Instagram is a black hole for your data, and Reels sucks

As if we needed more evidence that your data isn’t in good hands with Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., Instagram was just forced to admit that it was hoarding photos and private messages in its database long after users erased them. This is something they claimed they didn’t do.

Instagram was caught red handed by an independent security researcher by the name of Saugat Pokharel. Mr Pokharel was making use of the app’s “Data Download” feature when he realized that contained in his data were photos and private messages that he had deleted over a year ago. Instagram claims that it can take up to 90 days for deleted data to really be deleted, meaning totally removed from its servers. In other words, they’re liars. Go figure.

Speaking to TechCrunch Mr Pokharel said, “Instagram didn’t delete my data even when I deleted them from my end.”

Instagram’s Data Download tool was launched in 2018 in order to satisfy EU privacy laws. Modeled on Facebook’s “Download Your Information” tool, it enables users to download and export photos, videos, profile information, contacts, the usernames of followers, and yada yada yada.

Mr Pokharel reported the “bug” to the company’s “bug bounty program” and was paid $6,000 for his efforts. There are many things a person could do with that cash. One of the wisest would be to put it into an SEM agency in Singapore.

In a statement Instagram said, “We’ve fixed the issue and have seen no evidence of abuse. We thank the researcher for reporting this issue to us.”

In other Instagram news, its TikTok ripoff—Instagram Reels—is off to a slow start. Publishers and advertisers are not impressed by what they have seen thus far. One publisher told Digiday that

“There’s no revenue on it. The problem is that TikTok is one minute but Instagram Reels are 15 seconds. We actually didn’t have enough content to re-use. We didn’t want to add additional workflow for a 15-second video. You can’t really prioritize something which doesn’t fit with the format of anything else you’re doing.”

Separately, the New York Times called Reels “a dud.”

The TikTokkers strike back

Word on the street is that TikTok intends to sue the Donald Trump regime after the prez moved to ban the app in the USA. The lawsuit is spearheaded by TikTok’s US employees who are certainly covert agents of Red China. Maoists the lot of them. They want to steal your data and your freedom and, most importantly, your precious bodily fluids. Therefore, drink only pure grain alcohol and rain water, and sleep only in adjustable beds Australia.

Trump dropped the ban hammer just last week via executive order, asserting that TikTok represents a grave threat to US national security. He says the app rakes in user data and then zips it on over to the commies in Beijing, which TikTok of course denies.

Here’s what Trump’s people wrote in the order:

“TikTok automatically gathers vast swaths of information from its users, including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search history. This data threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) access to Americans’ personal and propietrary information – potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information and blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

Details of the ban are lacking, but it is supposed to go into effect next month. The app’s US workers are miffed because they see the ban as an attack on their livelihoods. There are reportedly about 1500 of them.

Mike Godwin, the attorney representing the employees, said they “correctly recognize that their jobs are in danger and their payment is in danger right now.”

There are actually two lawsuits, according to the New York Post—one filed by the US employees and one by ByteDance, the communist company that owns TikTok. However, both make the same core argument, namely that Trump’s proposed ban is “unconstitutional.”

Microsoft is currently trying to purchase the app to prevent Trump’s ban.

TikTok is already banned on federal government issued devices in the US, meaning members of the US Congress and their staff cannot use it. The other day the governor of the state of Nebraska announced that the same policy would go into effect for state issued devices.

“The Chinese government has long engaged in systematic, covert efforts to access sensitive data from U.S. governments, companies, and individuals,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said. “As an app owned by a company based in China, TikTok is legally obligated to provide data from its users to the country’s communist regime upon request.”

Non-existent clothes: wave of the future?

“Contactless fashion.” It’s worse than you think. Get a load of this. A fashion company called Tribute Brand has a small selection of bizarre looking garments. One of them, the “Zezy” blouse, costs $699. It is available in two colors—red and Neo green—and can be purchased from and delivered to anywhere on the planet.

That’s because the shirt doesn’t physically exist. As Tribute Brand explains on the Terms and Conditions page of its website, “Customers will receive a digital product (photo they have uploaded, with the digital garment fitted to it).”

That’s right—you’re buying the image of a shirt, which Tribute Brand superimposes onto an image of your person. Then you can upload the photo of yourself to your Instagram page to show your flock of followers how good you are at wasting money. God forbid you buy something tangible (I mean, there are excavators for sale, for instance).

And lest anyone suspects you of only pretending to spend $700 on a mirage, Tribute Brand also delivers “a digital certificate of authenticity as a proof of owning the digital product.” Phew.

This has to be taken from a dystopian sci-fi novel right? Afraid not. Tribute Brand appears quite serious:

“We strongly believe that digital clothing is the future we should embrace. With no need for physical deliveries and production, it is available without restrictions for any gender, sex or size.”

“By influencing the users to transfer their identity to virtual area, this platform aims to change their behavior to act sustainably, leading to decrease of the demand, consequently production and usage of physical clothes. We aim to improve the societal impact of the fashion market, making it more accessible and fairer, and aspire to change behaviors in an only fully sustainable way.”

And if we’re to believe the company’s website, people are buying this stuff. Three of the cyber clothing products—an asinine pair of blue trousers, a green monstrosity of a jacket, and something that looks like scraps of garish wrapping paper—are apparently “sold out.” How it is possible to sell out of a digital image is beyond me, oh my brothers, but then lots of things are these days.

Your Twitter safe space just got safer

Calling all safe-spacers. In case that microscopic ideological bubble you’ve created for yourself on social media isn’t air-tight enough, you can now avail yourself of Twitter’s newest conversation setting: the reply-limiting feature. This allows you to control who can reply to your tweets so that you won’t have to deal with any microaggressive pushback against your very important opinions. Pretty soon our conversations will be limited to chatbots in Australia.

Twitter’s director of product management, Suzanne Xie, broke down the mentality behind the new feature in a blog post.

“Sometimes,” she writes, “people are more comfortable talking about what’s happening when they can choose who can reply. We’ve seen people use these settings to have conversations that weren’t really possible before. Starting today [that’s 11 August], everyone will be able to use these settings so unwanted replies don’t get in the way of meaningful conversations.”

Isn’t that what private discussions are for (and also the “mute” and “block” functions)? There are numerous ways to achieve a “space” in which “unwanted replies” are excluded. For example, going out for a few dozen beers with your acquaintances. That’s a pretty safe space.

“Here’s how it works,” Xie continues. “Before you Tweet, choose who can reply with three options: 1) everyone (standard Twitter, and the default setting), 2) only people you follow, or 3) only people you mention. Tweets with the latter two settings will be labeled and the reply icon will be grayed out for people who can’t reply. People who can’t reply will still be able to view, Retweet, Retweet with Comment, share, and like these Tweets.”

Twitter has been testing this enhanced insulation feature since May. The main thing they discovered is that—you guessed it—it makes people “feel safer” and “more protected.” Other people’s views are so dangerous … Twitter to the rescue!

Facebook cracking down on ‘implicit hate speech’ in the wake of ad boycott

Facebook has published the sixth edition of its “community standards enforcement report,” and with it some new no-nos as regards content posted by users. Going forward it will be against the rules to post “content depicting blackface, or stereotypes about Jewish people controlling the world.” These, Facebook states, are forms of “implicit hate speech.”

The policy update comes just after a boycott led by major advertisers like Walmart, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and the insufferable Geico cost Facebook millions in ad revenue. The boycott was organised in part by Stop Hate for Profit, which had this to say last month:

“This movement will not go away until Facebook makes the reasonable changes that society wants. The ad pause in July was not a full campaign – it was a warning shot across Facebook’s bow. This movement only will get bigger and broader until Facebook takes the common-sense steps necessary to mitigate the damage it causes.”

It picked up enough steam that Facebook execs met with some of the boycott leaders. When asked during his recent testimony before the US legislature whether he cares about the ad boycott, CEO Zuckerberg said:

“Of course we care, but we’re also not going to set our content policies because of advertisers.”

As if Facebook would ever think to set its policies because of anything else. Ads account for virtually 100 percent of the company’s revenue, which was $70 billion last year. For Zuck to claim that advertisers have no influence over the company’s content policies is preposterous. Lies of that magnitude ought to show up on national crime checks in Australia.

In its enforcement report Facebook also detailed some of the effects the COVID pandemic has had on its ability to police content. For example, they “sent home” their content reviewers and have been relying more on automation to do the job. The result was a greater amount of suicide videos and child porn: “With fewer content reviewers, we took action on fewer pieces of content on both Facebook and Instagram for suicide and self-injury, and child nudity and sexual exploitation on Instagram.”

The city of Chicago is watching you

The US city of Chicago is raising eyebrows after it was reported that city officials will be spying on people’s social media profiles in order to enforce a new emergency travel order.

The order, announced in July, is meant to prevent the rampaging COVID-19 crisis from getting even worse. It mandates that residents from certain US states must quarantine for two weeks if they come to Chicago. The list of naughty states is a long one:

Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wisconsin, Missouri, North Dakota and Nebraska.

If you’re a resident of one of those states, Chicago authorities may be monitoring your social media pages.

“One of the easiest ways to sort of get enough proof that there was the potential of a violated quarantine order without me having to send out an inspector or do any sort of more aggressive follow up to collect that is to look at social media,” admitted one Dr. Allison Arwady.

If you leave evidence on your Facebook page that you have violated the order, prepare to be issued a citation. Here is Dr. Arwady again:

“They’re in any of the states that violated our order and then a few days later, they’re in Chicago, and they’re clearly out in Chicago, not just back, but at a restaurant or at the Bean or whatever it may be, and they’re posting about that — that’s an example of where we could use that as proof to issue citations.”

Anticipating the inevitable Orwell references (they do get tiresome after a while, do they not?—especially when they’re made by the kind of autocratic minded right wingers that Orwell so despised), Dr. Arwady denied that what Chicago is analogous to the sort of tactics employed by Ingsoc.

“I don’t want to like overemphasize that we’re somehow Big Brother in monitoring people’s social accounts: we’re absolutely not doing that,” she said. “But where we already have a concern, it’s one of the easiest ways to identify people who are not just breaking the travel order but flaunting it publicly.”

Of course, it’s never a good sign when people defend themselves against a charge that has not been made. Maybe it’s time to ditch social media and go back to 2 way radios for a while; pretty sure they can’t use those to track our movements.

A look at Australia’s newest fashion awards show

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) has been held in Australia for 14 years. But this year was the first time it featured the National Indigenous Fashion Awards. The winners of the awards were announced Wednesday on a Facebook Live stream. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire DAAF is being done remotely.

Julie Shaw, a Yuwaalaraay designer living in Sydney, was the winner of the most prestigious prize—the Fashion Design Award. It’s a big deal for Shaw, who now has an opportunity to intern at Country Road (a well-known fashion company in Australia) for 12 months. She has also been given a membership to the Australian Fashion Council.

Shaw spoke to ABC about how difficult it can be for young designers to get their foot in the door of Australia’s fashion industry, which traditionally does not include much if any indigenous designs. With that said, Australia is making strides when it comes to recognising and promoting indigenous rights. For example, the government’s NDIS plan management program for disabled individuals includes funding for aboriginal health workers.

“It can be hard getting a start because people want to see a developed portfolio or they want to see your experience, where you’ve worked before,” Shaw explained. “So more pathways into businesses and into design rooms of large fashion companies would help. There could be more internships within Australia. I feel like there are more opportunities internationally.”

Shaw was awarded the top prize for her Maara resort clothing line. Maara Collective, which was founded by Shaw herself, includes work from a variety of indigenous artists. Its first resort line, for instance, was created with help from the Bula’bula Arts Centre, located in the Ramingining area of the Northern Territory.

Elle Roseby is the managing director of Country Road, where Shaw will intern for a year. She told ABC she was suitably impressed by Shaw’s line, as well as some of the others that featured at the awards show.

“With the designs that I’ve seen and with the talent we’ve also seen, there’s no reason why there can’t be collaborations,” she said, adding:

“When we thought about the brand being an iconic Australian brand, we really felt that we wanted to support indigenous fashion and textiles. I would love to see that … it becomes a real part of how we do our business.”

The DAAF continues through 14 August. Check out their website for more info.

COVID masks as fashion accessories?

It took some time, and a major outbreak of COVID-19 in Victoria, but it appears that Australians have finally come around to the idea that wearing masks isn’t such a bad idea. Early last month, when Victoria began reporting hundreds of new infections every day, deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth urged Victorians to don masks in public.

“This means if you have to leave your home for any of those reasons for which it is permissible and you are likely to find yourself in a situation where you cannot maintain 1.5-metre distance, it is advisable to be covering your face with a mask,” Dr Coatsworth said at the time.

Perhaps remembering the violent brawls that broke out between people competing for rolls of toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, Brett Sutton, the state’s chief health officer, encouraged people to make their own masks rather than go out and buy them. Of course, you could buy from the internet, the same way you would buy a Communiqa 1300 business number.

“I don’t think there should be a rush on buying single-use masks, for example, and some masks that are able to be purchased … aren’t necessarily good for rewashing and reuse over days and days,” was how Sutton put it. But what he meant was: Don’t be idiotic mask hoarders, please.

There will always be people who refuse to wear a mask. I think people are getting shot over this in the United States. It’s safe to assume they are. People get shot there all the time; it’s like a national pastime. Anyway, while a lot of Aussies continue to bristle at the thought of wearing a mask, most seem to be on board with it.

Needless to say, masks have become a fashion accessory, and narcissistic weirdos are taking full advantage of the opportunity to post photos and videos of themselves wearing their oh-so-chic masks on Instagram and Facebook and probably TikTok. Just today there was an article on a website called Pop Sugar titled: “8 cute sets for when you want to match your mask to your outfit.”

So you see what I mean. A similar trend arose during the bushfires. Due to poor air quality a lot of people began wearing masks, and it wasn’t long at all before Instagram was flooded with mask selfies. A strange mentality, no doubt, but hey, whatever gets people wearing masks, I guess.

The biggest online flash sale ever!

Some of the stars of the fashion industry are teaming up to raise money for charitable causes and help get people through the coronavirus pandemic. PR Newswire reports that Andrew Rosen, Maxwell Osborne, Dao-Yi Chow, Ben Fischman, and Jens Grede have collaborated to create a new innovative digital shopping platform called BestKeptSecret.

“BestKeptSecret was designed to tackle the fashion industry’s response to COVID-19 while supporting social issues at the forefront of the global zeitgeist,” explained Maxwell Osborne. “We’re not only thrilled to bring BestKeptSecret to life, we’re proud to be supporting causes that will aid communities across the country during these difficult times.”

BestKeptSecret will launch with what its founders are calling “the biggest online flash sale ever.” The sale will take place from August 11 to 15 and will include massive discounts of as much as 80 percent. If all goes according to plan, more than $1 million will then be donated to two non profit groups: Baby2Baby and Know Your Rights Camp.

Baby2Baby is dedicated to supplying impoverished children with basic necessities including diapers, clothes, wipes, backpacks and cribs.

As for Know Your Rights Camp, it was established in 2016 by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who triggered a nationwide debate when he began kneeling during the National Anthem. His organisation uses education, self-empowerment and mass-mobilization to improve the prospects of black and brown people.

Andrew Rosen, a founder of BestKeptSecret, explained the mindset behind the platform’s innovative format.

“Creative ideas are often born in times of necessity, and we recognized an opportunity to do something different by pushing the envelope of a traditional sale,” he said. “BestKeptSecret has unified a diverse group of leading fashion brands that will offer a broad selection of merchandise at incredible prices to create an exciting shopping event through a singular shoppable platform.”

The flash sale will feature tons of interesting items: tops, pants, handbags, silk scarf, you name it. More than 35 brands will be represented, including Theory, Good American, Mansur Gavriel, Frame, MCM, Rhode, Rachel Zoe and Veronica Beard.

H&M staff suspended over racist product label

An unspecified number of H&M staff have been suspended after a hat sold by the retailer’s “& Other Stories” brand was described using a racial slur in an internal company document.

CNN reports that a photo of the purple hat was uploaded to one of the company’s product overview interfaces with the caption “Nigga Lab Beanie.” After complaints were filed by offended employees, an internal memo was sent out by Managing Director Karolina Gutke.

“We are deeply sorry about the word connected to an image of a product that was sent out to our stores during July,” Gutke wrote. “This is completely unacceptable and there is no excuse to why this happened.” Perhaps racist product labeling should be included in business checks, hmm?

& Other Stories also issued a statement to CNN in which they said they were “deeply sorry” to find that “one of our internal documents included a reference to a product using a racial slur.” The statement went on:

“We take the use of racially inappropriate language extremely seriously. Although the word was never printed on an actual product, the use of the word was completely unacceptable and is inexcusable. While internal and external investigations are taking place, we have suspended the team and managers responsible for this area of the business.”

Annie Wu, who is the company’s Chief Diversity Officer, which makes her sound a bit like a diversity cop, was “super angry” over the incident, telling CNN that “I would want to see them [the staff responsible] terminated, because there’s no excuse for it.”

This was a BIG story for CNN, which dedicated a full 2,000 words to it. They even dug into the company’s “diversity numbers,” finding, for example, that H&M employees in the US are 34 percent Hispanic, 26 percent black, 26 percent white, and 7 percent Asian.

The numbers are different when it comes to executive positions. Of those employees, 63 percent are white, 13 percent are Hispanic, and 6 percent are black.

Nationally, white non-Hispanic Americans make up about 60 percent of the population; Hispanics make up about 18 percent; and African Americans about 13 percent.