What cool means today

💡 The Big Idea

In 2020, it’s cool to care. And the changing nature of cool is affecting what shoppers buy, who they follow, and how companies behave.

Here’s the TLDR to our field guide on the new meaning of cool.

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Author: Quartz Staff

Who is Ratan Tata’s trusted office companion?

Everyone needs a friend, even a well-heeled businessman like Ratan Tata.

Yesterday (Nov. 18), the former chairman of the over 150-year-old Tata Group shared photos of Diwali celebration with the legendary dogs of Bombay House, and his “office companion” Goa.

Bombay House, an almost 100-year-old building in south Mumbai, is the global headquarters of Tata Group. The building is also home to a bunch of adopted Indian stray dogs. And Goa is the leader of this pack. “He was the stray puppy who got into my colleague’s car in Goa and came all the way to Bombay House, hence we named him Goa,” 82-year-old Tata wrote on Instagram.

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Author: Niharika Sharma

Facebook and Twitter CEOs face Senate hearing over handling of 2020 US election – video

The chief executive officers of Twitter and Facebook appear before a US Senate hearing to testify about allegations of anti-conservative bias and their handling of the 2020 election. Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg face questioning for the second time in as many months, with Republican lawmakers alleging – without evidence – censorship of conservative views

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ByteDance Gets 15-Day Extension on US Order to Divest TikTok: Treasury

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration granted ByteDance a 15-day extension of a divestiture order that had directed the Chinese company to sell its TikTok short video-sharing app by Thursday. TikTok first disclosed the extension earlier in a court filing, saying it now has until Nov. 27 to reach an agreement. Under pressure from the U.S. government, ByteDance has been in talks for a deal with Walmart Inc and Oracle Corp to shift TikTok’s U.S. assets into a new entity. The Treasury Department said on Friday the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) granted the 15-day extension to “provide the parties and the committee additional time to resolve this case in a manner that complies with the Order.” ByteDance filed a petition on Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia challenging the Trump administration divestiture order. ByteDance said on Tuesday CFIUS seeks “to compel the …


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Author: Reuters

Prison Inmates Are Going Viral on TikTok

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In the past year, people in prison have posted TikTok videos dancing with their cellmates, showing off their commissary purchases, giving tutorials for heating food or making phone chargers, and just hanging out.  

Like most other TikTok users, they’re combating boredom or trying to make a name for themselves online. But outside the walls of the prison, the viral videos are helping to fight misconceptions of mass incarceration in the U.S.

“People became so hyped up about this because they got to see what it’s like behind the wall,” Kevin Smith told Vice News. “It’s like a whole ‘nother world.” 

Smith received a work release from Florida’s South Bay Correctional Facility in April after finishing a seven-year sentence for falsely impersonating a police officer. He only started posting videos on TikTok a week before his release, knowing at that point, he’d be less likely to get caught.

Cell phones are contraband in prisons. Lawmakers argue the policy prevents crimes from being orchestrated through prison walls. But their motivations might not only be to protect the public but also hide horrible prison conditions from them.  

Some popular TikToks, for example, showcase the less-than-appetizing prison canteen food and the bleak living conditions—as well as how inmates transform everyday objects to make the most of them. They cook their food with bed frames turned into hot plates or lighting fixtures wired up to boil hot water—even though they risk electrocution. 

“It’s not any place that you want to end up,” Smith said. “I knew that it was a bunch of kids on there, so I kind of wanted to post it as like a reality of what would happen if you go to prison.”

The punishment for getting caught with a phone ranges from having visitation rights taken away to time in solitary confinement. Some prisoners even risk getting years added onto their sentences. Smith maxed out his sentence to 8 and a half years, after being caught with a cell phone several times and sent to solitary.

But the videos are one of the few times the public can see the everyday humanity of prison life, especially through the lens of a younger incarcerated generation. And the need for connection far exceeds the risks taken, according to Bianca Tylek, the founder and executive director of Worth Rises, a national criminal justice advocacy organization. 

“People on the outside are seeing people on the inside as people,” she said, “many times who are young, as people who are charismatic, as people who experience joy and pain and all of these same sentiments that we do every day. And I think that’s really, really critical.”


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Author: Stevie Borrello

Parler, Gab, MeWe, and Rumble Are Creating a Massive Right-Wing Echo Chamber

Listening to right-wing influencer Dan Bongino this week, it would be easy to think that the end is nigh for Facebook and Twitter and that soon we’ll all be using alternative social networks like Parler, Gab, Rumble, and MeWe.

Of course Bongino, as an investor in Parler, has a vested interest in getting people to join these new platforms, where his worldview is welcomed with open arms. But since Bongino is one of Facebook’s top performers, there is little chance that he’ll be giving up a platform where he has 4 million followers any time soon.

Despite Bongino’s rather disingenuous pronouncements that people should leave Facebook and Twitter for Parler, it is clear that there has been a significant spike in users who are at least taking a look at these so-called “free speech networks.” And while these networks don’t pose a danger to the dominance of the mainstream platforms, their growing numbers are creating a right-wing echo-chamber where users are exposed to more extremist views and the possibility of being further radicalized. 

In the wake of the presidential election, Facebook and Twitter have clamped down on election misinformation, leading figures like Bongino, conservative radio host Mark Levin, and Fox News host Sean Hannity to claim that these networks are biased against conservatives, when the reality is that the platforms are simply labeling misleading posts. Conservative voices continue to top lists of the best performing content.

Topping the list of alternative networks is Parler, seen by some as an alternative to Twitter. The Nevada-based company, founded in 2018 by software engineers John Matze and Jared Thomson, announced Thursday that its membership had almost doubled since the election, from 4.5 million to 8 million.

This has been driven by figures like Bongino, as well as Levin, and Fox News presenter Maria Bartiromo, who tweeted last week that she was quitting Twitter, and her followers should join her on Parler. A week later, Bartiromo has not quit Twitter, but she now has more followers on Parler (1 million) than she does on Twitter (886,000).

As well as offering a home to figures like Alex Jones, who is banned from all mainstream platforms, Parler has become a new hive of activity for the Stop the Steal movement, as well as QAnon followers.

There is also MeWe, seen as an ad-free alternative version of Facebook, that has become a major anti-vaxx forum. It has added a million new users in the last week, the company said.

Gab, which has been banned from Apple’s and Google’s app store for hosting extremist content, claimed in an email to users on Wednesday that its traffic for the last week was almost the same as for the entire month of October.

“Gab isn’t growing because of ‘celebrity’ endorsements, sponsorships, or big paid advertising budgets, but rather from the most powerful form of advertising on the planet: word of mouth,” Andrew Torba, Gab’s CEO claimed in the email.

Finally, Rumble, a conservative alternative to YouTube founded in 2013, has been on a “rocket ship” of growth according to its CEO Chris Pavlovski, and its app has been at the top of the app store charts this week.

Despite this influx of users, the number of views (sorry, the number of “rumbles”) on the videos on Rumble’s homepage number in the low thousands, compared to the tens of millions of views for videos on YouTube’s homepage.

Rumble

Rumble is not going to replace YouTube any time soon, but it is becoming part of a right-wing echo chamber that helps amplify and reinforce the beliefs its users hold.

And that shift is already happening.

On Wednesday night, Pavlovski tweeted that for the first time, Parler was now sending more referrals to his website that both Facebook and Twitter combined.

In the world of Parler, Gab, MeWe, and Rumble, users who left Facebook and Twitter because their posts about the election being stolen were censored, will find an entirely new world, with ample “evidence” to back up their beliefs. 

Take, for example, a video posted by MMA star Tito Ortiz that claims to show a “poll worker” in Colorado tearing up a ballot for Trump. The video was actually created by a TikTok user who has admitted on Facebook that the video was a joke.

Parler

On Parler however, it has been viewed over 1 million times, without any labels from moderators to indicate that the video is fake. 

The danger of this shift to these smaller platforms is not just that users will have those beliefs reinforced, but that they will be exposed to other ideas, such as those promoted by militia and boogaloo communities, and be further radicalized. 

“The risk in a mass migration to smaller, fringe platforms is that they do not enforce the same guidelines as older, more established platforms, meaning there is potential for not only echo chambers to form, but for extremist groups to make use of these spaces to organize offline activity or to promote more extreme material and beliefs than they might on larger platforms,” Ciarán O’Connor, an analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told VICE News.

Here’s what else is happening in the world of disinformation.

Facebook cannot stop the “Stop the Steal’ movement

Last week Facebook removed a viral “Stop the Steal” group that gained over 360,000 members in under 34 hours, making one of the fastest-growing groups in the platform’s history.

But almost immediately, alternative groups with almost identical names appeared up. Now, a week later, new research shows the scale of the problem on the platform.

There are now at least 78 public “Stop the Steal” public groups on Facebook, according to extremism researcher Marc-André Argentino. The three biggest groups have 103,000, 52,000, and 10,000 members respectively, and 11 of the groups have generated 1.7 million interactions between them.

And this is just the part of the problem that is visible: many of the founders of the original “Stop the Steal” movement have created a private Facebook group, where they continue to spread the kind of misinformation that got the public group shut down.

The Biden campaign blasts Facebook for failing to call their man president-elect

On Wednesday Reuters reported that Facebook and Google were going to extend their political ad bans for another month, a move designed to stop campaigns from spreading misinformation targeted at voters. The report cited an email from Facebook to advertisers  in which the company said that “while multiple sources have projected a presidential winner, we still believe it’s important to help prevent confusion or abuse on our platform.”

In response, senior adviser to the Biden campaign Megan Clasen blasted Facebook for what she saw as its failure to openly call the election for her employer.

So is Facebook failing to say that Biden won the election? Well, no.

On Saturday when multiple media outlets called the race for Biden, the company put a notification at the top of Facebook and Instagram that said “Joe Biden is the projected winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election.” And it has also been putting this information in labels alongside posts from President Donald Trump as well as in its Voting Information Center.

Facebook

So what about the letter? “I think there was a little nuance lost in the email sent to advertisers,” one Facebook source told VICE News.


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Author: David Gilbert

YouTube Is Doing Basically Nothing to Stop Election Misinformation From Spreading

Here’s what happens if you post election disinformation on YouTube right now: The video will not be taken down, even if it includes multiple false claims. A small fact-checking label may be applied and the video probably won’t be promoted in YouTube’s recommendations or search results. But, the video will remain on the platform and it can still be monetized.

That’s paraphrasing the real policies somewhat, but essentially this is how YouTube’s light-touch approach to moderation works, in the wake of the most hotly-disputed election results in U.S. history.

The result is that election misinformation is rampant on YouTube, with videos spreading completely baseless claims about fake election results racking up millions of views and earning YouTube and the content creators money from ads and merchandising.

YouTube claims that by not promoting the videos in search results or through its recommendation algorithm, it limits the videos’ reach. 

But, right-wing channels seeking to promote unfounded claims of election fraud and vote-rigging have short-circuited YouTube’s efforts, utilizing other social networks to create a feedback loop that actually helps spread the misinformation even further.

Here’s how that works:

First, a baseless claim is shared on Twitter by an account known for sharing conspiracy theories. In this case, it was the claim that RealClearPolitics had rescinded calling Pennsylvania for Joe Biden (in reality RCP had never called Pennsylvania for Biden in the first place). 

Twitter

Next, a high-profile right-wing figure picks up the claim. In this case, Rudy Guiliani posted on Monday evening that “Real Clear Politics just took PA away from Biden and made it a toss-up.”

Twitter

Then, three hours later, a right-wing YouTube channel published a video centered around that claim.

Within hours the video was racking up hundreds of thousands of views, even though YouTube’s algorithm is not recommending the video or surfacing it through search results. This is thanks to the video being shared widely on Facebook Groups, most of them private, who help boost the baseless claims.

YouTube

By Wednesday morning, the video had racked up almost 1.8 million views. The video is so popular that not only is the channel making money from ads, it has also begun selling merch under the video — something YouTube takes a cut from too.

YouTube

Not only has YouTube not taken the video down or demonetized it, it has even failed to apply the perfunctory label telling viewers that the election has already been called for Joe Biden.

The video was created by Gary S. Franchi, host of the New News Network and a known conspiracy theorist. Franchi was listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as someone spreading hate, after he helped promote the false claim that the U.S. was building concentration camps for Americans who disagreed with the government. And yet, last year YouTube gave Franchi a gold Creator Award.

But it is not only conspiracy theorists who are spreading this type of misinformation on YouTube. 

The president’s own official channel posted a video last week entitled “If you count the legal votes, I easily win.” On Tuesday, right-wing news outlet One America Network posted a video titled “Trump won.” 

While YouTube has labeled that video, it remains on the platform, has already racked up 300,000 views, and continues to be monetized.

These are among dozens of videos that either falsely claim Trump has won the election or that Biden has stolen it. 

YouTube didn’t respond to a VICE News request for comment, but in a statement to the New York Times, YouTube defended its position by saying that “the majority of election-related searches are surfacing results from authoritative sources, and we’re reducing the spread of harmful elections-related misinformation.” 

The path taken by the particular lies about RealClearPolitics, moving from Twitter to YouTube and onto Facebook and back to YouTube again, shows how ineffective YouTube’s policy is.

“Like other companies, we are allowing discussions of the election results and the process of counting votes and are continuing to closely monitor new developments,” a YouTube spokesperson added.

But by allowing misinformation to spread so easily on its platform, YouTube is endangering its users at a time when a quarter of all Americans rely on YouTube as a primary source of news.


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Author: David Gilbert

Twitter, Facebook Censor Trump’s Posts About Election

A number of social media messages posted by President Donald Trump in recent days—namely those about the election results, problems and irregularities with vote counting, election observation, and lawsuits filed—have been censored by Twitter and Facebook. Lawmakers and experts say that such activities restrict free speech and the Big Tech should be reined in. Since Nov. 5 more than a dozen messages posted or retweeted by President Donald Trump have been censored by Twitter. Some messages posted by Trump were hidden by Twitter on Trump’s timeline and covered by labels saying, “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.” For example, Trump posted a video on Nov. 5 that was censored. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1324541720583905286 In the video, Trump said, “Detroit and Philadelphia are known as two of the most corrupt political places anywhere in our country—easily. They cannot …


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Author: Ella Kietlinska

Facebook Shuts Down Large Pro-Trump ‘Stop the Steal’ Group for Spreading Election Misinformation and Calling for Violence

Facebook has officially shut down “Stop the Steal,” a pro-Trump group which had amassed over 364,000 members in less than 48 hours, for promoting election misinformation regarding ongoing vote counts.

With protests over the ongoing tally of votes sweeping through a number of U.S. cities, Facebook tells TIME that it removed the group on Thursday over “worrying calls for violence.”

“In line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension, we have removed the group ‘Stop the Steal,’ which was creating real-world events,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group.”

The group, which appeared to be linked to the pro-Trump organization Women for America First as well as the Tea Party, was created in the wake of President Donald Trump falsely claiming that he had defeated Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during a speech he delivered from the East Room of the White House after 2 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning.

As state and local election officials continued to count ballots across the country in the days after Election Day, Trump continued to post false and misleading tweets, in which he made baseless allegations about voter fraud in key states. Many of these tweets were flagged by Twitter for containing disputed or misleading information. The description of the “Stop the Steal” group on Facebook seemed to reference Trump’s claims.

“Democrats are scheming to disenfranchise and nullify Republican votes. It’s up to us, the American People, to fight and to put a stop to it,” the page read. “Along with President Trump, we will do whatever it takes to ensure the integrity of this election for the good of the nation.”

Posts on the page were rife with misinformation, including unsubstantiated claims that election workers were throwing out ballots or that voters in Maricopa County in Arizona were encouraged to vote with Sharpies that would make their ballots illegible.

The “Stop the Steal” movement has also spread to Twitter, with some pro-Trump users tagging their posts with the corresponding hashtag.


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Author: Megan McCluskey