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The Supercreator Weekly: Go get your blue check
Twitter relaunches its verification program. Plus: An excerpt of my Sunday conversation with tech journalist Casey Newton and 10 things I loved this week — including the perfect summer shorts.
Twitter relaunched its public verification program today after a three-year hiatus. If you’re interested in adding a blue check to your profile — and can prove your profile is authentic, notable and active — you can apply for verification by going to your Settings > Request Verification. Once you’ve applied, Twitter says you can expect a response “within a few days” and up to a few weeks if the app is inundated with applications, which will all be reviewed by humans.
The blue verified badge was created to let people know that an account of public interest was authentic, over time it earned a reputation as an endorsement from Twitter. The program was ultimately suspended in 2017 after Twitter received intense backlash for verifying the account of a white supremacist.
“I usually perceive larger accounts that are verified as some sort of industry experts. In my case, it’s usually famous comedians or notable screenwriters,” Twitter user @PeelsPls said to me when I asked for her impressions of people who are verified. She also mentioned that she assumes smaller accounts to be targets of identity theft or verified to not be mistaken as meme accounts. “I do think verification is important in general for big accounts, especially if they have a large platform and cover a specific niche.”
@HarryMoy, a UK-based technology architect, added: “When somebody’s verified, I think it gives them credibility because there must be some reason they’re verified.”
If you’re approved for verification, the blue checkmark badge will automatically appear on your profile. If you're unapproved and still think you qualify for verification, you can reapply within 30 days of the company’s decision. And if your account is already verified, you won’t need to reapply. And according to Jon Porter at The Verge, Twitter says it plans to add more categories of accounts that can be eligible for verification later this year, including scientists, academics, and religious leaders. For more information about the verification process, refer to this Twitter FAQ article.
SCOTUS gives anti-abortion rights supporters hope that Roe v. Wade will soon be overturned
The Supercreator supports a woman's right to choose what to do with her body and policies that promote and fund access to reproductive health services. So I was disappointed when the Supreme Court agreed to take on a case about whether states can ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb — a clear threat to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision confirming a woman’s right to an abortion and the decision 19 years later that reaffirmed it.
Mississippi’s ban had been blocked by lower courts as inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent that protects a woman’s right to obtain an abortion before the fetus can survive outside her womb. And since the case will probably be argued in the fall, a decision is likely to come in the spring of 2022 during the midterm election campaigns. (59 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to April polling from the Pew Research Center.) “There’s never been a more important time to elect Democratic pro-choice women to local and national office,” a statement from Emily’s List, the national resource for women in politics, said. “If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, we’ll need all the help we can get.”
Another chilling development: Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law on Wednesday that would prohibit abortions in the state as early as six weeks and open the door for almost any private citizen to sue abortion providers.
“Typically, clinical symptoms like fatigue and nausea don’t start until after six weeks,” Dr. Dana R. Gossett, the vice chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco said to Christina Caron of The New York Times in 2019. Added Dr. Sarah Horvath, a family planning fellow at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Unless a woman is actively trying to get pregnant, she is unlikely to know that she is pregnant at six weeks.”
The law, which takes effect in September, is viewed by pro-abortion rights advocates as an outright ban on abortions since the six-week cutoff is two weeks after a missed period.
Related: The Times has a scary interactive of where abortion access would decline if Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Instagram makes another investment in the creator economy
Instagram announced on Tuesday that it would host its first-ever Creator Week on June 8–10.
The invite-only event will feature a week of virtual professional development programs for aspiring and emerging creators across Instagram and Facebook, which owns the popular photo- and video-sharing app.
Facebook says it designed Creator Week to help creators build their careers, support their wellbeing and connect with their peers. Sessions will include media training, entry-level tutorials on breaking into entertainment, starting a podcast, funding a merch line, plus talks on minimizing burnout and misconceptions about the app's algorithms. Creator Week will also feature global programming, including virtual events and France and other markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The announcement comes weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and head of Instagram Adam Mosseri announced several new features coming to Instagram to enable creators to better support themselves through their work.
If you remember my reporting on the features from last month, Facebook is working on a marketplace that would facilitate brand partnerships by pairing up creators with advertisers who want to reach their followers.
Zuckerberg also teased the launch of creator shops, which would allow creators to sell their products to their followers directly through their profiles on the app.
And Zuckerberg announced creators would soon be able to collect a commission on sales of products they recommend on their profiles.
A FB spokesperson declined to comment when I asked for a timetable for these features last month, adding that the plans are in the “very early” stages. I'm we'll learn more during Creator Week so watch this space.
Related: Facebook partners with brands for a summer-long live-shopping series
Facebook launched on Tuesday “Live Shopping Fridays,” an event series beginning tomorrow through mid-July with weekly streams from beauty, skincare and fashion brands.
According to Sarah Perez at TechCrunch, the events are designed to encourage larger brands to experiment with live shopping as a medium and position Facebook as the go-to source for social shopping.
It’s up to brands on how they use their events: Some may take users behind the scenes of their business; others could partner with creators to showcase their products in how-to videos.
Facebook will promote the events in News Feed announcements and via the Facebook Shop tab. During the streams, viewers can comment and ask questions that brands can read and respond to. Shoppers can learn more about products without leaving the video and add them to the cart and check out during or after the event.
A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment when I asked if Instagram will host similar events in the future.
Live Shopping Fridays lucrative and alternative revenue stream to advertising, amid Apple’s privacy push and possible government regulation.
They also signal the company’s shift to digital shopping malls where users come to browse, buy and share their recommendations after Zuckerberg described Facebook as a “digital town squares” and “digital living rooms” in the past.
Facebook attempts to quiet the critics with its new Transparency Center
Facebook launched a Transparency Center on Wednesday to house the company's reports and various documents about its policies and how it enforces them.
The Transparency Center is one of the announcements from Facebook’s first-quarter community standards report, the ninth of its kind.
Facebook announced it selected London-based professional services network EY to independently validate the accuracy of the company's metrics, following through on a commitment it made last year. As Casey Newton, the subject of this week’s Supercreator Interview, noted in his newsletter yesterday, “Self-reported data always comes with a hint of suspicion.” It’s cool of FB to open themselves to third-party scrutiny.
Facebook also moved case updates from its Oversight Board to the Transparency Center. The company said the move will enable people to track a case from its selection through to its response to a decision's accompanying recommendations and follow updates on those recommendations. Facebook said the Oversight Board has selected 13 cases and issued over 40 recommendations, to which the company has responded within 30 days and committed to taking action on the majority. (A Facebook spokesperson referred me to another blog post when I asked how the company decides which recommendations to take action on.) The Board recently decided to uphold Facebook’s decision to ban Donald Trump from Facebook and Instagram and gave the company a generous six months to file a response.
“We’ll continue to use our Newsroom for significant moments related to the Oversight Board, including cases with a great deal of public interest and future expansions of the board’s scope,” the company said in the post.
Amazon offers its employees a new health and safety initiative
This week Amazon launched WorkingWell, a new health and safety program it says was designed by employees.
The company claims the program, which is part of Amazon’s mission to be the Earth’s Safest Place to Work and its investment of over $300 million into safety projects in 2021, “will help prevent injuries, provide wellness services and other quality healthcare for employees while at work and at home.” Amazon’s goal is to cut recordable incident rates by 50 percent by 2025.
Program components covering training and conditioning, wellness services, and technology will roll out to all Amazon US operations sites by the end of the year. Amazon said aspects of WorkingWell piloted in the US in 2019 and expanded to over 850,000 employees at 350 North American and European sites.
In other Amazon news, Charlotte Newman, the employee who filed a suit against Amazon in March alleging sexual harassment, racial discrimination and “down-leveling” her job — a practice in which employers offer workers a more junior role than the one to which they applied and are qualified for — shared her story in a Fast Company essay.
Newman joined Amazon's Global Corporate Affairs team in 2017 as the first financial services public policy expert for the company's cloud-computing business and wrote that Amazon failed to protect and safeguard her from abusive supervisors or pay her equitably. Her story is one I've heard from too many Black women in my family and friendships.
“I imagined Amazon would be a meritocracy, where hard work is rewarded, regardless of what you look like. After over four years at the company, I found that wasn’t the case for me, and many others.”
Newman offered a series of recommendations that she believes would make Amazon a safer space for Black women, including a workplace protection program for survivors, ending its broad use of non-compete agreements and getting rid of down-leveling. Amazon told Fast Company it fired Newman’s harasser, gave corrective action and additional training to those in her reporting line and determined Newman was properly placed in her role after reviewing her interview process, leveling and onboarding.
Fidelity’s new target audience: Teenagers
Financial services company Fidelity Investments announced on Tuesday a new Youth Account program that will issue debit cards and offer investing and savings accounts to 13- to 17-year-olds whose parents or guardians also invest with the firm.
According to Justin Baer at The Wall Street Journal, the accounts will let teens buy and sell US stocks, Fidelity mutual funds and many exchange-traded funds.
In an email to The Supercreator, Fidelity spokesperson Robert Beauregard said the company created the Youth Account to be a “safe onramp for teens to begin their investing journey” in a less-riskier environment than products like cryptocurrencies or leveraged [exchange traded funds]. “You can imagine a 13 year old contributing their own money from mowing lawns, babysitting, or earning an allowance taking this experience seriously,” Beauregard said. “Being able to invest at $1 a share lets them practice with low risk generating, researching, confirming, and executing their investing ideas.”
This is an excellent opportunity for kids to develop their financial literacy. In addition to the Youth Account, Fidelity says it has been working in communities to provide teachers financial education to their K-12 students — an effort that's reached 3,500 teachers, who in turn have shared these financial concepts with more than 400,000 students nationwide since 2015. But I was curious to know if Fidelity had plans to offer programming to teens from underrepresented or marginalized communities whose parents aren't existing account holders.
Beauregard noted that the company offers zero minimums and zero fees to open a retail account. So a parent or guardian who is not a customer but wants their teen to have a Youth Account can establish a Fidelity account for no money. “Even with no money in their account, they are eligible to access Fidelity’s full ecosystem of education and research, and co-open a Youth Account with their teen.” Beauregard also mentioned Five Money Musts, Fidelity's free online game for parents or teens who want to experience "real world" financial decision-making.
The Supercreator Interview: Casey Newton
The founder of the Platformer — the tech industry’s premier independent newsletter — dishes on Sidechannel, the private Discord community he recently launched with seven indie journalists.
I know it’s still early, but has the response to Sidechannel been what you hoped for when you thought of the idea?
Absolutely. The hope was that our readers would come together, talk, and give us things to think about, and they absolutely have. From our opening talk with Mark Zuckerberg to daily discussions about the subjects we cover in our newsletter, the response has exceeded my expectations.
What have you learned about yourself, your subscribers or independent media in general since launching Sidechannel?
I think there’s a lot of appetite for a virtual newsroom. Before now, you haven't really been able to peek inside a newspaper Slack and see how reporters think and talk as they’re working on stories. In just the first week, more than 4,000 people logged into Sidechannel. And as much as they're hopefully getting from the co-hosts, we’re getting way more from them. They’re giving us story ideas, challenging our points of view, and also just making us laugh. A lot of publications gave up on community over the past decade because they mostly just got awful comments from drive-by readers; Sidechannel gives me hope that we can build something lasting between readers and journalists.
You also write a daily newsletter, which often breaks news and features thoughtful analysis. How are scheduling your time to meet your publishing deadline while also showing up within the community?
By frantically alt-tabbing around all day! It’s not ideal and I’m still figuring out the best way to integrate Sidechannel into my routine. But at past jobs I wasted a lot of time in Slack in between phone calls and writing assignments; Sidechannel has now become a similar place where I go to blow off steam (and chat with readers) in between things.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. Subscribe to The Supercreator to get my full conversation with Casey Newton — including how he selected his Sidechannel cohosts, his thoughts on diversity in media and the case against newsletter bundling — in this Sunday’s subscriber-only issue.
Supercreator of the Week: Bozoma Saint John, CMO at Netflix. I’ve been obsessed with Boz since 2016 when she got a former colleague and me into one of her epic Apple Music parties at the ESSENCE Festival. You’ll be obsessed too after you read this courageous essay.
Book of the Week: Queer Love in Color by Jamal Jordan. This is the kind of love I wish I was exposed to growing up. So glad that the generations after me get to see what I didn’t.
Quote of the Week: “You don't need anything big, you don't need a big production to create a project that you truly love. If it's yours, it's yours, and just go ahead. Just go for it.” Wise words from Marsai Martin, the 16-year old Black-ish star and youngest producer in the industry.
Culture Story of the Week: “The blandness of TikTok’s biggest stars” by Rebecca Jennings. TikTok’s undeniable influence on traditional entertainment has revealed yet again our “most base impulses and exploiting existing biases toward thinness, whiteness, and wealth.”
Coronavirus Story of the Week: “I'm not ready to unmask” by Dana Stevens. Me neither, girl. Me neither.
Politics Story of the Week: “America deserves the facts about the Capitol attack, whether Republicans like it or not” by Kurt Bardella. Even though Republicans — including Donald T**** and congressional leaders — are against the bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot, Democrats must find the truth with or without them.
Business Story of the Week: “How Google's $150 billion advertising business works” by Megan Graham and Jennifer Elias. This excellent deep dive is for those who’ve ever wanted to know how Google makes money.
Tech Story of the Week: “Is it time for an algorithm bill of rights? These analysts think so.” This journalist does too.
Video of the Week: Issa Rae Re-Answers Old Interview Questions. Sorry not sorry that Issa makes an appearance at least once a week in this newsletter.
Product of the Week: Uniqlo Dry Stretch Easy Shorts. These $15 shorts come in seven colors. I want these $15 shorts in all seven colors.