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Is it time to end pseudonymity on Twitter and Facebook?

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OPINION: Mondays always suck. And this week, mine was a lot worse than usual as I witnessed England lose on penalties to Italy (again) in the final of Euro 2020.

Thankfully, I was able to snap out of my mood pretty quickly – channelling the energy my grief brewed into doing something productive (vacuuming my house) as I came to terms with losing. On penalties. Again.

A few hours later, I had forgotten all about football and was ready to start my week. The same luxury wasn’t available to England’s young penalty takers: Marcus Rashford (23), Jadon Sancho​ (21) and Bukayo Saka (19).

The racial abuse these young men received on social media in the hours that followed was shocking and yet, predictable.

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READ MORE:

* Euro 2020: England star Marcus Rashford says he’ll ‘never apologise for who I am’ after racist abuse

* Prince William slams ‘racist abuse’ after England’s Euros loss

* Euro 2020: England chiefs condemn racial abuse of players after penalty shootout failures

Despite all their billions, social media still doesn’t have an answer for the racist abuse it facilitates.

And the only action they’re willing to take is retrospective.

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A giant mural in support of the three England footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka has been unveiled in Manchester.

Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

A giant mural in support of the three England footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka has been unveiled in Manchester.

With – just relating to this one case – Twitter confirming that it removed more than 1000 posts and suspended a number of accounts for violating its rules.

A Facebook spokesperson also confirmed that it too “removed comments and accounts directing abuse at England’s footballers” and encouraged “all players to turn on Hidden Words, a tool which means no one has to see abuse in their comments or DM.”

Wow.

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After all these years, the only tools available to two of technology’s most successful brands are: suspending accounts, removing comments, and muting certain words.

For context, Twitter and Facebook generated US$3.72 billion (NZ$5.34 billion) and US$86 billion dollars last year.

Unfortunately, the only obvious way to combat the problem, by having social media companies collect government-issued IDs of users, is a terrible idea too.

Yes, making people use their real names on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook would likely reduce the problem. Wisdom suggests someone is much less likely to be a racist idiot if they’re identifiable. But it won’t eliminate the problem.

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Don’t believe me? Spend a couple of minutes thinking about some of the comments you’ve read on Facebook recently (where the majority of accounts use real names) and decide whether you think it’s enough of a deterrent or not.

There’s a huge ethical problem with forcing social media users to verify who they are via government-issued IDs too.

Twitter eloquently explained its support for pseudonymity in a blog post from February (after footballers on its platform experienced more racial abuse).

“We believe everyone has the right to share their voice without requiring a government ID to do so,” it began.

“Pseudonymity may be used to explore your identity, to find support as victims of crimes, or to highlight issues faced by vulnerable communities. Indeed, many of the first voices to speak out on societal wrongdoings, have done so behind some degree of pseudonymity – once they do, their experience can encourage others to do the same, knowing they don’t have to put their name to their experience if they’re not comfortable doing so.”

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It signed off with: “Perhaps most fundamentally of all – some of the communities who may lack access to government IDs are exactly those who we strive to give a voice to on Twitter.”

Ugh.

David Court’s Monday was a lot worse than usual as he watched England lose on penalties to Italy in the final of Euro 2020.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

David Court’s Monday was a lot worse than usual as he watched England lose on penalties to Italy in the final of Euro 2020.

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Twitter is right too. No sane-minded person can read that rationale and say there’s no merit in pseudonymity online.

Which means New Zealand’s upcoming reforms of hate speech laws, however you interpret them, will be ineffective tools against racist abuse on social media.

So what can be done? I’m not sure. Though, I’m ashamed to admit, I enjoyed the current sabre-rattling from the UK.

With its Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, threatening “to impose very large fines – indeed up to 10% of global turnover” and “criminal sanctions” for social media’s senior management if they “fail to enforce [their] own terms and conditions, stand up to [their] duty of care”.

Giving (very rich) technology companies financial and legal reasons to want to protect their users isn’t a bad place to start. They’ve had long enough.

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TWITTER

Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures

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Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.

Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.

It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.

Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”

“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.

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Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.

Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.

“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.

In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”

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But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

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By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

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Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream

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At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”

On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.

Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.

Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.

The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.

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Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.

The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

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The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.

Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.

In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.

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Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.

But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.

“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.

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© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Twitter Bans Sharing Personal Photos, Videos of Other People Without Consent

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Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent, in a tightening of the network’s policy just a day after it changed CEOs.

Under the new rules, people who are not public figures can ask Twitter to take down pictures or video of them that they report were posted without permission.

Beginning today, we will not allow the sharing of private media, such as images or videos of private individuals without their consent. Publishing people’s private info is also prohibited under the policy, as is threatening or incentivizing others to do so.https://t.co/7EXvXdwegG

— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) November 30, 2021

Twitter said this policy does not apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

“We will always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, we may allow the images or videos to remain on the service,” the company added.

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The right of Internet users to appeal to platforms when images or data about them are posted by third parties, especially for malicious purposes, has been debated for years.

Twitter already prohibited the publication of private information such as a person’s phone number or address, but there are “growing concerns” about the use of content to “harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals,” Twitter said.

The company noted a “disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.”

High-profile examples of online harassment include the barrages of racist, sexist,and homophobic abuse on Twitch, the world’s biggest video game streaming site.

But instances of harassment abound, and victims must often wage lengthy fights to see hurtful, insulting or illegally produced images of themselves removed from the online platforms.

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Some Twitter users pushed the company to clarify exactly how the tightened policy would work.

“Does this mean that if I take a picture of, say, a concert in Central Park, I need the permission of everyone in it? We diminish the sense of the public to the detriment of the public,” tweeted Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York.

The change came the day after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey announced he was leaving the company, and handed CEO duties to company executive Parag Agrawal.

The platform, like other social media networks, has struggled against bullying, misinformation, and hate-fuelled content.


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