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Social Media News: TikTok Builds a Deepfake Maker, Twitter Improves Topics and Lists and Snapchat Acquires AI Factory

This week in social media news: TikTok secretly builds a deepfake maker for the app but it hasn’t been released yet, Twitter focuses on improving Topics and Lists and Snapchat acquires AI Factory for $166 million.

TikTok and parent company build a deepfake maker

The fight against deepfakes on social media has been a big topic for powerhouses like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But while these companies are trying to combat them, TikTok and parent company ByteDance were secretly building a way for users to make their own, according to Techcrunch.

Screenshots of TikTok's FaceSwap feature.
Source: Techcrunch

Basically, ByteDance has made a technology that allows users to insert their faces into other users’ videos, but the feature hasn’t been released yet. The app’s code refers to it as Face Swap, but it’s essentially life-like, deepfake technology.

If the feature launches, users would be able to scan their face and have it overlaid on someone else’s video. Techcrunch suggests that releasing the technology might create a more fun and controlled environment for deepfakes. It could also help people understand that everything they see on the internet might not be real.

It also raises fears about what ByteDance might do with the sensitive biometric data obtained from the facial scans.

Techcrunch reached out to TikTok and sister app Douyin about when it might launch and how it would protect user data. They declined to answer the questions and insisted that this is not a function in TikTok and they don’t plan on introducing it. They later told TechCrunch, “the inactive code fragments are being removed to eliminate any confusion.” That basically confirms that the Face Swap code was in the app.

Seems a little fishy. We’ll see how this one plays out.

Twitter focuses on Topics and Lists to improve functionality

According to a recent article from Fast Company, Twitter is putting a lot of time and energy into improving Topics and Lists. The goal is to give users more control of their timelines and help them find the best content in their areas of interest.

Twitter Topic design draft
Source: Twitter

Topics rolled out in November for users. Twitter says they are starting with a broad range of subjects and adding more each week.

Twitter has also made Topics part of the sign up process to help get users going on the platform. They also appear when using Twitter search, showing relevant subjects to your search with a follow button.

Figuring out what Topics you want to follow (and what you’re going to get from that Topic) can be challenging. That’s why Twitter is working on a way to give users an overview of the Topic before they follow it. This might include “elements such as related hashtags, estimates of daily tweet volume, counts of followers and contributors, and badges such as “Popular” and “Engaged.”

As far as Lists go, they are trying to make them easier to use and more functional. Allowing users to pin lists to the top of their timeline and changing some UX elements is part of that process.

They are also drafting ways to let you see user-generated lists. Users would be able to share and subscribe to other peoples’ lists. Customization of list headers is also something that’s in the works.

More organized timelines, topics and lists should elevate the user experience. We’re looking forward to seeing some of these changes.

Snapchat acquires AI Factory

According to Techcrunch, Snapchat has acquired AI Factory. This is the company behind it’s new Cameos, “the animated selfie-based video feature.”

Snapchat Cameos feature

Cameo was launched last month and it lets you take a selfie and animate it into one of Snapchat’s 150 video options. Again, a concept similar to deepfake technology.

Techcrunch continued to say that they don’t know if the feature will expand to let users insert their faces into any videos or if the videos will extend beyond the timing of a GIF. As of right now, users can only be animated into Snapchat’s selected videos.

Hashtag Holidays

Happy New Year! We can’t wait to see what 2020 has to offer! Here’s some fun #holidays to get the decade rolling:

  • January 4 – #NationalTriviaDay
  • January 8 – #NationalBubbleBathDay
  • January 14 – #DressUpYourPetDay

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ICYMI: News from the Social Media Ecosystem

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