Social media

How Meta targets political ads

Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, says it will provide outside researchers more information on how political and social ads are targeted on its platform, providing insight into the ways that politicians, campaign operatives and political strategists buy and use ads during election periods. Starting from May 2022, academics and researchers registered with Facebook Open Research and Transparency will be allowed to see more detailed targeting data, including which interest categories—such as “people who like dogs” or “people who enjoy the outdoors”—have been chosen to aim ads at specific people.

Meta also plans to include summaries of targeting information for some of its ads in its publicly viewable Ad Library. Created in 2019, the Ad Library allows the public to obtain information about political ads, thus helping to safeguard elections against the misuse of digital advertising.

Elon Musk vs Twitter

Elon Musk is a famous Twitter user. He wants to change Twitter rules on what is allowed to be posted. However, recently he surprised everyone by saying that he would buy this social media company. Musk has been offered loans of $25.5 billion from big American banks and he promised to pay the rest of the $21 billion out of his pocket.

The next day after Musk’s proposal, the board announced they will implement a "poison pill"—a measure that forbids anyone to buy more than 15% of the company’s shares. People fear that Twitter’s shareholders will pressure the board to accept Musk’s offer. Shareholders may want to do it because the share price that Musk has offered is much higher than the current one. On the other hand, this deal means that Twitter will become private, which may lead to unknown consequences for the company. 

Pinterest: safety over free speech

How much should tech companies regulate information? While Facebook and Twitter have up to now chosen to err on the side of free speech, an unlikely platform has taken an important step. Pinterest found that users were searching for information on vaccines, so CEO Ben Silbermann pulled all medical information from the platform.

Vaccines have been a contentious issue in social media, but not in science. While the science is clear that vaccines save lives, there has been a reemergence of previously eradicated diseases like measles. That reemergence has been linked to disinformation shared in social media. 

Rare giraffes come under threat

According to National Geographic, the remains of two white giraffes were found in a nature conservancy in northeastern Kenya. The giraffes likely had a rare genetic condition called leucism, which inhibits skin cells from producing pigment. It is believed that they were killed by poachers.

The animals had been well-known since 2017, after rangers spotted them in the conservancy and posted a video to YouTube, which then went viral.

This highlights a modern-day paradox: social media allows people to experience the joy and wonder of the planet’s rarest creatures while simultaneously putting animals at increased risk. Rarity and exclusivity are among the driving factors of the illegal wildlife trade, so unusual animals are more likely to be targeted by poachers.

National Geographic concluded that navigating how to report on unique animals without helping to put a target on their backs is a delicate process. 

LINE a hit in Japan

LINE is the most popular social media platform in Japan followed by Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. When comparing the Monthly Active Users (MAU) of these 5 social media platforms, LINE is obviously the most dominant in the Japanese market in 2019.

LINE’s penetration rate is surprisingly high. Actually, it is higher than the smartphone penetration rate in Japan. This is because there are also many non-smartphone users who access LINE from a computer or tablet device. LINE has 80 million MAU compared to the nation’s 70 million smartphone users.

Taking a stand against high heels

A social media campaign against dress codes and expectations that women wear high heels at work has gone viral in Japan, with thousands joining the #KuToo movementa pun based on the Japanese words for shoe (kutsu) and pain (kutsuu). Nearly 20,000 women have signed the movement's online petition so far, demanding the government ban companies from requiring female employees to wear high heels on the job.

Yumi Ishikawa, a 32-year-old actress and freelance writer, launched the campaign after tweeting about being forced to wear high heels for a part-time job. “After work, everyone changes into sneakers or flats,” she wrote in the petition, adding that high heels can cause bunions, blisters and strain the lower back. “It’s hard to move, you can’t run and your feet hurt. All because of manners.”

Social media's effect on self-image

Much has been made over the years about how mainstream media presents unrealistic beauty standards in the form of photoshopped celebrities or stick-thin fashion models.

Using social media does appear to be correlated with body image concerns. A systematic review of 20 papers published in 2016 found that photo-based activities, like scrolling through Instagram or posting pictures of yourself, were a particular problem when it came to negative thoughts about your body.

In a survey of 227 female university students, women reported that they tend to compare their own appearance negatively with their peer group and with celebrities, but not with family members, while browsing Facebook. The comparison group that had the strongest link to body image concerns was distant peers, or acquaintances.

Does the Internet help democracy?

A lot of people thought the internet would help democratize the world.

More people and groups would have access to information, and the ability to mobilize from the ground up would gradually undermine concentrations of power—that was the idea, at least.

But the reality has been quite different: Instead of democratizing the world, the internet has destabilized it, creating new cleavages and reinforcing the power structure at the same time.

This is the story sociologist Jen Schradie tells in her new book The Revolution That Wasn’t. Schradie argues that technology is not only failing to level the playing field for activists, it’s actually making things worse by “creating a digital activism gap.” The differences in power and organization, she says, have undercut working-class movements and bolstered authoritarian groups.

Nurses on Instagram: nursefluencers

Sarah’s Instagram feed is pretty typical for a 21-year-old model-slash-influencer living in Florida. There’s one important difference: In all of her pictures, she’s wearing scrubs.

Being a "nursefluencer," a term that I have admittedly made up but that describes a growing population, is similar to being a regular influencer.

For Sarah, and many young health care professionals like her, a sizeable Instagram following is a salve for a litany of problems experienced by those in the field: burnout, odd hours, and a lack of a creative outlet, to start. So it’s not surprising that within the past few months, tons of accounts like hers have popped up, gaining huge followings — largely made up of fellow medical professionals — by posting an insider’s view of the industry.

It’s also raised questions about the ethics of being a health care influencer. After all, isn’t the only person who should be influencing anyone’s health their own doctor?

Vlogging about Japan

Nagoya-based husband-and-wife vlogging duo Rachel and Jun Yoshizuki run the YouTube channel Rachel and Jun. Their on-the-ground accounts of daily life in Japan have been viewed more than 200 million times.

They belong to a community of “J-vloggers”: YouTubers who attract millions of views by sharing their insights into Japanese culture, including anything from a tour of a Japanese high school, to what it’s like to stay in a tiny room in a capsule hotel, and what it’s like to be multiracial in Japan.

“All of us [J-vloggers] get comments from our audience that they went to Japan because of us, or they started studying Japanese because of our videos, or they visited this city because we made a video about it,” Rachel says.