Social media comprises a range of online services such as Facebook and Twitter that let users create and share content. The data generated by social media services are used by companies to serve targeted ads that generate value for both advertisers and consumers.
Listed below are the key technology trends impacting the social media theme, as identified by GlobalData.
One of the biggest social media dilemmas is making content moderation more automated to ease the burden on human moderators while maintaining a high level of accuracy. Facebook uses automated moderation, enabled by image-scanning artificial intelligence (AI), to detect nudity on its platform with generally positive results. Facebook removed 39.5 million pieces of content for adult nudity or sexual activity between January and March 2020, and 99.2% of it was removed automatically, without a user reporting it. However, when it comes to hate speech and misinformation, AI is far less accurate.
Google’s YouTube announced in September 2020 that it was bringing back human moderators who were sent home six months earlier to contain the spread of Covid-19 after the company’s AI filters failed to match their accuracy. Approximately 11 million videos were removed from YouTube between April and June 2020, or about double the usual rate, according to the Financial Times. Users appealed against around 320,000 of these takedowns, and half of the appealed videos were reinstated. That is also roughly double the regular figure, suggesting YouTube’s AI systems were too strict. AI systems are well-equipped to eliminate content containing specific symbols, like a swastika, but they cannot replace human judgment regarding violent, hateful, or misleading content with some public interest value.
WeChat’s super-app model is the envy of Western social media companies because it is a gateway through which users can access a myriad of internet services, from social networking and e-commerce to financial services. Several Asian platform providers have successfully replicated this model, including Alipay, Grab, and Gojek. Outside Asia, Facebook, with 2.9 billion monthly active users, is the best candidate to become the West’s first super-app.
The company has tried to replicate the super-app model, although its plans to set up a cryptocurrency (originally called Libra, now known as Diem) have struggled to get off the ground. Undeterred, it has launched Facebook Pay, a payment service embedded in its platform, and Shops, a platform that allows users to create an online store on Facebook and Instagram. The company has also launched a WhatsApp payments service in India and bought a 10% stake in Indian telecoms group Reliance Jio, developing a partnership with its e-commerce platform, JioMart.
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Social media and gaming platforms are increasingly overlapping. Social media is the perfect channel to advertise gaming and esports events, and it allows professional gamers to communicate directly with their fans. Social media companies, however, are pushing deeper into the gaming sector, especially in segments like casual games, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), esports, and cloud gaming.
Snapchat announced in May 2021 that more than 200 million users had accessed Snap Games since its launch in April 2019, while Facebook launched its gaming service in 2020. Facebook Gaming focuses on live game streaming in a bid to challenge Amazon’s Twitch. Microsoft partnered with Facebook to transition existing Mixer viewers and streamers over to Facebook Gaming. The social gaming platform Roblox’s popularity surged in 2020, and the company went public in March 2021.
Social media companies have tried hard to enter the internet TV market, with mixed results. Facebook Watch is a video on demand (VoD) service operated by Facebook, which allows content creators and publishers to monetise their content, similar to YouTube. The service is available globally since 2020, meaning that partners can reach billions of users. Facebook Watch is extremely limited compared to other subscription VoD services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video in terms of original series. Select live video and gaming videos, however, are also available, and users can watch content with their contacts.
This is an edited extract from the Social Media – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.