Twitter to Replace “Master”, “Slave” and “Blacklist”

Twitter has announced that it will be replacing programming language terms such as “master”, “slave” and “blacklist” with more inclusive ones.

Programming Language

Those familiar with programming language and email terms will be familiar with terms such as “blacklist” and “whitelist” with black indicating bad, and “master” and “slave” where one device or process controls other devices or processes. In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of white police officers, the Black Lives Matter protests and under the #UntilWeAllBelong hashtag, Twitter has decided to opt for more inclusive language.

Why?

Twitter (Twitter Engineering) says that “This isn’t just about eng terms or code. Words matter in our meetings, our conversations, and the documents we write”.  Twitter is concerned about how the continued and accepted use of terms that are related to racism, slavery and the idea that some are masters over others are perpetuating problems in society and are a replaceable obstacle that stands in the way of a more inclusive society.  Sexism, gender issues and other areas where prejudice has created problems are also being looked at by the social media giant.  Twitter says “Inclusive language plays a critical role in fostering an environment where everyone belongs. At Twitter, the language we have been using in our code does not reflect our values as a company or represent the people we serve. We want to change that. #WordsMatter”

Which Terms Will Be Replaced?

Twitter has acknowledged that language cannot be replaced everywhere with the flip of a switch, but it is hoping to put the processes and systems in place that will allow the language changes to take place at scale.

Terms that are first on the list for replacement include:

– “Whitelist” – to be referred to as “Allowlist”.
– “Blacklist” – to be referred to as “Denylist”.
– “Master/Slave” – to be referred to as “Leader/follower, primary/replica, primary/standby”.
– Gendered pronouns (e.g. he/him/his) – to be referred to as “they, them, their”.
– “Man hours” – to be referred to as “Person hours”.

How?

Twitter says it will be focusing on the following areas to help make the changes over time:

– Migrating source code and changing configuration.  This will involve studying Twitter’s own existing code, identifying violating terms with new warning tools, and changing to the new inclusive terminology. Twitter says that automated tools and ‘linters’ are being developed to minimize manual effort.

– Updating documentation across internal resources, Google Docs, runbooks, FAQs, readme’s, technical design docs, and more. Twitter says that it is also implementing a browser extension to help its teams identify words in documents and web pages and suggest alternative inclusive words.

Others

Twitter is certainly not the only company that is working towards more inclusive language.  JP Morgan is opting for more inclusive language replacements in its technology policies and programming codes, as is GitHub and Google’s Chromium web browser project and the Android operating system.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

When it comes to walking the walk, talking the talk is an important part of helping to make that happen, and many companies are now not just acknowledging the need for inclusiveness but are prepared to do something about it.  The recent boycotting of Facebook advertising by many global brands also highlights the pressure that social media companies are under to make more progress in stopping hate speech and other harmful content from being distributed via their platforms.  Tackling language is, therefore, one way in which Twitter can take another small public step in getting its own house in order.  The platform is, however, still the platform of choice for President Trump, who is unlikely to be seen by many as the voice of inclusiveness although Twitter recently made the news for fact-checking President Trump.

Featured Article – Why Big Brands Are Boycotting Social Media

Large, mainly U.S.-based companies (many of which are household names) have said that they will be boycotting Facebook and Instagram in terms of paid advertising in July over concerns about the moderation of content and hate speech on the platforms.

“Stop Hate For Profit”

The stopping of paid promotions on the platforms in July is part of the “Stop Hate For Profit” campaign, organised by the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People  (NAACP), and other organisations.

The “Stop Hate For Profit” campaign, which aims to “hit pause on hate”, says that it would like businesses to “stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality and justice and not advertise on Facebook’s services in July.”

The campaign has reported receiving an overwhelming response from businesses and organisations.  The campaign website lists the considerable number of participating businesses and organisations here (90+): https://www.stophateforprofit.org/participating-businesses.

Ad Agencies Also Supporting

Unfortunately for Facebook, the campaign also has the support of agencies, some of which are reported to have even put guidelines in place for companies that want to participate.

The Main Issues

The main issues that the campaign and its participating businesses are objecting to are:

– That Facebook is allegedly appearing to take too much of a hands-off approach to the moderation of content that may be divisive, may promote what amounts to hate speech, and that Facebook is allegedly not doing enough to stop hate speech and disinformation being spread.

– In the context of the recent murder of George Floyd and the following protests, that Facebook was allegedly used by some people to spread false information about Antifa, without it being picked up by Facebook or fact-checkers.

– Even though Twitter publicly called-out some of President Trump’s tweets, in terms of fact-checking and labelling them misleading or glorifying violence, Facebook has not been seen to do so with its own platform. 

– Facebook is reported to have displayed ads from President Mr Trump’s re-election campaign featuring a red triangular symbol, which some thought was reminiscent of those symbols used by Nazis during World War II e.g. to label categories of prisoners in death camps. Facebook later removed the ads.

– Facebook appears to have sidestepped these sensitive issues at a recent media presentation.

Some of the main objections are also best put by some of the companies that are supporting the “Stop Hate For Profit” campaign. 

For example, Ben & Jerry’s announced on its website that “Ben & Jerry’s stands with our friends at the NAACP and Colour of Change, the ADL, and all those calling for Facebook to take stronger action to stop its platforms from being used to divide our nation, suppress voters, foment and fan the flames of racism and violence, and undermine our democracy.”

Also, as Magnolia Pictures announced in a Tweet, “In solidarity with the Stop Hate For Profit movement, Magnolia Pictures has chosen to stop advertising on Facebook and Instagram, starting immediately, through at least the end of July. We are seeking meaningful change at Facebook and the end to their amplification of hate speech.”

Other Big Companies

Examples of other big companies that are also supporting the campaign by boycotting advertising on Facebook in June include the following.

Starbucks

In a recent blog post, Starbucks said that it will be pausing advertising on all social media platforms pending the outcome of its discussions internally, with the company’s media partners and with civil rights organisations with a view to stopping the spread of hate speech.

The coffee giant also urged a wider discussion on the subject, saying “We believe more must be done to create welcoming and inclusive online communities, and we believe both business leaders and policymakers need to come together to affect real change. “

It has been reported that Starbucks will, however, continue to use YouTube and to post to social media, but not to opt for paid promotions.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola’s Chairman and CEO, James Quincey, took to the Media Centre on the drinks company’s website to announce and even more stringent boycott.  Mr Quincey said, “There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media. The Coca-Cola Company will pause paid advertising on all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days. We will take this time to reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed. We also expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners”.

Progress But Insufficient

To date, the campaign has reported that although progress has been made with Facebook on these issues, the updates and policy changes made appear to be insufficient.

For example, areas where the “Stop Hate For Profit” campaign feels that Facebook is still falling short (according to the campaign’s website) include:

– Facebook appearing not to address hate more broadly in groups and posts rather than just in adverts.

– The possible spreading of voter misinformation just be before the next U.S. election.

– Where posts are shown due to their apparent newsworthiness, but still appear to promote hate.

– The need for more information about the metrics of a third-party audit Facebook regarding hate speech.

– A lack of detail about Facebook’s proposal to work with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and the Media Ratings Council to identify appropriate brand safety audit requirements.

Facebook Says

Some of the things that Facebook has said in response to the campaign are that it intends to start labelling potentially harmful posts that it leaves up (because of news value), that it will ban ads that describe groups, based on  e.g. race or immigration status, as a threat and will remove any content if it appears to incite violence or suppresses voting, even if the post is from a politician.

Facebook has also highlighted the fact that a recent European Commission report found that Facebook removed 86% of hate speech last year, which is up from 82.6%.

Going Forward

For many businesses, Facebook is an important platform to advertise on, and this is particularly true coming out of a pandemic where sales need a dramatic boost. At the same time, as noted by Stephan Loerke, the chief executive of the World Federation of Advertisers, this has become a societal rather than just a brand issue, and it is good to see major brands adding their own pressure to force change. 

Even though the action taken will mean that the brands aren’t totally deserting Facebook and will most likely feel, for commercial reasons, that they must begin advertising with Facebook after July, the point will have been made, and those brands will also feel that they have been true to worthwhile values, and their brands may ultimately be strengthened as a result. 

For Facebook, particularly in the light of the very poor publicity it received following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and over how the platform was shown to have been used to spread messages reportedly by Russia in relation to the last U.S. election, this campaign is likely to be another very public blow to its reputation and brand, as well as its advertising coffers.  Although Twitter has been used by President Trump to express some very controversial views, it has received some very good publicity for publicly fact-checking the President’s tweets, perhaps as a result of threats made to the platform by President Trump.

It remains to be seen, going forward, how far Facebook will go in terms of satisfying the campaign and many of its other critics as it too tries to walk a balance between commercial, operational and societal realities and where it can clearly and comfortably stand while trying to simply keep up with the practical management of a platform that receives hundreds of millions of posts a day.

After Pressure, Zoom Offers End-To-End Encryption for Everyone

Pressure from privacy group The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Mozilla has led to Zoom offering end-to-end encryption to all its users, not just paying customers.

A U-Turn

The decision to offer end-to-end encryption to all customers is a U-turn for Zoom. Previously, and after capitalising on the huge surge in numbers of new Zoom customers due to the pandemic, it was reported that Zoom had not wanted to offer end-to-end encryption to free users because it wanted to co-operate with U.S. law enforcement agencies e.g. the FBI and local law enforcement. Zoom’s position appears to have been based on an assumption that free-end-to-end encryption could lead to Zoom being used for illicit purposes by some users.  This is reminiscent of reports that WhatsApp was used in the UK by those responsible for the London Bridge terror attack, perhaps because the end-to-end encryption would hide their communications from the authorities.

The EFF and Mozilla

The U-turn by Zoom, in this case, appears to have been influenced by pressure from the EFF and Mozilla.

The EFF, for example, is claiming a victory after 20,000 people signed on the EFF and Mozilla’s open letter to Zoom.  The EFF argues that “best-practice privacy and security features should not be restricted to users who can afford to pay a premium.”

The EFF also makes the point that with the pandemic forcing many more organisations onto Zoom than perhaps the platform was designed for, those who cannot afford enterprise subscriptions are often the ones who need strong security and privacy protections the most.

The EFF also points out that end-to-end-encryption on the platform could help those working towards social justice, for example, those organising in “the Black-led movement against police violence”.

Must Part With Some Personal Details

Users cannot, however, expect to sign-up to a free end-to-end-encrypted Zoom without parting with some personal details. It appears that in order for Zoom to feel comfortable with what it sees as its balancing act of offering the services that people want with fighting abuse and its duty to co-operate with law enforcement agencies, Free/Basic users seeking access to Zoom’s E2EE must go through a “one-time process” of parting with additional pieces of information, such as verifying a phone number via a text message. Zoom also points out that it has a “Report a User function”.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For those smaller businesses and organisations using Zoom, perhaps since the beginning of the pandemic, it is good news that they now have access to strong security and privacy protection for free.

For other competing platforms, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, the pressure is now on to follow suit in order to compete.

There is, however, a hope that the phone numbers given to Zoom for authentication in order to sign-up to the end-to-end encryption will not be disclosed to other parties and that they are used purely for authentication.

Tech Tip – Better Video Chats

If you would like to improve your video conference calls in terms of how things look, sound and operate, here are a few tips:

– Consider using a webcam rather than the built-in laptop cam.  It may be better quality (picture and sound) plus it offers flexibility in positioning.

– Consider using a slightly side-on angel for the webcam so you can talk and type at the same time while being able to look and lean-in when you need to.

– If you’re using your laptop camera, place the laptop on top of books or objects (in a safe and practical way) so that it is raised, and level with your face (eye level) rather than focusing up towards your chin or the ceiling.

– Use a neutral background and switch off lights behind you.  You may also consider using a light in front of you.

– Close windows if they are the cause of excess and distracting light and noise.

– Use a Bluetooth headset (with a microphone) and Bluetooth speakers if you have them.

– Use a mute button/control where possible and appropriate.

New Tool Allows You To Bulk-Delete/Hide Old Facebook Posts

Facebook has announced the introduction of the ‘Manage Activity’ tool that allows users to archive or bulk-delete old Facebook posts based on a variety of filters.

Change

With most people being able to register with and become a user of Facebook over the last 14 years it is likely that over time, users posts on their timelines reflect changes in the views, attitudes, appearance, relationships and more. Also, with employers and many others that users make contact with checking Facebook profiles, or where there have, for example, been changes in relationships that users may wish to hide details off, Facebook has developed a tool to bulk delete user posts so that users can “more accurately reflect who you are today”.

Archive or Delete

The ‘Manage Activity’ tool gives users the option of moving large numbers of their old posts into an archive or sending them to trash so they can be deleted after 30 days.

Filters

Selecting which old posts to hide in the archive or delete can be achieved using different filter options such as the date of posts, or who features in the posts (useful if relationships have changed).

Old Photos

The tool can be used to hide or delete batches of old photos too by going to ‘Activity Log’ and the ‘Manage Posts’ button. Those who have already experimented with the new feature recommend switching to a grid view as it is easier to scan through old photos and select them.

Employers

When you consider that a 2018 CareerBuilder survey revealed that 70 per cent of employers use social media to screen candidates in the hiring process and that 43 per cent of employers use social media to check on current employees, it is easy to see some of the value of being able to at least hide or perhaps remove lots of old posts and photos.

Clear History Tool

In January, and after a gradual roll-out, and as part of its ‘Off-Facebook activity’, Facebook announced that its Clear History tool was available to all users in all countries. The tool was designed to help users to have more control over the protection of their data by allowing them to disconnect their web browsing data from their Facebook account.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Giving Facebook users more control over their data with tools like ‘Manage Activity’ and ‘Clear History’ is another way that Facebook can get back some of the trust that it lost with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, provide users with some extra value, and compete with other social media platforms. For employers who want to take a peek at potential job candidates, this means that they are now likely to get less of a real view of people of interest through this route although it remains to be seen how many Facebook users take advantage of the features of the new tool.

Data privacy and security and having control over personal data is something of great importance now to web users and this has been reflected in legislation (GDPR) and in new features and tools that many of the social media companies are adding to their platforms.

More Warnings Over Scams Aimed at Zoom, Teams and Meet Users

Reports indicate that hackers are still using domains related to popular remote, collaborative working platforms to target users working from home with phishing scams during the lockdown.

Domains

Almost as soon as the lockdown started, there were reports at the beginning of April by Cybersecurity company ‘Check Point’  that there had been a major increase in new domains registered that included the word ‘Zoom’ and other suspicious characteristics. It was also reported at the time that the official classroom.google.com website had been impersonated by googloclassroom.com and googieclassroom.com.

Zoom, Teams, and Meet

The most recent Check Point Research shows that scammers have widened their attack strategy by registered domains not just to pose as Zoom, but also as Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet-related URLs. 

Check Point Research reports that, in just the last 3 weeks, 2,449 Zoom-related domains have been registered, 32 of which are malicious and 320 categorised as “suspicious”

WHO Impersonated

Check Point Research also shows that scammers have been sending phishing emails posing as the World Health Organisation with malware attachments and asking for donations to the WHO where any payments made go into known, compromised bitcoin wallets.

The WHO now has a page warning about the risk of being targeted with fraudulent email and WhatsApp messages by scammers taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and claiming to be from the WHO. The page gives advice about how to verify authenticity before responding and how to spot and prevent phishing.  See https://www.who.int/about/communications/cyber-security

Nation-State Cyber Espionage To Steal COVID-19 Research

In a more sinister turn, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has reported that UK universities and scientific institutes involved in COVID-19 research are being targeted with cyber espionage by nation state-sponsored actors e.g. Russia, Iran, and China, allegedly looking for information about studies conducted by UK organisations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Protection

Ways that users can protect their computers/devices, networks and businesses from these types of threats, as suggested by Check Point, include being extra cautious with emails and files from unfamiliar senders, not opening attachments or clicking on links in emails (phishing scams), and by paying close attention to the spelling of domains, email addresses and spelling errors in emails/on websites.  Check Point also suggests Googling the company you are looking for to find their official website rather than just clicking on a link in an email, which could redirect to a fake (phishing) site.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Cybercriminals are quick to capitalise on situations where people have been adversely affected by unusual events and where they know people are in unfamiliar territory.  At the moment, people are also divided geographically and are trying to cope with many situations at the same time, may be a little distracted, and may be less vigilant than normal.  As long as the pandemic continues, these types of scams also look set to continue and evolve.  It is also shocking (but perhaps not surprising) to see how nation states appear to be sponsoring attacks on each other’s research institutions to get an advantage in defeating COVID-19.

The message to businesses, however, is that extra vigilance is still needed and that all employees need to be very careful, particularly in how they deal with emails from unknown sources, or from apparently known sources offering convincing reasons and incentives to click on links or download files. 

Tech Tip – Setting A Background in Microsoft Teams

If you are using Microsoft’s Teams during the lockdown and would like to set up a more professional-looking or even a fun or custom background during your video calls, here’s how:

You can choose to use one of the backgrounds that are built-in to teams or, you can set up your own custom background (putting your image in the uploads folder) in the following way:

– Open File Explorer.

– Select Click This PC >> Windows (C:).

– Open the Users folder, select your user profile and click the View tab (top of File Explorer).

– Check the Hidden items checkbox and open the AppData folder (which should have appeared when you checked the hidden items box).

– Open the Roaming folder, open the Microsoft folder, and open the Teams folder within the Microsoft folder.

– Then, open the Backgrounds folder, open the Uploads folder, and place your chosen image in the uploads folder.

– Finally, right-click on the Uploads folder and select Pin to Quick access. You can also pin the Uploads folder to Quick Access to speed things up if you want to add more images.

To set your chosen (from the built-in images) or custom image as a background:

– Within a video call, select the More actions button (the three dots).

– Select Show background effects, scroll down and select your uploaded image.

– Select Preview and then select Apply (or Apply and turn on video).

Make Your Own Adverts With YouTube’s Free Video Builder Tool

YouTube has launched YouTube Video Builder, a free tool that enables businesses to easily make short video adverts.

Easy To Use

The new free (beta) Video Builder tool enables users to create video animations from static elements such as images, text and logos, and to enhance those videos with music from YouTube’s (Google’s) library. Users can choose from a variety of layouts, depending on the message and goals, and can customise colours and fonts to quickly generate a short YouTube video of 6 seconds or 15 seconds duration. 

Why?

YouTube says that the new tool will be of particular value because businesses of all sizes have limited time and resources and that in-person video shoots “are no longer practical in many countries”.  The YouTube Video Builder may also be of use to brands or agencies who may want to experiment and create supplemental, lightweight videos, and to smaller businesses and businesses with less creative experience, who need an efficient, low-resource way to create videos.

YouTube suggests that the completed videos can be used for advertising campaigns, on websites or in emails.

How It Works & How To Sign Up

You can see how Video Builder works by watching this video or by reading this guide.  YouTube says that you can sign up for access to Video Builder here, but you may have to wait for your application to be processed and to be granted access.

Banning Conspiracy Videos

This is the second positive news announcement in a week from YouTube (Google) after it announced that it is banning all conspiracy videos that promote the idea of a link between 5G and the emergence of the COVID-19 virus.

Good News From Microsoft Too

Microsoft is also promoting some of its own good news this week as it has announced help for UK school students who are working at home in the form of helping the UK’s 27,000 schools run lessons remotely using Microsoft Teams, Office 365, and other software like Minecraft: Education Edition, Flip grid, Skype in the Classroom and InTune.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Even though it’s still in the beta stage, a free, easy-to-use video ad-making tool could be a useful, value-adding addition to the promotional tools used by mainly smaller businesses.  Many of these businesses are likely to be under considerable strain with the COVID-19 lockdown and its effects, and there may be many ways in which short, professional-looking video announcements and adverts could come in useful to those businesses in the coming months.  For YouTube (Google), this is another way that they can remind users of the value of its suite of business services at a time when businesses may be spending a lot of time on other competing platforms.

Tech Tip – How To Delete Your Twitter History

If you use Twitter for business and networking and you’d like to take precautions around your tweet history, here’s how you can delete your Twitter history:

– Firstly, archive your Tweets – click on the “Your Twitter Data” tab (left-hand column) and scroll down to “Twitter Archive”, and request your archive be sent to the email address associated with your Twitter account.

– When you receive the .zip file containing a folder with an index.html file, click on it to see a webpage in your browser showing your entire Twitter history.

– Next, use a free service e.g. TweetDelete or TwitWipe, or a paid (monthly) service such as TweetDeleter or TweetErase to help you delete your tweets.

– You could, however, decide to simply delete your account without a backup.

Facebook Launches Desktop Messenger

Facebook has launched a desktop Messenger app for macOS and Windows for free group video calls and chats.

Huge Increase

The social media giant reports that, over the past month, it has seen a 100% increase in people using the desktop browser for audio and video calling on Messenger, and that this has led to the launch of new desktop Messenger apps for macOS and Windows happening now. The desktop Messenger app is something that had already been in the pipeline since 2016.

Features and Benefits

Some of the features and benefits offered by the new desktop app include the ability to have free group video calls on a larger screen, the ease of connection that Messenger already provides (all your Facebook friends already have Messenger), and the fact that users can dip in and out of conversations while they do other things on their computer – it allows for multi-tasking.

The app also gives notifications of new messages (which you can choose to mute or snooze), and chats can be synchronized across mobile and desktop so that calls or messages, regardless of the device that’s being used.

Facebook also says that the new desktop app will include everything that users like about mobile Messenger including Dark Mode and GIFs.

Competition

With so many people at home and working remotely, video and chat apps and collaborative working platforms have seen a surge in new user numbers.  For example, Microsoft’s collaborative working platform ‘Teams’ reported seeing a massive 12 million user boost in one week and ‘Zoom’ has also seen a massive surge in popularity.  The launch of desktop Messenger now, therefore, is a way that Facebook compete in what is an area of digital communications that is experiencing massive growth and in which it is important to be a top player.

Downloading The App

The new desktop Messenger app can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store or Mac App Store

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Facebook, desktop Messenger is a way to compete with the many other tech companies offering remote video, communication and collaborative working solutions and is way to keep the Facebook brand prominent, increase loyalty, and to increase positive feelings about the company.

For users, the desktop app offers benefits of convenience in contacting anyone who is a Facebook friend and many may think it’s a long-overdue new feature when you consider that popular apps like WhatsApp have offered a desktop version for some time now.