. The dopamine hits of likes and shares are based on photos and videos filled with second and third takes, lens changes, lighting improvements, and filters. Constant comparisons are the norm. And even though we know the world we present on our social pages isn’t exactly an honest portrayal of life, we can’t help but experience FOMO when we see our friends and followers and those we follow having the times of their lives, buying their new it thing, trying the new perfect product, playing in their Pinterest-worthy decorated spaces we wish we could have.

None of what we see is actually real on our apps. We delete our media that isn’t what we want to portray and try again from a different angle and shoot second and third and forth takes that make us look just a little better.

We spend hours flipping through videos on our For You walls and Instagram stories picked by algorithms that know us better than we know ourselves.

BeReal is the opposite of that. It’s simple, fast, and real. It’s community and fun, but it’s a moment instead of turning into the time-sink of our usual social media that, while fun, is also meant to ultimately sell stuff, including all our data.

It will be interesting to watch BeReal and see if it continues down its promised path and whether the growth continues. People are looking for something. Maybe reality is that answer.

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