Social Media News | The Professor’s Pick

Facebook and Instagram

Facebook and Instagram went down this week following an alleged cyberattack. Hackers from the online group Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for the global outages, which led to both sites being inaccessible for about an hour. It is reported that AIM, Tinder and MySpace were also offline during this period. However, despite the claims, Facebook (which owns Instagram) has refused to confirm the source of the blackout with some speculation that the super-storm currently battering America may have impacted servers.

Lizard Squad has claimed responsibility for a number of previous cyberattacks. In August last year, the group sent a tweet to American Airlines claiming that there was a possibility of explosives on a plane carrying the president of Sony Online Entertainment. The flight was then diverted.

Twitter asks verified users to stop posting links to Instagram

Twitter has contacted a number of ‘verified users’ via its mobile app, requesting they stop sharing Instagram photos on the micro-blogging site. Verified accounts are owned by celebrities and other high-profile individuals to protect them from impersonation. According to Twitter, only by posting images directly to its platform, can these users be sure their fans will see them.

In 2012, Instagram blocked images from being displayed within tweets in a bid to drive more people to its own app. And it’s a move that appears to have worked, with Instagram recently announcing its active user base had grown to 300 million compared to Twitter’s 284 million.

With Twitter actively seeking to dive more multimedia on its network, the battle between the two social media players is not set to die down anytime soon. With this latest move, Twitter is clearly attempting to win the endorsement of celebrities, as it aims to position itself as the first choice for image sharing.

WhatsApp Plus users suspended by official app

Last week, WhatsApp imposed a 24-hour ban on users accessing its service via ‘WhatsApp Plus’. An unauthorised Android app, WhatsApp Plus allows users to customise and decorate their WhatsApp conversations. However, according to the official app, the suspension was necessary due to concerns that the third-party program might cause privacy leaks.

Commenting on the temporary ban, a WhatsApp spokesman said: “Our goal is always to keep WhatsApp fast and secure for the people who use it – it’s the most important thing we do”.

He went on to add: “Starting today, we are taking aggressive action against unauthorised apps and alerting the people who use them”.

WhatsApp currently boasts 700 million users who send 30 billion messages a day. WhatsApp Plus has been downloaded 35 million times since its release in 2012.

Last week, WhatsApp, which uses your phone’s internet connection to send and receive unlimited, videos, texts and images also announced a plugin for Google’s Chrome browser. Bringing the mobile app to the web, this latest development allows users to chat seamlessly between their phones and desktop for the first time. The service, which requires the most recent version of WhatsApp, works by scanning a QR code on its website. However to use desktop chat, the user’s phone has to remain connected to the web.

The multi-platform service is not currently available to iPhone users.

Pinterest to deliver targeted ads

Image sharing site Pinterest plans to improve the way it harvests user data in a bid to better monetise the site. Pinterest’s head of operations said it would focus on unlocking the potential of “intent data”, providing advertisers with a greater insight into what users want to buy.

Currently, Pinterest offers limited advertising options based on user demographics and interests. However, it is acknowledged that the company falls behind other social media players when it comes to targeted advertising. With users of Pinterest often posting images of things they want to buy, tapping into this data could prove of real value to advertisers.

Pinterest is expected to make its intent data available later this year. In addition, it is also reported to be considering allowing advertisers to utilise their own data to target existing customers who use the platform. Personal data, such as names and addresses will remain private.

Facebook to crack down on hoax stories

Facebook is making changes to its news feed to ensure users see fewer hoax and spam posts.

As well as reducing the distribution of content reported as hoaxes, suspect posts that find their way into a user’s news feed will also come with a warning. While most Facebook hoaxes are benign, a number do encourage people to click through to malware-ridden websites, compromising online security.

With Facebook committed to operating as a distribution platform rather than a publisher, the social media giant has no plans to review posts for accuracy or remove stories that people report as false.

Twitter introduces new features

In a blog post this week, Twitter announced the addition of group messaging and video to its network services. Allowing users to send a direct message to up to 20 people at the same time, the new messaging tool enables conversations with multiple followers, even if they don’t all follow each other. With Twitter keen to position itself as a key player in the multi-media space, users will also be able to create, edit and share videos of up to 30 seconds. The video feature is separate to Twitter owned short-format video sharing app Vine. The new features will be rolled out to all users over the coming weeks.

Snapchat to launch new ‘Discover’ feature

According to reports, Snapchat is to introduce a new feature that will allow brands to upload and host video and audio content on the app. The move will allow brands to create video and music advertisements targeted at its predominately young user base. Comedy Central, Food Network, CNN, National Geographic, Vice and Warner Music Group are reported to be among the brands primed to use Discovery.


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