February 2017

Remember a few years ago when you would get through about 20 seconds of a video, only for it to be interrupted by an ad? Remember how infuriating that was, so much so that any previous or potential interest in what it was advertising would be immediately extinguished? Well, Facebook video has just been updated to include something disturbingly similar.

The news first came down in January that Facebook were planning on adding ad-break style ads into the middle of videos, but now it looks like they're here. It's only in the testing phase at the moment, according to an official announcement by Facebook, a small group of US-based publishers have been granted access to them, with 45% of the profit going to Facebook and the rest to the publisher in question.

This is a positive step for publishers. Facebook video is pretty difficult to make money from in its current guise. The only way to really turn a profit is to make branded content, but for that the brand actually has to approach you, so it's kind of a catch 22. With these 'mid-roll' ads in place, any publisher has the potential to earn some dolla, regardless of reputation.

The ads can't appear until the video has been running for at least 20 seconds, and can't be less than 2 minutes apart. This raises the slightly worrying notion that there might actually be more than one 'mid roll' ad for the same video. The ads will also appear on live streams, and at the moment any US publisher with 2,000+ likes who managed to pull in 300 or more views in a recent live video is eligible for them.

Different rules apply to live videos. Instead of 20 seconds, the vid has to have been running for at least 4 minutes before ads can start appearing, the ads themselves can only be 20 seconds long, and the stream must have 300 'concurrent' viewers for ads to actually appear. This is probably one of the main reasons Facebook are introducing mid-roll advertising - it will allow them to jettison the paid endorsement deals for Facebook Live.

What does it mean for the rest of us though? Well, it mainly means that we'll be hit with more irritating 20 second ads than ever before on the platform, but how annoying it is depends heavily on how much time you spend absorbing video content on Facebook. For most people it's very much a now and again thing. Some shows, such as The Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, rely heavily on Facebook video for promotion, but a sizeable contingent of web-series still just share from YouTube.

If you ask me, YouTube's front end advertising format makes more sense than mid-roll advertising, you get it out of the way, and then you can watch the full video, but Mark Zuckerberg has vehemently opposed front end video advertising pretty much since Facebook first introduced video.

Politwoops - the service dedicated to documenting the deleted tweets of politicians - has had a bit of a growth spurt. In a recent announcement, they revealed that the service is now active in 54 countries, and that it can now offer much more detailed information, such as when a tweet was deleted, the times tweets are deleted most frequently, which parties do the most deleting, and more.

Politwoops first made headlines when Twitter briefly denied them access to their API, arguing that users shouldn't have to be held accountable for their tweets. They eventually regained access, as many pointed out that politicians are public figures, and thus what they say in a public forum carries more weight. They should know this, and if they say something which warrants criticism, they should be held to scrutiny. Twitter, it seemed, were in agreement.

Along with these major updates, the service is constantly being tweaked, deepened and scanned for any further room for improvement. Recently, the search engine has also been improved, adding more filters and nationally specific information. That addition is particularly significant, given the current political climate.

Trump probably isn't the best person to look at using this service, as his worst tweets tend to be the ones he's the most proud of, but other politicians who try and maintain a more measured facade should certainly be wary of it. On a broader scale, it offers a window into the kind of social media strategies politicians employ on a national scale. The kind of cross comparisons you could make using that information could be extremely telling.

The site is still a bit clunky and somewhat unintuitive, but it's only getting better, and many political journalists already swear by it, as it enables them to mine for information which politicians don't want them to see, but can't stop them from using. We live in troubling times, and it's remarkably easy for political figures and corrupt media sources to manipulate information. Twitter isn't under anyone's jurisdiction, and Politwoops makes it that much harder to exploit.

Typically, when you Google 'Facebook mental health', or similar phrases, you'll get a bumper crop of articles about how quitting the platform, or even taking a break from it is the best thing you can do if you're feeling low. Second to that, you'll get news posts about people either having public breakdowns or even being bullied on the site. Facebook is most certainly not typically associated with a healthy mind.

What Facebook is known for is stimulating discussion, for better or worse, something which male mental health support groups encourage almost above and beyond everything else. The stereotypical 'male' mentality is to suck it up, keep it to yourself and carry on, which is considered to be part of the reason why male suicide rates are that much higher. An open forum on male mental health in a safe environment would potentially provide a great antithesis to that, so why not Facebook?

There are some active examples of this. Mashable just published an extensive piece about 'FIFO Men', a group set up a few years ago to allow 'fly-in fly-out' mining workers (a predominantly male line of work) a place to discuss the various issues raised by this uniquely challenging lifestyle.

FIFO workers are something of an extreme example, they live in isolated camps, rarely get to see their families, get moved around a great deal and have to work pretty extreme hours. Mental health issues affect all of us; it's estimated that 350 million people across the world suffer from depression, while more generally speaking, 1 in 4 people in the world are thought to suffer from some form of mental illness.

Gradually, more and more support groups are appearing on Facebook. They eliminate the need to actually sign up for anything, or sit in a room with other people, and simply provide somewhere to talk with like-minded people regardless of where you are, what time it is, or what else you're doing. It might not sound like much, but it could make all the difference in the world.

Some of the groups are specific to certain conditions, while others are more general, but in either case, all it takes is some targeted keyword searching to ferret them out. All I did was run a search for 'the black dog', hit the 'Groups' tab and immediately I found Blokes v Black Dog, an Australian support group with almost 2,000 members. A second search turned up MaleSurvivor, a page which largely posts links to various relevant news material, but also the odd motivational poster. It's not much, but it's enough to make people feel like someone's looking out for them.

This is still very early, but if more and more groups like this keep appearing hopefully the momentum will carry things forward. The benefit of doing in through Facebook is that administrators can 'vet' people requesting to join the groups to make sure that they have the right intentions, and understand what the group is. Sure, the odd troll might slip through the cracks, but they're easy enough to expunge once their true intentions become evident.

Some of the larger male mental health foundations like CALM have started to support this movement, and measures taken by platforms like Instagram to recognise signs of deteriorating mental health are creating an environment on social media which will hopefully encourage people, male or otherwise, to discuss it much more openly, and speak up when they need help.

True Viral News
Earlier this month, Instagram revealed that they would soon be introducing a photo album feature, and most people (myself included) groaned at the idea of the platform finding yet another way to make itself more structurally similar to Facebook. Well, now the feature is active, and thankfully it's not quite as Facebook-esque as it first appeared to be.

Instead, it follows the 'carousel' format that Instagram have been using for their advertising for some time. When you want to upload a new photo, there will be a button on the page saying 'select multiple', which once pressed allows you to choose up to 10 different photos and videos. You can't edit them each individually, and any filters you put on will apply to all of them, as does the location tagging.

When viewed other people can just scroll through them, they won't do so automatically, an icon indicates when a post is an album. You can either post just photos, just videos or mix it up between the two, and in the edit screen you can rearrange them if you aren't happy with the original order.

Instagram have been keen to assert that this feature has lots of applications beyond, say, posting a cluster of birthday party snaps, as depicted in the predictably saccharine ad they've rolled out to demonstrate the feature.

One could argue that you could do the same basic thing with Stories, with the only real difference being that those are ephemeral, whilst these posts stick around for as long as you want them to, and are tethered to your profile rather than any kind of separate browsing function. I would argue that this feature actually allows for more creativity than Stories - it doesn't require you to stitch the photos and videos together with some kind of even-flowing narrative.

This is the kind of addition that allows Instagram to offer a little bit more, without pushing it further away from being, well, Instagram. The idea of Facebook-style albums was off-putting for this very reason, but having carousels of photos and videos is a concept which should hold a lot of appeal for photographers, and that used to be the whole framework of the platform's appeal.

ABC News
It's so hard to keep track of just how constantly and brazenly Facebook are stealing ideas from Snapchat at the moment. In a sense, it shouldn't be that surprising that a company which got sued for breach of oral contract less than a year after launching might employ less than savoury tactics from time to time, but so blatant has their copycatting of Snapchat been that you'd think they would know when to back off.

Instead, they've introduced not one, but two new updates, both of them inextricably linked to Snapchat. The first was reported on Monday, an update to the Facebook app, allowing users to send photos and videos directly from the camera screen. That's exactly what Snapchat does, but you can give a bit of leeway there as plenty of other photo apps are doing the same thing.

The second update leaves no room for leeway: WhatsApp's 'Status' feature, which previously allowed users to post a 'status' which all their contacts could see, much like you can on Skype, Google Hangouts or wherever else. Now, you can use the feature to send out pictures, with the option of drawing on them or adding stickers, and send them out to everyone on your list. After 24 hours, they vanish.

In this sense, it's almost a top-to-bottom clone of Snapchat Stories, and it's not even the first clone of Snapchat Stories Facebook have created, there's one on Instagram too. It's called Instagram Stories. Did I miss hearing about some manner of incident when someone broke into Menlo Park and stole everyone's imaginations?

There is one key difference: end-to-end encryption. It's the feature that WhatsApp have been using as their signature weapon for some time, the promise that your messaging data is always safely secured from outside attack, and it's the same here. Applying your own approach to a stolen idea doesn't make it any less stolen though, nor did it the last 16 times Facebook copied Snapchat.

The thing that really baffles me about this is that WhatsApp doesn't need to resemble Snapchat, WhatsApp doesn't have the same intended purpose, style or appeal as Snapchat, it's a separate and completely different platform. At the moment, it's just looking like a dumping ground for Facebook's more nefarious undertakings. Hopefully this will be the last time, but hope is a fickle thing.

Sputnik International
What links Russia and the UK Independence Party? There's no way to answer that question without upsetting at least one person, or at least there wasn't until this bizarre incident kicked off. Twitter is littered with pro-Russian Twitter bots, and usually their output is pretty unsurprising, but a few days ago a cluster of them trained their sites on UKIP, and their leader Paul Nuttall.

All of the content they posted was suddenly either pro-Labour, pro-Corbyn or anti-UKIP, leading some to theorise that the Russians are trying to influence the result of the Stoke-on-Trent by-election. Now, that might sound ridiculous, but remember that despite being a safe seat, Stoke-on-Trent voted 65% leave, and is thus considered a marginal, and a key pressure point for UKIP. Oh wait, hang on, it still sounds ridiculous.

Russia had previously been accused of influencing the outcome of Brexit, but the claim was that they sought to destabilise the EU, so it would make more sense for them to actually side with UKIP. They were also accused of influencing the US election in favour of Trump, which once again would suggests that their interests are more in line with UKIP's ideologies, and certainly very far removed from Labour's.

Bearing that in mind, the nature of this strange Twitter bot attack becomes even more confusing. The accounts were using images that had been lifted from real Twitter users, on topics ranging from the extent of UKIP's national support to a controversy surrounding comments Paul Nuttall made about the Hillsborough disaster.
When Alex King, who initially discovered this particular strain of Twitter bots, first found them, he reported that they were the sum parts of a coordinated campaign, which means that someone is consciously deciding what they post. That also suggests that said person has either taken a particular dislike to a party and by-election which is utterly irrelevant to Russian affairs, or they've been hacked.

Either way, it's very weird. Labour hasn't commented on the issue, but a UKIP spokesman did make a short statement, in which he said that it was highly unlikely that Putin gives a "rat's a**se about Stoke". He also said that Putin should "bot out" of the whole affair. I really hope he came up with that on the spot.

ManageFlitter Blog
Nearly every time Twitter introduce any new feature, policy or even discuss future plans, the same steps are danced - something isn't right, users express dissatisfaction, company backtracks, media start talking about their stock valuation. We haven't quite hit the 4th step yet this time around, but 1 through 3 are most certainly accounted for.

Since making good on their vow to once again crack down on inappropriate behaviour on the platform, Twitter have been introducing a host of new features, and some of them have already started to backfire. Now though, they are being accused of utilising a feature which they never even announced.

It's being referred to as 'ghost-deleting', wherein tweets are visible to the people who posted them, but nobody else, follower or otherwise. This is a similar, albeit more extreme rendition of the 'time-out' function they've put into to place to muzzle abusive users, only with that the users in question can still tweet to their followers.

Users have been claiming that their tweets have been made completely invisible to everyone except them in this way, but Twitter have said that such occurrences are the result of the tweets being mistakenly marked as spam. One of the first users to notice the ghost deleted had posted something featuring the #NotTheEnemy hashtag, which is frequently used to berate 'social justice warriors'.

It was this that led some to suspect that the tweets being ghost deleted were deemed offensive, and indeed when the same user posted the meme image without the hashtag, it didn't get deleted. When one of his contemporaries then posted it again with the hashtag, it once again disappeared. In both cases, the users weren't ever given any sort of notification about this.

That seems pretty clear cut, but another user has since reported the same thing, only with a tweet that wasn't offensive in any way, shape or form. So what the hell is going on? Are Twitter quietly ghost deleted tweets and accidentally hit an innocent one? Is the spam filter going crazy and the whole thing is just massive coincidence? Well, Twitter have made their case, but it certainly seems like there's more to this than they're letting on.

In a move that shouldn't really come as too much of a surprise, under the current administration, US Customs and Border Protection are planning to put out a proposal which will allow them to request social media information from Chinese visitors. If it goes through, they will be asked to state which platforms there are on, and provide the relevant usernames/handles.

According to reports, this won't be a mandatory clause, and there won't be any negative ramifications if people decide to opt out, but it still raises some rather unsettling implications. Border control tightening has been a major factor in US politics since Trump took office, and his stance on the Chinese is no secret - he is most certainly not a fan. Shortly after being sworn in, Trump engaged in a phone call with Tsai Ing-Wen, the Taiwanese president. No president has done this in almost 40 years, for fear of damaging the nation's relationship with China.

Under the Obama administration, there was a 'Visa Waiver' program which included the option to disclose social media information in a similar way, but that mostly applied to Europeans, and certainly didn't pin any particular nation down in the way that this does. It was more designed to test the capabilities of social media screening.

The interesting thing about targeting the Chinese for social media information is that a vast majority of them use entirely Chinese networks like Weibo, which are far harder to mine for information than Facebook or Twitter. And that's if the policy even goes through, the public have 60 days to comment on it before it goes forward, and a representative from the Centre for Democracy and Technology has already stated that they intend to object.

This proposal is nothing compared to some of the other policies which have been discussed, though. A few weeks ago, Homeland Security head honcho John Kelly said that they were considering forcing some visitors to actually hand over social media passwords before entering the country.

Even if policies as intrusive as that don't get through, they set a precedent. As Trump's attempt at a Muslim travel ban proves, his jurisdiction only gets him so far, but other nations might see that as America leading by example, nations where governmental control is a good deal firmer. Social media information has nothing to do with a person's right to travel, that should be taken as a given.

SBT Virtual
It's no secret that, in an ideal world, Facebook would rather be the only social media platform in the game, but that's not a realistic goal. Normally, they just outright ignore their rivals, if they aren't trying to squash/overtake/imitate them. What they don't generally do is actively promote their competitors, but lo and behold, they've started testing a feature that does exactly that.

Some users have started noticing a new section in between the 'About Me' and 'Featured Photos' sections - a set of buttons linking out to their profiles on networks like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and even Snapchat. There's never been anything barring users from including hyperlinks to profiles, but these buttons are clearly purpose built to do this.

So far, users have only noticed the feature on the iOS and Android app versions of the platform, no reports of any desktop appearances as yet. As is often the case, there's no guarantee that the feature will ever be properly introduced, but if it is, I can imagine it splitting users down the middle.

On the one hand, it's a classy move on Facebook's part to create some synergy between their platform and the other major players, but on the other hand it might be regarded as another way of putting user privacy at risk. Presumably it will be completely optional, but Facebook add in new features with little to no fanfare, under the radar, their default position is usually 'on', and users are left to figure out where the 'off' switch is all by themselves.

This is why so many publications are putting out information about how to turn the sound off on autoplay videos, Facebook never really bothered to make that crucial information easily accessible when they launched this hellishly irritating 'upgrade'.

Moving away from that, the question remains - why are Facebook so happy to let users link out to other social media profiles? Well, in his recent 5,000 word letter to the community, Mark Zuckerberg talked about 'social infrastructure', which as a phrase suggests that he's becoming more interested in a wider online community where each platform plays a specific key role, rather than just Facebook.

PR Daily
After hastily retracting a community service earlier this week, Twitter have added a new one, yet again intend to better deal with abuse. Now when you're on a thread and a person who you've blocked or muted also comments, you won't be notified. If someone you follow replies on the thread, you'll be told, however.

Additionally, any message which support the original poster (ie the abuser) will also be filtered out. It could be argued that it will thus be harder for users to figure out who they ought to be blocking, but is it worth taking further verbal abuse just to know which names to blacklist? I'd say no.

Blocking and muting differ in one fundamental way - a blocked user will know who did it, because they won't be able to see their tweets anymore either, whilst a muted user will still be able to see them, and thus be none the wiser. In the past, blocked users have been known to create secondary accounts just to continue harassing the people who block them, which is why muting was first introduced.

Alongside this, they've also brought in a 'time-out' feature which temporarily limits the tweeting range of users who have been reported for abuse. While in time-out, users' tweets will only be visible to their followers, but it's not clear exactly how long the time-out lasts or it changes based on the severity of the case. Abuse takes on many forms, and they can't all be treated the same way.

Twitter's ongoing fight to stem the tide of unpleasantness has largely been a losing one, as trolls have found ways to negotiate all of their countermeasures thus far. This will likely be no different, Twitter's user base is too vast to keep completely under wraps, but it's at least encouraging to see them implementing creative solutions and crucially, giving more power to the victims of abuse.

Facebook has started directing its energies further towards counter-terrorism. The platform's dedicated AI systems will soon start scanning for particular terms and behavioural patterns linked with terrorism, and then presumably place certain users on a watch list. This is the starting point of a far wider reaching project, in the future Facebook aim to be able to use the same kind of pattern recognition to flag bullying, suicidal tendencies and threats of violence.

Facebook has taken a lot of flack for its algorithmic approach to content flagging in the past, so it makes sense that they would want to develop a system which can do the same job in a more sophisticated, significant way. At the moment, the AI is 'in training', it's being shown news reports on terrorism and real terrorist propaganda so that it can learn how to differentiate between the two.

As well as looking for terrorist threats, these same AI watchdogs will allegedly also help bolster the 'tailored content' approach which Facebook are still pushing, as well as vigilantly blocking fake news stories from building any traction. In the letter Zuckerberg wrote to outline his AI plans, he also said that users will soon be asked questions from time to time to help personalise their feeds.

As far as the counter-terrorism side goes, it's a good idea, but it heavily depends on how well this AI system really works. Telling the difference between a news report and propaganda is one thing, but if key words are really such a big part of this, it could easily lead to innocent people being mistakenly put on a terrorist watch list, which wouldn't be much fun.

That in mind, it's encouraging to read that Facebook are playing the long game on this one, the development process for this system is liable to take months, or even over a year before it's ready to implement; the AI obviously has a big study schedule mapped out. Facebook is the largest global community on the internet, and while terrorist groups aren't stupid enough to openly discuss activity on it, they certainly still leave trails. Used right, this technology could save many lives.

The Next Web
Evidently it's not just Facebook who are looking to move in on Snapchat's patch. L.A. based start-up Wheel have been working away on a video-based social network which allows users to share 'video stories' with each other. Sound familiar? Well, it's clearly distinct enough to warrant an acquisition, as it's now been snapped up by none other than Tinder.

That might seem like a bat out of left field for the dating app giant, but in truth Tinder is undergoing something of an identity crisis at the moment. While Tinder's user numbers never suffered any fallout from all the negative press they weathered a few years ago, the company are still determined to fix their image, both through updating the app and seeking out other ventures, such as Tinder Social, which is basically Tinder for people who just to find new friends.

Even bearing that in mind though, this is a big venture. The big USP of this service is that users can make their videos public and then invite others to add to them. It's the same idea in principle as Snapchat's Live Stories, something which Snap have since deviated away from.

Tinder almost certainly aren't going to approach Wheel as a standalone release, though. They haven't explicitly stated what they want to do with it, but the fact that they've brought the founding team into the Tinder inner sanctum would suggest that Wheel's features are going to be integrated into the main Tinder app in some way or another, and perhaps into Tinder Social as well.

Could this mean that Tinder will have some kind of news feed or live story function in the near future which allows users to upload content to their matches? It's possible, but equally this could just be a way to make the messaging service more sophisticated. In any case, it's another step towards Tinder becoming less like a dating app and more like a social network which heavily resembles one.

With the seemingly endless run of stories about online abuse, fake news and all the other issues which continue to plague social media in the west, it can be oddly refreshing to look to China and see what developments are occurring, since often they are remarkably different and almost totally removed from our cultural touchstones. In this most recent case though, it's just bleak and disconcerting.

Reports have started coming in that two major social networks - Yizhibo and Blued - have blocked international users from using the live-streaming services. What that means is that anyone who isn't a Chinese national is now barred from live-streaming video. There was actually some forewarning that this might happen, as some new regulations put forward at the end of last year stated that internationals would have to attain a special permit before streaming.

Whether or not anyone actually picked up on that at the time, it's frustratingly unclear exactly how international Chinese residents go about getting said permit, but allegedly that information isn't even publicly available yet. So, to sum up, foreigners living in China need a special permit to stream video, and there's no way of actually getting said permit yet.  Yeah, this is just a ban, China, I hate to break it to you.

Streaming is one of the biggest guiding lights of Chinese social media, even more so than it is in the west, remarkably. Some 300 million people live streamed in China last year alone, and it's launched the career of many an online celebrity in the same way that YouTube has over here.

So, why limit access to foreign residents? Well, the Chinese government has said this whole thing about making sure that anything popular conforms to their 'socialist' ideals, in this instance they're just a little bit late to the party. This isn't the only regulation they've placed on streaming; pornography is outright banned from it now, but so is the act of 'suggestively' consuming a banana.

Are China about to kill off one of their biggest new cultural booms? Well, not kill, but certainly stifle. Even if they don't introduce any new regulations, chances are 2017 won't be as big a year for streaming as 2016 was, being that young Chinese people aren't as boundlessly loyal to the government as past generations have been, and they certainly don't like it when the government touches their stuff. There is somewhere that foreign Chinese residents can stream though - Facebook and Snapchat...

It's the weekend; you can't be bothered to cook, and a delicious pizza is just an online order or phone-call away. Domino's would go down a treat. If you're a keen Facebook user, you can even order your cheesy-feast over Facebook Messenger via the Easy Order feature; here's how;

After setting up your 'My Domino's' account in a few easy steps, you can message chatbot 'Dom' (punny, nice one) to order your favourite pizza. The Easy Order will ask you to list your favourite pizza, and with the blunt message of 'PIZZA' to our mate Dom, he'll reply with your order total and ask you to confirm with a simple YES or NO. As reported by the Mirror, since last April when Zuckerberg announced introducing the use of bots into Messenger, there are now more than 11,000 bots active on the platform.

Impolite to just demand 'PIZZA' but straight-to-the-point, right? Easy, as the name would suggest. However I can't imagine walking into a Domino's chain and just shouting 'PIZZA' at the guy behind the counter, without getting stared at blankly, being thought of as extremely rude and demanding. But that's the beauty and informality of social media, you're talking to a robot; Dom won't think you're a rude customer.

A couple of years ago, we posted about how US Customers could order via the 'Easy Order' function on Twitter, by simply tweeting Domino's a pizza emoji or #EasyOrder (after setting their order and linking their own Twitter handle to their My Domino's account).

So it seems the Easy Order has been about for a while and it's now a lot more advanced in the US, with the Twitter option, ordering via text, and even through Google Home or Amazon Echo, all powered by 'Domino's Anyware'. With the Messenger option available to us here in the UK, let's hope the Easy Order function expands like it has in the US.

It seems social media is really taking over, and for most of us, its great in making important things (like feeding your lunchtime pizza cravings) easier and more efficient. As a pizza lover, this social media take-over is fine by me!

In what is easily already the most adorable story of the year (aside from scientists discovering that bees make a 'whoop' sound when they get startled), a 7-year-old girl named Chloe Bridgewater recently wrote a letter to Google's head office asking if she could work there.

This was inspired in part by Chloe's interest in all things computer (and robot) related, but also because she liked the idea of working in an office which is essentially a gigantic playroom with bean bags, slides and go karts. According to the letter, she also intends to work at a chocolate factory and swim in the Olympics, so Google is clearly just a stopgap.

Andy Bridgewater
Even bearing that in mind, the response she got was amazing. Not only did Google send her a letter back, but the letter had been personally written by Google CEO Sundar Pichai. In it, Pichai tells her to keep following her dreams, and that he looks forward to receiving her full application when she's "finished with school". He even put a smiley face at the end.

Chloe had been encouraged by her father to send the letter, after she'd asked him where he would like to work most. Naturally, as many of us do, he said Google, and that's what sparked off the whole thing. After receiving the letter, and presumably taking a few minutes to calm himself down, Mr. Bridgewater posted it on LinkedIn. 10 million views later, the term 'viral' was starting to look like an understatement.

Andy Bridgewater
In the wake of all this fan fair, Chloe has now apparently decided that she wants to get a job at Google through media recognition, though her father has said he'd rather she focused on school, naturally. In either case, being told directly by one of the most influential people on the planet to follow your dreams has got to be a strong motivator.

Img: The Guardian
If you had told me last week that the worst Valentine's Day social media backlash was going to emanate from London Dungeon, I would have probably made some sort of confused noise, and then unleashed a barrage of follow-up questions. The main one would have been this: why on Earth were London Dungeon even posting Valentine's Day memes?

For those not in the know, London Dungeon is a popular, but utterly freakish, horrifying tourist attraction that definitely didn't traumatise me as a child. Through a combination of effects, actors and (ugh) mannequins, it seeks to recreate the grim, disease ridden depths of the city's past.

It's been a London institution for 40 years, so you would think that the social media promotion would be a bit of a no-brainer. The odd discounted ticket code here, the odd competition there, no fuss, no muss. When you actually scroll through their Twitter feed though, it becomes evident that they actually take social media promotion pretty seriously.

They banter back and forth with other pages, riff on popular memes and news items and generally try their utmost to make London Dungeon seem cool and savvy. It's a little bit amusing, and largely harmless. Or, at least, it was, until Valentine's Day rolled around.

They posted a series of memes, formatted in the 'parental advisory' black on white style, blending modern, romance-related terms with references to Victorian London horror. That doesn't sound so bad, until you realise that Victorian London horror includes the violent slaughter of prostitutes.

One post read "What's the difference between your job and a dead prostitute's? Your job still sucks!", while another said "Jack the Ripper just messaged. He wants to Netflix and kill.". Just about the only thing you can say in defence of either of those is that they're context appropriate, but then you get this: "I love a girl that's a good eater. Female translation: you're fat."

The backlash was swift, brutal, and completely justified. The Dungeon soon took the posts down, and replaced them with an apology Tweet. That's all well and good, but the question still remains - how did anyone ever think that this bizarre campaign was a good idea?

The first thing to consider is that the London Dungeon is a family attraction, so promoting it with references to murdering sex workers probably isn't going to hit the right target. I'm not sure what the target audience is for that kind of humour, but whoever they are it's probably unwise to accept a dinner invitation from them.

Even without an explanation on record (though many people on Facebook and Twitter are demanding one), it's possible to trace the cause of the problem, at least as far as the first two posts go, but the third is just outright cruel, and not linked to the history of London in any way I can figure out. It just seems to be mean for the sake of mean.

Corporate Twitter backlashes are ten a penny, but this is the worst one in quite some time, and it very pointedly highlights the need for meticulous quality control when posting on social media. This, to me, would seem to be the result of leaving it entirely in the hands of one person, who by the looks of things might need to go and see a therapist. And then start looking for a new job.

PewDiePie; some call him the King of YouTube. With the highest subscriber count of any creator on the platform (currently at over 53 million), Felix Kjellberg's content reaches a lot of people. Known primarily for his humorous gaming videos, his success earns him about $15 million (around £11 million) per year.

Recent uproar from some of his 'jokes' suggesting anti-Semitic messages has cost the 27-year-old his connection with Disney, the major trans-national corporation which bought Maker Studios three years ago to work alongside the YouTuber.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the company believe the content including the Nazi-imagery, which show him reacting to two men holding up a sign with 'Death to all Jews' written on it, was highly inappropriate, ultimately leading to the decision to cut ties with the YouTube star. This video, alongside two others with similar imagery, were viewed 23 million times before being deleted.

“Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case,” a representative of Maker Studios told the Wall Street Journal. “The resulting videos are inappropriate.”

Google, owners of YouTube, have also pulled their support for their most popular channel, cancelling a second series of 'Scare PewDiePie', and removing his channel from the spotlight 'Google Preferred' feature.

Fellow YouTube success story Casey Neistat shared his views on the matter in a vlog, and judging by the comment section, many weren't happy with what he had to say, while other's believed it was an unbiased and informative. I'm more in favour of the latter opinion, but I'll leave it here for more information and for you to judge for yourself;

The Guardian point out how Kjellberg wasn't promoting Nazi ideology, but used the images and words of Adolf Hitler for 'shock value' in his videos, in order to 'show how crazy the modern world is', (worded by Pewdiepie himself in his recent Tumblr post in a response to the uproar). I do find it bizarre that he thought his audience weren't already aware of how 'crazy' antisemitism is mind you.

Kjellberg's post continues to say;

“I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes. ... I make videos for my audience. I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary. I know my audience understand that and that is why they come to my channel. Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.”

His supporters have turned to Twitter to question Disney's and Googles actions:

With a following as huge as PewDiePie's, the messages portrayed from his content - whether intended or not - reach a lot of people. With the short but sincere explanation Kjellberg gave, it seems he’s realized his actions have had pretty big consequences, however looking at Twitter,  his support is still present.

What's your stance on the 'YouTube drama?'

If you've been on Facebook at any point during the past week or so, you might have noticed a strange purple bird appearing in comment chains. It's actually a sticker, which once animated will rhythmically (and somewhat violently) thrash its head. Where did it come from? Why is it suddenly the most popular generic response on Facebook? Most importantly, what the hell does it even mean?

Starting with the origin, we have an artist named Syd Weiler to thank for this odd little creature. While travelling during the summer, she spent some time sketching out pigeons, and turned the resultant sketches into a sticker set, which has been available on the App store since September. It made the jump to the Facebook sticker store at the end of last month.

So how does one sticker from a charming, but fairly unremarkable sticker set become the go-to meme in the space of only a few weeks? To figure that out, we have to travel to Thailand. On the 7th, a Thai user incorporated the head-banging trash dove into a weird video which also featured a dancing cat. To date, the video has been viewed over 4 million times, and after some other Thai users started using the trash dove in their own content, the floodgates opened.

Thai news outlets were talking about it, and then everyone was talking about it. A little while later, everyone was doing it. Editing the bird into videos and images is time-consuming though, especially when you can insert the little guy into any Facebook message, post or comment with a single click.

So what does it mean, then? Nothing, really, it's just a universal response. It could be sign of approval, or disapproval, or mockery, it very much depends on the context. Many memes behave like an in-joke, half the point of sharing them is to confuse anyone who isn't 'in', but in this particular case nobody is in, because the bird carries no particular meaning. It's just a purple pigeon.

From Weiler's point of view, it must have been a strange blend of exciting and confusing, it's not every day you wake up to find your name and your work plastered over the front page of every major news site in Thailand. Weiler did create a new trash dove holding a Thai flag, as a thank you, but quickly had to tweak it when it became apparent that depicting a bird with the national flag clasped in its foot is actually kind of offensive.

Syd Weiler/Huffington Post

So where next for the trash dove? Well, given that it's only been active for a little over a week, you'll probably be seeing ever greater flocks of them on your feed for the rest of the month. In a way, it's easy to understand the root of the appeal, it's almost like the purest form of a meme there is - a really silly thing, utterly devoid of context, yet somehow universally applicable. I'm sure eventually someone will find a way to ruin it, but in the mean time, bird is the word. I regret nothing.

Build Houston Online
The Super Bowl is a huge deal in America. People gather laden with fattening snacks and painted faces to communally scream at the television. Super Bowl parties are rowdy by nature. It's the trend to get overly-invested. Something about big men smashing into one another instills watchers with a primal sense of fanaticism.

While the sporting event is passed, leaving half the nation with the bitter taste of defeat and the other half with a gloating sense of glory, it hasn't been forgotten. The ever-popular commercials are circulating YouTube and Lady Gaga's halftime show remains the talk of the town.

An interesting subsection of the internet has found a way to infiltrate the sporting festivities in a way only neckbeards ... er ... Redditors can. They've created a hilarious subreddit.

Introducing /superbowl, a subreddit dedicated to superb owls. There's even a tribute to Lady Gaga's half-time show.

Superb Owl Gaga from Superbowl
Now the optimists among you may simply assume that the subreddit was created by a lover of owls, someone who appreciates the graceful beauty of these birds of prey. An experienced Redditor instinctually knows, however, that it was created for the sole purpose of confusing those who are legitimately looking for Super Bowl news.

Unsuspecting visitors expressed their confusion on the subreddit, though their honesty fanned the flames of joy for internet trolls.

It honestly took me 11 minutes of thinking to figure out the meaning of this subs Name.... from Superbowl 

I just came to this subreddit looking for, well, I guess you know from Superbowl

Sorry if this is a stupid question but why is everyone posting owls from Superbowl

Is this subreddit for superb owls or the superbowl? from Superbowl

Some Redditors responded to the very understandable confusion with scorn.

MFW someone posts about football from Superbowl

Diligent subscribers to the subreddit were whipped into a frenzy by the approach of the legitimate Super Bowl. The upcoming sporting event gave Redditors a chance to play up the name of the /superbowl subreddit.

We should get this subreddit trending tomorrow! from Superbowl

Suggest snack food for superbowl from Superbowl

My body is ready for some football from Superbowl

Mods are asleep. Post football superb owl pics. from Superbowl
The American football event came to a close with the New England Patriots winning against the Atlanta Falcons 34 to 28. Redditors responded with a couple choice posts.

Falcons Projected to have Tough Time with Superbowl from Superbowl

a Superb Owl getting owned by Falcon from Superbowl
The humour of the coincidental situation was enough to earn /superbowl the title Subreddit of the Day on 5th of February. The group responsible for handing out the title, /subredditoftheday, put together an owl-filled post to commemorate the occasion.


For those who are unfamiliar with subreddits, they are small communities within the larger Reddit message board. Google defines a subreddit as "a forum dedicated to a specific topic on the website Reddit." Subreddits can be created for any topic imaginable, from the baffling madness of /enlightenedbirdmen to the scintillating discussion of /debatefacisim.

It's another chapter in the tragic tale of Twitter's verbal abuse saga. Last week, with a great deal of aplomb, they unveiled a new anti-abuse regime. This included stopping new troll accounts getting made, cleaner search results and pushing abusive comments further down the pile. Additionally, notifications were brought back so that users could see when someone was giving them trouble.

This last change is the one that cost Twitter, as hapless users soon found that trolls were adding their names to less-than-pleasant lists. This effectively became a workaround that trolls could use to torment their targets. Following a barrage of complaints, Twitter turned the function off, and apologised.

While this doesn't hinder any of the other countermeasures, to some it's a demonstration of the fact that Twitter don't exactly have a concrete plan in place, more just a collection of ideas, each of them potentially fallible. It's not necessarily fair to blame Twitter for the oversight, trolls are endlessly unpredictable, and freakishly driven in their desire to upset people.

Sadly, this is probably only the start of a whole new set of similar issues for the platform, as it continues to struggle with its identity. One thing they're still planning to do is use IP address tracking to stop banned users from rejoining the site, which will hopefully help to curtail the 'hydra effect' which often stems from account banning.

Gordon Ramsay; of all chefs in the public-eye, he's one of the more comical and brutally honest. He's known for his harsh critiques and 'unnecessary effing-and-blinding' that your upper-class Nan can't possibly sit through, prompting her to reach for the remote to watch Delia's cooking show instead.

More entertaining and definitely more offensive than fellow celebrity chef and family man Jamie Oliver, Ramsay took to the wonderful world of Twitter to roast (or sometimes praise) his follower's submitted meals. These people are brave, I'll tell you that, some got some pretty harsh responses...

Starting with my favourite response of the bunch, its Ramsay all over. A simple question, but so back-handed you can't help but applaud the wit:

I mean, that meal is probably taking the mick, the photo most likely found on some weird place on the internet. But people sending in these kind of things prompt some brilliant replies;

As a nation of cheese-lovers, that looks quite nice Liam, spot on if you ask me. Forget the expert chef's opinion...

Ah, remember that iconic moment. Idiot sandwich - still funny and the pinnacle of Gordon Ramsay's harsh but hilarious critique:

He even bashed a good old, great british fry-up;

I wouldn't say painful, but something doesn't look quite right with that Steve. Where are the baked beans and hash browns? 4/10 from me; I'm not-a-professional chef but know what a fry-up should include, jheez.

The chef was surprisingly full of praise for some submissions. Here's his short-but-sweet tweet of support for a hard-working mum who made a successful family meal:

And a lovely response to this tasty looking dish:

 But then again, the brutal responses continue:

Clearly not impressed with the preparation there.

So there you have it. A laugh at Gordon Ramsay's hilarious honesty. If you're sending in a photo for an expert opinion, prepare vegetables properly, don't miss out vital parts of your fry-up, and chill out with the amount of sandwich filling, unless you want to be called an idiot sandwich.

Washington Post
It's always interesting when another publication joins Snapchat Discover. Recently, there's been a trend of older, more established print names joining up in order to expand their appeal to younger audiences, and The Washington Post are the latest to follow that trajectory. The key difference? TWP will be updating constantly, making them Snapchat's foremost source of breaking news.

Most of the early stories were, as you might well expect, centred around Donald Trump's various doings, but there was also a tongue in cheek piece about Pizza Rat, remember him? Yeah we had to think for a minute there too.

TWP have actually been playing around on Snapchat for a while, but they've never offered exclusive content before, let alone such enormous quantities of it. A lot of other publications are either actioning or planning to action a similar strategy in the near future, which will likely help turn Snapchat into a much more significant, viable news source.

You can see why the Post and others would want to appeal to a younger audience, but in truth this could end up having a somewhat opposite effect - attracting more older people to the platform. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, but it may change the way that publications choose to present their content.

Along with publications, Snapchat is starting to feature more full fledged shows. Their US-based news show Good Luck America is returning soon, and in less political terms, their reality show Second Chance is due to start airing in April.

If there's one thing you can more or less guarantee has made a clean leap into the mobile world, it's the weather forecast. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't primarily check the weather on their phone, it's just the most convenient way of doing it now. Which weather app you use entirely depends on accuracy. Here in the UK, the Met Office app tends to be considered the best option, but now Facebook have thrown a spanner in the works.

In a recent update, a weather forecast feature was added to both the desktop and mobile platforms. On desktop, you get it through the news feed, while on mobile, it's nestled in the 'More' menu. The data it uses comes from Weather.com, and their Weather Channel App tends to be one of the more popular meteorological options, particularly in the US.

Along with the standalone function, it looks like the top of the News Feed will soon start telling you what the weather's doing, so don't be surprised if you start to see a fresh influx of 'ugh, rain again' status updates in the not too distant future. That feature is technically already active, but it doesn't crop up all that often, it will do soon.

Beyond this, you'll be able to set notifications for weather reports, so if you've got somewhere to be, or you're planning an activity which could be stymied by adverse conditions, Facebook has your back. Obviously it will track your current location as standard, but you'll be able to get updates for as many locations as you damn well please.

The graphics and headings all fall into line with the twee, saccharine motif that Facebook are so very fond of at the moment, but it's an attractive interface regardless. The feature should be more or less universally available by the end of the month.

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