Social Feed: Snapchat tests tags, bots want your data, Facebook patents a robot

Social media is a fluid technology — nearly every day, the major social media networks are announcing major changes, coming under fire for the latest controversy, or moving forward in smaller ways. Social Feed is a collection of those smaller changes that you may have missed with this week’s biggest news — like Facebook’s new breaking news label, Instagram’s potential portrait mode and video calling, and Snapchat’s latest round of layoffs. Find Social Feed every weekend for the latest social news tidbits.

Snapchat tests the tag, finally

Snapchat fans could soon tag their friends inside their Stories. Snap Inc. confirmed the testing of the feature after the tag was spotted by a user, but didn’t offer specifics. According to users with early access to it, the feature would allow Snapchatters to use an @ tag for another Snapchat user inside a Story post. Viewers could then tap the mention and see more details or follow the same person. For now, the feature is just a test.

Twitter wants to make those blue verification badges available to everyone

After suspending the blue verification badge last year, Twitter now wants to open up the icon to any Twitter user. During a live-stream this week, CEO Jack Dorsey said the platform wants to open verification for everyone. The platform is looking to make the badge a simple verified ID so that “[Twitter] doesn’t have to be the judge or imply any bias on our part.”

Twitter’s blue badge came under fire after the platform gave the icon to a known white supremacist. Twitter says the badge is meant only to verify the identity of the user, but Twitter users tend to see the icon as more than that.

Russian bots aren’t just for elections — they want your personal data, too

A report by the Wall Street Journal earlier this week serves as another reminder to be wary of sharing personal information on Facebook. According to the investigative report, the Internet Research Agency, which was part of the alleged Russian election misinformation campaigns, also used bots to gather personal data. The study didn’t find out why the group wanted the information, but documented several attempts from Russian accounts to gather personal data from Americans, including requesting information from small business owners and paying a self-defense teacher for student data.

Twitter is beginning to push back against cryptocurrency scams

While Facebook has banned cryptocurrency ads entirely, Twitter now appears to be taking steps to remove scammers from the platform. On Wednesday, March 7, the social platform said it is adding flags to help identify accounts that break Twitter’s rules against deceptive claims. An account that was part of a scam last month was suspended on the platform.

Social media users aren’t afraid of outside views

News feed algorithms that promote the content you’re likely to click your like button on create growing concern over a phenomenon called polarization. Research suggests that surrounding someone with the same views and excluding dissenting views creates a more extreme view on that topic. A new survey, however, suggests that social media users really aren’t opposed to seeing opposite views in their feed. The survey, conducted by The Data Face, demonstrated that participants were just as willing to watch a video containing opposing views as they were to watch a video that supported their own ideas. Conservatives were slightly less likely to watch liberal views, but researchers said the difference was statistically insignificant.

Facebook patents — a robot?

Facebook’s virtual reality camera went open source to allow other companies to develop the hardware — but a new patent suggests Facebook isn’t entirely moving beyond hardware either. This week, the social giant patented a Segway-like robot that can move on three wheels or balance on two. The patent doesn’t detail exactly what the robot would be for, but the camera head attached to the device could suggest something like a VR cameraman, among other possibilities.

Photography

Insta-checkout? New Instagram service lets you shop without leaving the platform

Shopping on Instagram no longer means leaving the platform to checkout in a web browser. Instagram checkout launched in beta today with a handful of retailers, allowing users to checkout without leaving the app.
Social Media

New Zealand attack shows that as A.I. filters get smarter, so do violators

The shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand were livestreamed to social media, and while stats show networks are improving at removing offending videos, as the system improves, so do the violators' workarounds.
Gaming

Sony could use a robot to turn your PlayStation into a fitness machine

Sony submitted a patent application for a robotic device equipped with a camera to assist in your workout. The images included suggest that the device will work with your PlayStation console.
Social Media

Twitter takes a cue from Instagram and Snapchat with new quick-swipe camera

Twitter is giving the "what's happening" treatment to photos and video by allowing users to access the in-app camera fast enough to catch and share the moment. The new Twitter camera is now accessible with a swipe.
Social Media

Twitter wants you to help shape the future design of its app

Twitter is launching an app for testing new design features and it wants you to get involved. Those accepted into the program will have the chance to try out different conversation designs aimed at improving the user experience.
Emerging Tech

Professional drone racing is flying onto Twitter this summer

Professional drone racing is coming to Twitter for the first time this summer. Organizers hope the streaming deal with the social media platform will help the growing sport to further broaden its audience.
Social Media

Yep, it’s not just you. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are down for many

Facebook's family of apps has been suffering issues for much of the day. Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Facebook itself have been out of action for users around the world, with the company scrambling to sort it out.
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Social Media

Facebook may soon let you watch live TV with friends in Watch Party

Facebook Watch Party is designed to allow friends to watch together, even when they can't be in the same physical space. Now, that feature could be expanding to include live TV. Facebook announced a test of the feature, starting with live…
Social Media

Federal investigation digs into Facebook’s data-sharing deals

Facebook confirmed it is cooperating with a federal criminal investigation. According to a report, the company is under investigation for sharing user data with smartphone and tablet companies.
Social Media

Facebook explains its worst outage as 3 million users head to Telegram

Facebook, if you didn't already know it, suffered a bit of an issue on Wednesday, March 13. An issue that took down not only its social networking site, but also Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. On Thursday it offered an explanation.
Gaming

Snapchat could soon let you play games in between your selfies

If a new report is accurate, Snapchat will be getting an integrated gaming platform in April. The platform will feature mobile games form third-party developers, and one publisher is already signed on.
Social Media

Twitter is testing a handy subscription feature for following threads

Twitter has recently started testing a feature that lets you subscribe to a thread so that you’ll no longer need to like a comment or post to it yourself in order to receive notifications of new contributions.
Social Media

Your Google+ public content will remain viewable on the web, if you want it to

Google's failed social network — Google+ — will soon be wiped from the internet, but there's a team of volunteers working right now to save its public content for the Internet Archive.