Apps Facebook Politics Privacy Social Media

Facebook, of Cambridge Analytica fame, angry that app lets Instagram users spy on each other

And for the most ironic news of the week, Facebook is appalled that an app allowed people to view the profiles of Instagram users, even if the profiles are set to private. The app, aptly called Ghosty, has been downloaded more than 500,000 times via the Google Play Store. Ghosty is advertised in the following terms:

“You can view all the profiles you want to view including hidden profiles on Instagram. You can download or share photos or videos from your Instagram profiles to your gallery.”

The folks over at Facebook have caught wind of this, and they’re not happy. “This app violates our terms,” Zuckerberg’s company said in a statement. “We will be sending a cease and desist letter to Ghosty ordering them to immediately stop their activities on Instagram, among other requests. We are investigating and planning further enforcement relating to this developer.”

Meanwhile, in a sly attempt to appear to be concerned about the privacy and well-being of its users, Facebook-owned Instagram has begun testing an update to its app that reportedly makes it so that the “like”-count on a given post is only visible to the author of the post.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said the idea is to eliminate the competitive aspect of Instagram, whereby users desperately try to attract as many “likes” as possible to feel popular and boost their fragile self-esteem. After all, everyone knows a person is only as likable and successful as their last Instagram post.

“It’s about young people,” Mosseri said. “The idea is to try and depressurise Instagram, make it less of a competition and give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them and it’s really focused around young people. We get to see how it makes people feel about the platform, how they use the platform and how it affects the creator ecosystem but I’ve been spending a lot of time on this personally.”

As for Facebook attacking Ghosty, that’s a laugh. Facebook is one of the most invasive institutions in the world. Its whole business model is based on the bulk collection of user data—which legally belongs to them, not you, and which it can store forever—which it then shares with other corporations who exploit it to target you with personalized advertisements.

Your information is not safe with Facebook and it never will be.

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Musk’s legal defense re: pedophile comment: It was just Twitter, man!

Elon Musk is tendering an interesting defense as cave diver Vernon Unsworth pushes forward with a defamation lawsuit against the Tesla founder. Unsworth was involved in the rescue of a boys football team trapped in Tham Luang cave in Thailand. Musk was also involved for a short time, designing a mini submarine that he said could be used to shuttle the boys out of the cave. His offer was declined, and Unsworth proceeded to deride it as a publicity stunt. Musk responded by calling Unsworth a “pedo guy” on Twitter. The insult backfired and Musk later deleted the tweet.

Unsworth has since sued Musk for defamation. Last year Musk’s lawyers unsuccessfully tried to have the suit dismissed on the grounds that Musk’s comments were clearly “over-the-top” and delivered via the “rough-and-tumble” medium of Twitter. In other words, Musk’s defense is that remarks made on Twitter, or at least on his Twitter, are some kind of digital performance art and that that inoculates him from any liability his words might otherwise carry. It’s similar to Infowars’ Alex Jones’ defense when he was sued by the family members of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, which Jones repeatedly characterized as a hoax. It didn’t work for Jones and it doesn’t look like it’s going to work for Musk, who has been told by a judge that he must stand trial.

Lawyers for Unsworth have countered by citing the legal penalties arising from another Musk tweet, when he claimed he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private. The statement was false and Musk was fined $40 million by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

But Musk’s legal team are sticking to their guns. They recently provided four examples of outlandish things the Tesla CEO has said on Twitter, according to Entrepreneur:

“An impending zombie apocalypse and a money-back guarantee on flamethrowers to fight them.”

“Rumors that he is a Martian.”

“Building a volcano lair like Dr. Evil, the villain in the ‘Austin Powers’ movies.”

“Launching SpaceX rockets at night because they are easier to fake in the dark.”

Those are clearly not meant to be taken seriously, nor do they have the potential harm or cause damage to another person. Publicly calling someone a pedophile with no evidence, however, doesn’t seem to be in the same ballpark. It ain’t even the same fuckin’ sport, to quote Jules from Pulp Fiction.

Apps Society

Tinder making more changes to accommodate trans users

In 2016 Tinder announced a new feature: More Genders. The idea was the make Tinder a more inclusive digital bath house by allowing trans people to identify as such on the app. As the relevant press release stated:

“To edit or add more information about your gender on Tinder, simply edit your profile. When you tap “I Am” and select “More” you can type a word that describes your gender identity. You can also select to be shown in searches which best reflect your identity. All users have the option to display their gender on their profile, as well.”

Things apparently haven’t gone quite according to plan. In a recent blog post dated November 12, CEO Elie Seidman—who could use a lesson in punctuation—said the company is taking further steps to support transgender users.

“Today, you can add the term that best reflects your gender identity on Tinder by using our feature, More Genders,” Seidman wrote. “And while many successful matches have been made, and surely more minds opened, our trans members have been very vocal about: the banning of our transgender members, especially transgender women.”

See what I mean about the punctuation? What is that colon doing there? She uses it in a similarly odd fashion in the very next sentence: “When developing our More Genders feature: we decided not to give Tinder members the option to filter out profiles of trans people.”

But I digress. Elie says the More Genders feature “came with some very disappointing, unforeseen consequences. Trans people continue to be reported at higher rates by cisgender members simply for being who they are.”

Wait, dudes on a seedy hook-up app aren’t sensitive to the feelings of transgender people? You don’t say …

After questionable deployment of a semi-colon, Elie outlines how Tinder plans to address the issue going forward:

  • Leveraging our support channels to directly engage with the community more quickly
  • Redirecting these types of reports to our escalations team
  • Deploying new in-app warnings to provide more feedback about which guidelines people may be violating—rather than banning profiles

Fair enough. Transgender people deserve to have sordid one-night stands with strange people they meet on the internet, just like everyone else. God speed.

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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.

Apps Blog Social Media TikTok

US goes after TikTok using “national security” pretext

China is a rising world power, which means the United States is extremely hostile to everything related to China, which means the increasingly popular Chinese social media app TikTok is in Washington’s crosshairs. According to news sources the US government has opened a “national security review” of a two-year-old acquisition that saw American social media app bought by Beijing ByteDance Technology Co, the owner of TikTok.

Per Reuters, “TikTok has been growing more popular among U.S. teenagers at a time of growing tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade and technology transfers. About 60% of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24, the company said this year.”

Therefore, “U.S. lawmakers have been calling in recent weeks for a national security probe into TikTok, concerned the Chinese company may be censoring politically sensitive content, and raising questions about how it stores personal data.”

So the US government is going after a social media app that’s popular with American adolescents because it’s concerned about censorship and data security. Call me crazy but I’m calling bullshit on that one. Since when does the US government, home to the National Security Agency, care about data security and privacy? Maybe it’s found Jesus. Or maybe it’s just full of shit. The latter seems a little more likely.

The investigation into the acquisition is a shot over the bow, just like the attacks on Huawei. The message is clear: the United States is prepared to challenge Chinese development at every turn, in every domain, including social media. In addition to the new Cold War with Russia, the US is instigating another one with China. Because the threat of nuclear war isn’t quite pressing enough yet.

Here’s an idea. Instead of demonizing the comparatively puny and impotent TikTok, why doesn’t the US get its own house in order and impose meaningful regulations on giant mass surveillance firms like Facebook and Google?