The L@B Report – January 2024

Welcome to The L@B Report

Welcome to this month’s issue of The L@B Report from GSG, bringing you news and insights from the intersection of digital media and public affairs. In this issue, we explore Americans’ changing social media habits, a new study indicating that TikTok moderates content to align with the views of the Chinese government, and the looming death of the web-based tracking cookie.

Americans Aren’t Posting Publicly as Much on Social Media

Users turn to more private and selective sharing through direct messages and texting

The Wall Street Journal reports that while a lot of people are still logging in to social media platforms every day, fewer and fewer are actually posting content. According to an October 2023 report from Morning Consult, 61% of U.S. adult respondents with a social media account said they have become more selective about what they post. With regular people posting less and influencers, content creators, and brands posting more, some now think of social media as a source of entertainment, like YouTube or Netflix.  


Users may be posting less publicly, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sharing content online – they are just shifting where they post content. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said in July 2023 podcast, “There are more photos and videos shared in DMs than there are shared in Stories, and there’s way more shared in Stories than there is in Feed.” 

Because social media users increasingly see social media as entertainment, they are tuning in less to share or see opinions from their friends on divisive topics, like politics. This has major implications for how public affairs firms and marketing professionals should approach content creation for social media platforms.  

With users acting more passively on social media, practitioners should recalibrate expectations for engagement metrics on sponsored content. Additionally, if users want to be entertained, then content created for social platforms should attempt to achieve that – whether it be a catchy jingle, an emotional story, or an explainer that breaks down a complex topic in an engaging way.

New Study Shows TikTok’s Content is Moderated to Align with Chinese Government 

Following the report, TikTok restricted access to the tool researchers used 

NBC News reported on a new study by the Network Contagion Research Institute that says TikTok likely promotes and demotes certain topics based on the perceived preferences of the Chinese government. 

The group analyzed the volume of posts withpolitically sensitive hashtags on TikTok versus on its rival Instagram and found “for every one TikTok post with a hashtag supporting Ukraine, there were 8.5 such posts on Instagram — a significant discrepancy from the baseline ratio and one that dovetails with China’s support of Russia.”  

In response, TikTok said the report “used flawed methodology to reach a predetermined, false conclusion.” A few days later, a New York Times article detailed how “TikTok has quietly restricted one of its few tools to help measure the popularity of trends on the video app, after the tool’s results were used by researchers and lawmakers to scrutinize content on the site related to geopolitics and the Israel-Hamas war.”


While the inner workings of social media algorithms have always been opaque at best, the study on TikTok – and the company’s decision to restrict the tool researchers used – likely gives more ammunition to those in the United States who want to ban the app.  

However, TikTok remains an extremely popular social media platform, especially among Gen Z and Gen Alpha. Unless it is banned, public affairs professionals and marketers should continue to consider TikTok as part of their content and advertising strategy, particularly if they are targeting younger audiences.

The Beginning of the End for Web-based Tracking Cookies 

Google starts restricting the default use of third-party cookies on Chrome

As reported by Semafor, Google has begun restricting the default use of third-party cookies on Chrome, the most popular internet browser in the world. Cookies, which have been widely used by websites since the 1990s, allow advertisers to track internet users’ behavior across different websites and apps in order to target ads at them.  

While Google started with just 1% of Chrome users earlier this month, its plan is to eliminate cookies for all its Chrome users by the end of 2024. In addition to Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari browsers have also begun to place limits on cookies. 


The move to kill cookies has long been lauded by privacy advocates who have bemoaned the surveillance created by the collection of personal information.  

However, many websites that rely on advertising are worried about a possible decline in revenue. Some fear that the end of the cookie will force more news websites to erect “paywalls” and will end the era of “free news for all”. In addition, many advertisers claim they are “nowhere near ready” for the end of the cookie.  

With the future of cookies in question, public affairs firms and marketers should pay close attention to new targeting technologies, such as Google’s “Privacy Sandbox” that allows advertisers to target broad groups of people with specific interests rather than individuals using their browsing history.  

A Year in Review

Check out GSG’s latest video wrapping up the very best of 2023. We delivered critical research on issues ranging from abortion rights to ESG, helped our clients tackle the biggest challenges of the day, and delivered wins at the ballot box for our Democratic allies – and The L@B was there each and every step of the way.

PRWeek Awards Shortlist

Last year, we worked with Pratt & Whitney to communicate the benefits of the F-135 engine to key decision makers in Washington. And now we’re excited to share that our innovative campaign has found more success: we have been shortlisted for the PRWeek Awards under the Best in Public Affairs category. We are attending the awards dinner in March – let us know if we’ll see you there! 

PR Daily Top Women in Communications

Congratulations are also in order for our very own Emily Williams, who was recognized by PR Daily as a Top Woman in Communications. Emily was a true visionary force behind planning, building, and launching The L@B, and she continues to deliver many of our biggest wins. 

This issue of The L@B Report was put together by Ryan Alexander.

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