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Twitter softens policy on hacking after row over blocked New York Post story | Technology

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Twitter has softened its policies against the sharing of hacked material after the backlash over its decision to block a New York Post story about Joe Biden’s son.

Republican senators declared their intention to subpoena the Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey next week, forcing him to explain the decision, after he apologised for the lack of communication about the blocking.

The story, supposedly based on materials stolen from Hunter Biden’s laptop by a computer repair shop, was blocked by Twitter on two grounds, the company said. First, it contained personal information such as private email addresses; and second, it contained hacked material, violating a policy instituted in 2018 to try to limit “hack-and-leak” information operations of the sort run by the Russian state in 2016.

That latter policy had now been weakened, Twitter’s policy chief, Vijaya Gadde, said late on Thursday.

Vijaya Gadde
(@vijaya)

So, what’s changing?

1. We will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them

2. We will label Tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter


October 16, 2020

“We will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them,” Gadde tweeted. “We will label tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter.”

The policy against hacked materials had led to concern, going beyond Republican politicians and activists, that Twitter could penalise reporting related to hacks, limiting legitimate journalism, Gadde said. “We want to address the concerns that there could be many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter’s purpose of serving the public conversation.”

Experts who study information operations have long warned that hack-and-leak attacks can be extremely damaging, in part because of the tempting bounty they offer mainstream media organisations. Large quantities of hacked material can shift public discussion in their own right, but can become particularly dangerous when material is leaked selectively, or combined with forgeries.

Thomas Rid, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies said: “Bottom line: every individual little fact – every email, every detail mentioned in an email – must be verified when data is surfaced in such a suspicious way, not just one piece of information, say a photo.

“It appears that the New York Post did not do that here.

“To journalists considering writing about this toxic story: don’t– – unless you can independently verify more details. And even if you can verify something, acknowledge the possibility of disinformation upfront, especially against the backdrop of 2016. Not doing so is bad practice.”

The New York Post story was not the only blocking controversy on Twitter. The account of Donald Trump’s re-election campaign was also briefly restricted on Thursday, causing another outcry from Republican lawmakers who accused social media companies of acting like “speech police”.

Twitter temporarily blocked the @TeamTrump account from sending tweets after it posted a video referring to the Post story.

Trump said, when asked about the move by Twitter: “It’s going to all end up in a big lawsuit and there are things that can happen that are very severe that I’d rather not see happen, but it’s probably going to have to.”



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Facebook Quietly Suspended Political Group Recommendations For The US Presidential Election

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During a contentious US presidential election, Facebook quietly stopped recommending that people join online groups dealing with political or social issues.

Mentioned in passing by CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a Senate hearing on Wednesday, the move was confirmed to BuzzFeed News by a Facebook spokesperson. The company declined to say when exactly it implemented the change or when it would end.

“This is a measure we put in place in the lead up to Election Day,” said Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois, who added that all new groups have been filtered out of the recommendation tool as well. “We will assess when to lift them afterwards, but they are temporary.”

Confirmation of the move, which Facebook did not publicly announce, comes after members of the Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee grilled Zuckerberg about Facebook Groups and the possibility for polarization and radicalization within them. Testifying alongside Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai about content moderation on their platforms, Facebook’s chief became the main focus of questioning from Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, who asked if the company would stop group recommendations on the social platform until the certification of results in the US presidential election.

“Senator, we have taken the step of stopping recommendations in groups for all political content or social issue groups as a precaution for this,” Zuckerberg replied.

Facebook’s use of algorithms to automatically identify and recommend similar groups for people to join was intended to boost engagement. Researchers have long warned that these recommendations can push people down a path of radicalization, and that groups reinforce like-minded views and abet the spread of misinformation and hate.

More than a billion people are members of Facebook Groups, and the company has pushed users to join them by boosting their prominence in users’ news feeds. In announcing the company’s new focus on groups in 2017, Zuckerberg said that the social network had built artificial intelligence “to see if we could get better at suggesting groups that will be meaningful to you”

“And it works!” he wrote in a post entitled “Bringing The World Closer Together.” “In the first 6 months, we helped 50% more people join meaningful communities. And there’s a lot more to do here.”

Group recommendations may be harmless in a group for dog enthusiasts, but can become problematic for others circulating conspiracy theories or scientific misinformation, according to Claire Wardle, a cofounder of misinformation research non-profit First Draft. She said that based on anecdotal evidence she’s seen, Facebook’s automated group suggestions can drive people down radicalizing “recommendation journeys.”

“If I’m in an excessive quartaine group in Wisconsin what other groups am I being recommended? Anti-vax groups? Yellow vest groups?” she said, noting that it was impossible to study on a wide scale because it happens on people’s individual Facebook feeds.

“If I’m in an excessive quartaine group in Wisconsin what other groups am I being recommended? Anti-vax groups? Yellow vest groups?”

In May, the Wall Street Journal reported that an internal Facebook researcher found in 2016 that “64% of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools,” including the platform’s “Groups You Should Join” and “Discover” algorithms. “Our recommendation systems grow the problem,” read the researcher’s presentation.

When asked about the internal research at Wednesday’s Senate hearing by Michigan Senator Gary Peters, Zuckerberg said he was “not familiar with that specific study,” despite the fact that he criticized the Journal’s story internally to employees, according to audio of a recent company-wide meeting obtained by BuzzFeed News. Zuckerberg did note in the Senate hearing, however, that Facebook had taken steps to prevent groups that foster extremism or the spread of misinformation from appearing in suggested groups.

Despite those changes, organizations that violate Facebook’s own rules have managed to maintain groups on the platform. After Facebook banned right-wing militant groups and pages in August, a watchdog group found dozens of extremist groups and pages on the platform,

Earlier this month, federal and state prosecutors in Michigan charged 14 people in a plot to kidnap and possibly kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. A day after authorities announced the Whitmer plot, which was partly coordinated on Facebook, BuzzFeed News reported that the social network’s recommendation tools continued to suggest users follow pages espousing extremist messages.

It’s unclear how many groups are currently affected by Facebook’s limiting of recommendations for political and social issue groups in the run up to the election. Facebook spokesperson Bourgeois declined to provide further details, or say when the temporary change would be lifted.

A test of the Facebook platform for political groups showed that while the algorithmically generated suggested groups feature may have been removed, group administrators still had the power to manually suggest groups to members. Facebook’s search tool also surfaced political and social issue groups as normal.

Wardle wondered why Facebook, which had publicized several tweaks to its platform including temporary political ad bans for the election, chose not to announce the change to group recommendations to the public. On Thursday, Facebook-owned Instagram announced it would temporarily suspend the “Recent” tab from hashtag pages, which can gather recently uploaded content tagged with a given hashtag, “to reduce the real-time spread of potentially harmful content that could pop up around the election.”

“I’m all for all platforms taking stronger steps on these things, but they need to be studying them,” she said, noting that nothing would be learned if Facebook continued with business as usual after the election.

With reporting from Jane Lytvynenko



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How to get Apple One subscriptions and save money

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iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12.

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple began rolling out its Apple One subscription bundles on Friday. They package together a bunch of of Apple’s subscription services, such as Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and iCloud storage and can save you money over paying for them separately.

Apple One also represents a new way for Apple to boost subscriptions and bolster its services business, which generated $14.55 billion — up 16.5% year-over-year— during Apple’s fiscal fourth quarter. And it could help attract more people to use services they might not have otherwise, like Apple Arcade.

Three plans are available:

  • Individual costs $14.95 per month with Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and 50GB of iCloud storage. That’s a savings of $6 a month over buying them separately.
  • Family costs $19.95 per month and includes 200GB of iCloud storage and support for up to six people to use the subscriptions. It will save you $8 a month.
  • Premier costs $29.95 per month and adds News+ and Fitness+, a set of workout classes for Apple Watch owners, along with 2TB of iCloud storage. It works with up to six people and will save you a whopping $25 a month over buying the services separately.

Here’s how to sign up:

  • Open Settings on your iPhone.
  • Tap your name at the top of the screen.
  • Tap Subscriptions.
  • Choose “Get Apple One.”
  • Select the plan. Each comes with a one-month free trial.
  • Click ‘Start Free Trial’ at the bottom of the screen.


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My expensive new earphones promised to upgrade my life. Then they broke | Romesh Ranganathan | Life and style

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I have been known to be wildly inconsistent with my reactions to expensive items. I will happily overpay for a pair of jeans, and later that same day bemoan the state of the world when an ice-cream costs a fiver, despite both items having a similar manufacturing cost.

My biggest blind spot is headphones. I have become convinced that I need a pair for different situations. So I have a pair for the gym (barely used, obviously), a pair for everything else, and then a pair of wireless earphones for situations in which I don’t feel like wearing headphones (or something; I can’t remember how I justified it to my family).

It’s the earphones that are now causing me grief. I had a pair of the kind that many people have, from that company that we all know manufacture things ethically and from whom there’s absolutely no way your phone was made by a slave. I chose these overpriced earphones for no other reason than to be able to ask my wife where I had put them, over and over again.

Then the Really Ethical Company brought out a new pair. These are apparently much better than the version I had because they sit in your ear more comfortably and the sound quality is far improved: two qualities that were very much trumpeted about the pair I already had, but which are now apparently utter trash and a crime against audio.

Like an idiot, I decided I needed them and ordered a pair. I was so excited about being able to put the new earphones, that were almost identical to the ones I had, into my ears, so that I could finally hear my music properly and experience levels of comfort that I could previously only dream of with the awful pieces of shit I was using before.

I now had the issue of what to do with the old earphones. I went with the genius idea of giving them to my son, achieving the double aim of making me feel better about myself, while also showing my son that I love him enough to give him anything I have that has been rendered obsolete. (He also receives a pair of earphones for doing nothing. And so his ongoing journey in learning to appreciate the value of things is once more compromised by his father.)

The earphones arrived and I pretended that they were an improvement. Not to anyone else; I just kept reassuring myself that there was a noticeable difference, and that it would have been ridiculous to struggle on with the previous pair. There was absolutely no way that this was a waste of money, and further evidence of our manipulation by a capitalist society into believing we need to consume needless things in order to force us to keep working. (I heard that on a podcast, and while I was upset by the message, I was impressed at how crystal clear the words sounded.)

That lasted for about two weeks, until the earphones mysteriously stopped working. I put them in on the train, they refused to boot up, and I was left with the horrifying reality of being alone with my thoughts for an hour. I got home and immediately contacted the Really Ethical Company for a replacement and, as I half expected, they said something along the lines of how they’re only supposed to last about two weeks until the new iteration is released. I would have to send them off to be repaired, and so I am now without any earphones at all.

My life has continued almost completely unaffected, which highlights the stupidity of the purchase in the first place. This might well be my first step in unplugging from the Matrix. Either that, or I’ll just buy the new version as soon as they launch.


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