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Meta Targets ‘Cyber Mercenaries’ Using Facebook to Spy

Meta

On Thursday, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, blacklisted a number of “cyber mercenary” organisations and began notifying 50,000 people who were presumably targeted by the companies suspected of spying on activists, dissidents, and journalists throughout the world.

Meta took down 1,500 Facebook and Instagram accounts tied to groups that allegedly offered services ranging from gathering public information online to building trust with targets via phoney identities or digital eavesdropping via cyber attempts.

In addition, the social media giant has begun informing approximately 50,000 people it believes may have been targeted in more than 100 countries by companies including several from Israel, which is a major participant in the cyber-surveillance industry.

“The surveillance-for-hire market… appears to be indiscriminate targeting on behalf of the highest bidder,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Meta’s head of security policy.

Facebook‘s parent company says it removed accounts linked to Israeli companies Cobwebs Technologies, Cognyte, Black Cube, and Bluehawk CI.

Bellatrix, a company based in India, Cytrox, a company based in North Macedonia, and an undisclosed Chinese business all had accounts tied to them banned from Meta platforms.

Researchers from Citizen Lab, a Canadian cybersecurity company, accused Cytrox of producing and distributing malware that was used to hack Egyptian opposition activist Ayman Nour’s phone on Thursday.

China’s unnamed operation

“These cyber mercenaries frequently claim that they only work with criminals and terrorists,” according to a Meta statement.

“Targeting is indiscriminate,” it continued, “and includes journalists, dissidents, opponents of authoritarian regimes, families of opposition members, and human rights campaigners.” “They are no longer allowed to use our services.”

Black Cube denied wrongdoing and even operating in the “virtual realm” in a statement to AFP.

“Black Cube works with the world’s finest legal firms to prove bribes, uncover corruption, and recover hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen assets,” the company said, adding that it follows all local regulations.

Companies that sell “web intelligence services” begin the surveillance process by gathering data from publicly available online sources like news headlines and Wikipedia.

According to Meta investigators, cyber mercenaries then create phoney accounts on social media sites to gather information from people’s profiles and even join groups or conversations to learn more.

Another strategy is to gain a target’s trust on social media and then deceive them into clicking on a booby-trapped link or file that instals malware that can collect information from whatever device they use to access the internet.

According to the Meta team, a mercenary with that level of access can steal data from a target’s phone or computer, as well as secretly activate microphones, cameras, and tracking.

According to the Meta report, one of the targeted companies, Bluehawk, sells a variety of monitoring services, including managing phoney accounts to install harmful code.

According to Meta, several bogus accounts linked to Bluehawk impersonated journalists from publications such as Fox News in the United States and La Stampa in Italy.

While Meta was unable to determine who was behind the undisclosed Chinese operation, it was able to link the surveillance tool’s “command and control” to servers that appeared to be used by Chinese law enforcement officers.

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Facebook Rolls Out ‘Year Together’ Card

Facebook ‘Year Together’ Card

Facebook’s Android and iOS apps now have a ‘Year Together’ card feature that allows users to share the highlights and top moments from the previous year. The startup, which was recently renamed Meta, has also launched an Instagram feature that allows users to share their top ten tales of the year. As part of the Year Together card, users will be able to see friends, images, locations, and other experiences they shared on the network. The feature has begun to roll out, and it will be available through the end of the year.

According to Tech News Media, the Year Together tool will propose posts and content provided by a user, which will be collated and presented as a post. Users, on the other hand, are not confined to Facebook’s suggested postings; they can remove them and replace them with other photos or information. This is useful if users don’t want to revisit specific memories from the previous year. If a user has set up unique privacy settings for posts, the post (or card) will be available to their friend list or to selected users once it has been posted.

However, Meta‘s effort to encourage users to reflect on and relive the best experiences of their year isn’t restricted to the Facebook app. Instagram users can now access a similar tool called 2021 Playback, which displays a list of their top stories from the previous year. On the image and video sharing service, these can be assembled and shared with their followers. This tool, like Facebook’s Year Together card, allows users to mix and blend older memories from 2021 in their personal Story library.

In 2021, Facebook and Instagram will not be the only applications to introduce year-in-review features. This feature is ubiquitous in social engagement apps, and Spotify, the prominent streaming service, offers a similar feature called Spotify Wrapped every year. Spotify Wrapped 2021 was released on December 1 and allows users to see statistics such as the artists they listen to the most, the top songs they play, and the amount of time they spend listening to music.

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Facebook Messenger Kids Brings Dark Mode

Facebook Messenger Kids

Facebook Messenger Kids now includes a Dark Mode, new voice message audio effects, and games directly in your chat thread. Messenger Kids will get Dark Mode first on iOS devices, then Android devices. Dark mode can be enabled by going to Messenger Kids’ settings and selecting “Dark mode.”

They may switch the feature on or off, or use phone settings to have their app automatically modify its appearance dependent on their phone settings, according to the business. Kids using Messenger Kids on iOS mobile devices will be able to add voice effects to their voice messages before sending them in the coming weeks.

Messenger Kids will now have two-player games like chess, tic-tac-toe, and “Daily Doodle” within chat threads on mobile iOS devices, in addition to its video, audio, and text-based chat features. By entering a discussion thread and touching on the orange controller’s “Play” option in the bottom right corner, kids can choose a game to play.

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Instagram to Introduce Parental Control Features

Instagram Parental Feature

Instagram’s head of service Adam Mosseri said in a blog post that new parental control capabilities will be available in March. Parents and guardians will be able to check how much time their children spend on Instagram, establish time limits, and be notified if their children report someone. The controls were unveiled as part of a package of new measures aimed at making the platform safer for its users, particularly teenagers.

Although Mosseri’s post claims that these security enhancements have been in the works for “a long time,” their introduction comes in the wake of a slew of negative news about the Meta-owned social network. Internal documents provided by whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed that Instagram was aware that its service could exacerbate body image concerns among female adolescent users. Mosseri is scheduled to testify before a Senate committee this week when he will most certainly be probed about Instagram’s influence on its teenage users.

In addition to the new parental restrictions, Instagram claims it is working on an educational portal for parents and guardians that will provide them with tips and tutorials on their children’s use of social media.

In the near term, Instagram says it will begin rolling out the “Take a Break” feature that it began testing last month. This opt-in function tells users when they’ve been scrolling for a specified period of time, such as 10, 20, or 30 minutes, to exit the app. Users will be prompted to turn on the feature via notifications, and Instagram claims that 90% of users in tests have left the reminders on once they’ve been set. The function is currently available in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, and will be available globally early next year.

Changes to how Instagram handles tagging permissions for adolescent users are among the new safety improvements, which will be rolled out to everyone early next year. According to Mosseri, users will no longer be able to tag or reference teenage users by default. In January, a new bulk delete feature will be available, allowing users to delete all of their posts, likes, and comments at once. This, according to Mosseri, is intended to assist consumers in “controlling their digital presence.”

Mosseri’s article also goes into depth about safety elements that are still in the early phases of development. It confirms that the service is still looking for ways to “nudge” users away from issues they’ve been thinking about for too long. When Meta’s vice president of worldwide affairs Nick Clegg unveiled this feature alongside Take a Break in October, he stated it would kick in for “material that may not be beneficial to [a user’s] well-being.” Instagram hasn’t given any indication of when the functionality will be available. In addition, the site is considering adopting a stricter setting to govern what content users in Explore are offered, with the goal of reducing their exposure to “potentially hazardous or sensitive content or accounts.”

Despite the fact that Instagram’s post includes a number of quotes from experts and research partners who support the new features, Mosseri will have his job cut out for him if he wants to win over increasingly skeptical US lawmakers. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told News Media that “Meta is seeking to deflect focus away from its blunders by bringing out parental advisories, use timers, and content restriction measures that consumers should have had all along.” “However, my coworkers and I see right through what they’re up to.”

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Twitter Users Suddenly Losing Followers

Twitter Permissions

Indian Twitter users are voicing their displeasure over a sudden drop in their follower count. Some users claimed to have lost hundreds of followers in minutes, while others claimed to have lost thousands of followers all at once, significantly lowering their following.

Although the network has conducted a clean-up operation to remove bots and defunct accounts, Twitter has begun reinstating its followers.

Twitter is known for cleaning up accounts to ensure that they are secure and free of spam and bots. Twitter made a similar effort to clean up the platform earlier this year, stating, “The number of followers on your account may fluctuate from time to time. Accounts that have been asked to authenticate their password or phone number are not included in follower numbers until they have done so. This is something we do on a regular basis to help keep all accounts safe and prevent spam.”

In a related incident, Twitter announced the deletion of over 3,000 accounts used for “foreign state-linked information operations.” According to Reuters, the banned Twitter accounts were related to operations attributed to six different countries, including Mexico, China, and Russia.

In the meanwhile, Twitter has announced that users would not be able to share private individuals’ media files, such as images or videos, without their permission.

The firm had previously prohibited media files that revealed sensitive information such as a person’s home address, identity documents, or contact information. The new criteria, on the other hand, aim to penalize posts that may harass people or infringe on their privacy.

The new regulations were published barely one day after Twitter introduced Parag Agrawal as the company’s new chief executive officer (CEO), following the departure of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

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Twitter Prohibits Sharing of Personal Photos, Videos without Consent

Twitter Permissions

On Tuesday, Twitter Inc stated that users will no longer be able to share personal data such as photographs and videos without their permission on the network.

The social media company’s privacy policy already prohibits the sharing of other people’s personal information such as phone numbers, addresses, and identification numbers.

“We will remove it when we are told by those depicted, or by an authorized representative, that they did not consent to have their private image or video uploaded,” Twitter wrote in a blog post.

On Monday, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as CEO, handing over the reins to Parag Agrawal, the company’s technology head.

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LinkedIn Gets Hindi Language Support

LinkedIn

LinkedIn added Hindi language support on Thursday in an effort to attract additional users to its professional social network. With the new inclusion, the Microsoft-owned platform now supports a total of 25 languages around the world. LinkedIn claims that by introducing Hindi to its network, it will be able to reach out to the 600 million Hindi speakers in India and around the world. LinkedIn’s Hindi language support is now available for both mobile and desktop users. The company also intends to develop its new offering by making a variety of job opportunities available on its platform for Hindi experts.

On desktop, as well as on Android and iOS devices, LinkedIn members will begin seeing Hindi in their feed, profile, jobs, and chat starting today. Users that join up for the platform will also have access to it.

The initial deployment of Hindi on LinkedIn is referred to as Phase 1 because the company intends to “work towards broadening the spectrum of career possibilities available for Hindi speaking professionals across industries, including more banking and government jobs.” In the next weeks, the platform plans to introduce additional Hindi publishers and artists to enhance engagement and dialogues among members who speak Hindi as their first language.

In a prepared statement, Ashutosh Gupta, India Country Manager for LinkedIn, stated, “With the debut of Hindi, more users and customers can unlock greater value from the platform through content, employment, and networking, and express themselves in a language that they feel comfortable in.”

How to use LinkedIn in Hindi?

On an Android or iOS device, users must select Hindi as their preferred device language in the phone settings to access LinkedIn in Hindi. If you have previously picked Hindi as your preferred language, the experience will be offered in that language. On the desktop, navigate to Settings & Privacy > Account Preferences > Site Preferences > Language after clicking on the Me icon in the top-right corner of your LinkedIn homepage.

While the user interface and platform experience, including the navigation bar, will be in Hindi, users will still be able to access user-generated material such as postings on their home feed in the language in which they were originally written. However, once you’ve chosen Hindi as your preferred language, you’ll be given the option to See Translation, which will provide you with Hindi translations of the relevant posts.

By going to LinkedIn.com and creating a new account, new LinkedIn members can sign up in Hindi. Existing users can additionally display their profile in Hindi by creating a second language profile in the same language as their first.

Through their desktop, users can add Hindi as a second language. To create a second language profile, go to the Me icon, then View Profile, and finally Add profile in another language.

LinkedIn is attempting to expand its reach in India by adding Hindi. After the United States, the country is said to be the second-largest market in terms of membership, with 82 million members out of an overall base of 800 million. Since the pandemic began in March last year, India’s LinkedIn user base has grown by over 20 million people, with a 15% year-on-year increase, and the platform has seen a jump in engagement and conversations, according to the business.

“We’ve seen high engagement and member growth in the last year, and it’s at this exciting inflection point that we’re reinforcing our vision to create economic opportunity for ‘every’ member of the workforce, as well as breaking down language barriers for Hindi speakers around the world,” Gupta said.

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Twitch will Use Machine Learning to Detect People Evading Bans

Twitch Machine Learning

Twitch is stepping up its anti-harassment efforts with a new tool that employs machine learning to detect those who are attempting to circumvent restrictions. It’s the company’s newest tool to counteract hate raids, in which trolls flood streamers’ chat rooms with vile messages.

Suspicious User Detection is a new tool that may identify individuals as “likely” or “possible” people who have gotten around bans on a streamer’s channel. The tool’s machine learning algorithm identifies prospective evaders by examining factors like their activity and account features and comparing that data to accounts that have been banned from a streamer’s channel.

Messages from “likely” evaders will not be sent to chat, but they will be visible to streamers and their mods. Streamers and moderators can opt to either monitor or ban a suspected ban evader, which adds that user to a monitoring list and displays a notice next to their name indicating the monitoring (as demonstrated in the GIF below). Messages from “possible” evaders will appear in the chat, although streamers/mods can choose to have those messages blocked as well.

Suspicious User Detection will be turned on by default, according to Twitch, but streamers can alter or turn it off if they choose. Streamers and moderators can also choose to manually monitor users they suspect.

In a statement to The News Media, Alison Huffman, Twitch’s director of product for community health, said, “This tool was motivated in large part by community input around the need for improved solutions to limit ban evaders.” “When we spoke with mods about their frustrations, we realized that it can be difficult to tell if a user who talked anything that broke their channel’s standards was a destructive, repeat harasser or simply a newbie viewer who hadn’t yet acquired the channel’s customs.” As a result, we created this tool to provide additional information to moderators and creators about suspected ban evaders, allowing them to make more efficient and informed judgments in their channels.”

Suspicious User Detection appears to have the potential to help silence unpleasant people, especially when combined with recently announced restrictions that allow a streamer to require a phone or email verification for chat accounts. However, it remains to be seen how efficient Suspicious User Detection will be in practice, as well as whether ban evaders would be able to work around the technology.

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Jack Dorsey Steps Down as Twitter CEO

Twitter Ex-CEO
Photo Credit: Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On Monday (November 29), Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced his resignation from the social media network he co-founded a decade and a half ago.

Parag Agrawal, a board member, and former Chief Technology Officer (CTO) has been named CEO, effective immediately, and Dorsey will continue on the board until his term expires at next year’s stockholders’ meeting, according to the business.

In a statement posted by Twitter, Dorsey said, “I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders.” “I have a lot of faith in Parag as Twitter’s CEO. His work has had a profound impact during the last ten years. I owe him a debt of gratitude for his talent, heart, and soul. It is now his turn to lead.”

Dorsey cautioned about the dangers of a firm founder hanging on too long.

“A lot of people talk about how important it is for a firm to be ‘founder-led,'” Dorsey added. “In the end, I believe that’s a single point of failure and highly restricting.”

He continued, ” “And there aren’t many entrepreneurs who choose their company over their ego. I’m confident we’ll show that this was the proper decision.”

On Monday, CNBC was the first to reveal Dorsey’s departure.

Dorsey’s digital payments startup, Square, is still led by him. Dorsey is the only individual to have served as CEO of two publicly traded firms with market capitalizations over $5 billion.

Dorsey made no mention of Square or investor pressure on him to choose one of the executive positions in his statement.

“I want you to know that this was my decision, and I take full responsibility for it,” Dorsey stated. “Of course, it was a difficult task for me. This service and company are fantastic.”

Dorsey’s departure brings to an end a five-year tenure as CEO of the social media business, during which he helped grow the company’s user base and oversaw the adoption of a number of new features aimed at broadening its reach and combating challenges like abuse and disinformation.

Elliott Management, an investment group, initiated a campaign to oust Dorsey as Twitter’s CEO in 2020.

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