Friday Five: PM discusses online abuse with social media giants

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. PM discusses online abuse with social giants

Boris Johnson is meeting representatives of the social media giants to discuss the online racism aimed at England footballers after the Euro 2020 final on Sunday, as well as asking how their companies are tackling bullying. The round-table meeting will include executives from Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Snapchat.

Perhaps Johnson could ask them why it is that they can take down copyrighted material within minutes, but racist posts flagged to Instagram were still live three days later. Campaigners, including the Center for Countering Digital Hate, have called for permanent social media bans for anyone posting racist abuse.

2. Expiring tweets are a fleeting experiment

To the disappointment of, well, hardly anyone, Twitter has announced it is getting rid of Fleets due to low usage. Fleets — the row of fullscreen tweets at the top of the Twitter timeline that expire after 24 hours — were launched just eight months ago in a bid to exploit the Snapchat/Instagram Stories style, but just didn’t catch on at all.

The decision to axe Fleets is an admission that Twitter hasn’t figured out how to get more people tweeting. It said: “We hoped Fleets would help more people feel comfortable joining the conversation on Twitter. But we haven’t seen an increase in the number of new people joining the conversation with Fleets like we hoped.”

3. Facebook adds ‘expert’ badge to groups

Facebook is rolling out a way to designate topic ‘experts’ inside user-run Facebook groups. The social network says the new feature is designed to help genuine experts stand out in discussions about their field of expertise. However, group admins will have the power to give the title to nearly any member they want.

That could mean that groups promoting conspiracy theories or fringe views may also be able to designate experts, who can then use their trusted status to post misleading content. Facebook’s announcement gives no indication of a vetting process for appointing experts, so it seems this idea may be doomed from the start.

4. Feel free to greet on Meet, but not for free

Google has brought an end to its effectively ‘unlimited’ group video calls in Meet for free Gmail accounts. Now users with free accounts logging on to Meet will have group calls capped at an hour rather than the previous 24-hour meeting duration although, like Zoom, one-to-one calls will still be unlimited and free.

Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams all started out as business communications products that were adopted by non-business users in the early days of the pandemic. But with people in the UK allowed to move around the country freely now, demand is bound to fall for social video calls (especially if they aren’t free).

5. Microsoft brings Clippy back from the dead

Brace yourselves — Microsoft is bringing back its Clippy character, this time in emoji form. Clippy originally appeared as an assistant offering help and tips in Office 97, but quickly became a hated figure among computer users, partly for its appearance and partly because it was never actually very helpful.

Microsoft said it would replace the paperclip emoji in Microsoft 365 with Clippy if its tweet received 20,000 likes (not a huge figure for an account with 9.5 million followers). Sure enough, the tweet has close to 150,000 likes at the time of writing and, lo and behold, good old Clippy is back in the game!

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