TikTok Will Now Explain Video Removals | MakeUseOf

If your video ever gets removed on TikTok, the platform will now provide a reason behind the takedown. TikTok hopes that this change will make content removals more transparent.

TikTok Makes Takedowns More Transparent

In a post on the TikTok Newsroom, the platform announced that it's been testing a new notification system that will provide more clarity about content removals. TikTok noted that it wants these notifications to give users a better understanding of its Community Guidelines, stating:

Our goals are to enhance the transparency and education around our Community Guidelines to reduce misunderstandings about content on our platform.

During the initial tests of this feature, the platform found that notifying users of its policies "helped reduce the rate of repeat violations," and also increased the number of visits to TikTok's Community Guidelines page. Moreover, TikTok said that the notifications reduced users' requests to appeal a removed video by 14 percent.

Because of these positive results, TikTok is rolling out the feature to all of its users. If TikTok removes one of your videos, you'll receive a notification that explains which rule you broke. You'll also get the chance to appeal the removal if you wish.

TikTok hopes to help its community through these notifications as well. For example, if a video is taken down for violating TikTok's policies on self-harm, TikTok will send out another notification to that user. This time, the notification will contain a link to TikTok's safety resources, and will also provide some suggestions on how to handle feelings of depression.

It's a good move on TikTok's part to include content to support the mental health of its users. After a graphic suicide video went viral on the platform in September 2020, it's clear that TikTok needs to put measures in place to help users in need. Fortunately, this notification does just that.

That said, providing users with an explanation about content removals will not only clear up any misunderstandings, but it will also decrease the likelihood that users will repeat the same offense or continue to spread hateful content.

Can Users Look Past TikTok's Scandals?

TikTok may have had its fair share of controversies, but the new notification policy is definitely for the best. Most major social media platforms already provide reasons behind content removals, so it's only right that TikTok offers that sliver of transparency as well.

But despite the steps that TikTok is taking to redeem itself, some users may still feel the need to uninstall the platform for privacy reasons.


WhatsApp Will Soon Support In-Chat Shopping | MakeUseOf

WhatsApp has unveiled a new feature that will allow you to shop directly in messages. You'll soon be able to view product listings, order items, and checkout within WhatsApp chats.

Making Purchases on WhatsApp

A post on the WhatsApp Blog revealed a series of changes coming to the way merchants do business on the app. One major feature is in-chat shopping.

WhatsApp briefly touched upon in-chat shopping in its blog post, stating that the platform "will expand ways for people to check out available products and make purchases right from a chat."

However, an accompanying video provided more insight as to what in-chat shopping on WhatsApp would actually look like.

The short video shows how a merchant can send a link to their product to a potential customer. From there, the customer can then look at the listing, add it to their cart, and then check out right on WhatsApp.

Facebook has already introduced a dedicated shopping section on Facebook, so it's no surprise that the platform is integrating another way to buy products on WhatsApp as well. In addition, the tech giant is even expanding shopping on Instagram Reels.

WhatsApp Gets Better for Businesses

WhatsApp previously had support for product catalogs, but it never incorporated an in-chat shopping cart. This change will make it even easier to buy products online, all while simultaneously chatting with your friends and family.


Twitter Is Encouraging Early Voting in the US | MakeUseOf

Twitter wants you to vote early in the 2020 US presidential election. The platform is rolling out a series of prompts, hashtags, and push alerts dedicated to early voting.

Twitter Promotes Early Voting

In a post on the Twitter Blog, Twitter acknowledged that the voting process might look a bit different for the 2020 presidential election, stating:

As voters face unprecedented challenges when casting their ballot in the upcoming 2020 US elections, Twitter is doing what we can to ensure that people have access to the reliable information they need in order to exercise their right to vote.

Because of the possible challenges related to the election, the platform announced several initiatives it's taking to encourage early voting. You'll now start to see a new prompt on your timeline. This notification will encourage you to find out more information about early voting.

If you click the Get Started link, you'll be redirected to BallotReady, where you can find local voting information. The prompt also comes with a Encourage others with a Tweet button. By selecting that, you can send out an encouraging Tweet that contains the same link to BallotReady.

Twitter is also rolling out hashtags specifically for early voting: #VoteEarly, #IVoted, #IVotedEarly, and #YoVoté. Any Tweets that have these hashtags will have special features, including a ballot box emoji and a Like button that transforms into a ballot box when pressed.

Lastly, Twitter has also unveiled a push alert that sends you to Twitter's public service announcements about early voting. As a final note on the blog post, Twitter mentioned that it "will continue to share reminders with voting deadlines and resources" up until Election Day.

Twitter has been doing a lot of work to encourage voting, and to stop the spread of misinformation about the election. On top of the features outlined above, Twitter has also created an election hub to provide credible information about the 2020 US election. In addition, the platform is also trying to discourage Retweets ahead of the US election.

Has Twitter's Voting Encouragement Paid Off?

In the same post on the Twitter Blog, Twitter noted that nine out of 10 Twitter users are registered to vote, and are planning to vote in the 2020 election. Whether these users were encouraged by Twitter or not, its efforts may be paying off.

Other social media networks have made similar moves to encourage voting and to dispel political rumors. In an effort to prevent confusion surrounding the election, both Facebook and TikTok have also created information hubs for the 2020 election.


Facebook Dating Finally Arrives in Europe | MakeUseOf

After a long wait, Facebook Dating has finally become available in Europe. The feature's launch date in Europe was significantly delayed after the Irish Data Protection Commission raised concerns over its privacy.

Facebook Dating Passes the DPC's Inspection

Facebook announced Dating's long-awaited European launch in a post on the About Facebook blog. The feature was supposed to be released in Europe on Valentine's Day, 2020. However, it didn't work out that way after the DPC got involved.

If you haven't heard, Facebook Dating is the platform's own take on a matchmaking site. It lets you create a Dating profile that's separate from your regular Facebook account, and from there, you can start finding potential dates.

Facebook Dating has been available in the US since September of 2019, but only now has it come to Europe. The DPC put a roadblock in front of Facebook Dating's release date, citing that the platform didn't provide enough information as to how exactly the feature will work. Facebook also didn't give the DPC enough time to review Dating before its launch.

So, what made the DPC change its mind about Facebook Dating? Graham Doyle, the DPC's deputy commissioner, outlined his findings in a statement to CNN, saying:

Facebook has provided detailed clarifications on the processing of personal data in the context of the Dating feature. Facebook has also provided details of changes that they have made to the product to take account of the issues raised by the DPC.

Doyle also noted that the DPC will "continue to monitor the product as it launches across the EU this week." As Doyle said, Facebook Dating had to make some changes in regards to privacy, as detailed in a separate About Facebook blog post.

To accommodate the DPC, Facebook states that it won't use your religious beliefs or sexual orientation to personalize ads. The platform also emphasizes that Dating is a "dedicated, opt-in space" that comes with built-in safety tips, as well as the option to report or block users.

Now, Europeans can enjoy using all that Facebook Dating has to offer. This includes the ability to try out Dating's Secret Crush feature, get matched based on your interests, and even go on virtual dates.

Finding a Match on Facebook Dating

As it stands, the list of available dating services just seems to be getting bigger and bigger. Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, and Plenty of Fish already provide a ton of options for users looking for love. And now that Facebook has expanded its Dating feature to Europe, it can tighten its grip on the online dating industry.


Facebook Begins Testing “Neighborhoods” to Rival Nextdoor

Facebook has started testing a new feature that connects people living in the same neighborhood. This feature, dubbed Neighborhoods, resembles the hyperlocal community platform, Nextdoor.

Facebook Comes to Your Local Community

Social media commentator, Matt Navarra, first noticed Neighborhoods, and announced his findings via Twitter.

Neighborhoods will allow you to connect with nearby residents. Once you input your location, you'll be able to see groups and posts made by your neighbors, as well as browse marketplace items for sale in your community. Navarra notes that "you can switch neighborhoods or leave your current neighborhood at any time."

Facebook will also let you create a separate profile specifically for Neighborhoods. You can even add your interests and favorite places to your profile to help you connect with like-minded neighbors.

Anyone in your local neighborhood can see your profile, and vice versa. This way, you don't have to be Facebook friends with a neighbor in order to interact with them.

But if you're not happy with that, you can adjust your privacy settings on Neighborhoods. And speaking of privacy, Navarra also mentions that Facebook might use your location to show you hyperlocal ads.

Facebook's Community Standards will still apply when using Neighborhoods. When first joining Neighborhoods, a screenshot reveals that Facebook encourages you to "save any comments that don't directly relate to your neighborhood for other parts of Facebook."

A Facebook spokeswoman later confirmed the platform's trial of Neighborhoods. She touched upon Facebook's motivation behind Neighborhoods in a statement to Bloomberg, saying:

More than ever, people are using Facebook to participate in their local communities. To help make it easier to do this, we are rolling out a limited test of Neighborhoods, a dedicated space within Facebook for people to connect with their neighbors.

For now, Facebook is only testing Neighborhoods in Calgary, Canada. There's still no word on when (or if) Neighborhoods will be rolled out to the rest of the world.

That said, Neighborhoods takes clear inspiration from Nextdoor, a local social network. Nextdoor also gives you the chance to connect with your neighbors, and is currently available in 11 countries.

Facebook Just Keeps on Growing

Facebook is starting to become an all-encompassing social platform. It's eating up ideas already existent in other social networks, and has even started merging Messenger with Instagram.

Not only does Facebook's growing size pose a threat to smaller social networks, but it also puts your privacy at risk. Using all the features that Facebook has to offer means that the platform can keep tabs on your location, interests, conversations, and even your activities on a local level.


Instagram Lets More Creators Sell Badges in Live Videos

Instagram is giving creators more ways to make money on the app. The platform is now letting more influencers sell badges during Instagram Live videos, and is also expanding tests on IGTV commercials.

Instagram Expands Access to Badges

Instagram first introduced badges in an About Instagram blog post in May 2020. Users get the option of purchasing a badge during a creator's live stream, which will then appear as an icon next to the person's username.

Badges make users much more noticeable to the creator. In turn, the creator can choose to reward loyal fans with a shoutout, or some other type of acknowledgment.

Initially, badges were only available to a limited number of influencers, but now, that number has been greatly expanded. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, announced in a Tweet that badges are coming to more users around the world.

The platform now allows over 50,000 creators to take advantage of Instagram's badge system. Instagram also noted that it will match users' revenue for badge sales up to $5,000 (but only for a limited amount of time).

In addition, Instagram is expanding its test on IGTV commercials. This feature gives creators the opportunity to monetize their accounts as well.

This isn't the only step Instagram has taken to help creators' make money. It has even expanded its shopping feature on the app, and will soon allow users to shop on Reels.

Making Money on Instagram

Giving creators more opportunities to make money on Instagram will inevitably attract more influencers to the app. As Instagram struggles to compete with TikTok and other popular social media platforms, it has to pull out all the stops to maintain its status.


Facebook’s New AI Translates Between 100 Languages | MakeUseOf

Facebook unveiled a new open-source AI model that has the ability to translate between 100 different languages. Its AI model doesn't even need to convert the existing text to English, allowing for a more efficient and accurate translation.

Introducing a New Way to Translate Text

In an About Facebook blog post, the platform detailed its new multilingual machine translation (MMT) model, also known as M2M-100. Impressively enough, this open-source machine learning model "can translate between any pair of 100 languages without relying on English data."

While this is still a research project, it shows a lot of promise. Angela Fan, a research assistant at Facebook, noted that "typical" machine translation models utilize different models for every language, making them incredibly inefficient for large platforms like Facebook.

Even advanced models don't cut it, as they use English as a middleman between languages. This means that the system must first translate the source text into English, and then translate that into the target language.

English-reliant models don't produce the best translations. Fan notes that by taking English out of the picture, Facebook's MMT system can produce more accurate translations, stating:

When translating, say, Chinese to French, most English-centric multilingual models train on Chinese to English and English to French, because English training data is the most widely available. Our model directly trains on Chinese to French data to better preserve meaning.

So instead of using English as a bridge, Facebook's MMT model can translate back and forth between 100 different languages. According to Fan, Facebook has built "the most diverse many-to-many MMT data set to date," which consists of 7.5 billion sentence pairs for 100 languages.

To accomplish this feat, the research team mined language translation data on the web, focusing first on languages "with the most translation requests." The researchers then classified those languages into 14 groups based on shared characteristics.

From here, researchers established bridge languages for each group, and mined training data for all possible combinations. This resulted in 7.5 billion parallel sentences across 2,200 directions.

And as for languages that aren't as widespread, Facebook used something called back-translation to create synthetic translations.

This entire process is bringing the Facebook AI team closer to their goal of creating a "single model that supports all languages, dialects, and modalities."

Facebook Gets Closer to Providing Better Translations

Facebook already performs 20 billion translations every day on its News Feed, and Facebook AI will only make the process more efficient. Although the new translation model hasn't been implemented yet, it will definitely come in handy for international Facebook users who need specific translations.


Instagram’s Handling of Kids’ Data Being Investigated by the EU

The Facebook-owned Instagram is currently under investigation by the EU for potentially violating data privacy laws. This comes after a data scientist claimed that the platform exposed the personal information of millions of underage users.

The EU Leads Instagram Probe

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), the EU's data regulator for Facebook, is launching an investigation into Instagram's handling of kids' information.

The investigation was prompted by a 2019 study by data analyst, David Stier, who uncovered startling information about Instagram's exposure of young users' personal data. Stier found that over 60 million Instagram users under the age of 18 were given the chance to change their personal accounts into business accounts.

Business accounts on Instagram publicly display the user's phone number and email address. This means that any underage user who converted their profile into a business account exposed their email address and phone number.

To make matters worse, the same emails and phone numbers were also embedded in the HTML source code of webpages accessed by those Instagram users on a computer. This allowed hackers to data harvest the personal information of young users.

A Facebook spokesperson responded to Stier's findings in a statement to BBC, saying:

We've always been clear that when people choose to set up a business account on Instagram, the contact information they shared would be publicly displayed. That's very different to exposing people's information. We've also made several updates to business accounts since the time of Mr Stier's mischaracterisation in 2019, and people can now opt out of including their contact information entirely.

Despite the fact that Facebook denies Stier's claims, and now lets users with business accounts opt-out of displaying personal information, the DPC is still going forward with the investigation.

The DPC is probing the social media giant on two matters. The first pertains to Facebook's legal right to process kids' data, while the other investigation deals with whether Instagram's profile settings can properly accommodate children.

The DPC Deputy Commissioner, Graham Doyle, also spoke to BBC about potential child endangerment on Instagram, stating:

Instagram is a social media platform which is used widely by children in Ireland and across Europe. The DPC has been actively monitoring complaints received from individuals in this area and has identified potential concerns in relation to the processing of children's personal data on Instagram which require further examination.

If the DPC finds any violation during its probe, Facebook will incur a hefty fine.

Making Instagram Safe for Kids

Making Instagram safe for underage users might seem like an insurmountable task. After all, Instagram still has yet to implement solid parental controls. This will likely force parents to monitor their child's activity on their smartphone and computer.


Discord Brings Animated Stickers to Chats | MakeUseOf

Discord chats are about to get livelier than ever. The platform is rolling out animated stickers that you can use to add a little more flair to your conversations.

Discord Finally Gets Stickers

A number of social media outlets already utilize stickers, and now Discord is joining in on the fun. The text and audio chat platform introduced its new sticker feature in a post on the Discord Blog.

Like the stickers you already know and love, Discord's stickers will also be animated. This means that you'll no longer be limited to using a GIF or static emoji when you want to express yourself.

Discord's stickers won't come without a price. While both Discord Nitro and Classic subscribers will get free, permanent access to the What's Up Wumpus sticker pack, other packs will come with a price tag.

But if you have a Discord Nitro subscription, you'll get a some additional perks when it comes to stickers. Not only will you get access to the exclusive Wumpus Nitro Elite sticker pack (pictured above), but you'll also get 33 percent off all additional sticker packs.

Unfortunately, not everyone will get access to stickers right away. For now, Discord is only rolling out stickers for some Canadian users on its desktop and iOS apps. The platform plans on releasing stickers to Android devices and to the rest of the world once it gets enough feedback.

Using Stickers on Discord

If you're one of the lucky users who gets early access to stickers on Discord, you'll spot the Stickers tab in between the GIFs and Emoji headings while composing a message.

But if you don't have access to stickers just yet, you can still enjoy all of the other fantastic features that Discord has to offer.


Twitter Tweaks Its Policy on Hacked Content | MakeUseOf

Twitter faced major criticism after barring access to a controversial article published by the New York Post. The platform justified its ban by citing its Hacked Materials policy, but that only complicated matters more.

Twitter Amends Its Hacked Materials Policy

After a New York Post article about Joe Biden's son, Hunter, went viral, Twitter restricted access to the story.

The highly controversial article claims to have obtained emails from Hunter's private laptop. Many fact-checkers expressed concerns over the potentially false evidence presented in the article.

Since the article allegedly contains stolen emails from Hunter's computer, Twitter decided to take action on the New York Post piece for violating its Hacked Materials policy.

Twitter's move to block the article's URL left users concerned over how the platform would respond to leaked material in the future. Its actions implied that Twitter would continue to ban hacked content presented by whistleblowers and investigative journalists.

To address these worries, Twitter decided to change the way it enforces its Hacked Materials rules. Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's trust and safety lead sent out a series of Tweets describing the new changes.

Gadde noted that blocking hacked material could pose "many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter's purpose of serving the public conversation."

Twitter originally created the Hacked Materials policy in 2018 to "discourage and mitigate harms associated with hacks and unauthorized exposure of private information." This is a valid policy, but Twitter will have to enforce it a bit differently from now on.

Gadde continued the thread, and explained the changes coming to Twitter's response to hacked content. She stated that the platform will only remove hacked content that's shared by an actual hacker. Twitter will also no longer block URLs—instead, it will add a descriptive label to that Tweet.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also sent out a Tweet about the situation. He said that the "straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement" to address the issue.

Despite these changes, Twitter is still barring access to the New York Post article. Brandon Borrman, Twitter's vice president of global communications sent out a Tweet saying that "the materials in the article still violate our rules on sharing personal private information."

Twitter's Private Information policy restricts users from "sharing someone's private information online without their permission," which is another rule that the New York Post article breaks.

Twitter's Serious Response to Controversy

Twitter took notably swift action to tear down the disputed New York Post article. However, Twitter's actions seemed to have backfired.

By trying to block out a URL, Twitter only drew more attention to the article and to its own actions. Going forward, Twitter should put more trust in its users to determine what they should and shouldn't access on the web.