Category Archives: Social Media

Clubhouse’s Database of User Records was Scraped



Clubhouse has had an SQL database containing 1.3 million user records scraped and linked for free on a “popular hacker forum”, CyberNews reported. Clubhouse claims that this is false, and that it has not been breached. The situation appears to have led to some speculation on Twitter.

According to CyberNews, the leaked database contains a variety of user-related information from Clubhouse profiles including: user ID, name, photo URL, username, Twitter handle, Instagram handle, number of followers, number of people followed by the users, account creation date, and invited by user profile name.

CyberNews speculates that the leaked data could be used by threat actors against Clubhouse. It could be used to carry out targeted phishing or other types of social engineering attacks. CyberNews reported that they did not find sensitive data like credit card details or legal documents in the archive that was posted online.

Business Insider also reported about the leak of the personal data of Clubhouse users. It is not the only social media platform that has had this problem. Business Insider said that LinkedIn confirmed that about two-thirds of the platform’s userbase was scraped and posted publicly online. Previous to that, Facebook had a data leak that included the full names, location, email addresses, and other sensitive pieces of information of 533 million Facebook users. That data was posted in a forum.

Clubhouse responded to the situation by quote-tweeting a tweet from Techmeme about the CyberNews article that reported the scraping of Clubhouse’s user data. Clubhouse tweeted: “This is misleading and false. Clubhouse has not been breached or hacked. The data referred to is all public profile information from our app, which anyone can access via the app or our API.”

I do not use Clubhouse, mostly because I personally feel that it lacks proper support for user privacy. There has been at least one situation in which a Clubhouse user recorded a Clubhouse chat and streamed it online. At the time Clubhouse stated that they permanently banned the user and installed new “safeguards”. It is unclear what those “safeguards” are.

Personally, I feel that Clubhouse’s tweet, insisting that the app had not been breached or hacked, is not enough to convince me Clubhouse will protect user’s information. Clubhouse stated that the data obtained is all public profile information, which anyone who has access to the app can see. Just because the profile is public doesn’t mean people are happy to have that information posted online outside of the Clubhouse app.


Discord Banned More than 2,000 Extremist Groups



Discord is a group-chat app that is often used by people who enjoy playing video games with their friends who live far away. I use Discord to play Dungeons & Dragons with my friends, and have used it to talk to people while playing Diablo III. Unfortunately, it appears that a lot of terrible people had been using Discord for nefarious reasons. Discord has rightfully banned them.

Discord provided a lot of information in their Transparency Report which covers July through December of 2020. There is a pie chart that shows user reports by category. Harassment was the largest category, with 132,817 reports. This was followed by Cybercrime (42,588) and NSFW (33,106).

NPR reported that Discord removed more than 2,000 communities dedicated to extremism and other violent content in the second half of last year. NPR noted that the enforcement actions by Discord come at a time when Microsoft is (reportedly) in talks to acquire Discord for $10 billion.

Discord’s transparency report points out that it has invested in resources that enable it to proactively detect and remove the highest-harm groups from their platform. This includes many categories including: Exploitative Content, and Violent Extremist groups.

We also worked in the second half of 2020 to take action against militarized movements like the “Boogaloo Boys” and dangerous conspiratorial groups like QAnon. We continue to believe there is no place on Discord for groups organizing around hate, violence, or extremist ideologies.

Discord’s Trust & Safety team removed 1,504 servers for Violent Extremism in the second half of 2020. That is nearly a 93% increase from the first half of the year. According to Discord, the increase can be attributed to the expansion of their anti-extremism efforts as well as growing trends in the online extremism space.

One of the online trends Discord observed in that period of time was the growth of QAnon. Discord adjusted their efforts to address that movement and removed 334 QAnon-related servers.

Personally, I’m happy that Discord has been making efforts to remove violent extremism and conspiracy theories. Some of the Discords that I am connected to, and participate in, are open to anyone who wants to join. Knowing that Discord has been actively removing bad actors from its service makes me feel safer using it.


Trump Plans to Start his Own Social Media Platform



A spokesman for Donald Trump announced on Fox News “#MediaBuzz” that Trump will be returning to social media with his own platform. It appears that the platform will be released in two or three months. No further information has been released other than that the new platform “is going to be big”.

Personally, I’m not surprised that Trump wants to make his own social media platform. As you may remember, he was permanently suspended from Twitter on January 8, 2021, days after the riot at the U.S. Capitol. In a blog post, Twitter stated the reason for the permanent suspension was “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” Facebook also suspended Trump’s account for roughly the same reason.

It is possible that Trump (and whomever is helping to create his new social media platform) believe that he would be safe there to post whatever her wants to. I cannot imagine what his own platform would consider egregious enough for them to decide to suspend Trump’s account.

The trick is finding a web-hosting company that will accept Trump’s new social media platform. Gab, (another right-wing social media platform), has a history of having its web hosting company drop them. A quick look at Gab’s Wikipedia page lists that Apple declined Gab’s submission of its app to the App Store in 2016. Google removed Gab’s app from its Play Store for violating policy against hate speech.

In 2018, PayPal, GoDaddy, and Medium terminated their relationship with Gab one day after the the Pittsburg synagogue shooting (and after posts by the shooter were found on Gab). Later that day, Gab’s hosting provider, Joylent, gave them a limited time to move out before it terminated service. In 2018, Gab started using Epik as a domain registrar, and may potentially be using Cloudflare (a company that provides content delivery and DDoS mitigation). In 2019, Amazon Web Services ceased Gab’s fundraising site due to Amazon’s policy on hateful conduct.

Parler (another right-wing social media platform) has also faced difficulties. BuzzFeed News reported in January of 2021 that Amazon suspended Parler from Amazon Web Services. The reason for the suspension was because Amazon became unconvinced that Parler could effectively moderate calls for violence and hate speech.

NPR reported that Parler sued Amazon and asked a federal judge to force Amazon to restore Parler’s web-hosting service. The judge declined to do so. Engadget later reported that Parler found web-hosting with Epik – the same company that hosts Gab.

It might be possible for Trump to launch his own social media platform. If he does, I suspect it would pull like-minded users from Twitter, Facebook, Gab and Parler. However, unless Trump also creates his own web-hosting company – there will always be a chance that his social media platform could be taken offline.


Snapchat Introduces Spotlight



Snapchat has introduced Spotlight. It enables Snapchat users to create short videos that include music – much like TikTok does. Right now, Snapchat is holding a contest where people can submit their best video Snaps and potentially earn money.

Submit your best video Snaps to Spotlight for the opportunity to earn a share of more than $1 million that we’re distributing to creators every day! Or, lean back, watch, and pick your favorites!

Snapchat recommends that those who want the opportunity to earn money follow Spotlight’s content guidelines. Requirements include that your video must be vertical and with sound. You can only post your own content for the video, but may use music from Snapchat’s licensed library. You must be at least 16 years old to enter.

Spotlight is currently available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France. Snapchat says more countries are “coming soon”.

To me, it appears that Spotlight is Snapchat’s way of competing with TikTok for the attention of younger users. Those who already use TikTok could be enticed to give Snapchat’s Spotlight a try, in the hopes of winning some money for their efforts.

Now is a good time for this contest, as many young people are stuck at home due to remote learning and lockdown efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. It could encourage students to have some fun and to express themselves creatively.

According to TechCrunch, Snaps in Spotlight won’t disappear from being surfaced in the feed unless a creator chooses to delete them. In other words, the Snaps that are entered into the Spotlight contest could be viewed by users that are new to the creator. It might help new creators build an audience, which would not only benefit the creator, but also Snapchat itself.


How Twitter and Facebook Will Handle Trump’s Account After January 20



The New York Times reported some details about how Facebook and Twitter will handle President Trump’s accounts after he is no longer a world leader. Once again, it appears that the two social media companies have very different plans about how to respond to whatever Trump posts after his presidential term is over.

In a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Senators asked Facebook’s Chief Executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and Twitter’s Chief Executive, Jack Dorsey, questions about their platforms. It appears that the Republicans, and the Democrats, had differing ideas about the topics that were most important to ask questions about.

The New York Times Reported the following:

Jack Dorsey said, “If an account suddenly is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away.” He was referring to Twitter’s current policy of adding a label to Trump’s tweets to indicate that the content of the tweet was disputed or glorified violence. Labeled Tweets cannot be liked or retweeted.

Most Twitter users have to abide by rules that forbid threats, harassment, impersonation, and copyright violations. If someone breaks one (or more) of these rules, they may be required to delete that tweet. Or, their account may be temporarily banned.

According to The New York Times, Mark Zuckerberg said at the hearing that Facebook would not change the way it moderates Trump’s posts after he leaves office. Facebook has labeled some of Trump’s posts in which he made claims that Facebook deemed to be false information. Facebook users could still like and share those posts.

This information is useful for people who currently use Facebook and/or Twitter, as it allows people to decide for themselves which policy they would prefer to see. Those who want to read Trump’s posts after he is no longer President might choose Facebook – who will label misleading posts and leave them up. Those who would prefer their Twitter feed not to be cluttered with reactions to Trump’s misleading Tweets, may stick with Twitter.


Some Conservatives are Leaving Twitter and Facebook for Parler



Are you unhappy with Twitter and/or Facebook? Do you consider yourself to be conservative? It might be time for you to stop using the big social media companies and switch over to one that appears to be very popular with people who are conservative. The New York Times reported that Parler was at the top of Apple’s App Store in downloads last weekend. It is a Twitter-like social media app that doesn’t seem to have as many rules as Twitter (or Facebook) do.

Despite the conservative ire, Facebook and Twitter have long taken a mostly hands-off approach to digital speech. In recent months, however, the companies ramped up their efforts to prevent election misinformation. Facebook and Twitter said they would label false posts and slow down how quickly they could be shared, among other moves. They said many of the changes would be temporary.

The main idea I got from reading The New York Times article is there are people who are angry with Twitter and Facebook. That, by itself, is not unusual.

This group, however, considers themselves to be conservative. A number of them seem to think that Twitter’s labeling of tweets that contain misinformation is equal to censorship. One could assume that this group is also displeased when Facebook removes groups that have broken their rules. Parler offers conservatives a social media app where nothing will be labeled or fact-checked.

Slate reported that there already are some well known conservatives who are on Parler (but have not entirely left Twitter or Facebook). This includes Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Eric Trump. Houston Chronicle reported that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator Devin Nunes, and Tucker Carlson are on Parler.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Parler says that all are welcome. That could mean that it is not specifically intending to be a “bubble” for conservative-minded people. Personally, I don’t think it will interest very many people who do not happen to be conservative.


Snapchat will Stop Promoting Trump’s Account in Discover



Snapchat posted a long post titled: “We Stand Together”. It is well worth reading. It discusses racial inequality in the United States, why change hasn’t happened, and more. The part of the post that appears to be getting the most attention is the portion that mentions Snapchat’s decision to no longer promote President Trump’s account in its Discover tab.

…As for Snapchat, we simply cannot promote accounts in America that are linked to people who incite racial violence, whether they do so on or off our platform. Our Discover content platform is a curated platform, where we decide what we promote. We have spoken time and again about working hard to make a positive impact, and we will walk the talk with the content we promote on Snapchat. We may continue to allow divisive people to maintain an account on Snapchat, as long as the content that is published on Snapchat is consistent with our community guidelines, but we will not promote that account or content in any way…

The Verge received a statement from Snapchat that said: “We are not currently promoting the president’s content in Snapchat’s Discover platform. We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them a platform on Discover. Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America.”

To be clear, Snapchat has not taken President Trump’s account down. Snapchat users can still view the content on that account if they choose to do so. The only difference is that Trump’s content on Snapchat will no longer appear in the Discover tab.

The Guardian reported that Snapchat’s decision regarding Trump’s Snapchat account “will likely increase pressure on the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has come under intense criticism from civil rights leaders and Facebook employees over his decision to allow Trump’s threat that “when the looting starts the shooting starts” remain on the platform.”

Personally, I’m very confused about why the President of the United States, who is frequently on television, and written about in a wide variety of news outlets around the world, feels that he needs to be the focus of every social media platform as well. Neither Twitter nor Snapchat have removed his accounts. They simply are requiring him to adhere to the rules of their platforms.