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Inside Social (Aug 16th, 2019)

Hello, Inside Social readers!

Two things for this Friday:

1) If you haven't already, go check out Inside Social's Twitter List, and subscribe. It's a collection of over 100 of most plugged-in Twitterati and tech sources reporting on the business of social media — as well as a few people who are just fun to follow.

2) If you like receiving this newsletter's curated daily news about the social media space, consider forwarding this email to a friend or coworker who you think would also want to read it — and tell them to subscribe here.

Thanks!

Jay Barmann 
Editor, Inside Social

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$FB (4:00 PM EDT): $183.70 (+0.61%) // More info

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1. According to a new court filing in a federal case stemming from last September's security breach at Facebook, the company allegedly knew about the "access token" vulnerability "for years." The heavily redacted documents suggest that the plaintiffs in the case, all Facebook users affected by the breach, have evidence that the company was aware of the flaw that was exploited by hackers, giving them access to personal data on some 14 million users, and name and contact data on 15 million more. Furthermore, the filing alleges that Facebook protected its own employees from the vulnerability, while leaving users exposed to a potential hack. Since the attack, Facebook has revealed few details about what happened, but they have stated that the hackers did not use the access tokens to break into any accounts on third-party websites. – REUTERS

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2. Amazon's growing army of PR-boosting "ambassadors" on Twitter has quadrupled since last year. Amazon encourages employees, especially at its fulfillment centers (FCs), to tweet positive messages about working there, but employees interviewed by Motherboard suggest that few or no employees really do this. There are, however around 60 Twitter accounts linked to FCs around the globe — up from about 14 a year ago — which tweet creepily pro-Amazon sentiments that are meant to appear like they're coming from average FC drones. This may actually be a more coordinated, inauthentic PR campaign by Amazon, with flacks posing as FC workers or workers paid specifically to toe the company line, Motherboard reports. The effort comes as the company has increasingly gotten negative attention for worker pay and conditions at these warehouses. – MOTHERBOARD

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3. Follow Friday: Charlie WarzelCovering the ongoing information wars for the New York Times' opinion section, writer Charlie Warzel is on the front lines of some of the biggest battles in the social media space today. Last month he suggested creating a new government agency to deal with Facebook, given the FTC's apparent inability to adequately do so. He reported on the fact that over 24,000 porn websites have Facebook and Google trackers embedded in them, and discussed how Congress remains completely in the dark about how the internet works.

Today he's published a big interactive piece discussing how Gamergate actually created "a playbook for a culture war," and how Steve Bannon from Breitbart, among others, sought to use social media to "ignite a dormant, internet-native audience" around a common cause — the idea that feminists and social justice warriors were ruining everything. As Bannon said in a 2017 interview, "They come in through Gamergate or whatever and then get turned onto politics and Trump." Warzel suggests that the model — including manufacturing outrage over a lie, and the use of "harassment influencers" like Milo Yiannopoulos — presents a how-to guide for organizing future hordes around future online uprisings, and how the entire Gamergate incident is likely to have profound ripple effects on politics at large.

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4. Instagram is testing out five new Boomerang modes, which are variations on the classic Boomerang video effect. The new options include "Slowmo," which just slows down the effect, "Hold," which inserts a pause between each repeat of the effect, and "Dynamic," which adds a twitchy effect at end of each repeat. The app is also adding layout options for photo collages in Stories, and new notification filters. Code detective Jane Manchun Wong has created demos of each of these new features on her blog, including the button icons they each will come with. It's unclear when these features might actually be rolling out. – WONGMJANE

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5. Twitter is testing a new filter for direct messages. Rather than putting all DMs in a single view, Twitter is testing separating out those messages that come from people you don't follow. This solves the problem of having a lot of spam and unwanted messages, without forcing people to choose between locking out messages from strangers entirely. – TECHCRUNCH

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6. Facebook did not directly disclose to users that it was using human monitors to listen to their voice memos on Messenger. The copy on the opt-in pop-up for the transcription service only mentions "machine learning," and makes no mention that human contractors would be involved in helping improve that AI process. – BLOOMBERG

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7. YouTube is hiring managers specifically to deal with political creators on both ends of the political spectrum. The company says these managers will help resolve conflicts when they arise, and also work on "advising partners on YouTube channel development strategies and representing the political publisher landscape within the organization." – THE VERGE

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8. Wired profiled Josh Hawley, the Republican senator from Missouri who's been taking on Big Tech — and particularly Facebook — over the last year. Hawley says that tech companies have enabled "some of the worst of America," and through various bills he's leading the charge to regulate them. – WIRED

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9. 8chan owner Jim Watkins appears to be in the United States, and a Congressional subpoena has now been issued for him to testify on Sept. 5. The subpoena follows a letter that was sent last week requesting his appearance before the House Homeland Security Committee. – WASHINGTON POST

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10. Twitter has just invested further in Indian social media platform ShareChat, which focuses on India's billion-plus non-English speakers. The platform launched in English, but found far more engagement when it pivoted to support 15 regional languages, and drop support for English. – TECHCRUNCH

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Inside Social is written and curated by Jay Barmann. Jay has spent a decade covering the social media space and the tech world in general for SFist.com, the San Francisco branch of Gothamist. As editor of Grub Street San Francisco, he also covered the food world around the Bay Area. As a freelance writer he has written for SF Weekly, 7x7, Curbed SF, Eater SF, Eventbrite, New York Magazine, and San Francisco Magazine, among others. Follow him on Instagram at @conflator or Twitter at @jaybarmann.

Editor: David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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