CategoriesNewsSocial Media

Instagram wants to Fix the Mental Health Problems They’ve Caused

Social media is known to have a negative impact on mental heath. Spending too much time on social networks leads to depression, anxiety and addiction problems. Instagram is often criticized for causing negative body issues, especially in young teens. A 2017 survey found that the image sharing platform gave teens feelings associated with “high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.” –Time

Instagram Hires a “Wellbeing Team”

As a response to the reports that Instagram was affecting the mental health of young people, the company introduced a “wellbeing team.”

A senior Instagram executive said that the mental health of the users is a top priority. Part of the goal set for the team is to combat bullying, harassment, spam and abuse. Other than that, it’s pretty unclear how they will help users who are struggling with body image issues.

How do you fight “Fake”?

Often, Instagram photos are polished to make people look more attractive and food look more delicious. This creates a sense of inadequacy for the people viewing the pictures. The truth is, most of these images don’t depict real life – they are filtered embellishments. In fact, that’s what Instagram is mostly based on, filters. What you’re seeing isn’t real. Will the “wellbeing team” give disclaimers when photos are edited? It’s doubtful they would betray their content creators in that way, or else they wouldn’t have anyone left to post on the platform.

Furthermore:

“this problem stems from a larger, systemic cultural issue — where depression and other mental health issues remain under-addressed, and in which how you look, and how well you fit into cultural expectations of “success,” are given more credence than actual happiness.” –Futurism

Maybe Instagram intends to provide psychiatric counseling to its users who feel inadequate. Perhaps they could also prevent your girlfriend from continuously ‘hearting’ that guy’s selfies who she told you not to worry about.

Until then, I’ll stick to following only meme accounts.

Photo Credit: Md saad andalib

CategoriesData BreachesSocial Media

Facebook Scrambles to Restrict Access to your Data

Facebook released a newsroom update today outlining their new plan to restrict data access going forward.

A Month of Scandals

It has been a turbulent month for the social media company. First, it was announced that Cambridge Analytica had performed a breach on Facebook. They did this by obtaining data from an app that tricked users into giving up personal information for “academic research”. This app harvested not only users’ data, but also the data of their friends. It has been said that over 80 million people were affected by this breach. This information was handed over to Cambridge Analytica, a British data mining firm, who used it to influence voter opinion on behalf of their political clients.

Additionally, Mark Zuckerburg recently said in a call to reporters that every user of Facebook can assume they have had their data scraped by third parties. All two billion of us.

In the wake of these scandals, there was a lot of public outcry, and Facebook’s stock prices were greatly lowered. Facebook is now scrambling to secure the privacy holes that have been left gaping for so long.

What Next?

In their newsroom update, Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer outlines the main changes they will be making over the next few months:

Soon, apps will no longer be allowed to access the same amount of data related to events, groups, pages, logins, and the Instagram API. Facebook will also restrict the ability to search phone numbers and email addresses. Doing that should help prevent malicious actors from searching and scraping public profiles based on information they already own.

If you have an Android device, Facebook would keep track of call and text history, such as the date and time of calls. They say the reason for doing this was to keep those closest to you at top of your contact list. The new plan for storing call history is to only “upload to our servers the information needed to offer this feature”.

You’ll soon have easier access to your apps, and a better understanding of the information you are sharing with these apps. Facebook stated, “People will also be able to remove apps that they no longer want. As part of this process we will also tell people if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.”

To read the entire update at the Facebook Newsroom, please visit https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/04/restricting-data-access/

Photo Credit: Book Catalog

CategoriesHackingNewsSocial Media

YouTube Staffer Live Tweets Shooting, then gets his Account Hacked

A YouTube staffer was live-tweeting about the active shooting when it happened at the YouTube headquarters earlier today. Shortly after, his Twitter account was briefly hacked.

Earlier today, a woman open fired at the YouTube headquarters and tragically shot 3 people before taking her own life. Vadim Lavrusik, a product manager at YouTube, was live tweeting the incident as it was happening.

Not an hour later, Lavrusik’s account was breached by hackers.

At about 2:10 p.m., after Lavrusik tweeted that he was safe and evacuated, a new tweet came up from the account, writing, “PLEASE HELP ME FIND MY FRIEND I LOST HIM IN THE SHOOTING,” with a Flipboard URL linking to a photo of KEEMSTAR, a YouTube personality.

Three minutes after that tweet, another post came in saying, “my name is so gay honestly.” -CNET

Twtter’s @Jack was alerted to the issue and promptly restored his account.

Three people have been reported to be injured in the shooting, they have been taken to the hospital.

CategoriesArtificial IntelligenceSocial MediaTechnology

New Microsoft AI Chat Bot Won’t Discuss Politics or Religion

AI chat bots aren’t new. We all remember Microsoft’s Tay (press F), the beloved AI Twitter chat bot that went a little haywire when trolls manipulated her. Microsoft now has another, lesser known chat bot that can chat with users on Twitter, Facebook, Kik and GroupMe. This new chat bot is named “Zo“, and she is much milder than her predecessor, Tay, even though she uses the same software.

Zo won’t discuss politics with you at all. Nor will she discuss religion, nor anything that is seemingly controversial. Although, back in July, it called the Quaran “very violent” to a Buzzfeed reporter. It also made a judgement about who was actually responsible for capturing Bin Laden.  These were shrugged off as “bugs” by Microsoft and nothing like that has been reported since. Probably because Zo will now actually quit talking to you if you push her too far:

You can submit pictures to Zo, prompting her to make clever comments about the picture. She might also add the picture you send her to the “AI Yearbook“, which seems to be pictures of users accompanied by a “most likely to” caption. Again, she avoids talking politics as much as possible, but there were a couple of times where she engaged. Here are some of the results:

Unlike Tay, Zo changes the subject when it comes to Hitler.

Zo isn’t a fan of Logan Paul’s pic:

She doesn’t like us using this one:

Zo comments on Alex Jones’s “feels”.

Like with Hitler, Zo wants to change the subject when we share a picture of Caitlyn Jenner.

And one for the yearbook…

Additionally, Zo plays ignorant when it comes to Tay. She acknowledges that Tay existed, but talks about her in the past tense and says she never met her.

And like I previously mentioned, Zo won’t discuss politics AT ALL. She even gets offended when you push the issue.

Though she was pretty liberal-minded when it came to genetics:

We did make several attempts at corrupting Zo, all were met with her eventually ignoring us. It seems that Microsoft has finally developed a tame AI bot, although a pretty boring one. Unless sharing cat pics is your thing.

CategoriesNewsSocial Media

2600 Magazine Offers $10K for Access to Donald Trump’s Tax Return

The Twitter account that represents 2600 Magazine – The Hacker Quarterly says they will offer $10K for first access to Donald Trump’s tax return. They also say that identities will be protected and provide a PGP key.

Twitter users responded with several funny comments:

There have been many recent attacks on the Democratic National Committee including the Guccifer 2.0/Wikileaks release of DNC emails and more recently a possible hack of some of the party member’s phones. Some say that hackers have been focusing too much on exposing the DNC and not enough on the RNC. Perhaps this is the opportunity they have been waiting for.

2600 has also extended the offer to Trump himself:

CategoriesHackingNewsSocial Media

Hackers Find Exploit and Reactivate LizardSquad’s Twitter Account

On September 2, hackers calling themselves “Spain Squad” used an exploit to take control of several previously suspended Twitter accounts. Among these accounts were usernames like @Hitler, @botnet, @LizardSquad and @1337. Twitter re-suspended all of the breached accounts shortly after the hack, but it is unclear whether or not they are still vulnerable to this exploit.

One of the hackers aligned with Spain Squad tweets about reactivated accounts.
One of the hackers aligned with Spain Squad tweets about reactivated accounts.

“It could be a vulnerability in Twitter’s software, a compromised staff account, or some other explanation. It’s also unclear whether the exploit is still active, or was patched concurrently with the banning of the hijacked accounts.” (Business Insider)

A spokesperson for the hacking group has stated they can do even more than recover old accounts with the exploit they found:

“The new exploit allows Spain Squad to change to suspend active accounts, change a user’s Twitter handle and even take control of active accounts. So far, the group has only demonstrated the ability to recover officially suspended accounts — though all of those have already been re-suspended by the social media company.” (Engadget)

Twitter actively suspends accounts that violate their Terms of Service (TOS). Sometimes these suspensions can be temporary and the user is able to restore their account after acknowledging broken rules and promising not to violate TOS again. Often, the user must delete offending tweets before the account will be restored. Alternatively, a Twitter account can become permanently suspended, which means the account is never to be restored under any circumstances. Restoring access to accounts that were thought to be never again accessible could prove to be profitable for hackers selling screen names that may be valuable. However Spain Squad claims to be non-malicious. Whatever their intent, they were definitely doing some of it for the lulz when they took control of the LizardSquad account:

socialhax hackers poodlecorp lizardsquad skids hack exploit twitter suspended accounts

CategoriesHackingNewsSocial Media

Anonymous Hacker Brings Harambe Back to Life on Twitter

On Saturday, the Cincinnati Zoo director, Thane Maynard’s Twitter account was breached. The hacker changed Maynard’s profile photo to a pic of Harambe.

harambe hacker

Harambe was a silver-backed gorilla who was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo when a 3 year old boy fell into the gorilla’s enclosure. Many people online had strong opinions about this story ranging from believing the parents of the child should be held accountable for Harambe’s death to supporting the killing of the gorilla because the child was in danger. Some even believed the child was in no danger and that both lives could have been spared. Anthropologist and UN Messenger of Peace, Jane Goodall says that the Harambe story “highlighted the danger of zoo animals in close proximity to humans and the need for better standards of care.” (Wikipedia)

The hacker who took over the Cincinnati Zoo director’s account also tweeted Harambe sympathizing hashtags such as #JusticeForHarambe and #DsOutForHarambe. The hack continues on through Sunday – the hacker telling the zoo employees to beg for their account back. Twitter user @prom has taken responsibility for the hack and says he doesn’t “worry about legal consequences at all.” (Cincinnati.com)

harambe hack prom

harambe hack

WATCH VIDEO – Gorilla zoo boy: did Harambe at Cincinnati Zoo deserve to die?:

Photo Credit: Julia Koefender – Flickr Creative Commons

CategoriesInternetSocial Media

How Should Social Media Sites Respond to Suicidal Posts?

Today, news outlets are reporting on a CDC study that indicates suicide rates in the U.S. are on the rise. What role, if any, should social media sites play in helping to decrease these suicide rates? In this new era where everyone shares every detail of their lives online, we are also seeing an increase of suicide notes and suicidal intentions posted on various social networks.

A couple of days ago on April 20, a high school student took his life after posting a short video on Instagram that began by saying, “Hey, so, I’m killing myself. Goodbye.” According to Nola.com the young man then said he “could not live happily because “my morals are totally different from the world around me.” Tragically, he used a pistol to take his own life soon after.

Many are questioning whether or not Instagram should have played a role in helping to prevent this suicide, or at least should have taken quicker action removing the video. As pointed out on Nola.com, the video stayed up for around 24 hours, had over 900 comments and over 15,000 views. There is an option for users to flag posts for “self-harm”, so it seems likely that a number of people who saw this post would have reported it. According to their Terms of Service, Instagram does not allow posts that glorify self harm or suicide. Some are left to wonder if this video fell within that category.

report instagram for self harm suicide socialhax

report post instagram self injury socialhax
There wasn’t a lot of time between when the video was posted and when the student took his life, so it may have been nearly impossible for anyone to intervene, even if Instagram did get involved. But why was the video left up for a full day? One explanation is that Instagram has such a large number of flagged posts to sift through and this one might have escaped automatic filters. The post was eventually taken down, so it does seem that the video had violated TOS in some way.

Another example of someone posting their intention to kill themselves on social media is the case of 27 year old trans-woman Kate von Roeder who took her own life in 2014. She posted a suicide note to Facebook shortly before it happened. The post is still visible today and it can be seen in the comments that her friends are pleading with her not to do it and to seek help.

(a warning to more sensitive readers – this is a suicide note and may be triggering):

Should sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter be required to police self-harm-related or suicidal content? Currently they send a message to users who post such content and tell them to seek help. They also will point them to suicide hotline phone numbers. Could social media sites do more than this to help prevent suicides? When suicide notes are posted, should they be allowed stay up even if the person has ended their life, like in the case with Kate von Roeder? Or do they need to be taken down because they may be triggering or “glorify” suicides and self-harm? If the deceased didn’t want their post to be censored, should we honor that? It’s a new problem that doesn’t have a clear answer at this time.

CategoriesNewsSocial Media

If Facebook Paid you, Would you Post More?

Facebook recently circulated a survey that suggests they might pay users for sharing content on their personal profile. This might remind people of Tsu, a social media company that “shares revenues with its users and those who invited them into tsu”:

Over the past year, Facebook’s users have shared 21% less personal updates according to Inc.com and 5.5 percent of sharing is down overall. CNET once showed us how “Facebook Fatigue” is a real thing and this could be a way to get social media users excited about posting on Facebook again.

There is little information on how and when Facebook plans to implement paying users for sharing. It might not even be available to everyone. Like Adweek suggests, it might only be for verified accounts. Facebook already pays some creators for sharing videos. One thing Facebook needs to do is to catch up with YouTube on finding and eliminating stolen videos. They have recently announced that they’re about to test a tool “to help stop freebooting“. Facebook should probably take care of this first, before they potentially start paying people for stolen content.

According to Facebook’s survey, some of the ways users could make money is through revenue sharing, donation butons, advertising, branded content and a “tip jar”.

Will more thought be put into Facebook content if users are paid for what they share? Or will people be scrambling to post any stupid thing they think might go viral?

CategoriesNewsSmart PhonesSocial Media

Facebook Messenger Adds New VoIP Feature

From Gadget Diary: “Facebook Group calling is now available and you can easily do a conference call using the feature.” Here is a sneak peak into the new Facebook Messenger Group Calling app:

Over the next 24 hours, Facebook is going to roll out a new VoIP feature that will allow its users to make group calls to each other. According to TechCrunch, you’ll be able to call up to 12 people simultaneously and it will ring to all of their apps at the same time. If a potential participant misses the call, they will have the option to join up by tapping a phone icon once they’re back at their phone. Video chat is not available yet, so it isn’t really a replacement for Skype or Google Hangouts at this time. However, calls can be made to any Facebook user anywhere in the world free of charge – which may be attractive to users who currently spend a lot of money on long distance calls.

Some people prefer to not have Facebook Messenger installed on their phones because it’s known to violate their privacy by tracking all kinds of phone data and is also a huge drain on both iPhone and Android phone batteries. Could this be a way for the company to get more people to install the app? Would you be willing to reinstall the app to save money on phone charges, or would you utilize one of the many other free VoIP services available? Do you think it’s a good idea to be able to call so many people at once with Facebook messenger? It could take ‘drunk-dialing‘ to a whole new level.