This Week in Social is a weekly digest of some of the biggest stories in social media marketing news. These stories are the show notes for the Brave Ad World Podcast. Each story is discussed at a deeper level on the podcast.
Note: This is the last one of these for 2018. See you in 2019!
Another Privacy Flaw Discovered in Google+
This week Google discovered another leak in Google+, so it’s decided to modify its plans to shut the platform down by moving that up four months. It was already planing to shut down Google+ when data leaks were discovered, but that shutdown was scheduled for August of 2019. Now, it will be happening in April, and within the next 90 days, API access will be shut down.
This latest vulnerability had the potential to expose users’ names, email addresses, occupations and ages to developers even if their accounts were set to private. This was similar to the first vulnerability that let developers access private user data for three years.
This latest issue was discovered by Google’s testing team and it found “no evidence that app developers that inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused."
It’s worth giving credit to Google where it’s due. This flaw was discovered by Google’s internal team, and they responded to it in a timely manner. But this also puts a spotlight on Google, which has had many of the same issues as Facebook but has not been put under the same spotlight over the past year.
Google has as much data on its users, if not more, but its PR issues have been paltry compared to Facebook’s. Issues like this put a bit of a spotlight on Google and tech platforms as a whole, which is likely a major concern for them as government officials weigh the possibilities of regulation.
Social Media Overtakes Print Newspapers as Source of News
Print newspapers haven’t exactly had a ton of momentum behind them as a news source, and now they’ve been overtaken by social media as the primary source of news according to a new report from Pew Research. Today, adults rely more on social media for news than they do print newspapers. Television remains king as the primary source of news, followed by news websites and then radio.
Social media growing as a news source wouldn’t be all that surprising if it were any other year. But this year we’ve seen a growing skepticism in social media as a news source with reports of it being used to spread misinformation and multiple outlets launching for the sole purpose of spreading blatantly false news. It shows that even though as a society we tend to agree that social media needs to be put in check when it comes to being a source of information, we can’t shake the habit.
Google CEO Testifies Before Congress
Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared before Congress this week to address claims that its platform was biased toward one political party over the other, how the platform approached privacy and the role the platform was playing in China.
The hearing opened with questions around data collection and whether or not users understood what data they where sharing with Google. Pichai pointed out that users are invited to to do privacy checkups regularly and stressed that it does not rely just on terms of service.
Republican lawmakers claimed Google as biased against conservatives to which Pichai said over 200 signals are used to determine what shows up in search results and those signals are based on user behavior, not Google’s. Alex Jones of Infowars even made an appearance yelling at Pichai from the gallery. Jones was removed from YouTube for abusive behavior.
There were also questions about project “Dragonfly,” which is an experiment by Google to find a way to get into China. Google came under fire from employees earlier this year for the project because China censors its Internet. Google employees didn’t take kindly to Google helping the Chinese government. Pichai said it was an experiment and stated that Google has “no plans to launch in China.”
Finally, in a move that will instill no confidence in lawmakers, Pichai had to inform them that Google does not make the iPhone. #SMH
This hearing revealed very little about the inner workings of Google and for the most part appeared to be posturing by lawmakers for Google not showing up at a hearing earlier this year that had attendees from other tech companies. For his part, Pichai had his talking points down and stuck to them.
The biggest thing to watch is Google’s plans with China. It clearly has been working on a project, but that project has been put on hold. We’ll see how long that lasts and if Google tries again because it’s clearly a lucrative market but one that stands against what Google claims to be for—access to information.
News Quick Hits
Facebook Watch’s attempt to hook users with nostalgia fell flat. After announcing that every episode of Buff the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly would be available to stream for free on Watch last week, the platform only saw 959,000 views. Watch is meant to help Facebook compete more with television, and those viewer numbers were a bit of a letdown. To be fair, Watch has other shows that are far more successful, and these shows are still on Facebook where they can grow in popularity. But the weak initial start showed Facebook still has a lot of work to do to turn Watch into a water cooler video destination. Facebook has yet to position Watch as a place to get television style content.
In a bid to grow its ad inventory, Facebook is experimenting with ads in its search results. The ads are only displayed for a limited number of businesses that can opt into them in the ads manager tools. The ads display when users make retail-related searches on the platform, and because this is an experiment, the ads are free to run. This isn’t Facebook’s first foray into search. The platform gave them a try in 2012 but ended them.
Instagram Direct now allows users to send voice messages to their contacts or groups of people. Most messaging services offer such a feature, so it only makes sense for Instagram Direct to offer it as well.
Hulu is opening up its on-demand and live TV inventory to an invite-only programmatic auction. This will allow businesses to use Hulu to make more programmatic buys targeted to audience segments and geographic areas.
Instagram is testing “creator accounts” for specific influencers and other high-profile people on the platform. Users with access to the creator accounts will have access to weekly and daily data related to follower accounts. They’ll also be able to understand what may have led to increases or declines in followers. The move is a perk influencers, and it comes at a good time, considering Snapchat is having difficulties catering to influential users.