Here are some things I’ve been reading and watching this week.
The Facebook Hackers Gaming Its Video Algorithm—Taylor Lorenz
Viral meme pages have developed a new trick to reach millions of users and generate big money from publishers and brand pages.
By doctoring videos to skirt Facebook’s sophisticated spam detection software, some of the platform’s biggest meme pages have grown their audience and generated millions of Facebook video views simply by exploiting a video hack that you may have seen in action:
Suspicious arrows or triangles float almost transparently over static images of memes or funny tweets. The Facebook post plays as a video, but aside from the soft, almost imperceptible arrows crawling around on top of the meme, to the casual viewer it looks just like an image post.
Facebook is reportedly releasing two smart speakers later this year to compete with the Amazon Echo. The two devices, apparently codenamed “Fiona” and “Aloha,” could be released as early as July.
Reports about the speakers first surfaced last year, with Business Insider naming Aloha. Bloomberg later revealed the second device and gave more details about how the two would operate, with one being a touchscreen device similar to the Echo Show and the other a more traditional smart speaker.
Digital Childhood: Kids and Social Media—Alexandra Bogomilova
Substantial research is dedicated to how media affects children’s ability to concentrate. This meta-analysis of 50 studies with results from over 155 000 children shows significant correlation between media use and measures of ADHD in people younger than 18 years, including attention problems, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. An interesting fact is that the growing rates of ADHD coincide with the advent of social networks: from 2003 to 2011, the percentage of children with ADHD in the US rose from 7.8% to 11%. Are Facebook and the likes to blame for these worrying figures?
In December, when Facebook launched Messenger Kids, an app for preteens and children as young as 6, the company stressed that it had worked closely with leading experts in order to safeguard younger users. What Facebook didn’t say is that many of those experts had received funding from Facebook.
Equally notable are the experts Facebook did not consult. Although Facebook says it spent 18 months developing the app, Common Sense Media and Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, two large nonprofits in the field, say they weren’t informed about it until weeks or days before the app’s debut. “They had reached out to me personally Friday before it launched, when obviously it was a fait accompli,” says Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. Facebook, he says, is “trying to represent that they have so much more support for this than they actually do.” Academics Sherry Turkle and Jean Twenge, well-known researchers whose work on children and technology is often cited, didn’t know about the app until after it launched.
It’s official: Facebook is for old(er) people. Teens and young adults are ditching Mark Zuckerberg’s social network as popularity among the over-55s surges, according to a report.
In 2018, 2.2 million 12- to 17-year-olds and 4.5 million 18- to 24-year-olds will regularly use Facebook in the UK, 700,000 fewer than in 2017, as younger users defect to services such as Snapchat, according to eMarketer.
A surge in older users means over-55s will become the second-biggest demographic of Facebook users this year.
Pretty interesting interview between Casey Neistat, one of the most influential YouTubers in the world, and the Head of YouTube’s business operations. Good discussion, but Casey could have pushed harder.