Category Archives: Instagram

Facebook now says its password leak affected ‘millions’ of Instagram users

Facebook has confirmed its password-related security incident last month now affects “millions” of Instagram users, not “tens of thousands” as first thought.

The social media giant confirmed the new information in its updated blog post, first published on March 21.

“We discovered additional logs of Instagram passwords being stored in a readable format,” the company said. “We now estimate that this issue impacted millions of Instagram users. We will be notifying these users as we did the others.”

“Our investigation has determined that these stored passwords were not internally abused or improperly accessed,” the updated post said, but the company still has not said how it made that determination.

The social media giant did not say how many millions were affected, however.

Last month, Facebook admitted it had inadvertently stored “hundreds of millions” of user account passwords in plaintext for years, said to have dated as far back as 2012. The company said the unencrypted passwords were stored in logs accessible to some 2,000 engineers and developers. The data was not leaked outside of the company, however. Facebook still hasn’t explained how the bug occurred.

Facebook posted the update at 10am ET — an hour before the Special Counsel’s report into Russian election interference was set to be published.

When reached, spokesperson Liz Bourgeois said Facebook does not have “a precise number” yet to share, and declined to say exactly when the additional discovery was made.

How-to video maker Jumprope launches to leapfrog YouTube

Sick of pausing and rewinding YouTube tutorials to replay that tricky part? Jumprope is a new instructional social network offering a powerful how-to video slideshow creation tool. Jumprope helps people make step-by-step guides to cooking, beauty, crafts, parenting and more using voice-overed looping GIFs for each phase. And creators can export their whole lesson for sharing on Instagram, YouTube, or wherever.

Jumprope officially launches its iOS app today with plenty of how-tos for making chocolate chip bars, Easter eggs, flower boxes, or fierce eyebrows. “By switching from free-form linear video to something much more structured, we can make it much easier for people to share their knowledge and hacks” says Jumprope co-founder and CEO Jake Poses.

The rise of Snapchat Stories and Pinterest have made people comfortable jumping on camera and showing off their niche interests. By building a new medium, Jumprope could become the home for rapid-fire learning. And since viewers will have tons of purchase intent for the makeup, art supplies, or equipment they’ll need to follow along, Jumprope could make serious cash off of ads or affiliate commerce.

The opportunity to bring instruction manuals into the mobile video era has attracted a $4.5 million seed round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and joined by strategic angels like Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky and Thumbtack co-founders Marco Zappacosta and Jonathan Swanson. People are already devouring casual education content on HGTV and the Food Network, but Jumprope democratizes its creation.

Jumprope co-founders (from left): CTO Travis Johnson and CEO Jake Poses

The idea came from a deeply personal place for Poses. “My brother has pretty severe learning differences, and so growing up with him gave me this appreciation for figuring out how to break things down and explain them to people” Poses reveals. “I think that attached me to this problem of ‘how do you organize information so its simple and easy to understand?’. Lots and lots of people have this information trapped in their heads because there isn’t an a way to easily share that.”

Poses was formerly the VP of product at Thumbtack where he helped grow the company from 8 to 500 people and a $1.25 billion valuation. He teamed up with AppNexus’ VP of engineering Travis Johnson, who’d been leading a 50-person team of coders. “The product takes people who have knowledge and passion but not the skill to make video [and gives them] guard rails that make it easy to communicate” Poses explains.

Disrupting incumbents like YouTube’s grip on viewers might take years, but Jumprope sees its guide creation and export tool as a way to infiltrate and steal their users. That strategy mirrors how TikTok’s watermarked exports colonized the web

How To Make A Jumprope.

Jumprope lays out everything you’ll need to upload, including a cover image, introduction video, supplies list, and all your steps. For each, you’ll record a video that you can then enhance with voice over, increased speed, music, and filters.

Creators are free to suggest their own products or enter affiliate links to monetize their videos. Once it has enough viewers, Jumprope plans to introduce advertising, but it could also add tipping, subscriptions, paid how-tos, or brand sponsorship options down the line. Creators can export their lessons with five different border themes and seven different aspect ratios for posting to Instagram’s feed, IGTV, Snapchat Stories, YouTube, or embedding on their blog.

“Like with Stories, you basically tap through at your own pace” Poses says of the viewing experience. Jumprope offers some rudimentary discovery through categories, themed collections, or what’s new and popular. The startup has done extensive legwork to sign up featured creators in all its top categories. That means Jumprope’s catalog is already extensive, with food guides ranging from cinnabuns to pot roasts to how to perfectly chop an onion. 

“You’re not constantly dealing with the frustration of cooking something and trying to start and stop the video with greasy hands. And if you don’t want all the details, you can tap through it much faster” than trying to skim a YouTube video or blog post, Poses tells me. Next the company wants to build a commenting feature where you can leave notes, substitution suggestions, and more on each step of a guide.

Poses claims there’s no one building a direct competitor to its mobile video how-to editor. But he admits it will be an uphill climb to displace viewership on Instagram and YouTube. One challenge facing Jumprope is that most people aren’t hunting down how-to videos every day. The app will have to work to remind users it exists and that they shouldn’t just go with the lazy default of letting Google recommend the videos it hosts.

The internet has gathered communities around every conceivable interest. But greater access to creation and consumption necessitates better tools for production and curation. As we move from a material to an experiential culture, people crave skills that will help them forge memories and contribute to the world around them. Jumprope makes it a lot less work to leap into the life of a guru.

Pete Buttigieg’s new influencer handbook is an extremely online way to campaign

Pete Buttigieg is taking online campaigning to a very 2019 level.

The South Bend mayor, who announced his official presidential bid on Sunday, understands the undeniable power of the internet, and he plans on using it to his full advantage.

Buttigieg, his husband Chasten, and their dogs Truman and Buddy, already have beloved Twitter presences, but the millennial mayor and his team took things a step further this weekend by releasing an entire set of digital assets, social media guidelines, and detailed explanations behind each of his visual campaign aesthetics so that influencers and fans can easily show him support online. Read more...

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Instagram bug showed Stories to the wrong people

Today in “Facebook apps are too big to manage”, a glitch caused some users’ Instagram Stories trays to show Stories from people they don’t follow.

TechCrunch first received word of the problem from Twitter user InternetRyan who was confused about seeing strangers in his Stories Tray and tagged me in to investigate. The screenshots below show people in his Stories tray who he doesn’t follow, as proven by the active Follow buttons on their profiles. TechCrunch inquired about the issue, and 22 hours later Instagram confirmed that a bug was responsible and it had been fixed.

Instagram is still looking into the cause of the bug but says it was solved within hours of being brought to its attention. Luckily, if users clicked on the profile pic of someone they didn’t follow in Stories, Instagram’s privacy controls kicked it and wouldn’t display the content. Facebook Stories wasn’t impacted. But the whole situation shakes faith in the Facebook corporation’s ability to properly route and safeguard our data, including that of the 500 million people using Instagram Stories each day.

An Instagram spokesperson provided this statement: “We’re aware of an issue that caused a small number of people’s Instagram Stories trays to show accounts they don’t follow. If your account is private, your Stories were not seen by people who don’t follow you. This was caused by a bug that we have resolved.”

The problem comes after a rough year for Facebook’s privacy and security teams. Outside of all its scrambling to fight false news and election interference, Facebook and Instagram have experienced an onslaught of technical troubles. A Facebook bug changed the status update composer privacy setting of 14 million users, while another exposed up to 6.8 million users unposted photos. Instagram bugs have screwed up follower accounts, and made the feed scroll horizontally. And Facebook was struck by its largest outage ever last month, after its largest data breach ever late last year exposed tons of info on 50 million users.

Facebook and Instagram’s unprecedented scale make them extremely capital efficient and profitable. But that size also leaves tons of surfaces susceptible to problems that can instantly impact huge swaths of the population. Once Facebook has a handle on misinformation, its technical systems could use an audit.

Instagram now demotes vaguely “inappropriate” content

Instagram is home to plenty of scantily-clad models and edgy memes that may start to get fewer views starting today. Now Instagram says “We have begun reducing the spread of posts that are inappropriate but do not go against Instagram’s Community Guidelines”. That means if a post is sexually suggestive, but doesn’t depict a sex act or nudity, it could still get demoted. Similarly, if a meme doesn’t constitute hate speech or harassment, but is considered in bad taste, lewd, violent, or hurtful, it could get fewer views.

Specifically, Instagram says “this type of content may not appear for the broader community in Explore or hashtag pages” which could severely hurt the ability of creators to gain new followers. The news came amidst a flood of “Integrity” announcements from Facebook to safeguard its family of apps revealed today at a press event a the company’s Menlo Park headquarters.

“We’ve started to use machine learning to determine if the actual media posted is eligible to be recommended to our community” Instagram’s Product Lead for Discovery Will Ruben said. Instagram is now training its content moderators to label borderline content when they’re hunting down policy violations, and Instagram then uses those labels to train an algorithm to identify.

These posts won’t be fully removed from the feed, and Instagram tells me for now the new policy won’t impact Instagram’s feed or Stories bar. But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s November manifesto described the need to broadly reduce the reach of this “borderline content”, which on Facebook would mean being shown lower in News Feed. That’s policy could easily be expanded to Instagram in the future. That would likely reduce the ability of creators to reach their existing fans, which can impact their ability to monetize through sponsored posts or direct traffic to ways they make money like Patreon.

Today Facebook’s Henry Silverman explained that “As content gets closer and closer to the line of our Community Standards at which point we’d remove it, it actually gets more and more engagement. It’s not something unique to Facebook but inherent in human nature.” The borderline content policy aims to counteract this incentive to toe the policy line. Just because something is allowed on one our apps doesn’t mean it should show up at the top of News Feed or that it should be recommended or that it should be able to be advertised” said Facebook’s head of News Feed Integrity Tessa Lyons. ”

This all makes sense when it comes to click bait, false news, and harassment which no one wants on Facebook or Instagram. But when it comes to sexualized but not explicit content that has long been uninhibited and in fact popular on Instagram, or memes or jokes that might offend some people despite not being abusive, this is a significant step up of censorship by Facebook and Instagram.

Creators currently have no guidelines about what constitutes Borderline Content — there’s nothing in Instagram’s rules or  terms of service that even mention non-recommendable content or what qualifies. The only information Instagram has provided was what it shared at today’s event. The company specficied that violent, graphic/shocking, sexuall suggestive, misinformation, and spam content can be deemed “non-recommendable” and therefore won’t appear on Explore or hashtag pages.

 

Instagram denied an account from a creator claiming that the app reduced their feed and Stories reach after one of their posts that actually violates the content policy taken down.

One female creator with around a half-million followers likened receiving a two-week demotion that massively reduced their content’s reach to Instagram defecating on them. “It just makes it like, ‘Hey, how about we just show your photo to like 3 of your followers? Is that good for you? . . . I know this sounds kind of tin-foil hatty but . . . when you get a post taken down or a story, you can set a timer on your phone for two weeks to the godd*mn f*cking minute and when that timer goes off you’ll see an immediate change in your engagement. They put you back on the Explore page and you start getting followers.”

As you can see, creators are pretty passionate about Instagram demoting their reach. Instagram’s Product Lead on Discovery Will Ruben said regarding the feed/Stories reach reduction: No, that’s not happening. We distinguish between feed and surfaces where you’ve taken the choice to follow somebody, and Explore and hashtag pages where Instagram is recommending content to people.”

The questions now are whether borderline content demotions are ever extended to Instagram’s feed and Stories, and how content is classified as recommendable, non-recommendable, or violating. With artificial intelligence involved, this could turn into another situation where Facebook is seen as shirking its responsibilities in favor of algorithmic efficiency — but this time in removing or demoting too much content rather than too little.

Given the lack of clear policies to point to, the subjective nature of deciding what’s offensive but not abusive, Instagram’s 1 billion user scale, and its nine years of allowing this content, there are sure to be complaints and debates about fair and consistent enforcement.

Snap is channeling Asia’s messaging giants with its move into gaming

Snap is taking a leaf out of the Asian messaging app playbook as its social messaging service enters a new era.

The company unveiled a series of new strategies that are aimed at breathing fresh life into the service which has been ruthlessly cloned by Facebook across Instagram, WhatsApp, and even its primary social network. The result? Snap has consistently lost users since going public in 2017. It managed to stop the rot with a flat Q4, but resting on its laurels isn’t going to bring the good times back.

Snap has taken a three-pronged approach: extending its stories feature (and ads) into third-party apps and building out its camera play with an AR platform, but it is the launch of social games that is the most intriguing. The other moves are logical and they fall in line with existing Snap strategies, but games is an entirely new category for the company.

It isn’t hard to see where Snap found inspiration for social games — Asian messaging companies have long twinned games and chat — but the U.S. company is applying its own twist to the genre.

AOC calls out Kushner: ‘What’s next, putting nuclear codes in Instagram DMs?’

It's a cold day in government hell when Instagram DMs get a shoutout at a House Oversight Committee meeting — so reader, you'll want to grab your winter coat.

On Tuesday, while speaking before Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed her concern over reports that Jared Kushner used WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders and discuss sensitive government-related information.

AOC enforced her belief that action should be taken to properly address the matter, asking, "What is next, putting nuclear codes in Instagram DMs?"

.@RepAOC @AOC: "Every day that we go on without getting to the bottom of this matter is a day that we are putting hundreds if not potentially thousands of Americans at risk. I mean, really, what is next, putting nuclear codes in Instagram DMs?!? This is ridiculous." pic.twitter.com/EkTPWbwIn4

— CSPAN (@cspan) April 2, 2019 Read more...

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Instagram may finally let users rewind and fast forward through videos

Instagram users, rejoice! One of the most basic multimedia features may soon be coming to the platform.

The Facebook-owned photo sharing social network is currently testing a seek bar on the app which would allow users to scroll backwards or forwards through a video. 

If a user is one of the lucky select few picked to test out the feature, all they have to do is press down on an Instagram video and slide their finger to the left or the right. A seek bar will appear embedded at the top of the video, complete with a pop-up timecode.

Instagram is testing video seekbar pic.twitter.com/gyIZZhrh2y

— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) March 27, 2019 Read more...

More about Video, Instagram, Social Media, Tech, and Big Tech Companies

Facebook’s handling of Alex Jones is a microcosm of its content policy problem

A revealing cluster of emails leaked to Business Insider offers a glimpse at how Facebook decides what content is objectionable in high profile cases. In this instance, a group of executives at Facebook went hands on in determining if an Alex Jones Instagram post violated the platform’s terms of service or not.

As Business Insider reports, 20 Facebook and Instagram executives hashed it out over the Jones post, which depicted a mural known as “False Profits” by the artist Mear One. Facebook began debating the post after it was flagged by Business Insider for kicking up anti semitic comments on Wednesday.

The company removed 23 of 500 comments on the post that it interpreted to be in clear violation of Facebook policy. Later in the conversation, some of the UK-based Instagram and Facebook executives on the email provided more context for their US-based peers.

Last year, a controversy over the same painting erupted when British politician Jeremy Corbyn argued in support of the mural’s creator after the art was removed from a wall in East London due what many believed to be antisemitic overtones. Because of that, the image and its context are likely better known in the UK, a fact that came up in Facebook’s discussion over how to handle the Jones post.

“This image is widely acknowledged to be anti-Semitic and is a famous image in the UK due to public controversy around it,” one executive said. “If we go back and say it does not violate we will be in for a lot criticism.”

Ultimately, after some back and forth, the post was removed.

According to the emails, Alex Jones’ Instagram account “does not currently violate [the rules]” as “an IG account has to have at least 30% of content violating at any given time as per our regular guidelines.” That fact might prove puzzling once you know that Alex Jones got his main account booted off Facebook itself in 2018 — and the company did another sweep for Jones-linked pages last month.

Whether you agree with Facebook’s content moderation decisions or not, it’s impossible to argue that they are consistently enforced. In the latest example, the company argued over a single depiction of a controversial image even as the same image is literally for sale by the artist elsewhere on both on Instagram and Facebook. (As any Facebook reporter can attest, these inconsistencies will probably be resolved shortly after this story goes live.)

The artist himself sells its likeness on a t-shirt on both Instagram and Facebook and numerous depictions of the same image appear on various hashtags. And even after the post was taken down, Jones displayed it prominently in his Instagram story, declaring that the image “is just about monopoly men and the class struggle” and decrying Facebook’s “crazy-level censorship.”

It’s clear that even as Facebook attempts to make strides, its approach to content moderation remains reactive, haphazard and probably too deeply preoccupied with public perception. Some cases of controversial content are escalated all the way to the top while others languish, undetected. Where the line is drawn isn’t particularly clear. And even when high profile violations are determined, it’s not apparent that those case studies meaningfully trickle down clarify smaller, everyday decisions by content moderators on Facebook’s lower rungs.

As always, the squeaky wheel gets the grease — but two billion users and reactive rather than proactive policy enforcement means that there’s an endless sea of ungreased wheels drifting around. This problem isn’t unique to Facebook, but given its scope, it does make the biggest case study in what can go wrong when a platform scales wildly with little regard for the consequences.

Unfortunately for Facebook, it’s yet another lose-lose situation of its own making. During its intense, extended growth spurt, Facebook allowed all kinds of potentially controversial and dangerous content to flourish for years. Now, when the company abruptly cracks down on accounts that violate its longstanding policies forbidding hate speech, divisive figures like Alex Jones can cry censorship, roiling hundreds of thousands of followers in the process.

Like other tech companies, Facebook is now paying mightily for the worry-free years it enjoyed before coming under intense scrutiny for the toxic side effects of all that growth. And until Facebook develops a more uniform interpretation of its own community standards — one the company enforces from the bottom up rather than the top down — it’s going to keep taking heat on all sides.