For social networks, angering the Kardashians is never a good idea

For social networks, angering the Kardashians is never a good idea

For social networks

Instagram has lost much of its charm. What was once a photo archive of friends and family is now a landfill littered with Reel, TikTok-mimicking short videos. Watching the Reel is almost like being on TikTok, except that instead of being proposed by an algorithm that tries to intercept your interests with surgical precision, the short videos on Instagram are a chaotic jumble populated by acquaintances who try to feed supplements for gut health, strangers promoting sponsored content, performances by novice comedians, advertisements and, in case you are a parent, depressing videos of sick children. While it sometimes happens to lay eyes on a clip featuring an adorable dog, overall the Reels are an embarrassing attempt to mimic a rival social network, which only results in watering down the charm of Instagram and alienating people. its users.

The weight of Kylie Jenner This is not a particularly original observation. Over the past few days, the platform has been at the center of grievances from a horde of maddened influencers. Kylie Jenner replied an appeal that went viral from a photographer who begged to return the platform to the glories of the past: “Make Instagram Instagram again. (stop trying to be tiktok i just want to see cute photos of my friends.) Sincerely, everyone ” , everyone"). The meme was reposted closely by Jenner's older sisters Kim and Kourtney Kardashian. The Kardashian-Jenners have one more reason to be irritated by Instagram's transformation, as they use the platform to promote themselves and their products. The change in app functionality poses a threat to their multimillion-dollar business interests, as well as the ability to see their friends' photos.

As Verge reporter Ashley Carman pointed out on Twitter, it's not the first time a critique from Jenner - who recently made headlines for flying a 14-minute private jet flight - creates major problems for a social network. When the influencer casually pointed out in 2018 that he had stopped using Snapchat after the changes made to the app, the company that runs the platform lost $ 1.3 billion in market value. For social media platforms, losing Jenner is pretty bad. While it's not fair for a 24-year-old with low environmental awareness to exert such an influence, this is the reality.

Instagram, meanwhile, is trying to patch the situation. In the aftermath of Jenner's post, the head of the platform Adam Mosseri published a video in which he tries to persuade users of the goodness of Instagram's choice to bet on videos.

Twitter content This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

The Failed Reels Experiment Snapchat's implosion can help explain why Instagram is betting everything on Reels. One of the reasons people have stopped using Snapchat is that Instagram has managed to effectively mimic the platform with the introduction of Stories. I guess the idea behind the Reels was to replicate the success by making a replica of a rival format that surpasses the original (much of the "innovation" of social media is simply shamelessly copying the functions of a competitor. , as Arielle Pardes pointed out on US in 2020). The problem is that instead of creating a better version of TikTok, Instagram has created a bad quality format.

The good news is that Instagram has apparently decided to back down, at least temporarily. In an interview with journalist Casey Newton on Platformer, Mosseri admitted the mistake made by the company, adding that he intends to make changes based on the negative feedback. Apparently complaining works, at least for families of billionaires who wield disproportionate power over society.

This article is from Steven Levy's newsletter for US, temporarily edited by Kate Knibbs.

All the Big Ideas for ‘Fixing’ Social Media Are Bad

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

If you have Facebook’s app on your phone—and I don’t recommend that you do—sometime this week you’ll find things look quite a bit different.

Once self-described as “a social utility that connects you with the people around you,” the network has decided to downplay that whole friendship thing and instead remodel itself on the video app TikTok.

To that end, the app is rolling out a new homepage “uniquely personalized to you through [Facebook’s] machine learning ranking system,” which is to say, a stream of posts, many from strangers, heavily weighted toward video and selected by an algorithm designed to antagonize, arouse, absorb, and addict you. Your high school friends’ baby pics, your uncle’s political Minions memes, your mom’s strangely consistent public diary of her daily bike rides—these will be significantly cordoned off in a secondary feed.

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It sounds like a near-reversal of Facebook’s last big tweak to its feed, in 2018, which founder Mark Zuckerberg said would “encourage meaningful interactions between people” and “[focus] on bringing people closer together.”

The reasoning behind this shift for Facebook is easy to divine: It’s intended to increase user engagement, to get us to click more ads and buy more stuff, and, with any luck, to slow the graying of the network’s user base. But from the user’s perspective, it’s yet another reminder that all the big ideas for “fixing” social media are bad.

The average American adult will tell you that social media is a net negative for our society. Polling shows most of us think social media is divisive and untrustworthy, that too much of its content is offensive, that it makes our country worse. But we keep on using it, and we keep on arguing without resolution over how to make it better. The ideas on offer are a sorry lot—often unpopular, unworkable, or unconstitutional—while changes that could actually improve these sites run counter to their business interests and, thus, are not on offer.

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The legislative energy around fixing social media has centered on two ideas. The first is using antitrust law to “break up Big Tech.” This is supported by politicians as diverse as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Blake Masters, a buzzy Republican Senate candidate in Arizona endorsed by former President Donald Trump and backed by PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel. The bipartisan American Innovation and Competition Online Act, currently stalled out in the Senate, takes a version of this approach.

Rep. Louie Gohmert speaks during a news conference on Section 230 outside the U.S. Capitol in April 2022.

Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty

In most tellings, breaking up Big Tech means blocking (or even undoing) major mergers and acquisitions in the tech industry—like Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp—or even splitting social networks into their component parts: Facebook’s Messenger, profiles, groups, and Marketplace could all be made into separate programs and/or companies. It could also include banning or more strictly regulating the digital equivalent of the grocery store brand. For example: forcing Google not to prioritize its own map service over that of other map options in its search results.

This might be feasible, though it’s not certain to be popular, and I’m not sure these networks are as divisible as is often assumed. There’s also the matter of antitrust law’s historic focus on pricing and the fact that social media is free to use because we are less the customer than the product. “Even so,” as finance journalist James Surowiecki has argued at MIT Technology Review, “it’s not clear this would fundamentally dent Facebook’s hold on users, given the treasure trove of data it controls and the power of network effects.”

It’s also not clear how it would address the chief complaints about Facebook. How does spinning off Instagram or the Marketplace stop the spread of misinformation? How does it increase user privacy to have two or three or 10 companies in possession of our data instead of one? How would any of this make social media less divisive?

The second legislative idea is more concerned with content than corporate structure. It’s doing away with or substantially changing Section 230, the piece of federal law which exempts social networks from legal liability for what users publish on their platforms while permitting them to enforce content moderation policies of their choice. Eliminating Section 230 would make platforms responsible for the content they host, which is exactly why Facebook—which has the resources to adapt to such a new dispensation—supports changing Section 230, while its smaller competitors generally do not.

Cardboard cutouts of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand outside the U.S. Capitol in April 2018.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty

Beyond the constitutional problem with forcing social networks to host speech they do not want to host, two in three Americans oppose making these sites liable for user content. And if we tried it, we’d soon find ourselves without the internet as we know it. The good would be gone as well as the ill, the baby tossed alongside the bathwater.

I’m not sure there are any large-scale fixes for social networks that would fare much better. Social media’s dysfunction is a chicken-and-egg problem: Its design encourages bad but profitable behavior, and we engage in that behavior, which turns a profit, which signals to the designers to encourage more of the same, and then we… well, you get it.

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This is about demand as much as supply. Still, were I unfortunate enough to be tasked with crafting some big fixes of my own, I’d suggest ideas like limiting users’ network size, metering users’ post and comment rate, curtailing users’ total daily engagement time, and otherwise adding friction to calm intense discussions and slow the viral spread of false information.

We can voluntarily implement many of these ourselves, of course. But I can’t see them passing constitutional muster in legislative form, nor can I imagine any major social network voluntarily adopting limits that would upend their whole business model. People posting, watching, buying, and fighting less are the opposite of what Facebook wants. So here we are.

There is one hopeful note, though, in Facebook’s veer toward video. In its effort to appeal to the more youthful TikTok crowd, the new feed will be confusing and off-putting to some older users—the “baby boomers with an attachment to polarizing social media” whom tech critic Charlie Warzel has rightly described as a “trope of sorts in our national discussion about politics and disinformation.”

Maybe the boomers will log off a little more, and their politics will accordingly chill. Or maybe—because why wouldn’t this situation get worse?—the dregs of Facebook’s political content will leach into the zoomers’ videos, and the boomers will learn a whole new way to post. Maybe, in trying to make social media “less bad,” these companies will end up unleashing all kinds of fresh hell we never anticipated.

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