Category Archives: Social Media

Texas Sued Over Law That Stops Social Media Sites from Banning Users



The State of Texas has been sued over its new law that prevents social media platforms from banning users over their political views, The Texas Tribune reported.

The Texas bill is called HB 20. Governor Greg Abbott signed it into law. According to The Texas Tribune, the law states that “social media platforms with over 50 million monthly users in the U.S. – a threshold that includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – must publicly report details about content removal and account suspensions biannually. The platforms are also required to establish an easily accessible complaint system, where users could flag violations of the law.”

The lawsuit was filed by NetChoice, LLC and Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represent Google and Twitter in the lawsuit. It was filed against Texas Governor Ken Paxton (in his official capacity as Attorney General of Texas). The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division.

Here is a key point from the lawsuit:

…The Commerce Clause does not permit a single state to dictate the rules of content for the global Internet. H.B. 20 would regulate wholly-out-of-state conduct – balkanizing the Internet by imposing onerous extraterritorial regulation on the operation of covered social media platforms. This vastly exceeds Texas’s regulatory purview and will impede commerce across the Internet…

USA Today described this Texas law as a “social media censorship law”. According to USA Today, “Texas lawmakers were motivated in large part by the suspensions of former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol”.

Personally, I don’t think this Texas law stands much of a chance in court. USA Today reported that a federal judge blocked a similar Florida law in June, one day before it could take effect.


Tumblr Post+ Subscription is in Beta Mode



Tumblr is now one of the social media companies that wants to let creators make money from their content. It announced Post+, which is a subscription service that is currently in beta.

Tumblr’s Post+ is our new tool that allows creators to make some of their posts exclusive to paid supporters and allows people to support their favorite creators. It’s an optional way to support and encourage your favorite creators in Tumblr, and it’s all done in the existing post form with the existing tools you all know and love.

Here’s what is known about Tumblr’s Post+ (so far):

Tumblr users who have Post+ can pick and choose which posts they want public and which posts they want only their supporters to see.

Creators who use Post+ have the ability to choose from a select set of predefined subscription pricing structures for their supporters. TechCrunch reported that the subscriber-only content starts at $3.99 per month, with additional tiers at $5.99 and $9.99.

You must be a Tumblr user in order to become a paying Post+ supporter.

If you subscribe to a creator’s Post+, your blog name and any information you share publicly on your blog will be available to the owner of the blog you are subscribing to. No personal information is shared.

Subscribers will be notified when the Post+ creator(s) they subscribe to shares something new.

You can cancel your Post+ subscription if you choose to. But, you have to cancel it at least 24 hours before the end of your current subscription period in order to avoid being charged for the next subscription period. You cannot get a refund.

According to Tumblr, +Posts can be reblogged! This is encouraged. Each reblogged +Post has a teaser section at the top of the post that is publicly viewable. Any content added to the reblog is also visible publicly.

TechCrunch reported that Post+ “lets creators choose which content they want to put behind a paywall, whether that’s original artwork, personal blog posts or Destiel fanfic”. But, that information doesn’t appear on Tumblr’s Post+ information. My hope is that Tumblr is not suggesting that people attempt to monetize content owned by big companies.

You cannot block a blog after they have become a paying supporter of your Post+ without help from Tumblr Support.

Tumblr was sold to Automattic (who owns WordPress.com) in 2019.


Clubhouse is No Longer Invite-Only



Clubhouse posted a blog called “Opening Day” on its website to inform everyone that the app is now out of beta and open to everyone. They also made a new Clubhouse logo.

Twelve never-boring months later, we’re thrilled to share that Clubhouse is now out of beta, open to everyone, and ready to begin its next chapter. This means we have removed our waitlist system so that anyone can join. If you have a club, you can post your link far and wide. If you are a creator with an audience, you can bring them all on. If you’re hosting a public event, anyone can attend. You can bring close friends, classmates, family members, coworkers, and anyone else you like – on iOS or Android.

It is my understanding that there are many people who were using Clubhouse when it was in beta, and enjoying the experience. As such, this new change will likely make them happy.

There were some big problems with Clubhouse. In February of 2021, Will Ormus posted a blog in which he provided details that make it clear that Clubhouse does not respect your privacy.

Clubhouse requires access to user’s contacts.This could include a persons doctor, acquaintances that they haven’t talked with in years, and a person’s drug dealer. Another problem is that Clubhouse will try to connect users to other users that have them in their contacts. This could be dangerous for people who have left an abusive partner, or who have been stalked by someone.

In April of 2021, CyberNews reported that Clubhouse’s SQL database containing 1.3 million user records was scraped and linked for free on a “popular hacker forum”. The information came from user profiles, and included user ID, name, photo URL, username, Twitter handle, Instagram handle, number of followers, number of people following the user, account creation date, and invited by profile name.

Clubhouse denied that the scraping had occurred, and said the public profile information in the app was viewable by anyone who can access the app.

Whether or not you choose to join Clubhouse is up to you, of course. Personally, I don’t feel that I can trust it with my contact list.


SnapChat will Remove the “Speed Filter”



SnapChat is eliminating the “speed filter” that allowed users to capture how fast they are moving and share it with friends, NPR reported.

According to NPR, Snap “has defended the feature in the face of warnings from safety advocates who’ve argued that it encourages reckless driving. The company has also faced lawsuits from the families of those who have been injured or killed in car crashes where drivers were moving at excessive speeds, allegedly to score bragging rights on the app.”

NPR provided some examples of reckless driving while using the speed filter:

A 2015 collision involving the speed filter left a driver in Georgia with permanent brain damage. That same year, the feature was tied to the death of three young women in a Philadelphia car accident. In 2016, five people in Florida died in a high-speed collision that reportedly involved the speed filter. In 2017, three young men in Wisconsin clocked a speed of 123 miles per hour on the feature before they crashed into a tree and died.

A spokeswoman from Snap confirmed to NPR that the speed filter would soon be gone. She said the feature is “barely used by Snapchatters, and in light of that, we are removing it altogether”.

BuzzFeed News reported that Snap has added a “don’t snap and drive” warning while the feature was in use. It also limited the top driving speed that can be shared to 35 mph.

It will take time for the speed filter to be entirely removed from Snap, so the warning and speed limitation are good ways to deter people from using it for reckless driving. Snap is still going to have to face existing lawsuits about the feature.


Biden Revokes Trump’s Order Banning TikTok and WeChat



President Biden issued an executive order titled: “Executive Order on Protecting Americans’ Sensitive Data from Foreign Adversaries”. It revokes one of Trump’s executive orders banning TikTok and WeChat. That order was never carried out.

In September of 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced a prohibition on transactions relating to mobile apps WeChat and TikTok. In October of 2020, three popular TikTok creators filed a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce. U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a preliminary injunction, which caused the Department of Commerce to be enjoined from forcing the prohibition on TikTok.

The Verge reported that President Biden’s executive order revokes the Trump-era bans on TikTok and WeChat. The order calls for the Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, to investigate apps with ties to foreign adversaries that may pose a risk to American data privacy or national security.

It also calls on other federal agencies to work together to craft recommendations to protect against the collection, sale, and transfer of sensitive US consumer data to foreign adversaries. According to The Verge, the Commerce Department is expected to also make recommendations for future executive orders or legislation to address these concerns.

The Trump order had not been carried out “in the soundest fashion”, according to CNN, who posted about Biden administration officials call with reporters. The officials stated that the new directive would establish “clear intelligible criteria” to evaluate national security risks posed by software applications connected to foreign governments, particularly China.

Overall, it seems to me that the executive order is intended to prevent foreign adversaries from collecting the data of Americans. That sounds like a good thing. The order also means that TikTok and WeChat are likely to be investigated in order to determine if they should be banned.


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.