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WhatsApp Forwarding Info, Frequently Forwarded Label Spotted; Short Link Support Comes to iOS

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WhatsApp is working on two new tweaks to upgrade its forward feature. Calling it Forwarding Info and Frequently Forwarded, the two new changes were spotted in the works in the latest Android beta version. The two features are not enabled yet, but they should be in future beta updates. WhatsApp has reportedly also rolled out the Short Link feature to the WhatsApp Business for iOS beta version 2.19.21.5. This feature was already available for Android users, and it has now expanded to iOS users running the beta build of the Business app.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp recently updated its Android beta app to 2.19.80, and beta tracking website WABetaInfo reports that in the latest update, the company is working on two new features Forwarding Info and Frequent Forwarding. The two features aren’t enabled as of yet – i.e., they are disabled by default – and should arrive in the next beta updates. Forwarding Info will allow users to get more details about a forwarded message. It will let the user know how many times the message has been forwarded. This information will be available for sent messages only, because the user can navigate into Message Info only for messages he sent. Once the user forwards a message, he can tap on Message Info and know how many times a received message has been forwarded.

Frequently Forwarded, on the other hand is a label that will show up if one message has been forwarded more than four times. WhatsApp looks to add this feature to help the user to understand when a message is very popular on WhatsApp. The tracker notes that the Forwarding Info feature does not seem to be available when a message is set as Frequently Forwarded. As mentioned, there is no clarity on when these two features will be enabled, but it should arrive in future beta updates.

For iOS users, WhatsApp is now rolling out the Short Link feature with Business beta version 2.19.21.5. The feature is already available on both the regular Android and WhatsApp Business for Android apps, and is finally being tested on iOS, reports WABetaInfo again.

WhatsApp Short Link feature comes to iPhone
Photo Credit: WABetaInfo

Using the new Short Link feature, the business can access a short wa.me URL to share with its customers, so that they can start a WhatsApp chat with the organisation. Once you’re on the latest version, head to Settings to find the Short Link section.

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Debunk, don’t ‘prebunk,’ and other psychology lessons for social media moderation – TechCrunch

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If social networks and other platforms are to get a handle on disinformation, it’s not enough to know what it is — you have to know how people react to it. Researchers at MIT and Cornell have some surprising but subtle findings that may affect how Twitter and Facebook should go about treating this problematic content.

MIT’s contribution is a counter-intuitive one. When someone encounters a misleading headline in their timeline, the logical thing to do would be to put a warning before it so that the reader knows it’s disputed from the start. Turns out that’s not quite the case.

In a study of nearly 3,000 people who evaluated the accuracy of headlines after receiving different (or no) warnings about them.

Going into the project, I had anticipated it would work best to give the correction beforehand, so that people already knew to disbelieve the false claim when they came into contact with it. To my surprise, we actually found the opposite,” said study co-author David Rand in an MIT news article. “Debunking the claim after they were exposed to it was the most effective.”

When a person was warned beforehand that the headline was misleading, they improved in their classification accuracy by 5.7 percent. When the warning came simultaneously with the headline, that improvement grew to 8.6 percent. But if shown the warning afterwards, they were 25 percent better. In other words, debunking beat “prebunking” by a fair margin.

The team speculated as to the cause of this, suggesting that it fits with other indications that people are more likely to incorporate feedback into a preexisting judgment rather than alter that judgment as it’s being formed. They warned that the problem is far deeper than a tweak like this can fix.

“There is no single magic bullet that can cure the problem of misinformation,” said co-author Adam Berinsky. “Studying basic questions in a systematic way is a critical step toward a portfolio of effective solutions.”

The study from Cornell is equal parts reassuring and frustrating. People viewing potentially misleading information were reliably influenced by the opinions of large groups — whether or not those groups were politically aligned with the reader.

It’s reassuring because it suggests that people are willing to trust that if 80 out of 100 people thought a story was a little fishy, even if 70 of those 80 were from the other party, there might just be something to it. It’s frustrating because of how seemingly easy it is to sway an opinion simply by saying that a large group thinks it’s one way or the other.

“In a practical way, we’re showing that people’s minds can be changed through social influence independent of politics,” said graduate student Maurice Jakesch, lead author of the paper. “This opens doors to use social influence in a way that may de-polarize online spaces and bring people together.”

Partisanship still played a role, it must be said — people were about 21 percent less likely to have their view swayed if the group opinion was led by people belonging to the other party. But even so people were very likely to be affected by the group’s judgment.

Part of why misinformation is so prevalent is because we don’t really understand why it’s so appealing to people, and what measures reduce that appeal, among other simple questions. As long as social media is blundering around in darkness they’re unlikely to stumble upon a solution, but every study like this makes a little more light.

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Twitter’s Birdwatch fights misinformation with community notes – TechCrunch

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Twitter is launching what it calls “a community-based approach to misinformation.”

The Birdwatch project first came to light last fall thanks to product sleuth Jane Manchun Wong. Now Twitter has launched a pilot version via the Birdwatch website.

The goal, as explained in a blog post by Twitter’s Vice President of Product Keith Coleman, is to expand beyond the labels that the company already applies to controversial or potentially misleading tweets, which he suggested are limited to “circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention.”

Coleman wrote that the Birdwatch approach will “broaden the range of voices that are part of tackling this problem.” That has brings a broader range of perspectives to these issues and goes beyond the simple question of, “Is this tweet true or not?” It may also take some of the heat off Twitter for individual content moderation decisions.

Users can sign up on the Birdwatch site to flag tweets that they find misleading, add context via notes and rate the notes written by other contributors, based on whether they’re helpful or not. These notes will only be visible on the Birdwatch site for now, but it sounds like the company’s goal is to incorporate them to the main Twitter experience.

“We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable,” Coleman said. “Eventually we aim to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors.”

Given the potential for plenty of argument and back-and-froth on contentious tweets, it remains to be seen how Twitter will present these notes in a way that isn’t confusing or overwhelming, or how it can avoid weighing in on some of these arguments. The company said Birdwatch will use rank content based on algorithmic “reputation and consensus systems,” with the code shared publicly. (All notes contributed to Birdwatch will also be available for download.) You read more about the initial ranking system here.

“We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors,” Coleman said. “We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot.”

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Virtual social network IMVU raises $35M from China’s NetEase and others – TechCrunch

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The line between social networking and gaming is increasingly blurring, and internet incumbents are taking notice. NetEase, the second-largest gaming company in China behind Tencent, is among a group of investors who just backed IMVU, an avatar-focused social network operating out of California.

Menlo Park-based Structural Capital among other institutions also joined in the strategic round totaling $35 million. IMVU has raised over $77 million from five rounds since it was co-founded by The Lean Startup author Eric Ries back in 2004. The company declined to disclose its post-money valuation.

The fresh investment will be used to fund IMVU’s product development and comes fresh off a restructuring at the company. A new parent organization called Together Labs was formed to oversee its flagship platform IMVU, in which users can create virtual rooms and chat with strangers using custom avatars, a product that’s today considered by some a dating platform; a new service called Vcoin that lets users buy, gift, earn and convert a digital asset from the IMVU platform into fiat; among other virtual services.

“NetEase operates some of the most successful, biggest in scale, and evergreen MMO [massively multiplayer online] games in China and they see in IMVU business highlights echoing theirs,” Daren Tsui, chief executive officer at Together Labs, told TechCrunch.

“IMVU operates one of the world’s oldest, yet most vibrant and young — in terms of our user base — metaverses. We have many shared business philosophies and complementary know-how. It is a natural fit for us to become partners,” he added.

Founded in 2005, NetEase is now known for its news portal, music streaming app, education products, and video games that compete with those of Tencent. It has over the years made a handful of minority investments in companies outside China, though it’s not nearly as aggressive as Tencent in terms of investment pace and volume.

A NetEase spokesperson declined to comment on the investment in IMVU.

The partnership, according to Tsui, would allow the virtual networking company to tap NetEase’s game development and engineering capabilities as well as leverage NetEase’s knowledge in global market strategy as Together Labs launches future products, including one called WithMe.

In 2020, IMVU saw record growth with over 7 million monthly active users and 400,000 products created every month by IMVU users. The service currently has a footprint in over 140 countries and is “always looking to expand” in existing markets, including Asia, in which it already has a localized Korean app, according to Tsui.

“With IMVU’s accelerating growth over recent years, the launch of VCOIN, and the development of the new WithMe platform, we felt timing was right to bring all of these products under a new roof to reinforce our commitment for creating authentic human connections in virtual spaces,” said the chief executive.

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