Friday, October 14, 2016

Tracking the presidential election with social media

With just weeks until the 2016 Elections in the U.S. it is clear that this cycle has become the social media-driven elections.

No matter who you support, who you despise or who you wish would just "be quiet" there is an endless supply of Twitter tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram images and YouTube videos to variously inform, annoy or enrage. How to make sense of it all? 

First, decide if social media can help you stay informed. If the answer is "no" you can just stop here. But if the answer is "yes" then here are a few suggestions: 

Follow a popular hashtag or hashtags: Some popular hashtags this election season include #election2016, #debates, #debates2016, #trump, #clinton, #donaldtrump, #hillary, #vote, #nevertrump, #hillaryemails
Explore some new hashtags: There’s an exhaustive list of hashtags (Warning: some are NSFW) on the website.
Create a Twitter list: This is simply a way organizing the Twitter "firehose" so that it is more manageable. In other words by viewing a list you are only seeing the tweets of the people you place on that list and not all of the people you follow on Twitter. (For more how to create a list see Using Twitter lists from Twitter). Who should be on your list? A good place to start is adding the Twitter accounts of the candidates, their proxies and their official campaigns. After that add people you think are informative and helpful.

Like the pages of all the major candidates: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson
Like the pages of the political parties: Green, Libertarian, Independents, Democrat and Republican. • Use the filtering functions of Socialfixer to exclude certain kinds of posts. Although this article from ZDNet talks about using Socialfixer eliminating all political debate from your Facebook feed, the same principles can be applied to cut down on certain types of content in your feed. See How to filter politically sanctimonious Facebook posts from your news feed
• Use the USA Today/Facebook Barometer to gauge which candidates are doing better or worse based on Facebook activity (likes, shares, mentions).

• Follow the Instagram accounts of … Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein
• Subscribe to the YouTube accounts of … Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump 

I hope this is an useful primer. Please feel free to post other social media tips around the elections in the comments.

Related posts:
Fact-checking the presidential election - from social media claims to debate points
Social Media and Politics Makes for Odd Bedfellows

Updated: Fact-checking the presidential election - from social media claims to debate points

Updated to include Google's addition of a "Fact Check" category in Google News search results. See "Update" at the end of this post.

This 2016 election season in the United States has been like no other for a couple of reasons. 

It has two leading presidential candidates comfortable using social media with hordes of rabid followers tearing up the social media channels with claims real and, well, a lot less so.
Fact or Not? Fact-checking and social media
The live candidate debates have frequently degenerated into name calling and claims that are hard to believe.

What is an interested citizen to do?

Thankfully the other trend this season has been the wide range of sites offering fact-checking on what is being said by all sides. 

Here is a starter list (it could never be truly comprehensive). The links lead to a site's political coverage where many, if no most, offer live fact-checking during major debates:

Big name media outlets on the right:
Wall Street Journal

Big name media outlets on the left:
New York Daily News
The Huffington Post

Mainstream media outlets:
USA Today
ABC News
CBS News
NBC News
PBS Newshour
The New York Times
The Washington Post 
The Los Angeles Times

Fact-checking organizations:

Foreign news media:

Hip media outlets:  

Partisan advocacy organizations:
ThinkProgress  (Liberal-leaning)
NewsBusters  (Conservative-leaning)
Breitbart (Conservative-leaning)

So, whether you're fact-checking a candidate debate or another's social media post, know that you have almost no end of sources tom verify what is being said.

Google has added Fact Check as a tag to search results involving major news stories. It says it is doing this to help searchers on the web identify stories that have a fact-checking in them. Google in a web post said:"We’re excited to see the growth of the Fact Check community and to shine a light on its efforts to divine fact from fiction, wisdom from spin."

Related posts:
Tracking the presidential election with social media
Social Media and Politics Makes for Odd Bedfellows

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Social Media and Politics Makes for Odd Bedfellows

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump - 2016 presidential candidates
If you believe, as the saying goes, that "politics makes strange bedfellows," then politics and social media make for some truly odd "bedfellows."

In the current hyper-charged electoral season in the United States it seems social media streams are overflowing with political points of view ranging from bemused commentary to out-and-out hate speech for one presidential candidate or the other.

This, perhaps inevitably, has led to those posting or those seeing extreme posts to invite anyone who disagrees with them to "unfriend me now."

It’s such a phenomenon it’s become a national story with Politico, for example, reporting this week that Trump and Clinton wreck Facebook friendships.

But is "unfriending" – the Facebook term (or unfollowing or disconnecting on other platforms) – the only or even the best option?

Recently, I was asked to add some tips for a story in the Rochester, N.Y., Democrat and Chronicle: Tips to deal with political haters online.

That story featured my tips and those from Scott Talan, an American University communication teacher who studies social media and politics. His tips are all sound:
  • "Take a breath or two" and think it through before commenting on a friend's post or unfriending someone.
  • Instead of sharp opinion statements, pose questions such as "how can we trust her?" or "is he stable enough to be president?"
  • Remember that this will all be over in November, and your friendships could and should outlast the next presidential term.
  • And, in general, "try not to be like the candidates."
My additions were:
  • Simply ignore the people posting things that upset you. Facebook’s algorithm will eventually push anything they post further and further down your news feed since it gives priority to close family and friends and people you interact with regularly. You can also start interacting more with the people you enjoy — this will hasten the process of the others being pushed down.
  • If you must comment on posts, stick to facts and questions. It’s hard to argue with the former (especially if you drop in a citation and/or link). Or ask questions that might provoke new thinking.

But I got to thinking and there are other things you can do: 
  • Another way to quickly bury someone who is posting things you don’t want to see on Facebook is to use FB’s “Hide” feature (see pic). At the top right of any Friend’s post the drop-down menu will include Hide and Unfriend. The first means you’ll see a lot less from the person and (if you have a lot of friends) eventually nothing from that person unless they tag you in a post. Unfriending is the “nuclear option” and although the person you unfriend gets no notification of this they will soon figure it out if they try to message you or tag you on Facebook.
  • On Twitter a best practice is to start using the Lists feature to organize the people you follow into those who are friends and/or providing relevant posts. This cuts the “Twitter firehose” news feed down to size and can have the added benefit of ensuring you don’t see posts from people who annoy or upset you. 

And in all of this hyper-charged political season one piece of advice for anything on social media still holds true: “Would you be proud to show you grandmother whatever it is you are about to post?”

Good friends and smart people can agree to disagree on one thing and not lose a friendship over it. Social media doesn’t need to be a place where we only associate with people we agree with 100 percent of the time – that’s the kind of thinking that has turned Washington into a laughingstock…

What do you think?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Live video streaming on social media has ‘arrived’

In case you missed it this past week - live-streaming social media video has changed the world. 

While livestreamed events such as a watermelon being exploded with rubber bands or the "Chewbacca Mom" video have been Internet hits, it has been the graphic news of the past week that hints at the live-streaming’s powerful future potential.

The Facebook Live stream by Diamond Reynolds of the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in Minnesota was only the latest (and possibly most graphic) example of a livestream capturing and recording news as it happened.

The sniper attack in Dallas the next day led to numerous live video streams on Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope. News coverage on traditional media during the Dallas shootings and over the following hours consisted almost entirely of live-streamed social media video.

If live-streaming needed it’s "coming of age" moment this was likely it. What does it mean?

The live-streamed events of last week foreshadow "the biggest shift in media consumption we’ve seen since the introduction of television itself," writes Andrew Hutchinson, a writer and community manager at Social Media Today in a post called "The Evolution of Live-Streaming Could Change the Way You Consume Media - Here’s How"

"Just as online content democratized newspaper journalism, putting small time blogs on equal footing with centuries-old publications, live-streaming takes away one of traditional broadcasters’ most significant advantages, in the control of the broadcast of live events," he continues. 

"Really, social media is moving beyond its personal networking roots – there’ll come a time soon when ‘social’ media is simply considered part of the media more widely.”

But, the possibility of injury and death being live-streamed raises ethical issues.

In Live Broadcast of Deaths Raised Ethical Questions on the Voice of American Blog ‘As It Is’ Robert Thompson, Director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, says the rise in live streaming will have good consequences (holding people accountable) and bad (groups such as ISIS staging killings just for the purpose of recording them). 

"A lot of these bad things are done for the sake of the recording they are going to get," Thompson says. "You could make the argument, pretty soundly, that September 11 was planned as a television production." 

This will raise a wide range of ethical issues with live-streaming technology, but it will be nearly impossible to stop it: "Technology is relatively neutral," he says. "How do you only take the good from this and not the bad?"

And with all of this potentially graphic live content comes responsibility. 

To deal with the likelihood that more and more graphic live material will be streamed Facebook will increasingly play a policies-and-standards role in the news social media users will see live-streamed. 

The Minnesota video was off Facebook for about an hour last week - apparently while the network decided if it was too graphic and might violate Facebook's Community Standards. 

Writing for Tech Talk Quinten Plummer notes that "to determine which graphic and violent images are permitted, Facebook relies on context." 

In an article called "Facebook Live-Stream Video Gives Marginalized A Voice, But Here's Where It Draws The Line" Plummer reports: "Facebook has clarified its stance on gory and violent content. Just as is the case with video on demand, a member of Facebook's review team can interrupt a live video at any time. And a team member is on call around the clock, each day of the week." 

And, in what seems to be Mark Zuckerberg’s wish for the future of live-streaming, the Facebook CEO says: "While I hope we never have to see another video like Diamond's, it reminds us why coming together to build a more open and connected world is so important - and how far we still have to go."

Zuckerberg's wish is one many share, but the reality is this: The media landscape changed last week and the ramifications of that will be felt far and wide….

3 Things to Consider (Well) Before You Live Stream on Social Media

3 Things to Consider (Well) Before You Live Stream on Social Media

Live-streaming a news event on social media is about to be something more and more of us will consider doing. 

But what should we be thinking about before whipping out the smartphone and “going live” on Facebook Live, Twitter’s Periscope or some other live-stream video service?

1. Safety
Watching the world through a small smartphone screen as you live-stream is inherently dangerous.

You cannot see everything going on around you and if you’re moving you may not fully see where you are walking or what you are walking into. This is especially true at night.

Or, as in the tragic case in Chicago in June, you may become a crime victim while live-streaming (see Man shot and killed while live streaming on Facebook).  

The best idea? Have a "buddy" with you while live-streaming – someone who can look around and "have your back." 

2. Consequences
What are the possible outcomes of whatever you are live-streaming? And, if the worst-case scenario happens can you live with sharing that live?

Thinking about this ahead of time will likely help you, in the heat of the moment, make a decision you can live with.

A best practice? Ask yourself if (worst-case scenario) happens is this something where the benefits outweigh any possible harm?

3. Motivations
Why do you want to broadcast this event/news/happening to the world?

This will necessarily get into ethical considerations. So, again, thinking about which circumstances you will or will not stream ahead of time can help in the heat of the moment when decision-making may not be so clear-minded.

A useful resource for anyone considering live-streaming might be this article from the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank: 10 questions journalists should ask themselves before going live on Facebook

Getting started
And if you’re new to live-streaming where to begin?

The Chicago Tribune offers some good advice in 5 top tips for live streaming video on social media

Do you have experience live-steaming? What other considerations are important?