News & Insights

Digital Dive: Social Media Becomes Public Health Hazard in NY, Lawsuits Galore, and… Smart Shopping Carts?

By Alyssa Carino

The Digital Dive - Digital Intelligence Newsletter.

The Big Story

New York City Labels Social Media a “Public Health Hazard”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has designated social media as an “environmental toxin” and “public health hazard,” making it the first major city to do so. During his State of the City address, Adams criticized social media companies like TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook, claiming that they contribute to a mental health crisis, particularly among young people. “Companies like TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook are fueling a mental health crisis by designing their platforms with addictive and dangerous features,” he said. “We cannot stand by and let Big Tech monetize our children’s privacy and jeopardize their mental health.”

Following Mayor Adams’ address, the New York City Health Commissioner, Ashwin Vasan, issued an advisory classifying “unfettered access to and use of social media” as a public health hazard. In addition, the department also provided guidance on healthy social media use, including delaying access to smartphones for children until at least age 14.

Concerns about the impact of social media on mental health have grown, with up to 95% of U.S. teens using these platforms. According to the advisory, between 2011 and 2021, rates of NYC high schoolers experiencing hopelessness increased by more than 42% and rates of suicidal ideation increased by more than 34%.

“Just as the US Surgeon General did with tobacco and guns, we are treating social media like other public health hazards and it must stop.” Mayor Adams called for legislative proposals to protect young people from predatory practices by social media companies. This move follows increased scrutiny on social media platforms’ impact on young people’s mental health and Meta facing lawsuits from 41 states and the District of Columbia.

Social Updates

LinkedIn Launches Sponsored Articles

Recently, LinkedIn announced the rollout of Sponsored Articles. Sponsored Articles sound exactly like the name suggests. Advertisers are now able to promote a page’s LinkedIn articles to a targeted audience beyond their page’s organic following. With this new promotional feature, advertisers can choose from a list of CTA buttons, like “Unlock Article,” to encourage users to access and read the complete content. LinkedIn is hoping that Sponsored Articles will lead to higher in-platform engagement as users will not have to leave the platform or go to a new web page to consume this content. As of now, this functionality is only available to business accounts but is planned to be expanded to all users later this year.

Meta Continues to Step Up Data Privacy Measures

Amid data privacy battles in Europe, Meta continues to step up their safety measures. Over the next few weeks, both Instagram and Facebook users in the EU should expect to receive notifications prompting them to choose how their information is shared between Meta applications and services. Users will be allowed to decide whether:

  • Their Facebook and Instagram accounts are connected and share data
  • Their Facebook and Messenger accounts are connected and share data
  • The Marketplace experience is able to use their Facebook information
  • Their gaming experience is able to access their Facebook information

Furthermore, users in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will now experience an ad-free Facebook and Instagram if they decide to try out Meta’s new subscription plan. With these new data options available for users, Meta runs the risk of damaging their targeted advertising capabilities with less access to user data.

Federal Court Pauses Ohio Social Media Parental Consent Law

An Ohio law that would require children under the age of 16 to need parental consent to use social media and gaming apps was put on hold by a federal judge. The Social Media Parental Notification Act, which was passed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in July, was set to take effect on January 15th. Before it could do so, a trade group representing TikTok, Snapchat, Meta and other major tech companies filed a lawsuit against this act which resulted in it being put on hold on the premise that it impedes upon children’s and adult’s First Amendment rights.

Digital Updates

The Cookie-Less World Update

At the beginning of the new year, Google officially started to phase out third-party cookies to 1% of its users with its new feature Tracking Protection. To allow for a more seamless transition into the cookie-less world, Google announced a third-party cookie deprecation trial. With this trial, Google will allow certain embedded sites and services to temporarily enable third-party cookies if needed until December 27th of 2024. In order to receive this access, websites must submit an application and pass Google’s strict eligibility criteria, which looks to be strict on advertising-related services. Despite this trial period, Google plans to completely eliminate cookies by Q3 of this year.

OpenAI Faces Lawsuit From New York Times Over ChatGPT

The New York Times has recently come for OpenAI and Microsoft in the form of a copy infringement lawsuit. The powerhouse publication alleged that OpenAI’s ChatGPT “recites content verbatim” without permission or proper attribution, enabling them to “compete and closely mimic” the company. According to reports, The Times introduced several pieces of evidence showing examples of ChatGPT “regurgitating” their articles’ content word-for-word. Defending themselves, OpenAI argued that these word-for-word responses were a “rare bug” and that the company is actively working to eliminate this response type completely. Furthering their rebuttal, Open AI also claimed that The Times violated ChatGPT’s code of conduct by “intentionally manipulating prompts” and “cherry-picking their examples from many attempts.”

InstaCart Levels Up CPG Advertising

Smart shopping carts, called Caper Carts, have hit the floors of retailers like Kroger, ShopRite and Fairway Market across the US. These carts, equipped with digital screens, not only help consumers carry their items, but also choose them. With built-in sensors and cameras, Caper Carts assist shoppers by offering personalized recommendations based on what they add. For example, if a shopper adds cookies to their cart, they’ll likely see an ad for ice cream. As of now, Del Monte Foods, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, and General Mills Inc. are the first to advertise on these new digital screens. By the end of 2024, Instacart plans to have thousands of these carts on the floors of retailers across the US and are also looking to expand internationally. Although still in its infancy, this new offering could be an interesting way to get in front of CPG shoppers amidst making purchasing decisions.

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