The audio-based social network announced on Sunday in a town hall it would be rolling out to Android users worldwide by Friday afternoon, May 21. In a Twitter post, Clubhouse said that it would start its expansion with Japan, Brazil, and Russia on Tuesday. The company said it would add availability in other countries throughout the week, specifying that it would launch in Nigeria and India on Friday morning.
Clubhouse told Gizmodo on Sunday that it had begun its first wave of the Android beta rollout in the U.S. last week. In the end, the company also ended up launching its app in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the UK. Clubhouse said the app is still invitation-only, but that people can download the app on the Play Store, and friends on the app may invite them in.
Besides announcing its worldwide expansion on Android, Clubhouse said it was working on feature parity in Android and iOS. TechCrunch points out that Clubhouse’s Android app still lacks several features offered on iOS. During last week’s Android launch, the outlet stated, users couldn’t follow a topic, create or manage a club, link their social profiles, make payments, or change their profile name.
While Clubhouse’s expansion on Android was expected, and some might say overdue, the app might be hoping that rolling out to more devices will allow it to recover its lost steam. Since its iOS launch last year, the app has seen explosive growth, attracting tech billionaires like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
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The shininess around Clubhouse recently began to taper off, though. According to the analytics firm SensorTower, Clubhouse had 2 million downloads in January and then jumped to more than 9.5 million in February. Downloads dipped in March to 2.7 million and then again in April, when they dropped to below a million.
The reasons for Clubhouse’s rollercoaster of growth over these past few months are still up in the air. Some say that the app became a success because it launched at the beginning of the pandemic, a time when so many of us were stuck inside and starved for human connection. Today, the world is different. Things are opening back up again. Vaccinated people are taking off their masks and going outside, so the idea of chatting on an audio-only platform may just not hold the same appeal.
The social app landscape is different as well because users have more options. Big Tech’s social apps are all copying Clubhouse’s format. Instagram, for instance, has given users the option to turn off their audio or video when using Instagram Live. Twitter has launched Spaces, which allows users to join virtual rooms and have real-time audio conversations with others. Facebook is also working on its own version of Clubhouse, as are LinkedIn, Spotify, and Slack, just to name a few.
It’s unclear whether Clubhouse’s global rollout to Android will save it from becoming a passing fad, but we’ll find out soon.
Twitter hasn’t released many details about the paid subscription model it’s cooking up, but thanks to app researcher Jane Manchun Wong we may have some clues about what it will cost and be called. On Saturday, Wong tweeted that the subscription service Twitter Blue will cost $2.99 per month and allow users to undo their tweets and create bookmark collections, among other features.
Twitter also appears to be working on a tiered subscription model, she added. She speculated that higher-priced tiers may unlock additional paid features and give users a more clutter-free, premium experience, similar to what you might find on a news aggregation service.
Wong has made a name for herself reverse engineering popular apps to discover what features Big Tech may be experimenting with or planning to add next. Rumors about Twitter incorporating more ways for users to monetize their content are not new. Earlier this month, Twitter soft-launched a “Tip Jar” feature that, as its name implies, lets users send and receive money from strangers on the internet using their choice of third-party services. However, while Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey confirmed to Insider in July 2020 that it’s in the “very, very early phases” of exploring a subscription model, the company has remained quiet about its plans since.
But it’s becoming increasingly clearer that there’s plenty of work going on behind the scenes. Last week, Twitter acquired Scroll, a paid subscription service that gets rid of ads on participating websites. Between the acquisition and Twitter’s announcement that it’s winding down Nuzzel, a news aggregator acquired by Scroll in 2019 that became popular for sending users a daily newsletter of the top stories in their Twitter feed, it certainly seems that Twitter is prepping to roll out its own subscription service. When we asked about Wong’s tweets on Saturday, a Twitter spokesperson declined to comment.
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A subscription service would be the latest in a slew of new features Twitter has been testing in recent weeks, including an improved image cropping algorithm and an updated warning system for potentially offensive tweets. It remains unclear when Twitter’s paid version would launch or who would be eligible, but if all these rumors and clues making the rounds are any indication, we may have an announcement on that front sooner rather than later.
The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro is being positioned as a professional-level computing device, with features like the M1 chip, the super-bright Liquid Retina XDR display and the P3 wide color gamut likely to make the tablet an appealing option for movie makers. But with no Final Cut Pro for iPad available (yet), what’s the best video editing app for the iPad Pro? Here are a few alternatives.
1. Adobe Premiere Rush
Adobe Premiere Rush (free or from $5 a month) is as polished and intuitive as you’d expect an Adobe app to be. It does a smart job of distilling the bigger Premiere Pro application to its most essential parts and transplanting them to your iPad, even if there are some compromises in terms of precision editing and customization controls along the way.
The simple drag-and-drop interface makes moving videos, photos and audio into position very easy, and clips can be quickly trimmed, cropped, and panned as required. Most of the titles, graphics, transitions and audio effects require a monthly subscription, but you can try the app out for free to see if it suits you before parting with any money.
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LumaFusion ($30) costs a significant amount up front, with the option of more purchases to add on top of that, but it’s perhaps the best app for getting a desktop-like video-editing interface on your iPad. You can stack up a maximum of 12 audio and video tracks, access advanced titles and transitions, and get your footage looking exactly the way you want.
From aspect ratios to frame rates, you get full control over every aspect of your projects. Throw in support for fast- and slow-motion sequencing, external displays, and 4K resolutions, and this has just about everything power users are going to need. There’s also a quick start interface to help beginners get to grips with the software.
iMovie (free) clearly isn’t going to compete with the most powerful video-editing apps on this list, but it has enough going for it to keep casual movie-makers happy. If you want to quickly throw together some pictures and video clips and get a finished product as quickly as possible, the more straightforward interface can actually be an advantage.
Basic support for cutting and combining clips is included, and you can drop in titles and background music as well as a variety of filters and effects—you just don’t get a whole lot of choice about what can be added and how it’s customized. As iMovie is available for free, it’s certainly worth starting here first to see if it has all of the functionality you need.
Quik (free or from $5 a month) is developed by GoPro, and as the name suggests, the emphasis is on getting something uploaded and shared quickly using an interface that mostly sticks to the basics. It’s the perfect video editor if you’re looking to add some flair and a professional touch to your footage without actually having to do much work.
The app can put together an automatic pick of cuts and music if you tell it which photos and videos you want to include, or you can take a more hands-on approach and pick elements like filters and audio yourself. There aren’t many advanced features here, but you can speed up and slow down segments of your footage to create a variety of effects.
5. Filmmaker Pro
Filmmaker Pro (free or from $7 a month) goes all the way from the basics like scene-trimming to more advanced features like chroma key support (layering videos on top of each other using techniques like green screen). If you want something that is easy to get started with but that can grow as your requirements do, then this might be the app for you.
You’ve got dozens of transitions and filters to pick from for enhancing your movie projects, and there’s also support for picture-in-picture effects and all kinds of video-grading adjustments too. It’s one of the best video-editing apps there is in terms of how many features you get, and they’re all cleverly optimized to be used on a touchscreen interface.
KineMaster (free or from $3.50 a month) tries to make video-editing as fun as possible, and mostly succeeds. This is an app to try if you really want your clips to stand out on social media, rather than something to use for your next serious short film. That said, it does have some advanced features to its name, like multi-layer and multi-track editing support.
The interface isn’t the most subtle or elegant that you’re ever going to come across, but we like the way that it keeps all the main tools you’re going to need within easy reach. You can speed up and slow down footage, trim and rearrange the scenes in your project, adjust volume levels, enhance photos and videos in multiple ways, and more.
PowerDirector (free or from $6 a month) is one of the most popular video editors on the App Store, and it’s not difficult to see why. It manages to blend advanced tools with a clean and approachable interface, so it’s suitable for a wide range of video projects, whether it’s a quick job combining a few clips or a more sophisticated and longer movie.
There are video templates you can make use of for your intros and outros, you’ve got a bunch of titles, overlays, and transitions to choose from and tweak, and you can export projects in 4K resolution, too. The app also offers chroma key (green screen) and advanced audio-editing features as well, if you really want to take your videos to the next level.
For a company that’s staring down three separate antitrust cases from several dozen states and the Department of Justice, Google sure seems pretty comfortable issuing update after update that is nothing less than despotic. The latest example comes courtesy of a Google Docs tweak that on one hand makes the program speedier and smoother, but comes at the cost of an accessible, open internet.
Midas Nouwens, a Denmark-based professor who specializes in finding flaws in data protection laws like Europe’s GDPR, first flagged the Docs update in a Twitter thread Thursday morning. As he pointed out, the actual update looks, well, pretty boring: Over the next few months, Google said it plans to swap out the static HTML backbone currently supporting its Docs product for one that’s built using a code called canvas.
Google says the move is meant to “improve consistency in how content appears across different platforms,” and by all accounts, it should. Compared to its clunky static HTML counterpart, canvas-based Google Docs will be able to render complicated shapes and squiggles with more speed and precision. The update should also make these renders more consistent, meaning those squiggles will look the same for any person on any device.
Of course, these buffs come with a pretty big catch that Google—to its credit—actually alludes to in its blog post. “We don’t expect this change to impact the functionality of the features in Docs,” the company wrote. “However, this may impact some Chrome extensions, where they may no longer work as intended.”
Google’s blog didn’t clarify exactly what “impact” or “some” or “work” mean in this context, but Nouwens’s thread did.
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If you’ve ever used an extension like Grammarly or Beeline Reader, then you know how smoothly a Google Chrome extension can interact with a given Doc. The way these programs function is by manipulating what’s known as a Document Object Model, or DOM, which essentially forms a structured skeleton of a given webpage. By tweaking different parts of that skeleton, these extensions are able to change what you’re seeing in your document, all in real-time.
And as Nouwens pointed out, the DOM not only easy for extensions to access, but really anyone. It literally takes two or three clicks. The fact that these bones are such a breeze to access doesn’t only mean that developers can easily whip up countless extensions to poke at them, but it also gives non-coders the freedom to devise elaborate pranks, bypass paywalls, and do… whatever this is.
Swapping out this system for a canvas version means leaving these Doc-tweaking extensions without the roadmap they’ve been relying on to actually do that Doc-tweaking. This could have dire consequences for Chrome extensions because, unlike the DOM, canvas makes the code tweaks inaccessible. “It will unilaterally kill many extensions people use today,” Nouwens wrote.
As a replacement, Google’s blog suggested that affected developers download a series of Google-owned tools that accomplish (most) of the same functions. In other words, Google’s offering developers a sleeker, faster system, but at the price of the little control they have left. (We’ve reached out to Google for comment and will update when we hear back.)
“In the context of the larger power struggle around who gets to determine our everyday digital experiences — hashtag interoperability, digital competition, platform power — this is a concrete example of technical enclosure,” Nouwens wrote. Rather than an open system, he went on, “you now have to use a Google maintained one to negotiate the design of the software. Interoperability and inspectability replaced with centralisation and obfuscation.” In other words, Google just being Google.
Apple employees circulated a petition on Wednesday to express concern over a new hire and his apparently problematic views on women and people of color.
In the petition — which is available to read in full over at The Verge — employees object to the hiring of former Facebook product manager and Chaos Monkeys author Antonio García Martínez. In his book, García Martínez details his journey from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, and according to employees, his characterization of that journey — and the role that women in particular played in it — is among their primary causes for concern.
In most of the objectionable excerpts, García Martínez repeatedly casts women as sex objects who are either shabbily dressed or dead weight in Silicon Valley’s corporate environments.
“There were few women one would call conventionally attractive at Facebook,” García Martínez writes. “The few there were rarely if ever dressed for work with their femininity on display in the form of dresses and heels.
In another passage currently making the rounds on Twitter, García Martínez refers to Bay Area women in particular as “soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit … they become precisely the sort of useless baggage you trade for a box of shotgun shells or a jerrycan of diesel.”
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“It’s so exhausting being a woman in tech; sitting opposite men who think because of my gender, I am soft and weak and generally full of shit,” one Apple employee wrote on Twitter alongside a screenshot of the passage in question. “It’s not even worth it to say I have worked relentlessly for every accomplishment I have.”
García Martínez’s hiring “calls into question parts of our system of inclusion at Apple, including hiring panels, background checks, and our process to ensure our existing culture of inclusion is strong enough to withstand individuals who don’t share our inclusive values,” the employees write.
Women in tech have long been dogged by pompous and persistent claims by men that they are inherently inferior or less suited to perform jobs in STEM fields, so you can imagine it feeling like sort of a slap in the face when your company hires the guy who wrote the literal book on those stereotypes to sit at the desk next to you.
Although Apple has yet to comment on the blowback directly, the company has come under frequent criticism for its lack of workplace diversity in recent years. As of this writing, Apple’s global workforce is currently 66 percent male, and 47 percent of its employees are white.
Surely there are easier ways to pad your following on Instagram than trespassing on high school grounds while disguised as a teenager. That apparently did not occur to a 28-year-old Florida woman who was arrested after infiltrating a school in Miami-Dade County for the Gram on Monday.
Really? That was your plan? Really?
The grown-ass woman in question, Audrey Francisquini, allegedly snuck into American Senior High School with a backpack, a “painting under one arm and a skateboard under the other,” according to the Washington Post. Police say she walked the halls of the school handing out fliers advertising her Instagram account before her cover was blown. Police reports state she was confronted by school security and gave the excuse that she was looking for the registration office, but continued to prowl the halls with fliers before being again confronted by security, CBS Miami reported. Francisquini fled but was subsequently arrested and charged with felony trespassing, misdemeanor interfering with a school, and nonviolently resisting arrest. One imagines handing out fliers with her social media handle on it didn’t exactly help her evade the authorities.
Francisquini is a former police officer who was fired from her job in DeKalb County, Georgia when she was arrested for allegedly accessing a female colleague’s social media accounts to post revenge porn. As of the time of the incident, she worked for Carnival Cruise lines.
According to the Post, her trip to the school somehow managed to be almost as creepy as Never Been Kissed, a 1999 movie where Drew Barrymore infiltrates a high school as an undercover reporter and is later joined in the ruse by her brother, played by David Arquette, who attends prom in his underwear:
A student told the station that Francisquini was showing off her Instagram feed, which featured videos and several images of her wearing a “devil’s mask.”
“It’s crazy. It’s very creepy,” the student said. The station showed videos from her account, in which Francisquini wore a sinister red mask with pointy ears and black horns.
The Irish Parliament today held a hearing on Facebook’s treatment of subcontracted content moderators—the thousands of people up to their eyeballs in toxic waste in the company basement. Moderators have repeatedly reported over the years that their contract companies hurl them into traumatizing work with little coaching or mental health support, in a system designed to stifle speech.
During the hearing, 26-year-old content moderator Isabella Plunkett said that Facebook’s (or the outsourcing firm Covalen’s) mental health infrastructure is practically non-existent. “To help us cope, they offer ‘wellness coaches,’” Plunkett said. “These people mean well, but they’re not doctors. They suggest karaoke or painting – but you don’t always feel like singing, frankly, after you’ve seen someone battered to bits.” Plunkett added that she’d gotten a referral to the company doctor and never heard back about a follow-up. She also reported that moderators are told to limit exposure to child abuse and self-harm to two hours per day, “but that isn’t happening.”
Content moderation requires that workers internalize a torrent of horror. In 2017, a moderator told the Guardian:
There was literally nothing enjoyable about the job. You’d go into work at 9am every morning, turn on your computer and watch someone have their head cut off. Every day, every minute, that’s what you see. Heads being cut off.
Last year, Facebook paid out an inconsequential $52 million to contractors in a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of moderators suffering from PTSD after exposed to child sexual abuse material, bestiality, beheadings, suicide, rape, torture, and murder. According to a 2019 Verge report on Phoenix-based moderators, self-medicating drug use at work was common at the outsourcing firm Cognizant.
Anecdotally, moderators have repeatedly reported a steep turnover rate; a dozen moderators told the Wall Street Journal that their colleagues typically quit after a few months to a year.
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Plunkett has said that she was afraid to speak publicly, a common feeling among moderators. Foxglove, a non-profit advocacy group currently working to improve conditions for content moderators, said in a statement shared with Gizmodo that workers must sign NDAs of which they aren’t given copies. In 2019, The Intercept reported that the outsourcing company Accenture pressured “wellness coaches” in Austin, Texas to share details of their “trauma sessions” with moderators. The Verge also reported that Phoenix-based moderators constantly fear retribution by way of an Amazonian “point” system representing accuracy; employees can appeal demerits with Facebook, but their managers reportedly discouraged them from talking to Facebook, which sometimes reviewed their case only after they lost their jobs.
Foxglove told Gizmodo that Irish moderators claim the starting salary at Covalen is about 26-27,000 Euros, a little over $30,000 US dollars per year. Meanwhile, Facebook software engineers report on LinkedIn that their base salaries average $160,000 per year.
Facebook denied almost all of the above accounts in an email to Gizmodo. “Everyone who reviews content for Facebook goes through an in-depth training programme on our Community Standards and has access to psychological support to ensure their wellbeing,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “In Ireland, this includes 24/7 on-site support with trained practitioners, an on-call service, and access to private healthcare from the first day of employment.”
They also said that NDAs are necessary to protect users’ data, but it’s unclear why that would apply to speaking out about workplace conditions.
Covalen also denied Foxglove’s assertion that employees don’t receive copies of NDAs, saying that the confidentiality agreements are therefore archived and that HR “is more than happy to provide them with a copy.” They also said that they’re promoting a “speaking up policy,” encouraging employees to “raise [concerns] through identified channels.” So they can “speak out,” but internally, in designated places. They didn’t identify what happens when a moderator speaks out, only that they’ve “actively listened.” Technically, a wellness coach telling you to go to karaoke is listening, but it’s not providing any practical aid for post-traumatic stress.
Covalen also said that their “wellness coaches” are “highly qualified professionals” with at minimum master’s degrees in psychology, counseling, or psychotherapy. But it added that employees get access to six free psychotherapy sessions, implying that the 24/7 on-site “wellness coach” sessions are not actually psychotherapy sessions. Gizmodo has asked Facebook and Covalen for more specificity and will update the post if we hear back.
Given the unfortunate reality that Facebook needs moderators, the company could most obviously improve wellness by loosening up the pounding exposure to PTSD-inducing imagery. A 2020 report from NYU Stern pointed out that 15,000 people moderate content for Facebook and Instagram, which is woefully inadequate to keep track of three million posts flagged by users and AI per day. (When asked, Facebook did not confirm its current moderator count to Gizmodo.) The report cites Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 statement on moderation, who put the number at two million; nonetheless, this would mean that at minimum 133 images flash before moderators’ eyes daily. According to The Verge, one moderator would review up to 400 pieces of content per day.
In her testimony, Foxglove co-founder and attorney Cori Crider pointed out that Facebook leans on moderators to keep the business running, yet they’re treated as “second-class citizens.” Crider urged Ireland’s Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment to regulate Facebook in order to end the culture of fear, bring contractors in-house, allow moderators to opt-out of reviewing harmful content, enforce independent oversight for exposure limits, and offer actual psychiatric resources.
The committee offered their sympathies and well-placed disgust.
“I would never want my son or daughter to do this work,” Senator Paul Gavan said. “I can’t imagine how horrific it must be. I want to state for the record that what’s happening here is absolutely appalling. This is the dark underbelly of our shiny multi-national social media companies.”
“It’s incredibly tough to hear,” Senator Garret Ahearn said, of Plunkett’s account.“I think chair it’s important that we do bring Facebook and these people in to be accountable for decisions that they make.”
We complain constantly that Facebook needs to do a better job of moderating. It also needs to do a better job of averting foreseeable calamity as it’s coming, rather than pay the lawyers and release the hounds later.
Google is pretty regularly adds new features to Gmail, but there’s always room for improvement, and third-party developers have been quick to plug the gaps. Here are seven browser add-ons that are polished and powerful enough to be native features (and hopefully will be one day…).
Checker Plus for Gmail is a totally different way of checking for new email. Rather than having a Gmail tab always open, you can click the Checker Plus for Gmail icon on the Chrome toolbar to see new messages and quickly process them. You can mark messages as read, delete them, and generally manage your inbox without even launching Gmail.
There’s support for multiple Gmail accounts, so it’s really good for managing multiple Google email addresses, and we really like what this browser extension does in terms of customizations as well—you can configure which inbox labels get shown, set up a Do Not Disturb window, alter the look and appearance of the add-on window, and more.
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Imagine if emails weren’t flooding into your inbox every minute and every hour of the day; instead, they arrived only when you allowed them to. It might go a long way to reducing email anxiety and inbox distraction, and this is exactly what Inbox When Ready provides. The core feature of the add-on, brilliant in its simplicity, is to completely hide your Gmail inbox from view.
You can still search through and compose emails, but you’re not constantly seeing unread counts and alerts about new messages. Inbox When Ready keeps track of the times when you decide to show your inbox as normal, and you can configure the extension to lock you out of your email at certain times, or limit the total time you can look at your emails for.
Todoist is a full-fledged app in its own right, but its associated browser extension is a perfect example of the sort of extra functionality that could be added to Gmail. While Google has made some effort to integrate Google Tasks with its email client, the Todoist browser add-on is a much more polished and much more capable option.
The Todoist for Gmail extension adds a new button on the toolbar for opened messages, so you can quickly add a new to-do based on the message you’re reading. You can still edit the title, frequency and other settings for the task as you go. You also get access to your lists from the pop-up box in the lower right-hand corner of the Gmail interface.
Boomerang initially made its name as a great option for scheduling messages in Gmail, and even though that’s now a native feature Google added to Gmail, Boomerang is still worth a look for all the other tweaks and tricks that it brings: reminders for unanswered emails, help with composing messages, an inbox pause option, and more.
The first change you’ll notice when you install Boomerang is a big Pause Inbox button on the left that you can use to stop the flood of incoming emails. You also get new buttons added to various other screens, so you can use the browser extension to hide emails until you’re ready for them, or schedule emails to be sent at a specific time in the future.
Google usually maintains a minimal aesthetic, but there’s no doubt that the Gmail interface can get cluttered at times, and that’s where Simplify Gmail comes in. As the name suggests, it tweaks the look of Gmail on the web to focus on what’s most important, meaning fewer distractions for you as you work through your busy inbox.
The extension was put together by one of the co-founders of the now defunct Inbox by Gmail, and it borrows some of the visual ideas of that app. There’s more white space, the option to hide a lot of the on-screen elements, a better layout for conversations, and clever use of background images, too—and all of this can be easily customized if needed.
Simple Gmail Notes simply lets you append notes to the email messages in your Gmail inbox, which is actually a more useful feature than you might think, and one that we hope is on the radar of at least one Google engineer. Being able to add notes to individual emails and conversation threads means you need never lose track of an idea or a contact again.
How you decide to use Simple Gmail Notes is entirely up to you. You might want to add notes on contacts, clients, or projects, or set yourself reminders for follow-up emails, for example. Your notes get synced across devices courtesy of Google Drive, and you can take control of where the notes appear on screen as well as the default colors used for them.
One useful feature we’d like to see Google add to Gmail is the option to flag and block common email-tracking technologies. These are typically little tracking pixels hidden in emails that enable the sender to see when and where you open up the email, and even the app you used to browse your inbox. That’s where Trocker comes in.
The extension will keep a careful eye on your inbox, stopping these pixel trackers from loading and giving you a heads up about which messages include them (the tracking pixel itself gets replaced by a little Trocker image, too). As an added bonus, it works with just about every web email app, so the online Outlook and Yahoo portals are also covered.
The UK’s conservative government will ban technology companies from “discriminating” against particular political viewpoints, according to a press release about the country’s new proposed Online Safety Bill. The anti-censorship clause is just a minor part of a much larger draft bill, but will likely get attention from conservatives around the globe who believe their viewpoints are being censored by large tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
“Ministers have added new and specific duties to the Bill for Category 1 services to protect content defined as ‘democratically important’,” the press release, published early Wednesday, said. “This will include content promoting or opposing government policy or a political party ahead of a vote in Parliament, election or referendum, or campaigning on a live political issue.”
“Companies will also be forbidden from discriminating against particular political viewpoints and will need to apply protections equally to a range of political opinions, no matter their affiliation,” the press release continued. “Policies to protect such content will need to be set out in clear and accessible terms and conditions and firms will need to stick to them or face enforcement action from Ofcom.”
“When moderating content, companies will need to take into account the political context around why the content is being shared and give it a high level of protection if it is democratically important.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s conservative government seems to be the latest to take up the martyr pose with Facebook and Twitter, feeding into the idea that right-wing opinions are being censored unfairly on social media. But quite to the contrary, we’ve learned that Big Tech financially rewards extremist speech on the right. In fact, Twitter acknowledged internally that if it censored white nationalists on the platform, its robots would have to censor Republicans who spout identical rhetoric.
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The UK’s new bill will bring in new reporting requirements for child abuse and other horrendous material, along with outlawing any racial abuse online that may already be illegal offline in the United Kingdom. The bill also has provisions to cut back on online fraud, something that many countries have grappled with in recent years.
“This is a landmark moment here in the UK. The problem of online abuse has escalated into a real epidemic which is affecting people physically as well as psychologically and it is time that something is done,” Dr. Alex George, The UK Government’s Youth Mental Health Ambassador said in a statement.
“That’s why I welcome today’s announcement about the Online Safety Bill and the protection it will provide people. Social media companies must play their part in protecting those who consume and engage with their content.”
Twitter said Tuesday night that the abrupt suspension of a Palestinian journalist’s account had been in error, but refused to clarify what content its system flagged as a violation of its policies.
“We took enforcement action on the account you referenced in error,” a Twitter spokesperson said in an email. “That has since been reversed.”
At around 5 p.m. ET Tuesday night, tweets and the bio from journalist Mariam Barghouti’s account began displaying the message “@MariamBarghouti’s account is temporarily unavailable because it violates the Twitter Media Policy.” As tensions continue to escalate between Israelis and Palestinians amid the court-ordered eviction of several Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, Barghouti has been covering the violence on the ground, tweeting frequent dispatches from the fracas.
“I feel like I’m in a war zone in Beit El,” Barghouti tweeted in the moments leading up to her account being restricted. “Israeli keeps just went full forces with hundreds of teargas canisters shot.”
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Twitter does have a policy preventing users from posting sensitive content or gratuitous violence to their accounts, but none of Barghouti’s tweets immediately appeared to run afoul of the rules. Known as the “sensitive media policy,” the 2019-era rule specifically prevents users from posting “… media that is excessively gory or shar[ing] violent or adult content within live video or in profile header, or List banner images. Media depicting sexual violence and/or assault is also not permitted.” The policy further states that “very limited exceptions may be made for gory media associated with newsworthy events.”
Barghouti said via Twitter DM that she wasn’t sure what had prompted the censorship and was still trying to get answers herself as of press time. A message from Twitter to Barghouti shared with Gizmodo said the company “made a mistake” in censoring her account, which was restored without a detailed explanation. “I didn’t change anything,” she said. “I was at a demonstration, didn’t know my tweets weren’t being shown until someone phoned me to tell me.”
At least 32 other Palestinians have so far died in the conflict between militants in Gaza and the Israeli military, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. Ten of those reported killed were children. Some 200 more have reportedly been injured in Gaza, where Israel’s military on Tuesday attacked a high-rise building, killing several Hamas militants, according to the AP. It is currently unclear how many, if any, other people were killed or injured in the attack. Rockets fired by Hamas militants, which are reportedly falling “nonstop,” also killed three women in Israel and wounded “dozens” of other people, AP reports.
As the violence in Gaza and Israel threatens to further escalate, the role that the media—and social media—plays in covering what unfolds will continue to have outsized significance. There’s no way to interpret the censorship of a Palestinian journalist’s account at this point that’s not inherently political—Twitter, meanwhile, is apparently arbitrating reporting about the deadly conflict entirely by accident.