Category Archives: Twitter

LinkedIn now requires phone number verification for all users in China

LinkedIn’s China site looks and functions just like LinkedIn everywhere else, except now it asks users in the country to verify their identities through phone numbers.

The American company is requiring both new and existing users with a Chinese IP address to link mobile phone numbers to their accounts, TechCrunch noticed this week. LinkedIn had for months told its China-based users to provide mobile number details before sending them to the main page, but it had mercifully kept a little “Skip” button that let users avoid the fuss until at least last week.

“The real-name verification process for our LinkedIn China members is a legal requirement, which will also help improve the authenticity and credibility of online accounts,” a LinkedIn China spokesperson wrote back to TechCrunch in an email without addressing whether the process is new.

The spokesperson also links the policy to China’s burgeoning mobile industry: “Considering the growing popularity of mobile devices and mobile Internet, Chinese Internet users are adapted to registration with mobile phone numbers instead of email addresses. Almost all apps in the Chinese market are applying this trend to follow users’ habits.”

LinkedIn users with a Chinese IP address are greeted with an identity check tied to phone numbers. Screenshot: TechCrunch

In a note visible to China-based users only, LinkedIn explains that its identity check is a response to local regulations:

In some countries, local laws require that we confirm your identity before letting you engage with our Services. You must provide a mobile number and confirm receipt of our text. This phone number will be associated with your account and is accessible from your settings. If you choose to change or delete your confirmed mobile number your ability to access our Services in certain countries (e.g. China) will be blocked until you once again confirm your identity.

The California-based social network for professionals is a rare existence in China, where most mainstream global tech services like Facebook and Google have long remained blocked. Exceptions happen when foreign players bend to local rules. Microsoft’s Bing is accessible in China by censoring search results. Google also reportedly mulled a censored search service to re-enter China, an attempt that outraged its staff, politicians and speech advocates.

LinkedIn, which launched in China back in 2014, also hires so-called “information auditors” to keep close tabs on what users say and share in its China realm, according to a job post the firm listed on a local recruiting site. Like Google, LinkedIn caught flack for censoring content.

Real identity

Digital anonymity came to an end in China — at least in theory — when the sweeping Cyberspace Law took effect in 2017. The rules, which are meant to police information on the web, ordered websites to verify users’ real identities before letting them comment or use other tools, though users can still post with their screen names.

Large platforms like messenger WeChat and Twitter -like Weibo reacted swiftly by running real-name checks on users. The staple practice is to collect mobile phone numbers, which became a form of ID after China introduced a policy in 2010 requiring all buyers, foreign or Chinese, to show a piece of identification when they obtain their 11-digit identifiers. Google’s rumored search engine for China also asked for users’ phone numbers, according to The Intercept, which would make it easier for the government to monitor people’s queries.

LinkedIn’s China office in Beijing. Photo: LinkedIn China via Weibo

LinkedIn had been able to avoid the inevitable process for months. Perhaps the government had gone after the biggies first. After all, LinkedIn is only a fraction the size of its main rival in China. As of November, LinkedIn had 13 million monthly installs while its local peer Maimai had 95 monthly installs, data from iResearch shows. Both are dwarfed by WeChat’s more than 1 billion monthly active users.

As with other fledgling industries, laws often lag behind technological development, not to mention the enforcement thereof when the odds are against enterprises. Take ride-hailing for example. Unlicensed drivers and vehicles were still running on the roads two years after China legalized the sector. When the government steps up oversight recently, the market is hit by a shortage of drivers.

Clamping down

TechCrunch has come to understand that LinkedIn’s identity enforcement is linked to the latest wave of government crackdowns. “Slowly, the Chinese Communist Party has been pushing their collective thumbs down on, not only foreign internet companies but all internet companies. It just so happens that the recent political atmosphere is causing more scrutiny,” a source with insights into the matter told TechCrunch, asking not to be named.

Other websites are also indeed tightening controls over users. Many apps that previously allowed third-party logins from platforms like WeChat and Weibo also recently started collecting users’ phone numbers, several people who experienced the changes told TechCrunch.

Users can still get around LinkedIn’s real-name verification by switching on their virtual private network, known as VPN, that lets people surf the net from an overseas IP address and circumvent the Great Firewall, China’s internet censoring machinery. But the practice is becoming more challenging and the stakes are growing. By law, only government-approved providers can set up VPNs. In response to regulatory oversight, Apple pulled hundreds of VPN apps from its China App Store in 2017.

More recently, China’s telecoms regulator slapped a 1,000 yuan (around $146) fine on a man for accessing the “international net” through “illegal channels.” The case is one of the few known instances where individuals are punished for using VPNs, sending worrying signs to those jumping the Wall to surf the unfiltered world wide web.

Here it is: The saddest chicken

Every so often, Twitter gathers for one of its most powerful bonding experiences: making fun of gross food. On Monday, users gathered to mock this chicken, which is the worst-looking chicken we have ever seen.

This chicken, which is not only completely unseasoned but seems to have never touched butter, garlic, or marinade of any kind, was tweeted by @corihealy. Crucially, though, it was not her chicken — it belonged to her boyfriend's roommate.

Y’all wanna get upset by the lack of seasoning on my boyfriends roommates chicken with me pic.twitter.com/R72oHmAf3G

— Anustart (@corihealey) January 8, 2019 Read more...

More about Twitter, Social Media, Culture, Web Culture, and Food

Jaded commuters will relate to this ‘rail delay scarf’

Was your train delayed this morning? Are you perhaps reading this story on a delayed train? Then you, reader, will love this scarf.

For the past year, a woman in Germany has been documenting her commute through knitting. She knits two rows per day and chooses her yarn color based on how delayed her train is. Her daughter, journalist Sara Weber, tweeted an explanation of the key on Sunday: gray for delays less than five minutes, pink for five to 30 minutes, and red for 30 minutes or more.

Meine Mutter ist Pendlerin im Münchner Umland. Und begeisterte Strickerin. 2018 hat sie einen "Bahn-Verspätungsschal" gestrickt. Pro Tag zwei Reihen: Grau bei unter 5 Minuten, rosa bei 5 bis 30 Minuten Verspätung, rot bei Verspätung auf beiden Fahrten oder einmal über 30 Minutenpic.twitter.com/PpGJiiU8AS

— Sara Weber (@sara__weber) January 6, 2019 Read more...

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The most retweeted tweet ever is a billionaire’s giveaway of free money

Here's a sure way to make your tweet very, very popular: free money.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, founder of online fashion retailer Zozotown and funder of SpaceX's trip to the moon, promised in a tweet on Sunday to giveaway 100 million yen ($924,000) to be shared among 100 random people.

The competition was posted in celebration of Zozotown reaching 10 billion yen in sales, and the mechanism to win is pretty simple: All one needs to do to enter is follow Maezawa on Twitter and retweet the post. Maezawa said he would personally message the winners when the contest finishes. Read more...

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Busted: Looks like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did the ‘Breakfast Club’ dance in 2010

She's really finished this time. 

Right-wing critics, who have long been obsessed with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's past, have just exposed her past involvement in a grievous crime: doing that choreography from The Breakfast Club.

A video featuring the freshman Congress member dancing was circulated on Twitter Thursday, ostensibly in an effort damage her reputation. Unfortunately for the haters, though, it seems to have had the opposite effect. This is probably because it's a pure and wholesome expression of joy, something which with the online right is unfamiliar.

More about Twitter, Memes, Social Media, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Culture

Laugh at bad film tropes with the ‘Hello, I’m a professor in a movie’ meme

Some of the most egregious character tropes in film — the professor who underlines a word on the board to start class, the writer who never pitches anything but is somehow always working — have found their way into a meme.

On Tuesday, Rory Turnbull, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Hawaii in Manoa tweeted about a film trope he'd noticed — one that you have also noticed, probably, in every single movie with a classroom scene. "Hello, I'm a professor in a movie, I only reach the point of my lecture right as class is ending," he wrote. "Then I yell at students about the reading / homework as they leave." Read more...

More about Twitter, Memes, Social Media, Culture, and Movies Tv Shows

‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo’ has Twitter obsessed with cleaning

Organizing deity Marie Kondo's new Netflix show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, debuted just in time for New Year's resolution anxiety season. Now, instead of worrying about doing Dry January, we can worry about doing Dry January and completing a taxing deep clean of our homes.

I'm still watching the show, though, and it's delightful. Kondo is funny, compassionate, and comforting to watch, and Tidying Up certainly meets the "transformation" requirement we've come to expect from lifestyle-centric reality TV. 

By the looks of Twitter, I'm not the only one who's binge-watching. A lot of people, brimming with New Year's enthusiasm, are trying out the KonMari method — keeping only items that "spark joy" — for themselves. Others are just tweeting jokes about it, but that's useful too. If we only look at good tweets, it's like we're KonMari-ing Twitter. Read more...

More about Twitter, Social Media, Marie Kondo, Culture, and Movies Tv Shows

My product launch wishlist for Instagram, Twitter, Uber and more

‘Twas the night before Xmas, and all through the house, not a feature was stirring from the designer’s mouse . . . Not Twitter! Not Uber, Not Apple or Pinterest! On Facebook! On Snapchat! On Lyft or on Insta! . . . From the sidelines I ask you to flex your code’s might. Happy Xmas to all if you make these apps right.

Instagram

See More Like This – A button on feed posts that when tapped inserts a burst of similar posts before the timeline continues. Want to see more fashion, sunsets, selfies, food porn, pets, or Boomerangs? Instagram’s machine vision technology and metadata would gather them from people you follow and give you a dose. You shouldn’t have to work through search, hashtags, or the Explore page, nor permanently change your feed by following new accounts. Pinterest briefly had this feature (and should bring it back) but it’d work better on Insta.

Web DMs Instagram’s messaging feature has become the defacto place for sharing memes and trash talk about people’s photos, but it’s stuck on mobile. For all the college kids and entry-level office workers out there, this would make being stuck on laptops all day much more fun. Plus, youth culture truthsayer Taylor Lorenz wants Instagram web DMs too.

Upload Quality Indicator – Try to post a Story video or Boomerang from a crummy internet connection and they turn out a blurry mess. Instagram should warn us if our signal strength is low compared to what we usually have (since some places it’s always mediocre) and either recommend we wait for Wi-Fi, or post a low-res copy that’s replaced by the high-res version when possible.

Oh, and if new VP of product Vishal Shah is listening, I’d also like Bitmoji-style avatars and a better way to discover accounts that shows a selection of their recent posts plus their bio, instead of just one post and no context in Explore which is better for discovering content.

Twitter

DM Search – Ummm, this is pretty straightforward. It’s absurd that you can’t even search DMs by person, let alone keyword. Twitter knows messaging is a big thing on mobile right? And DMs are one of the most powerful ways to get in contact with mid-level public figures and journalists. PS: My DMs are open if you’ve got a news tip — @JoshConstine.

Unfollow Suggestions – Social networks are obsessed with getting us to follow more people, but do a terrible job of helping us clean up our feeds. With Twitter bringing back the option to see a chronological feed, we need unfollow suggestions more than ever. It should analyze who I follow but never click, fave, reply to, retweet, or even slow down to read and ask if I want to nix them. I asked for this 5 years ago and the problem has only gotten worse. Since people feel like their feeds are already overflowing, they’re stingy with following new people. That’s partly why you see accounts get only a handful of new followers when their tweets go viral and are seen by millions. I recently had a tweet with 1.7 million impressions and 18,000 Likes that drove just 11 follows. Yes I know that’s a self-own.

Analytics Benchmarks – If Twitter wants to improve conversation quality, it should teach us what works. Twitter offers analytics about each of your tweets, but not in context of your other posts. Did this drive more or fewer link clicks or follows than my typical tweet? That kind of info could guide users to create more compelling content.

Facebook

(Obviously we could get into Facebook’s myriad problems here. A less sensationalized feed that doesn’t reward exaggerated claims would top my list. Hopefully its plan to downrank “borderline content” that almost violates its policies will help when it rolls out.)

Batched Notifications – Facebook sends way too many notifications. Some are downright useless and should be eliminated. “14 friends responded to events happening tomorrow”? “Someone’s fundraiser is half way to its goal?” Get that shit out of here. But there are other notifications I want to see but that aren’t urgent nor crucial to know about individually. Facebook should let us decide to batch notifications so we’d only get one of a certain type every 12 or 24 hours, or only when a certain number of similar ones are triggered. I’d love a digest of posts to my Groups or Events from the past day rather than every time someone opens their mouth.

I so don’t care

Notifications In The “Time Well Spent” Feature – Facebook tells you how many minutes you spent on it each day over the past week and on average, but my total time on Facebook matters less to me than how often it interrupts my life with push notifications. The “Your Time On Facebook” feature should show how many notifications of each type I’ve received, which ones I actually opened, and let me turn off or batch the ones I want fewer of.

Oh, and for Will Cathcart, Facebook’s VP of apps, can I also get proper syncing so I don’t rewatch the same Stories on Instagram and Facebook, the ability to invite people to Events on mobile based on past invite lists of those I’ve hosted or attended, and the See More Like This feature I recommended for Instagram?

Uber/Lyft/Ridesharing

“Quiet Ride” Button – Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for small talk. Had a rough day, need to get work done, or want to just zone out? Ridesharing apps should offer a request for a quiet ride that if the driver accepts, you pay them an extra dollar (or get it free as a loyalty perk), and you get ferried to your destination without unnecessary conversation. I get that it’s a bit dehumanizing for the driver, but I’d bet some would happily take a little extra cash for their compliance.

“I Need More Time” Button – Sometimes you overestimate the ETA and suddenly your car is arriving before you’re ready to leave. Instead of cancelling and rebooking a few minutes later, frantically rushing so you don’t miss your window and get smacked with a no-show fee, or making the driver wait while they and the company aren’t getting paid, Uber, Lyft, and the rest should offer the “I Need More Time” button that simply rebooks you a car that’s a little further away.

Spotify/Music Streaming Apps

Scan My Collection – I wish I could just take photos of the album covers, spines, or even discs of my CD or record collection and have them instantly added to a playlist or folder. It’s kind of sad that after lifetimes of collecting physical music, most of it now sits on a shelf and we forget to play what we used to love. Music apps want more data on what we like, and it’s just sitting there gathering dust. There’s obviously some fun viral potential here too. Let me share what’s my most embarrassing CD. For me, it’s my dual copies of Limp Bizkit’s “Significant Other” because I played the first one so much it got scratched.

Friends Weekly Spotify ditched its in-app messaging, third-party app platform, and other ways to discover music so its playlists would decide what becomes a hit in order to exert leverage over the record labels to negotiate better deals. But music discovery is inherently social and the desktop little ticker of what friends are playing on doesn’t cut it. Spotify should let me choose to recommend my new favorite song or agree to let it share what I’ve recently played most, and put those into a Discover Weekly-style social playlist of what friends are listening to.

Snapchat

Growth – I’m sorry, I had to.

Bulk Export Memories – But seriously, Snapchat is shrinking. That’s worrisome because some users’ photos and videos are trapped on its Memories cloud hosting feature that’s supposed to help free up space on your phone. But there’s no bulk export option, meaning it could take hours of saving shots one at a time to your camera roll if you needed to get off of Snapchat, if for example it was shutting down, or got acquired, or you’re just bored of it.

Add-On Cameras – Snapchat’s Spectacles are actually pretty neat for recording first-person or underwater shots in a circular format. But otherwise they don’t do much more, and in some ways do much less, than your phone’s camera and are a long way from being a Magic Leap competitor. That’s why if Snapchat really wants to become a “Camera Company”, it should build sleek add-on cameras that augment our phone’s hardware. Snap previously explored selling a 360-camera but never launched one. A little Giroptic iO-style 360 lens that attaches to your phone’s charging port could let you capture a new kind of content that really makes people feel like they’re there with you. An Aukey Aura-style zoom lens attachment that easily fits in your pocket unlike a DSLR could also be a hit

iOS

Switch Wi-Fi/Bluetooth From Control Center – I thought the whole point of Control Center was one touch access, but I can only turn on or off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It’s silly having to dig into the Settings menu to switch to a different Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth device, especially as we interact with more and more of them. Control Center should unfurl a menu of networks or devices you can choose from.

Shoot GIFs – Live Photos are a clumsy proprietary format. Instagram’s Boomerang nailed what we want out of live action GIFs and we should be able to shoot them straight from the iOS camera and export them as actual GIFs that can be used across the web. Give us some extra GIF settings and iPhones could have a new reason for teens to choose them over Androids.

Gradual Alarms – Anyone else have a heart attack whenever they hear their phone’s Alarm Clock ringtone? I know I do because I leave my alarms on so loud that I’ll never miss them, but end up being rudely shocked awake. A setting that gradually increases the volume of the iOS Alarm Clock every 15 seconds or minute so I can be gently arisen unless I refuse to get up.

Maybe some of these apply to Android, but I wouldn’t know because I’m a filthy casual iPhoner. Send me your Android suggestions, as well as what else you want to see added to your favorite apps.

[Image Credit: Hanson Inc]

Twitter stock down after analyst calls it ‘Harvey Weinstein of Social Media’

Twitter was down 11 percent today after a Citron Research report called the platform, the “Harvey Weinstein of social media” and set a low target price of $20. As of publishing today, the stock was down more than 11 percent at $29.29 a share.

In their report Citron did not mince words, basing their conclusions on an Amnesty International Report on abuse on the Twitter platform. “Citron has been following Twitter for years and when we read the just published piece from Amnesty International, we immediately knew the stock had become uninvestable and advertisers will soon be forced to take a hard look at all sponsorships with Twitter,” Citron wrote.

Citron was reacting to an Amnesty International report which took Twitter to task for not doing more to curb abusive behavior. “We have built the world’s largest crowdsourced data set about online abuse against women… Twitter is a place where racism, misogyny and homophobia are allowed to flourish basically unchecked,” the Amnesty report stated.

The report went on to call out Twitter for not doing more. “To be clear: it is NOT our job as a human rights organization to be analyzing abusive tweets on this platform – it’s Twitter’s. “But [the company’s] refusal to make public this information, while allowing abuse to flourish basically unchecked, meant we had to do this study for them,” the report said.

For its part, Twitter says it’s be working to reign in the kind of abuses that the Amnesty report criticized them for. “Our abusive behavior policy strictly prohibits behavior that harasses, intimidates or silences another users voice. We are also investing in better technology and tools to enable us to more proactively identify abusive, violative material, to limit its spread and reach on the platform and to encourage healthier conversations,” a Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Vijaya Gadde, Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Global Lead at Twitter defended his company, claiming that it wasn’t clear how Amnesty defined abusive language in the report. “With regard to [the] forthcoming [Amnesty International] report, I would note that the concept of “problematic” content for the purposes of classifying content is one that warrants further discussion. It is unclear how [Amnesty has] defined or categorized such content, or if [they] are suggesting it should be removed from Twitter. We work hard to build globally enforceable rules and have begun consulting the public as part of the process — a new approach within the industry,” he said in a statement.

Facebook and Twitter remove accounts spreading fake news ahead of Bangladesh’s elections

Twitter and Facebook announced this morning they’ve removed a combined total of 30 accounts that were working to spread misinformation in Bangladesh, ten days before the country’s general elections. According to Facebook, the company removed nine Facebook Pages and six Facebook accounts that were engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” Twitter said it removed 15 accounts that were doing the same. Both companies said the accounts had government ties.

“Working with our industry peers we identified and suspended a very small number of accounts originating from Bangladesh for engaging in coordinated platform manipulation,” Twitter explained in a tweet. “Based on our initial analysis, it appears that some of these accounts may have ties to state-sponsored actors,” it said.

Facebook, in a blog post, said it was first alerted to the fake news posts, in part, based on a tip from Graphika, a threat intelligence company it works with. The Facebook Pages in question were designed to look like news outlets, and had posted pro-government and anti-opposition content.

The company also confirmed that the activity was linked to individuals associated with the Bangladesh government.

In some example images Facebook shared, you can see the Pages had been designed to look like BBC’s Bangla news service and the online news site bdnews24.com, among others.

In its own reporting, bdnews24 noted the fake news Page had used an almost identical logo, except that it added an extra letter in the URL and the logo.

Facebook didn’t say how many total followers these Pages and accounts had, but claimed one of the Pages had around 11,9000 people tracking its updates. The network of accounts and Pages had spent around $800 USD on Facebook ads, beginning in July 2017 and continuing through last month.

“We are continuously working to uncover this kind of abuse,” wrote Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy,  Nathaniel Gleicher. “Today’s announcement of the removal of these Pages is just one of the many steps we have taken to prevent bad actors from misrepresenting themselves to manipulate civic discourse. We will continue to invest heavily in safety and security in order to keep bad actors off of our platform and provide a place for people to connect meaningfully about the things that matter to them.” he said.

Twitter, meanwhile, said its investigations are still ongoing and its enforcement actions may expand later on.

For now, however, it has taken action on a total of 15 accounts, all of which had a very small number of followers. Most of the accounts had under 50 followers, it noted. Twitter said it will release more information about the accounts when the investigation completes, as it has before.