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March 02, 2022 T&S Newsletter

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T&S Early Warning News

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Private chat? Chrome Skype extension with 9m installs found to be leaking user info

PortsWigger | Mar 1, 2022

Company Listed: Microsoft

After turning his attention to the Skype-for-Chrome extension, which has nine million installs, security researcher Wladimir Palant discovered a “trivial” bug that allowed websites to ascertain information about user accounts that should typically be off-limits.

The privacy flaw is simple,” Palant told The Daily Swig. “The extension leaks your Skype name to any website interested. Usernames and profile images can be freely retrieved by
 Skype name.”

According to the researcher, the flaw resided in the extension’s identity-tracking functionality, which could determine if a user was logged into a Microsoft account.

Palant discovered that the user identifier was executed in the extension’s content script. However, he noted that “in a content script context, sessionStorage is no longer extension’s storage, it’s the website’s. So the website can read it out trivially”.

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Biden threatens Big Tech over its “national experiment” on children

Vox | Mar 1, 2022

Company Listed: Social Media

President Joe Biden believes America, and especially its young people, are experiencing a mental health crisis — and according to his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, social media is one of the root causes.

In his speech, Biden promised to “hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.” To make his point, he referred to a special guest in the audience, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, who shared internal company documents with the press and Congress last fall that showed Facebook had publicly downplayed its own research that found a connection between its products and mental health issues in some teenagers. One of the downplayed studies found that Instagram made body image issues worse in one out of three teenage girls.

It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children,” Biden said.

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Today In Senators Who Don’t Know What The Fuck They’re Talking About Regarding Internet & Speech: Senator James Lankford

TechDirt | Mar 1, 2022

Company Listed: social Media

The first tweet also includes a video of Lankford doing the standard idiot’s guide to cherry-picking content moderation examples he disagrees with, pointing to a bunch of examples (almost all out of context) about what he believes are unfair or incorrect moderation choices. For example, he contrasts the removal of former President Trump with other awful global leaders, leaving out the reasons why Trump was banned. It wasn’t just that he was a terrible person or leader, but rather that he broke specific rules on the platform (specifically inciting violence). Lankford points to other terrible world leaders, but doesn’t point to any examples of them actually breaking Twitter’s rules.

Now, there may be a reasonable argument that Twitter shouldn’t allow terrible, dictatorial, authoritarian world leaders on its platforms. That could be a discussion worth having. But the argument here ignores the reality which is that — contrary to what Lankford and various very clueless people believe — the major sites don’t just ban people they dislike. They have policies in place, and they wait until someone actually violates those policies, as Trump did.

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The Metaverse Will Be the Next Breeding Ground for Bad Info

GovTech | Mar 1, 2022

Company Listed: Meta Facebook

The dangers of misinformation and disinformation have been cast into sharp relief recently as outpourings of false narratives create confusion over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some of it pushed by Russia-backed media to “justify” the attacks. On the home front, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has warned Russia may spread misinformation to bias U.S. policies.

And still Americans continue to see the human toll of conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines.

The fight against misinformation has often focused on its spread through social media platforms and sites that masquerade as news publications. But as communication channels evolve, many who examine the space anticipate that misinformation could move into a new arena — the metaverse.

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Meta: Moving Fast And… Broken?

Finance Monthly | Mar 1, 2022

Company Listed: Meta Facebook

Things are certainly moving fast for Meta, the parent of Facebook – but not in a good way. It very much looks broken. Behind its mega-stock status and flash offices, Meta faces unprecedented threats from its unravelling business model, crashing advertising revenues, product obsolescence, regulatory threats, and from the unknowns of trying to reinvent itself at the centre of where Zuckerberg sees himself dominating next; the “Metaverse”. Whatever that might turn out to be.

Zuckerberg has a massive problem. His existing brands Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are under the cosh. They are, essentially, advertising companies under competitive and evolutionary threat. They remain dominant brands in social media advertising, but their user bases are not as sticky as once assumed, and they no longer have a monopoly as social media breaks and fragments into multiple players and themes. They are under enormous regulatory and technical threat.

Things started to get bad last year when Apple gave users of its IOS operating system the option to stop trackers – meaning every keystroke on your iPhone is no longer an invitation for resellers to target and sell you cheap tawdry crap you don’t need or particularly want. Google is doing the same with Android. The result is Meta’s advertising income stream is drying up. It’s not going to get better. Advertisers have more exciting places to go.

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T&S Policies & Regulations

Regulatory news and policy decisions impacting the T&S ecosystem.

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Big Tech Antitrust Bills Ignore What Makes Silicon Valley Powerful | Opinion

NewsWeek | Mar2, 2022

Company Listed: Social Media

How far we've come. The internet was once the new frontier, the next Wild West where enterprising entrepreneurs could make a name for themselves or strike gold. Now, Sen. Amy Klobuchar's (D-Minn.) American Innovation and Choice Online Act is making its way through the Senate. The bill targets "self-preferencing"—when a tech company like Amazon or Google discriminates in favor of its own products on its e-commerce platform, or its own sites in its search results. It, along with Klobuchar and Sen. Richard Blumenthal's (D-R.I.) Open App Markets Act, has been hailed as our "best shot" to rein in Big Tech.

But while these bills might help small business owners, app and website developers, it's not clear how they will help users. Preventing online marketplaces and app stores from disadvantaging hosted vendors may be the one regulation Democrats and Republicans can agree on, but "self-preferencing" is nobody's number-one beef with Big Tech. Of far greater public concern are free speech, fake news, lobbying, data collection, code theft, collaboration with dictators, social media's addictive properties and its propensity to target children.

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Twitter Suspends Senate Candidate Over Transgender Athletes Post

VerveTimes | Mar 1, 2022

Company Listed: Twitter

Twitter temporarily suspended a Missouri U.S. Senate candidate’s account Monday for violating the platform’s policy against hateful conduct.

The violative post from Rep. Vicky HartzlerVicky Jo HartzlerMissouri Senate candidate Eric Schmitt to host fundraiser at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago The Hill’s Morning Report – Ukraine, the West await Russian attack Republicans scramble to halt Greitens in Missouri MORE (R-Miss.) claimed that “Women’s sports are for women, not men pretending to be women,” and included a link to an ad targeting trans University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas where her deadname was used.

This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,” a spokesperson for the platform told The Hill.

The account owner will need to delete the violative Tweet and spend 12 hours in read-only mode before regaining full access to their account,” they added.

Hartzler’s campaign told The Associated Press that it will not delete the tweet, calling the suspension “shameful, utterly ridiculous, and a horrible abuse of censorship by big tech giants to stifle free speech.”

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What Social Media Platforms Are Doing To Stop Misinformation About Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

Mashable | March 2, 2022

Company Listed: Social Media

As Russia's war in Ukraine continues, the information war is picking up online.

Fake news, photoshopped posts, manipulated media, and all sorts of propaganda and misinformation is being disseminated by both bad actors and those being duped by them. So, what are the big tech companies doing to help stop bad information from spreading?

Mashable reached out to several major social media platforms in order to get a comprehensive look at what exactly is being done to stop misinformation as Russian forces continue to advance in Ukraine.

Facebook and Instagram are certainly no strangers to disinformation campaigns stemming from Russia. So has Mark Zuckerberg learned from the attempts to sway elections? What is Meta doing this time around?

On Facebook and Instagram, some major steps have been taken to clamp down on falsehoods being spread. Meta has blocked Russian state-run media, such as Russia Today and Sputnik, in the EU and in Ukraine. The company has also cut its revenue share with these outlets so they can't monetize their content in areas where they haven't yet been banned. In addition, Meta will continue to label state-run media as it previously did, turning down Russia's request to stop fact-checking and labeling its content.

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