TikTok is trying to clean up its ‘For You’ recommendations

TikTok is ramping up penalties for creators who post potentially “problematic” content and tightening its rules around what can be recommended in the app. The updates arrive as TikTok is fighting for its future in the United States and trying to convince lawmakers and regulators that its app is safe for teens.

Under its updated community guidelines, set to take effect in May, TikTok has added a long list of content that’s not eligible to be recommended in the app’s coveted “For You” feed. The list includes some obvious categories, like sexually suggestive or violent content, but it also adds topics that have previously been a source of controversy for the app. For example, the new guidelines bar videos showing “dangerous activity and challenges,” as well as many types of weight loss or dieting content. It also prohibits any clips from users under the age of 16 from appearing in “For You.”

There’s also a lengthy section dedicated to a wide range of misinformation and conspiratorial content. From the guidelines:

-Conspiracy theories that are unfounded and claim that certain events or situations are carried out by covert or powerful groups, such as "the government" or a "secret society"

-Moderate harm health misinformation, such as an unproven recommendation for how to treat a minor illness

-Repurposed media, such as showing a crowd at a music concert and suggesting it is a political protest

-Misrepresenting authoritative sources, such as selectively referencing certain scientific data to support a conclusion that is counter to the findings of the study

-Unverified claims related to an emergency or unfolding event

-Potential high-harm misinformation while it is undergoing a fact-checking review

In addition to the eligibility changes, TikTok says it will also begin to penalize creators who repeatedly disregard this guidance by making their entire account ineligible for recommendations, not just the specific offending posts. The company will also make their account “harder to find” in search.

Additionally, the app is getting a new “account status” feature, which will help users track if they are running afoul of these rules. Much like the feature of the same name in Instagram, TikTok’s account status will alert creators to strikes on their account and posts that run afoul of the app’s rules. And an “account check” feature will allow users to track if they are currently being blocked from recommendations or otherwise unable to access features like messaging or commenting as a result of breaking the app’s rules.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/tiktok-is-trying-to-clean-up-its-for-you-recommendations-210057825.html?src=rss

TikTok Notes is basically Instagram for your TikTok account

TikTok is experimenting with an all-new app that’s just for sharing photos with text updates. It’s called TikTok Notes, and it’s available now in Australia and Canada.

“We're in the early stages of experimenting with a dedicated space for photo and text content with TikTok Notes,” the company wrote in an update on X. “We hope that the TikTok community will use TikTok Notes to continue sharing their moments through photo posts. Whether documenting adventures, expressing creativity, or simply sharing snapshots of one's day, the TikTok Notes experience is designed for those who would like to share and engage through photo content.”

Based on App Store screenshots, it appears the app will, like TikTok, have two feeds: a “for you” timeline of recommended content as well as a “following” feed. Posts appear to be very similar to what you’d see scrolling Instagram (before TikTok-like video took over the app, anyway): single images or carousels of multiple photos with lengthy captions.

Rumors of the Instagram-like app have been swirling for the last month as reverse engineers unearthed references in TikTok’s code. Some TikTok users had also seen in-app notifications about the new service in recent days.

It’s an interesting moment for TikTok to try to take on Instagram’s central feature. Having a photo-focused app gives TikTok users a new place to share non-video content and potentially reach their existing audience. The company is also facing the possibility its main app could be banned or drawn into a lengthy legal fight in the United States, so having an alternative app could help it maintain users in the country (TikTok hasn’t said when Notes might be available in the US.)

It also comes at a time when many Instagram users are frustrated with Meta about the reach of their feed posts. Instagram’s top exec Adam Mosseri regularly responds to frustrated creators on Threads about why their feed posts don’t seem to reach as many followers as they used to. If TikTok Notes takes off, those creators may actually have a viable alternative for posting photos.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/tiktok-notes-is-basically-instagram-for-your-tiktok-account-170151958.html?src=rss

Meta’s Oversight Board will rule on AI-generated sexual images

Meta’s Oversight Board is once again taking on the social network’s rules for AI-generated content. The board has accepted two cases that deal with AI-made explicit images of public figures.

While Meta’s rules already prohibit nudity on Facebook and Instagram, the board said in a statement that it wants to address whether “Meta’s policies and its enforcement practices are effective at addressing explicit AI-generated imagery.” Sometimes referred to as “deepfake porn,” AI-generated images of female celebrities, politicians and other public figures has become an increasingly prominent form of online harassment and has drawn a wave of proposed regulation. With the two cases, the Oversight Board could push Meta to adopt new rules to address such harassment on its platform.

The Oversight Board said it’s not naming the two public figures at the center of each case in an effort to avoid further harassment, though it described the circumstances around each post.

One case involves an Instagram post showing an AI-generated image of a nude Indian woman that was posted by an account that “only shares AI- generated images of Indian women.” The post was reported to Meta but the report was closed after 48 hours because it wasn’t reviewed. The same user appealed that decision but the appeal was also closed and never reviewed. Meta eventually removed the post after the user appealed to the Oversight Board and the board agreed to take the case.

The second case involved a Facebook post in a group dedicated to AI art. The post in question showed “an AI-generated image of a nude woman with a man groping her breast.” The woman was meant to resemble “an American public figure” whose name was also in the caption of the post. The post was taken down automatically because it had been previously reported and Meta’s internal systems were able to match it to the prior post. The user appealed the decision to take it down but the appeal was “automatically closed.” The user then appealed to the Oversight Board, which agreed to consider the case.

In a statement, Oversight Board co-chair Helle Thorning-Schmidt said that the board took up the two cases from different countries in order to assess potential disparities in how Meta’s policies are enforced. “We know that Meta is quicker and more effective at moderating content in some markets and languages than others,” Thorning-Schmidt said. “By taking one case from the US and one from India, we want to look at whether Meta is protecting all women globally in a fair way.”

The Oversight Board is asking for public comment for the next two weeks and will publish its decision sometime in the next few weeks, along with policy recommendations for Meta. A similar process involving a misleadingly-edited video of Joe Biden recently resulted in Meta agreeing to label more AI-generated content on its platform.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/metas-oversight-board-will-rule-on-ai-generated-sexual-images-100047138.html?src=rss

Meta’s Oversight Board will rule on AI-generated sexual images

Meta’s Oversight Board is once again taking on the social network’s rules for AI-generated content. The board has accepted two cases that deal with AI-made explicit images of public figures.

While Meta’s rules already prohibit nudity on Facebook and Instagram, the board said in a statement that it wants to address whether “Meta’s policies and its enforcement practices are effective at addressing explicit AI-generated imagery.” Sometimes referred to as “deepfake porn,” AI-generated images of female celebrities, politicians and other public figures has become an increasingly prominent form of online harassment and has drawn a wave of proposed regulation. With the two cases, the Oversight Board could push Meta to adopt new rules to address such harassment on its platform.

The Oversight Board said it’s not naming the two public figures at the center of each case in an effort to avoid further harassment, though it described the circumstances around each post.

One case involves an Instagram post showing an AI-generated image of a nude Indian woman that was posted by an account that “only shares AI- generated images of Indian women.” The post was reported to Meta but the report was closed after 48 hours because it wasn’t reviewed. The same user appealed that decision but the appeal was also closed and never reviewed. Meta eventually removed the post after the user appealed to the Oversight Board and the board agreed to take the case.

The second case involved a Facebook post in a group dedicated to AI art. The post in question showed “an AI-generated image of a nude woman with a man groping her breast.” The woman was meant to resemble “an American public figure” whose name was also in the caption of the post. The post was taken down automatically because it had been previously reported and Meta’s internal systems were able to match it to the prior post. The user appealed the decision to take it down but the appeal was “automatically closed.” The user then appealed to the Oversight Board, which agreed to consider the case.

In a statement, Oversight Board co-chair Helle Thorning-Schmidt said that the board took up the two cases from different countries in order to assess potential disparities in how Meta’s policies are enforced. “We know that Meta is quicker and more effective at moderating content in some markets and languages than others,” Thorning-Schmidt said. “By taking one case from the US and one from India, we want to look at whether Meta is protecting all women globally in a fair way.”

The Oversight Board is asking for public comment for the next two weeks and will publish its decision sometime in the next few weeks, along with policy recommendations for Meta. A similar process involving a misleadingly-edited video of Joe Biden recently resulted in Meta agreeing to label more AI-generated content on its platform.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/metas-oversight-board-will-rule-on-ai-generated-sexual-images-100047138.html?src=rss

Threads is testing real-time search results

Meta’s Threads app is often described as the company’s competitor to X. But Threads users, especially those once active on Twitter, are often quick to point out that Meta’s app is not yet a great source for real-time information. The app’s “for you” algorithm often surfaces days-old posts alongside fresh ones, and its recently introduced trending topics feature only shows five topics at a time. But for those holding out hope that the app may eventually become more useful for real-time information, Meta’s latest test may be good news.

The app is testing a new search feature that will allow users to filter results by recency, according to a screenshot shared by Threads user Daniel Rodriguez. Threads’ top exec, Adam Mosseri, confirmed the change. “We’re starting to test this with a small number of people so it’s easier to find relevant search results in real time,” Mosseri wrote.

That may sound like a relatively minor tweak but the lack of a chronological search has long been frustrating for Threads users looking to find news or commentary about current events. And while sorting by “recent” posts isn’t the same as chronological search, it should help surface posts about breaking news or other timely topics.

Just how useful the feature is, though, will depend on if Meta makes the filter available to all topics on the platform. The screenshot showed a recency option for “NBA Threads,” a community Mosseri has gone out of his way to encourage in the app. But Mosseri has been considerably less enthusiastic about other timely topics, saying last year he didn’t want to encourage “hard news.” Elsewhere, Threads has angered some users by removing political content from recommendations and blocking search results for topics it deems “potentially sensitive,” like vaccines and COVID-19, even if the posts don’t violate its rules.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/threads-is-testing-real-time-search-results-234857960.html?src=rss

Meta is testing messaging capabilities for Threads, but don’t call them DMs

As Threads has grown to more than 130 million users, one of the major remaining “missing” features users often complain about is the lack of direct messaging abilities. But those missing out on DMs may soon have a new option to message other Threads users.

Meta is starting to test messaging features that rely on Instagram’s inbox but allow new messages to be initiated from the Threads app. The feature has begun to appear for some Threads users, who report seeing a “message” button atop other users’ profiles where the “mention” feature used to be. A Meta spokesperson confirmed the change, saying the company was “testing the ability to send a message from Threads to Instagram.”

Of note, Threads still doesn’t have its own inbox, and it’s not clear if it ever will. Instagram head Adam Mosseri has said multiple times that he doesn’t want to create a separate inbox for Threads, but would rather “make the Instagram inbox work” in the app. A Meta spokesperson further confirmed that “this is not a test of DMs on Threads.”

But even though it’s not a full-fledged DM feature, the ability to send a message from the Threads app without having to switch to Instagram could at least make messaging from Threads a little less clunky. Actually checking or replying to those messages, though, will still require users to head to the Instagram app.

That may still seem like an entirely unnecessary step, but Mosseri has pointed out that building two versions of the same inbox could easily get complicated. “If, in the end, we can’t make the Instagram inbox work for Threads, we’ll have a hard choice to make between (1) mirroring the Instagram inbox in Threads and dealing with notification routing weirdness, and (2) building a totally separate Threads inbox and dealing with the fact that you’ll have two redundant message threads with each of your friends with the same handles in two different apps,” he wrote in a post in November. “Neither seems great.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/meta-is-testing-messaging-capabilities-for-threads-but-dont-call-them-dms-213536876.html?src=rss

Google, a $1.97 trillion company, is protesting California’s plan to pay journalists

Google, the search giant that brought in more than $73 billion in profit last year, is protesting a California bill that would require it and other platforms to pay media outlets. The company announced that it was beginning a “short-term test” that will block links to local California news sources for a “small percentage” of users in the state.

The move is in response to the California Journalism Preservation Act, a bill that would require Google, Meta and other platforms to pay California publishers fees in exchange for links. The proposed law, which passed the state Assembly last year, amounts to a “link tax,” according to Google VP of News Partnerships Jaffer Zaidi.

“If passed, CJPA may result in significant changes to the services we can offer Californians and the traffic we can provide to California publishers,” Zaidi writes. But though the bill has yet to become law, Google is opting to give publishers and users in California a taste of what those changes could look like.

The company says it will temporarily test blocking links to California news sources that would be covered under the law in order “to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.” Zaidi didn’t say how large the test would be or how long it would last. Google is also halting new spending on California newsrooms, including “new partnerships through Google News Showcase, our product and licensing program for news organizations, and planned expansions of the Google News Initiative.”

Google isn’t the first company to use hardball tactics in the face of new laws that aim to force tech companies to pay for journalism. Meta pulled news from Facebook and Instagram in Canada after a similar law passed and has threatened to do the same in California. (Meta did eventually cut deals to pay publishers in Australia after a 2021 law went into effect, but said last month it would end those partnerships.)

Google has a mixed track record on the issue, It pulled its News service out of Spain for seven years in protest of local copyright laws that would have required licensing fees. But the company signed deals worth about $150 million to pay Australian publishers. It also eventually backed off threats to pull news from search results in Canada, and forked over about $74 million. That may sound like a lot, but those amounts are still just a tiny fraction of the $10 - $12 billion that researchers estimate Google should be paying publishers.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-a-197-trillion-company-is-protesting-californias-plan-to-pay-journalists-175706632.html?src=rss

X won’t let users hide their blue checks anymore

X will no longer allow users to hide their blue checks, regardless of whether they paid for premium or not. On Thursday, the app began notifying users that “the hide your checkmark feature of X Premium is going away soon.”

The change comes shortly after X unexpectedly began adding blue checks to the accounts of “influential” users with at least 2,500 followers who pay for a premium subscription. While Elon Musk suggested that change was meant to be a perk, some of his critics — including formerly verified users — were less than pleased with the blue badge appearing on their accounts, lest others suspect them of actually paying for a subscription.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/x-wont-let-users-hide-their-blue-checks-anymore-222938703.html?src=rss

X won’t let users hide their blue checks anymore

X will no longer allow users to hide their blue checks, regardless of whether they paid for premium or not. On Thursday, the app began notifying users that “the hide your checkmark feature of X Premium is going away soon.”

The change comes shortly after X unexpectedly began adding blue checks to the accounts of “influential” users with at least 2,500 followers who pay for a premium subscription. While Elon Musk suggested that change was meant to be a perk, some of his critics — including formerly verified users — were less than pleased with the blue badge appearing on their accounts, lest others suspect them of actually paying for a subscription.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/x-wont-let-users-hide-their-blue-checks-anymore-222938703.html?src=rss

Instagram’s status update feature is coming to user profiles

Instagram’s status update feature, Notes, will soon be more prominent in the app. Up until now, Notes have only been visible from Instagram’s inbox, but the brief updates will soon also be visible directly on users’ profiles.

The change should increase the visibility of the feature and give people a new place to interact with their friends’ updates. (Instagram added reply functionality to Notes back in December.) The app is also experimenting with “prompts” for Notes, which will allow users to share questions for their friends to answer in their updates, much like the collaborative “add yours” templates for Stories.

Notes are similar to Stories in that the updates only stick around for 24 hours, though they are only visible to mutual followers, so they aren’t meant to be as widely shared as a typical grid or Stories post. The latest updates are another sign of how Meta has used the feature, first introduced in 2022, to encourage users to post more often for smaller, more curated groups of friends.

Separately, the app is also adding a new “cutouts” feature, which allows users to make stickers out of objects in their photos, much like the iOS sticker feature. On Instagram, these stickers can be shared in Stories or in a Reel. Cutouts can also be made from other users’ public posts, effectively giving people a new way to remix content from others (Instagram’s help page notes that users can disable this feature if they prefer for their content to not be reused.)

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/instagrams-status-update-feature-is-coming-to-user-profiles-182621692.html?src=rss