Category Archives: Social Media

Verizon Announced Sale of Tumblr to Automattic



Verizon Media and Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Automattic plans to acquire Tumblr.

The press release says that the terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, Axios reported that “a source familiar with the deal” put the price-tag “well below” $20 million, while another source put it below $10 million. Axios reported that Yahoo had paid $1.1 billion for Tumblr. Axios also reported that Automattic Inc. will buy the network and take on its 200 employees.

Tumblr is a media network powered by a massive community of independent creators and home to 475 million blogs.

“Tumblr is one of the Web’s most iconic brands,” said Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg. “It is an essential venue to share new ideas, cultures, and experiences, helping millions create and build communities around their shared interests. We are excited to add it to our lineup, which already includes WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, Longreads, and more.”

I deleted my Tumblr account shortly after Verizon took over. My husband and I used to post photos of our cockatiels on a second Tumblr account, which we never got around to deleting. Personally, I feel that Automattic is going to do good things with Tumblr, and I definitely trust the company a whole lot more than I trust Verizon.

Will this change bring people back to Tumblr? It is too soon to know that for certain. Axios pointed out that The Wall Street Journal reported that Automattic’s CEO Matt Mullenweg intends to maintain the “porn ban” that Verizon implemented. The ban is one of the reasons why many people left Tumblr.


Trump Administration Launches Tool to Report Censorship



The Trump Administration has launched a web survey for people to use if they feel they have been wrongly censored on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. The survey was created with the online form-building tool Typeform. The first page of the survey says:

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear “violations” of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.

The Guardian reported that the survey asks users to provide their names, contact information, social media accounts, and screenshots of interactions with social media platforms. Only US citizens and permanent residents are asked to participate. The Guardian wonders what the Trump administration will do – and what it won’t do – with the names and contact information of the people who fill out the survey.

Typeform tweeted: “We didn’t get any further than this @WhiteHouse”. The tweet included a screenshot of the question “Are you a U.S. citizen or permanent resident?” Typeform checked “no”. The Guardian reported that Typeform is based in Barcelona.

As always, it is a good idea to read a survey’s user agreement before you post any of your information into it. Ars Technica reported that the user agreement gives the Trump Administration a broad license to use the information that users post into the survey, including publishing it.

More specifically, the user agreement “grants the U.S. Government a license to use, edit, display, publish, broadcast, transmit, post, or otherwise distribute all or part of the Content (including edited, composite, or derivative works made therefrom)”.

“You waive any right to inspect or approve of any Content edited, composite or derivative works made from Content (including those which may contain your information) before use. You are not entitled to any prior notice before the U.S. Government uses Content or Information. You are not entitled to any compensation for Content.”

“You understand that Content may not be altered or deleted by you after submission, You further understand that your submission may be subject to the Federal Records Act and/or the Presidential Records Act and may be subject to public release according to those statutes.”

The Verge reported that near the end of the survey, it invites users to opt into email newsletters from President Trump “so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”

Another part of the survey points users toward the user agreement, and states: “you understand this form is for information gathering only.” I think there are going to be a lot of disappointed people who presume that filling out the survey will instantly make their suspended or banned accounts accessible once again. In addition, some people may not realize they opted-in to a newsletter.


Social Media Companies to Tackle Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content



Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter have responded to the Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online by committing to remove that content from their social media sites. As far as I can tell, this is the first time those three companies have decided to work together on removing that type of content.

In March of this year, a terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was livestreamed. The Christchurch Call was created by New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and French President, Emmanuel Macron. Ars Technica reported that Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom have signed on.

The Christchurch Call is a commitment by Governments and tech companies to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. It rests on the conviction that a free, open and secure internet offers extraordinary benefits to society. Respect for freedom of expression is fundamental. However, no one has the right to create and share terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have all committed to the Christchurch Call. Each company posted nearly identical details about how they will enact policies to combat the spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Each company will be: “identifying appropriate checks on livestreaming, aimed at reducing the risks of disseminating terrorist and violent extremist content online. These may include enhanced vetting measures (such as streamer ratings or scores, account activity, or validation processes) and moderation of certain livestreaming events where appropriate. Checks on livestreaming necessarily will be tailored to the context of specific livestreaming services, including the type of audience, the nature or character of the livestreaming service, and the likelihood of exploitation.”

The companies will also improve technology to detect and remove terrorist and violent extremist content. They will combat hate and bigotry by providing greater support for relevant research – with an emphasis on the impact of online hate on offline discrimination and violence – and supporting capacity and capability of NGOs working to challenge hate and promote pluralism and respect online.

Personally, I think this is a step in the right direction. It is abundantly clear that hateful content online influences some people to take that hate offline and to act in ways that cause harm to other people. Something must be done to prevent that.


Sri Lanka’s Government Blocked Social Media After Attacks



A wave of bombings happened in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Targets included churches, hotels, and an apartment complex. At least 290 people have been killed and 500 were injured. While this was happening, Sri Lanka’s government blocked access to social media sites.

Sri Lanka’s government moved to block Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – all owned by Facebook – on Sunday out of concern that “false news reports… spreading through social media” could lead to violence. The services will be suspended until investigations into the blasts that killed more than 200 people are concluded, the government said. Non-Facebook social media services, including YouTube and Viber have also been suspended, but Facebook and WhatsApp are dominant platforms in the country.

The Guardian reported that this was not the first time Sri Lanka’s government blocked social media in an effort to prevent misinformation from spreading and resulting in violence. In March of 2018, the government blocked several social media platforms amid hardline Buddhist violence against Muslims. Some of that violence was fulled by hate speech and false rumors that were spread on social media.

Social media websites need to vastly improve their ability to keep people safe. These companies need to wake up and realize that what what is said – and passed around – on the internet can have devastating real-world repercussions. They must do a better job of removing misinformation.

Personally, based on Sri Lanka’s history, I think their government did the right thing by blocking social media websites while police were investigating the cause of the bombings. I think this action likely prevented people, in a time of crisis, from being unfairly influenced to target other people with violence. The government may have saved some innocent people from being harmed or killed.

The big problem, of course, is that blocking social media was necessary. If Facebook (and other social media companies) were quicker to remove misinformation, Sri Lanka’s government would not have needed to block it. People could have used social media to let their families know that they were safe.

Another thing to consider is that many governments are not going to block social media platforms in their countries during a crisis. This could lead to misinformation spread online resulting in additional violence in “the real world”. Social media companies need to be more responsible about what they allow to spread on their platforms.


Google+ Offers Download of Data



Announced back in October, Google+ is coming to an untimely demise on 2nd April, leaving many of us somewhat uncomfortable with the thought of having to move house over to Facebook. Never mind Facebook’s total disregard for privacy, the user interface is complete rubbish…

While Google+ may be ending, Google is making it easy to retrieve information from the service and all users should have received an email giving the details of what needs to be done.

The download and save links to a support page which provides guidance on downloading all your Google+ information, including photos. It’s straightforward to do, but Google does take a few days to assemble the data and make it ready for download. Google then makes the data set available for around a week. I requested the download on 3rd February and received a notification that it was ready on 7th Feb.

Once downloaded, the archive can be unpacked. Google sorts the data into folders relating to your activity on Google+ and provides some additional html files to make browsing the data a little easier. Having said that, if you are only after your pictures, a quick search from a file manager for jpg will get quick results.

My online life with Google+ was quite small at 108 MB, but a friend who was an enthusiastic contributor to the server downloaded several gigs of data.

While it’s sad to see Google+ going away, it’s great to see Google making it easy to retain your Google+ data.


Gab has been Banned from PayPal, GoDaddy and Medium



Gab is a social media website created by CEO Andrew Torba. If you use Twitter, you may have heard of Gab. It is the website disgruntled Twitter users tweet about whenever Twitter suspends accounts that break the Twitter rules. The New York Times describes Gab as “an extremist-friendly site”.

USA Today reported that Robert Bowers had been identified as the suspect in the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Eleven people died and several others were wounded.

The Verge reported that Robert Bower was not only on Gab, but also had posted a history of anti-Semitic speech on it. In the same article, The Verge posted a statement from a spokesman from PayPay, who confirmed that PayPal had banned Gab, and citing hate speech as the reason for the ban. The statement said:

“The company is diligent in performing reviews and taking account actions. When a site is explicitly allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance, we take immediate and decisive action.”

In another article, The Verge posted a statement from GoDaddy:

“We have informed Gab.com that they have 24 hours to move the domain to another provider, as they have violated our terms of service. In response to complaints received over the weekend, GoDaddy investigated and discovered numerous instances of content on the site that both promotes and encourages violence against people”.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Medium has suspended Gab’s account on its platform. Yesterday, Gab had posted a “Statement On The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting”. Today, that same link goes to a Medium page that says “This page is unavailable”.

Freedom of speech means that the government cannot throw you in jail because it didn’t like something you said. Private companies are allowed to stop providing service to users who break the company’s rules. It is also worth noting that freedom of speech does not come with protections against facing the consequences of what you choose to say – or, in Gab’s case – host.


Is Social Media Making us Sick?



social mediaOver the past six months, I have really tried to limit my non-work utilization of Social Media. I found in a way that it was making me sick, both physically and mentally. I found myself sometimes feeling actually sick to my stomach and most definitely causing me to be moody.

I tried clearing putting friends on snooze or unfollowing them all together as there was this underlying anger and ongoing small snipes here and there. Frankly, most of the conversations were not conducive. I will admit that it is very hard to take a break and still find my time on Facebook more than it should be.

Facebook has become the crack for tech-addicted geeks like me. I know I should not be on it but cannot help myself to take another hit. My business requires me to monitor up to a half dozen groups where customers go first for help often times versus visiting the support page to get a professional from my team to help them.

Frankly its all frustrating and one thing I have made a commitment to, is coming back to the blog here at Geek News Central where I have full control to go on full blast mode about these types of topics that have been bothering me.

I can only hope that you will join me in taking some breaks from social media so we do not have to hit the facebook crack pipe as often.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash