Five things worth sharing from the last week or so, brought to you by a different member of the Browser Media team every Friday.
This week’s My Five is by Matt.
1. YouTube aids flat Earth conspiracy theorists
A new study suggests YouTube is playing a significant role in convincing people that the Earth is flat. A representative of Texas Tech University interviewed people at flat Earth conferences and found most cited videos viewed on the site as a key influence. In fact, all but one of the respondents said they had not considered the Earth to be flat two years ago but changed their minds after watching conspiracy theory videos on YouTube.
And worryingly, the interviews revealed that most ‘flat Earthers’ were led to this content after watching videos about other conspiracies including alternative takes on 9/11, Sandy Hook, and the first Moon landing. Some even said they originally watched the videos in order to debunk flat Earth theories but soon found themselves won over by the material.
Thankfully YouTube is addressing this issue head-on. The company recently announced that it will “begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways” to stop the spread of conspiracy videos in the future. You can read more on that in last week’s My Five.
2. 8 billion voice assistants by 2023
In case you hadn’t heard, virtual assistants are taking over our homes – and our lives. From playing music; “OK Google, play my kitchen bangers playlist,” to checking the weather; “OK Google, do I need a big coat today?”. Google Home and other smart speakers are changing the way we interact with media, the way we go about our daily routines, and compromising our privacy. But hey, that’s a small price to pay for convenience and fun AND LOOK ALEXA CAN BURP LOL.
It is estimated that there are currently in excess of 1.5 billion assistant devices in use today, but if predictions are to be believed, this number is set to increase significantly over the next 4-5 years. Analyst firm, Juniper Research, predicts that nearly 8 billion digital voice assistants will be in use by 2023, representing an annual compound growth of more than 25%.
It’s a big shout, but certainly not beyond the realms of possibility when you consider how hard tech companies are pushing voice at the moment via speakers, TVs, even fridges. Watch this space, voice fans.
3. New Search Console features coming soon?
I enjoy nothing more than immersing myself in Google Search Console’s sweet, sweet search data reports, so imagine my delight when I discovered there might be some new features on the way.
Instagram recently confirmed a bug that caused some users to lose a significant amount of followers overnight, and people are not happy.
One particular user, makeup artist and web-celeb James Charles, claims to have lost over half a million followers, which for an influencer, where popularity is everything, is a pretty big deal.
However, while there’s yet to be a confirmation of what caused follower counts to drop, it’s widely suspected that it’s part of Instagram’s ongoing efforts to crack down on fake accounts, so it is probably a good thing overall.
If this is the case then it highlights two important things: 1) Follower count is a vanity metric that should be taken with a massive pinch of salt. 2) A lot of influencers probably don’t even care that their followers are bots because numbers are more important.
5. Me COOKIE MONSTER, AMA
And finally, enjoy Cookie Monster answering all the questions you always wanted to ask but couldn’t because you live in the real world and Cookie Monster lives in Sesame Street world, via this exclusive Reddit AMA.
— Cookie Monster (@MeCookieMonster) February 6, 2019