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Instagram’s harm to teens creates rare bipartisan momentum in Congress – USA Today

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On today’s episode of 5 Things: Instagram’s potential harm to children has united a liberal Democrat from the Northeast, Richard Blumenthal, and a hard-right conservative Republican from the South, Marsha Blackburn.

As the top Democrat and the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, the two have joined forces to go after one of the most powerful forces on earth: Big Tech. Any legislation that carries both their support will be seriously considered given their committee leadership and divergent political backgrounds.

Host Claire Thornton is joined by USA TODAY Congressional reporters Mabinty Quarshie and Ledyard King to discuss what how lawmakers are joining forces to try to strengthen privacy laws around social media and protect young users.

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Claire Thornton:

Hey there, I’m Claire Thornton. And this is 5 Things. It’s Sunday, October 31st. These Sunday episodes are special. We’re bringing you more from in depth stories. You may have already heard. This month, we’re learning more about how Facebook and Instagram negatively affect users, especially kids and teenagers. Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen’s, warnings to Congress are doing a lot to unite Republican and democratic lawmakers who agree on little else. Some of the top Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are teaming up to take on Instagram, which harms teenagers’ mental health, especially girls. I am joined by two congressional reporters, Mabinty Quarshie, who you’ve heard on the show before and Ledge King. Tell us about this otherwise unlikely duo in the Senate who’s going after Facebook and Instagram. Who are Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal?

Ledge King:

Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal are about as unlikely a pair as you could imagine in Congress. One is a crusading liberal ex-prosecutor from Connecticut. The other is this hard charging tea party, conservative Republican from Tennessee. And I don’t know if there’s an issue that they agree on except this. And that’s sort of going after big tech, specifically Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook owns, to protect children. The reason that they are sort of paired together is because they are the top Democrat and the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee that monitors and regulates consumer protection and those sorts of issues. So big tech is in their wheelhouse, so to speak. So they were the ones that held that [inaudible 00:02:12] famous hearing with Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, which got international attention. And they don’t agree on much, but on this, they do. And they’ve teamed up and done some things together. And they’ve promised to work together to try to hold Facebook accountable.

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Claire Thornton:

And what have these two done to pressure social media campaigns earlier this year?

Mabinty Quarshie:

So I want to stress that the two Senators haven’t just been working on this issue since the whistleblower report came out; both of them have actually been concerned about social media’s harmful impacts on children for years. And they’re not the only Senators who care about this issue. It’s a bipartisan group of Senators who have been working, again, for years to hold these companies accountable.

Mabinty Quarshie:

And so with Blackburn and Blumenthal, they’ve written to the Federal Trade Commission and asked them for accountability. What are you doing to protect children’s privacy, especially as the pandemic has forced kids to learn online? And they’ve also written to Facebook multiple times. They’ve written to Instagram. And again, the two Senators just held their fourth bipartisan meeting on this issue. They’re not new to this, even if the mainstream public is learning more and more about it this year.

Claire Thornton:

Yeah. So how do Facebook and Instagram and other apps like Snapchat, TikTok, and even YouTube, how do they violate federal privacy laws and even stretch past the limits of COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act?

Mabinty Quarshie:

Okay. So let’s talk about COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. That was created long before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, all of these companies were created. So these Senators are not prophetic; they couldn’t foresee what was going to happen with Facebook. And so, because of that, these companies… Also, I should stress, and it’s the one thing that advocates have told me. COPPA, it’s a good law, but the FTC is underfunded. They don’t have the resources they need to truly hold these companies accountable. And it’s not because they don’t care; it’s because they don’t have money, they don’t have the people. Which is why we see so many Senators in introducing new laws because they want to update it. And one of the suggestions on how to hold Facebook and Instagram accountable is to give more money to the FTC so they can hire people to enforce these laws.

Ledge King:

There’s also proposals to kind of change the algorithms of these companies, of these platforms, I should say. Like reducing how likes affect where people are steered to on these platforms. I mean, a lot of what Facebook and Instagram and all these places make money is by user engagement, how long they stay on the platform. And the idea is that… Well, I should say that the charge is that the more volatile, the more divisive, the scarier, I guess, content, the more people stay on it because they get transfixed, in essence. So it has this effect of polarizing or anguishing users because it’s advantageous to the platform to keep people on. And that’s the charge that’s made by these lawmakers that want to change the algorithms.

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Claire Thornton:

Yeah. What about Section 230? What is there to know about Section 230?

Ledge King:

Well, essentially Section 230 was created when Congress realized that big tech, or it was small tech, was going to become big tech. And they wanted to sort of help this industry, this nascent industry, flourish. And essentially what it does is it protects the platforms from what people say on it. So in essence, if there’s hate speech on Facebook or facts that are misleading or even libelous or what have you, Section 230 protects these platforms from being sued. Unlike newspapers, for example, that if you print something that is libelous, you are held responsible as well. But these platforms are not. And Section 230 protects that. Well, sure enough, Section 230 helped big tech be come what it is, which is mammoth. And now when it comes to Instagram and kids, especially, there’s this feeling that we need to… Or not, we, but Congress needs to pull it back.

Ledge King:

And I will say one other thing is that Republicans and Democrats, while they sort of agree on children’s safety, they have a big disagreement on what’s wrong with big tech. With Republicans saying that big tech censors conservatives way too much, like when Twitter and Facebook banned Donald Trump. On the other hand, you have Democrats who don’t like big tech because they say the companies don’t do enough to remove or counter misinformation, disinformation, like voter fraud and stealing the election. So it’s an interesting dynamic.

Mabinty Quarshie:

So one thing that a few senators have done this year is Senators Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono, and Amy Klobuchar, they actually introduced the Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism, and Consumer Harms Act, which would reform Section 230. So instead of protecting these companies from anything that gets posted on their platforms, the bill would change it from any speech, to any information. And I know that that seems slightly confusing, but what it means is that ads and paid content would no longer would be shielded from Section 230, which would force these companies to tamp down and regulate their platforms much better than they have been doing in the past.

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Claire Thornton:

So what’s going to be the hardest part of enacting new legislation that will better protect users and especially kids? It seems like Blackburn and Bluementhal have a really hard path ahead of them.

Ledge King:

They do. And I mean, I would just say that a lot of things in Congress, there’s a lot of agreement on kind of broad issues, on issues broadly. But when you get into details, things fall apart. And I just think there’s so much on Congress’ plate right now between reconciliation, budget, debt ceiling, voting rights, police reform. I mean, some of that stuff is kind of come and gone, but there’s a lot of churn in Congress and that’s of the … just the sheer weight of everything else that’s going on is going to be difficult. They do agree with on this issue. And I think we’ve talked to a number of lawmakers who say, the fact that someone is conservative as Blackburn and somebody is liberal as Blumenthal can come together on this, gives us a better fighting chance than a lot of other legislation.

Claire Thornton:

All right. Well, Ledge, Mabinty, thank you so much for being here.

Mabinty Quarshie:

Thanks.

Ledge King:

Thank you.

Claire Thornton:

Read Ledge and Mabinty’s story at the link I’ve included in the episode notes. You may be asked to subscribe before reading. If you liked this episode of 5 Things, write us a review on Apple Podcasts, letting us know what you liked about it. Thanks to [MissTiffMC 00:10:23] who wrote, “News. That’s it. That’s all I need. This podcast also chooses stories that may not be front page worthy.” And thanks, [Justin Alliatta 00:10:33] who says, “5 Things is a nice wrap up of the days’ events. Great coverage. Easy to hear. To the point. Nothing like starting my day with Claire and Taylor.” Thank you so much, Justin. Write us a review and you’ll get a special shout out on the show too. Taylor Wilson will be back tomorrow morning with 5 Things you need to know for Monday. And happy Halloween. Thanks for listening. I’m Claire Thornton. I’ll catch you later.

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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.

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.

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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