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Twitter stands up to world leaders with account bans

Twitter has been a leader in the social media forefront since its conception back in 2015. The platform finally launched publicly on March 26th 2006 and has been a long-standing big name amongst the online social media giants since. After a controversial banning of the then U.S. President Donald Trump back in early 2021, it has made global headlines again with its banning of an account linked to the Iranian president Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

The Associated Press was the first to report the closing of an account named @khamenei_site, which had been linked to the Supreme Leader of Iran’s personal website. The account, written in Farsi, was claimed to have violated the hate speech regulations of the platforms when it posted an image of Trump playing golf. While the image may at first seem harmless, the connected caption written in Farsi translated as a threatening ‘Revenge is certain’. 

The account was linked without a doubt to the Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, when the same image then appeared on his website last month. The picture was accompanied again with a quote from the Supreme Leader Khamenei: ‘Soleimani’s murderers and those who ordered his murder must face revenge. … Both the murderers and those who ordered it should know that revenge may come at any time.’

The account ban comes after Twitter made sensational world news previously with their banning of Donald Trump from the platform – whilst he was still president of the United States of America. A statement about the suspension, which was released via the Twitter blog on Friday 8th January 2021, cited a ‘risk of further incitement of violence’ as the cause for concern driving the shutdown. 

The statement came the same day in response to Trump’s tweets that are alleged to have started the riots in the capital, for which he is now also under an ongoing impeachment trial.

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Apps Politics Social Media Twitter Uncategorized

Twitter sued by the man behind NY Post’s infamous Hunter Biden story

A couple weeks before the US presidential election, the New York Post—a right wing tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch—published a story about Hunter Biden, the son of then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The thrust of the article was that Hunter essentially bribed foreign officials with access to his father when the latter was Barack Obama’s vice president.

How the story developed was odd to say the least: someone went to a computer repair shop—sort of like a health analytics company for computers—and dropped off a water-damaged laptop that allegedly belonged to Hunter. The owner of the shop proceeded to look at the contents of the laptop’s hard drive, discovering a mass of incriminating files. Then, as any rational, well-meaning individual would do, he decided it was a good idea to share them with Rudy Guliani’s lawyer. Then he turned the hard drive over to the FBI.

Guliani and his army of Trump-worshipping orcs shopped the hard drive story around to various media outlets. The Post, presumably, was the only one to accept it. The article was published, and the Trump campaign thought it had its October surprise. But within a few hours the article had been censored by Twitter, which later justified the clearly-political move by citing its “hacked materials” policy. It even disabled the NY Post’s Twitter account.

A couple days later Twitter restored the account as well as the censored links, but of course the damage was done; the controversy surrounding the story had become far bigger than the story itself. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to the hoopla by saying he didn’t want “Twitter to be a distributor for hacked materials,” but conceded that it had been a “mistake” to simply censor an article without providing any context.

Anyway, the owner of the computer repair shop, John Paul Mac Isaac, is now suing Twitter for defamation. His lawyers claim that by slapping the “hacked materials” label on the Post’s story, Twitter implied that he is a hacker. Isaac is seeking $500 million in punitive damages, an unspecified amount in compensatory damages, and a “public retraction of all false statements.”

“Plaintiff is not a hacker and the information obtained from the computer does not [constitute] hacked materials because Plaintiff lawfully gained access to the computer,” the lawsuit says, adding that Isaac “is now widely considered a hacker” and was forced to close his repair business due to threats and negative customer reviews.

This reminds me of that time when the previously-bald-headed Elon Musk was sued for defamation after referring to a cave diver as a “pedo guy” on Twitter. He won the case by claiming his tweet was satirical. Poor judgment on the part of that judge.

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Blog Facebook Policy Politics

Breaking up big tech: continued scrutiny for Facebook

A world without Facebook – or any other of its online social media outlets such as Instagram and Whatsapp – seems almost unimaginable for some. In fact, an increasing number of the global population are born into a world they will never know without an ever growing digital realm. For those born between the mid- to late- 1990s until the early 2010s, this generation has even become known as Gen Z – or rather Generations Zoomers since the undeniable takeover of 2020 from the digital conference platform zoom in wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. 

Since its launch in 2004 Facebook has continually dominated our social sphere, affecting both our online and offline behaviours. It’s growing control as a media conglomerate has caused much controversy in more recent times this year, yet the social media giant is not accustomed to controversy and lawsuits. The infamous dispute between founder Mark Zuckerberg and some fellow Harvard law students was encapsulated in the 2010 film The Social Network, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and even Justin Timberlake. 
With a history of breaking up large company monopolies such as logging companies in the 1840s, Standard Oil in the 1910s, and then AT&T in the 1980s, the U.S. Government has finally taken on big tech. Following investigative court proceedings with the four online giants Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google back in July 2020, the government has once again taken on Facebook for holding too much power in the social media sphere. The government has since filed an antitrust law against Facebook, directed at the company’s tactics of buying rival competition. Whilst policy makers have described the court proceedings as likely to be an uphill battle though are keen to break up the monopoly that arguably stifles rival competition and hinders creative diversity, others have criticised the government for attempting a break up that could cause unintended and unforeseeable consequences.

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Amazon Apple Blog Companies Facebook Google Instagram Messaging Microsoft Politics Privacy Social Media TikTok Twitter Video Chat WhatsApp YouTube

US government investigating how 9 social media companies collect and use data

The Federal Trade Commission, which enforces US antitrust and consumer protection laws, has issued orders to nine social media companies demanding information about how and for what purposes they collect and store user data. The FTC is also wants to know about the companies’ advertising and user engagement practices, specifically as they relate to child and adolescent users.

The list of targeted companies is a rogues gallery of digital malefactors: Amazon, ByteDance (owner of TikTok), Discord, Facebook, Reddit, Snap, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube. They have 45 days to respond to the order. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe that any of them have 1300 numbers.

On its webpage, the FTC writes that the objective is to gain a fuller understanding of:

  • how social media and video streaming services collect, use, track, estimate, or derive personal and demographic information;
  • how they determine which ads and other content are shown to consumers;
  • whether they apply algorithms or data analytics to personal information;
  • how they measure, promote, and research user engagement; and
  • how their practices affect children and teens.

“The FTC wants to understand how business models influence what Americans hear and see, with whom they talk, and what information they share,” explained the FTC in a press statement. “And the FTC wants to better understand the financial incentives of social media and video streaming services.”

As CNBC reports, there’s a clause in the FTC Act that enables the FTC to conduct wide-reaching probes that are separate from law enforcement. These are known as “6(b) studies.” The FTC carried one out earlier this year in which it reviewed various takeovers by some of the major US monopolies, namely, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft.

Of course, Bill Gates’ Microsoft was the subject of a major antitrust lawsuit in 2001. In that case, Microsoft was confirmed as a corporate outlaw operating in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Now Facebook finds itself faced with a similar lawsuit filed just this month by the FTC along with 48 attorneys general. In that suit, Facebook is alleged to have taken over Instagram and WhatsApp after determining that, if left alone, they could pose a threat to Facebook’s hegemony.

Thus, Facebook is accused of unlawfully crushing competition and subsequently harming consumers by limiting their range of options, particularly with regard to privacy. Facebook plans to use the fact that the FTC approved its takeovers of Instagram and WhatsApp as the main pillar of its defense.

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Apps Companies Google Politics Social Media Society Uncategorized YouTube

YouTube profits from animal torture: report

A new investigation by animal welfare group Lady Freethinker determined that YouTube knowingly profits from depictions of extreme animal abuse. The investigation found about 2,000 videos “glorifying animal cruelty”; combined, they have more than 1 billion views. Using publicly available data, the group estimated that the abusive videos may have resulted in as much as $12 million in ad revenue for YouTube, plus as much as $15 million in revenue for the creeps who uploaded them.

The animal abuse freely available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube—owned by Google—includes but is not limited to: animal fighting (dogs, roosters, snakes, etc.), abusive captivity, eating animals alive, staged “rescue” videos, and hunting animals with other animals.

There are reportedly at least 146 YouTube channels devoted to celebrating animal abuse, with more than 30 million subscribers. Disturbing to say the least, especially when you consider that most of them would have no trouble passing a crime check like police clearance WA.

“This content is both incredibly cruel and dangerous for people,” Lady Freethinker wrote on its website. “Many of the animals exploited in these videos are potential hosts for zoonotic diseases — like rabies, tuberculosis, Ebola, measles, and more — that can spread to humans.

“LFT is calling on YouTube to show that it doesn’t prioritize profits over the humane treatment of animals. Sign our petition urging the company to take down these videos and adopt a strong policy to detect and remove all content promoting animal cruelty in the future.”

Reached for comment by the Guardian newspaper, YouTube had this to say for itself: “YouTube’s community guidelines prohibit any violent or gory content intended to shock or disgust viewers, including the unnecessary infliction of harm on animals. We routinely remove videos and comments flagged by our community that violate those policies, and in many cases we terminate the accounts of users who violate our guidelines.”

But Lady Freethinker reports that, between April and July of this year, YouTube only removed 185 of the approximately 2,000 videos flagged by the charity.

As for those “community guidelines” that clearly aren’t enforced, they supposedly prohibit dogfighting, cockfighting, videos showing “unnecessary suffering,” bullfighting, and hunting “using illegal practices.” All of which can be found on YouTube right now.

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Apps Blog Instagram Policy Social Media Society

Instagram vs the harlots

Strumpets et alia are reportedly up in arms over Instagram’s new (but not really new) terms of use and community guidelines, which make it difficult to advertise sexual services on the image sharing platform. As I understand it (but maybe my understanding is flawed; I’ve spent the last 24 hours shopping for a cashmere cardigan for Christmas, so my eyes and brain are little impaired), Instagram recently reiterated and rephrased its terms of use without actually changing them. But its prostitute users are still angry, claiming that the update was in fact a shot across the bow at them.

Instagram enforces the same “sexual solicitation” restrictions as Facebook. That is, it prohibits content that “facilitates, encourages or coordinates sexual encounters or commercial sexual services between adults such as prostitution or escort services.” Nor is “sexually explicit language” permitted.

More specifically, users cannot post porn, “strip club shows,” “erotic dances,” or sexual massages. They cannot solicit any of those things either. Also banned are “suggestive elements” including “sexual emojis” (I gotta get me some of them), “sexualised slang,” and my personal favorite, references to “wetness or erection.”

Sounds pretty puritanical to me. Historically, most puritans are closet perverts and/or paraphiliacs. Just a thought.

On Instagram, no images of intercourse, genitals or “close-ups of fully-nude buttocks” are allowed. Which sort of defeats the whole purpose of an image sharing app, no? What do people post on there if not close-ups of fully-nude buttocks?

There’s a little bit of latitude with regard to female nipples, including “photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding.” Why anyone would feel the need to post a photo of themselves breastfeeding is a little bit beyond me, but whatever blows your hair back, I guess.

Anyway, as I said, prostitutes have their g-strings in a bunch over all of this. A sex educator called Taylor Sparks spoke about the outrage to Mashable: “Instagram and Facebook guidelines will have sex educators, tantric coaches and professional Dommes walking on eggshells because you don’t know if those monitoring your page will consider the word penis or dick more offensive.”

Good point. Better stick with “johnson” or “ramrod.” Those usually slide past the censors and into their destination. “Tallywhacker” also works.

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Companies Social Media TikTok Uncategorized

Reddit buys out TikTok rival Dubsmash

Reddit announced recently that it had bought out a video sharing company called Dubsmash, further expanding the message board’s digital footprint. Dubsmash, a competitor of obnoxious prepubescent app TikTok, is going to hold onto its platform and brand while Reddit helps “bring our teams together to combine the unique creator experience of Dubsmash with the community growth engine of Reddit.” Reddit has not disclosed the financial terms of the takeover.

Dubsmash (a pretty stupid-sounding name, wouldn’t you say so?) functions much like TikTok does, giving users the ability to create and share short videos that are supposed to be really funny and clever but are actually just puerile and annoying. CNN, which doesn’t appear to have many articles about child care in Hornsby, reports that Dubsmash is known for its “diverse audiences”: one quarter of black teens in the US are on the app, and 70 percent of users are women. By “women” I assume CNN means “girls.” At least I hope that’s the case. If 70 percent of Dubsmash users are grown women, Western culture is in serious trouble.

A Reddit blog post says that about 30 percent of Dubsmash users log in each day to create content, which doesn’t seem overly-impressive. It also says that “Dubsmash’s mission is to elevate under-represented creators.” I’m not really sure what constitutes an “under-represented creator,” but there you have it.

“Dubsmash will bring two key strengths to Reddit,” Reddit explains. “First, Dubsmash’s mission is unique among social platforms, and is aligned with Reddit’s own mission of bringing community and belonging to everyone in the world. Just as Reddit is a place for content you won’t see anywhere else on the Internet, Dubsmash provides a welcoming platform for creators and users who are under-represented in social media.”

Commenting on the takeover, Dubsmash leader Suchit Dash delivered the following bromides:

“In our years of building Dubsmash, we’ve learned how video can spark creativity, unlock interactions, and deepen connections within communities. We want to continue our journey to bring best in class video products to our users, and now Reddit users. We believe in the idea of connecting creators around interests and topics, something Reddit has pioneered, in our growing Dubsmash community.”

Prior to being taken over by Reddit, Dubsmash reportedly considered letting Facebook or Snap do the honors.

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Facebook Policy Politics Privacy Social Media Uncategorized

Australia sues Facebook for spying on users sans consent

Facebook has been sued by a regulatory body in Australia for allegedly (but we all know it’s true) gathering personal data from users without their knowledge or consent. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says Zuckerberg’s corporation used the Onavo Protect VPN app to spy on Australian users in 2016 and 2017, collecting and storing their data in order to boost Facebook’s profits. Facebook did this, the filing asserts, while telling users that the app would protect their data and keep it safe.

That is what a VPN (virtual private network) is meant to do: keep your data secure and prevent you from being monitored by nefarious actors like Facebook. But you really can’t trust any digital technology these days, especially if it’s being promoted by Facebook. If you want privacy you’d better just stick to face-to-face conversations, or maybe 2 way radios.

“Through Onavo Protect, Facebook was collecting and using the very detailed and valuable personal activity data of thousands of Australian consumers for its own commercial purposes, which we believe is completely contrary to the promise of protection, secrecy and privacy that was central to Facebook’s promotion of this app,” said a statement from ACCC chair Rod Sims.

He added:

“Consumers often use VPN services because they care about their online privacy, and that is what this Facebook product claimed to offer. In fact, Onavo Protect channelled significant volumes of their personal activity data straight back to Facebook.

“We believe that the conduct deprived Australian consumers of the opportunity to make an informed choice about the collection and use of their personal activity data by Facebook and Onavo.”

The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, though it did not specify how much.

Whether Facebook did what the ACCC accuses it of doing isn’t really up for debate. In 2018 the British parliament published internal Facebook documents that detailed how the company used data from the Onavo app to gather valuable information about user activity—as well as valuable information about competitors. For example, the app allowed Facebook to identify WhatsApp as a competitive threat, at which point Facebook moved to take it over. Classic predatory monopolistic behavior, and a clear violation of US antitrust legislation.

Where’s Ted Roosevelt when you need him?

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Apple Companies Facebook Privacy Social Media

Facebook doesn’t like that Apple is going to inform its users that they’re being spied on by Facebook

Few things are more tiresome than a squabble between miscreant corporations, especially when they’re as scummy as Facebook and Apple. But here we are. Facebook—the surveillance/data-stealing monopoly—is lashing out at Apple for changing its operating system in a way that Facebook says will make it harder for businesses to assault users with targeted advertisements.

In a blog post, Facebook asserts that Apple’s new transparency policy is “about profit, not privacy.” As though Facebook isn’t motivated exclusively and pathologically by profit. Facebook accusing another predatory corporation of greed is like the US government condemning one of its enemies for war crimes. It’s just hypocrisy of the worst sort. All this garbage does make me tired; if only I had an electric adjustable bed to tumble into right now.

“Facebook is speaking up for small businesses,” writes Dan Levy, VP of Ads and Business Products, and Apple is “hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic.” Pretty rich coming from the company that, according to a lawsuit filed recently by the federal government, is actually a predatory trust that systematically crushes or takes over any business that it fears might eventually become a competitor and threaten its absolute domination of the social media and digital advertising markets. That company cares about small businesses. Sure.

What Apple will do is this: Whenever an iPhone user opens an app, the system will alert them to the fact that their data is being tracked for advertising purposes. The user can then opt out of the surveillance program if they wish.

That’s what has Facebook all steamed up right now. The company is so vexed that it took out full-page ads in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. The ad reads in part: “Without personalised ads, Facebook data shows that the average small business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60% in their sales for every dollar they spend.”

“Facebook data,” eh? I’m sure that’s completely reliable. Definitely not skewed to Facebook’s advantage. My personal internal data shows that Facebook is full of shit. I trust that yours shows the same.

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Facebook Politics Social Media Twitter

List of Facebook and Twitter execs that donated to Biden’s campaign

The big tech monopolies have come under a lot of scrutiny lately, and it’s about time. Facebook is now the subject of anti-trust lawsuits filed by the government of the United States as well as the attorneys general of 47 US states. The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple and Google (check out Google adwords agency) have all been grilled by the US Congress in recent months. During these congressional hearings, Democrats mostly concentrate on anti-trust violations while Republicans complain about censorship of conservative voices.

While Republican rhetoric is almost 100 percent nonsense, it’s abundantly clear that Facebook and Twitter do in fact have a cultural and political bias that favors shallow mainstream liberalism. The kind of liberalism conveyed by Joe Biden, for example. Indeed, Fox News reports that top executives at both Facebook and Twitter donated many a dollar to Biden’s presidential campaign. Moreover, none donated to Trump’s fascist reelection campaign.

Using Federal Election Commission records, Fox discovered that Erin Egan (Facebook vice president of public policy) donated the maximum $2,800 to Biden in October. She also donated the same amount to Biden’s uninspiring primary campaign.

Also donating the maximum allowable amount to Biden during the primary was Facebook’s chief revenue officer David Fischer, who went on to give a niggardly $750 to Biden during the general election.

David Wehner, Facebook’s chief financial officer, also pumped the maximum $2,800 into the Biden campaign. As did four of Facebook’s vice presidents—Gene Alston, Michael Verdu, Shahriar Rabii and T.S. Khurana—and the chief operating officer of Instagram (owned by Facebook), Marne Levine.

It was pretty much the same story at Twitter, which, you may recall, drew the ire of Republicans shortly before the election by flat-out censoring a New York Post story alleging financial and political improprieties on the part of Joe Biden’s ne’er-do-well son Hunter (now under investigation for tax fraud). Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey—who now sports a Russian peasant beard—later testified to the US Congress that it was a mistake to censor the article. But the damage had been done.

Anyhow, Twitter VP Matt Derella gave Biden’s campaign $2,000 in September, while senior director Ryan Oliver and senior director of product management James Kelm (not execs) donated the full monty. Kelm donated $2,800 to Biden’s primary campaign as well.

Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment, while Twitter said it “enforces the Twitter rules judiciously and impartially for everyone on our service.” A demonstrable absurdity contradicted by their prolific censorship.