Federal Court overturns Texas Law banning social media ‘viewpoint discrimination

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images via https://www.theverge.com/2021/12/1/22809654/texas-law-blocked-netchoice-ccia-injunction-viewpoint-discrimination

Recently, a federal judge voted to block a pending Texas law that was set to limit social platforms’ ability to monitor content on the basis of violating the First Amendment. The Texas Social Media Law looks to “web services with more than 50 million monthly active users from removing or otherwise limiting content based on the user’s “viewpoint,” along with other posts requiring a quicker takedown period of illegal posts and lower moderation of “controversial” posts.

The order to block this pending law came from Judge Pitman and the court in Austin, Texas. They found that the alleged “viewpoint discrimination” in the law can be understood as editorial discretion. Judge Pitman also notes other clauses in the law were “inordinately burdensome given the unfathomably large numbers of posts on these sites and apps,”. The order also notes noted that this law was intended to fight “liberal-leaning” moderation on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. It is obvious as the threshold of active monthly users is very high, at 50 million, and if it were lower it would have also covered conservative-friendly sides like Parlor and Gab.

“Private companies that use editorial judgment to choose whether to publish content — and, if they do publish content, use editorial judgment to choose what they want to publish — cannot be compelled by the government to publish other content.”

Federal Court Order against Texas Social Media Law

New and pending laws on social media usage are what are going to affect our futures as media professionals directly. Having an understanding of laws and what is or isn’t covered by the First Amendment is key to staying on top of our own possible media businesses.

Robertson, A. & Brandom, R. “Federal court blocks Texas law banning ‘viewpoint discrimination on social media” The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2021/12/1/22809654/texas-law-blocked-netchoice-ccia-injunction-viewpoint-discrimination


To support striking workers, Reddit users spam replacement job portal for Kellogg’s

Image via https://www.theverge.com/2021/12/10/22827990/antiwork-reddit-kelloggs-jobs-portal-spam-solidarity-workers-strike-subreddit

Over two months ago, over 1,400 Kellogg’s cereal plant workers from Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Tennessee went on strike over stalled union negotiants with the food brand. This week, Kellogg’s announced that they would be hiring permanent replacements for striking workers. This comes after the striking workers voted against coming to a tentative agreement proposed by Kellogg’s management.

In retaliation and in solidarity with the workers on strike, users on the r/antiwork subreddit are submitting and spamming fake job applications for the replacement job portal. A subreddit is a thread of posts related to a particular subject and posts can be ‘upvoted’ or ‘downvoted’. A post about spamming the scab application portal received more than 62,000 upvotes and thousands of comments. A moderator on the subreddit gave a comment and said:

“That’s why this kind of action gets popular,”“Everybody feels the struggle, and the pain, and the misery that these Kellogg workers feel right now.”

Kevin McKenzie, Moderator of r/antiwork

Digital activism isn’t new in this online community, but it’s the first time it has been to this scale. The online company itself, Reddit, commended users for their support and efforts for the striking workers. They also reported that over the year 2020 to 2021, the subreddit had grown by 279%, now with over 1.3 million users following it.

Sato, M. “Redditors are spamming Kellogg’s job portal to support striking workers” (10, December 2021). The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2021/12/10/22827990/antiwork-reddit-kelloggs-jobs-portal-spam-solidarity-workers-strike-subreddit

ViacomCBS announces partnership with Wattpad and Webtoon to adapt several original series

image via Wattpad WEBTOON studios https://company.wattpad.com/blog/wattpad-and-webtoon-merge-studio-divisions-to-create-wattpad-webtoon-studios-a-fully-funded-fan-driven-global-entertainment-powerhouse

Following successes like The Kissing Booth or After franchise, ViacomCBS is partnering with Wattpad WEBTOON studios to adapt original online content for the screen.

Webtoon is a virtual publishing website where users can write and publish their written work. Many authors get their start on the site and gain popularity from online readers, eventually landing them a publishing deal. This was the case for the authors of The Kissing Booth and After. There are millions of stories published on the site along with sister site, Webtoon, that published comics and illustrated stories rather than just text. Wattpad and Webtoon became Wattpad Webtoon studios when Wattpad was purchased by Naver, Webtoon’s parent company, for over $600 million USD in June 2021.

With the studio, ViacomCBS plans to develop original content for several of its networks and properties, one of which being Paramount+. This partnership and plan show that ViacomCBS is working on rolling out more content specifically catered to a millennial and Gen Z audience.

“Wattpad WEBTOON Studios is home to some of the most exciting new voices in comics and literature,” “Between our massive global IP catalogue with built-in fandoms, and a roster of superstar comic artists and indie authors, we’re fueling a new era of data-backed entertainment. We’re thrilled to work with ViacomCBS International Studios,  a company that shares our vision to transform entertainment by elevating the creativity and fandoms of a new generation of storytellers. Working together with ViacomCBS International Studios, we’ll bring more diverse, original voices to screens all over the world.” 

Aron Levitz, President of Wattpad WEBTOON Studios

As media professionals, this partnership is meaningful because it shows a liaison between big, traditional media and new media. Like “youtube creator” or “tiktok creator” becoming new and relevant jobs in the field, a digital author is one as well. Anyone can get their start on Wattpad or Webtoon if they make an account. Now, hopping on your laptop and writing fanfiction for fun might land you a steaming series deal with media giant ViacomCBS.

Keck, Katie. “ViacomCBS announces partnership with Wattpad to adapt originals” 8, December 2021. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2021/12/8/22825153/wattpad-webtoon-originals-paramount-plus-viacomcbs


TikTok expands money-making opportunities for content creators with ‘Creator Next’

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge https://www.theverge.com/2021/12/1/22811973/tiktok-creator-next-monetization-tips-video-gifts

Tiktok is expanding opportunities for creatures to generate revenue through the actual Tiktok app. Most creators originally generated money through securing deals and sponsorships outside of the app. However, in 2020 Tiktok started its $200 million dollar creator fund, which rewards popular creators on the app. With CreatorNext, it is “where eligible creators can easily unlock new and existing tools to be rewarded for their creativity on TikTok.” according to a statement by the company.

To be eligible to use the tools that come with CreatorNext, a user needs to be 18+, based in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, or Spain, have at least 3 posts in the last 30 days, have at least 1,000 video views in the last 30 days and meet a minimum follower requirement depending on the region.

The tools available include the Tiktok Creator Fund, Tiktok Creator Marketplace (TTCM), LIVE gifts, Video gifts, and Tips. TTCM is an in-app platform to connect brands and sponsors with creators for partnerships. This gives the company more leverage as a middle man for deals that would normally occur outside of the app. With LIVE gifts, TikTok awards ‘diamonds’ to creators with popular LIVE videos, and it is based on gifts given by live viewers. These ‘diamonds’ can be converted into money by the creator. Video gifts are similar but based on short video views instead of LIVE ones. Finally, Tips allow creators to receive tips from viewers who want to show their support.

Overall, the implementation of these aspects shows that being a “content creator” as a job, where part or full-time, is becoming a more concrete idea rather than previous ideas. While it can be fun to create videos, its is becoming more apparent to the public that you can make money from it as well.

Roth, Emma. “TikTok rolls out Creator Next and expands money-making opportunities for creators”, 1, December 2021. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2021/12/1/22811973/tiktok-creator-next-monetization-tips-video-gifts


Tiktok App usage surpasses Instagram and Snapchat for users aged 12 – 17 this year, according to new survey

image via https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/20/igtv-vs-tiktok-vs-snapchat/

Forrester Research has released data from their 2021 Forrester Analytics Consumer Technographics® US Youth Survey and the results are interesting as they vary greatly from their 2020 results.

For this survey, the company Forrester collected 4,602 online surveys of U.S. youth aged 12 to 17 years old. In 2020, Forrester’s research showed in their poll group Gen Z Youth (12 – 17), 50% used Tiktok weekly, 54% used Snapchat weekly and 61% used Instagram weekly. A year later, these percentages have shifted. While Snapchat usage stayed the same at 54%, Tiktok rose 13 points to 63% while Instagram took a 4 point ding to 57%.

Through further market research, Forrester strived to find why TikTok had such a sudden increase. They asked parents in their ConsumerVoices Online Research Community to ask their 12 – 17-year-old children why they enjoy using Tiktok. Many of the responses suggested:

Entertainment Value: Many kids used the words “fun” or “funny” when describing the content on the platform, saying videos there were funnier.

Short Watch Time: Many youth users enjoy the easy, scroll ability and bite-sized clips that their Tiktok FYPs have to offer.

A Place to Express Themselves: Many respondents enjoyed the ability to positively express themselves through the platform, like through dances.

Forrester also notes that while TikTok is a popular social media platform with Gen Z Youth, it is not the most popular. In the same survey, 72% of U.S. Youth respondents said they use Youtube at least weekly. – which is a 3 percent increase from the 2020 survey.

As future media professionals, this information like this is extremely important to our field of work. Knowing what media certain age groups are using daily can help us cater our content for them.

Proulx, Mike. “Weekly Usage Of TikTok Surpasses Instagram Among US Gen Z Youth” 18, November 2021. Forrester Research. https://www.forrester.com/blogs/weekly-usage-of-tiktok-surpasses-instagram-among-us-gen-z-youth/

Dozens of Crowd Members Injured and 8 Dead at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival

Erika Goldring / WireImage via https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/travis-scott-performs-during-2021-astroworld-festival-at-news-photo/1351663202?adppopup=true

On November 5th, 2021 at NRG Park in Houston, Texas the Astroworld Music Festival was held with Travis Scott as the headlining act. Extremely aggressive pushing, shoving and crowding in this sold-out crowd of roughly 50,000 attendees resulted in 8 dead and dozens injured.

Earlier that day, around 2:00pm, concert-goers entered the festival and hundreds stampeded the safety checkpoints, trampling other attendees.

As hours passed to Scott’s headlining performance, the crowd got larger and more dangerous. One attendee described her experience “like watching a Jenga tower topple. Person after person were sucked down…. You were at the mercy of the wave.” You can read her detailed account of her experience below:

8 victims, ages ranging from 14 to 27, died from the fatal conditions of pushing, shoving, trampling, and lack of air. So far, three concert-goers have filed lawsuits against Astroworld organizers, LiveNation and Travis Scott for negligence and encouraging violence at the event.

According to the Houston Chronicle, this event was one of the deadliest concerts in U.S. history. While covered by major news outlets, much of the information learned about the event is from social media posts. Scott took to Instagram with a video discussing the tragic situation and apologizing to the families of those who lost their lives, anyone injured, and everyone who attended the event. There are also several new reports coming out each day on Scott reimbursing ticket holders, covering funeral costs and other repercussions after the tragic events of November 5th.

After almost two years of social distancing and canceled live events, it is shocking to see this amount of injury and loss in a sea of 50,000 people.

Durney, Ellen. “Travis Scott And Drake Are Being Sued For Negligence And “Encouragement Of Violence” At The Astroworld Festival That Killed At Least 8 People” 8, November 2021. Buzzfeed News, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ellendurney/travis-scott-and-drake-astroworld-negligence-lawsuits

Guerra, Joey & Barned-Smith, St. John. “At least 8 Dead at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival”, 7, November 2021. Houston Chronicle. https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/At-least-8-deaths-Travis-Scott-Astroworld-Festival-16597376.php?fbclid=IwAR0-UTPjXW-Zdl8g8TBVNTz3ign7IYTUUssANXBuFOzw3_GScSaOY1zr5GM

Taco Bell looks to Reinvent the Fast Food Drive-Thru with Test Location

image via https://rebusinessonline.com/taco-bell-to-reinvent-drive-thru-concept-with-futuristic-restaurant-in-brooklyn-park-minnesota/

With mobile and contactless ordering becoming the new norm in 2020, Taco Bell is one chain that is looking to change its primary service method to the drive-thru. Many fast-food chains found having a sit-down dining room obsolete during the pandemic and the cost and labor to clean it became less profitable than having it was. With this, some new Taco Bell locations will include smaller dining rooms, kiosk-only locations, dual drive-thrus, and outdoor socializing areas.

However, the largest, most innovative changes to the traditional fast-food restaurant model are in the company’s upcoming test location in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. The project, known as ‘Defy’, is in partnership with Minnesota-based design company, Vertical Works. The Defy joint collaboration between Taco Bell and Vertical works is a 3,000 sq ft, two-story restaurant set to be finished in summer 2022.

The structure takes an extremely non-traditional approach to the fast-food restaurant, as it has no dining room. This Taco Bell location will have four drive-thru lanes, where three are specifically for mobile and delivery pickup orders. These lanes will allow Taco Bell app users or third-party delivery drivers to skip the line to pick up their orders. These lanes will also have digital check-in screens so customers can sign in using their phone by scanning a custom displayed QR code. Using a proprietary lift system, the food will be lowered down from the kitchen above in a contactless manner.

Some users seem to be excited about the new ‘Defy’ location on Twitter, tweeting:

While others are critical about the further dehumanization of fast-food workers and lack of socialization, tweeting:

It is extremely interesting to see this new concept for fast food and we will see if other chains adopt a similar concept soon. This futuristic design reminds me somewhat of the movie Wall-E with how disconnected from human interaction it is. The implementation of technology and use of the mobile app ordering system is another interesting aspect and an innovative way to increase app downloads and usage for Taco Bell. The use of digital media has become so ingrained in our society that restaurants can exist that are almost exclusively mobile order only based.

Hiller, Kristen. “Taco Bell to Reinvent Drive-Thru Concept With Futuristic Restaurant in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota” 18, August 2021. ReBusiness Online, https://rebusinessonline.com/taco-bell-to-reinvent-drive-thru-concept-with-futuristic-restaurant-in-brooklyn-park-minnesota/

Dominko, Mura. “5 Changes You’ll See at Taco Bell’s New Locations” 24 March 2021. Eat This, Not That!, https://www.eatthis.com/news-taco-bell-new-restaurant-designs/

Hollywood’s Behind-The-Scenes Staff reach Tentative Deal with Studios, adverting strike scheduled for Monday

IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb, Image via AdWeek/IASTE

IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, recently came to a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), adverting a scheduled strike for this upcoming October 18th. IATSE is a union representing about 60,000 crew members including hairstylists, costumers, gaffers, propmakers, cameraworkers and other behind-the-scenes jobs on set. The union had been negotiating pay, work schedules and more with AMPTP, an organization that represents companies such as Netflix, Warner Bros, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures, since May.

Prior to the tentative agreement, IATSE President Matthew Loeb said in a statement posted on Twitter: “We will continue bargaining with the producers this week in the hopes of reaching an agreement that addresses core issues, such as reasonable rest periods, meal breaks and a living wage for those on the bottom of the wage scale” 

If the strike had occurred it would’ve been the first time Hollywood’s Behind-The-Scenes workers had held a strike since World War II and would represent the largest cease Hollywood’s workforce since a 14-week writers’ strike in 2007.

According to IATSE, the 3-Year contractual agreement with AMPTP includes living wages for the lowest paid workers, higher wages, daily 10 hour rest periods and weekend 54 hour long rest periods along with other basic benefits. Prior to this, streaming TV and film productions featured lower pay scales for workers which reflected budgets at the beginning of the medium and platforms. However, streaming is now a very large chunk of the market and worker’s felt their wages should reflect that. The increased production and volume of streaming entertainment had also made for grueling, “around-the-clock” and “around-the-calendar” (Sutton, 2021) working conditions.

Overall, this situation between IATSE and AMPTP reflect the truth behind what is going on behind the scenes of the public’s favorite shows and streaming platforms. It also reflects streaming as medium that is here to stay and in need of regulation for it’s workers.

Del Barco, Mandalit. “Hollywood crew members reach a tentative deal with major studios, averting a strike” NPR, 16, October, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/10/16/1045711954/hollywood-crew-members-iatse-reach-deal-no-strike

Sutton, Kelsey. “TV, Film Workers Set Oct. 18 Strike Date as Negotiations With Studios Stall” AdWeek, 14, October, 2021. https://www.adweek.com/convergent-tv/tv-film-workers-set-oct-18-strike-date-as-negotiations-with-studios-stall/

Connecticut Attorney General Requests Meeting with TikTok over ‘Slap A Teacher’ Challenge

(Image from Solen Feyissa on Flickr || https://www.flickr.com/photos/solen-feyissa/50179261657)

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) has requested to meet with Tiktok CEO Shou Zi Chew over concerns of potential safety issues of a rising ‘Slap a Teacher’ Challenge trend and other impacts of Tiktok on Connecticut students.

In the letter that was addressed to Tiktok’s CEO, Attorney General Tong notes that a high school in New Britain, Connecticut recently had to shut down because of the “Devious Lick” trend on Tiktok. Educators in the school gave reports of “stolen school property, clogged toilets, and excessive vandalism” due to the challenge that was viral on the app in September. Tiktok has since removed “Devious Lick” content from its platform and Tong commends the company for that in his letter.

However, Attorney General Tong is calling upon Tiktok again because of the threat to educators with the rising “Slap a Teacher” Tiktok challenge. According to an article by The Hill, this dangerous challenge was set to begin in October, but does not seem to have caught on significantly. The challenge “involves a student calmly approaching a teacher and slapping them”. While attempts of this challenge have not yet been reported in Connecticut, parents in Lancaster County, South Carolina, were warned of an incident where an elementary student allegedly participated in the challenge, striking a teacher in the back of the head.

The Connecticut Attorney General ends the letter with a request for a detailed outline of the platform’s policies and procedures against misuse and abuse of content by Tiktok users and to “thoroughly analyze” why these measures are currently inadequate. He finally asks the CEO to meet with himself, educators and parents to hear first hand the effects the content on their app has on the youth of Connecticut. You can read the full letter below:

Overall, we see the real life effects social media has on today’s youth and how it can be harmful or dangerous to themselves or others. While being able to proceed without large consequences in the past, many social media companies are now having to create new regulations for their user base in order to protect children and other groups.

Choi, Joseph. “State AG seeks meeting with TikTok CEO over ‘Slap a Teacher’ challenge” The Hill, 04 October, 2021. https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/575273-state-ag-seeks-meeting-with-tiktok-ceo-over-slap-a-teacher-challenge?rl=1

Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ may be on track to be the Most Popular Show on the Platform

(Picture sourced from / Image via Netflix) https://www.forbes.com/sites/paultassi/2021/09/28/netflix-says-squid-game-is-on-track-to-be-its-most-popular-show-ever/?sh=5bf477e97c67

Netflix’s Korean-Language suspenseful, thriller Squid Game has been the #1 show in several countries since it’s release in mid-September and might be on track to be the most watched show on the platform as a whole. According to a recent Forbes article, the current list of highest viewed Netflix shows includes titles such as Bridgerton, Stranger Things, Money Heist and Lupin, which is a French-Language series. Ted Sarandos, CEO of Netflix, recently teased that Squid Game is ranking within the range of those shows and may pass them in total viewership.

Squid Game is a dystopian, thriller series that currently has one season. It follows a group of cash-strapped Korean citizens that are brought to play a series of deadly children’s games for a cash prize of 45.6 Billion South Korean won (38.6 million U.S. dollars). Watch the Official Trailer below:

This is the first time a Korean Series has reached first place in the United States in Netflix weekly rankings. It is interesting to see foreign language media gain such a high level of popularity in the United States. I think this was bound to happen sooner rather than later, seeing the success BTS and K-pop has had with music listeners and the great success and accolades of the Korean film, Parasite. The small peninsula East Asian country of South Korea is making their mark on the 21st century Western World with entertainment and media.

Tassi, Paul. “Netflix Says ‘Squid Game’ Is On Track To Be Its Most Popular Show Ever.” Forbes, Forbes, 28 Sept. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/paultassi/2021/09/28/netflix-says-squid-game-is-on-track-to-be-its-most-popular-show-ever/?sh=5bf477e97c67.

Lopez, Camila. “Squid Game to be Netflix’s most-watched international series, CEO says” Market Research Telecast, 29 Sept. 2021, https://marketresearchtelecast.com/squid-game-to-be-netflixs-most-watched-international-series-ceo-says/167105/ .