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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 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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Apps Companies Influencers Instagram Social Media Society

Murderer plugs Instagram page ahead of trial

In an example of life imitating art imitating life, or something approximating that, a 19-year-old facing a double capital murder charge plugged his own Instagram while being questioned by a gaggle of reporters.

Kiernan Christopher Williams of San Antonio was allegedly at a bar called Ventura when he shot dead two fellow patrons. The arrest affidavit quotes witnesses as stating that Williams was fighting with one of the victims before the shooting.

One witness said they saw Williams “intentionally shoot [the victim]. The Defendant continued to fire his weapon into the crowded venue causing several victims to be struck by gunfire.”

As two cops conveyed a handcuffed Williams through a parking garage on the way to a police car, the alleged murderer spoke candidly to reporters.

“He [the victim] told me he was gonna kill me,” Williams said. “He told me because I bumped into him he was gonna kill me.”

He added, “Don’t worry about me. I’m gonna be alright.” Then came the money shot:

“Man, y’all gotta follow me on Instagram: _32baby.k9_. That’s me. Actually I’m an upcoming artist.”

One reporter responded by asking Williams if he realized the gravity of the charges leveled against him.

Williams: “I do realize my charge of capital murder.”

Reporter: “Do you think you’ll ever be able to listen to your music again?”

Williams: “I bet you I will—self-defense, sir.”

Asked if he had any regrets, Williams said, “On the cool, I regret everything that I did. No lie. I do.”

Reporter: “Do you know them [the victims]? Are you friends? Do you know them? Had you seen them before?”

Williams: “Yes, sir.”

Reporter: “Why did you feel like you had to pull the trigger?”

Williams: “Because he pulled a gun on me.”

Reporter: “Did he ever fire the gun?”

Williams: “No, sir. He didn’t have a chance.”

End of interview.

This reminds me of one of the Scream films. Specifically the end of the second one, in which Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) articulates his motive for the murders he committed. Here’s a extract from his manic soliloquy:

“This is just the beginning, a prelude to the trial. That’s where the real fun is, because these days it’s allll about the trial. … I’ll get Dershowitz or Cochran to represent me. … People love a good trial. It’s like theater, they’re dying for it. And I’ve worked hard to give the audience what they want.”

Doubtless, _32baby.k9_ has considerably more followers now than it did before Williams murdered those people in the bar. There’s your motive. Wes Craven was a modern day prophet.

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Blog Instagram Social Media Society

We need a new definition for ‘hero’ in the dictionary

We live in a fatuous world. So fatuous, in fact, that “A young woman who edited the captions of her Instagram posts with her ex-boyfriends is being hailed as a hero online.” That’s from a story in Fox News. She is being hailed a hero. Hero. Merriam-Webster lists four definitions:

  1. a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
  2. an illustrious warrior
  3. a person admired for achievements and noble qualities
  4. one who shows great courage

I’ll briefly expand on this Instagram captions story and then you can decide which of four definitions fits the person “being hailed as a hero.”

The person is a 22-year-old named Rosie. She’s a student from Singapore. And she “went viral” after updating the captions accompanying old photos of her and her then-boyfriends. In her words, she “decided to unarchive all the pictures I had with shitty guys because I look cute but updated the captions to be more accurate.”

One photo taken at the Philadelphia Museum of Art shows our Rosie being held up and kissed by a young man. When the photo was posted she wrote: “not a fan of valentine’s day but a huge fan of my valentine.” It has now been updated with the following edit: “he broke up with me the next day!”

In another photo, Rosie is standing next to a different young man, both of them smiling profusely. Here is what Rosie wrote: “like if you think I can do better.” And: “he broke up with me through Facebook Messenger so yes, I can do better.”

For her efforts Rosie got tens of thousands of likes and many supportive comments. Like this one:

“I truly appreciate this!! I don’t want to delete my IG photos of my exes bc they’re a part of my life, but I can EDIT them to show what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown. Thanks girl.”

Flashing her narcissism, Rosie followed up with a tweet that says: “This tweet isn’t about shaming any of the men pictured. This post is about me, how I moved on by acknowledging my experiences and pain, and knowing that I deserve better. & also that I look good in these pics.”

And also some platitudinous life advice: “Remember that healing is not always about forgiving and forgetting. However you choose to heal and move on know that you deserve the world.”

I deserve the world! You learn something new every day.

Anyway, Rosie says she’s not “shaming” any of her former boyfriends. Is that why she lumped them all into the “shitty guys” category and is now broadcasting the ways in which they broke it off with her sans context? If you’re continuously getting dumped, it might be time to look in the mirror, something she presumably enjoys doing. Also, if you’re viewing and presenting your own life through Instagram and other social media apps, doesn’t it make sense for your significant other to dump you via one of those apps? Live by the sword, die by the sword.