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Facebook News Feed Gets a ‘Why Am I Seeing This Post’ Feature

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Facebook is adding a new feature called “Why am I seeing this post?” to its News Feed, the company announced on Sunday. The feature is similar to the “Why am I seeing this ad?”, which has been available since 2014 for all the ads that appear on Facebook. The new feature is designed to explain why a particular post is appearing on a user’s News Feed. Facebook is also offering a dropdown menu to users, with personalisation controls.

This is the first time Facebook is being transparent about its News Feed algorithm, although the new feature offers a general overview of it. At a time when Facebook is battling issues surrounding the misuse of its platform, the new feature offers some context to users about their News Feed.

Facebook’s “Why am I seeing this post?” feature will appear on the company’s mobile apps. Users can access the feature as a dropdown menu on the right-hand side of posts. The feature lets users know why they’re seeing a post from their friend, a Page or a Group, and why the algorithm thinks it is relevant for them.

According to Facebook, some of the reasons why a post may appear on a user’s News Feed include:

  1. The post is from a friend, a Facebook Group a user has followed, or a Page that a user is following.
  2. The order of posts on the News Feed is determined by a bunch of factoring including how often a user interacts with another user, Page, or a Group, how often a user engages with a specific type of post, and the popularity of posts shared by the entities a user follows

The world’s largest social network claims people wanted more than just transparency around its News Feed algorithms, during its research. Facebook says people wanted more control and that’s the reason it is adding this new feature to make it easier for users to control their feed.

Apart from the new feature, Facebook says it is also updating its “Why am I seeing this ad?” to further improve it. Facebook will now let users know when information on an advertiser’s list matches up with their profile. Facebook will also let users know if an advertiser has uploaded a user’s personal details like e-mail and phone number to their database.

Facebook’s control over moderating its News Feed was questioned after the recent shooting attacks on New Zealand mosques were live streamed on the company’s platform. Facebook was also charged by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for violating the Fair Housing Act.

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NY AG is investigating Twitch, Discord and 4chan for their role in the Buffalo mass shooting – TechCrunch

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New York Attorney General Letitia James will launch an investigation into the role that social media and online message boards played in the tragedy that unfolded in Buffalo over the weekend.

On Saturday, an 18-year-old shooter opened fire at a Tops supermarket, killing 10 people and wounding three others. In online materials, the suspected shooter describes how discovering white supremacy on 4chan radicalized his thinking and ultimately inspired him to carry out the deadly attack.

The investigation was prompted by a referral from New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who called on social media companies to monitor content more aggressively for dangerous extremism in the days following the mass shooting.

“I am seeking your assistance to investigate the specific online platforms that were used to broadcast and amplify the acts and intentions of the mass shooting that took place in Buffalo on May 14, 2022 and determine whether specific companies have civil or criminal liability for their role in promoting, facilitating, or providing a platform to plan and promote violence,” Hochul wrote in a letter to the AG’s office Wednesday.

The attorney general’s office plans to examine social apps and sites “including but not limited to” Twitch, Discord, 4chan and 8chan.

“Time and time again, we have seen the real-world devastation that is borne of these dangerous and hateful platforms, and we are doing everything in our power to shine a spotlight on this alarming behavior and take action to ensure it never happens again,” James said.

Her office did not provide much detail on the investigation, which lumps mainstream social media services with content moderation together with notorious, anything goes hubs of extremism like 4chan and 8chan. While the former will likely comply with the AG’s office, the latter two web forums are less likely to humor the investigation.

8chan, which is run out of the Philippines, in particular is a hotbed of activity for extremists planning racist violence. Mass shooters in El Paso, Christchurch, New Zealand, Poway, California and now Buffalo all posted their plans and screeds to 8chan prior to their deadly attacks. In a journal entry prior to the attack, the Buffalo shooter noted that he would publish his writing on 8chan and 4chan in addition to sending it to his Discord servers and friends list.

The web forum that appears to be the main source of the suspected shooter’s ideals, 4chan, refuses to make any proactive efforts to moderate content and has long incubated white supremacy and other dangerous forms of extremism.

Amazon-owned Twitch detected the shooter’s livestream within two minutes of the violence beginning and removed the video, though it continues to circulate openly on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. It’s not clear if the AG’s investigation will also examine the spread of the graphic video, which has been copied many times and shared around the web.

The suspected shooter published his plans in detail to a private Discord server and on Google Docs, but neither private digital space is scanned to detect extremist threats. The question of how much online platforms should monitor non-public spaces is a difficult one given privacy concerns and existing laws, but it’s also a conversation we’re likely to be hearing a lot about in the coming days.

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Buffalo shooter invited others to his private Discord ‘diary’ 30 minutes before attack – TechCrunch

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Discord has provided more insight into how the shooter who opened fire in a Buffalo, New York supermarket over the weekend used its service prior to the tragic act of violence.

The shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, is charged with first degree murder in the mass shooting, which left 10 people dead and three injured. In the month leading up to the attack on the Buffalo Tops grocery store, which he researched and selected in an effort to harm as many Black people as possible, he used Discord to document his plans in extreme detail.

According to Discord, the suspected shooter created a private, invite-only server that he used as a “personal diary chat log.” The server had no other members until 30 minutes before the attack began, when a “small group of people” received an invite and joined.

“Before that, our records indicate no other people saw the diary chat log in this private server,” a Discord spokesperson told TechCrunch. TechCrunch reached out to the company for more details about the server’s activity and insight into how it handles moderation for private servers and messages.

Discord, a text and voice chat app, is best known for its large, public messaging rooms but it also allows users to create private, invite-only servers. In updates to the Discord server, which shares a username with the Twitch channel he used to livestream the shooting, the suspect documented his violent, racist views in depth. He also detailed the logistics of how he would carry out the mass shooting, including the gear he would use, his shopping trips leading up to the shooting and his day-of plans.

While it’s unknown what other Discord servers Gendron was active in, he references his activity on the app in the chat logs. “I didn’t even think until now that the people in my discord groups are probably going to get no knock raided by ATF and FBI agents,” he wrote. While Discord served as a kind of digital journal for the atrocities he would later carry out, he also compiled a nearly 200-page screed about his beliefs, weapons and plan to commit violence in Google Docs.

In early May, he expressed concerns that Google might discover his plan for violence in messages sent on the private Discord server. “Ok I’m a bit stressed that a google worker is going to see my manifesto fuck,” he wrote. “WHY did I write it on google docs I should have had some other solution.” Unfortunately, those concerns were unfounded. After the shooting, Google did remove the document for violating its terms of service.

The suspect, who livestreamed the shooting over Twitch, also spent time on 4chan’s /pol/, an infamous submessage board rife with racism, misogyny and extremism. Unlike mainstream social networks like Discord, 4chan does not do any proactive content moderation and only removes illegal content when required to do so. In Discord chat logs reviewed by TechCrunch the shooter notes that he “only really turned racist” after encountering white supremacist ideas on 4chan.

Five years ago, Discord was implicated in the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, an open gathering of white supremacists and other far-right extremists that ended with one counter-protester dead. The rally’s participants and organizers came together in private Discord servers to plan the day’s events and discuss the logistics of what would take place in Charlottesville. The company responded by cracking down on a number of servers hosting extremism, though maintained that it did not read messages on private servers.

Like Reddit, most of Discord’s hands-on moderation comes from community moderators within its chat rooms. And like most social media companies, Discord relies on a blend of automated content scanning and human moderators. Last year, the company acquired Sentropy, an AI software company that detects and removes online hate and harassment, to bolster those efforts.

In the years following the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Discord successfully sought to distance itself from its association with the far-right extremists and white supremacists who once called the social network home. More recently, Discord has also put some distance between its current brand and its origins as a popular chat app for gamers, reframing itself as an inviting hub for a huge spectrum of thriving online communities.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families,” a Discord spokesperson said of the tragedy in Buffalo, adding that it is assisting law enforcement in the ongoing investigation. “Hate has no place on Discord and we are committed to combating violence and extremism.”

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Twitter rolls out the ability for creators to host Super Follows-only Spaces – TechCrunch

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Twitter has announced that it’s rolling out Super Follows-only Spaces. Creators who offer Super Follows subscriptions can now host Spaces exclusively for their subscribers. The social media giant says this new option will give creators a way to “offer an extra layer of conversation to their biggest supporters.”

Subscribers globally on iOS and Android will be able to join and request to speak in Super Follows-only Spaces, whereas subscribers on Twitter’s web platform can join and listen, but won’t have the option to request to speak. Creators can start a Super Follows-only Space by selecting the “Only Super Followers can join” button when starting a new Space. Users who aren’t Super Following a creator will still see the Space, but won’t be able to access it unless they subscribe.  

It’s worth noting that the new Super Follow-only option for Spaces isn’t the only way for creators to hold exclusive Spaces. For example, Twitter launched its Ticketed Spaces feature last year to allow creators to set a price for users to listen in on a Space. Creators can set their ticket price anywhere between $1 and $999 and can also limit how many tickets are sold.

Super Follows, which was first revealed in February 2021, allows users to subscribe to accounts they like for a monthly subscription fee in exchange for exclusive content. Super Follows is currently in testing with select creators in the United States on iOS. Eligible accounts can set the price for Super Follow subscriptions, with the option of charging $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 per month.

The launch of Super Follows-only Spaces adds another layer of exclusivity to Super Follows subscriptions. Twitter says it plans to launch more Super Follows features to allow creators to grow their audiences and get closer to their most engaged followers.

Twitter says its research shows that hosting consistent Spaces leads to more follower growth and also gives creators more ways to engage with their followers. The company found that consistently hosting Spaces, around two times per week, leads to a 17% follower growth over a quarter. In addition, the company says creators who host consistent Spaces for a month see a 6-7% growth in followers, and creators who do so for two months see a 10% growth in followers.

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