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Telegram Update Brings Topics to Groups, Collectible Usernames, More: All Details

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Telegram has rolled out a big new update which apart from improvements also brings new features. It introduces Topics in large groups, adds collectible usernames that can be secured by blockchain and traded or exchanged online. Also introduced is Voice-to-Text for video messages that needs a premium subscription and basically converts any video message to text. The update is available for Telegram users on both Android and iOS platforms. While most of the new features will be made available for both operating systems, there are some specific ones that have been created for each platform as well.

Among the bigger updates is Topics in groups that can be enabled by group admins in their Group Settings. These basically function as individual chats within a group, so they also have their own shared media and notification settings. All regular features available in groups (like polls, pinged messages, and bots) will also be available in Topics. As per Telegram the new Topics feature is currently only available in large groups (with over 200 members) for now and will be rolled out with a different set of tools to smaller groups later this year.

The new update also introduces collectible usernames letting users assign multiple collectible usernames to each of their accounts and public chats. The collectible usernames are secured by Telegram’s TON blockchain network (that went live earlier this year) and can be bought or sold using a new platform called Fragment, which was created for it. Collectible usernames can be less than 5 characters long and allows users to create unique usernames. Telegram claims that a user has complete control over a collectible username once acquired and that it can be deactivated when needed (making them invisible online), but without losing the name.

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Voice to text has been available to Telegram Premium subscribers for a while letting them convert voice messages to text on the fly. The new update will now let subscribers convert video messages to text as well. Premium subscribers also get access to 12 new emoji packs that can be used in messages, captions and even in statuses.

Among other improvements and updates is a redesigned Night mode for iOS that according to Telegram makes colours appear more balanced and includes better blurring effects when scrolling through chats. Users on Android can now resize text by changing the text size in chat settings, that will now make the sizes of all chat text appear bigger or smaller. The new update also brings 4 new interactive emoji that basically play full-screen effects in one-on-one chats.

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Sheldon Pinto

Sheldon Pinto is based in Mumbai, and has several years of experience in reviewing smartphones and gadgets. As a Senior Reviewer at Gadgets 360, you will always find him deeply immersed in his reviews, switching from one phone to another. When the battery dies out, Sheldon is always browsing the web for a good sci-fi movie or reading up on cars and bikes. He also loves creating lists of interesting places to eat and travel. Sheldon is available on Twitter at @shellshocd, and you can mail him at …More

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Twitter Not Safer Under Elon Musk Leadership, Says Former Head of Trust and Safety

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Twitter’s former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth on Tuesday said the social media company was not safer under new owner Elon Musk, warning in his first interview since resigning this month that the company no longer had enough staff for safety work.

Roth had tweeted after Musk’s takeover that by some measures, Twitter safety had improved under the billionaire’s ownership.

Asked in an interview at the Knight Foundation conference on Tuesday whether he still felt that way, Roth said: “No.”

Roth was a Twitter veteran who helped steer the social media platform through several watershed decisions, including the move to permanently suspend its most famous user, former US President Donald Trump, last year.

His departure further rattled advertisers, many of whom backed away from Twitter after Musk laid off half of the staff, including many involved with content moderation.

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Before Musk assumed the helm at Twitter, about 2,200 people globally were focused on content moderation work, said Roth. He said he did not know the number after the acquisition because the corporate directory had been turned off.

Twitter under Musk began to stray from its adherence to written and publicly available policies toward content decisions made unilaterally by Musk, which Roth cited as a reason for his resignation.

“One of my limits was if Twitter starts being ruled by dictatorial edict rather than by policy … there’s no longer a need for me in my role, doing what I do,” he said.

The revamp of the Twitter Blue premium subscription, which would allow users to pay for a verified checkmark on their account, launched despite warnings and advice from the trust and safety team, Roth said.

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The launch was quickly beset by spammers impersonating major public companies such as Eli Lilly, Nestle and Lockheed Martin.

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Roth also said Tuesday that Twitter erred in restricting the dissemination of a New York Post article that made claims about then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son shortly before the 2020 presidential election.

But he defended Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Trump for risk of further incitement of violence after the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“We saw the clearest possible example of what it looked like for things to move from online to off,” Roth said. “We saw people dead in the Capitol.”

Musk tweeted on November 19 that Trump’s account would be reinstated after a slim majority voted in favour of the move in a surprise Twitter poll.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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WhatsApp Update Allows Users to Include Caption While Forwarding Media on iOS: All Details

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WhatsApp has begun rolling out a feature that will let iOS users forward media with captions. Previously, users had to send a caption as a separate message, when forwarding media. Now when iPhone owners using WhatsApp forward media, the app will include original caption, which can be manually removed. The feature is available in the latest version of the app on the App Store, as per details shared by a feature tracker.

According to a report by feature tracker WABetaInfo, WhatsApp users on iOS will be able to forward images, videos, GIFs, and documents, along with the original caption. The report includes a screengrab of the improved forwarding process, explaining that users will see a new view at the bottom of the screen when users select a media to forward, which can be tapped to add a caption.

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A WhatsApp screenshot showing the included media caption when forwarding a message

Photo Credit: WABetaInfo

Additionally, WhatsApp has also added a dismiss button that you can use to remove the caption from the image before forwarding the message, which could come in handy if you don’t want to include the original caption. It is worth noting that the captions shared with the forwarded media files will always be end-to-end encrypted.

The Meta-owned service continues to improve its messaging app with new features and updates. Recently, WhatsApp introduced a new feature called “Message Yourself” that allows users on iOS and Android to send messages to themselves, or forward messages to themselves. The feature is designed to help users store messages, files, and other media in an easily accessible location, and users can also forward messages from other chats, or share content from other apps directly to WhatsApp.

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Meanwhile, WhatsApp is reportedly working on a feature that will let Android users export and import their chat backups offline from Google Drive. The feature is said to provide access to the full chat history, images, videos, and other media files. The feature was first spotted in development back in June, but the company is yet to announce plans to roll out the feature on Android or iOS devices. 

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Twitter Stops Enforcing COVID-19 Misinformation Policy, Experts Express Concerns Over False Claims

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Twitter will no longer enforce its policy against COVID-19 misinformation, raising concerns among public health experts and social media researchers that the change could have serious consequences if it discourages vaccination and other efforts to combat the still-spreading virus.

Eagle-eyed users spotted the change Monday night, noting that a one-sentence update had been made to Twitter’s online rules: “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy.”

By Tuesday, some Twitter accounts were testing the new boundaries and celebrating the platform’s hands-off approach, which comes after Twitter was purchased by Elon Musk.

“This policy was used to silence people across the world who questioned the media narrative surrounding the virus and treatment options,” tweeted Dr. Simone Gold, a physician and leading purveyor of COVID-19 misinformation. “A win for free speech and medical freedom!”

Twitter’s decision to no longer remove false claims about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines disappointed public health officials, however, who said it could lead to more false claims about the virus, or the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

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“Bad news,” tweeted epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, who urged people not to flee Twitter but to keep up the fight against bad information about the virus. “Stay folks — do NOT cede the town square to them!”

While Twitter’s efforts to stop false claims about COVID weren’t perfect, the company’s decision to reverse course is an abdication of its duty to its users, said Paul Russo, a social media researcher and dean of the Katz School of Science and Health at Yeshiva University in New York.

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Russo added that it’s the latest of several recent moves by Twitter that could ultimately scare away some users and even advertisers. Some big names in business have already paused their ads on Twitter over questions about its direction under Musk.

“It is 100% the responsibility of the platform to protect its users from harmful content,” Russo said. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”

The virus, meanwhile, continues to spread. Nationally, new COVID cases averaged nearly 38,800 a day as of Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University — far lower than last winter but a vast undercount because of reduced testing and reporting. About 28,100 people with COVID were hospitalized daily and about 313 died, according to the most recent federal daily averages.

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Cases and deaths were up from two weeks earlier. Yet a fifth of the U.S. population hasn’t been vaccinated, most Americans haven’t gotten the latest boosters, and many have stopped wearing masks.

Musk, who has himself spread COVID misinformation on Twitter, has signalled an interest in rolling back many of the platform’s previous rules meant to combat misinformation.

Last week, Musk said he would grant “amnesty” to account holders who had been kicked off Twitter. He’s also reinstated the accounts for several people who spread COVID misinformation, including that of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose personal account was suspended this year for repeatedly violating Twitter’s COVID rules.

Greene’s most recent tweets include ones questioning the effectiveness of masks and making baseless claims about the safety of COVID vaccines.

Since the pandemic began, platforms like Twitter and Facebook have struggled to respond to a torrent of misinformation about the virus, its origins and the response to it.

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Under the policy enacted in January 2020, Twitter prohibited false claims about COVID-19 that the platform determined could lead to real-world harms. More than 11,000 accounts were suspended for violating the rules, and nearly 100,000 pieces of content were removed from the platform, according to Twitter’s latest numbers.

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Despite its rules prohibiting COVID misinformation, Twitter has struggled with enforcement. Posts making bogus claims about home remedies or vaccines could still be found, and it was difficult on Tuesday to identify exactly how the platform’s rules may have changed.

Messages left with San Francisco-based Twitter seeking more information about its policy on COVID-19 misinformation were not immediately returned Tuesday.

A search for common terms associated with COVID misinformation on Tuesday yielded lots of misleading content, but also automatic links to helpful resources about the virus as well as authoritative sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said Tuesday that the problem of COVID-19 misinformation is far larger than one platform, and that policies prohibiting COVID misinformation weren’t the best solution anyway.

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Speaking at a Knight Foundation forum Tuesday, Jha said misinformation about the virus spread for a number of reasons, including legitimate uncertainty about a deadly illness. Simply prohibiting certain kinds of content isn’t going to help people find good information, or make them feel more confident about what they’re hearing from their medical providers, he said.

“I think we all have a collective responsibility,” Jha said of combating misinformation about COVID. “The consequences of not getting this right — of spreading that misinformation — is literally tens of thousands of people dying unnecessarily.”


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