Facebook Wants to Keep Private Groups Safe



Facebook announced some changes that are designed to keep people safe within Facebook Groups. In part, Facebook will hold Group admins accountable for what is posted in their group.

Facebook says one way they keep people safe is by proactively identifying and removing posts and groups that break their rules. Facebook has been using AI and machine learning “to proactively detect bad content before anyone reports it, and sometimes before people even see it.”. It also uses human moderators.

Facebook has created new Group Privacy settings:

By default, a group that was formerly “secret” will now be “private” and “hidden”. A group that was formerly “closed” will now be “private” and “visible”. Groups that are “public” will remain “public” and “visible”.

Here are some factors Facebook considers when deciding if a Group should come down:

  • Does the name or description of the group include hate speech or other content Facebook doesn’t allow?
  • If group leaders often break Facebook’s rules, or if they commonly approve posts from other members who break Facebook’s rules, those are clear strikes against the overall group.
  • If a group member repeatedly violates Facebook’s standards, Facebook will start requiring admins to review their posts before anyone else can see them. Then, if an admin approves a post that breaks Facebook’s rules, it will count against the whole group.

It sounds like people who participate in Groups on Facebook really need to choose wisely when selecting admins. Facebook’s emphasis that their rules apply within Groups is likely going to deter those who have been de-platformed from other online spaces. I guess that’s one way to help keep people safe in Private Groups.


Twitter Tests Letting Users Follow Topics



Twitter is in the process of letting users follow topics in a similar way to how they already follow accounts. According to The Verge, the feature is not quite live yet. When it goes live, users will be able to follow topics like sports teams, celebrities, and television shows. A selection of tweets of topics that are of interest to you will appear alongside tweets in your home feed.

Topics will be curated by Twitter, with individual tweets being identified through machine learning rather than editorial curation, the company said. For now, only sports-related interests can be followed, said Rob Bishop, a Twitter product manager. The feature is now being tested on Android.

The Verge reported that Twitter made this announcement at an event with reporters, which probably explains why I can’t find anything official about it on Twitter’s accounts or its blog. I’m going to assume Twitter will issue a press release, or something with more details about this change, soon.

From what I can tell, there are some cool things about being able to follow topics. You can mute topics. So, for example, if you followed a topic about a specific sport, but the information isn’t about your team right now, you can mute it. The Verge reported that people can mute TV show topics – to avoid spoilers.

Overall, it sounds like Twitter is trying something different that could, potentially, reduce the toxic polarization that Twitter is currently full of. If Twitter makes it easier to find things users enjoy, perhaps this will influence people to be nicer to each other.


Minecraft’s Super Duper Graphics Pack has been Cancelled



Mojang announced that they are ceasing development of Minecraft’s Super Duper Graphics Pack. The upgraded graphics pack was first announced during E3 of 2017.

Super Duper was an ambitious initiative that brought a new look to Minecraft but, unfortunately, the pack proved too technically demanding to implement as planned.

We realize this is disappointing to some of you – there was a lot of enthusiasm for Super Duper from inside and outside the studio – but unfortunately, we aren’t happy with how the pack performed across devices. For this reason, we are stopping development on the pack and looking into other ways for you to experience Minecraft with a new look.

Ars Technica reported that the E3 of 2017 announcement included an incredible trailer that showed Minecraft in a dynamic shadow-and-light model, with screen-space reflections, material-based lighting, and more. It was described as a “pack”, meaning it would leave Minecraft’s raw assets untouched.

It was going to run in 4K resolution on supported hardware, and a free launch was promised by fall of 2017. Clearly, that didn’t happen.

Fans of Minecraft have been waiting for the Super Duper Graphics Pack since 2017. There are bound to be people who are deeply disappointed that it isn’t being released.

The decision to cease development of the pack is probably a good idea, considering that Mojang was not happy with how it preformed “across devices”. The worst thing they could have done would be to release it only to have it not work as promised.


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.


Twitch Used Ninja’s Dormant Channel to Promote NSFW Stream



As you may have heard, Tyler Blevins, known as Ninja, has left Twitch and is now streaming exclusively on Mixer. It seems that Twitch is unhappy about that. Engadget reported that Twitch used Ninja’s dormant Twitch channel to promote other streamers, including one that was NSFW (not safe for work).

Engadget reported that esports consultant Rod Breslau observed that the number one stream on Twitch the morning of August 11, 2019, was a bootleg NSFW movie that lasted for more than two hours.

This is a huge problem for many reasons. People who come to Twitch to watch Ninja’s channel are very likely hoping to watch him play Fortnite, a game that is popular with middle schoolers and children. No one wants their kids to watch X-rated material.

The video is reportedly a bootleg, which breaks Twitch’s rule regarding copyrighted content. Twitch should have taken it down as expediently as possible, especially considering the nature of the content. Instead, Twitch left it up for at least two hours.

Ninja posted a video on Twitter in which he apologized for what Twitch promoted on his dormant channel. He also stated that he had absolutely no control over what Twitch chose to promote there. It sounds like Ninja and his team expected that his Twitch channel would be dormant – and not be used by Twitch for promotion.

Personally, I think this was a mean-spirited and extremely immature response by Twitch in regards to Ninja’s decision to move to Mixer. It is obvious that the NSFW content promoted on his Twitch channel could have harmed Ninja’s brand.

According to Engadget, Twitch has since reverted Ninja’s old channel to a regular offline screen, and Twitch CEO Emmett Shear has apologized to Ninja. Twitch has banned the user who posted the NSFW content and is suspending recommendations until they investigate.

I think I would have been willing to believe Twitch’s apology was in good faith if they had stepped in and removed the NSFW stream right away. Waiting two hours to do so is irresponsible, and makes Twitch look bad.


Apple 1 Million Dollar Bounty #1388



Apple is offering a 1 Million dollar bug bounty for bugs found in its kernel. This is by far the biggest bounty ever offered and should help incentivize people to turn in those bugs. I had an event that went late last evening thus the Friday morning recording. Quick show today so enjoy and have a great weekend.

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Apple is Locking iPhone Batteries at the Factory



Being able to see the health of the battery on your iPhone is really important. It helps you know when that battery needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, Apple is reportedly doing some shenanigans that will prevent iPhone users from making that assessment – if they swapped their battery with one that is not from Apple.

This news comes from iFixit, who reported: “By activating a dormant software lock on their newest iPhones, Apple is effectively announcing a drastic new policy: only Apple can go in iPhones, and only they can install them.”

If you replace the battery in the newest iPhones, a message indicating you need to service your battery appears in Settings >Battery, next to Battery Health. The “Service” message is normally an indication that the battery is degraded and needs to be replaced. The message still shows up when you put in a brand new battery, however. Here’s the bigger problem: our lab tests confirmed that even when you swap in a genuine Apple battery, the phone will still display the “Service” message.

In short, if you want to replace the battery on a newer iPhone, Apple wants you to take it to an Apple Genius or an Apple Authorized Service Provider. The company doesn’t want you to change the battery yourself, and really doesn’t want you to swap it with a battery that isn’t from Apple.

The iFixit article describes this practice as a “user-hostile choice”, and rightfully so. In my opinion, the false “Service” message is designed to influence iPhone users to spend money on Apple’s batteries, instead of purchasing one from another company that is less expensive. The policy also runs over a consumer’s Right to Repair a product that they have purchased and own.