It’s been a fascinating month in social media.
A new report has flagged serious failures from the social giants in addressing antisemitism. The study from the US/UK non-profit Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found 714 antisemitic posts which had over 7.3 million impressions during their six-week study period across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter. According to the report, the platforms had failed to act on 84% of complaints around this content. The posts revolved around anti-Jewish humour, misinformation about the connection of Jewish people to the pandemic, hashtags like #JewWorldOrder and #holohaox used commonly to promote antisemitic content, conspiracy theories centring around George Soros or the Rothschilds, and holocaust denial. Facebook in particular lists Holocaust denial under its hate speech policy, yet banned just 10.9% of the reported posts. The report found that TikTok banned users who sent racist content directly to Jewish users were banned only 5% of the time. The report has labelled the big five platforms a ‘safe space for racists’ and called it increasingly unsafe. Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube have responded, all saying they are working to improve their responses to antisemitic content, nothing has yet been heard from Facebook or Instagram. You can read the full report here
While we’re on controversy, the US surgeon general has blasted Covid and vaccine misinformation as a threat to public health, pointing to efforts by social media companies to silence it as ‘too little, too late’. In an article in The Conversation, social media researcher Anjana Susarla says those who rely on Facebook for their news are less likely to be vaccinated than those who get their information from any other source. She says the social companies must move to block known sources of vaccine and virus misinformation and provide accurate information by partnering with health organisations and medical journals.
The move towards misinformation aligns with another trend – scientists are leaving social media in droves. Former professor of psychiatry Louis Appleby wrote in his New Statesman op-ed about attacks form ‘Covid-deniers, libertarians, anti-vaxxers’ in the wake of publishing his research on suicide rates during the pandemic. He points to the waves of hostility he says researchers experience while they try to explain their work to the public as a major reason the profession is pulling away from social media.
Athletes are also copping it; from Cath Campbell’s relay start, Sam Kerr’s missed goal for the Matildas, Jess Fox’s gold, or Simone Biles’ mental health withdrawal, athletes from many countries have been advised to stay away from social media during competition to avoid interacting with opinion and angry fanbases. One bright light in the storm though has been UK diving gold medallist Tom Daly has gone viral for his knitting exploits. Daly posted a picture of the ‘medal cosy’ he knitted to protect his gold from scratches, and shots of him knitting in the stands while watching others compete have been shared across all major platforms.
In other news, social media managing giant Hootsuite has acquired AI platform Heyday for a reported USD $48 million, to help users to manage their customer service and e-commerce integration. Heyday allows users to message customers directly using AI-fuelled chat and video.