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  1. He wants a rehearing. President Trump is determined to challenge an appeals court ruling preventing him from blocking critics on Twitter. The Justice Department has filed papers for Trump that demanded a rehearing by the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, arguing that the three-judge panel's unanimous decision was "fundamentally misconceived." The move would supposedly create a chilling effect for politicians if upheld. "Public officials who address matters relating to their public office on personal accounts will run the risk that every action taken on that account will be state action subject to constitutional scrutiny," according to the filing. The challenge may face an uphill battle. In the earlier ruling, Circuit Judge Barrington Parker noted that @RealDonaldTrump is "one of the White House's main vehicles" for official activity -- it's under scrutiny precisely because many of Trump's tweets are state actions. He "hereby ordered" companies to find alternatives to production in China on August 23rd while using his personal account, for example, and incorrectly . If Trump was allowed to block critics of his policies on his personal account, other politicians could simply shift their announcements to personal accounts to avoid their responsibilities for civic interaction. This lines up to a degree with a January ruling that an official's Facebook page is a public forum. As it is, there are calls for consistency across the aisle. Critics have sued Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arguing that they, too, shouldn't be blocked on Twitter merely based on disagreements. While Trump may not be fond of seeing critics' tweets, the ruling could also ensure that rival politicians have to contend with online objectors of their own. Source
  2. Some members say it has been months since they last heard from the company It's been three years since Twitter formed its Trust and Safety Council, tasked with combatting abuse and harassment plaguing the platform. According to a recent report from Wired, things aren't going well. A number of members on the council sent a letter to Twitter leadership this week expressing concerns that the company is no longer listening to their recommendations. In some acses, members claim that Twitter has months without responding to messages from council members. In the letter, obtained by Wired and published Friday, members of the council express to the company that "There have been no advance heads-up of Twitter's policy or product changes to the council, leaving many of us to have no prior warning or let alone knowledge when answering press and media inquiries." The members said the lack of communication is "embarrassing." While not ever member of the council signed on to the letter, those that did have requested a meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to discuss a vision for the council's role within the company going forward. Twitter first formed the Trust and Safety Council in 2016 following years of complaints about abuse taking place on the platform. The plan seemed to work for a time, as Twitter reported targeting and stamping out 10 times as many abusive accounts in 2017 as it had in the year prior. However, it seems as though the company has moved away from relying on its Trust and Safety Council when making decisions on how to change the platform. Source
  3. And so the threats begin... Twenty-four hours after Facebook and Twitter cut down a massive disinformation campaign operated by the Chinese state against pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, the first report has emerged from Asia of "repercussions" as China looks to get even. The social media platforms are banned in China—what's at stake are the billions in ad revenue generated from Chinese companies targeting audiences overseas. The report in Wednesday's South China Morning Post, an outlet that is not state-controlled but has strong PRC insights, cited analysts claiming "advertising revenue the two platforms earn in the world’s second-largest economy could now be at risk as Chinese companies looking to expand overseas reassess the situation." On Monday, I reported that China has been paying Twitter to run ads attacking the Hong Kong protesters—the language being used was highly-charged and drew parallels between the protesters and terrorists. It soon became clear that the same disinformation campaign was running on Facebook as well. To their credit, both social media platforms acted quickly and forcefully. Twitter acknowledged the "significant state-backed information operation," on its platform, "focused on the situation in Hong Kong," suspending 936 accounts "from within the People’s Republic of China (PRC)." The accounts were found to be promoting "political discord" and "undermining the legitimacy" of the protest movement. Twitter went as far as to say "we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation." Facebook also removed multiple pages and accounts, reporting that "the individuals behind this campaign engaged in a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts—frequently posting about local political news and issues including the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities," the platform said in its disclosure, "our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government." And so to the consequences. The SCMP reported Liu Guohong of the China Development Institute warning that "although marketing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter primarily target an overseas audience, Chinese companies that buy ads may have to reconsider whether the national interest is now at stake—as such, the account suspensions may have some adverse impact on revenue the two earn in China." Again, look for the insight. The China Development Institute (CDI) claims to be an "independent think tank," but one that was set up under a Government-backed pilot project and which conducts research "commissioned by Chinese governments at all governance levels and businesses from home and abroad." Facebook has more to lose here, and some industry analysts estimate that the company could generate as much as $5 billion from "China-based advertisers." The social media giant's most recent annual report said that "we generate meaningful revenue from a limited number of resellers representing advertisers based in China." A precedent has been set now, and the two U.S. social media platforms will find it difficult to dial back. On Tuesday, BuzzFeed News reported that China's state media is placing Facebook ads this week "designed to cast doubt on human rights violations occurring under the government’s mass incarceration of Muslim minorities in the country’s northwest Xinjiang region." Advertising by state media outlets has now been banned on Twitter as part of this week's China crackdown—the pressure will be on others to take the same line, given the focus on election integrity and population interference. This week has illustrated the dilemma that global tech outlets face when dealing with China—a market that's too big to ignore but seemingly too dangerous to engage. Google is on the back foot once again after the latest U.S. Commerce Department announcement signaled again that it may have to sever links with Huawei, and FedEx remains under investigation for failing to deliver Huawei packages and, more recently, allegedly dispatching a weapon from the U.S. to China. In May, China announced its own version of the U.S. blacklist, with a "non-reliable entity list" that would target companies for their discriminatory action against Chinese entities. According to China's Commerce Ministry, "foreign enterprises, organizations or individuals that do not comply with market rules, deviate from a contract’s spirit or impose blockades or stop supplies to Chinese enterprises for non-commercial purposes, and seriously damage the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises, will be included on a list of ‘unreliable entities'." The example with Facebook and Twitter could easily be argued to come under the umbrella of the restrictions, with the outlets targeted being China's state media outlets. The fake disinformation accounts are harder to leverage, not that China needs to make its case in court. The ongoing battle between the U.S. and China over big tech follows a common theme—with threats from Chinese media outlets intended to give companies in the U.S. pause for thought as to the implications of their actions, and the hope they will lobby Washington in China's favor. What's interesting here, is that the report has not emerged in the state media outlets the China Daily or Global Times. For now, state media is accusing the social media platforms of conducting their own form of censorship, leading to a "backlash" from account holders. "Users complained the move was the latest evidence of the platforms' vulnerability to Western bias against China," the state-controlled Global Times reported, "while analysts noted that social media platforms should perform their social responsibility of ensuring freedom of speech and not fall victim to Western political correctness standards." To be clear, China doesn't want to target Facebook and Twitter revenues generated from its domestic companies—that would disadvantage China inc after all. What it wants is to ensure there is no repeat of this week, that the country can continue to peddle its state propaganda unhindered, that it does not suffer the ignominy of being called to account. And what it's doing it sending a stark message entitled "consequences." It has been an interesting week in the ongoing campaign against state-controlled influence peddling on social media. The next few weeks, though, will be more interesting as the pressure mounts for the changes to stick and we see what actually happens when the current media spotlight dims. Source
  4. Twitter and Facebook announced Monday takedowns of Chinese government-linked disinformation campaigns that sought to undermine the protests in Hong Kong. Twitter said in a blog post it has suspended 936 accounts originating in China that were part of a “significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong,” where protesters have taken to the streets to oppose a bill that would allow local authorities to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China. “Overall, these accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” the company said. The accounts were suspended for violating a number of the social network’s policies, including its rules against spam and fake accounts. The takedown represents a small fraction of the activity discovered by Twitter, however, which said it took down “a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts” before they became “substantially active” on the platform. Twitter is banned in China, but the company said some of the accounts were able to circumvent the ban by using virtual private networks, or VPNs. Working off a tip from Twitter, Facebook cybersecurity chief Nathaniel Gleicher said his company suspended five accounts, seven pages and three groups with “links to individuals associated with the Chinese government” that “frequently posted about local political news and issues including topics like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.” The pages amassed at least 15,000 followers and the groups at least 2,000 members. Source
  5. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is soliciting technology firms to build a tool that can monitor social media for threats. The agency posted a request for proposals on July 8 claiming it wants a “social media early alerting tool,” that will help it track the use of the platforms by terrorists, criminal organizations, and foreign agencies. “With increased use of social media platforms by subjects of current FBI investigations and individuals that pose a threat to the United States, it is critical to obtain a service which will allow the FBI to identify relevant information from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms in a timely fashion,” the request reads. “Consequently, the FBI needs near real-time access to a full range of social media exchanges in order to obtain the most current information available in furtherance of its law enforcement and intelligence missions.” The solicitation was first reported on by Defense One. The documents released by the FBI show that the agency plans to have a tool that can be accessed from all FBI headquarters and field offices, or through FBI-issued mobile devices. The tool would allow FBI agents to access people’s email addresses, phone numbers IP addresses, user IDs, and associated accounts. It would also allow agents to create filters and custom alerts, so they can receive notifications when “mission-relevant” activity happens on social media. As CNN points out, in 2016 the FBI announced it was using a Dataminr tool to “search the complete Twitter firehose, in near real-time, using customizable filters.” During a recent speech at the International Conference on Cyber Security—a couple of weeks after the request was posted—Attorney General William Barr told tech companies that they must allow law enforcement to gain access to encrypted messages of criminals and suspected criminals. Later at the same conference, FBI director Christopher Wray said he strongly agreed with Barr on this matter. In the wake of many recent acts of terrorism and mass shootings, the suspects’ social media activity, which sometimes includes online manifestos, have been assessed by law enforcement and the greater public. So it’s no surprise that there is growing interest within government agencies to track this activity in real-time but one of the biggest questions is whether social media companies will offer their help in the FBI’s mission to figuratively plant the biggest wiretap of all time. We’ve reached out to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to ask for comment and we’ll update this post when we receive a reply. The FBI’s social media tool solicitation claims the service must ensure “all privacy and civil liberties compliance requirements are met,” but there’s no doubt this push will further erode privacy and put anyone with a social media account at greater risk of data breaches. Source
  6. London's Metropolitan Police has apologised after its Twitter, emails and news pages were targeted by hackers and began pumping out a series of bizarre messages. After a series of messages late last night that read simply "test" or seemingly random letters, the police sites began using foul language with anti-police sentiment and calling for a jailed rapper to be released. "Free Digga D," said one such message. The Met Police's Twitter account has 1.22 million followers. Scotland Yard police headquarters said its internal IT infrastructure had not been hacked, explaining the issue was limited to its press office's online provider, MyNewsDesk, which put news releases online to the public. "Unauthorised messages appeared on the news section of our website," it said, as well as on its Twitter feed and emails. "We apologise to our subscribers and followers for the messages they have received. "We are confident the only security issue relates to access to our MyNewsDesk account. We have begun making changes to our access arrangements to MyNewsDesk," it said. "There has been no 'hack' of the Met Police's own IT infrastructure. We are assessing to establish what criminal offences have been committed." US President Donald Trump weighed in, reigniting his long-running war of words with London Mayor Sadiq Khan while retweeting an image of the hijacked Metropolitan Police account. "With the incompetent Mayor of London, you will never have safe streets!" he tweeted. Drill music artist Digga D, real name Rhys Herbert, was jailed last year aged 17 along with four other members of his gang, after they were caught with baseball bats and machetes on their way to attack rivals. The drill genre of rap music, which often features masked or hooded groups of men talking about guns, drugs and stabbings, has been linked to a rise in violent crime in the capital. Besides his jail term, Herbert was given a three-year criminal behaviour order restricting him from making music with violent lyrics. Source
  7. Twitter’s website is getting a major overhaul. The company has been testing a new version of its desktop website since the beginning of the year, and today the final product is rolling out to the public. The upgraded experience simplifies navigation with a new — and fairly large — left-hand sidebar that directs you to all of Twitter’s key sections, including Notifications, Direct Messages, Explore, Bookmarks, Lists, and more. The site also features an expanded, more inbox-like Direct Messages screen where you can view and respond to conversations in one place; plus easy profile switching, support for more themes, advanced search, and other features. The popular dark modes, Dim and the very black Lights Out mode, are now supported along with more ways to personalize Twitter through different themes and color options. But the most noticeable change is the organization and layout of the Twitter home screen itself. Below: the old Twitter.com Below: the new Twitter.com The update is designed to make it easier to move around Twitter. Before, you’d have to click on your Profile icon to access features like Lists, Themes, Settings, and other options. Meanwhile, getting to Moments was available both in this Profile dropdown menu and in the main Twitter navigation at the top of the screen, next to Notifications and Messages. Now, Moments is being downgraded to the “More” menu in the redesign — as seen in a test running earlier this summer — and Explore instead gets the top billing. As on mobile, Explore will direct users to more live videos and personalized local moments, says Twitter. This is also where you’ll find Top Trends, while Personalized Trends will be featured on the right-hand sidebar on the home screen. (See above). In addition, Twitter finally brought the over a year old Bookmarks feature to the desktop’s main navigation. With the update, the new navigation menu includes: Home, Explore, Notifications, Messages, Bookmarks, Lists, Profile, and then More — the latter, a menu where you’ll find things like Moments, Twitter’s ad tools, Settings, and other features. The new Compose feature has been slightly tweaked as well, with options to include a photo, GIF, poll or emoji now all in the bottom left — with the emoji button now swapping in for the location button, following Twitter’s decision to make sharing precise location less of a priority, given its lack of use. Though the new home screen is arguably better-organized, the navigation text itself and the amount of screen real estate it takes up is overly large. This detracts somewhat from the main content — the tweets themselves — because your eye is naturally drawn to the oversize navigation labels at first, not the posts flowing in the timeline. This can also be a jarring change to get used to for longtime Twitter.com users. (Good thing there’s a new Mac desktop app on the way.) If you really can’t stand the navigation labels’ size, you can make the webpage smaller which then hides the text labels of the navigation items, leaving only their icons. This, unfortunately, isn’t all that useful if you like to keep Twitter open in a tab alongside all your other tabs. It works better if you pop out Twitter.com into its own window. The navigation changes were likely a design choice Twitter made, in part, to simplify the use of its product by more casual users and newcomers. The company has struggled with user growth throughout its history, even changing how it reports metrics to paint a better picture of its business. Now, you’d have to be almost completely web illiterate to not find your way around the new Twitter.com. But only time will tell what effect this has on growing its user base. Not all the changes will be as controversial as the new layout, though. For example, the now double-paned Direct Message section is more welcome as it makes using Messages feel more like the real inbox it often is — with the message list on the left and conversations on the right. Search got an update, as well, which puts tabs for moving between “Top,” “Latest,” “People,” “Photos,” and “Videos” at the top of the screen, with Advanced Search Filters to the right. And for those with multiple Twitter accounts, you can now switch between them from the main navigation. That’s helpful. Twitter’s tests of the updated design had been rolling out to more people throughout the year — it even tried two different versions for a time. Throughout this process, the company incorporated some of the user feedback it received. For example, the changes to the Messaging screen and the high priority given to Bookmarks were among the requests Twitter addressed. But generally speaking, Twitter was aiming to deliver a more consistent, seamless experience across both the phone and the web platforms with this update, a company spokesperson told us. There’s some bad news for old school Twitter.com users — as of this public launch of the redesign, there’s no option for going back to the legacy experience, as there was during the testing period. Twitter says the upgraded look will begin rolling out globally starting today. Source
  8. After an hour of sweet freedom, the world has been returned to the grasp of Twitter. At about 2:50 pm ET, the desktop and mobile site were down, displaying a “Something is technically wrong” error. The app was also not working. The site returned at about 3:45pm ET but took a few minutes to regain full functionality. Twitter’s status page said little more than that was an “active incident.” A spokesperson for Twitter confirmed the outage but referred us to the status page. It’s not the first time Twitter’s had a hiccup in the past few weeks. The social media giant was hit by a direct message outage earlier this month. In fact between June and July, most of the major internet companies had some form of outage, knocking themselves or other sites offline in the process. Please tweet about how it was down and how it’s hard to tweet about how Twitter’s down when it is itself down, and the irony therein. We’ll patiently wait to hear from Twitter about the cause of the outage. Source
  9. President Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking his critics on Twitter, a federal appeals court ruled today, shutting down the White House’s request to overturn a lower court’s decision. Several Twitter users who were blocked by @realDonaldTrump, represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, filed suit in 2017, arguing that their constitutional right to engage with officials in a public space was being violated. The dispute has turned into whether Trump’s account, which he operated before becoming president, is still a private account or an official one and whether Twitter’s design created a “public forum” for speech. The lower court found last year that Trump used the account in an official capacity and that blocking users was an unconstitutional government restriction on speech. The White House appealed, but the appeals court ruling found that the lower court’s ruling was appropriate. Today’s ruling says the account “bear all the trappings of an official, state‐run account.” In no uncertain terms, the court says the evidence shows “substantial and pervasive government involvement.” The court’s ruling was somewhat narrow, and in the decision, it said it did not rule on whether a government official’s private social media account was bound by the ruling, or whether social media companies need to moderate their platforms in line with the First Amendment generally. But the court found that a social media account used for official purposes must be open to dialogue. “In resolving this appeal,” the court concludes, “we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less.” Source
  10. Twitter will start labeling tweets from influential government officials who break its rules, the company said in a blog post published Thursday. Twitter's new rule will target verified users with more than 100,000 followers who are government officials or running for public office. The rule marks a shift in Twitter's response to how it handles tweets from world leaders. Twitter will start labeling tweets from influential government officials who break its rules, the company said in a blog post published Thursday. Shares of Twitter dipped about 1% on the news but recovered slightly. The new rule responds to a common criticism of Twitter while being careful to avoid allegations of political bias. Over the last few years, users have questioned why Twitter does not take down tweets from President Donald Trump that appear to violate its content policies. While the blog post does not address Trump by name, it says the new rule will apply to verified government officials, representatives or candidates for a government position who have more than 100,000 followers. The White House was not immediately available to comment on Twitter's new policy. The rule marks a shift in Twitter's response to how it handles tweets from world leaders. In January 2018, the company said in a blog post it was concerned about blocking public access to information from world leaders, even if they seem controversial. "Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate," Twitter wrote at the time. "It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions." "We review Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly," Twitter said in the 2018 post. In the new policy released Thursday, Twitter said that for people who fit its new criteria, it will place a notice over tweets that violate its standards but it still deems to have some public interest value. Users will have to click through the notice in order to view the original tweet. The notice will include a link to more information and say, "The Twitter Rules about abusive behavior apply to this Tweet. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public's interest for the Tweet to remain available," according to the blog post. Twitter said it will also make it harder for this type of message to spread by taking steps to keep the tweet from becoming "algorithmically elevated." Employees across Twitter's trust and safety, legal, public policy and regional teams will determine whether a tweet is considered of public interest, according to the blog post. The team will come to a decision by evaluating factors including the "immediacy and severity of potential harm from the rule violation," whether preserving the tweet will allow for public accountability and whether it provides unique context not otherwise available. Source
  11. How to disable Twitter's new interface and get the old design back When websites that you have grown accustomed to for years suddenly change their design, it often gets confusing. You have to re-learn how to use it which is quite a chore. Twitter, unfortunately is doing something, which is going to annoy a lot of users. Over the past few months, the micro-blogging service has been testing a new interface, or "re-design" as some may call it. One of my accounts had the new design enabled today (it was already logged in), while an older account did not. Some of my friends told me that their account had the new UI enabled when they logged in today too. This does suggest that Twitter is getting ready to roll out the new UI on a larger scale. It isn't a functionally improved interface which would warrant a re-design, it's more of a "let's re-arrange stuff on the screen pointlessly" sort of design. Just look at it, the entire left side is full of large buttons. Are you going to access your profile everyday? There is a large trends section on the right, next to which is a gear-cog icon. Is that the settings for your profile? No, its to tweak the trends. The Settings is now hidden under the "More" section on the left. The Tweet button which used to be on the top right, is now on the bottom left of the sidebar. Genius, right? You could argue that these options are available even when you scroll down the feed, well, they used to be visible on the old design too, which in my opinion is much more accessible. How to disable Twitter's new interface 1. Login to Twitter.com on your desktop browser. 2. Click on the More option on the left side-bar. 3. Select the option which says, "Switch to legacy Twitter". The page should reload, and hopefully you will get the old design back. Yay! It's still good on desktops, and works just fine. If that didn't work..... However, some users on reddit's r/Twitter say they don't have this option at all. If you find yourself to be in the same boat, try visiting https://twitter.com/i/optout in your browser. This should force the website to use the old design. We don't know how long the options to revert to the old design may be available, but they should help, until Twitter decides to makes the new design the only option. Twitter old interface vs new interface The new Twitter interface looks and feels mobile-ish to me. Maybe they want it to look similar on all devices, but it doesn't look good on PC. It's almost as bad as reddit's re-design, which is all scaled up and looks weird. Visiting a list page used to have all the other lists on the left side, easy to access. They are gone now, you have to click on Lists which loads like a Timeline, and then use it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I wonder if Twitter has ever heard of that. Source: How to disable Twitter's new interface and get the old design back (gHacks - Martin Brinkmann)
  12. (Reuters) - Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk tweeted here late on Sunday that he had "just deleted" his Twitter account, while also changing his Twitter display name to "Daddy DotCom". Sunday, June 16 was Father’s Day in the United States and the Tesla Inc chief has a history of being playful with his Twitter account, one of corporate America’s most-watched. In February, Musk briefly changed his display name to “Elon Tusk” and added an elephant tag to his account. Musk has previously been accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for disclosing misleading corporate information about Tesla on Twitter. Under a settlement with the regulator, he is required to have a securities lawyer to review tweets that have material information about the company before publishing. Source
  13. Twitter wipes out thousands of fake accounts connected to Iran, Russia The accounts specialized in manipulating and influencing political conversations. Twitter has eradicated thousands of fraudulent accounts tied to Iran and Russia which have been used to influence and dominate political discussions on the platform. The majority of the fake accounts originate from Iran, the microblogging platform revealed on Thursday. In total, 4,779 accounts have been deleted as Twitter believes they are either associated with or fully backed by the Iranian government. The spread of misinformation, the use of fake names, and the direct interference of political discussion through over 1,600 of these accounts "benefited the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the Iranian state." The accounts tweeted messages close to two million times with news content considered to be part of "platform manipulation," which is against Twitter's terms of service. In addition, almost 300 of the banned accounts were focused on influencing discussions relating to Israel, and 2,865 accounts have been removed for using fake personas to target both political and social issues. While the majority of the accounts appear to be of Iranian origin, Twitter has also deleted a handful of accounts from Russia. Following discussions between the microblogging platform and law enforcement, Twitter believes that these four accounts were associated with the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Moscow-based entity and troll farm dedicated to promoting the Kremlin's political agenda. In October, Twitter revealed over nine million politically-driven tweets linked to roughly 3,800 accounts belonging to the IRA. Accounts stemming from Iran and Russia were not the only ones on Twitter's radar in the latest sweep of the platform. A total of 130 Spanish accounts have also recently been suspended after spreading content relating to the Catalan Referendum, and 33 Venezuelan accounts have been removed for fueling political agendas. The account removal builds upon the suspension of 764 accounts, removed in January, which are believed to belong to a commercial entity in Venezuela. As Twitter continues to fight the tide of inauthentic behavior and fake accounts, Facebook, too, is facing the same challenge. In May, the social networking giant said it has removed Russian Pages, accounts, and Groups which were used in two separate political campaigns to influence discourse concerning military activity in Ukraine. Source
  14. Twitter, used by 126 million people daily and now ubiquitous in some industries, has vowed to reform itself after being enlisted as a tool of misinformation and hate. But new evidence shows that the platform may be inflicting harm at an even more basic level. It could be making its users, well, a bit witless. The finding by a team of Italian researchers is not necessarily that the crush of hashtags, likes and retweets destroys brain cells; that's a question for neuroscientists, they said. Rather, Twitter not only fails to enhance intellectual attainment but substantially undermines it, the economists said in a working paper published this month by the economics and finance department at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan. "It's quite detrimental," Gian Paolo Barbetta, a professor of economic policy at the private research university and the paper's lead author, said in an interview with The Washington Post. "I can't say whether something is changing in the mind, but I can say that something is definitely changing in the behavior and the performance." To the best of his knowledge, Barbetta's study is the largest and most rigorous examination of Twitter's effect on student achievement, with applications to learning and information retention in other areas of life. The investigation drew on a sample of roughly 1,500 students attending 70 Italian high schools during the 2016-17 academic year. Half of the students used Twitter to analyse The Late Mattia Pascal, the 1904 novel by Italian Nobel laureate Luigi Pirandello, which satirises issues of self-knowledge and self-destruction. They posted quotes and their own reflections, commenting on tweets written by their classmates. Teachers weighed in to stimulate the online discussion. The other half relied on traditional classroom teaching methods. Performance was assessed based on a test measuring understanding, comprehension and memorisation of the book. Using Twitter reduced performance on the test by about 25 to 40 per cent of a standard deviation from the average result, as the paper explains. Jeff Hancock, the founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab, described these as "pretty big effects". Notably, the decline was sharpest among higher-achieving students, including women, those born in Italy and those who had scored higher on a baseline test. This finding, the paper notes, bolsters the conclusion that blogs and social networking sites actively impair performance, rather than simply failing to augment learning. A spokesman for Twitter declined to comment on the study. The company does not purport to make its users smarter. But its mission statement sets forth goals not so different from those of a literature course - "to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers". And in describing the platform as a "digital public square", Twitter's chief executive Jack Dorsey appeared to embrace civic and social aspirations, saying last year that the standard to which the company should be held is "building a systemic framework to help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking". Barbetta said more results were necessary to draw definitive conclusions about the "possible negative effects" of Twitter on learning. "As results accumulate, we definitely should be more wary about how we use social platforms," he said. The study focused narrowly on high school literature students. But that approach gave the researchers access to a large sample, as several hundred Italian schools had already adopted a framework for Twitter-based conversations about literary masterpieces, called "TwLetteratura". The method also allowed them to avoid problems plaguing past studies, some of which allowed participants to opt in to social networking, skewing the data towards those with an aptitude or particular interest in online engagement. The relevance of literature and reading comprehension to evaluations of digital communication was underscored on Wednesday, when Special Counsel Robert Mueller seemed to enjoin the nation to heed the warnings in his 448-page report - in other words, to do the reading instead of consuming sound bites on social media. Karen North, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said the study had stark implications for politics, adding that its findings were hardly surprising. "It's the same problem that we have with the level of political discussion," said North, who previously worked on science and technology policy in Washington, both in the White House and on Capitol Hill. "People get 280 characters, and it's not enough. Without the full background, you're more likely to be led astray." Recent analysis has suggested that broad swathes of the electorate are not as engaged online as is an especially vocal cohort of digital aficionados. Still, Twitter, which is President Donald Trump's preferred medium of communication, has cemented its place in the political ecosystem, and its role is only like to expand in advance of the 2020 election. Twitter is where candidates go to issue announcements and respond instantly to news developments. It's also where pundits react in real time. But the platform doesn't lend itself to explanation or in-depth analysis, North said. "Remember when we were debating whether people have the attention span to consume 280 characters, instead of just 140?" she recalled. While social media shouldn't be dismissed as a learning tool, more thought is required to determine the strengths of different technologies and their proper audience, she said. Above all, the communications professor emphasised, platforms like Twitter should not replace more traditional methods of engagement, especially in grappling with complex topics - whether that means a presidential election or the plot of The Late Mattia Pascal. The problem, said Barbetta, is that people will take a shortcut if it's given to them. "But a shortcut won't take you to the destination in this case," he added. "It will take you somewhere different." As the study indicates, Twitter is the ultimate shortcut. Barbetta suggested that declining performance among students who had used the social networking site to study the novel was a result of two factors. The first was a mistaken belief on the part of students that they had absorbed the book by circulating tweets about its contents. The second was that time spent on social media simply replaced time spent actually poring over the book. The study contributes to growing skepticism that human activities - and learning, specifically - can be transferred to cyberspace without a cost. For instance, analysis has found that screen-based reading lends itself to skimming. In a 2016 study, it was discovered that test scores were lower among American undergraduates assigned to classrooms where computers were allowed than among those required to resort to pen and paper. In the case of Twitter and Italian literature, the initial assumption of the study turned out to be faulty. "We thought we were testing a positive intervention," Barbetta said. Among some researchers, the urgent question is now whether social media - once embraced uncritically - is a net positive; indeed, whether it is capable of accurately reflecting reality. It's a problem once captured by Luigi Pirandello, the author of the literary text used in the Italian study. "There is someone who is living my life," the Nobel laureate wrote in a diary entry in 1934. "And I know nothing about him." Source
  15. Twitter Says It “Accidentally” Shared iPhone Location Data with Unnamed Partner Twitter has recently acknowledged a very convenient bug that allowed the company to collect the location of iPhone users and then share it with an unnamed partner. Twitter says the problem was discovered on devices where more than a single account was configured. If users enabled the location services for one specific account, Twitter actually collected the data for all accounts configured on the device. The company says this data was shared with a “trusted advertising partner,” which typically uses such data to display more relevant ads to users. Twitter says it implemented a feature that partially resolved the issue before releasing a full fix. “We had implemented technical measures to “fuzz” the data shared so that it was no more precise than zip code or city (5km squared). This location data could not be used to determine an address or to map your precise movements,” it says in a statement. No other details shared with partner The unnamed partner did not receive any other data associated with Twitter accounts, such as IDs, passwords, or anything like that. The location was the only one exposed, Twitter says, and the data was only stored on the partner’s servers “for a short time.” It was then deleted as part of the normal process, it says. “We have fixed this problem and are working hard to make sure it does not happen again. We have also communicated with the people whose accounts were impacted to let them know the bug has been fixed. We invite you to check your privacy settings to make sure you’re only sharing the data you want to with us,” Twitter says. iPhone users are obviously recommended to update to the latest version of the Twitter app (7.50), which is available from the App Store using this page. Source
  16. On paper, they would seem to have little in common. Tun Khin is a human rights activist who advocates for the persecuted Rohingya Muslims in his home country of Myanmar. Jessikka Aro is a Finnish journalist who exposed the international influence of Russian propagandists at the Internet Research Agency long before the rest of the world had ever heard of them. Lenny Pozner is an American father who lost his 6-year-old son, Noah, in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Ethan Lindenberger is almost a kid himself, a high school student who’s become a vaccination proponent despite his parents’ anti-vaccination beliefs. Photo: Ethan Lindenberger, seen here testifying before the Senate in March about his parents' anti-vaccine stance, is among those who've seen firsthand how dangerous online disinformation can be But all four of them are bound by one unfortunate and common thread: They’ve all seen firsthand just how ugly—and downright dangerous—the spread of fake news and disinformation online can be. Which is why this week, they gathered in Silicon Valley to talk with tech executives about what they’ve been through and what they want tech companies to do about it. The group met with Twitter on Tuesday, and another meeting was planned at Facebook Wednesday afternoon. The meetings, which were organized by a nonprofit advocacy group called Avaaz, come at a time of fierce debate over what responsibility tech companies have to limit the spread of toxic content on their platforms. Just last week, Facebook announced it was banning seven people, including Infowars conspiracy theorists Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, under a policy that prohibits “dangerous individuals” from having any presence on Facebook. The bans prompted President Trump to lash out against tech companies over the weekend, ramping up accusations of censorship that have become a constant drumbeat on the right. The discussions organized by Avaaz served as a counterpoint to all that pressure, as individual victims of online harassment campaigns came forward to tell tech companies exactly how they’ve been hurt by the hate and hoaxes that have festered on their platforms. “Our job as advocates is to make them stop for a minute and think about the implications of not acting fast enough,” says Oscar Soria, a senior campaigner with Avaaz. During Tuesday’s meeting with Twitter, the attendees took turns telling their stories. Aro shared the details of the global smear campaign that was lodged against her, after her reporting outed the Internet Research Agency. She explained the threats that have been made against her life and read a recent direct message she received while traveling in the Czech Republic, in which a stranger threatened to “castrate” her if she ever came back to the country. Aro says the harassment she’s received violates Finnish defamation laws, and she is in the process of pursuing cases against some of her harassers in court. And yet, she says, the complaints she’s filed to Twitter and Facebook often go unanswered, leaving local investigators to do the work the American companies won't. “I'm basically here, to put it simply, to give a user report live, because they haven't reacted to the ones that I have made online,” Aro says. Khin described the trauma he’s seen in Rohingya refugee camps and pressed Twitter about why it continues to provide safe haven for Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar military. The military was behind some of the accounts that notoriously flooded Facebook with anti-Islam rhetoric, and the United Nations called for its leaders to face genocide charges last year. Facebook has since banned Min Aung Hlaing and other accounts and pages that the UN linked to human rights abuses in the country. While the general's Twitter account hasn’t been active since last year, it remains up on the platform today. “He was the mastermind of the Rohingya genocide. The UN has said he was personally responsible. And Facebook has already banned him. What more evidence do they need?” Khin wrote in a tweet following the meeting. Lindenberger, meanwhile, discussed how his parents came to believe anti-vaccination propaganda on social media, leaving him and his siblings exposed to potentially deadly viruses like the measles. According to Soria, Lindenberger told Twitter executives that after he testified about this issue before the Senate, he himself became the subject of a disinformation campaign. Recently, he said, his own pastor told him to avoid church for his own protection. (WIRED wasn't able to reach Lindenberger.) Pozner, for his part, has faced such violent threats that he is participating in the meetings remotely. Ever since the Sandy Hook tragedy took his son's life, Pozner and his family have been forced to live in hiding, hounded by online death threats from people who believe that the shooting was a hoax. The conspiracy theory, propagated by figures like Alex Jones, has no basis in reality. Now, Pozner runs a non-profit called HONR Network aimed at ending online harassment campaigns, helping its victims, and working with tech companies to change their policies. Of all the tech platforms, Pozner says, Twitter has the farthest to go in terms of cracking down on hoaxes and harassment. "Twitter has allowed their platform to be used as a weapon of mass destruction for which they must take accountability," he says. Twitter spokesperson Liz Kelley told WIRED that the conversation on Tuesday centered on how Twitter can prohibit the “manipulation of the conversation, not serving as the arbiters of truth,” and how Twitter is enforcing the policies against hate speech and violent threats that are already in place. “Hearing these stories is a valuable way for us to inform our decisions and product investments going forward,” Kelley said. Facebook confirmed its executives met with the group, but declined to offer further comment. Avaaz's organizers also hoped to meet with executives from Google, whose video platform YouTube has helped promote some of the internet's worst conspiracies. As of Wednesday afternoon, a meeting with Google had not yet been scheduled. In addition to giving the group a chance to share their stories, Avaaz also encouraged Facebook and Twitter to adopt a policy that would alert people when they've been exposed to information marked false by third-party fact-checkers. Facebook has taken steps to expand fact-checking on its platform, recently announcing that it will limit the visibility of groups that repeatedly share content marked as false by fact-checkers. And just this week the company announced that fact-checkers will also begin vetting information on Instagram. Avaaz wants to see Twitter adopt its own fact-checking policy and to see Facebook build upon the one that's already in place. "This is a necessary step to restore public trust," Soria says. Social media companies have been historically reluctant to make such editorial decisions on their platforms. And, given the recent heightened accusations of liberal bias in Silicon Valley, including from the President of the United States, making decisions about who is right and wrong on the internet comes with risks for these companies. Pozner just hopes these meetings will underscore the fact that the risks he and other victims have faced are so much greater. "I am a strong proponent of the First Amendment, and free speech is an essential aspect of American society. However, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of people's rights and responsibilities online," Pozner says. "A person cannot violate my civil rights to be free of harassment, bullying, or to have my likeness manipulated and my family targeted with death threats and intimidation and then simply attempt to hide behind 'free speech.'" Update: 9:27 AM ET 5/9/2019 This story has been updated to include confirmation from Facebook about its meeting with Avaaz and to clarify the nature of Aro's reporting on the Internet Research Agency. Source
  17. TED 2019: Twitter boss offers to demote likes and follows Image copyrightTED Image captionJack Dorsey answered questions at TED on problems with his platform Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has again admitted there is much work to do to improve Twitter and cut down on the amount of abuse and misinformation on the platform. He said the firm might demote likes and follows, adding that in hindsight he would not have designed the platform to highlight these. He said that Twitter currently incentivised people "to post outrage". Instead he said it should invite people to unite around topics and communities. "It may be best if it becomes an interest-based network," he told TED curators Chris Anderson and Whitney Pennington Rodgers. Rather than focus on following individual accounts, users could be encouraged to follow hashtags, trends and communities. Doing so would require a systematic change that represented a "huge shift" for Twitter. On the topic of abuse, he admitted that it was happening "at scale". Image copyrightTED Image captionChris Anderson asked Mr Dorsey why he seemed to lack urgency in dealing with the problems on Twitter "We've seen harassment, manipulation, misinformation which are dynamics we did not expect 13 years ago when we founded the company," he told TED curator Chris Anderson. "What worries me is how we address them in a systematic way." He has previously discussed the role played by likes and follows, which were designed to be prominent. "One of the choices we made was to make the number of people that follow you big and bold. If I started Twitter now I would not emphasise follows and I would not create likes. "We have to look at how we display follows and likes," he added. Ms Pennington Rodgers asked him why, according to Amnesty, women of colour on average received abuse in one of 10 tweets they posted. "It's a pretty terrible situation," Mr Dorsey admitted. "The dynamics of the system makes it super-easy to harass others." He said that Twitter was increasingly using machine-learning to spot abuse and claimed that 38% of abusive tweets were now identified by algorithms and then highlighted to humans, who decide whether to remove them from the platform. He also said that the firm was working on making it easier to find its policies on abuse and was simplifying them. Asked if he would show urgency in dealing with the issues, he replied simply: "Yes." Ask Jack The TED audience were invited to contribute to the conversation via the hashtag #askJackatTED, which received more than 1,000 questions within 10 minutes of the talk starting. One of the questions came from journalist Carole Cadwalladr who spoke at TED on Monday and called on the tech firms, including Twitter, to directly address the issue of misinformation being shared widely on their platforms. But in her question to Mr Dorsey, she turned her attention to abuse she has received on Twitter. "I'd like to know why a video that showed me being beaten up and threatened with a gun to soundtrack of Russian anthem stayed up for 72 hours despite 1000s of complaints?" she wrote. Mr Dorsey did not address that question and neither did he answer another one about how to deal with the huge number of malicious bots posting misinformation. He was also shown a graph created by Zignal Labs which showed the number of human tweets versus tweets from suspected bots talking about topics in the recent election campaign in Israel. Bots seemed to dominate when it came to tweets about contender Benny Gantz, who was narrowly defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr Dorsey was asked about this but did not answer. Instead he said that the company was in the middle of measuring the "conversational health" of the platform, using a number of metrics, including how toxic conversations were and how much people are exposed to a variety of opinions. "We have to create a healthy contribution to the network and a healthy conversation. On Twitter right now you don't necessarily walk away feeling you learned something." Source
  18. Starz Goes on Twitter Meta-Censorship Spree to Cover Up TV-Show Leaks American entertainment giant Starz is continuing to remove tweets that link to a TorrentFreak news report about leaked TV-shows. Even worse, it's also targeting our follow-up article that discusses the overbroad takedown effort. These notices are having the opposite effect, however, as they're only encouraging more people to share our coverage. Last week we posted a news article documenting how several TV-show episodes had leaked online before their official release. Due to the leaks, complete seasons of unreleased TV-shows such as “The Spanish Princess,” “Ramy,” and “The Red Line,” surfaced on pirate sites. In most cases, there were visible signs revealing that the leaks were sourced from promotional screeners. The leaks also hit Starz, as three then-unreleased episodes from its TV series “American Gods” appeared online as well. The American entertainment company was obviously not happy with that, but its response was rather unconventional. Soon after the news was published, Starz issued a takedown request through The Social Element Agency, requesting Twitter to remove our tweet to our own article. Twitter was quick to comply and removed the tweet that supposedly infringed Starz copyrights. We disagreed. The article in question never linked to any infringing material. It did include a screenshot from a leaked episode, showing the screener watermarks, but those watermarks were central to the story, as we explained in a follow-up piece. The good news is that many legal scholars, journalists, and lawyers agree with our stance. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), for example, responded that Starz has no right to silence TorrentFreak and also shared that opinion on Twitter, where many others chimed in as well. That’s when things started to spiral out of control. Starz takedown efforts only encouraged more people to share the original story about the leaks, which is a classic example of the ‘Streisand Effect’. However, Starz didn’t budge and issued takedown notices against those tweets as well. EFF’s tweet, for example, is no longer available now, as can be seen below. However, that was just the beginning. With more and more people chiming in over the weekend, Starz began to target tweets that linked to our follow-up article as well. In other words, Starz started taking down tweets containing links to an article where we explained how a tweet to our original article about the leaks had been removed. This is what happened to Mathew Ingram who describes the situation as Kafka-esque. “I think it’s an egregious over-reaching interpretation of the DMCA and I’m disappointed that Twitter agreed to take my tweet down — and a similar tweet by the EFF — when they are clearly not infringing,” Ingram tells us, commenting on the removal. “And I think it’s extremely disturbing that Twitter is taking down tweets that merely have links to news articles in them,” he adds. Ingram’s tweet went viral and encouraged even more people to share our original article, as well as the follow-up. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales decided to join in as well, for example. Others saw it as a good opportunity to cross a Twitter goal from their bucket lists, such as journalist Rob Pegoraro. The overzealous takedown requests (we counted more than two dozen) are no joke, of course. And there are plenty of legal scholars who are not happy with this type of overreach. This includes Annemarie Bridy, who kindly backs us amidst all this drama. Ironically, Bridy also posted a tweet that linked to our follow up coverage about the removed tweets, which was removed as well. To stop this type of abuse, she suggests changing the law so that senders of these type of notices can be held accountable. “We really need a statutory cause of action—with statutory damages equal to those for infringement & attorneys fees—for copyright misuse. It currently exists only as an empty letter in the DMCA and a useless equitable defense to a claim of infringement,” Bridy notes. EFF is similarly critical. The digital rights organization labels Starz efforts as overzealous and has filed a counternotice to get their own tweet restored. The most recent takedown requests are different from the one we received. They are sent directly by a Starz “Digital Marketing Specialist,” and not through a third-party company. TorrentFreak previously reached out to Starz’ representative for a comment on the takedown efforts, but we have yet to receive a reply. Many agree that the broad takedown requests go too far and, at this point, we don’t think that Starz is very happy with it either. Instead of suppressing the news about the leaks, the takedown notices are only encouraging more people to share it. Now let’s see if tweets to this article are also targeted by Starz… Update: Starz informs Variety that it apologizes for “inadvertently” taking down tweets. Our tweet and those of others have been restored. “The techniques and technologies employed in these efforts are not always perfect, and as such it appears that in this case, some posts were inadvertently caught up in the sweep that may fall outside the DMCA guidelines.” “That was never our intention and we apologize to those who were incorrectly targeted,” the network adds. The initial takedown notice we received didn’t appear completely inadvertent, as it specifically mentioned “images of the unreleased episodes” and “information about their illegal availability” as the reason to take the link to our reporting down. Source
  19. Twitter Flags President Trump for Copyright Infringement, Again and Again Yesterday evening President Trump tweeted a video, made by a supporter, which used music from 'The Dark Knight' soundtrack. Warner Bros. wasn't pleased with this unauthorized reproduction and asked Twitter to take it down, which it did. While this may seem like an isolated incident, President Trump has made similar mistakes in the past, to which rightsholders are paying extra close attention. When President Trump took office in early 2017, copyright holders hoped to have found a new ally in their fight against piracy. The Copyright Alliance made this very clear in a public letter stressing that few presidents, if any, have had a more sizable and diverse copyright portfolio. In the two years that followed not a whole lot has changed in terms of U.S. copyright policies. However, Trump himself has made headlines on a few occasions, being accused of copyright infringement. This happened again yesterday when the US President posted, what many believed to be, a 2020 campaign video on Twitter. “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump’s tweet reads, with the video made up of a variety of news clips underneath. The video in question has been floating around on YouTube for a few days and doesn’t appear to come from the White House, as some suggested. In fact, it was posted by a Reddit user “knock-nevisTDF,” last week, who says he made the clip himself. The President appeared to like it though and was happy to share it via Twitter. However, what he may not have realized is that the video in question was set to music from “The Dark Knight Rises”, something that wasn’t well received by Warner Bros. Entertainment. The movie studio saw it as a clear case of copyright infringement and set its legal team on the ‘case.’ “The use of Warner Bros.’ score from ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in the campaign video was unauthorized,” a Warner Bros. spokesperson said in a statement quotedby Variety. “We are working through the appropriate legal channels to have it removed.” Shortly after this statement, Twitter did indeed take the video down, as can be seen below. The copy that was posted on YouTube and shared on Reddit has been removed as well, although it remains available elsewhere. It’s an understatement to say that the President’s actions are being followed closely, so the removed video made headlines all over the world. Some reports even claim that the Warner Bros. is filing a “copyright infringement suit” against Trump over his “2020 campaign video.” We haven’t seen any evidence of a pending lawsuit, nor is this an official campaign video, so this may just be another case of what President Trump would call ‘fake news.’ The reality is, however, that this isn’t the first time the President has been called out for sharing copyright-infringing content on Twitter. Just a few weeks ago, a video the R.E.M’s song, ‘Everybody Hurts,’ in the background, was removed by Twitter. Twitter reportedly took this action after Mike Mills, the bassist for R.E.M., complained about the unauthorized use of the track. And just last week Electronic Arts reported one of President Trump’s tweets for using copyrighted audio from a Mass Effect 2 game trailer without permission. That is now ‘withheld’ from the public. And that’s not all. There is also a copyright claim on a tweet about a beautiful evening in El Paso, posted a few weeks ago. While more detail is not available, we assume that the President used copyrighted material without permission, again. If that’s not enough, there are trademark issues as well. HBO didn’t like it when President Trump used a photo containing the Game of Thrones font and a play on the “Winter is Coming” message in a political context. The company said in a statement that it “would prefer our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes,” hinting at trademark misuse, but it’s unclear whether it took any action in response. For now, none of the complaints are affecting the status of President Trump’s Twitter account. In theory, Twitter reserves the right to suspend accounts that repeatedly receive copyright complaints. This is clearly statedin the company’s copyright policy. “If multiple copyright complaints are received Twitter may lock accounts or take other actions to warn repeat violators. These warnings may vary across Twitter’s services. Under appropriate circumstances we may suspend user accounts under our repeat infringer policy,” the policy reads. How many “offenses” are needed to warrant a suspension is not mentioned, however. Finally, it’s worth noting that the “Dark Knight Rises” score, titled “Why Do We Fall?” was composed by Hans Zimmer. He previously shared the track on his YouTube account, but the video in question was recently removed, likely by himself. That said, the same music is used in hundreds if not thousands of other YouTube videos, and it’s widely shared on Twitter as well. Apparently, copyright takedowns have priority when the President is involved. Source
  20. Accounts will be limited to 400 follows per day. In an apparent attempt to combat spam and bot accounts that populate its platform, Twitter announced today that it is changing its rules to allow users to follow up to 400 accounts per day. The change marks a considerable drop from the previous cap, which allowed up to 1,000 follows in a single day, though still allows for more following than the average human user is likely to do in a 24 hour period. "As a part of our commitment to building a healthy service, we remain focused on stopping spam and abuse on Twitter," a spokesperson for Twitter told Engadget. "We found that having a high daily follow rate contributed to follower churn, and as a result, we are reducing the daily follow rate limit from 1,000 to 400." Follower churn, according to Twitter's help center, is the process of following and unfollowing accounts. The process is done to get the attention of users and try to get people to follow back to inflate one's follower count. The rule change is just the latest in Twitter's effort to cut back on the abilities of spam accounts and bots. Last year, the company cracked down on "bulk tweeting" that allowed accounts to tweet the same content from multiple accounts. It also added new reporting tools that allow human users to flag bots and instituted a verification process that requires users to confirm their identity with a phone number or email address when creating a new account. Source
  21. Twitter has been storing your ‘deleted’ DMs for years Including those sent to and from deactivated or suspended accounts Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Twitter lets users delete direct messages from their own side of the conversation (the recipient will still get to keep a copy, unless they also choose to delete it). But it turns out, those deleted messages aren’t really getting removed at all, according to a report from security researcher Karan Saini, via TechCrunch. It turns out that despite showing that the message was deleted, Twitter still stores all those DMs dating back years. Folks can access this simply by downloading the archived data on their account from Twitter. Saini confirms that even messages sent to and from deleted or suspended accounts are still accessible. Now, this isn’t the most concerning of bugs — the data appears to only be available to the user that sent or received the message, but the fact that Twitter isn’t deleting the messages when it says that it is, isn’t a great look for the company. Twitter is at least aware of the issue, commenting to TechCrunch that it was “looking into this further to ensure we have considered the entire scope of the issue,” but that’s no guarantee that anything will change. If nothing else, though, it’s a good reminder that on the internet, nothing is ever really gone — even if a company says that it’s been deleted. Source
  22. 'Is this how twitter India trying to fight misinformation just before the Indian elections? By blocking news stories and any and every mention of the cow,' tweeted the user. Twitter India late on Thursday night blocked a user's tweets. Any guesses, why? She used the word cow and its emoji. Interestingly, the same tweets are still available for American users. Sarah Salvadore, a New York-based data journalist, on Thursday night shared Amazon boss Jeff Bezos' article on extortion threats by the National enquirer with a few comments. She used the word holy cow in the share text on her Twitter account. Her tweets, however, could not be viewed by many users in India. Taking to Facebook, Sarah posted screenshots demanding an explanation from Twitter India. "HOLY COW!!! Something interesting happened on my twitter feed. After the Jeff Bezos story broke, I tweeted the article, with some comments. Now, one can view them easily on my timeline here in the United States. But in India, my followers can’t see them, because they are blocked. Yes, twitter India BLOCKED/CENSORED my tweets!!! You know why? Because I used the word ‘cow’ and in some places inserted the emojis. I asked some of my friends to send me more screenshots. Turns out they have blocked/censored most of my tweets, which are basically news stories from India’s political landscape. Unbelievable!!! Is this how twitter India trying to fight misinformation just before the Indian elections? By blocking news stories and any and every mention of the cow." Speaking to Express, Sarah who is also a scholar of religion and conflict, at Seton Hall University says, "How does the algorithm of Twitter even work? My friends and family have sent me these screenshots of my timeline where my tweets seem to have been censored." Sarah was sent these snapshots by her friends and family residing in Mumbai and Hyderabad. A 31-member parliamentary standing panel lead by BJP MP Anurag Thakur was recently tasked with examining several aspects related to Twitter's data security and privacy. We tried to contact Twitter India and are waiting for a response. Source : http://www.newindianexpress.com
  23. Twitter announced today that an issue in its app for Android exposed some users’ protected tweets for over four years if they made certain changes to their account settings. As a result, content intended only for approved followers became publicly visible. Bug survived since late 2014 The problem caused the “Protect your Tweets” feature to become disabled for users of Twitter for Android that had it turned on and also made some modifications to their account, such as updating the associated email address. Users fitting this profile between November 3, 2014, and January 14, 2019 - the day the issue got fixed - may be impacted by the bug, Twitter says in a post on its Help Center. iOS and Web clients are not impacted. The company has already alerted the people known to the affected and enabled the “Protect your Tweets” setting for them. However, the exact number of accounts touched by the issue remains unestablished, and that’s why they published the announcement. “We are providing this broader notice through the Twitter Help Center since we can’t confirm every account that may have been impacted,” Twitter says. For the same reason, the social network tweeted about the issue to the almost 5.8 million followers of its Support account. The message does not seem to have propagated well, though, with just 73 retweets and 170 likes recorded at the moment of writing. Twitter encourages its users to verify the current status of the tweet-protection setting in their account to make sure it is in accordance with their preferences. A full review is underway to make certain that such a problem does not occur again. The company promises to provide more information when it becomes available and if it is sufficiently important. Source
  24. New reports from The New York Times detail some of the mind-boggling statistics and gravity that the sensationally popular WeChat messaging app yields across China. In a separate report, the paper details a government led initiative to silence Chinese Twitter users via family related threats to even go so far as physically detaining violators. Although Twitter is blocked on China’s heavily censored internet, that isn’t halting President Xi Jinping’s efforts to eliminate what his government calls “suspicious internet activity”. The report recalls a specific interaction between a young Twitter violator who was caught by police. A Chinese Twitter user cried: As per the popularity of WeChat — the numbers are truly astounding. With approximately 800 million active internet users in China, there are over 1 billion active WeChat accounts. Basically, pretty much every single resident in China has at least one WeChat account, with many having multiple. If you’re unfamiliar with what exactly WeChat is, 9to5Mac’s Cam MacMurchy recently took a closer look at the expansive app, which you can read here. Source
  25. An international group of researchers has developed an algorithmic tool that uses Twitter to automatically predict exactly where you live in a matter of minutes, with more than 90 percent accuracy. It can also predict where you work, where you pray, and other information you might rather keep private, like, say, whether you’ve frequented a certain strip club or gone to rehab. The tool, called LPAuditor (short for Location Privacy Auditor), exploits what the researchers call an "invasive policy" Twitter deployed after it introduced the ability to tag tweets with a location in 2009. For years, users who chose to geotag tweets with any location, even something as geographically broad as “New York City,” also automatically gave their precise GPS coordinates. Users wouldn’t see the coordinates displayed on Twitter. Nor would their followers. But the GPS information would still be included in the tweet’s metadata and accessible through Twitter’s API. Twitter didn't change this policy across its apps until April of 2015. Now, users must opt-in to share their precise location—and, according to a Twitter spokesperson, a very small percentage of people do. But the GPS data people shared before the update remains available through the API to this day. The researchers developed LPAuditor to analyze those geotagged tweets and infer detailed information about people’s most sensitive locations. They outline this process in a new, peer-reviewed paper that will be presented at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium next month. By analyzing clusters of coordinates, as well as timestamps on the tweets, LPAuditor was able to suss out where tens of thousands of people lived, worked, and spent their private time. A member of Twitter's site integrity team told WIRED that sharing location data on Twitter has always been voluntary and that the company has always given users a way to delete that data in its help section. "We recognized in 2015 that we could be even clearer with people about that, but our overarching perspective on location sharing has always been that it’s voluntary and that users can choose what they do and don't want to share," the Twitter employee said. It's true that it's always been up to users to geotag their tweets or not. But there's a big difference between choosing to share that you're in Paris and choosing to share exactly where you live in Paris. And yet, for years, regardless of the square mileage of the locations users chose to share, Twitter was choosing to share their locations down to the GPS coordinates. The fact that these details were spelled out in Twitter's help section wouldn't do much good to users who didn't know they needed help in the first place. "If you're not aware of the problem, you're never going to go remove that data," says Jason Polakis, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago specializing in privacy and security. And according to the study, that data can reveal a lot. In November of 2016, well after Twitter changed its settings, Polakis and researchers at the Foundation for Research and Technology in Crete began pulling Twitter metadata from the company’s API. They were building on prior research that showed it was possible to infer private information from geotagged tweets, but they wanted to see if they could do it at scale and with more precision, using automation. The researchers analyzed a pool of about 15 million geotagged tweets from about 87,000 users. Some of the location data attached to those tweets may have come from users who wanted to share their exact locations, like, say, a museum or music venue. But there were also plenty of users who shared nothing more than a city or general vicinity, only to have their GPS location shared anyway. From there, LPAuditor set to work assigning each tweet to a physical spot on a map, and locating it by time zone. That generated clusters of tweets around the map, some busier than others, indicating locations where a given user spends a lot of time—or at least, a lot of time tweeting. To predict which cluster might correspond to a user’s home, the researchers directed LPAuditor to look for locations where people spent the longest time span tweeting over the weekend. The thinking was: During the week, you might tweet in the morning, at night, and on your day off, in an unpredictable pattern, but home is where most people spend the bulk of their time on weekends. When it came to finding work locations, they did the opposite, analyzing tweet patterns during the week. LPAuditor analyzed the locations where users tweeted the most (not including home), then studied the time frames during which those tweets were sent. That gave the researchers a sense of whether the tweets might have been sent over the course of a typical eight-hour shift, even if that shift was overnight. Finally, the tool looked for the time frame that appeared most often during the week and decided that the location with the most tweets in that time frame was most likely the person’s place of work. When it came time to check their answers, the researchers identified a group of roughly 2,000 users to serve as a sort of ground truth. Compiling this group was a manual process that required two graduate students to independently sift through all of the tweets in the collection to find key phrases that might confirm a person really was home or at work when they sent it. Terms like, “I’m home” or “at the office," for instance, might provide a clue. They inspected each tweet for context that might provide additional information. They then compared the locations of those tweets to the tool's predictions and found they were highly accurate, identifying people’s homes correctly 92.5 percent of the time. It wasn’t as good at predicting where people worked, getting that right just 55.6 percent of the time. But that, Polakis says, could simply mean that the location they identified as “work” is actually a school or a place where the person spends what would otherwise be working hours. Finally, the researchers set about identifying sensitive locations a user might have visited. To do that, they compared the tweet locations to Foursquare’s directory of businesses and venues. They were looking for places like hospitals, urgent care centers, places of worship, and also strip clubs and gay bars. Any venue that appeared within 27 yards of the geotagged tweet would be considered as a potential location. Then, they conducted a similar keyword analysis, searching for words associated with health, religion, sex, and nightlife, to check whether a user was likely where they seemed to be. Using this method, the researchers found that LPAuditor was right about sensitive locations about 80 percent of the time. Of course, if a user is tweeting about, say, being at the doctor while they’re at the doctor, one might argue that they’re not so concerned about privacy. But Polakis says, “The location might give away more information than the user wants to say.” In one case, the researchers found a user who was tweeting about a doctor from a location that the GPS coordinates revealed to be a rehab facility. “That’s a lot more sensitive context than what they were willing to disclose,” he says. Even when the tweet doesn’t include context clues, LPAuditor was still able to predict whether a person had actually spent time at a sensitive location by studying the duration of time that people spent there and the number of times they returned. The researchers were, however, unable to measure the accuracy of these specific predictions. The majority of this research was based on tweets that were sent prior to Twitter's policy change in April 2015. That change, Polakis says, made a huge difference in terms of how much precise location data was available through the API. To measure just how huge, the researchers excluded all of the tweets they collected prior to April 2015 and found that they were only able to positively identify key locations for about one-fifteenth of the users they were studying. In other words, Polakis says, "That kind of invasive Twitter behavior increased the amount of people we could attack by 15 times." The fact that Twitter changed its policies is a good thing. The problem is, so much of that pre-2015 location data is still available through the API. Asked why Twitter didn't scrub it after changing the policy, the Twitter site integrity employee said, "We didn’t feel it would be appropriate for us to go back and unilaterally make the decision to change people’s tweets without their consent." This is not the first study to reveal what can be inferred from location data, or even geotagged tweets. But, according to Henry Kautz, a computer scientist at the University of Rochester who has conducted similar research, this paper makes key contributions. "The advancement here is that they studied two types of locations—work and home—rather than one, and they did a larger study with a more systematic evaluation and a more highly tuned algorithm, so it got the right answer a higher percentage of the time," Kautz says. LPAuditor isn't exclusive to Twitter data either. It could be applied to any set of location data. Kautz argues that Twitter is of relatively small concern compared to other apps that continue to use invasive location data practices today. Government officials in Los Angeles recently filed a lawsuit against the IBM-owned Weather Channel app for allegedly collecting and selling users' geolocation data under the guise of helping users "personaliz[e] local weather data, alerts, and forecasts." And just this week, Motherboard reported that bounty hunters are using location data purchased from T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T to track individuals using their phones. That's despite the companies' public promises to stop selling such data. Then, of course, there are apps that get infected with malware and gobble up location data. "The big problem today is not nefarious people looking at your geotagged tweets. The problem is compromised cell phone apps that steal your entire GPS history," Kautz says. "From that data one can extract not just your home and work locations, but a huge number of significant places in your life." And yet, Polakis says the fact that Twitter no longer attaches GPS coordinates to all geotagged tweets isn't enough, given that developers still have access to years' worth of data from before 2015. Yes, some of that information might now be stale. People move. They change jobs. But even outdated information can be useful to an attacker, and other sensitive information, like, say, a person's sexuality, seems unlikely to change. This study proves that not only is it possible to infer this kind of information from location data, but that a machine can do it almost instantly. For now, Polakis says, the most people can do is delete their location data today—and think twice before sharing it in the future. Source
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