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Elon Musk Says X ‘May Fail’ 

Elon Musk said in a post on X, formally known as Twitter, that the social media may fail after a glitch caused pictures posted before December 2014 to be deleted.

“The sad truth is that there are no great ‘social networks’ right now. We may fail, as so many have predicted, but we will try our best to make there be at least one.”

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Over the weekend, a glitch on the platform caused all pictures and links on posts for pictures and videos to be removed if they were posted before December 2014. 

The posts made before December 2014 showed broken links instead of the pictures and videos that were previously there. 

Many users noticed the glitch almost immediately after. Technologist Tom Coates referred to the glitch as an “epic vandalism by Musk,” suggesting that it could’ve been a cost-saving exercise. 

One of the biggest tweets that suffered from the glitch was the famous Oscar selfie from 2014 posted by Ellen DeGeneres. The picture became the platform’s most retweeted photo, with more than 2 million shares on the social network. 

Some X users are speculating that the glitch was caused by an effort to save money on storage data, while others have said the 2016 changes where “enhanced URL enrichment” was implemented, could’ve attributed, as the change was meant to show previews for linked websites and attachments beyond the company’s previous 140 character limit, according to The Verge

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This particular malfunction also came after reports last week that suggested access from X to other social networks had been slowed down. The 5-second delay that users reported also appeared on links to news sites. 

Earlier this year, X users also experienced a daily limit on the amount of tweets they could see in a day while direct messages temporarily stopped working. The company has since apologized for this “glitch” and others that left users locked out of their accounts. 

Since Musk took over the platform, thousands of jobs have been cut, massively reducing the workforce since November. 

Musk’s initial plans for the platform were to cut down on costs, however, he reported a 50% drop in advertising revenue last month, as well as heavy debt. 

Currently, X faces annual interest payments of $1.5 billion due to the debt it took on when Musk acquired the platform for $44 billion.

TikTok

TikTok’s Censorship Issues

TikTok has fast become one of the quickest growing social networks. However, the Chinese platform has recently come under fire following leaked documents revealing censored videos. Sources claim that videos showing people with disabilities, homosexuals or overweight people were hidden from view in a move to “protect vulnerable users.” Thanks to a strange policy, moderators were encouraged to limit the reach of some users, placing them on a ‘special users’ list, with the concern that they would be more vulnerable to bullying and internet trolls.

Website netzpolitik.org obtained documents that highlighted TikTok’s guidelines and spoke with a reliable source. In the documents, ByteDance, the Beijing-based technology company who owns TikTok, details how to deal with bullying with dubious methods of controlling it. In their moderation rules is a section called “Imagery depicting a subject highly vulnerable to cyber bullying” and discusses users who are “susceptible to harassment or cyberbullying based on their physical or mental condition.”

TikTok moderators are encouraged to mark accounts of people who have disabilities as ‘Risk 4’, meaning the video will only be available in the country the user uploaded it, resulting in some accounts only having a reach of around 5.5 million people — depending on their country’s user numbers — rather than their global audience, which is nearer to one billion people.

There were further restrictions for accounts where the owners were deemed extremely vulnerable. If the videos exceeded 6,000 to 10,000 views they were automatically tagged as “Auto R,” meaning if they exceeded these numbers they would automatically be placed in the ‘not recommended’ category.

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This means the algorithms will not allow the video to appear in the For You Feed that is shown when you first open the app.

Although many users may not acknowledge their disability, TikTok’s guidelines state that moderators need to look for “autism,” “Down syndrome,” and “facial disfigurements.” If a moderator deems that someone in the video has these characteristics the video is restricted. Each moderator has around 30 seconds to make these decisions.

Many are asking how someone can acknowledge somebody has any of the disorders within such a short time and the moderators appear to be as confused as everyone else. It seems that even with worldwide debates looking at the visibility of disabled people in the media, while many are asking for a barrier-free internet and open visibility, TikTok is going out of its way to block such users.

AbilityWatch’s Constantin Grosch thinks the policy is “overriding and exclusionary,” saying:

“The regulation listed here transforms this behavior into new digital platforms in which the visibility of disabled people is deliberately reduced out of misunderstood and unnecessary care.”

A growing online bullying issue is ghosting — a practice of deliberately and suddenly stopping all communication with another to end a relationship with them — which makes the TikTok policy even more shocking. Rather than tackling online bullying, including ghosting and internet trolls, it appears TikTok would rather restrict the victims.

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One source familiar with the moderating rules reported that staff repeatedly pointed out the problems of this policy and asked for a more sensitive and meaningful one. In November, The Washington Post had already reported on clashes between America’s employees and the rule makers in China, with many U.S. employees unhappy they had to restrict further videos including heated debates, heavy kissing, and political discussions.

While TikTok states that the U.S. operation is not required to carry out censorship, employees have stated that the final decisions on videos being restricted are made in Beijing. The potential influence Beijing could have in America has seen the Committee on Foreign Investment investigate the deals that ByteDance has had, especially in relation to Musical.ly, with many legal experts asking U.S. officials to investigate “a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore.”

Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s General Manager in America commented:

“TikTok has grown quickly, much like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat grew during their early years. And like those platforms, growth has posed challenges in terms of making sure our policies and practices keep up.”

One of the main concerns with TikTok is its lack of transparency on policies with no details being released about moderating decisions until recently. However, recent pressures have encouraged them to distance themselves from accusations that the app’s content is moderated by the Chinese government — something the Hong Kong protestors have claimed after some of their videos were censored.

ByteDance purchased Musical.ly in 2017 and promptly incorporated it into their own TikTok company, resulting in many young Americans uploading stunts, dances and stories in the millions, enabling TikTok to increase in value to around $75 billion, more than Snapchat and Uber combined. ByteDance is owned by one of China’s richest businessmen, Zhang Yimin.

There are now a reported one billion users worldwide meaning TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform in history. But will their censorship issues be their downfall?

TikTok

TikTok: The Future of Social Media?

The expansion of social media into our everyday lives seems to be unstoppable. Even for those of us who stubbornly refuse to sign up for platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, these services influence us on a daily basis: Twitter has become the platform of choice for companies, celebrities, and politicians to give their immediate reactions to current events; and major events like parties and reunions are planned via Facebook, causing headaches and potential missed opportunities for those without an account. And as this expansion continues, new social networking services are popping up that re-write the rules of how social apps should operate, exploiting our collective human desire for connection and stimulation with increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence programs. One such app is TikTok, which paves the way for the future of social media by doing away with the traditional framework of aggregating content from accounts selected by the user in exchange for pursuing engagement as its primary goal.

Unlike most popular social media services, TikTok was created not in the United States but in China, and not as an independent start-up but as the flagship product of an established artificial-intelligence and machine learning company called ByteDance. Whereas other platforms onboard new users by encouraging them to connect with the accounts of people they know, TikTok drops you straight into a never-ending stream of content, aggregated seemingly at random, before you even make an account. You’re not immediately invited to view the content created by people you know, as you might expect; rather, the app invites you to follow trends, organized by hashtags under the “Discover” tab, and create content befitting these trends to gather an audience, albeit an often-ephemeral one.

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While the short videos you see in the app seem to be hand-picked for their humor, creativity, or charm, they are in fact curated by complex algorithms fed by data collected on the app’s massive user base. Over time, the app leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence to build a profile of your viewing and engagement habits, fueling an ever-more addictive and engaging stream of content tailored to your preferences. This shift away from content posted by your friends towards content the app predicts you’d enjoy is representative of a larger overall trend in the evolution of social media; as platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have grown, their feeds began to organize and select content according to a set of rules defined by the company, rather than by the user.

This approach has proven to be an overwhelmingly successful one for ByteDance, so much so that concerns have been raised about the app’s addictive qualities, particularly among the community’s younger members. In response to these concerns, the company introduced a “Digital Wellbeing” section of the app’s Privacy and Settings menu, enabling users and their parents to set restrictions on how long the app can be used per day. Additionally, many have expressed worries about the app’s potential to show inappropriate or dangerous content to a young audience, and TikTok was fined for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection App in the US, leading the company to implement a kids-only mode which prevents children from uploading data to the app. These concerns, and the resulting updates to the app, represent the exceedingly few instances in which TikTok’s developers have taken a direct approach in managing the spread and proliferation of content, which is almost entirely directed by a combination of the community’s contributions and the algorithm’s attempts to proliferate attention-grabbing content.

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TikTok represents a fundamental shift in the social app ecosystem, away from the goal of connecting users to one another and towards the goal of generating engagement for its own sake. All aspects of the app’s design, from its content-focused front-end to its leverage of sophisticated algorithms to curate content, are engineered to maximize engagement while remaining completely agnostic as to what type of content gains traction. This focus on engagement explains the app’s resounding success, especially among young people: in the modern social app ecosystem, developers compete with one another not for your money but for your attention, and as TikTok is singularly focused on maximizing its share of your attention, it sucks the life out of competing social apps. As such, one can expect other platforms to continue to gravitate towards this engagement-centered philosophy, and while the greater social ramifications of this approach are as of yet hard to predict, they are bound to be substantial.