Category Archives: Social Media

X Rival Bluesky Hits 2M Users

Bluesky, the company building a decentralized alternative to Twitter/X, announced it has hit 2 million users – up by another million since September, despite remaining an invite-only app. It also revealed its timeframe regarding other key goals, indicating that it planned to have a public web interface go live by the end of the month and would launch federation by early next year, TechCrunch reported.

The latter is one of the most important differentiating factors between Bluesky and X, as it would allow Bluesky to function as a more open social network. This means it will work more like Mastodon where users can pick and choose which servers to join and move their accounts around at will. This is what Bluesky today says makes it “billionaire proof” – a swipe at Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter, now called X.

The Bluesky Team posted on its blog “Toward Federation and an Open Network”:

Toward Federation

Imagine you’ve spent 10 years building your audience and making friends on a social platform, only to decide that it’s no longer for you. When you leave this platform, you’re essentially leaving behind all of your relationships, your saved posts, and more.

We’ve been there too, and we’re similarly tired of packing our bags each time another platform winds down and everyone collectively moves to the next big thing. Signing up for a new social network every few years and losing all our data on former ones shouldn’t be the price that we have to pay in order to keep our relationships online.

That’s why our biggest priority right now is launching federation, which is timelines for early next year. This is one of the core features of Bluesky that makes it “billionaire-proof” – you’ll always have the freedom to choose (and to exit) instead of being held to the whims of private companies or black box algorithms. And wherever you go, your friends and relationships will be there too.

More exciting news: around the end of this month, we’ll release a public web interface. With this, you’ll be able to view posts on Bluesky without being logged in on an account.

This will make posts on Bluesky much more accessible, which will be especially useful for real-time commentary and breaking news.

As a reminder, Bluesky is a public social network, so your posts, likes, etc. have always been publicly accessible through the API. We designed Bluesky with the openness of the internet in mind, and you can think of your profile as a blog on the internet…

Mashable reported that X rival and social media platform Bluesky now boasts over 2 million users, as announced by the team on Thursday. A year after its creation, the Jack Dorsey-backed app marked the milestone while detailing its pending plan of creating a “truly open social network” – and adding a major feature from Twitter.

According to Mashable, Bluesky, a decentralized social media app, is set to add a public web interface, which means users will be able to view posts without being logged in on an account – Bluesky currently still requires an invite code to sign up to its platform.

Personally, I am enjoying Bluesky a lot more than I do Twitter/X. I no longer find it comfortable to use Twitter/X because the majority of what X’s algorithm shows me are things I have no interest in at all.

Threads Users Can Keep Their Posts Off Instagram and Facebook

Many Threads users are now saying they have the ability to opt out of having their posts shown on Instagram and Facebook. To keep Threads posts from showing up on Meta’s other platforms, tap the two lines in the top right of the Threads app > Privacy > Suggesting pots on other apps – two switches let users turn off suggestions on Instagram or Facebook, The Verge reported.

According to The Verge, Meta tends to roll out Threads features slowly, so if you don’t see the new toggles yet, give it time.

Instagram and Facebook each got a “For you on Threads” carousel in the last few months. Responding to user grumpiness, Threads said in October it was “listening to feedback” shortly before testing the opt-out switch that’s rolling out now.

The Verge reported that the feature was clearly intended to drive engagement on Threads, as the platform seemed to be foundering after its impressive initial launch. But things look a lot better now. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on an earnings call last month that Threads now has almost 100 million monthly users. That’s still short of the “over half a billion monthly users” that Elon Musk recently claimed that X has, but its a good sign for Threads, just over four months into life.

9to5Mac reported that Meta first started showing these Threads suggestions on Facebook and Instagram in August. The carousels show Threads posts from people you’re associated with on Facebook or Instagram, with a quick link to open (or download) the Threads app and join the conversation.

“If your profile is public, your posts may be suggested on other apps so people can discover and follow you,” Meta explains.

However, this week Meta is now giving Threads users the option to opt out of having their posts appear as suggested content in Meta and Instagram.

PCMag reported that Meta undoubtedly made the decision to share posts by default on other platforms in order to drive engagement and interest in Threads while the service was new and gaining traction.

The idea being a friend of yours might see on Instagram that you’ve posted on Threads, then visit Threads for more. Testing for the feature began in August with Instagram showing Threads posts.

According to PCMag, last month, the company said its was “listening to feedback” from users who didn’t want their posts shared on Instagram and Twitter as well. The company offers a similar option on Instagram allowing you to opt in or our of sharing your posts on Facebook as well.

Personally, I find it interesting that Meta didn’t take into account that there will always be some people who join a social media app and immediately make their accounts private. This is super important for the company to recognize, and it makes sense that Meta is now allowing Threads users to opt-out of having their posts appear on Instagram and Facebook.

UK Data Watchdog Issues Snapchat Enforcement Notice Over AI Chatbot

Snapchat could face a fine of millions of pounds after the UK data watchdog issued it with a preliminary enforcement notice over the alleged failure to assess privacy risks its artificial intelligence chatbot may pose to users and particularly children, The Guardian reported.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it had provisionally found that the social media app’s owner failed to “adequately identify and assess the risks” to several million UK users of My AI, including among 13-17-year olds.

According to The Guardian, Snapchat has 21 million monthly active users in the UK and has proved to be particularly popular among younger demographics, with the market research company Insider Intelligence estimating that 48% of users are aged 24 or under. About 18% of UK users are aged 12 to 17.

“The provisional findings of our investigation suggest a worrying failure by Snap [the parent of Snapchat] to adequately identify and assess the privacy risks to children and other users before launching My AI,” said John Edwards, the information commissioner.

BBC reported the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) warned it could close down the My AI feature in the UK after a “preliminary investigation.”

The US company said it was “closely reviewing” the provisional findings.

Snapchat describes it as a “evolving feature” which is powered by ChatGPT, an online AI tool which users new technology to convincingly imitate realistic responses.

Snap, the parent company behind Snapchat, became the first social media platform to adopt an artificial intelligence-powered chat function earlier this year.

According to BBC, Snap said it would “work constructively” with the ICO after it issued a preliminary notice against the company, adding that it had carried out a “robust legal and privacy review” before the function went public.

The data watchdog stressed its findings are not final, and it has not concluded that the company breached any data protection laws.

At this stage, the notice is a signal to Snap to ensure My AI complies with data protection rules which include the Children’s Design Code.

Engadget reported that Information Commissioner John Edwards said the IPO’s provisional findings from its investigation indicated a “worrying failure by Snap to adequately identify and assess the privacy risks to children and other users” before rolling out My AI. The ICO noted that if Snap failed to sufficiently address its concerns, it may block the ChatGPT-powered chatbot in the UK.

“My AI went through a robust legal and privacy review process before being made publicly available,” a Snap spokesperson told Reuters. “We will continue to work constructively with the ICO to ensure they’re comfortable with our risk assessment procedures.”

According to Engadget, soon after Snap rolled out the chatbot, parents raised concerns about My AI, and not only over privacy considerations. “I don’t think I’m prepared to know how to teach my kid how to emotionally separate humans and machines when they essentially look the same from her point of view,” a mother of a 13-year-old told CNN in April. “I just think there is a really clear line [Snapchat] is crossing.”

In my opinion, I think parents should have the right to decide whether or not to allow their kids to use Snapchat. Parents who have concerns about their child talking with an AI can choose to take Snapchat away, and potentially give it back when they are older.

Snapchat’s My AI Goes Rogue, Posts To Stories

Snapchat’s My AI feature, an in-app AI chatbot launched earlier this year with its fair share of controversy, briefly appeared to have a mind of its own. On Tuesday, the AI posted its own Story to the app and then stopped responding to users’ messages, which some Snapchat Users found disconcerting, TechCrunch reported.

The Story My AI posted was just a two-toned image that some mistook to be a photo of their own ceiling, which added to the mystery. When users tried to chat with the bot, the AI in some cases replied to users by saying “Sorry, I encountered a technical issue.”

According to TechCrunch, though the incident made for some great posts, we regret to inform you that My AI did not develop self-awareness and a desire to express itself through Snapchat Stories. Instead, the situation arose because of a technical outage, just as the bot explained.

“My AI experienced a temporary outage that’s now resolved,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

However, the incident does raise the question as to whether or not Snap was considering adding new functionality to My AI that would allow the AI chatbot to post to Stories. Currently, the AI bot sends text messages and can even Snap back with images – weird as they may be. But does it do Stories? Not yet, apparently.

“At this time, My AI does not have Stories feature,” a Snap spokesperson told TechCrunch, leaving them to wonder if that may be something Snap has in the works.

ArsTechnica reported: It’s not Halloween yet, but some users of Snapchat feel like it is. On Tuesday evening, Snapchat’s My AI chatbot posted a mysterious one-second video of what looks like a wall and a ceiling, despite never having added a video to its messages before. When users asked the chatbot about it, the machine stayed eerily silent.

According to ArsTechnica, “My AI” is a chatbot built into the Snapchat app that people can talk to as if it were a real person. It’s powered by OpenAI’s large language model (LLM) technology, similar to ChatGPT. It shares clever quips and recommends Snapchat features in a way that makes it feel like a corporate imitation of a trendy young person chillin with its online homies.

Mashable reported that when reached for a comment, a Snap spokesperson confirmed that My AI had experienced an outage, but that it had been since resolved.

According to Mashable, the issue was not resolved immediately, as My AI temporarily continued to respond to at least some users’ text messages with: “Hey, I’m a bit busy at the moment. Can we catch up later?” However others soon reported that the My AI chatbot was back online, allowing them to question it about its strange story.

Personally, I think this situation is mostly harmless – despite freaking out some Snapchat users. That said, I can see why people had concerns after My AI appeared to post a photo of their wall and ceiling. There is something unnatural about having an AI bot post an image in a section of Snapchat that it wasn’t intended to use.

New York City Bans TikTok On Government-Issued Devices

New York City becomes the latest government to issue new rules banning TikTok, a measure meant to ward off potential security threats from China, TechCrunch reported.

According to TechCrunch, the state of New York also issued its own ban against TikTok on government devices in 2020. Many other states have issued their own bans in recent years, including New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Georgia.

The U.S. House of Representatives banned the use of TikTok on government devices in December. Earlier this year, the Biden administration escalated its own pressure campaign against the app in an effort to force TikTok to part ways with its Chinese ownership.

In May, Montana governor Greg Gianforte signed a law that bans TikTok in the state, effective starting in 2024. Unlike other state-level action, the ban is not limited to government-issued devices and would also limit normal users’ access to the popular app.

The Verge reported New York City is banning TikTok from city-owned devices and requiring agencies to remove the app within the next 30 days.

According to The Verge, the directive issued Wednesday comes after a review by the NYC Cyber Command, which a city official said that TikTok “posed a security threat to the city’s technical networks.” Staring immediately, city employees are barred from downloading or using the app and accessing TikTok’s website from any city-owned devices.

“While social media is great at connecting New Yorkers with one another and the city, we have to ensure that we are always using these platforms in a secure manner,” a New York City Hall spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge Wednesday. “NYC Cyber Command regularly explores and advances proactive measures to keep New Yorkers’ data safe.”

Engadget reported that NYC Cyber Command, a subset of the Office of Technology and Innovation, spurred the decision after reporting to the city that TikTok posed a security threat. “NYC Cyber Command regularly explores and advances proactive measures to keep New Yorkers’ data safe, a City Hall spokesperson said. “As part of ongoing efforts, NYC Cyber Command determined that the TikTok application posed a security threat to the city’s technical networks and directed its removal from city-owned devices.”

Politico reported some background on this situation, noting that New York City is relatively late to the game. More than 30 states have barred employees from using TikTok on government devices, including the state of New York, which quietly adopted the policy in 2020.

Personally, I think it is a good idea to ban TikTok from government devices, because it could potentially be a security risk. That said, I don’t see why Montana decided to ban TikTok from the phones of people who are not part of the government. I think the state went to far with that.

NetChoice Says Solicitor General Agrees Supreme Court Should Hear Its Case

Yesterday, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on NetChoice & CCIA v. Paxton and NetChoice & CCIA v. Moody, emphasizing that both laws violate the First Amendment, NetChoice reported.

“The Solicitor General’s brief underscore that both Texas and Florida’s laws are unconstitutional and that the Court should review our cases,” said Chris Marchese, NetChoice Director of Litigation. “We urge the Court to strike down Texas and Florida’s laws and reaffirm that the Constitution prohibits the government from controlling online speech.”

The Verge reported that the Biden administration has requested the US Supreme Court review Florida and Texas laws restricting how social media companies like Facebook moderate the content users post on their platforms.

According to The Verge, in briefs filed on Monday, the solicitor general urged the court to take up a pair of lawsuits led by the tech trade group NetChoice. Both Florida and Texas passed laws making it illegal for large social platforms to suspend or punish users, citing long-standing allegations that major platforms are biased against conservatives.

The Verge also reported that a series of temporary injunctions have left the future of these laws in limbo, and Monday’s briefs add new pressure on the Supreme Court to resolve the suits.

Washington Examiner reported that Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar filed an amicus brief on Monday arguing that the Supreme Court should consider the conservative technology group NetChoice’s suit against Texas and Florida. The two states, the brief argues, run afoul of the First Amendment with restrictions on how social platforms regulate or moderate content.

According to Washington Examiner, while the laws in Texas and Florida differ in details, they have three things in common, according to the brief. They include “content-moderation provisions restricting platform’s choices about whether and how to present user-generated content to the public, individualized-explanation provisions requiring platforms to explain particular content-moderation decisions to affected users, and general-disclosure requiring platforms to disclose information about their content-moderation practices.”

Washington Examiner also reported that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed Senate Bill 7072 in May of 2021. The bill would allow Florida residents to sue a tech company for up to $250,000 a day for removing a statewide political candidate from its platform for more than two weeks, or notably less for county or local positions.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) signed House Bill 20 in September 2021, only for the law to be temporarily blocked by the Supreme Court. The law would bar platforms with more than 50 million users from banning content based on user viewpoint.

In my opinion, there is no way to be certain whether or not the Supreme Court will take up NetChoice’s cases. The Court could choose to do that, or might decide not to take up this particular case. We will have to wait and see what happens.

Texas TikTok Ban Challenged By Lawsuit From University Study

A coalition representing faculty at Texas public universities is suing Gov. Greg Abbott and other officials over the state’s ban on TikTok on government-issued devices, effective next year, NBC News reported. The ban, they say in the lawsuit, will prevent faculty members from using the platform to teach and conduct research in an academic capacity.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday, by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, a free speech advocacy group, on behalf of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, a organization that advocates for research on technology’s impact on society.

“Banning public university faculty from studying and teaching with TikTok is not a sensible or constitutional response to concerns about data-collection and disinformation,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, in a press release.

NBC News also reported that that TikTok was banned from federal government-owned or issued devices in December 2022, with some exceptions, in the wake of growing security concerns over claims of Chinese government surveillance through the app.

According to NBC News, the app has been under scrutiny from lawmakers on a federal level. In May, Montana became the first state to ban TikTok from operating in the state.

Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University posted a press release that includes the following:

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed suit today on behalf of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research asserting that Texas’s TikTok ban, initially imposed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott last year, violates the First Amendment. The ban requires all state agencies, including public universities, to bar employees from downloading or using TikTok on state-owned or -issued devices or networks, as well as on personal devices used to conduct state business. The lawsuit challenges the ban’s application to public university faculty, asserting that it comprises academic freedom and impedes vital research.

“Banning public university faculty from studying and teaching with TikTok is not a sensible or constitutional response to concerns about data-collection and disinformation,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute. “Texas mush pursue its objectives with tools that don’t impose such a heavy burden on First Amendment rights. Privacy legislation would be a good place to start.”

Engadget reported that the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed the lawsuit in the name of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, an academic research advocacy group the Texas professors are members of. The lawsuit names Governor Greg Abbott and 14 other state and public education officials as defendants. “The government’s authority to control their research and teaching… cannot survive First Amendment scrutiny,” the complaint says.

According to Engadget, one example cited by the plaintiffs is Jacqueline Vickery, Associate Professor in the Department of Media Arts at the University of North Texas, who studies and teaches how young people use social media for expression and political organizing. “The ban has forced her to suspend research projects and change her research agenda, alter her teaching methodology, and eliminate course materials,” the complaint reads. “It has also undermined her ability to respond to student questions and to review the work of other researchers, including as part of the peer-review process.”

Personally, I wonder how many states are going to ban TikTok from the phones of their Senators and Congresspeople. To me, I think that the educators who are using TikTok for research should not be prevented from continuing their study.