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Are Instagram Influencers Flocking to Chernobyl? Not Exactly

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  • On Sunday, a tweet called out “Instagram Influencers” for using Chernobyl as a backdrop for their social media posts.
  • The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was home to one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters in 1986.
  • After a closer look, it seems that the visitors in the viral post are not all “Instagram influencers” as the tweet suggest, but instead regular tourists.
  • Since the airing of the HBO series Chernobyl, the site has a 30 to 40 percent increase in visitors.

The Viral Tweet

A tweet posted Sunday that criticizes Instagram influencers for treating Chernobyl like a new photo hot spot went viral, but that’s not exactly the case.

The tweet shows four pictures of different “influencers” using the toxic nuclear power plant as the backdrop for their photos.

However, after further investigation, it seems that only the first photo of a woman in protective gear was shared by a user with a significant following. That user is Julia Baessler, who has over 300,000 followers.

The other three photos were taken from Instagram accounts with much lower follower counts, ranging from 200 to 1,500.

On top of that, as many social media users have pointed out, in her caption, Baessler, talks about the terrible tragedy that took place at Chernobyl. “Yesterday I had the chance to visit one of the most fascinating but also most terrible places on earth- control room number 4 ChNPP,” her caption read.

The actions taken in this room 33 years ago led to the worlds worst nuclear disaster. Standing there is just indescribable, it’s shocking and something I will never forget :pray:”

Baessler further explained her trip in an interview with Business Insider.

Because of the engineering work of my boyfriend we were able to get a special admission to go inside control room 4 which is actually not accessible for visitors,” Baessler told BI. “I left those stories online because they are full of informations [sic] and I really want to spread them but I don’t want to be seen as an influencer going to Chernobyl because it’s trendy now. that’s not true,”

Another photo from the tweet showcased a man holding a Geiger counter, an instrument used for detecting radiation. The Instagram user who posted the photo actually wasn’t the photographer or the person in the image. He only reposted it. Patrick Smith, an airline pilot, took the photo back in October of 2006.

The woman who posed next to the burnt bus, Irene Vivch, said she posted the photo because she is from Ukraine and stated so in her caption. She called the site, “an eternal monument to the horrid cruelty of the Soviet regime.”

Vivch told the Atlantic, “Chernobyl made a massive impression on me … So I made a big Instagram post about it describing my feelings.”

Trips to Chernobyl

In May, HBO aired a new series, Chernobyl, that focused on the 1986 nuclear reactor malfunction at the power plant that caused radioactive particles to cover the surrounding area. At least 30 plant operators and first responders died in the weeks following the accident. To this day, there is still debate on the total possible deaths from cancer caused by the radioactivity, with estimations between 9,000 and 115,000.

According to reports, since the release of the show, trips to the site have jumped dramatically. One tour guide has said in the month of May alone, trips increased 30 percent. The guide also added that trips for the rest of the summer were up 40 percent.

“Many people come here, they ask a lot of questions about the TV show, about all the events. People are getting more and more curious,”  Viktoria Brozhko, a tour guide, told Reuters.

Craig Mazin, the writer and executive producer of the HBO series, responded on Tuesday to the impact his show has had. In his post, he reminded people visiting the area to have respect for those who suffered from the tragedy that occurred there.

Chernobyl is not the first site of a tragedy to be used as an Instagram background. In 2014, a girl took a smiling selfie at the concentration camp, Auschwitz and she received massive backlash. The concentration camp museum even tweeted this past March asking people to people respect the site.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Atlantic) (Reuters)

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Hackers Hit Twitch Again, This Time Replacing Backgrounds With Image of Jeff Bezos

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The hack appears to be a form of trolling, though it’s possible that the infiltrators were able to uncover a security flaw while reviewing Twitch’s newly-leaked source code.


Bezos Prank

Hackers targeted Twitch for a second time this week, but rather than leaking sensitive information, the infiltrators chose to deface the platform on Friday by swapping multiple background images with a photo of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. 

According to those who saw the replaced images firsthand, the hack appears to have mostly — and possibly only — affected game directory headers. Though the incident appears to be nothing more than a surface-level prank, as Amazon owns Twitch, it could potentially signal greater security flaws. 

For example, it’s possible the hackers could have used leaked internal security data from earlier this week to discover a network vulnerability and sneak into the platform. 

The latest jab at the platforms came after Twitch assured its users it has seen “no indication” that their login credentials were stolen during the first hack. Still, concerns have remained regarding the potential for others to now spot cracks in Twitch’s security systems.

It’s also possible the Bezos hack resulted from what’s known as “cache poisoning,” which, in this case, would refer to a more limited form of hacking that allowed the infiltrators to manipulate similar images all at once. If true, the hackers likely would not have been able to access Twitch’s back end. 

The photo changes only lasted several hours before being returned to their previous conditions. 

First Twitch Hack 

Despite suspicions and concerns, it’s unclear whether the Bezos hack is related to the major leak of Twitch’s internal data that was posted to 4chan on Wednesday.

That leak exposed Twitch’s full source code — including its security tools — as well as data on how much Twitch has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019. 

It also revealed Amazon’s at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library, codenamed Vapor, which would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.

Even though Twitch has said its login credentials appear to be secure, it announced Thursday that it has reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Users are still being urged to change their passwords and update or implement two-factor authentication if they haven’t already. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Forbes) (CNET)

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Twitch Blames Server Configuration Error for Hack, Says There’s No Indication That Login Info Leaked

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The platform also said full credit card numbers were not reaped by hackers, as that data is stored externally. 


Login and Credit Card Info Secure

Twitch released a security update late Wednesday claiming it had seen “no indication” that users’ login credentials were stolen by hackers who leaked the entire platform’s source code earlier in the day.

“Full credit card numbers are not stored by Twitch, so full credit card numbers were not exposed,” the company added in its announcement.

The leaked data, uploaded to 4chan, includes code related to the platform’s security tools, as well as exact totals of how much it has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019. 

Early Thursday, Twitch also announced that it has now reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Streamers looking for their new keys can visit a dashboard set up by the platform, though users may need to manually update their software with the new key before being able to stream again depending on what kind of software they use.

As far as what led to the hackers being able to steal the data, Twitch blamed an error in a “server configuration change that was subsequently accessed by a malicious third party,” confirming that the leak was not the work of a current employee who used internal tools. 

Will Users Go to Other Streaming Platforms?

While no major creators have said they are leaving Twitch for a different streaming platform because of the hack, many small users have either announced their intention to leave Twitch or have said they are considering such a move. 

It’s unclear if the leak, coupled with other ongoing Twitch controversies, will ultimately lead to a significant user exodus, but there’s little doubt that other platforms are ready and willing to leverage this hack in the hopes of attracting new users. 

At least one big-name streamer has already done as much, even if largely only presenting the idea as a playful jab rather than with serious intention. 

“Pretty crazy day today,” YouTube’s Valkyrae said on a stream Wednesday while referencing a tweet she wrote earlier the day.

“YouTube is looking to sign more streamers,” that tweet reads. 

I mean, they are! … No shade to Twitch… Ah! Well…” Valkyrae said on stream before interrupting herself to note that she was not being paid by YouTube to make her comments. 

See what others are saying: (Engadget) (BBC) (Gamerant)

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The Entirety of Twitch Has Been Leaked Online, Including How Much Top Creators Earn

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The data dump, which could be useful for some of Twitch’s biggest competitors, could signify one of the most encompassing platform leaks ever.


Massive Collection of Data Leaked 

Twitch’s full source code was uploaded to 4chan Wednesday morning after it was obtained by hackers.

Among the 125 GB of stolen data is information revealing that Amazon, which owns Twitch, has at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library. That library, codenamed Vapor, would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.

With Amazon being the all-encompassing giant that it is, it’s not too surprising that it would try to develop a Steam rival, but it’s eyecatching news nonetheless considering how much the release of Vapor could shake up the market.

The leaked data also showcased exactly how much Twitch has paid its creators, including the platform’s top accounts, such as the group CriticalRole, as well as steamers xQcOW, Tfue, Ludwig, Moistcr1tikal, Shroud, HasanAbi, Sykkuno, Pokimane, Ninja, and Amouranth.

These figures only represent payouts directly from Twitch. Each creator mentioned has made additional money through donations, sponsorships, and other off-platform ventures. Sill, the information could be massively useful for competitors like YouTube Gaming, which is shelling out big bucks to ink deals with creators. 

Data related to Twitch’s internal security tools, as well as code related to software development kits and its use of Amazon Web Services, was also released with the hack. In fact, so much data was made public that it could constitute one of the most encompassing platform dumps ever.

Creators Respond

Streamer CDawgVA, who has just under 500,000 subscribers on Twitch, tweeted about the severity of the data breach on Wednesday.

“I feel like calling what Twitch just experienced as “leak” is similar to me shitting myself in public and trying to call it a minor inconvenience,” he wrote. “It really doesn’t do the situation justice.”

Despite that, many of the platform’s top streamers have been quite casual about the situation.

“Hey, @twitch EXPLAIN?”xQc tweeted. Amouranth replied with a laughing emoji and the text, “This is our version of the Pandora papers.” 

Meanwhile, Pokimane tweeted, “at least people can’t over-exaggerate me ‘making millions a month off my viewers’ anymore.”

Others, such as Moistcr1tikal and HasanAbi argued that their Twitch earning are already public information given that they can be easily determined with simple calculations. 

Could More Data Come Out?

This may not be the end of the leak, which was labeled as “part one.” If true, there’s no reason to think that the leakers wouldn’t publish a part two. 

For example, they don’t seem to be too fond of Twitch and said they hope this data dump “foster[s] more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space.”

They added that the platform is a “disgusting toxic cesspool” and included the hashtag #DoBetterTwitch, which has been used in recent weeks to drive boycotts against the platform as smaller creators protest the ease at which trolls can use bots to spam their chats with racist, sexist, and homophobic messages.

Still, this leak does appear to lack one notable set of data: password and address information of Twitch users.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the leakers don’t have it. It could just mean they are only currently interested in sharing Twitch’s big secrets. 

Regardless, Twitch users and creators are being strongly urged to change their passwords as soon as possible and enable two-factor authentication.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Video Games Chronicle) (Kotaku)

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