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Can social media apps actually crackdown on racism online?

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The racism sparked a debate on how governments should regulate social media companies.

Last week, the world watched as England and Italy came together for the Euros 2020 final. The game stretched into penalties, with Italy eventually beating England and winning the cup. While many English fans were left disappointed, the behaviour of their peers was significantly more disappointing than the match’s outcome.

Online footage showed fans trashing streets, storming stadiums, and breaking out into fights. The concerns led many in Qatar to worry about welcoming English fans to the country for the World Cup next year.

Read also: Fans react to Italy’s Euro 2020 win amid concerns over ‘chaotic hooliganism’ in Qatar

Worst of all, though, black English football players faced immense racism after the game, sparking criticism from social media users worldwide and drawing in statements of condemnation from senior officials including UEFA.

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“Those who directed racist abuse at some of the players, I say shame on you and I hope you crawl back under the rock from which you emerged,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

English footballer Tyrone Mings [Twitter]

As the flame continues to burn, Johnson later announced a plan to ban racist fans from attending games. A law currently exists that allows courts to deny entry for fans who make racist remarks within the stadium, but the ruling does not extend to online racism.

Is social media responsible?

The outpouring of racism against England’s black players online triggered a global conversation on how to tackle the issue in today’s world, with many questioning whether social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are taking adequate steps to extinguish hate on their apps.

Both Facebook and Twitter claim they promptly remove racist comments online, with Twitter saying it has deleted over 1,000 racist tweets targeting the English players in the latest round of abuse.

Many were quick to point out that social media companies have the tools to combat racism, but that they simply weren’t doing enough.

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On Twitter, users asked why Instagram can’t flag racist comments the same way it flags any posts that mention Covid-19.

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In recent months, Instagram has gone above and beyond to detect posts and stories mentioning coronavirus, but has not extended this technology to detect racist posts too. 

The popular photo-sharing app uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR), a tool that allows it to scan images for text. This essentially lets it detect words related to coronavirus even if they weren’t typed by the user, but rather, are present in the picture.

Read also: Should you declare if a photo is edited? Norway thinks so

This technology can be applied to detect racist posts and immediately mark them with a warning, though Instagram has not implemented such protective measures.

Instagram’s failure at removing racist comments does not end here. Many users pointed out that they reported abusive messages to the platform, but that its automatic moderation found the content doesn’t go “against its community guidelines”. 

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Instead of seeing reported content deleted from the app, users are regularly left frustrated with this automated response:

“Our technology has found that this comment probably doesn’t go against our Community Guidelines. Our technology isn’t perfect, and we’re constantly working to make it better.”

While Instagram admits that its technology isn’t perfect, it refuses to provide human moderators to check if user reports are valid. As such, racism remains alive on the platform.

Twitter, on the other hand, has taken measures in the past few months to limit potentially abusive content from appearing on its platform. Instagram can draw inspiration from two of those changes.

Prompt before harmful content

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Twitter prompts users to review tweets with potentially harmful language [Twitter Blog]

Twitter now shows a prompt to users before posting content that’s flagged as offensive. This gives users a chance to think before tweeting. Instagram can implement this feature when it detects a potentially malicious comment.

Research from Twitter found that when presented with this prompt, 34% of users edited or deleted their tweet. It also found that 11% of users presented with this prompt tweeted less offensive content in the future.

  1. Hide flagged comments
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Twitter hides comments that “detract from the conversation” [Twitter Blog]

Instagram’s moderation approach results in its technology only deleting comments that it is certain are harmful. Since technology isn’t perfect, this means that a lot of abusive comments remain online. Deleting comments that aren’t actually racist can annoy users, just as leaving ones that are racist does too. As such, Instagram is in a dilemma, trying to find the right balance for what is abusive enough to be deleted.

On Twitter, some replies to a tweet are hidden behind a “Show more replies” button. The language here doesn’t imply that the content is abusive, in case their systems got it wrong, but still hides that content away from the main conversation.

Instagram could take inspiration from Twitter here, allowing the platform to hide potentially abusive content without necessarily marking it as such.

One more option that Instagram should take is to hire more human moderators. While the app often blames algorithms for its moderation failures, social media users are now demanding that the platform takes more responsibility for deleting abusive content online.

Read also: Hundreds of Facebook employees mobilise to tackle Palestinian censorship

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Should social media require an ID for verification?

Meanwhile, a more controversial option has been suggested to tackle abuse.

Read also: How private is your private data?

A petition launched in the UK months ago called for verified IDs to open social media accounts.

Since the recent round of abuse in the aftermath of the Euros, this has gained traction, garnering over 600,00 signatures. While such measures are likely to reduce online abuse, it will also drastically reduce privacy for users online.

Responding to the petition in May, the UK’s government said the benefits do not outweigh the harm.

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The government recognises concerns linked to anonymity online, which can sometimes be exploited by bad actors seeking to engage in harmful activity. However, restricting all users’ right to anonymity, by introducing compulsory user verification for social media, could disproportionately impact users who rely on anonymity to protect their identity.

It’s worth noting that this response was made two months ago, and recent public pressure may compel the government to change its position.

Do you think governments should have more control over social media companies? Is it reasonable to require users to verify themselves with an ID, or is that too extreme? Let us know in the comments.

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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Social networking websites launch features to encourage users to get boosters

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Facebook Instagram and TikTok are launching new features to encourage people to get their coronavirus booster jabs.

From Friday, users will be able to update their profiles with frames or stickers to show that they have had their top-up jab or aim to when they become eligible.

It follows on from people previously being able to show they have had their first and second jabs on certain social networking websites and apps.

TikTok also held a “grab a jab” event in London earlier this year.

I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones

More than 16 million booster vaccines have now been given across the UK.

People who are aged 40 and above and received their second dose of their vaccine at least six months ago are currently eligible to have their booster.

A new campaign advert is also being launched on Friday, which shows how Covid-19 can build up in enclosed spaces and how to prevent that from happening.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said:  “Getting your booster is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family this winter.

“It is fantastic to see some of the biggest household names further back the phenomenal vaccine rollout, allowing their users to proudly display that they have played their part in helping us build a wall of defence across the country.

“I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top-up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

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How many hashtags should you use to get the most ‘Likes’ on Instagram?

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Hashtags are a key feature of Instagram posts. In fact, they have become an essential means of ensuring more ‘Likes’ on social media – so long as you choose them wisely.

But how many hashtags should you use to maximise your popularity on the social network? The answer might surprise you.

It’s a question that many Instagram users ask themselves: what’s the right number of hashtags to add to a post? To find out, the Later platform analysed 18 million Instagram posts, excluding videos, Reels and Stories.

Interestingly, Later’s results differ from Instagram’s own recommendations. According to Later’s analysis, using more hashtags helps get better results in terms of “reach”, or the percentage of users exposed to the post. By using 20 hashtags, Later observed an optimal average reach rate of just under 36%. Using 30 hashtags gets the next-best reach rate. With five hashtags, reach hits just under 24%.

And while a post’s reach is important, engagement is even more so. From “Likes” and comments to shares and follows – on average, 30 hashtags appears to result in better engagement rates: “When it comes to average engagement rate, using 30 Instagram hashtags per feed post results in the most likes and comments,” says Later’s research.

Yet, at the end of September 2021, Instagram advised its creators to use between three and five hashtags for their posts, while warning them against using too many. The social network advised that using 10 to 20 hashtags per post “will not help you get additional distribution”.

For Later, there could be other reasons behind Instagram’s recommendations: “As Instagram continues to expand their discoverability and SEO tools, it makes sense that they want users to experiment with fewer, more relevant hashtags – this could help them accurately categorise and recommend your posts in suggested content streams, like the Instagram Reels feed or the updated hashtag search tabs,” the website explains. – AFP Relaxnews

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