Nobody Wants Ads in Twitter Replies—Not Even Advertisers

“We’re excited about trying this out for our advertisers and we’re eager to explore how it could open the door for additional opportunities to reward Tweet authors and creators,” Falck wrote. “We see a big opportunity to build an ad offering that creates value and aligns incentives for creators and advertisers.”

Listen, as a Twitter user myself, I’ve always been on board with some of its recently added features—like Tip Jars and Super Followers—that are designed to “reward” the platform’s power users for their content. But unlike either of those tools, Twitter ads aren’t a button you can paste to your profile. They’re ads. They’re annoying, intrusive, and sometimes deeply bizarre, which isn’t the type of content you’d want to shove in the center of the sorts of toxic convos that crop up on a lot of Tweeter’s timelines. Popping ads between people’s conversations feels like the last gasp of a platform that already know’s it’s shoved as many ads as it possibly could into every other nook and cranny of your feed and is desperate for some new way to squeeze profit from its users.

And it’s not hard to see why. When it comes to ad revenue, Twitter’s always been playing catch-up to other major platforms in the social media space. Last quarter, for example, the platform reported an impressive $1.05 billion in ad revenue—and while $1 billion is nothing to sneeze at, Facebook earned $10.4 billion in ad revenue that same quarter, while Amazon earned close to $8 billion. In other words, Twitter’s facing some, uh, pretty steep competition in a space where whichever platform gets the most eyeballs on its ads, wins.

It also needs advertisers that want to reach those eyeballs in the first place. Because Twitter’s gained a reputation of being a haven for hate speech, harassment, and, well, lots and lots of porn, marketers have historically felt kinda icked-out at the prospect of having their product shown alongside people’s feeds. And while Twitter has made some moves this year to assuage their concerns—more partnerships! more metrics! more audits!—the fact is, any Twitter user will tell you the platform still has loads of hate speech, harassment, and porn.

And, again, as a Twitter user, I can confirm that some of the worst parts of the platform aren’t happening inside people’s bad posts, but inside the conversation beneath those tweets. Hell, Twitter’s even trying out a system to let users know when they might be walking into a particularly messy conversation! It’s unclear whether Twitter’s trying to squeeze ads into its more “heated” convos—but considering how quickly the platform lets people devolve into absolute dickwads from one reply to the next, it seems unavoidable. And when that happens, hoards of advertisers are going to join the hoards of users that are screaming about how awful this “test” is going to be. If the company won’t listen to us, then I hope it listens to them.

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‘The Buck Stops With Mark’: Facebook Whistleblower Says Zuckerberg Responsible for System Harming Kids

Echoing her interview Sunday on 60 Minutes, Haugen said she joined Facebook in 2019 after someone close to her was “radicalized” online. She pursued a job at the company, she said, in an effort to improve internal policies long criticized for amplifying the most politically divisive content in order to generate engagement among its users. Facebook’s acute fixation with driving engagement—which translates into ad dollars, the company’s singular source of income—resulted in system that only serves to amplify “division, extremism, and polarization,” she said, “undermining societies around the world.”

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“This is not simply a matter of some social media users being angry or unstable,” said Haugen. “Facebook became a $1 trillion company by paying for its profits with our safety, including the safety of our children. And that is unacceptable.”

Haugen, who holds an MBA from Harvard and previously worked on algorithms at Google, Pinterest, and Yelp, was recruited by Facebook in 2019 as a lead product manager for “civic misinformation,” later working on “counter-espionage” as a member of Facebook’s threat intelligence team. At Facebook, she witnessed the company consistently placing profits above all else—decisions which generated “self-harm” and “self-hate,” she said, among the platform’s youngest users.

At the top of the hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on consumer protection, raised the question of whether Facebook has known all along that children were becoming addicted to Instagram, the photo-sharing platform Facebook purchased in 2012. “Many of Facebook’s internal research reports indicates that Facebook has a serious negative harm on a significant portion of teenagers and younger children,” she said.

“Facebook knows that it’s amplification algorithms, things like engagement based rankings on Instagram, can lead children from very innocuous topics… all the way from something innocent like health recipes to anorexia-promoting content, over a very short period of time,” Haugen said, adding that Facebook’s internal definition of “addiction” requires that users be self-identify as having a problem.

“In the end,” she said, CEO Mark Zuckerberg bears the ultimate responsibility. “There’s no one currently holding Mark accountable.”

Blumenthal last week said his office had written to Zuckerberg in August, asking whether Facebook had ever heard of his platforms having negative effects, such as suicidal thoughts, on children’s and teen’s mental health. The company effectively ducked the question, saying only that it knew of no consensus among experts as to how much “screen time” was unhealthy for kids.

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Internal documents amassed by Haugen before departing Facebook in May laid bare the effects of Instagram’s engagement algorithms on teens—young girls, in particular. Leaked to the Wall Street Journal, the documents noted Instagram was responsible for worsening anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts linked to body-image issues among young girls.

Separate materials shared with the Journal revealed that Facebook views children 10-years-old and younger as a “valuable” and “untapped” resource crucial to the company’s “growth.”

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As of yet, Facebook has not indicated whether it plans to take legal action against Haugen for leaking company documents to the press, but has said it won’t pursue her for sharing with Senate lawmakers, whom she initially approached this summer.

Facebook, in response, attacked its own research, calling it “exploratory,” and saying its researchers did not rely on any “clinical criterion.” The company, meanwhile, has refused to release the raw data underlying its findings, preferring to annotate documents referenced in the press in an effort to downplay their significance.

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“I came forward because I recognized a frightening truth: almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook,” Haugen said in opening remarks. “The company’s leadership keeps vital information from the public, the U.S. government, its shareholders, and governments around the world. The documents I have provided prove that Facebook has repeatedly misled us about what its own research reveals about the safety of children, its role in spreading hateful and polarizing messages, and so much more.”

Haugen went on to say it was typical at Facebook for problems to be understaffed. The threat intelligence team, for example, “could only handle a third of the cases—that we knew about.” The lack of adequate staffing disincentivized the team from improving systems designed to detect issues, which would only create more work the team was not equipped to handle.

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This is a developing story and will be updated.

Chrome Is Working on a Side Search Panel to Make Browsing Less of a Pain

Chrome Is Working on a Side Search Panel For Easier Browsing

This is obviously a feature meant for the tab fiends among us. While it might not seem all that useful for casual users, it’s definitely handy in situations where you’re researching a topic, writing reports, or just systematically going through search results to find what it is you need. That said, it’ll likely be a while before the average joe gets to try this out.

The feature was spotted in Chrome Canary, Google’s web browser for developers and anyone with some tech gumption. As the name implies, it’s where Google releases all the latest and shiny features that then get filtered through to beta, stable, and developer versions of Chrome. In other words, while you get all the cool stuff, it’s not particularly stable.

As for when we might actually get it to see it? According to 9to5 Google, it’ll probably make its way over to the stable Chrome in Chrome 96, which is slated for mid-November. Another question is whether the side panel search will roll out to other search engines. Sidebars also aren’t particularly unique. Other browsers, like Firefox, have had it for a while now, though they were mostly for bookmarks.

Crypto Company Accidentally Gives Users $90 Million, Politely Asks for It Back

Crypto Company Accidentally Gives Users $90 Million, Asks for It Back

Compound is a crypto lending platform, allowing both investors and borrowers to exchange assets without the traditional services of a bank. Such platforms have been characterized as risky—given the lack of regulatory safeguards that pad traditional banking services—and this recent episode seems to show why.

The money was apparently unleashed via a mistake in what was supposed to be a standard upgrade to Compound’s smart contract (such contracts are used to facilitate crypto transactions). Instead, the alleged flaw caused certain users to be flooded with “far too much” COMP—the platform’s native crypto token. One person, for instance, claims they were gifted approximately $20 million in COMP in one go.

Platforms like Compound have been through this sort of thing before. In May, crypto lender BlockFi accidentally sent out approximately $20 million in Bitcoin to its users and subsequently begged for it back. Not long afterward, another lender, Alechemix, suffered a similar problem.

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Leshner subsequently backtracked on his threat to dox users who wouldn’t return funds—calling the idea “bone-headed.” That was probably a smart move, since doxxing is largely considered a huge betrayal in the crypto community, given the industry’s ethos of privacy, anonymity, and security.

As financial experts who talked to CNBC seem to imply, there is no legal requirement for the recipients of the payout to give it back.

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Interestingly, a decent amount of users seem to be going along with the CEO’s request to return funds, as Leshner can be seen thanking various individuals on Twitter:

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Yes, 0x2e4a, good sir, I too salute you. If some person sent me $20 million, my first order of business would be to skip all the way to the nearest ATM—or the nearest crypto exchange, as it were. We reached out to Compound for comment on this whole situation and will update our story if they respond.

1Password Will Now Let You Hide Your Email for Logins

1Password Will Now Let You Hide Your Email for Logins

From a security standpoint, automated burner emails are a good way to protect against phishing scams. It sucks, but we all know that most services you sign up for will share or sell your data for advertising. Data breaches and leaks are no longer rare, and bad actors use leaked emails and passwords to do their nasty business. What’s worse is once an email is leaked, it’s more likely to show up in another breach. Even if the burner email is part of a leak, you’re less at risk as your emails and passwords will all be unique from each other.

The “catch” here is that you need to have both a 1Password and Fastmail account to get the Masked Email feature. If you already have both, you can just link the accounts. If not, you’ll have to sign up for the one you don’t have. A Fastmail account starts at $30 per year, while 1Password subscriptions start at $2.99 per month (billed annually). Meanwhile, Apple’s version of email masking requires you to pay for iCloud storage. These are all relatively affordable, but it doesn’t negate the fact you have to sign up for yet another subscription. It’d be nice if these sorts of features were open to everyone and not kept behind a paywall, but that’s capitalism for you.

Google Brings More Pixel-Exclusive Features to All Android Phones

Google Brings More Pixel Features to All Android Phones

Google’s promotional video for the Assistant’s new Reminders ability.

If you’ve ever wanted to bring up your reminders on your smart display a little more easily, Google added a Reminders hub to the Assistant. You can pull it up by saying, “Open my reminders,” and the Assistant will present you with the list of things you reminded yourself to do. Eventually, the Assistant will start to offer suggestions for reminders based on your activity.

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There are also some changes coming to Android Auto, which I wrote about in more depth here.

The accessibility features will be rolling out this week, with Google’s other Android features landing in the coming weeks.

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Hacking Your Room’s Lighting to Match the Flickering Lights in Quake Makes the Game Feel Even Moodier

DIYer Makes Arduino-Powered ‘Quake’ Flicker Lamp

The flickering lighting patterns in Quake were defined by a string of letters, with ‘a’ to ‘z’ representing no light to full brightness, respectively. A string like “azazaz” would make the lights appear to turn completely on and off, while in Quake, the string looked more like “‘mmamammmmammamamaaamammma” with ‘m’ being a given light’s default brightness setting.

Feliciano was able to easily bring that same code to an Arduino Pro Mini, which he wired to a hacked emergency light featuring an array of white LEDs that could quickly flicker and dim on command. The result is a flickering lamp that looks like it was purchased from whatever the creepy Quake world version of Ikea would be. Syncing it up with the actual game should be equally trivial, but I can remember many late-night gaming sessions in the late ‘90s where Quake was already creepy enough on its own—the last thing I wanted was my entire room to feel like it was full of creepy monsters hiding behind every corner.

Facebook Takes Aim at Ad Blockers, Hits Blind Users and Researchers Instead

Facebook Aims at Ad Blockers, Hits Blind Users, Researchers

In July of last year, a group of Facebook engineers published a blog post meant to show off a few of the efforts the company had undertaken to make its site more accessable to those using screen readers. Among the updates listed was a plugin meant to alert developers of potential ARIA violations whenever developers plugged new features into the platform—kind of a reminder that the potential addition might not be friendly to users with visual impairments.

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When contacted by Gizmodo about the changes, a company spokesperson noted the following:

We constantly make code changes across our services, but we did not make recent code changes to block these research projects. Our accessibility features largely appear to be working as normal, however, we are investigating the claimed disruptions.

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It doesn’t seem like the update raised any red flags for developers. Nor has it seemed to raise red flags in the past, where we’ve seen Facebook reportedly leave its blind users unable to identify spon-con in their News Feed for years at a time. For the sake of this community, let’s hope Facebook’s willing to put its myriad beefs with ad-blocking users and ad-investigating researchers to the side.

Update 1:45 p.m. ET: Added statement from Facebook.

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Microsoft Just Released Its Slick New Photos App to Windows 11 Insiders

Microsoft Releases Slick New Photos App to Windows 11 Insiders

The visual design of the Windows 11 Photo app has gotten a complete overhaul, with Microsoft touting new rounded corners and the use of Mica material design language throughout, which allows the app to dynamically change its color palette to more closely match your PC’s theme (light mode or dark mode) and wallpaper. Microsoft says the Windows 11 Photos app has also gotten bolder typography to help make finding settings and various albums easier too.

New Windows 11 Photo app UI

The new Windows 11 Photo app’s UI, with Dark mode on.
Screenshot: Microsoft

But the changes to the new Photos app aren’t purely skin deep either, as the photo viewer features a new edge-to-edge layout with an updated toolbar up top for all your core photo editing tools, with a filmstrip down below to make navigating through your photo roll that much simpler. And when you just want to see your pics without any other distractions, you can easily hide the Photos app’s toolbar and filmstrip by clicking directly on the photo viewer.

Inside the updated toolbar, Microsoft offers standard editing tools including crop, rotate, and touch-up, along with a button to view a picture’s metadata and a heart icon so you can quickly mark your favorite pics. And for people who want to see a bunch of photos at once (maybe to compare various edits of the same pic), Microsoft added a new multi-view mode too.

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Multi-view mode in the Windows 11 Photos app.

Here’s what the new Photo app’s multi-view mode looks like.
Screenshot: Microsoft

However, as someone who often relies on more powerful photo editing software for both work and personal content, my favorite new feature might be the Photo app’s new button that allows you to select an image and then send it to Photoshop Elements, Picsart, or other third-party image editors with a single click. Currently, in Windows 10, I typically have to right-click the thumbnail of an image and then use the “Open with” command to send an image to Photoshop, which isn’t terrible, but it gets kind of clunky when you’re doing it 30 or 40 times in a row. That said, at least for now, it seems like only a handful of third-party image editors work with the Photo app’s new launcher button, though Microsoft does claim wider support for more apps is on the way.

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New options and settings in Windows 11 Photos app

Here’s a sample of the options and settings in the Windows 11 Photos app.
Screenshot: Microsoft

If you want to try out the new Windows 11 Photo app, Windows Insiders should be able to download the latest update to the Windows 11 beta today, though if you prefer to wait for Windows 11’s official release, you’re going to have to sit tight for another couple weeks until the OS gets officially released on October 5.

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Please Help Us Figure Out What the Hell This ‘Cucks’ Device for MAGA-Lovers Actually Is

A female narrator, accompanied by unduly dramatic music, explains that the current state of the web is a “corrupted unsecure network” rather than the “intergalactic computer network we were promised.” The solution? Qux, which in the first of many questionable decisions apparently stands for “Quantum User Experience”:

We have become dependent on a corrupted unsecure network, the so-called World Wide Web. This is not the intergalactic computer network we were promised. The web makes us vulnerable to hacking, tracking, any form of digital attack. It’s easily gamed, misused, and even abused. Censorship, cancel culture, and deplatforming are symptoms of a larger problem.

We’re stuck in technological cul-de-sacs controlled by Big Tech, whose interests take precedence over ours. Their technology is built around conditioning and addiction, control and domination. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Our solution is the Quantum User Experience. Q-U-X, or Qux, is your portal to a new digital universe.

OK, so what’s it do? According to the promotional video, everything and nothing: users will have “unlimited access to whatever content you want,” as well as the ability to upload and share all kinds of content. The closest it comes to a hard explanation is that Qux is an “interface” where “anyone can publish and control their own digital creations,” and also make money somehow via affiliate advertising:

When you join Qux, you have unlimited access to whatever content you want. You can live stream, upload your own videos, audio, music, images, host and listen to podcasts. Qux even allows you to use Android apps and games. You deserve the online experience you want to have. Create collections or share new content with your family, community, or the world. You can pull content from other websites and platforms to Qux easily, or you can upload directly to Qux. Qux isn’t a publisher, it’s an interface where anyone can publish and everyone can control their own digital experience.

You can monetize your viral creations. Qux pays content creators double what other platforms offer with affiliate codes and other forms of monetization. Or just lean back and enjoy Qux.

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Beyond that, Qux’s YouTube page has only two other videos. One is simply 14 seconds of the company’s logo floating in space above the Earth. Another is a 23-second clip teasing a “test program,” which consists of a picture of a portal that transitions into a sci-fi panorama. The cyberpunk art in question appears to have been lifted wholesale from DeviantArt.

The actual Indiegogo page sheds slightly more light on what the cucks users of Qux can expect, but not much. There are mentions of a “Portal” system which looks basically identical to a combination YouTube channel, Flickr page, or Spotify playlist. Qux will enable users to access the content uploaded to other users’ portals:

Once you’ve create portals of original content or fair use you can turn on your television and watch it from there!

Everything you share publically is visible by everyone else that’s on the Qux® network. Test pilots will get first dibs on populating the Qux® network with content.

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This might explain what one can do on Qux—bury themselves in a hellhole of D-list content uploaded by random MAGA fans and conspiracy theorists—but it doesn’t explain why it can’t just be a website and instead requires new hardware. But wait! According to Indiegogo the Qux “network” is somehow end-to-end encrypted, making it impregnable to Big Tech, and will give users access to both “mainstream” and “alternative” content:

Test pilots will be getting a first look at the Qux® end-to-end encrypted network, watching, controling [sic] and sharing content whether its mainstream or alternative media.

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Promotional images uploaded to the Indiegogo page show examples of subscription portals like CNN, Fox Nation, Saturday Night Live, and Bravo TV, before segueing way off into weird shit like PewDiePie, Stanford University, a gold prospecting channel called Golden Beard Media, and something just called “Motorcycle.” Presumably, none of these entities have agreed to be on Qux, but they are on YouTube.

Image for article titled Please Help Us Figure Out What the Hell This 'Cucks' Device for MAGA-Lovers Actually Is

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All this raises baffling questions. Is the “Qux end-to-end encrypted network” going to be filled with pirated content? Is the content hosted by Qux, or is it some kind of peer-to-peer thing? Does the portal system somehow plug directly into YouTube, or is Qux just using other companies’ logos to give the illusion it will be populated with anything worth watching?

That doesn’t even factor in the promise that Qux can run Android apps. Android functionality is presumably necessary to do anything on it but gawk at other users’ vacation videos from the Eagle’s Nest or rants about Crooked Hillary. But it totally negates the supposed disconnection from the “corrupted unsecure network” of Big Tech giants.

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Elsewhere on the Indiegogo page, users who pay for “‘First Look’ trailblazer” status are promised “A Prototype experimental Qux® device (exclusive to the test program)” as well as early access to the Qux network, which includes the ability to “open one of the first stores.” Right, so in addition to being a streaming box, a social network, and a series of end-to-end encrypted portals, it’s a store now, too.

That’s not even getting into how the tiers on Indiegogo include a $1,000 option for a contributor to have their “name… listed in the credits inside the Qux® operating system settings” and “memorialize your name, or the name of a loved one, as a contributor to the future of a free and secure internet.” Incredibly, 19 people chose this option.

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Finally, there’s the Qux.tv website, which doesn’t shed much more light on anything—most of the links lead back to the Indiegogo page—but is full of jargon like “Competitive Fixed Advertisement Pricing,” “Access to QUX Centralized Electronic Store,” and being “part of a centralized commercial enterprise of online/brick&mortar businesses” with an “Equality relationship between user, creator, and advertiser as merchants.” Also, there will be “a Remote Control Activated ‘Buy’ Button featured on Advertisements,” because why not.

Again, we feel the need to remind you this whole thing is themed around cuckolding for some reason, as well as the fact that Indiegogo makes no promises backers will ever get their hands on a real product.

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Weaver and Wince are mostly known for being arrested and claiming that they were targeted by the anti-Donald Trump “deep state,” before it was eventually revealed the since-dropped charges involved Weaver allegedly stealing a phone from her own mother. Wince runs a website called “existics” where he expounds upon theories of math and physics that could, euphemistically, be called alternative. For example, Wince’s theory of three-dimensional time doesn’t appear to have won recognition in the physics community, but it has been referred to on Reddit as “TimeCube-grade gibberish” and “weapons-grade, highly enriched crackpottery.”

This is great. It rules. One wonders whether Qux may have even invented itself, with Weaver and Wince mere vessels for its consciousness to manifest from, a sort of amorphous living word cloud made of copy-pasted marketing gibberish and MAGA bingo cards. Perhaps Qux is the fetal blob that will grow into the Singularity, the machine brain that will eventually consume all things. Or maybe it is God itself, cleverly bringing his Word back into our homes under the facade of an overpriced black box.

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It was unclear, as of press time, whether you can buy a Qux with MAGAcoin, the cryptocurrency for Trump lovers.

We contacted Wince to see if he could clear all this up for us but unfortunately, his response started with the claim that Qux is “like Signal but for entertainment and with a private marketplace,” and prattled on for several paragraphs of nonsense from there.

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Update: 1:08 p.m. ET: We missed that Qux is also going to be explicitly quantum in nature. We regret the omission.

Qux will also be explicitly quantum in nature.

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