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Facebook wants to turn its users into micro-influencers

You might have heard about micro-influencing and how it appeals to brands that want to have their products nonchalantly advertised by ‘normal’ users via social media platforms. What you might have not heard of—as, unsurprisingly, it hasn’t been ‘advertised’ much—is the patent that Facebook filed last week in the U.S. for ‘computer-vision content detection for sponsored stories’. What this means is that the social media powerhouse has developed a system that could turn users’ uploaded photographs into automated sponsored posts.

The new patent describes how Facebook would scan users’ photos to identify the products casually displayed within them, to then send the image to the featured brand, who could decide to boost the post to the users’ network. According to this patent, if someone posts a selfie of themselves sunbathing and in the corner of the picture appears any branded sun cream, this person could potentially become an unintentional promoter of the lotion’s brand across their friends’ feeds without being aware of it, nor benefit from it.

The technology that can turn the patent into a working system already exists. Last year Facebook launched a tool called Rosetta, an AI-powered photo scanning that can scan more than a billion photographs and stills from videos every day, and identify texts displayed within the pictures (on products, signs or even clothing), including any brand names. By using this AI technology, Facebook would not only be able to gather an increasing number of its users’ personal information, but it could also create a ‘heat map’ for brands, providing them with analytics on not only by who, but also where, their products are being consumed.


Both Instagram and Facebook users, even those who are not paid for it, already upload thousands of images featuring branded products, so it’s no surprise that some visionary marketer thought of taking advantage of this ready-made advertising. As consumers start to get sceptical of celebrities and mega-influencers promoting products, brands, marketing agencies, and most noticeably Facebook, are paving the way for a new wave of digital advertising—one that is based on the power of the many rather than on the popularity of one individual. Companies such as Zyper for instance, help brands find consumers willing to join its community and advocate its products as ‘fans’ via social media. But unlike Facebook’s new system, users have to apply to the platform to become micro-influencers, instead of having their photographs scanned and automatically sold.

The patent does not mean Facebook will certainly end up using this service, but it’s hard to think of one reason why it wouldn’t want to do so. At its current state, though, the patent is only a draft on how this system could be working, and more importantly under which rules, considering that for now, it’s not explicit whether users would be given the possibility to opt out of the plan.

As the influencers phenomena continues to rock the marketing world, micro-influencing is definitely set to overturn the industry even more. By creating a horde of individual advertisers (whether informed of their role or not), companies such as Zyper and Facebook are turning customers into promoters, and in doing so, they are not only drastically changing the traditional mechanism of marketing, but they are returning to one of the most subtle forms of advertising: masses of people sharing the products they use everyday with their digital network. 


Everything you need to know about 5G, and more

By Helena Kate Whittingham

On May 30, EE launched the U.K.’s next generation of internet interconnectivity 5th Generation (5G) with a secret gig by Stormzy in Tower Bridge, London. For the launch of a new internet, this was quite a bizarre and dystopian/utopian display—depending on which side you land on.

5G was first brought to my attention through conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who stated on a podcast with Joe Rogan that “5G causes massive mutation and cancer” and with that 5G quickly became the internet’s new favourite conspiracy—but what exactly is 5G and who exactly is saying it could harm us?

With 5G, we will be stepping fully into a new area of real-time response time online. We are moments away from being able to download HD movies in seconds, real-time communication in other languages and seamless lag-free gaming, but the benefits of 5G don’t stop there. When I say faster, they predict it as much as 1000 times faster than 4G. If our phones weren’t already an extension of our ‘selves’, this is taking it to the next step.

5G has been speculated to be beneficial for robotics such as driverless cars through to the healthcare industry for quickly transmitting images and expanding telemedicine. Additionally, it will expand on the notion of ‘smart homes’, meaning it will allow for devices to speak to one another by quickening data transmission.

Once considered science fiction, 5G will also work to rapidly increase AI production and expansion. 5G will give us access to more data at significantly faster speeds, resulting in devices having a better ability to understand their surroundingsin other words, 5G will give context to AI.

EE has not just ‘switched 5G on’, it has actually been tested in the U.K. since 2015. The timeline for wireless connectivity is as follows: 1G was the mobile technology of the early 1990s, 2G was the first system capable of carrying text messages between users, and internet on our mobiles as we know it today is 3G which launched in 2003, followed by 4G in 2012. Reportedly the 4G rollout was a disaster, and U.K. residents can still only access 4G networks 53 percent of the time, making the U.K. the worst place for 4G coverage in Europe.

Furthering the 5G timeline, in September 2015 the University of Surrey opened its 5G Innovation Centre in Basingstokea test bed for 5G. The hunger for better data is strong, so much so that the U.K. government spent £75 million on the Basingstoke site and predicted that £6.8 billion is reserved for 5G in total.

Elon Musk has also played a big part in the 5G rollout, with plans for his company SpaceX to produce a Starlink constellation of around 12,000 satellites with the ability to deliver high-speed internet to people at an affordable price. In early May, Musk shared on his Instagram that 60 satellites have just been launched to start this mission.

Which brings us to today, with many wifi companies worried 5G’s reported speed will kill them off completely. With all the impressive pros, come also many concerns with 5G. Over 200 scientists and physicians who have researched the biological effects of radiofrequency radiation have signed the 5G appeal, calling for a cap on the use of the new technology.

The main areas of concern are interference issues, surveillance, and health risks. 5G uses millimetre wave radio transmissions (28GHz frequencies), which has roughly a tenth of the range of standard 4G. Therefore, this is resulting in a lot more masts, satellites and antennas needed to account for the short travel distance and provide clear reception. Apparently, 5G even has trouble passing through trees.

As for surveillance issues, many people are speculating a super-connected world will also be super susceptible to cyber attacks. We have already experienced ransomware, malware, crypto-jacking, identity theft, and data breaches, which arguably will only get worse with 5G.

Finally, the development of this new technology has sparked fear that 5G radiation could have adverse health effects. In April 2019, Geneva, Switzerland and Brussels, Belgium blocked a 5G trial because of radiation laws.

There are multiple speculations online through #stop5G and #5Gremedies, with a Facebook group founded by John Kuhles, Dutch UFO researcher. Kuhles is predicting symptoms such as hot flashes, blurred vision, vertigo, irregular or skipped heartbeats, unexplained pains, ringing in one or both ears, extreme fatigue or extreme energy bursts, nausea and flu-like symptoms, also known as microwave sickness’. However, his website was criticised for fake news of 5G attacking and killings birds in the Netherlands alongside other propaganda.

In the U.S., Senator Patrick Colbeck said he believes that unregulated Wireless Radiation represents the number one environmental issue of our day—perhaps it’s important to note that Colbeck is also antivaccine. While in the U.K., conspiracy theorist David Icke expressed his concern that 5G millimetre wave technologies are used to scatter crowds and that it could potentially be used against us as a weapon.

So what now? 5G is here and has been here for a while. Later this year, it will launch across the busiest parts of the U.K. up until 2020. Overall, it is impossible to predict what new technologies can come out of this hyper-connectivity but what we can say is that the potential applications of 5G are numerous and exciting. Let’s just wait and see if we ever get ‘microwave sickness’.