Tech News' Biggest Tipster | Inside Social - August, 15th 2018

Inside Social (Aug 15th, 2018)

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1. Alex Jones’ Twitter account has been suspended for one week after his tweet on Tuesday that called for supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready against the media and others. The tweet violated the company’s rule against inciting violence. The Infowars Twitter account was not affected and tweeted after the ban, “@RealAlexJones is now in @Twitter prison!” Twitter’s policy calls for a short-term suspension after repeated violations, but it is not clear exactly how many offenses it would take to terminate Jones’ account permanently. — NYT


2. Twitter announced it would start removing new accounts of bad actors who had been suspended previously for abusive behavior on Tuesday. The company did not share how it can identify these accounts or how many users will be impacted by the ban. The decision appears to be a part of Twitter’s more aggressive campaign against disinformation, bots and abuse that suspended as many as 70 million accounts between May and June. A spokesperson for Twitter said of the suspension: “This is a step we’re taking to further refine our work and close existing gaps we identified.” — TC


3. Instagram will now allow users to send poll stickers through direct messages. The feature, which launched last October, was previously only available via Stories. Now polls can be posted to a select group of relevant people, like a dinner party or family members. — VERGE


4. Dating app Coffee Meets Bagel will now let users sign in with their phone numbers instead of their Facebook accounts, a request that spiked after the Cambridge Analytics scandal in March. “People are mostly concerned about their data,” said Coffee Meets Bagel co-founder Dawoon Kong. “This data breach, which exposed users’ data to other third-party people, felt like an invasion of privacy in their minds.” The company has seen a 378% increase in requests for different login options since March, as users no longer wanted to use Facebook to sign into their app or they have deleted Facebook altogether. Other dating apps including Bumble and Hinge have also released alternative ways for users to login without using their Facebook accounts. — YF


5. A southern Oklahoma school district was forced to shut down on Monday and Tuesday after parents threatened a transgender seventh-grade student on the district’s Facebook group. One parent claimed that the student, who identifies as a girl, had been looking over the stalls in the girls’ bathroom. The post led to reactions from parents, calling the student “this thing” and a “half baked maggot.” One parent said their child should “whip his ass until he quits coming to school.” Superintendent Rick Beene would not confirm whether the bathroom incident occurred. County Sheriff Johnny Christian said: “This is an unfortunate incident, we have an amazing county and we all take of each other.” — TIME


6. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders denied suggestions that President Trump was singling out black people on Twitter because of their race. The question arose after Trump tweeted on Tuesday that Omarosa Manigault-Newman was a “dog” and a “crazed, crying lowlife.” Sanders said that the president insults everybody, not just African-Americans and that he was “an equal-opportunity person that calls things like he sees it.” In June, Trump tweeted that Congresswoman Maxine Water was “an extraordinarily low IQ person.” Earlier this month, he called CNN anchor Don Lemon “the dumbest man on television” and that “he made Lebron [James] look smart, which isn’t easy to do.” — VOX


7. Black Elevation, one of 32 pages taken down by Facebook last month as part of an orchestrated political influence campaign, had 139,217 followers and coordinated several rallies across the US. 

8. WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum has been “resting and vesting” since announcing his departure in April to collect his next 2.5 million Facebook shares, worth around $450 million. 

9. “Shadow banning” might not be a bad option for Twitter, according to a New York Times report. 

10. A case for dumping Twitter and heading back to Tumblr. 


Plus: Tech News’ Biggest Tipster 

Earlier this month screenshots leaked online of Facebook's much-anticipated dating application, and the tech media erupted. Engadget, TechCrunch, Verge, Fortune, Mashable and more all hopped on the photos to release their version of the story. 

Perhaps, more intriguing than the photos themselves (though they did contain some pretty hilarious verbiage about not dating co-workers) was the person responsible for the leak: a fourth-year computer science student from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth named Jane Manchun Wong

This wasn't Ms. Wong's first significant feature revealing. Since last year, when she realized she could reverse engineer popular apps like Facebook and Instagram to find soon-to-be-released features, Ms. Wong has been regularly posting her findings to her Twitter account. Facebook's new singing talent show, Instagram's updated two-factor authentication and details about both companies "Time Well Spent" additions are just a few of the features that have been uncovered by Ms. Wong before their formal announcements or releases. By doing so, she's made a significant impact in changing the way tech news functions today, especially amongst social media companies. 

"App researchers like Jane may force tech companies to announce new features as soon as they start testing them instead of when they're ready to launch," TechCrunch's Editor-At-Large, Josh Constine, told Inside. "Tipsters in the past typically had to have inside knowledge of companies -- they either were or knew employees, partners, or investors. By digging into apps, researchers can find irrefutable evidence of new experiments from outside the company." 

Ms. Wong told us that companies like Facebook and Instagram have never formally reached out to her to complain about the work she's doing, though she does notice when companies patch up the vulnerabilities that led to her findings. "Twitter responds very quickly,” she says. “Instagram reacts, like, a month later.” 

Tech publications have offered her full-time jobs, Ms.Wong says, so they can break the news exclusively, instead of continually having to watch her Twitter feed for her next big find. But Ms. Wong has never thought of her feature finding as real work. It’s fun for her and currently, her favorite hobby. "It feels like going on an adventure, like treasure hunting," Ms. Wong tells us. "To me, my reward is to be able to see what’s new, what’s coming next." 

After graduation, Ms. Wong’s goal is to land a job with one of the companies she’s reverse engineering today. Facebook would be her dream.

And if that happens, tech news will be forced to find its next, young tipster. 


Today's Inside Social was written by Nick Bastone. He also writes for ThirtyK and The Six Fifty, covering topics from blockchain to beans. Nick currently lives in San Francisco, California. 

Editing team: Lon Harris (editor-in-chief at Inside.com, game-master at Screen Junkies), Krystle Vermes (Breaking news editor at Inside, B2B marketing news reporter, host of the "All Day Paranormal" podcast), and Susmita Baral (editor at Inside, recent bylines in NatGeo, Teen Vogue, and Quartz. Runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram).


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