Author: Taylor Hatmaker

Instagram and Facebook will start censoring ‘graphic images’ of self-harm

In light of a recent tragedy, Instagram is updating the way it handles pictures depicting self-harm. Instagram and Facebook announced changes to their policies around content depicting cutting and other forms of self harm in dual blog posts Thursday. The changes comes about in light of the 2017 suicide of a 14 year old girl named Molly Russell, a UK resident who took her own life in 2017. Following her death, her family discovered that Russell was engaged with accounts that depicted and promoted self harm on the platform. As the controversy unfolded, Instagram Head of Product Adam Mosseri penned an op-ed in the Telegraph to atone for the platform’s at times high consequence shortcomings. Mosseri previously announced that Instagram would implement “sensitivity screens” to obscure self harm content, but the new changes go a step further. Starting soon, both platforms will no longer allow any “graphic images of self-harm” most notably those that depict cutting. This content was previously allowed because the platforms worked under the assumption that allowing people to connect and confide around these issues was better than the alternative. After a “comprehensive review with global experts and academics on youth, mental health and suicide prevention” those policies are shifting. “… It was advised that graphic images of self-harm – even when it is someone admitting their struggles – has the potential to unintentionally promote self-harm,” Mosseri...

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A popular genealogy website just helped solve a serial killer cold case in Oregon

On Thursday, detectives in Portland, Ore. announced that a long-cold local murder case finally came to a resolution, 40 years after the fact. In 1979, 20-year-old Anna Marie Hlavka was found dead in the Portland apartment she shared with her fiance and sister. According to police, she was strangled to death and sexually assaulted. Police followed a number of leads and kept tabs on the case for decades without a breakthrough. Last May, detectives with Portland’s Cold Case Homicide Detail dug back into the case using the methodology made famous when investigators tracked down the man believed to be...

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Facebook just removed a new wave of suspicious activity linked to Iran

Facebook just announced its latest round of “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” this time out of Iran. The company took down 262 Pages, 356 accounts, three Facebook groups and 162 Instagram accounts that exhibited “malicious-looking indicators” and patterns that identify it as potentially state-sponsored or otherwise deceptive and coordinated activity. As Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher noted in a press call, Facebook coordinated closely with Twitter to discover these accounts, and by collaborating early and often the company “[was] able to use that to build up our own investigation.” Today, Twitter published a postmortem on its efforts to combat misinformation during the US midterm election last year. Example of the content removed As the Newsroom post details, the activity affected a broad swath of areas around the globe: “There were multiple sets of activity, each localized for a specific country or region, including Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, US, and Yemen. The Page administrators and account owners typically represented themselves as locals, often using fake accounts, and posted news stories on current events… on topics like Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, including the role of the US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Today’s takedown is the result of an internal investigation linking the newly discovered activity...

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Facebook users who quit the social network for a month feel happier

New research out of Stanford and New York University took a look at what happens when people step back from Facebook for a month. Through Facebook, the research team recruited 2,488 people who averaged an hour of Facebook use each day. After assessing their “willingness to accept” the idea of deactivating their account for a month, the study assigned eligible participants to an experimental category that would deactivate their accounts or a control group that would not. Over the course of the month-long experiment, researchers monitored compliance by checking participants’ profiles. The participants self-reported a rotating set of well...

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New York cracks down on companies that sell fake followers

On Wednesday New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office had reached a settlement with Devumi, a company that made millions selling fake followers to unsuspecting customers. The state of New York found that Devumi had engaged in illegal deception and illegal impersonation in the course of fluffing up social media profiles with its automated accounts. First reported by CNN, the settlement follows a New York state probe into the company after reports of suspicious activity and potentially deceptive business practices first surfaced. Almost exactly a year ago, The New York Times reported a big feature on the...

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EFF lawyer joins WhatsApp as privacy policy manager

In an effort to bolster its public credibility in the wake of a very rough year, Facebook is bringing a fierce former critic into the fold. Next month, longtime Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) counsel Nate Cardozo will join WhatsApp, Facebook’s encrypted chat app. Cardozo most recently held the position of Senior Information Security Counsel with the EFF where he worked closely with the organization on cybersecurity policy. As his bio there reads, Cardozo is “an expert in technology law and civil liberties” and already works with private companies on privacy policies that protect user rights. Cardozo announced the move...

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Rep. Ocasio-Cortez calls out big tech on climate change controversy

The newly minted social media star congresswoman is wasting no time in tearing into tech companies. In a recent letter, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined Maine representative Chellie Pingree in calling out tech companies for supporting an event they believe to be inconsistent with big tech’s ostensibly climate-friendly attitude. Ocasio-Cortez is a noted champion of a Democratic package of sweeping environmental reforms called the Green New Deal — a term we can expect to hear a lot more leading into 2020. The letter, addressed to Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai, expresses that the representatives were “deeply disappointed”...

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U.S. announces criminal charges against Huawei, seeks to extradite its CFO

In a joint press event today, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that it is pursuing criminal charges against Chinese mobile giant Huawei. Following a story from The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, TechCrunch previously reported that the indictments were set to be unsealed soon. The indictments grew out of a civil suit dating all the way back to 2014 in which T-Mobile sued Huawei for stealing trade secrets related to a robotic phone-testing device known as “Tappy.” A grand jury in Seattle has charged Huawei, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou and Huawei subsidiary Skycom with conspiracy to steal trade secrets,...

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