Wasn’t TikTok Supposed to Be Fun? | Big Indy News
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Wasn’t TikTok Supposed to Be Fun?



There is a predictable trajectory for social media apps. Many of them start out as helpful or even pure fun. But when they get popular enough, just about every app becomes a place for consequential discussions about politics and social issues, too. And with that comes both meaningful conversations and a litany of nastiness.

This reality has come for TikTok. An app better known for viral dance videos has become a significant source of political and social misinformation, as my colleague Tiffany Hsu detailed in a recent article.

Ahead of Kenya’s recent presidential election, a widely shared TikTok post showed an altered, violent image of one of the candidates with a caption that described him as a murderer. (The post was eventually removed.) Falsehoods about diets and school shootings easily spread in the app, Tiffany reported, as have variations on the PizzaGate conspiracy.

This may not be exactly what TikTok has in mind. Executives have continued to describe TikTok as an entertainment app. And sure, most people use TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest, Nextdoor, YouTube and Twitch in fun, productive and informative ways.

But it is inevitable that apps must plan for what will go wrong when online conversations eventually encompass the full scope of human interest. That will include political information and social activist movements, as well as nasty insults and even incitements to violence and hawking of bogus products for financial gain.

“It’s the life cycle of a user-generated content platform that once it reaches a critical mass, it runs into content moderation problems,” said Evelyn Douek, an assistant professor at Stanford Law School whose research focuses on online speech.

The tricky part, of course, is how to manage apps that evolve from “We’re just for fun!” to “We take our responsibility seriously.” (TikTok said that almost verbatim in its blog post on Wednesday.)

Pinterest is best known for pretty posts for wedding planning or meal inspiration, but it also has policies to weed out false information about vaccines and steers people to reliable sources when they search for terms related to self-harm. Roblox is a silly virtual world, but it also takes precautions — such as exhorting people to “be kind” — in case children and young adults want to use the app to do harmful things such as bullying someone.

TikTok knows that people use the app to discuss politics and social movements, and with that comes the potential risks. On Wednesday, TikTok laid out its plans to protect the 2022 U.S. elections from harmful propaganda and unsubstantiated rumors. (Rebecca Jennings of Vox has more on TikTok’s power in political and cultural discourse.)

Maybe more so than other apps, TikTok doesn’t start with a presumption that each post is equally valid or that what becomes popular should be purely the will of the masses. TikTok creates trending hashtags, and reporters have found the app may have tried to direct people away from some material, like Black Lives Matter protests.

(TikTok is owned by the Chinese technology company ByteDance. And posts on Douyin, ByteDance’s version of TikTok in China, are tightly controlled, as all sites in China are.)

Whether TikTok is more or less effective at managing humans than Facebook or YouTube is open to debate. So is the question of whether Americans should feel comfortable with an app owned by a Chinese company influencing people’s conversations.

To put it frankly, it stinks that all apps must plan for the worst of the human condition. Why shouldn’t Twitch just be a place to enjoy watching people play video games, without fans abusing the app to stalk its stars? Why can’t neighbors coordinate school bus pickups in Nextdoor without the site also harboring racial profiling or vigilantism? Can’t TikTok just be for fun?

Sorry, no. Mixing people with computerized systems that shine attention on the most compelling material will amplify our best and our worst.

I asked Douek how we should think about the existence of rumors and falsehoods online. We know that we don’t believe every ridiculous thing we hear or see, whether it’s in an app or in conversations at our favorite lunch spot. And it can feel exhausting and self-defeating to cry foul at every manipulated video or election lie online. It’s also counterproductive to feel so unsure about what to believe that we don’t trust anything. Some days it all feels awful.

Douek talked me out of that fatalism and focused on the necessity of a harm reduction plan for digital life. That doesn’t mean our only choices are either every single app becoming full of garbage or Chinese-style government control of internet content. There are more than two options.

“As long as there have been rules, people have been breaking them. But that doesn’t mean platforms shouldn’t try to mitigate the harm their services contribute to and try to create a healthier, rather than unhealthier, public sphere,” Douek said.

  • Period-tracking apps are sieves of personal information: Most of the popular period and pregnancy tracking apps have poor privacy practices, the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation found in an analysis. It also has tips for people to protect themselves.

    Related: My colleagues and I have written before about the breadth of data companies are collecting on our bodies and whereabouts, and the few federal limits on what companies can do with the information.

  • The nicest place on the internet: Hannah Sung, a journalist and co-founder of a podcast company, wrote in The New York Times Opinion section that group text chats are a low pressure, welcoming refuge for digital connection. “They’re where I can be online but stay human,” Sung wrote.

  • Tech hacks to make travel less of a nightmare: A top tip is to book airline tickets, car rentals and hotel rooms directly with the companies rather than through a travel site like Expedia, my colleague Brian X. Chen advised. Read more of his smart ideas.

    Related from “The Daily” podcast: Why flying is such a mess this summer.

This coyote ran off with a baguette nabbed from the top of a car. I hope it grabbed some Brie, too.

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ElonJet is (sort of) back on Twitter



The college student who ran the now-banned @ElonJet Twitter account that used public information to track Elon Musk’s private jet has resumed his activities on Twitter under a new username. As noted by Insider, Jack Sweeney, 20, has created a new account called @ElonJetNextDay — which now tracks Musk’s private jet with a 24-hour delay to circumvent Twitter policy restrictions.

Sweeney’s original ElonJet account was suspended from the platform last week following accusations from Musk that it violated Twitter rules by revealing his live location. Twitter updated its policy to forbid publishing a person’s real-time location on the same day it suspended ElonJet. Sweeney said in an interview with Insider that he will be “posting manually” for now while he works on the framework to fully automate the account.

Musk tweeted on December 15th that “Posting locations someone traveled to on a slightly delayed basis isn’t a safety problem, so is ok.” Twitter also explicitly states that “sharing publicly available location information after a reasonable time has elapsed, so that the individual is no longer at risk for physical harm” is not a violation of platform rules. Elsewhere in the policy, it notes that its definition of “live” location data means someone’s real-time or same-day whereabouts.

Most commercial and private aircraft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast technology (ADS-B) that transmits a unique code (tied to the airplane’s tail number) containing information such as altitude and GPS location. This information is publicly available and aircraft flying in the USA and Europe are required to broadcast it in order to prevent midair collisions.

In a statement back in November, Musk said he would not ban the original ElonJet account as part of his “commitment to free speech” despite claiming it was a “direct personal safety risk.” The automated ElonJet account posted publicly available information regarding the location of Musk’s 2015 Gulfstream G650ER, and had amassed over 540,000 followers before it was permanently banned on December 14th. Musk previously offered Sweeney $5,000 to have the account taken down.

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She Worked for Twitter. Then She Tweeted at Elon Musk.



Early in November, Twitter’s roughly 7,500 employees received a terse email from a generic address: “In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global work force.” The note was signed “Twitter.” On Nov. 3, some people at the company received emails indicating they would be laid off the next day.

That night, Ms. Solomon, her husband and a few colleagues headed to Dots Cafe Portland, a lounge on Clinton Street. Phones were on the table, face up, she said. As the work friends talked, they tapped away at their phones, taking part in chats on the Signal app with colleagues in London, Seattle and San Francisco. Messages like “I got hit” were flying across screens, Ms. Solomon recalled. “You were seeing your co-workers drop like flies,” she said.

By the next afternoon her team of about 10 engineers was reduced to four. Ms. Solomon and her husband had survived the round of layoffs. The next week, she recalled, she awaited further direction from Mr. Musk or the new executive team. Nothing came, she said, except for an email alerting employees that remote work would no longer be permitted, with few exceptions.

Many employees learned of Mr. Musk’s priorities by watching his Twitter feed, where he posted frequently about company business to his more than 100 million followers. On Nov. 5, he complained about the platform’s search function: “Search within Twitter reminds me of Infoseek in ’98! That will also get a lot better pronto,” he wrote. That same day, he tweeted: “Twitter will soon add ability to attach long-form text to tweets, ending absurdity of notepad screenshots.”

That was more than Ms. Solomon and many of her colleagues had heard internally. “Radio silence,” she said. She began to vent her frustration on Twitter.

One of her first tweets in this vein came on Nov. 6, shortly after Mr. Musk announced a new rule for Twitter users in a tweet: “Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark,” he wrote. He had posted that message after many people on Twitter had changed their names to variations on Mr. Musk’s name, most of them mocking.

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The new iOS 16.2 Home app architecture upgrade has disappeared



Apple has removed the option to upgrade to the new HomeKit architecture on devices running iOS 16.2. The change follows multiple reports of issues and problems with the Home app after the upgrade was installed.

Apple spokesperson Emily Ewing confirmed the change in a statement provided to The Verge:

“We are aware of an issue that may impact the ability for users to share the Home within the Home app. A fix will be available soon. In the meantime, we’ve temporarily removed the option to upgrade to the new Home architecture. Users who have already upgraded will not be impacted.“

The new Home app architecture was one of the key features of iOS 16.2, with Apple claiming that the upgrade would be “more reliable and efficient.” MacRumors first discovered this week that the Home app in iOS 16.2 no longer offers the option to upgrade to the new architecture within the Home app settings. Several reporters at The Verge have also confirmed that the upgrade option is unavailable on their devices.

The new architecture was first introduced in the iOS 16.2 beta back in October as an optional upgrade before the iOS 16.2 public release on December 13th. Both the beta and public release required Apple devices logged into iCloud to be running the latest versions of iOS, macOS, and tvOS. The upgrade does not happen automatically when iOS 16.2 is installed on a phone, instead requiring a manual process through the Home app.

The update has caused issues with missing devices and adding multiple users for some

Reddit users who downloaded the optional upgrade prior to its removal have reported issues such as the app booting other members from a Home account and being unable to re-add them. Users on the MacRumors forum have reported being unable to invite users to share the Home, HomeKit‌ devices being stuck displaying an “updating” status, and some accessories vanishing from the Home app entirely. Users who have already upgraded are unable to revert to the previous version of the app.

Update, December 23rd, 2022, 2:15PM ET: Added confirmation and statement from Apple spokesperson. Added links to Apple’s updated support pages.

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