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Can social media apps actually crackdown on racism online?



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.

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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.

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.

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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

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.

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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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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August





Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …





Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android





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


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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