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The question we aim to explore today is simply: Am I a product to sell? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is “yes”. All of us, human beings of the planet earth, are products that seek to sell ourselves in some way. We sell who we are in pursuit of a job, a girlfriend or boyfriend, friends - in short, a better life. We sell our own image and we also sell the image of other people trying to make “a perfect picture”. The important thing is to be clear about what image I want to show. These guidelines are called “Personal Marketing”.

It is essential to pay due care to how we present ourselves to the world. There are two ways to deal with this issue; the first is to present ourselves as though it does not matter at all what people may say or think about us, and the second is to mould our image to one that, while similar to our true selves, covers the expectations of the wider world and/or the market we aim to conquer. There are people who think that presenting themselves as they are can cause them to stand out from the pack - I think this is correct in a limited number of cases, as most of us must have crafted an image designed to reach our target audience.

Are social networks useful for this purpose? Of course; networks are the perfect tool to show only what we wish while hiding that which we consider undesirable or detrimental to our ambitions, instead creating an image specially designed to achieve our goals.

The first thing to ask yourself is, “How do I want to be seen?” Let’s start with a picture - would you describe yourself as sweet? Perhaps cute, bizarre, aggressive, or impulsive? What makes you, you? These traits can be conveyed effectively in our gestures and pose in a photograph attached to an online profile. Even if one says that our image cannot define us, the world will take care of talking about us and it is important to consider what they might say. The tattoos, the piercings, what do they say about me? The colours I use - do they fit with who I see myself as being?

I am a firm believer that in order to achieve the perfect middle-ground, we must be acceptable to the world without losing our essence. It is important to be clear about this; we have tastes and we must cultivate them, create a particular aesthetic, a way of seeing the world that makes us unique and special. Why should I be unique and special? Because through that individuality we will make our difference in the community. We must know who we are to know what we can contribute. Without this, we really are just one more forgotten wanderer.

For us a “like” is a sign of acceptance, of feeling part of society. I am not a pariah, I belong to this place. Actually it is a daily contradiction, I want to be original but I want to be like everyone else. So we go back to what was said in the beginning - who I am and what I want to sell depends on each one of us and such things are never easily defined.

As part of the platform’s brand new ‘Custom Intent Audiences’ suite made available via AdWords on Tuesday, YouTube is now allowing brands and marketers to  target ads to people who recently searched for related products and services on The new tool will also enable the targeting of consumers based on anonymised information that Google collects on people across its wider network of sites.

“Five years ago when we launched Google Preferred, [advertisers] wanted to navigate the entire body of YouTube a little bit more easily with more of a content lens and buying more similar to television,” said Tara Walpert Levy, Google’s VP of Agency and Media Solutions. “The ability to overlay that audience interest in order to get the right messages to the right people against that most attractive content is something the market seems finally ready for.”

Basically, the new tool would allow companies to place ads in front of people who have recently searched for or otherwise viewed relevant topics on any one of Google’s various websites and platforms, simply by creating a keyword list for the video campaign in the new AdWords experience.
“Google is taking the best of what they do with search, with maps, with some of their apps, and they’re taking that data and applying it to their TV-like object, which is Google Preferred. It’s smart,” said Susan Schiekofer, GroupM Chief Digital Investment Officer.

The new tool is just one of a series of new updates rolled out by Google in recent times, with another notable example being TrueView for Action Ads. This allows advertisers to apply customised calls-to-action along with their video ads on YouTube, with Target CPA bidding being set automatically.

In an announcement made on the official blog of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on Wednesday (Mar 15th), Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham revealed that WhatsApp has made a public commitment to not share its users’ data with Facebook following a nearly two-year investigation conducted by the ICO.

“People have a right to have their personal data kept safe, only used in ways that are properly explained to them, and for certain uses of their data, to which they expressly consent. This is a requirement of the Data Protection Act,” said Ms Denham.

“My office has just completed an investigation, which commenced in August 2016, into whether WhatsApp could legally share users’ data with Facebook in the manner they were considering.”
In short, this means that users have both the right and the need to know when their data is being collected, what that data may pertain to, and how it is being used. With the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules coming into effect from May this year, companies need to be careful as any breaches are sure to be handled seriously, and those who fail to follow proper procedure concerning the sharing of data may find themselves on the wrong side of the law. The process being considered by WhatsApp, it would seem, fell short of satisfying the required criteria.
Ms Denham reported the key finding of her office’s investigation as follows:
  • WhatsApp has not identified a lawful basis of processing for any such sharing of personal data
  • WhatsApp has failed to provide adequate fair processing information to users in relation to any such sharing of personal data
  • In relation to existing users, such sharing would involve the processing of personal data for a purpose that is incompatible with the purpose for which such data was obtained
  • If they had shared the data, they would have been in contravention of the first and second data protection principles of the Data Protection Act.
In light of these findings, WhatsApp has now signed an official ‘undertaking’ in which they have publicly pledged not to share personal data with Facebook until they can do so in compliance with the upcoming GDPR.

For those concerned about data sharing, it is worth noting that this undertaking by no means guarantees that WhatsApp will not share data with Facebook and other affiliated companies/platforms in the future, they will simply have to adapt how they do so in order to comply with the new regulations.

The prevention of cruelty to animals is no longer seen as a pastime of hippies and strange folk who sit in fields all day, and rightly so. This issue has over the past few decades taken its rightful place at the forefront of the public eye, and increasing efforts are being made to stop those who may cause harm in their tracks.

Social media is unfortunately a breeding ground for unethical and often harmful practices concerning animals. All-too-many travellers will happily post a plethora of pics showing them embracing some exotic creature, often unaware of the savage treatment, beatings and druggings the poor animal has received to place it in such a docile state. In fact, it was only fairly recently that Instagram announced their intention to take substantial steps towards resolving this particular problem on their own platforms. Photography is far from the only issue negatively affecting the natural world however, as social media is also a hub for a far more organised form of widespread cruelty – the illegal trade of wildlife.

In an effort to fight back against the poachers and illegal traders of the world who use social networks as a point-of-sale, a team of researchers from University of Helsinki’s Digital Geography Lab recently conducted a project which aimed to ascertain how we may utilise these same social networks, along with a helping hand from artificial intelligence systems, to turn the traders’ favoured communicative technologies against them.

“With an estimated two and a half billion users, easy access has turned social media into an important venue for illegal wildlife trade,” Enrico Di Minin, a conservation scientist working on the project, told Digital Trends. “Wildlife dealers active on social media release photos and information about wildlife products to attract and interact with potential customers, while also informing their existing network of contacts about available products. Currently, the lack of tools for efficient monitoring of high volume social media data limits the capability of law enforcement agencies to curb illegal wildlife trade. We plan to develop and use methods from artificial intelligence to efficiently monitor illegal wildlife trade on social media.”

So, Di Minin and the wider research team set about designing a system that they hope will be able to comb through social media posts to identify images, metadata, and phrases associated with illegal wildlife trade, including both specific products and the animals themselves. Such artificial intelligence systems are a necessity for the task at hand, as the sheer amount of data to go through would make the task all-but-impossible without.

“Illegal wildlife trade is booming online, in particular on social media,” Di Minin asserts. “However, big data derived from social media requires filtering out information irrelevant to illegal wildlife trade. Without automating the process with methods from artificial intelligence, filtering high-volume content for relevant information demands excessive time and resources. As time is running out for many targeted species, algorithms from artificial intelligence provide an innovative way to efficiently monitor the illegal wildlife trade on social media.

“Potentially, such algorithms can also identify code words that illegal smugglers use in place of the real names … by processing verbal, visual and audio-visual content simultaneously,” Di Minin concluded.

Twitter’s apparent financial woes have been widely documented throughout many an article over quite some time, so when asked to predict the best performing stock over a given year it stands to reason that you would look past the company in favour of more obviously popular apps and platforms such as the ever-present Facebook and teen-favourite Snapchat. You would however be wrong to do so.

Twitter's stock performance for the year to date has far surpassed that of rival social platforms Facebook and Snapchat, climbing by nearly 50%. This figure is over double that of Snapchat’s 24% gain and makes Facebook’s 5% look rather feeble.

Twitter’s stock is also the best performer for the past 12 months with share values climbing by more than 130% during this time. Facebook meanwhile have managed just 30%.

Whether this will prove to be an indication of an approaching end to Twitter’s financial woes, only time will truly tell. The platform does still maintain a position as one of the leading hotbeds for online discussion, and it will take a lot to remove them from the scene entirely; this latest stock report is merely further evidence of that.

There are many decent topics out there from which to derive a little humour and share a joke with the online populace; even in the case of some darker subjects humour can be an effective coping mechanism. However creating and circulating an online advert which seemingly makes light of such a serious issue as domestic violence, you would think, is obviously a stupid idea to say the least.
Some, it would seem, did not get that memo.

This time it’s Snapchat which has drawn the wrath of the online community after Twitter user @TheRoyceMann brought to public attention the fact that Snapchat had been allowing a rather controversial advert to do the rounds of their platform. The advert in question - made to promote the mobile game ‘Would You Rather?’ - can be seen below along with Royce Mann’s rather apt summary.

As I’m sure you have noticed, the ad appears to reference the 2009 incident in which Chris Brown assaulted his then-partner Rihanna in his car; a crime for which he was later convicted by a court-of-law.

After the ad became public knowledge Snapchat quickly apologised and removed the offending material from their platform while insisting it had been published “in error”.
A spokesperson for Snap Inc. commented, “The advert was reviewed and approved in error, as it violates our advertising guidelines. We immediately removed the ad last weekend, once we became aware.

“We are sorry that this happened.”

The advert was undoubtedly a bad idea, but what I do find odd in all of this is that by far the vast majority of the hate is being directed at Snapchat for allowing the ad on their platform, whilst the company behind ‘Would You Rather?’ who actually commissioned the offending material in the first place seem to have escaped scot-free. Funny that.

‘Tweetdecking’, a practice whereby teams of users, usually teens, team up to force content to go viral on behalf of a paying customer, has proven to be a highly lucrative endeavour for those orchestrating this manufactured image of popularity. It is however seen by Twitter and many of its users as a highly dishonest act which inherently undermines some of the core principles behind the social network, whilst also exemplifying the widely publicised phenomenon of the ‘social media echo-chamber’. It is also a direct violation of Twitter’s spam policy, which explicitly states that users are not allowed to “sell, purchase, or attempt to artificially inflate account interactions.”

Well it seems that Twitter have finally had enough, and decided to take drastic action against these ‘tweetdeckers’. Counter measures began in force following a BuzzFeed article which documented the practice and brought it firmly into the public eye, at which point Twitter implemented changes which prevented these users from using TweetDeck, a popular sharing app among Tweetdeckers, to retweet from multiple accounts at once. This substantially hindered their ability to easily manufacture virality at the touch of a button, but by no means solved the issue.

On Friday, Twitter unveiled their latest tactic in their quest to eliminate tweetdeckers from their platform, as they suspended several popular accounts known for not only forcing tweets to go viral for a fee, but also stealing content from other people’s tweets, if not the post in its entirety. Many of these accounts were hugely popular, with follower counts ranging from hundreds of thousands all the way up into the millions.

To be honest though, I expect these suspensions to have little if any effect in the long run. The same people will simply create new accounts, rebuild and continue as before. While creating a new account in order to circumvent a ban or suspension is in itself a violation of Twitter’s policies, something tells me these users have little regard for that fact.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on individual accounts when approached by BuzzFeed News.

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