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Why Journalists Can't Quit Twitter [Content Made Simple]
Issue #305: Data privacy matters, how algos work, and more.
TOP OF THE WEEK
By some measures, Twitter usage is down from previous highs. But among the 900 or so tech and media professionals I follow, usage is basically steady. The timeline may scroll a little more slowly than it used to, but everyone is still showing up for their daily dose of sparring for retweets. And I think it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on why.
The first and most obvious reason is inertia. Journalists spent more than a decade building up their presences on Twitter, and they were never going to abandon the site collectively overnight. As long as they can still drive traffic to their stories, discuss those stories in public with their peers, and grow their audiences, they have little reason to leave. Some, like Big Technology’s Alex Kantrowitz, even see opportunity amid the decline: if big publishers won’t pay for Twitter Blue and the potentially bigger audience that comes with it, he will — and, he reasons, his own work will stand out more.
Thoughtful reflection from Casey Newton.
THE TRIVIA QUESTION
A tornado was on the ground a mile south of our house last Friday night, so it had me thinking:
Which two states are tied for the most EF5 tornadoes? (They both have seen seven of them.)
Hint: they are not neighboring states.
Answer at the bottom.
HITTING THE LINKS
Monument and Tempest, which both provide resources for patients struggling with alcohol addiction, say the leak might have also included patients’ responses to self-evaluations about their drinking habits, something Monument clearly says are “protected” and used only by its care teams. The companies blame the breach on the pixel tracking tools they included on their sites for advertising purposes.
When will we stop being okay with social media companies preying on children for their data?
TikTok didn't adequately identify and remove children under 13 from the platform, the watchdog said. And even though it knew younger children were using the app, TikTok failed to get consent from their parents to process their data, as required by Britain's data protection laws, the agency said.
“There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world. TikTok did not abide by those laws,” Information Commissioner John Edwards said in a press release.
This is a very technical look at social media algorithms.
A recommender system (or simply ‘recommender’) is an algorithm that takes a large set of items and determines which of those to display to a user — think the Facebook News Feed, the Twitter timeline, Google News, or the YouTube homepage. Recommenders are necessary tools to help navigate the sheer volume of content produced each day, but their scale and rapid development can cause unintended consequences. Facebook’s algorithms have been blamed for radicalizing users, TikTok’s for inundating teens with eating-disorder videos, and Twitter’s for political bias.
THE FUNNY PART
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Trivia Answer: Alabama and Oklahoma