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Andy's Roundup: WhatsApp hits 2 billion users and Zuckerberg speaks on regulation

Blog Post Author – Andy
18th February 2020

WhatsApp now has 2 billion users

🤔 What happened?

Facebook’s WhatsApp hits a new milestone as it claims 2 billion users worldwide, just shy of Facebook’s 2.5 billion.

💡My take

WhatsApp has now hit 2 billion users which is, frankly, ridiculous and just goes to show that the growth in that product shows no signs of abating. As we've seen in previous weeks, there's gonna be lots more to come from WhatsApp in terms of the ways that they're going to start monetizing the platform now it's pretty much ubiquitous.

Youtube tests 'Viewer Applause' feature for letting fans donate to creators

🤔 What happened?

YouTube is testing a new 'Viewer Applause' feature that lets fans donate to creators in very much the same way as they do on Twitch.

💡 My take

YouTube has rolled out monetization options for creators. Last week we saw how IGTV did a similar thing but it's interesting to look at the commercial arrangements as YouTube creators get to take or keep a much larger share of the revenues than is possible with IGTV. It seems the competition is very much hotting up for long-form content and how creators can monetize their content.

Regulator Ofcom to have more powers over UK social media

🤔 What happened?

New powers will be given to the watchdog Ofcom to force social media firms to act over harmful content.

💡 My take

From a UK social media regulation perspective, last week the government granted powers to OFCOM which is the regulatory body that governs the media industry and also the telco industry. They've now been granted powers for them to regulate the social media industry. Now, it's not entirely clear what those regulations are, but it's definitely coming.

How those regulations will include fines and potential impacts for executives within those firms, maybe even custodial sentences, who knows? But this is following in line with what other countries are doing.

Germany have the NetzDG law which governs hateful speech and carries a £42 million fine for anyone in breach of it so harmful content must be removed within 24 hours. Australia has gone one step further with fines up to 10% of the company's turnover so in the case of Facebook or Twitter, for example, that is very significant. There's also the threat of custodial sentences for executives.

Facebook pushes EU for dilute and fuzzy internet content rules

🤔 What happened?

Mark Zuckerberg is in Europe this week — attending a security conference in Germany over the weekend, where he spoke about the kind of regulation he’d like applied to his platform.

💡 My take

Now, Mark Zuckerberg is in Europe all week because a lot of European law around the regulation of social media networks is now coming to the fore. It's no longer okay, in the EU's eyes, for Facebook to govern itself as 'just a tech platform' while they have been making significant strides into removing fake accounts and pulling down harmful content through a team of 35,000 moderators.

It's clear from the EU's perspective that enough is not being done. From an EU perspective, there is regulation around the media industry; very strict regulation, in fact. And then there's also regulation around the telco industry, so similar to what we just spoke about with OFCOM.

However, the telecom telco industry regulation is a lot more fluid as data just passes through the telco providers. Those telco providers are not held to account for the fact that something harmful might have been said down the phone line, for instance. But what is very interesting is that Mark Zuckerberg was seemingly looking to have some kind of middle ground regulation that is not as strict as media. So it's not controlling the output but is a little more strict than telco where, you know, as a platform you need to have some responsibility for the content that's posted on it. This then gets us into some very interesting topics around free speech versus controlled content because realistically, is it good for humanity where everyone has a platform and a voice to share incorrect information? That really is the challenge of our time.

The latest update in this saga is that Mark Zuckerberg proposed what his thoughts were around regulation. He is not behind this NetzDG Law that we were talking about in Germany because hateful speech is such a broad topic as anything really could be construed as hateful speech. So he essentially wants much more fluffy and, I guess, harder to understand regulatory wordings around this. As you can expect, this is not flying from the EU's perspective.

The update from yesterday is that the reception to Mark Zuckerberg's proposal around what regulations should be, was met with universal disapproval. So more to come over the course of this week and more to come over the course of this year.

I think this is now a real landmark situation that we're in, which is going to change how we use social media going forward. I think this is a really pivotal time that we're approaching. The whole topic of free speech is going to be thrown into the limelight which makes it a very interesting time to be involved in social media. While from a day to day perspective there's not really much action you can take with the information I'm sharing here, it's certainly something for anyone that works in social to really keep abreast of at the moment because things are moving quickly!

Andy does a round-up of social media news every week. Connect with Andy on LinkedIn to get it first.

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