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Twitter Stops Blocking The Biden Article It Said It Would Block Yesterday

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After disallowing the sharing of a link to an unverified New York Post article on its platform, Twitter reversed course and allowed users to post it again on Friday.

The social media network was widely criticized for its decision to block the articles, which focused on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter. The series of stories relied on a hard drive allegedly provided to the Post by a computer technician, which claimed to detail Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Twitter announced it had blocked all shares of the Post article, saying this was in line with its policy on hacked material.

Later that day, in a clarification, the company said that the article had violated its rules about disclosing personal and private information and locked several accounts that were sharing it.

Yet another clarification — and a policy update — came late Thursday night. In a Twitter thread, Vijaya Gadde, the company’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead said the company will only block hacked materials if they are “directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them.” Gadde also said that other tweets will be labelled to provide context rather than blocked or removed.

Even after the Thursday policy announcement, people on Twitter were unable to share a link to the story. The company reinstated sharing Friday afternoon, confirming to the New York Times that the decision was driven by how widely the article spread online.

Facebook took a different approach to the Post story. On Wednesday, a spokesperson said it was “reducing its distribution on our platform” as its fact-checking partners worked to examine the story’s claims.

The platforms’ actions caused Missouri Senator Josh Hawley to formally request that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appear before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism for hearing titled, “Digital Platforms and Election Interference.”

The criticism of how social platforms handled the article culminated Friday morning when President Donald Trump tweeted a link to a satirical story from the Babylon Bee, the conservative equivalent to The Onion, and presented it as real.

“Twitter Shuts Down Entire Network To Slow Spread Of Negative Biden News,” read the joke headline.

“Wow this has never been done in history,” Trump said.



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Chromebook shipment growth accelerates during coronavirus pandemic

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Sundar Pichai, senior vice president for Chrome at Google Inc., holds up a new Chromebook Pixel as he speaks during a launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. Google Inc., owner of the world’s most popular search engine, debuted a touchscreen version of the Chromebook laptop, stepping up its challenge to Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. in hardware.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic, which has forced kids across the country to attend school remotely, is helping Chromebooks push into the mainstream.

Chromebook laptops run Google’s Chrome OS operating system. They can be cheaper than Windows computers and are much more affordable than Apple MacBooks. On Chromebooks it’s easy to use Google Classroom, the web-based program that teachers and students count on to organize their work while schools are closed.

Technology research firm IDC estimated that in the third quarter device makers shipped around 9 million notebooks running Chrome OS, up 90% from a year earlier, compared with the 15% growth rate for all PCs. Chromebooks represented 11% of total PC shipments in the quarter.

Microsoft’s Windows remains the dominant PC operating system. The Chromebook wave could cut into Microsoft’s lead if the pandemic leads users to get even more comfortable with Chrome OS and services like Google Docs.

“The typical game plan doesn’t really exist, at least in the recent quarters, because there’s been this gold rush for Chromebooks, so people take what they can get,” said Jitesh Ubrani, a research manager at IDC.

Chromebooks have been available since 2011. Acer, HP and Lenovo make some of the most popular devices, and Google has sold Google-branded Chromebooks since 2013.

Some schools purchased Chromebooks for students and promoted pickup events on social media.

Parents have also bought Chromebooks for their children.

Corey Richardson, head of research and strategy at advertising agency Fluent360 in Chicago, bought a refurbished Lenovo computer on Amazon for about $200 for his 8-year-old daughter Portia, a student at the private Daystar Academy. He wanted something practical and easy to use.

“It’s been a great investment,” he said. “I feel like if we need to replace it after the school year we would have gotten all the utility we needed out of it. If it lasts another school year or two, that’s great.”

Richardson said his daughter decorated the laptop with stickers and, in addition to school work, uses it to talk with friends on Facebook’s Messenger Kids app and to watch YouTube videos.

Dave Allen Grady, a senior pastor at Christ United Methodist Church outside Atlanta, said he paid $400 or $500 for a new HP Chromebook from Best Buy for his 11-year-old daughter Joy. She had been given one by her school, Henderson Middle School, but Grady said they returned it so “a kid whose parents couldn’t afford one could have one.”

One way Joy uses the computer is for orchestra class — she plays viola. The students can’t all play together in person, so Joy plays while the teacher watches and listens on the other end of a video call.

Chromebooks are also getting traction in the corporate world, where some large companies have purchased them for employees. This week Parallels announced the release of software that enables Chromebook users to access Windows, which can give office workers a way to access custom work applications.

“We have seen a massive increase in demand for Chromebooks,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai told analysts on the company’s first-quarter earnings call in April.

Consumers are starting to pay a little bit more for Chromebooks as they opt for models with touchscreens and higher performance. Ubrani said the average selling price of a Chromebook in the second quarter was $320, up from below $300 in the second quarter of 2018.

“It’s a slow climb,” he said. “But it is still a climb when we’re talking about low price bands.”

WATCH: Chromebooks meant for US students caught up in the China trade war


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How TikTok is proving beauty is more than skin deep | Technology

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He grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona before moving to New York to work on a department store makeup counter. Now at just 24, despite having no formal dermatology qualifications, Hyram Yarbro is a skincare guru to millions worldwide.

Yarbro is one of a new breed of superstar social media “skinfluencers” who have gained popularity during lockdown – especially on TikTok – and are changing what we buy and why.

Lockdown affected grooming routines, with a shift to skincare from make-up and perfume. It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s tried to book a salon appointment since March that home-treatment sales are up, with teeth-whitening products up 180% and hair-dye sales six times higher than last year.

But it also affected how we discover new products. “There was an uptick in people accessing social media,” says Samantha Dover, senior beauty and personal-care analyst at Mintel, “but the real impact was among existing social-media users, who spent more time on these platforms and visited them more frequently. This meant they were exposed to more grooming content.”

Social media already has an established effect on product sales. “Half of beauty consumers look for reviews online, before making a purchase,” says lifestyle and skincare blogger Lesley Buckle, aka @freshlengths. “There’s also a lot of satisfying videos out there. Dramatic before-and-after visuals go viral.”

Lesley Buckle.



Lesley Buckle. Photograph: @freshlengths/Instagram

But in 2020, one platform emerged as the winner: TikTok. “Facebook and YouTube are important for beauty brands, but TikTok users are the most likely to get grooming advice from social media,” says Dover. Influencer marketing firm Traackr found that TikTok users’ engagement with skincare videos has increased by more than 1,000% since last year.

In March, Skincare by Hyram had 100,000 followers on TikTok. During lockdown that surpassed six million. “I feel gratitude for the connection I have with my followers on TikTok – I’m not able to replicate that on any other platform. Personally, however, the growth has felt surprisingly normal,” he says.

Yarbro’s knowledge about skincare ingredients, and funny, honest reviews have impressed beauty brands and followers alike. In January 2019 he made $50 from affiliate sales. By July 2020, he’d made $265,000 from online ads, brand partnerships and affiliate links.

What many of these biggest new names in skincare lack in formal qualifications, they make up for in enthusiasm and humour – and vast audiences across YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

Young-Seok Yuh

Young-Seok Yuh. Photograph: @yayayayoung/TikTok

Many skinfluencers are just about the fun of skincare such as Young-Seok Yuh – whose @yayayayoung TikTok account has gathered 1.2m followers since launching in March, and Vi Lai, who often talks about using skincare as a coping mechanism to deal with anxiety and depression. There are also qualified dermatologists such as Dr Dustin Portela, whose @208skindoc has just under 1m followers and aesthetic therapists such as Nayamka Roberts-Smith.

Popularity on TikTok does seem to affect sales. CeraVe is a high street skincare brand for dry and problem skin that launched in the UK in 2018. But a 67% increase in influencer posts about CeraVe in 2020, according to influencer marketing firm Traackr, coincides with a run on sales. UK chemist Superdrug reported a 65% week on week increase in sales this summer and CeraVe sold out in the US.

The Ordinary was a hit skincare brand long before TikTok, but skinfluencers have affected sales, says Nicola Kilne, co-founder and CEO of Deciem, The Ordinary’s parent company. “The TikTok audience is truly global in a way that we haven’t seen before,” she says. The brand is a skinfluencer favourite, and only started its own TikTok account in February. “Our first video had almost one million views – #TheOrdinary alone has 229.1 million views.”

The Ordinary sold a bottle of its Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% – a serum for acne – every three seconds at the start of lockdown. Kilne thinks that time at home gave people more time to experiment.

“I believe honesty has built our fan base,” says Kilne. “Word of mouth is important for us, but this wouldn’t work if we didn’t produce quality products.”

Buckle agrees that quality is the key to the hit products of TikTok. “CeraVe’s mentioned by lots of influencers, but it’s successful because it’s affordable and the formulas are gentle. It’s exactly the sort of brand I reach for if my skin’s had a reaction.”

The skinfluencers of TikTok are also hits because of their honesty. “Traditional marketing fails to establish trust,” says Yarbro, who now lives in Honolulu. “People gravitate towards online creators who have real, honest opinions. When a creator establishes trust with their audience, its reach exceeds any marketing budget or exposure strategy. People are drawn to people.”


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Instagram row over plus-size model forces change to nudity policy | Instagram

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As campaigning victories go, forcing Mark Zuckerberg’s social media empire to admit a discriminatory flaw in its policy is no small feat.

But following a campaign launched in this paper, the Observer can exclusively reveal that Instagram and its parent company Facebook will be updating its policy on nudity in order to help end discrimination of black women on its platforms and ensure all body types are treated fairly.

In August, Instagram was accused of censoring and silencing the plus-size model Nyome Nicholas-Williams. A wave of content creators then confirmed the platform was repeatedly discriminating against black people, plus-size users and other marginalised communities, by deleting their photos or failing to promote them in the same way it did for its white users.

Speaking to the Observer over the summer, Nicholas-Williams and photographer Alexandra Cameron told of how photos from their “confidence shoot” were repeatedly deleted and taken down, with warnings that their accounts – which have more than 115,000 followers between them – could be closed down. The controversy caused fans to protest and post pictures of the model en masse under the hashtag #IWantToSeeNyome.

The photo-sharing app owned by Facebook was accused of hypocrisy and racism in allowing an abundance of photos of semi-naked skinny white women on its feeds but deleting those posted by black women in similar poses.

Nicholas-Williams said she was shocked that “a fat black woman celebrating her body is banned … I want to promote self-love and inclusivity because that’s how I feel and how I want other women like me to feel”.

The photos in question showed Nicholas-Williams with her eyes closed and wrapping an arm around her breasts. While the pose is a common trope across social media, in this instance it was deemed to violate Instagram’s guidance on pornography.

As well as sophisticated artificial intelligence, Facebook and Instagram employ 15,000 content reviewers across the world. These workers individually sift through thousands of photos that are reported as offensive by users to the app everyday.

Human bias – unconscious or otherwise – might be expected to occur in content deletion and account bans but Facebook and Instagram have exhaustive rules that must be applied to allow either to happen.

The company denied Nicholas-Williams had been racially discriminated against, but confirmed that its former policy on “boob squeezing” had caused her photos to be removed.

Campaigner Gina Martin, who had also lobbied Instagram and who previously got the law changed to criminalise “upskirting” in 2018,

said: “This policy change is an example of what happens when you recognise an issue, get organised, form a relationship with big platforms and make yourself difficult to ignore.”

Nicholas-Williams said she was delighted with the outcome. “This is a huge step and I am glad a dialogue has now been opened,” she said.

“I want to ensure that I am respected and allowed to use spaces like Instagram, as many other creators do, without the worry of being censored and silenced.”Instagram’s influence on trends and popular culture cannot be underestimated. The social media site has over a billion users worldwide and millions of pictures are uploaded online everyday by individuals, small businesses, major brands and politicians keen to be part of the conversation. A spokesperson from Instagram confirmed that pictures of Nicholas-Williams were originally taken down as “we do not allow breast squeezing because it can be most commonly associated with pornography”.

Cameron, the photographer, said: “There is more flesh to hold or place your arm around if you have bigger boobs. There was no suggestion of pornographic squeezing – my photos are explicitly about the female gaze and about empowering women.”

Instagram acknowledged that the shoot showed the model “holding her breasts … [in] images intended to demonstrate self-love and body acceptance.”

A spokesperson for Instagram said: “As we looked into this more closely, we realised it was an instance where our policy on breast squeezing wasn’t being correctly applied. Hearing Nyome’s feedback helped us understand where this policy was falling short, and how we could refine it.”The new policy on nudity will apply across Instagram and Facebook and come into effect this week.



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