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Truth Is Dead

admin   August 30, 2020

When popularity on social media becomes a yardstick of measuring success, trolling, fake news, doctored posts and a lot of propaganda and promotion becomes the norm

BY AMIT KHANNA

Technology has opened up absolutely amazing possibilities of mass communication and personal engagement. In the past few years, we have an unprecedented situation in human history where almost 5 billion people are just one button away from each other. According to Statista, a global media research firm, 4.57 billion people were active internet users as of July 2020, encompassing 59 per cent of the global population. China, India and the United States alone contribute 70 per cent of these users. Another billion are online occasionally.

Virtually everyone using the Internet is active on one of the many leading social media platforms. Even as hundreds of millions wake up to a good morning message from friends and family, an equal if not more are busy spewing venom ad nauseum.

This democratization of media has challenged decades of conventional wisdom of communication. Anyone anywhere anytime can express an opinion, criticise, endorse, abuse, applaud and contradict others. Social media, an omnibus term for all applications and services which allow one to one, one to many and many to many interactions has upset the status quo in politics, diplomacy, news, arts and entertainment and, of course, interpersonal relationships.

Unfortunately, while billions of people are “posting” on social media constantly, they are not ready to face the consequences, social, political, cultural, economic or psychological. So now, a blame game has begun on the insidious ramification of an always-on society. But, most are blaming platforms, websites and applications for their own inability to handle the cataclysmic change in our lives, real and virtual. It is we who are irresponsible in our comments on social media.

The transition from traditional media to social media engagement has been rather swift. Unlike the known power paradigm of newspapers and broadcasting, social media is anarchic. In a peculiar democratic way, it gives the control of not only what to say but when to say it. Look how YouTube has given an outlet for millions of people an opportunity to showcase their talent. Or how Wikipedia has become a source of information and Google fountainhead. A fountainhead of digging out even the tiniest fragment of news from obscurity. User generated content is the bedrock on which social media giants have been built. When individuals post on various topics, an inherent bias is likely. When popularity on social media becomes a yardstick of measuring success, trolling, fake news, doctored posts and a lot of propaganda and promotion becomes the norm.

Since the last few years, there has been a constant chatter about politics, specially elections being influenced by fake news and social media manipulation. In fact, now apps and platforms are often unfairly accused of being partisan and manipulative. What most people do not realise, leave alone understand, is that the rules of a networked society are being written every minute and virtual anarchy for a while is a foregone conclusion. No media or journalist ever talks about their political biases or their editorial slant, yet it’s an open secret who stands for what. Why blame social media for similar biases? After all, journalists take refuge under freedom of expression all the time.

Has journalism ever been truly independent? The answer is “no”. What is unpalatable to traditional media and its practitioners that their relevance and importance is getting usurped by tech upstarts. Not only that, these Internet-driven companies are the new corporate giants. With billions of dollars’ net worth and hundreds of millions of subscribers they are also an integral part of our day-to-day life today. The problem gets compounded, as it did, when traditional media like print and TV started a symbiotic relationship with social media a decade ago. A newspaper covers a story based on a message from someone, it gets quoted on social media and TV runs endless debates on this source-based information. Another network picks it up and starts a fresh debate. Welcome Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp , Snapchat, Tik Tok et al and the virtual world is on fire. This de-value chain gets started with different linkages but, ultimately, all participants use one another to further their own interest.

Like two parasites, both are now feeding on each other and only spewing out malcontent for the gossip-hungry consumers. Nothing spreads more or faster than malice or panegyric. With millions of trolls on all sides of all divides, viciousness is a foregone conclusion. Now, armed with bots or other smart algorithms, even AI, one can get millions of likes or dislikes in a matter of hours. Trolling is big business. Fake news be damned. Blame game has a billion progeny. “The first rule of social media is that everything changes all the time. What won’t change is the community’s desire to network,” says social media expert Kami Huyse.

Thanks to the Internet, each person with marginal views can see that he’s not alone. Conversely, the majority reasserts its position more emphatically through social media. Platforms are not here to balance views or change public discourse. In fact, there is a direct correlation between a surfeit of news and falling standards of public discourse. Social media amplifies good and the bad. Social media is about discovery. When users find one another via social media, they respond. No wonder tweets, posts, pictures, some original, mostly photoshopped or forwarded fill terabytes of virtual space every minute. Likes, hates, emojis and memes are reinforcements of personal or collective emotions, negative and positive alike.

The ongoing Sushant Singh Rajput case is just one example. Every political or social issue has a 360 degree maelstrom triggered by social media. It’s not that social media is always harmful. It has successfully given voice to marginalised people, brought forgotten issues upfront and connected forgotten friends. For many, social media is the only shelter from the humdrum of life. Without social media, social, ethical, environmental and political ills would have minimal visibility. Increased visibility of issues has shifted the balance of power from the hands of a few to the masses. The flipside is the amount of vitriol generated on social media.

Personal agendas drive a lot of the commentary on these apps.

Social media is slowly killing real activism and replacing it with ‘slacktivism’. While social media activism brings an increased awareness about societal issues, questions remain as to whether this awareness is translating into real change. It is not surprising that governments all over, irrespective of political ideology, want to control social Internet-based content and apps. Even heads of governments and opposition leaders are haranguing on Twitter.

As we have seen in recent times, mainstream media is obsessed with sensationalism, eyeball grabbing breaking news and rhetoric. While screaming anchors lead the charge on TV, it’s a motley group of cheerleaders who lead the troll armies. Many public figures who owe their existence to social media are up in arms when the same social media is used to demolish them. Facebook and Twitter and such like apps run a legitimate business with well-publicized business policies. As long as they follow the rule of law, how can anyone accuse them of being partisan. It’s their platform, their business, it’s for them to decide the rules of use. Are all journalists and media free of bias. Can I, as a citizen or organization, force a publication or TV channel to give me space and time and be equitable in their coverage of politics.

Let the first stone be cast by the one who has not used (abused?) media/social or otherwise.

Amit Khanna is media guru, poet, lyricist, writer, filmmaker and historian. His latest book Words, Sounds, Images (published by HarperCollins India) is ambitious and encyclopaedic in scope, a first-of-its- kind book that presents the history of media and entertainment in India – from the times of the Indus Valley Civilization right up to the twenty-first century

(This column by Amit Khanna was originally published by IANS)


Facebook Launches Paid Online Events

admin   August 18, 2020

Now event organizers and Facebook Page owners  in 20 countries around the world including India that meet the platforms partner monetization policies can start charging for online events enabling millions of small business to make money on Facebook

Facebook has created a new events feature that would enable businesses to launch online events on their Facebook pages free of cost except for payments made via Apple’s IoS App. Facebook has mentioned that it doens’t  take a fee from purchase made via Android version of the App.

From now on small businesses, creators, artists, educators and media publishers can generate revenue from holding online events on the Facebook platform. Facebook Pages can host events on Facebook Live to reach broad audiences, and the platform is testing paid events with Messenger Rooms for more personal and interactive gatherings.

“Today we’re launching the ability for businesses, creators, educators and media publishers to earn money from online events on Facebook. Now Page owners can create an online event, set a price, promote the event, collect payment and host the event, all in one place,” said Fidji Simo, Vice President, head of Facebook App in a blog post.

Simo said Facebook requested Apple to reduce App Store’s  30 per cent commision but they refused.

“We asked Apple to reduce its 30% App Store tax or allow us to offer Facebook Pay so we could absorb all costs for businesses struggling during COVID-19. Unfortunately, they dismissed both our requests and SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) will only be paid 70% of their hard-earned revenue. While Facebook is waiving fees for paid online events we will make other fees clear in the product.”

Simo’s post stated that  Facebook saw live broadcasts from pages double in June 2020 compared to the previous year. “In our most recent State of Small Business Report with OECD and World Bank, we found that access to cash continues to be the most common ongoing challenge for SMBs. Only 19% of surveyed businesses were getting any financial help (down from earlier in pandemic). Many businesses are struggling and every cent matters. Shifting in-person events to online is costly enough that businesses shouldn’t have to worry about fees charged by platforms.”

Facebook said a one-time access charge is collected when guests register to attend. “Enabling an admission fee is done through the event set-up process and requires you to sign our terms of service and have a payment account on file”.

Simo said to support small businesses and creators, Facebook will not collect any fees from paid online events for at least the next year. “For transactions on the web, and on Android in countries where we have rolled out Facebook Pay, small businesses will keep 100% of the revenue they generate from paid online events.”

Once your Facebook page has cleared monetization review, Page owners can move forward with creating their event. For the time being, online events can only be created on a computer.

Event organisers can select one price per event. Once an event is published, the event organisers will not be able to change the price.

Paid online events are currently available to eligible Facebook Pages in the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, the U.K. and the U.S.

You can join Fidji Simo for a Facebook Live with entrepreneur, fitness business coach, and mentor, Rachel Holmes on Tuesday, August 18 at 9:00 AM PT. (India time August 18, Tuesday 9.30 PM).


The World This Week: Business

admin   August 6, 2020

HT Media has acquired Mosaic Media Ventures that operates digital media properties VCCircle and Techcircle. Adding to them, Mosaic Media also operates subscription-based research databases, VCCEdge and SalesEdge. News Corporation (News Corp), an American mass media and publishing company had acquired Mosiac Media Ventures in 2015.

Facebook has introduced ‘official music videos’ in India to showcase music videos from labels like T-Series Music, Zee Music Company, and Yash Raj Films on its platform. The music video experience on Facebook is available in India, Thailand, and the US. Users in India will be able to watch content from the country’s top music labels – T-Series Music, Zee Music Company, and Yash Raj Films.

Microsoft has confirmed that it is continuing talks to purchase the US operations of Chineseowned video-sharing app TikTok. Microsoft chief Satya Nadella had a conversation with President Donald Trump about the acquisition, the tech giant said.

James Murdoch, the younger son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has resigned from the board of News Corporation citing “disagreements over editorial content”. In a filing to US regulators, he said he also disagreed with some “strategic decisions” made by the company. The exact nature of the disagreements was not detailed.

Eros International Plc and STX Entertainment have completed merger to form Eros STX Global Corporation. Combined company creates a financially robust global studio leader across 3 continents with strategic content and distribution partnerships for an ‘unprecedented global footprint’.

Sony has announced two-new 4K televisions under its Bravia lineup. Named as Bravia X8000H and X7500H, the models come with the company’s own TRILUMINOS display and are powered by X1 4K HDR Picture Processor. The all-new TVs are equipped with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos technology

Chinese drama Enigma of Arrival quashed Dolittle and Jojo Rabbit to take the top spot in theaters’ second weekend back in business, while a local animation bested the whimpering China debut of Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog. The $87 million-budgeted Sonic’ broke records in its February premiere stateside, attaining the highest opening figures for a video game movie adaptation to date with an estimated $57 million three-day debut. In China, it opened with just $1.27 million, according to leading Chinese data tracker Ent Group.

Netflix is finally rolling out a feature to let subscribers stream content up to .5 times slower or 1.5 times faster. Now, Android users are officially able to control their streams on their mobile devices, letting audiences manage the speed of their binge-watching in the
palms of their hands.

Xiaomi has announced a partnership with Disney+ Hotstar, India’s leading premium streaming platform. The association brings the latest and biggest Bollywood movie titles directly to millions across the country, under the Multiplex banner. The Multiplex Banner feature on Mi TVs will allow the viewers to access these movies two hours prior to the official release.

Mainstream TV OTT was launched when the world of Malayalam movie goers barely had any options to watch and enjoy movies. Mainstream TV is available on iOS, Android, Fire TV and Chromecast. One can book the ‘Balcony Ticket’ in Mainstream TV and enjoy the movie same way as you enjoy it in a theatre.

BY THE NUMBERS

21
Age of Google

6 billion
Number of search requests everyday

100 billion
Emails processed by Gmail

500 hrs
Content uploaded in YouTube every minute

1 billion
Number of hours we watch YouTube