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Posts tagged ‘Twitter’


Fake news starts an Israel-Pakistan Twitter dispute

There’s no question that fake online news can have dire consequences, but it’s now clear that this is true even on an international scale. After a false story claimed that Israel was threatening to nuke Pakistan if it sent troops into Syria, Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja M. Asif warned Israel that his country could retaliate with nuclear weapons if necessary. He later backtracked by saying that Pakistan was peaceful and had nukes solely as a “deterrence to protect our freedom,” but only after Israel’s Ministry of Defense noted that the offending statement (attributed to former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon) didn’t exist.

Much of the onus for the gaffe is on Asif. You’d think that a major political figure would be extra-skeptical of news sources, and would think twice before sending tweets hinting at the use of weapons that could kill millions of people. However, this illustrates the importance of fighting fake news, whether it’s by downplaying its presence, blocking it or starving it of ad money. Just because you’re in a position of power doesn’t mean you can’t be tricked by a plausible-looking fantasy piece — reducing or fact-checking fake news can prevent these political incidents from happening in the future.

@KhawajaMAsif The statement attributed to fmr Def Min Yaalon re Pakistan was never said

— Ministry of Defense (@Israel_MOD) December 24, 2016

Via: Boston Globe, CNN

Source: Israel MOD (Twitter), Khawaja M. Asif (Twitter), AWDNews (fake)


The biggest losers of 2016

Last week we broke down the biggest winners of 2016. This week, we’re taking a look at the biggest losers.

Yahoo has clearly had one of the worst years in history for a company. And, unless something changes soon, this whole mess with the NSA and 1.5 billion hacked accounts could become the problem of Engadget’s parent company Verizon. So, there’s that. Of course there was Samsung’s parade of exploding gadgets and Twitter… well, Twitter just couldn’t seem to get its act together. It’s now known as the platform of choice for trolls and white supremacists as much as it is for forcing you to distill complex thoughts into 140-character fragments.

Of course, between the explosion of fake news and the continued hostility towards the science of climate change, the biggest loser of 2016, might just be the American public.

Check out all of Engadget’s year-in-review coverage right here.


Celebs ask Twitter to tackle a specific harassment case

Twitter has frequently been accused of waiting until harassment campaigns are big enough to make the news before it responds to them — just ask Leslie Jones. And unfortunately, it looks like history might just repeat itself. Comedians Patton Oswalt, Tim Heidecker and others are calling on Twitter to take action following allegations that “alt-right” figure Mike Cernovich is conducting a sustained harassment campaign against Tim & Eric collaborator Vic Berger IV in retaliation for jokes and videos making fun of Cernovich.

When Berger engaged following an email (including the mistake of asking fans to write Cernovich), Cernovich went ballistic. He made sustained, serious claims that Berger was part of an “active pedophile ring,” and alleged that Berger was directly commanding a handful of supporters who sent disgusting direct Twitter messages. That, in turn, prompted a much larger wave of harassment from Cernovich supporters. There were hundreds of tweets, Facebook messages and emails accusing Berger of being a pedophile, including a few serious death threats. Cernovich himself claimed to be conducting an “investigation” into Berger’s practices, and viewers in his Periscope streams were clearly eager for doxxing campaigns and other forms of abuse. Berger is currently staying away from Twitter and has contacted both lawyers and police out of fear for his family’s safety.

Will be off Twitter until this is settled. This is serious & horrifying. Police/lawyers involved. Have to protect my family.

— Vic Berger IV (@VicBergerIV) December 19, 2016

Hey @jack? Please look into this? Cernovich is looking to hurt a good friend of mine, using your platform. Thank you.

— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) December 21, 2016

Stand with @VicBergerIV

— Tim Heidecker (@timheidecker) December 21, 2016

It’s not a completely clean-cut situation. While Berger didn’t explicitly ask for hostility against Cernovich, any call to action by a popular, verified Twitter user stands a good chance of being misinterpreted by overzealous defenders. The problem is that Cernovich and his camp not only made damaging false claims, but escalated the situation rather than trying to defuse it. And he has a history of fanning the flames. He frequently makes pedophile accusations against people he disagrees with, and has spread related bogus conspiracy theories like Pizzagate. Berger just happens to be one of the few targets to respond.

We’ve asked Twitter for its response to the calls for help and will let you know if it has something to say. However, the incident suggests that Twitter’s abuse controls, while improving, still fall short. Ideally, users shouldn’t have to wait until stars are rushing to their defense before Twitter comes to the rescue — especially not when the attackers have a history of spreading false stories and whipping their followers into a frenzy.

Source: Patton Oswalt (Twitter), NYMag


Families of Pulse nightclub shooting sue Google, Facebook

Google, Facebook and Twitter are facing a lawsuit filed by the families of three victims killed by Pulse nightclub gunman Omar Mateen in Orlando. The plaintiffs are accusing the tech titans of providing “material support” to Mateen, who was known to have pledged allegiance to ISIS and its leader. According to their lawsuit, the families are suing the companies for allowing the terrorist group to create accounts to raise funds and to spread propaganda with the intention of attracting new recruits.

The material support these tech giants provide, the lawsuit says, “has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS and has enabled it to carry out or cause to be carried out, numerous terrorist attacks.” In addition, the plaintiffs are accusing the companies of profiting from ISIS-related posts by combining them with advertisements and of violating the Anti-Terrorism Act in the United States.

This is far from the first time a tech company has been sued for providing support to terrorist groups. Back in July, the families of five victims killed in the Palestinian attacks on Tel Aviv sued Facebook for playing “an essential role in Hamas’s ability to carry out its terrorist activities.” The wives of two American contractors killed in a shooting spree in Jordan, on the other hand, sued Twitter for allowing ISIS activity to flourish on the microblogging site.

However, tech companies are pretty well-protected by the law, particularly by Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act. It says providers and website owners are not liable for information published by their users. That’s why the judge who presided over the American contractors’ case ended up tossing the lawsuit.

Source: Reuters


Twitter’s search results are now sorted by relevance

Earlier this year, Twitter started moving away from the reverse chronological timeline and started prioritizing algorithmically “relevant” tweets in order to keep users more engaged. Starting today, Twitter will now be ordering its search results the same way in hopes that more relevant results will improve the search experience as well.

Lisa Huang, a senior software engineer on Twitter’s Search Quality team, explained the reason for the change in a blog post by pointing out that Twitter moves fast and the most recent results may not be the exact tweet you were looking for. (When you’re looking up a tweet with an original joke, for example, but search only turns up the endless quotes and retweets.)

In order to decide which tweets to show, Huang’s team has been testing a variety of factors to perfect the results layout as well as the machine learning model that actually ranks the results. But it is ultimately what you (and everyone else on Twitter) click on that gives Twitter its definition of what is relevant.

“A person’s behavior on Twitter provides an invaluable source of relevance information,” Huang wrote. And Twitter has data showing everything from which tweets you’ve seen to which tweets you’ve interacted with and how you interacted with them. “Using this information,” Huang continued, “we can train machine learning models that predict how likely a Tweet is to be engaged with.” Those machine learning models then rank “relevant” tweets based on the probability that users will engage with it.

While it make sense that everyone wants to see the most appropriate information to their search, the fact that a tweet is likely to get a lot of retweets doesn’t necessarily make it relevant either. To show the new results page in practice, Twitter offered a side-by-side of comparison of the old layout (below left) versus the new (right) for a search of #MrRobot. While the new page is less cluttered, at least in this example it also seems to favor the brands and official accounts while pushing individual users further down the page.

Via: VentureBeat

Source: Twitter Blog


Two high-level Twitter execs leave the company

Something must be brewing over at Twitter, because two of its high-level executives have decided to leave the company. Chief technology officer Adam Messinger and VP of product Josh McFarland today tweeted separately that they would be departing from the social network. Messinger explained that he would be taking some time off, while McFarland is joining venture capital firm Greylock Partners.

These two departures follow the footsteps of chief operating officer Adam Bain, who stepped down last month after hundreds of layoffs. The company has reportedly been locked in an internal battle over whether to sell to buyers, with potential suitors rumored to include Google, SalesForce, Microsoft, Verizon and Disney.

Twitter has had a troubled year. Recently, it shut down its popular looping video service Vine, and ended a direct messaging app before even publicly releasing it. The company also turned its focus this year to live video streaming and dealing with its troll problem. It recently acquired app-making company Yes Inc, instating the latter’s founder Keith Coleman as a vice president of product. It’s unclear if Coleman’s role will now expand in the wake of McFarland’s departure, as well as who will replace Messinger, but one thing seems certain: Twitter’s future is shaky. We’ll have to see if 2017 brings good news for the social network.

Via: The New York Times

Source: Josh McFarland (Twitter), Adam Messinger (Twitter)


Twitter is helping to find a user who sent a seizure-inducing tweet

Lest we forget how horrible people can be, news broke last week that a Twitter user sent an auto-playing, seizure-inducing animation to Vanity Fair editor Kurt Eichenwald, who is epileptic. He saw the video and promptly had a seizure — and then promptly vowed to track down the Twitter user who sent the animation and have them prosecuted for assault. Now, a court order released by Eichenwald reveals that Twitter will cooperate with his civil lawsuit and turn over all user data they have on the offender.

As noted by The Verge, Twitter retains the right to retain both IP addresses and other location-based data as per its privacy policy. If that data can be matched to an address or phone number, it’s something the police can use to investigate — but there’s no guarantee they’ll find anything, as the company does not store this data indefinitely.

Still, it’s good Twitter is cooperating with this investigation, as this sort of horrible action could become more and more common unless some real legal consequences come along with it. Indeed, Twitter has actually agreed to “expedited relief” in this case, not challenging the order or asking for more evidence from Eichenwald. Whether it’ll make a difference remains to be seen — it’s still not clear what data Twitter has and whether or not they can tie it to the individual responsible for the attack.

Via: The Verge

Source: Scribd


Twitter will livestream the Golden Globes’ red carpet

Twitter will livestream the fluffiest part of the fluffiest awards show, namely the red carpet ceremony of the Golden Globes awards. The pre-show will provide, if you can believe it, two full hours of people walking on a carpet that is red, complete with glamor and (hopefully) sass. “The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is always searching for innovative ways and original tools to reach our audience … and Twitter is the recognized partner to help us expand our audience,” HFPA President Lorenzo Soria said in a statement.

Twitter probably won’t put “the recognized partner” on an aspirational poster, but the tie-up does make sense. Folks like to tweet during the Globes, Oscars and other big TV events to to amuse themselves during the long periods of boredom. As Twitter notes, since it’s hosting the pre-show shenanigans, you’re just a swipe away from a fire tweet. “Twitter is where the conversation about the Golden Globes happens. Viewers Tweet along before, during and after the award show,” said Twitter COO Anthony Noto.

The social network will not carry the actual presentation, but the pre-show is a nice option for wire-cutters who only want to see well-dressed celebs vamp and answer inane interview questions. You’ll be able to catch it on a smartphone, the web and connected devices without needing a cable TV subscription.

Twitter is still trying to turn its rabid user base into advertising dollars and is pinning a lot of hope on livestreaming. So far, it has had some success with the NFL, MLB, NHLA, Wimbledon and other prime clients. Now that a rumored sale with Disney and other suits has fallen through (thanks in part to the social network’s nasty dark side) it’s going to have to find a way to bump its revenue, by whatever means necessary. You can catch “The HFPA Presents: Globes Red Carpet Live” here on January 8th from 6 to 8 PM ET.

Via: Techcrunch

Source: Twitter


‘Vanity Fair’ editor sues Twitter troll for giving him a seizure

Who knew trolls can use social media not just to dish out death threats but to cause someone actual physical harm? A Twitter user who went by the name @jew_goldstein very recently tweeted a GIF with rapidly flashing graphics at Vanity Fair and Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald, a known epileptic and Donald Trump critic. Shortly after that, Eichenwald’s wife replied that the auto-playing animation gave Eichenwald a seizure and that she called the police to report the assault along with the info they have on the user.

@jew_goldstein’s account has since been suspended, but you can see a screenshot of the message below, courtesy of Mediaite.

@jew_goldstein This is his wife, you caused a seizure. I have your information and have called the police to report the assault.

— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 16, 2016

The weaponized tweet went out a day after Eichenwald had a face off with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on TV. In fact, this is the second time someone tweeted him a seizure-inducing animation this year. Back in October, Eichenwald wrote in Newsweek that someone pinged him with a video of “flashing circles and images of Pepe flying toward the screen” after he wrote about how the President-Elect’s businesses could undermine national security. He was able to drop his iPad before the animation triggered a seizure that time, though — he wasn’t so lucky this time.

In a series of tweets he sent out after the event, the editor announced that he’s taking a Twitter break to pursue a case against @jew_goldstein.

Last night, for the second time, a deplorable aware I have epilepsy tweeted a strobe at me with the message “you deserve a seizure’ on it…

— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 16, 2016

…it worked. This is not going to happen again. My wife is terrified. I am…disgusted. All I will be tweeting for the next few days are…

— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 16, 2016

…copies of documents from the litigation, police reports etc. Once we have the lawsuit filed, we will be subpoenaing Twitter for the…

— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 16, 2016

…identity of the individual who engaged in this cross-state assault. At this point, the police are attempting to determine if this is…

— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 16, 2016

…a federal crime because it appears to be cross state. This kind of assault will never happen again without huge consequences. This…

— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 16, 2016

…individual will be going to court, and he will be paying a price. And if any of you others ever try this again, I will make sure it…

— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 16, 2016

…happens to you. Online anonymity does not protect criminals. Thats why subpoenas exist. You are facing a criminal investigation and a…

— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 16, 2016

…lawsuit. So if any of you others think about trying this “cute” prank, consider the consequences. They will be severe.

— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 16, 2016

Keith Lee, a lawyer based out of Birmingham, Alabama, posted an analysis of the situation on his blog. He examined whether what happened to Eichenwald could be legally classified as an assault and whether you can sue someone for a tweet. He concluded that “there is no reason to think that someone cannot be held liable for assault delivered electronically across great distances.” But since what he’s written is all speculative, we’ll just have to wait for Eichenwald’s updates on the litigation.

Via: The Verge

Source: Mediaite, Kurt Eichenwald (Twitter)


Fact-check Trump’s next tweetstorm as it happens

President-elect Donald Trump is an active Twitter user and has over 17.4 million followers. Those are facts. The contents of his tweets usually aren’t. Or they aren’t whole truths. As a way of fact checking our nation’s next leader’s online musings, The Washington Post created a Chrome extension that does just that. Called “RealDonaldContext,” it takes his 140-character thoughts and, as the name suggests, give context to what he’s saying.

For example, in the tweet above he made a few disparaging remarks about Vanity Fair. If someone hasn’t been paying attention to the internet over the past few days, they might not know what prompted the remarks. RealDonaldContext offers a solution, explaining that “this appears to have been in retribution for a bad review of the restaurant in Trump Tower” with a link to the review itself.

In the instance of Trump’s claim that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “illegally” was given questions ahead of the second debate this fall, the extension gives a short explanation that the tweet is “incorrect or false.” From there is a summary of why, with a link back to WaPo’s story about the situation. The publication admits that the extension still needs a bit of work and that fact-checks can take a few minutes, but it’s going to work on trying to stay up to speed.

It’s handy, sure, but at the least you’ll have to follow Trump or hit his profile page to actually see the extension in action. In my testing, the fact checking only works on a tweet’s permalink, and even then, only if you refresh the link. So, this could be a short-lived experiment for a lot of folks. The other view is that this is preaching to the converted. After all, why would a Trump supporter follow an account that actively debunks what the President-elect is saying?

Source: The Washington Post

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