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Instagram tries to take on Clubhouse with audio-only livestreams

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Facebook has introduced a new feature inside of Instagram Live that allows you to turn off your phone’s camera when broadcasting. It’s also adding the option to mute your audio during a session. The former is a small but meaningful addition that sees Facebook replicating functionality from Clubhouse in yet another one of its apps. The two platforms aren’t interchangeable with one another, at least not yet. You can’t join a conversation and start talking on Instagram Live in the same way you can on Clubhouse, but that may not be important to people looking to share audio-only broadcasts.

Facebook has a long history of copying features from competing apps, with several of the most notable examples living inside of Instagram. Stories, for instance, saw the company replicate most of what made Snapchat unique after Snap rejected its $3 billion buyout bid. You also don’t have to look far to find where Facebook got the idea for Instagram Reels. Of course, the company is far from the only platform to take a page from Clubhouse. We’ve seen companies like Twitter, Reddit and even Discord do the same. 

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/instagram-live-mute-audio-disable-video-174622681.html

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Can the Oversight Board force Facebook to follow its own rules?

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Facebook’s Oversight Board finally handed down its most consequential decision to date: whether or not Facebook’s “indefinite” suspension of Donald Trump should be permanent. Except, it only sort of made a decision.

In an unexpected twist, the board said that, while it agreed with Facebook’s initial call to suspend Trump, it disagreed with its handling of the situation, and that the company should be the ones to decide whether Trump should be able to return to the platform. So, once again, the fate of Donald Trump’s Facebook account is up in the air. The social network, led by Nick Clegg, has six months to make up its mind. It could drag on even longer if it’s appealed to the Oversight Board for a second time — something the board’s members readily acknowledged as a distinct possibility.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone was happy with this outcome. The “Real Facebook Oversight Board,” a group of prominent Facebook critics, called the decision “a desperate attempt to have it both ways.” “Today’s decision shows that the Facebook Oversight Board experiment has failed,” it wrote in a statement.

On its part, the Oversight Board has suggested its lack of a clear ruling on Trump was intended to send a strong message to Facebook. “In applying an indeterminate and standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities,” the board wrote in its decision. “The Board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty.” In other words: when it comes to Trump, Facebook needs to clean up its own mess.

The Trump mess

Whatever your opinion of the Oversight Board, this particular decision seems to have caught nearly everyone by surprise. Some have wondered if the board was reacting to widespread criticism that the organization exists merely to provide political cover for Facebook. Sending highly controversial and other “borderline” cases to the group is, after all, a convenient way for Facebook to avoid making hard and inevitably unpopular decisions (particularly ones that might draw additional regulatory scrutiny).

Facebook, naturally, disagrees. “We are trying to hold the decisions that Facebook takes as a private company to the fullest possible account and make it transparent and accountable to an independent body,” Clegg said following the board’s decision.

But the Oversight Board’s decision to hand things back to Facebook speaks to issues that run much deeper than just Trump. One of the most notable issues raised by the Oversight Board in its 12,000-word decision is that Facebook isn’t particularly good at consistently enforcing its own policies, especially when it comes to politicians and other influential figures.

During a call with reporters, both Oversight Board co-chairs, Michale McConnell and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, repeatedly criticized Facebook’s ability to apply its own rules in a way that makes sense. “The Oversight Board is telling Facebook that they can’t just invent new unwritten rules when it suits them,” Thorning-Schmidt said. McConnell said that Trump’s suspension was merely one example of Facebook’s “ad hoc-ery,” noting that the board has received more than 20,000 appeals from users, many of whom don’t understand the social network’s policies or reasoning for taking action against their accounts.

Influencing Facebook

Merely pointing out the holes in Facebook’s policies only goes so far, though. The company has for years (often, credibly) been accused of making up its own rules to accommodate Trump or avoid a politically perilous decision. That the Oversight Board is now echoing some of those same criticisms changes little.

But the board does have some ability to influence Facebook’s rules, including how it treats Trump. Besides the binary take down/leave up decisions, the group also makes policy recommendations alongside each case. Unlike the specific content moderation issues, Facebook isn’t required to do what the board says, but it’s required to respond and provide an explanation.

It’s these recommendations where the Oversight Board hopes to prompt meaningful change. In the case of Trump’s suspension, it made several recommendations. Among them:

  • Facebook should “publicly explain the rules that it uses when it imposes account-level sanctions against influential users.”

  • “When Facebook implements special procedures that apply to influential users, these should be well documented.”

  • “Facebook should explain in its Community Standards and Guidelines its strikes and penalties process for restricting profiles, pages, groups and accounts on Facebook and Instagram in a clear, comprehensive, and accessible manner.”

  • “Facebook must resist pressure from governments to silence their political opposition. In evaluating political speech from highly influential users, Facebook should rapidly escalate the content moderation process to specialized staff who are familiar with the linguistic and political context and insulated from political and economic interference and undue influence.”

  • “When posts by influential users pose a high probability of imminent harm, as assessed under international human rights standards, Facebook should take action to enforce its rules quickly.”

  • “Facebook should undertake a comprehensive review of its potential contribution to the narrative of electoral fraud and the exacerbated tensions that culminated in the violence in the United States on January 6, 2021. This should be an open reflection on the design and policy choices that Facebook has made that may enable its platform to be abused.”

But Facebook has already indicated that it’s unwilling to fully cooperate. In its decision, the board says that the company failed to answer several crucial questions, including several that speak to the very issues it raises in its policy recommendations.

For example, the board states that Facebook wouldn’t answer key questions about how News Feed or other Facebook features may have amplified Trump’s posts, or whether the company intends to research “those design decisions in relation to the events of January 6, 2021.” Those questions speak to some of the most fundamental issues surrounding Trump’s suspension, including Facebook’s role in failing to prevent the “Stop the Steal” movement.

Likewise, the board said Facebook also declined to answer questions relating to its treatment of other politicians, and whether it had been “contacted by political officeholders or their staff about the suspension of Mr. Trump’s accounts,” or whether the suspension affects political advertising. According to the board, Facebook said some of these requests were not “reasonably required” under the rules that govern the Oversight Board.

All that, again, raises questions about how much influence Facebook is willing to let the Oversight Board have. The company’s treatment for elected officials, its rules for political ads and the consequences of its algorithms are some of the most consequential issues it’s currently grappling with. If Facebook was unwilling to even answer questions about these topics, it seems unlikely it would fully embrace all of the Oversight Board’s policy changes.

Moreover, Facebook already has a mixed track record in responding to policy suggestions from the board. So far, the company has only issued one set of responses to the board. And while it said it was “committed to action” in several areas, it made very few concrete changes. If it again declines to commit to specific changes in this case, then it will be further proof that the Oversight Board’s biggest critics are right: it can’t regulate Facebook after all.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/facebook-oversight-board-trump-influence-203741183.html

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‘Animal Crossing’ and ‘StarCraft’ join the Video Game Hall of Fame

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And then there were four. After narrowing down a list of 12 finalists, The Strong National Museum of Play has inducted four new titles to its World Video Game Hall of Fame. In order of release, they are 1982’s Microsoft Flight Simulator,1985’s Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, 1998’s StarCraft and 2001’s Animal Crossing. They beat out the likes of the original Call of Duty, Portal, Guitar Hero and — checks notes — FarmVille to make it into this year’s class.

Incidentally, StarCraft is the second Blizzard game to join the hall after World of WarCraft was in the first selection of games inducted by the museum in 2015. Anyone can nominate a game, but a panel of journalists and video game historians helps The National Museum of Play make a final decision each year. They strive to choose entrants “that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general.” Past inductees include classics like Pong, Tetris, Mortal Kombat and Super Mario Kart.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/world-video-game-hall-of-fame-2021-inductees-193936184.html

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YouTube TV is now available on PlayStation 5

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YouTube TV subscribers now have a new platform available: PlayStation 5. The console was quietly added to Google’s support website for the service, in a change that was first spotted by Android Police. The addition comes as Google and Roku are in the midst of a very public spat over YouTube TV.

Roku said Google demanded preferential treatment in search results and tried to push the company to make changes to its hardware that would drive up prices for its streaming devices. Google accused Roku of trying to “break the YouTube experience” in a bid to get “special treatment.” The dispute culminated in Roku pulling YouTube TV from its store last week. Luckily for subscribers, Google still supports dozens of other devices, including the latest generation of consoles. YouTube TV was already available for the Xbox Series X, and it’s now live in PlayStation Store as well.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/youtube-tv-playstation-5-184732561.html

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Amazon is turning hit sci-fi podcast ‘From Now’ into a TV show

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Following Homecoming and Lore, Amazon Studios is turning another podcast into a TV series. From Now, which debuted in December, stars Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Marvel’s Eternals) and Brian Cox (Succession) as identical twins separated by time.

Madden plays astronaut Edward Fitz, whose spacecraft unexpectedly shows up in Earth’s orbit after disappearing 35 years previously. The story deals with the aftermath of the brothers’ reunion, with Edward appearing to be the same age as when he left and his twin now an old man. From Now shot up to number two in the overall Apple Podcast charts.

From Now creators Rhys Wakefield and William Day Frank, are adapting the podcast for TV. It’s unclear whether Madden and Cox will reprise their roles, but they’ll act as executive producers. Madden is already working with Amazon. He’s currently filming Citadel, an ambitious-sounding Prime Video spy series from the Russo brothers.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/amazon-sci-fi-podcast-tv-show-from-now-richard-madden-brian-cox-175314587.html

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