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Security

FBI Moves in to Investigate Twitter’s Massive Bitcoin Hack

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is now examining the major hack that hit Twitter on Wednesday, July 17, in a bid to find out who was behind the incident, the Wall Street Journal reports

Twitter accounts belonging to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos, among other high-profile users of the microblogging service, were hit in a scam that involved a fake tweet encouraging followers to send payments to a Bitcoin wallet. It had some success, too, as data on Blockchain.com showed that more than $115,000 via 392 transactions was sent to the Bitcoin wallet posted in the messages.

The hack message on Bill Gates’ account. We have removed the account number linked by the scammers. Digital Trends

While the nature of the scam isn’t new — Elon Musk, for example, was targeted in a similar ruse in 2018, though it didn’t involve his account being hacked — there’s serious concern over how so many high-profile accounts could have been accessed at once.

As soon as Twitter spotted the attack it locked down the affected accounts and removed the fake tweets. The company later said that it had been the victim of what it described as “a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.”

In other words, the perpetrator had tricked a number of Twitter employees into making security-related errors or giving away sensitive information that enabled the hacker to gain access to the company’s internal systems. There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved, including through malicious emails that impersonate a trusted person.

As the Post points out in its report, the hack has caused serious concern among U.S. lawmakers, with some fearful that a weakness of this nature in an online system could be exploited by malicious actors in a coordinated attack aimed at causing chaos or damage among the population.

Twitter, which is said to be cooperating with the FBI’s investigation, will be keen to get to the bottom of the incident and put measures in place to prevent anything similar from happening again. If it fails, the company risks a loss of confidence among its community of around 320 million active users globally, with this week’s hack having administered a hefty blow to the brand.

Digital Trends has reached out to Twitter for any more information it can offer on the incident and we will update this piece when we hear back.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

Twitter’s new ‘Blue’ service is yet another tax on minorities

Twitter today launched its new Blue subscription service in Canada and Australia. As Neural’s Thomas Maucaulay reported earlier, users in the initial subscriber areas can now pay a small monthly fee to get a VIP social media experience.

The big sell here is that Blue subscribers will get access to an “undo tweet” ability, bookmark folders, “reader” mode, and “dedicated subscription customer support.”

None of that makes any sense. Wasn’t the algorithm supposed to solve the customer support crisis? If Twitter’s having such a problem serving people in a timely manner, why on Earth would anyone pay extra for poor customer service from an apparently overworked staff?

Let’s break this down piece by piece.

First up: The “undo tweet” ability. Social media companies often roll out new quality of life features on a limited basis, but this is among the few times I’ve seen an ubiquitously-useful feature slide behind a subscription gate.

This type of stuff rarely even happens in gaming anymore. If a gaming service wouldn’t let you press the “cancel” button on a menu unless you were a paying subscriber, it’d be universally panned.

Not to mention the subscription literally only buys you 30 extra seconds to make that decision. That’s right, per Twitter:

With Undo Tweet, you can set a customizable timer of up to 30 seconds to click ‘Undo’ before the Tweet, reply, or thread you’ve sent posts to your timeline.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I don’t see why this feature doesn’t just exist for everyone. Perhaps Twitter is priming the pumps for a DLC subscription add-on package that allows you edit your tweets if you pay an additional, additional fee.

Next: Subscribers get the ability to use folders in their bookmarks. Us unwashed non-Blues have the option to toss anything we like into a general folder called “Bookmarks.” Subscribers will be able to create subfolders within their bookmarks.

Basically, Twitter is charging people for a feature that Xerox developed for its Alto OS back in the early 1970s. It should make all of us sad that organization is a pay feature for any interactive product.

And then there’s “Reader” mode: 

Per Twitter:

We are making it easier for you to keep up with long threads on Twitter by turning them into easy-to-read text so you can read all the latest content seamlessly.

I’m sorry, is this a paid thread-unroll feature for Twitter? Is the company really charging us to view tweet threads? It seems to me that the people who would find the most value from this are those who struggle with the vanilla thread format. And that feels like an accessibility issue.

Putting accessibility options behind a paywall is a reprehensible practice. Twitter should rethink this feature for its Blue subscription service immediately. 

And that just leaves the dedicated customer support feature or, as it should be called: Twitter’s tax on minorities.

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear: Twitter doesn’t need whatever money this subscription will bring in. Here’s a quote from a CNBC article discussing the company’s most recent earnings call:

The company reported revenue of $1.04 billion for the quarter, which was up 28% from $808 million a year prior. Twitter also reported a profit of $68 million, contrasted with a loss of $8.4 million a year ago.

Twitter isn’t hurting for revenue. It doesn’t exist in a paradigm where it has to find new income streams. It’s doing what it does best: experimenting and collecting data.

There could be a perfectly reasonable, business-related, morally acceptable reason for Twitter Blue, but “why” it exists isn’t as important as “what” the consequences of its existence are.

Twitter already struggles to police its own platform, so spreading customer support agents even thinner seems like a poor way to solve that problem. Twitter’s business model isn’t based on selling a few big whales on its product, it’s a game of numbers. The more of us who think Twitter is a better “free” product than its competitors, the more money Twitter makes.

Furthermore:  I find it difficult to believe that Twitter doesn’t put its best effort forward across its entire customer base when it comes to ensuring each and every one of us has unfettered access to its service. We are the product, after all, and Twitter can only sell us if we’re logged in and consuming content.

That  means you’re not getting better customer service with Blue, you’re just paying to skip the line. So, for example, if I want to do something about the never-ending torrent of people who harass me for being queer, a journalist, or both, I’m better off paying.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a slap in my face or a tax on my queerness. It’s also a coddling snuggle for those who have no empathy for me. People who would dismiss my concerns with a petty “you don’t have to subscribe if you don’t want to,” with no regard for what this represents to me and people like me, can take solace. One of the biggest, most powerful companies in the world agrees with them when they tell me “it’s no big deal.”

The worst part: It distracts from the very problems minorities face online by giving those with the privilege to spend money on frivolous online subscriptions a safe space from which they can ignore the reality of social media for the rest of us.

Some of the same tech reporters, enthusiasts, and influencers who spend their time decrying the algorithm’s clumsiness will be among the service’s primary users. And they’ll suddenly find themselves pampered in a Twitter-verse where their humanity is valued more than mine.

This is a bad, harmful idea and I truly hope Twitter rethinks it sooner rather than later.



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Tech News

Twitter’s subscription service may cost $2.99 a month and have an ‘undo tweet’ feature

Twitter’s upcoming subscription service may cost $2.99 per month and include an “undo tweet” button and “Collections” feature, according to app researcher Jane Manchun Wong.

Wong, who’s renowned for finding hidden app features before they’re released, tweeted a screenshot of the platform, tentatively titled Twitter Blue.

She said the company is also working on a tiered subscription model, which could give higher-paying users access to extra features, such as a “clutter-free news reading experience.”

[Read moreThis dude drove an EV from the Netherlands to New Zealand — here are his 3 top road trip tips]

Th Undo Tweet button would function in a similar way to Gmail’s “Undo Send” timer, giving users a brief window of time in which they can recall a tweet before it’s posted. Wong first revealed that Twitter was working on the feature back in March.

It’s not quite the edit button Twitter users have been demanding for years, but it may be the closest we get to it for the foreseeable future.

The Collections feature, meanwhile, would allow users to save and organize their favorite tweets so that they’re easier to find.

I wouldn’t part with my hard-earned cash for those two tools alone, but Wong expects that the feature set — and pricing — could change before the launch.

Just don’t expect the finished product to include an edit button. Twitter boss Jack Dorsey said last year that the company will “probably never do it.”

Did you know we have a newsletter all about consumer tech? It’s called Plugged In –
and you can subscribe to it right here.



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Twitter’s new ‘Communities’ and ‘Super Follows’ will make it more like Facebook and Patreon

At its core, Twitter hasn’t changed all that much in the past few years. For the most part, people use it the same as they always have — a mostly public-facing ‘microblogging’ platform. But the company today unveiled highlighted multiple upcoming features that could significantly change the way people interact with one another on the platform, in many ways making it more versatile — and more like some of its competitors.

The announcements came as part of Twitter’s ‘Analyst Day.’ here are some of the biggest ones.

Communities

Communities is essentially the Twitter version of Facebook Groups. It allows Twitter users to hubs where they can gather based on common interests or locations, an extension of the company’s current topics feature.

Per Twitter, Communites will make it “easier for people to form, discover, and participate in conversations that are more targeted to the relevant communities or geographies they’re interested in.” Twitter showed off some hypothetical groups around social justice, plants, cats, and surfing.

Super Follows

A litter Patreon, and a little Twitch, Super Follows allows Twitter users to, well, become ‘super followers’ of their favorite online accounts. Some of the exclusive perks Twitter is teasing include exclusive content and newsletters, discounts, supporter badges, and super-followers-only conversations.

It could help creators monetize their Twitter following, without asking people to leave the platform. The company also teased some kind of tipping feature for creators, but did not provide much details about how it would work. It did have a $4.99 /month subscription price in a mockup though.

These new features aside, Twitter also highlighted a couple of upcoming features that have been making the rounds the last few months.

Revue

Instead of removing character limits, Revue is a way for Twitter users to publish newsletters for their audiences — these can be free or be behind a paywall. Finally, there’ll be a place for you stick your lengthiest tweetstorms.

The feature was technically announced last month, as it comes after Twitter acquired a company named, you guessed it, Revue.

Spaces

This one isn’t totally new for people who follow social media closely, but it’s essentially Twitter’s version of Clubhouse. In other words, it’s a place where you can actually talk to people using honest-to-goodness audio, although it features live AI captions for conversations as well.

The company has been testing Spaces since at least December, and the feature even has its own Twitter profile.

There’s no word on exactly when these features will land, but considering some of them are already being tested publicly, I’d guess sooner rather than later.



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Tech News

Birdwatch is Twitter’s new community-based fact checker

Twitter has tried a variety of fact-checking measures in the past few years, but these normally only apply to tweets from prominent accounts or popular topics. Now the company wants to add context and labels to more tweets by implementing a community-driven fact-checking system called Birdwatch.

To start, a group of contributors will be able to “respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable.” Currently, this context will be available on a dedicated Birdwatch page, but the eventual goal is to make these notes available right on Twitter once “there is a consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors.”

The feature is limited to a separate site for now because the company wants to make sure it actually produces useful context; the last thing anybody wants is for a fact-checking tool to become another source of misinformation.

Twitter says it has conducted interviews with over 100 Twitter users “across the political spectrum” about the feature so far. The company said people valued that the notes were written in the voice of community members rather than in the voice of Twitter or some other authority. They also appreciated having more context than simple true or false labels.

The company says all the data on Birdwatch will be publicly available and downloadable, such that experts, researchers, and the public can audit Birdwatch. It’s also working on reputation and consensus systems to help highlight accurate information.

The current ranking system for tweet notes is somewhat akin to Quora or Stackexchange. Notes are initially shown in reverse chronological order, but notes that are rated highly by the community will be highlighted with a header that says “currently rated helpful.”