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Aussie Teenagers ‘Unmasked’ as Brains Behind Leading Covid Tracking Website

Three teenage boys from Melbourne have revealed themselves as the brains behind one of Australia’s leading online Covid trackers.

The website CovidBaseAU has been up and running since April 2021, providing statistics and tracking of the Coronavirus both within Australia and globally. Its layout is straight-forward and easy to browse, showing collated data and updates on the pandemic. It also provides Australian users with updated information and details on vaccinations, cases, tests, hospitalisations, deaths and a Covid timeline.

Because of its efficient design and daily-updated information, the website quickly gained country-wide recognition as a reliable source of information on Covid. 

Its popularity went through the roof when the three teenagers decided to reveal their identity as the brains behind the online tracker. 15-year old Jack and his friends/teammates Wesley (14) and Darcy (15) decided to reveal their identities via Twitter on the 23rd of September 2021. The tweet shows a photo of the trio, showing off their inoculated shoulders while holding up their vaccination cards to the camera.

The Twitter post reads: 

“BOOM! 12-15s can get the (vaccine)

Today the three of us who run @covidbaseau, Jack, Wesley and Darcy, had our first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Thought this would be a good time to share who we really are.

Thrilled that we will finally be included in our data!”

The teenage trio kept themselves anonymous for months, waiting for the best time to reveal their identities to the world. And they chose well! Their tweet instantly gained thousands of likes and has been retweeted 2.5 thousand times.

After their timely reveal on social media, the trio was interviewed on ABC TV News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) by fellow number-cruncher, Casey Briggs. Briggs has been a regular on the network, providing data analysis and graphic presentations on the pandemic. 

In the interview, Briggs commented, “…I had no idea who was behind this website, but they have ‘unmasked’ themselves. And it turns out, they’re a gang of youths!”

When asked how they started the website, Jack explained, “Last year, I sort of, just personally tracked the data myself, just for fun. Darcy’s really skilled with coding and I’m really into the news and really interested in the data. So we’ve decided to take what we’ve been doing and create something with it…” 

Jack added, “We spent a lot of time on it to try and make it as comprehensive as possible.”

When asked why he wanted to get involved with the website, Darcy explained, “The government’s released data in all sorts of different places and in different formats. When Jack was collecting all this data, I helped him put it together and display it on a website so it’s accessible for everyone.”

When asked about the people’s reaction on their Twitter post, Wesley smiled and said, “It was really cool. We didn’t expect it to, kind of, blow up that fast. But yeah, the support’s been amazing.”

Since the 27th of August, Australia has approved the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 12-15 years.

Image source: https://twitter.com/covidbaseau/status/1440916985471062016/photo/1

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Social Media Twitter

The future of Twitter

Twitter has released surprising though not unexpected news this week into the internet sphere. The social media giant has been proving more popular than ever before thanks to the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic crisis restrictions seeing more people at home and online around the world. Now, it seems to be looking to the future to see what’s next for its business growth and how to capitalise on renewed user interest. 

From humble beginnings

Originally conceived by a small team of tech entrepreneurs in March 2006, Twitter had launched by July of the same year. The team of creatives behind the initiative: Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams, could never have predicted the success of the social media baby they had created. Within six years the social networking site had gone on to gain more than 100 million users, with more than 340 million tweets a day posted, making it one of the biggest, most popular and influential of the social media platforms. 

The internet’s front page

Famous for its 140 character limit, Twitter became the direct line to many of our favourite celebrities and politicians alike, giving voice for the first time to people who had previously only been heard via more formal channels such as press interviews and PR statements. The masses equally took to the site as a way to vocalise the ups and downs of daily living, and Twitter equally became notorious for the number of troll accounts that would anonymously abuse others and cause trouble in the Twittersphere. 

What’s next?
Jump forward to 2021 and the site has for a long time been looking at how to expand its offerings. Similarly to other ecommerce initiatives on Instagram and Facebook, Twitter is not set to test a shop module, meaning users can browse and buy using in-app services.

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Companies Influencers Politics Society Twitter

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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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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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.

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Politics Social Media Twitter

China attacks Australia with graphic tweet

Chinese official Lijian Zhao, who is the foreign ministry spokesman for the government, caused worldwide controversy on Twitter on Monday 30th November 2020. His graphic tweet featured an Australian soldier using a knife to slit the throat of a small Afgan child from behind. The faked image saw the pair placed on top of overlapping Australian and Afgan flags. The tweet came in response to the recent Brereton report on the 19th November 2020, that saw 39 accounts of murder committed by Australian special forces soldiers against Afghanis. The report is a large part of Australia’s reckoning with its past and history of involvement in the region. 

Taking to Twitter

In a move similar to one that might be expected of former USA president Donald Trump, China’s government chose to expose their feelings on the situation via the social media platform Twitter, rather than more traditional diplomatic routes. The graphic nature of the tweet however promoted current Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to label them as “disgusting” and “repugnant” according to multiple news reports. The image, which was accompanied by text at the bottom of the photo saying ‘-Don’t be afraid, we are coming to bring you peace’, makes for a truly haunting piece of anti-Western sentiment to come out of China. 

Silence is violence 

In a clapback against Morisson’s claims that the tweet from China was reprehensible, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying if Australia’s outrage at the tweet meant the people and government of Australia thought “the coldblooded murder of Afghans is justified?” She went on to comment that “The Australian government should feel ashamed of this; they owe an explanation to the world and they should solemnly pledge such crimes will not be repeated.” 

It is said the Australian government has reached out to Twitter to ask for the graphic image to be removed, but Twitter has been slow to respond to the breaking news.

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Influencers Politics Social Media Twitter

Jack Dorsey’s personal fortune has tripled since Trump’s election

Remember when Donald Trump announced his presidential bid in the summer of 2015? Came down the escalator in Trump Tower and gave an interview in which he railed against Mexican immigrants, establishing himself as the Racism Candidate and guaranteeing himself tons of free media coverage.

Trump’s train wreck candidacy was a bonanza for the media industry, and everyone wanted a piece of the action. In the guise of challenging Trump, all the big Western media gave him wall-to-wall coverage. They projected Trump into our living rooms and workplaces. They made it impossible for people to ignore him and his antics. They breathed life into his clownish campaign and, in doing so, helped to polarize American society in a way that had not been achieved since the Civil War. And the circus continued into Trump’s first term.

Why did the media do this? Because it was good for business. Pure and simple. All the cable news stations enjoyed record-breaking ratings. Trump articles in the major newspapers got enormous traffic. But Trump wasn’t just a windfall for CNN and the New York Times. Social media got a big piece of the pie too.

According to a new report in Forbes, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has seen his net worth climb more than 240% since Trump was elected president. “He now sits atop a $4.4 billion fortune, more than triple the $1.3 billion he had at the start of Trump’s presidency.” Here’s more:

“Twitter’s stock has climbed 105%, boosting Dorsey’s stake in the company from $275 million to $610 million. A bigger share of his wealth comes from Dorsey’s other business, payments firm Square. The Twitter chief executive also serves as CEO of Square, in which he held a bigger, $1 billion stake at the time of Trump’s inauguration. Square shares have surged nearly 370% since then, compared to a 45% increase in the overall stock market. Dorsey’s Square stake is now worth $3.6 billion, enough to compose 80% of the tech tycoon’s fortune.”

That’s right—@jack has benefited more from Trump’s presidency than perhaps anybody else. It’s insane to think that he would ever consider suspending Trump’s Twitter account, despite his passion for political censorship and Trump’s tendency to use Twitter to threaten entire countries with massive acts of violence, including war crimes.

I think it’s safe to say that pledging to bomb Iran’s cultural sites—a unambiguous war crime—violates Twitter’s “community guidelines,” for example. But @jack doesn’t care. He’ll just keep pulling accounts belonging to Iranians and Venezuelans and Syrians, and alternative voices inside the US, all the while raking in a few more billion dollars. Jack’s a jerk-off.

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Apps Policy Social Media Twitter

Twitter announces decentralized network plan

New from @jack: Twitter is assembling a small team of researchers to develop an “open and decentralized standard for social media.” Company CTO Parag Agrawal has been tapped as the person whose job it is to tap a leader for the project, who will then tap up to five people to work on the project, which is lamely called Bluesky. Here it is in @jack’s own words:

“Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard.

“Twitter was so open early on that many saw its potential to be a decentralized internet standard, like SMTP (email protocol). For a variety of reasons, all reasonable at the time, we took a different path and increasingly centralized Twitter. But a lot’s changed over the years…

“First, we’re facing entirely new challenges centralized solutions are struggling to meet. For instance, centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people.

“Second, the value of social media is shifting away from content hosting and removal, and towards recommendation algorithms directing one’s attention. Unfortunately, these algorithms are typically proprietary, and one can’t choose or build alternatives. Yet.

“Third, existing social media incentives frequently lead to attention being focused on content and conversation that sparks controversy and outrage, rather than conversation which informs and promotes health.

“Finally, new technologies have emerged to make a decentralized approach more viable. Blockchain points to a series of decentralized solutions for open and durable hosting, governance, and even monetization. Much work to be done, but the fundamentals are there.”

There’s more, but all this copy and pasting is giving me carpal tunnel.

Anyway, as The Verge reports Jack’s BIG announcement is pretty small beer in the eyes of folks who are already developing decentralized networks.

“I hear Twitter wants to invest in creating a new decentralized social media protocol,” tweeted developer Darius Kazemi. “Meanwhile a bunch of us are out here already doing the hard work.”

Kazemi added:

“The hilarious thing is that they could take their budget for this initiative, slash it by 90%, distribute the remaining 10% to like 2 dozen Patreons, and thereby do approximately 1000% more to create a viable decentralized social media standard and implementations.”

Poor @jack.

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Apps Influencers Politics Social Media Twitter

Trump breaks personal Twitter record

With impeachment looming, Donald Trump is going into Twitter overdrive mode. The beleaguered president reportedly tweeted and/or retweeted a total of 115 (though some estimates put the figure at 123) times on Thursday, setting a new personal record. The following day, the House of Representatives voted to move forward with impeachment, approving the articles of impeachment published earlier in the week.

The Trump twitter monsoon began Sunday when he tweeted 105 times; he was a little less feverish on Monday and Tuesday before firing out 77 tweets on Wednesday. Then came the historic 115 on Thursday.

The overwhelming majority of Trump’s tweets are to do with the impeachment inquiry—or The Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of the United States, as he refers to it. He attacks Democratic lawmakers and media personalities while retweeting messages of support from Republicans and Fox News “reporters,” as well as his brain-damaged son, Don Junior.

But even Fox News isn’t immune from Trump’s fire-breathing Twitter persona. Yesterday he posted the following:

“Hard to believe that @FoxNews will be interviewing sleazebag & totally discredited former FBI Director James Comey, & also corrupt politician Adam “Shifty” Schiff. Fox is trying sooo hard to be politically correct, and yet they were totally shut out from the failed Dem debates!”

Trump also set aside some time to join the band of old men personally attacking teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Said old men were extremely triggered when Thunberg delivered a speech at the UN lambasting world leaders for looking the other way while our planet burns. Responding to news that Thunberg had been named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year, Trump tweeted:

“So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

On that note, a Twitter account for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign posted an edited image of the Greta Thunberg TIME cover with Trump’s head photoshopped onto the teenager’s body.

Not sure how to react to that. Someone resurrect Freud.