FCC Says Kill TikTok #1609



The FCC says TikTok is a national security risk and it’s time the app is banned from Apple and Android devices. This has come as a surprise as it’s not a conservative majority asking for the removal. What will happen nobody knows. Also in today’s show, the video format is evolving and if you have ideas I would love your input.

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Meta Adds Discord-Like Features To Facebook Groups



Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) announced that they are testing new ways to quickly access your favorite Facebook Groups and to simplify how they are organized. Meta also introduced channels, which are focused spaces for people to connect in smaller, more casual settings with their communities.

Here are some of the features that Meta is adding to Facebook Groups:

Meta is testing a new sidebar that helps you easily find your favorite groups more quickly. It will list your groups and the latest activity within them, like posts or chats you haven’t seen yet. You can also pin your favorite groups so they show up first, discover new groups, or create your own group.

Within your group, you’ll see a new menu that includes things like events, shops and a variety of channels to make it easier to connect with others around the topics you care about.

Admins can create channels to connect with their groups in smaller, more casual settings where they can have deeper discussions on common interests or organize their communities around topics in different formats.

Community chat channels: a place for people to message, collaborate and form deeper relationships around topics in a more real-time way across both Facebook Groups and Messenger.

Community audio channels: a feature where admins and members can casually jump in and out of audio conversations in real time.

Community feed channels: a way for community members to connect when it’s most convenient for them. Admins can organize their communities around topics within the group for members to connect around more specific interests.

The Verge reported that the changes made by Meta to Facebook Groups looks a lot like Discord. It has a left-aligned sidebar and channels list for Groups. According to The Verge, the changes are giving off “some serious Discord vibes.” The change has a lot of purple color added to it, which evokes Discord’s look.

The Verge also pointed out that part of the new Facebook Groups includes text chats, audio rooms, and feed rooms where people can post and comment. Again, it looks a lot like Discord. Meta included images that show what Facebook Groups will look like. It just so happens to have focused on a group that is for gamers, perhaps to boost Facebook gaming.

It isn’t unheard of for social media companies to copy features that originated somewhere else. Many of them have a tendency to “copy” another social media’s “homework”, rather than creating something unique on their own platform. Personally,

In short, Meta decided to take the lazy way out and copy-paste the features it saw in Discord. It is unclear what, exactly, Meta hopes will happen next. I suppose it is possible for Discord to object to having their main features appropriated by Meta. Personally, I doubt that people will leave Discord, where their game-playing friends are at – in favor of using Meta instead.


Airbnb Officially Codifies Party Ban



Airbnb announced that they are codifying the party ban that was enacted in August of 2020 (as a temporary ban). According to Airbnb, the temporary ban has proved effective, and they officially codified the ban as their policy.

Airbnb provided some details that led them to codifying the party ban:

“Historically, we allowed Hosts to use their best judgement and authorize parties when appropriate for their home and neighborhood. In late 2018, we tightened our measures to prohibit both “open-invite” parties (i.e., those advertised on social media) as well as “chronic party houses” that had developed into neighborhood nuisances. At that time, we also launched our Neighborhood Support Line in a number of jurisdictions as a direct line for neighbors to communicate any concerns to Airbnb, which has helped us enforce that prohibition on party houses.

“When the pandemic hit, as many bars and clubs closed or restricted their occupancy, we began to see some people taking partying behavior to rented homes, including through Airbnb. This was concerning to use due to both the disruptive nature of unauthorized parties and the risk of such gatherings spreading the virus. As such, we announced the party ban to our community as being “in the best interest of public health”.

According to Airbnb, disruptive parties and events will continue to be prohibited, including open-invite gatherings. “Party house” properties will continue to be prohibited as well.

In addition, Airbnb says that the policy will continue to include serious consequences for guests who attempt to violate these rules, varying from account suspensions to full removal from the platform. In 2021, over 6,600 guests were suspended from Airbnb for attempting to violate Airbnb’s party ban.

The Verge reported that in addition to making the party ban permanent, Airbnb is lifting a 16-person occupancy limit it also introduced in 2020. The company says this is because there are plenty of properties that can comfortably host more than 16 people, and that many of these are used for “multi-generational family trips and larger groups.” This particular policy change will take effect “in the coming months”.

According to The Verge, Airbnb removed an “event-friendly” search filter in 2020, and also removed option for listings to be marked as “parties and events allowed”. It also banned “party houses” in 2019 after five people died during a 100-plus person Halloween event at an Airbnb in Orinda, California.

I think it makes sense for Airbnb to allow large families to make use of a home that has adequate room for everyone who is partaking in a family vacation together. To me, it seems unlikely that a family group would intentionally cause harm to the place they stayed at.

Airbnb no longer allows “party houses”, and I think that’s a good idea. Some people are entirely too irresponsible with places that they don’t own. Nobody wants to come back and find that their home has been trashed. Where will the people who want to attend huge parties go now? Perhaps they will start going to their local bars instead.


Advertisements Coming to Netflix #1608



Netflix has announced that Advertisements are coming and that there will be a new lower-priced plan offering that will allow viewers to get Netflix at a cheaper rate but be ad-supported. As they have lost over 200,000 subscribers last quarter this is likely an attempt to shore up the bottom line.

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Tech Companies Under Pressure To Safeguard Data After Roe v. Wade Overturned



After the US supreme court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, calls increased for tech companies to take a stand about the use of online data to incriminate individuals seeking or providing abortion services, The Guardian reported.

According to The Guardian, abortion and civil rights advocates have warned that there are few federal regulations on what information is collected and retained by tech firms, making it easy for law enforcement officials to access incriminating data on location, internet searchers and communication history.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) posted “Digital Safety Tips: For People Seeking an Abortion”. In it, EFF recommends that people should keep searches related to abortion separate from their daily lives. Compartmentalizing it could make it harder to trace it back to you.

EFF also recommends choosing a separate browser with hardened privacy settings. They suggest browsers like Brave, Firefox, and DuckDuckGo on mobile. They also recommend turning off browser’s abilities to remember browsing history and site data/cookies. People who need to call a clinic or healthcare provider should do it through a Google Voice phone number instead of their actual phone number.

CNBC reported that tech companies may have to contend with issues about user privacy related to such health care whether they want to or not. That could be the case if they are ordered by a court to hand over certain types of data, like location information of users at an abortion clinic, search histories or text messages.

According to CNBC, before the decision [by the Supreme Court], lawmakers called on Google and the Federal Trade Commission to ensure data for online consumers seeking care would be protected in the event of a landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. The letters came in the wake of Politico’s reporting on a leaked draft decision that would cut back the protections.

ArsTechnica reported that four Democratic US Senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to “investigate Apple and Google for engaging in unfair and deceptive practices by enabling the collection and sale of hundreds of millions of mobile phone users’ personal data”.

The letter cited the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, saying that women “seeking abortions and other reproductive healthcare will become particularly vulnerable to privacy harms, including through the collection of their location data,”

Personally, I don’t think anyone wants to have their data collected by big tech companies – no matter what it was they were looking at on their phone or computer. Nobody wants data brokers to sell their information. I think that digital privacy is a topic we can all agree needs to be made more secure.


Court Allows Lawsuit By Woman Who Says She Helped Create Pinterest



Bloomberg reported that Pinterest Inc. must face a lawsuit from a digital marketing strategist who says she helped conceive the social media platform, a California judge ruled. According to Bloomberg, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Seabolt denied the company’s motion to dismiss the suit, but he eliminated co-founder Paul Sciarra as a defendant because he left Pinterest a decade ago.

Bloomberg reported that Christine Martinez sued the company in September, saying she contributed key ideas to the platform but was never compensated by founders Bill Silbermann and Sciarra. According to her complaint, Oakland resident Martinez was friends with Silbrermann when he asked her to “salvage a failed shopping app” that later became Pinterest.

She says she developed some of the main concepts for the platform, including features that allowed users to create “pinboards” reflecting their cultural tastes and created a marketing plan to enlist bloggers to recruit users. Martinez claims she was so integral to the site’s creation that Silbermann and Sciarra embedded her name in the platform’s code.

The New York Times provided some background information (in 2021). The New York Times reported that when Pinterest went public in 2019, Christine Martinez’s friends sent congratulations. She had worked closely with the founders of the digital pinboard in its earliest days, and her friends through she would get rich alongside them. But as Pinterest’s stock price rose, turning its founders into billionaires, Ms. Martinez realized she would not be compensated or credited for her contributions, she said.

According to The New York Times, Ms. Martinez was never formally employed by Pinterest, nor did she ask for a contract. She was not given stock, though she said Pinterest’s founders had verbally agreed to compensate her many times. The New York Times also reported that other women who were former Pinterest employees wrote on Twitter about the pay disparities, retaliation, and sexist, racist comments they had experienced at the company. Pinterest’s former chief operating, Francoise Brougher, sued Pinterest, claiming gender discrimination and retaliation.

Engadget reported that Ms. Martinez filled a lawsuit against Pinterest in September. In December, the company filed a motion to dismiss it. Pinterest argued that Ms. Martinez’s claimed were too old to fall within the statute of limitations. Judge Seabolt disagreed. He stated that Ms. Martinez “sufficiently alleges” the she and the Pinterest founders agreed to deferred compensation. Pinterest went public in 2019, an event that Seabolt deemed “transformative” and his view sealed the company’s obligation to pay Ms. Martinez.

These kinds of lawsuits are important. They serve as a way to prevent employers from intentionally discriminating against the women they hired. It makes absolutely no sense to me why the Pinterest founders agreed to deferred compensation – and then (perhaps intentionally) failed to pay Ms. Martinez the money they owed her for the work she did on Pinterest.


Instagram Introduces New Ways to Verify Age on Instagram



Instagram announced that they are testing new options for people on Instagram to verify their age, starting with people based in the U.S.

If someone attempts to edit their date of birth on Instagram from under the age of 18 to 18 or over, Instagram will require them to verify their age using one of three options: upload their ID, record a video selfie or ask mutual friends to verify their age. Instagram is testing this out so they can make sure teens and adults are in the right experience for their age group. Instagram is also partnering with Yoti, a company that specializes in online age verification, to help ensure people’s privacy.

Here is more information about verifying age:

In addition to having someone upload their ID, Instagram is testing two new ways to verify a person’s age:

Video Selfie: You can choose to upload a video selfie to verify your age. If you choose this option, you’ll see instructions on your screen to guide you. After you take a video selfie, Instagram will share the image with Yoti, and nothing else. Yoti’s technology estimates your age based on your facial features and shares that estimate with Instagram. Meta and Yoti then delete the image. The technology cannot recognize your identity just your age.

Social Vouching: This option allows you to ask mutual followers to confirm how old you are. The person vouching must be at least 18 years old, must not be vouching for anyone else at that time, and will need to meet other safeguards Instagram has in place. The three people you select to vouch for you will receive a request to confirm your age and will need to respond within three days.

Instagram points out that you will still be able to upload your ID to verify your age with forms of identification like a driver’s license or ID card. They will use your ID to confirm your age and help keep their community safe. Your ID will be stored securely on Instagram’s servers and is deleted within 30 days.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Instagram is adding these extra steps as part of its efforts to ensure an “age-appropriate” experience for minors. While children under 13 are prohibited by the network’s terms of service, those who say they are ages 13 to 17 can use it with some limitations.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Instagram doesn’t verify the age a user declares when creating an account, and Instagram said these new tools won’t change that.

TechCrunch reported that there are two basic use cases for Instagram’s new verification system: adults who have registered as teens by mistake and trying to enter their correct age: and teens who are trying to circumvent the platform’s age-appropriate restrictions.

Personally, I think that one of the reasons why Instagram is announcing this new age-check system may have something to do with the lawsuits that Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) is facing. In short, some have claimed in their lawsuits that Instagram includes defective design, failure to warn, fraud, and negligence.

Some of the lawsuits are from people who are now adults who claim they were harmed by Instagram. Others are parents of tweens or teens who experienced suicidal ideation or self-harm after using Instagram.