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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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Apple Blog Companies Google Microsoft Policy Politics Privacy

Europe to break up big tech if U.S. can’t

Following antitrust investigations from the U.S. Government into online giants Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple back in July 2020, the EU has now threatened to break up Silicon Valley’s big tech companies if the US can’t.

The argument revolves around monopoly and antitrust laws, put in place to stop companies from engaging in anti competitive behaviour. Whilst the U.S has been conducting investigations this December in an aim to break up Facebook and bringing seemingly incriminating emails sent from its founder to light, the EU has since released two major new drafts of regulations for tech companies. 

The two documents are the Digital Markets Act and a Digital Services Act which seek to hold companies accountable for both unfair competition and the regulation of illegal behaviour on their platforms. The documents come from the EU centre of Brussels and are the first significant revamp of policy from the EU in twenty years. Both proposals for the new acts will first need to be voted on by the Council of Ministers and European Parliament before being able to be made into law. There is, however, no timetable as of yet to when this might occur. 

The proposals include big fines for big tech companies seeking to eat up market competition. Companies will be liable for up to 10% of their worldwide revenue for acts of deliberate anti-competition, while fines for up to 6% of global revenue will be put in place for companies that fail to regulate their platforms for illegal behaviour. 

If the new laws were to come into place they would indicate one of the biggest and most significant shifts in worldwide policy making, as EU law would greatly impact US companies’ working practices. The EU laws are noted to be some of the most strict and stringent big tech companies would have to comply with.

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Amazon Companies Policy Politics

Should Amazon censor books that peddle ‘disinformation’?

Amazon has a QAnon problem, according to a new report in the European edition of Politico. The website analysed hundreds of books sold on Amazon and promoted by the e-commerce monopoly’s algorithms and found about 100 books written by QAnon cranks. There are also reportedly more than 80 books promoting conspiracy theories related to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.

In case you haven’t heard, QAnon maintains that the United States and thus much of the world is covertly run by a gang of satanic, blood-swigging pedophiles (including all Democrats) and that Donald Trump is fighting to save the nation from their clutches. This idea has gained quite a bit of traction over the past few years, spreading far beyond America’s borders much like the coronavirus spread out from Wuhan, China. Needless to say, QAnoners wouldn’t pass your standard PPSR check.

Unlike Facebook and YouTube, Amazon has not yet moved to censor QAnon content on its platform. That seems to me to be something for which they ought to be applauded rather than condemned—after all, free speech only matters if it’s available to everyone, not just those who express views with which we agree (Joe Stalin had no problem with free speech for purveyors of Soviet propaganda). But Politico—and I’m sure it’s not alone here—implies that Amazon needs to get with the program and ramp up its censorship practices.

Of course, Amazon already bans plenty of books, just not enough to satisfy the mass media raging appetite for censorship. Even Facebook, the digital world’s leading censor, is said to be too tolerant of speech that “offends.” The censorship enthusiasts won’t quit until everybody is muzzled—including themselves.

Politico spoke to Ciaran O’Connor, described as a “disinformation researcher,” who said that “Amazon is falling short by allowing people to promote these conspiracy theories” and by providing “online influencers with an infrastructure to monetize content and material directly linked to disinformation.”

Okay, but who gets to declare what is and isn’t real information? Ciaran O’Conner? Jeff Bezos? The US government? Are you prepared to let someone else determine whether you’re allowed to read a book? Considering Amazon’s utter domination of the online book market (several of the “alternatives,” e.g. Abe Books, are actually owned by Amazon), this goes way beyond a private company exercising its right not to stock certain books. Amazon, in all of its monopolistic glory, has the power to simply erase a book, and an author, from public visibility. If you think that’s a good thing, you’re very confused.

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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 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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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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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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Companies Policy Politics Social Media Society

Big Tech ramps up censorship activity

Twitter rang in the new year with one of the most prolific political purges in the young history of the digital age, leapfrogging Facebook and YouTube to claim the top spot in the censorship sweepstakes.

The festivities began in earnest in 2018 with the coordinated banning of right-wing nutbag Alex Jones and his conspiracy program Infowars. This was done under the guise of protecting innocent people from “fake news.” How good of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey to act as our nannies. Without their paternal oversight our small little minds might be corrupted by unsavory views. Sarcasm aside, I happen to think that grown-ups should be allowed to decide for themselves what is true and what is false. In order to do so they have to have access to all the available perspectives, including those deemed “dangerous” by tech monopolies. If a small percentage end up adopting the wrong opinions, well, that’s part of living in a free society. If you want total conformity of thought, enforced by powerful people, move to Saudi Arabia.

Evidently, many people slept through Orwell Day in high school. How else can we explain all the positive reactions to blatant political censorship?

It began with Alex Jones; now it has expanded to social media accounts belonging to governments at odds with the United States; alternative media outlets countering official US narratives; and even individual people with no connection to any government or media outlet, but who raise inconvenient questions and look at things from a different perspective than the one espoused by, say, the Washington Post.

Twitter’s most recent censorship spree was reported on in detail by The Grayzone:

“In this latest purge, Twitter suspended the official accounts of Venezuela’s National GuardNavyAir ForceStrategic CommandPetroleum MinistryPenitentiary Services MinistryNational Commission of Information Technology, and Foundation Engineering Institute.

“The office of the government of the Capital District, the office of the vice president of the economy, and the press office of the armed forces also had their accounts removed by Twitter.”

Alternative news outlets in Venezuela were also unplugged, as was the account of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (it was later reinstated).

Washington is targeting Maduro’s government; therefore, so is Twitter.

Who else is being targeted by Washington? Iran is. Therefore:

“In the wake of the Trump administration’s execution of Iran’s top general Soleimani, a clear act of war, Twitter moved to restrict the account of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.” Moreover:

“Many individual Iranians have been targeted as well. Users posted lists of dozens of Iranians who had their accounts taken down. These included prominent activists, journalists, and researchers who challenged Western propaganda and disinformation against their country.”

Ditto Syria:

“On January 4, Twitter temporarily suspended the official Twitter account of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A few days later, amid backlash, it restored the account.

“Twitter has repeatedly suspended and restricted the profile of Syria’s president, forcing the country’s presidential office to create multiple accounts (neither of which has verified by the company).”

Is that clear enough? As we move deeper into the darkness of the digital age, I think it’s time we retired the term “Stalinist Purge” (most young’uns probably don’t know who Stalin was) and replaced it with Dorsey-esque Purge.” Or “Zuckerbergian Purge.” Either will do.

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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.