Facebook Is About To Make Life Way Easier For Child Groomers

"Facebook is actively choosing to give offenders a place to hide in the shadows."

Facebook has spent most of this year being yelled at for horrible decisions. Just this year, they’ve been ok with photoshopped Tweets, refused to ban political ads, and were used to livestream the Christchurch terror attack. Now they’re being warned that their encryption plans could be making it way easier to groom kids.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is a British charity working in child protection, and they’ve got a pretty stark warning to Facebook about what will happen if they go through with encryption Messenger and Instagram messages. 

And not child groomers, thankyou very much.

WhatApp, which is also owned by Facebook, currently has end-to-end encryption in its messaging. Earlier this year, Facebook announced that they wanted to bring that feature to both Messenger and Instagram to improve privacy for users, but unfortunately not everyone necessarily deserves that privacy.

Encryption makes it much harder for people grooming kids – or getting up to any other sort of creepy behaviour – to be tracked and caught. Last year in England and Wales, 9000 incidents of child grooming were recorded where the police knew how the people had been communicating. Of those 9000, Instagram had 2,009 of them, and 1,719 were flagged on Facebook or Messenger. 

Compare that to 300 incidents reported using WhatsApp. 

That’s not to say that people aren’t grooming kids over WhatsApp, they absolutely are, and we know it. The difference is that once they move to an app with encryption – like Facebook, if they get their way – the conversations become way harder to trace, and once people work that out they’re guaranteed to exploit it. 

With the safety of minors in the spotlight after the whole Prince Andrew debacle, it’s a particularly timely warning.

Andy Burrows is the Head of Child Safety Online Policy for NSPCC, and says that Facebook knows what they’re doing.

“Instead of working to protect children and make the online world they live in safer, Facebook is actively choosing to give offenders a place to hide in the shadows and risks making itself a one-stop grooming shop.”

Facebook hasn’t gone through with the encryption just yet, so there’s still time for them to backtrack. Judging by the year they’ve had though, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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The Biggest Scams Of 2019 Prove The World Is Still Full Of Shady People

We fell hard.

As the year draws to a close, ‘tis the season for online shopping, and all the scams that come with it. According to the Australian Government’s Scamwatch website, we’ve already lost $4 million in 2019 to online shopping scams – way more than last year. They also reckon that “reported losses have tripled over the last three years”, so that’s terrifying.

It’s obviously been a big year for scams and scammers, so I figured I’d recap the year in scams in an effort for us all to go into 2020 with a bit more knowledge and caution.

Caroline Calloway
This one just eeked into 2019, with Caroline going on a tour or workshops in early January. The “one woman Fyre Fest” was charging $165 for workshops on how to be yourself, but the people who attended wound up sitting on the floor eating lettuce. If you want to go in for the deep dive, there was a whole viral Twitter thread dedicated to the slowly-unfolding trainwreck.

If that wasn’t enough for one year, Caroline’s ex-bestie wrote a massive personal essay that dropped in September all about their friendship and spilled all sorts of tea.

Casey Donovan’s Catfish
Earlier this year, Casey Donovan opened up in an interview about how she spent six years being catfished. When she was 16, she fell in love with who she thought was a man named Campbell, only to find out that he was completely made up by her best friend, Olga. 

It was a very intense relationship, and even involved ‘Campbell’ asking Casey to have sex with Olga. She says she’s forgiven Olga now, and “there’s some anger there definitely but I had to let it go to move forwards.”

Chinese Embassy Scam
This one began last year, but kept going well into 2019. Robocalls with a recorded message in Mandarin claim to be from a government official who tells the person that they’ve been involved in a crime of some description, or that their identity has been stolen. Then the message says they’ll be transferred to the ‘investigators’ or ‘police’, and when the scammer picks up, they demand bank account details, passports, and cash payments.

This one was particularly dangerous, and the US version of the scam saw people lose about $40 million.

myGov Tax Scam
This was the major scammy-scam of 2019. Around tax time, scammers impersonating the Australian Tax Office were calling around to people and telling them that they needed to pay a debt or were entitled to a refund. By asking for personal details so they could either ‘pay your refund’ or ‘collect your debt’, the scammers managed to commit a bunch of tax fraud and even identity theft.

Scammers are assholes, that’s the bottom line. Stay safe in 2020, and for the love of God, don’t try and scam anyone.

Twitter Is Copping Heat For Forgetting That Dead People Exist

A minor oversight.

As technology advances, we’re having to answer questions that we didn’t originally anticipate. One of those questions is what do we do with people’s social media accounts after they die? 

That’s one option, I guess

Twitter announced that they wanted to delete all of their inactive accounts by December 11, so if you hadn’t posted in the last 6 months, the account would be wiped. Immediately, people were up in arms because Twitter seemed to have completely forgotten about the fact that people’s accounts don’t disappear when they die. 

Tweets are thoughts, feelings, and little tidbits from real people, and since the announcement, a lot of people have been talking about how they go back and look at loved ones Twitter profiles to laugh and remember them.

Because of this small oversight about our own mortality, Twitter have temporarily walked back on their plan to delete all of the accounts until they work out how to memorialise accounts. 

You might have seen the memorialise function that Facebook already have. It’s a setting which freezes accounts as they were so that friends and family can look back at people’s pages and stops anybody else from logging in. 

The reason Twitter gave for deleting the accounts is because inactive accounts aren’t able to agree to their new privacy policies, and by getting rid of them people with a ton of inactive accounts won’t seem quite as impressive to new followers. 

Not if all the inactive followers get deleted

They still want to go through with deleting inactive accounts, admitting that it was a “miss” on their part for not realising the mistake sooner. There’s no work on when they’ll actually get around to creating this feature though, a spokesperson has said that they have “no further details to share at this time.”

I’m sure nobody thought about what to do with dead people’s accounts when they were sitting in Silicon Valley programming the most recent Twitter update, but social media is well and truly a part of our lives. It’s probably no real surprise that our accounts are also a part of our death.

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