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Houseparty Denies Viral Hacking Rumors, Offers $1M Bounty for Proof of Smear Campaign

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  • Users of the group video chat service Houseparty have complained that their online accounts like Instagram, Netflix, Spotify, and even bank accounts were hacked after downloading the app. 
  • Houseparty said it found no evidence to suggest a link between its app and the hacking of unrelated accounts. 
  • The app also believes the rumors are part of a “commercial smear campaign” against it and are offering a $1 million dollar bounty for evidence that proves this. 
  • Forbes enlisted a cybersecurity expert who found no obvious dangers with the app, but damage to Houseparty’s reputation may have already been done as people continue to urge others to delete it.

Hacking Accusations Surface 

Houseparty is now the latest group video-chatting app to come under fire over privacy concerns, but the app is fighting back, aggressively denying recent data breach rumors. 

People forced indoors all over the world during the coronavirus pandemic have been turning to video-chatting apps over the last few weeks, not only for school and business meetings but also for virtual gatherings with friends and family. 

With apps like Zoom facing increased criticism over data sharing policies, meeting crashers, and other issues, many have instead opted to download its “fun” competitor, Houseparty, which features in-app group games like Heads Up!, QuickDraw!, and Trivia. 

But over the last few days, Houseparty users have been complaining on social media that their non-related accounts were compromised, including Instagram, Netflix, Spotify, and online-banking accounts, among others.

Many have suggested that the Epic Games owned app is in some way the reason for this.

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Houseparty Denies Rumors, Offers $1M Bounty

On Monday, an Epic Games spokesperson issued a statement saying, “We’ve found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts.” 

“As a general rule, we suggest all users choose strong passwords when creating online accounts on any platform,” it added. 

The company also took to Twitter to assure users that its “service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.”

Later that same evening, the app launched more aggressive measures to shut down the hacking rumors, saying, “We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumors were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty.”

The company even said it was offering a $1 million dollar bounty “for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign.”  

Is Houseparty Safe? 

So is the app actually safe to use? Well, no app can be guaranteed 100% secure, but it seems like as of now, there are no dangerous flaws that have been found. Forbes released a report examining the app and enlisted cybersecurity and privacy researcher Lukas Stefanko to take a look at the Android version of it. Stefanko ultimately determined that there was nothing of concern. 

“I analyzed the app’s permissions usage and since the app provides video chats with your friends it is logical that requested permissions are necessary. I haven’t found any shady misusing of them by the app,” said Stefanko said. “The app doesn’t provide a lot of in-app options and settings, which creates less scenarios for exploiting security issues.”

From a privacy perspective, the Forbes report said there is one obvious issue that some might want to note before downloading. That is that the app’s games are open to any of your friends and any of your friends’ friends unless you lock the “room” where you’re playing. 

So essentially if you don’t lock rooms down, there’s a chance people you don’t know will invade your game. However, the report noted that there is an easy fix for this issue: simply hitting the padlock button at the bottom of the screen.

As far as its privacy policy, the report again said there was nothing outrageous there as well. They did say that the most concerning language in the policy says that the app can collect “anonymized and aggregated information, such as de-identified demographic information” and “de-identified location information.” The issue here is that even when location data is “de-identified,” it’s still possible to find out who the person is by linking it with other information.  

And while the app collects contacts so you can find friends to play with, the company promises that it “will never share your phone number or the phone numbers of third parties in your contacts with anyone else.”

Forbes noted that there is the standard warning that user data can be used for more targeted advertising and if you’re concerned enough about that, they provided specific steps you can take to boost privacy and still use the app. 

Thomas Brewster, the Security, surveillance and privacy reporter who wrote the Forbes report, later tweeted that he had reached out to a few different researchers for their opinion. They too had not found any notable security issues with Houseparty.

So as of now, it seems like the app is fine to use, but some don’t seem too convinced. The damage to Houseparty’s reputation may already be done as social media users continue to urge one another to delete the app altogether. However, we’ll all have to wait and see if Houseparty’s interesting efforts to debunk the rumor pay off in the future. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Engadget) (BBC)

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Hollywood Figures Back John Boyega After Powerful Black Lives Matter Speech

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Photo: Twitter/The Nikki Diaries

  • Star War’s actor John Boyega gave an emotional speech in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at a protest in London.
  • In it, he stated that he might lose his career for speaking out but didn’t care.
  • Many pointed to the white privilege of other stars, like Ariana Grande and Harry Styles, who can protest without the same fears.
  • Soon after, directors, actors, and Disney’s Lucasfilms showed support for Boyega, promising to have his back or expressing a desire to work with him. 

Boyega’s Emotional Speech 

Star War’s actor John Boyega is one of the many celebrities supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for justice over the killing of George Floyd.

Since protests first broke out last week, he’s made headlines for speaking out against racism on Twitter and Instagram. 

Now he’s in the news again after giving a powerful speech during a demonstration at Hyde Park in London. 

Clips of his speech have spread on social media that show him getting emotional when talking about the struggles Black people face. “I need you to understand how painful this shit is…to be reminded every day that your race means nothing!”

“We are a physical representation of our support for George Floyd!” Boyega continued “We are a physical representation of our support for Sandra Bland! We are a physical representation of our support for Trayvon Martin! We are a physical representation of our support for Stephen Lawrence! For Mark Duggan!”

He also fought back tears when pleading with Black men to take care of Black women. “They are our hearts. They are our future. We cannot demonize our own.”

Along with that, Boyega talked passionately about fighting for Black people around the world to live in freedom.

He also encouraged protesters to keep things peaceful, saying “because you know what guys, they want us to mess up.”

Boyega Notes Career Risk 

Tons of different segments from his speech have been praised, but one moment that seemed to capture a lot of attention was this: “I’m speaking to you from my heart. Look, I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this, but fuck that.”

That was a very striking comment for people who pointed to the white privilege of celebrities like Ariana Grande and Harry Styles, who don’t have to worry about losing their careers for protesting.

Hollywood Shows Support

It’s hard to deny that the risk is real for Boyega when you considering the fact that Colin Kaepernick lost his football for fighting the same fight. So in response to that, several Hollywood figures made sure to pledge their support for Boyega. 

“BlacKkKlansman” producer Matthew A. Cherry tweeted, “I would work with John Boyega and I urge other Non-Black creators to affirm that they have his back as well.”

Jordan Peele, the Oscar-winning writer behind films like“Get Out” and “Us”, then follow up with “We got you, John.”

Others like Olivia Wilde and Elizabeth Banks said they would be honored to work with Boyega, with similar praise coming from people like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Paul Feig, and dozens of other industry players. 

As far as his Star War’s team, actor Mark Hammil said he had “never been more proud,” while Directors JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson also backed Boyega. 

But the biggest display of support came from the Disney-owned Star Wars Twitter account, which shared a photo of Boyega from the protest along with a statement that said Lucasfilms stands with him. “John Boyega, you are our hero,” it added.

The flood of statements are major signs of solidarity for the fight against racial injustice. They show that key figures in the entertainment industry not only trying to ease Boyega’s fears but are also encouraging him and others to use their celebrity for a greater purpose. 

See what others are saying (Vanity Fair) (Insider) (The Hollywood Reporter

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Emma Watson Responds to Backlash After Blackout Tuesday Post

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  • Emma Watson faced backlash when she participated in #BlackoutTuesday by sharing three black squares with white frames, seemingly to match the style of her Instagram profile. 
  • Some thought this was a form of fake allyship, but others fought back saying Watson has engaged in activism for longer than most celebrities.
  • Watson later posted more, noting that she was waiting for #BlackoutTuesday to end in the U.K. before speaking.
  • Her new posts included statements on how she has examined her white privilege, art and writing from Black activists, and resources for people to become better allies. 

Watson’s Posts Spark Backlash

Emma Watson’s participation in #BlackoutTuesday caused a divide amongst her followers after, prompting backlash from some who thought they were a display of lazy allyship.

On Tuesday, many Instagram users posted black squares on their feed as a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Watson followed suit but posted three black squares, each with a white frame surrounding them.

Her most recent three photos before this were a row of all white squares, prompting her followers to think her blackout posts were more about aesthetics than activism. 

Because Watson has such a far reach with her audience, many criticized her for not taking more advantage of that in calling for justice following the death of George Floyd. 

“She thought the best idea was sharing (three black squares)?” one person asked, noting the size of her platform. “…Open your purse, SPREAD INFORMATION”

Fans Defend Watson

However, some fans did rush to Watson’s defense, explaining that she has a longer history of being an activist and ally than most celebrities who are participating in #BlackoutTuesday

“Emma Watson’s done more than most of you all and she’s been doing it since 2015,” said one person on Twitter. “And most of you have been doing it for like… 2 days? And you think you have the right to call her out?”

“She’s been campaigning against inequality and racism for years,” another person added, noting that there are plenty of other public figures who could be called out for “virtue signaling.”

Many brought up Our Shared Shelf, a book club Watson founded that often selects works by female authors of color. Watson has also advocated for gender equality on the global stage in work with the United Nations and G7.

She has also been very open about her feminism and its growth. In 2017, she wrote a post about examining her own white privilege, how that played a role in her feminism, and how she could make sure it does not prove to be a blind spot. 

However, a lot of people thought that because she has such a long history with activism, she should be more vocal during this moment. 

Emma Adds More to Conversation

A few hours after posting the controversial black squares, Watson posted three more photos on Instagram. 

“I was holding off posting until #blackouttuesday ended in the UK.,” Watson explained in the caption of her first post, which featured art by Dr. Fahamu Pecou. She also shared a poem and quote Pecou wrote as part of a Black Lives Matter series.

View this post on Instagram

I was holding off posting until #blackouttuesday ended in the UK.⁣ ⁣ The Artwork of my brilliant dear friend @fahamupecou “White Lies, Subtleties, Micro-Aggressions, and Other Choking Hazards”⁣ ⁣ B R O K E N O P E N (poem + text from the series BLACK MATTER LIVES) by Dr Fahamu Pecou⁣ ⁣ broken⁣ broke and hoping⁣ broke in, hoping⁣ broke.⁣ end.⁣ hoping…⁣ bro! kin hopin’!⁣ broken…⁣ hopin.⁣ broken.⁣ open.⁣ broken open!⁣ (Break)⁣ ⁣ “We can not be broken. We do not break. For too long we’ve been afraid that their violence would end us. But we are still here. Some they took, but they’ve all come back. They never truly left. We never truly leave. Like the police and other systems they’ve weaponized against us, the names of those they tried to silence go off in their ears like nuclear bombs. Names that swell in their throats and linger until they can no longer breathe. So let us haunt their dreams and their waking moments alike. Say their names: Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Let them see us. Let them hear us. No friends, we have nothing to fear. An army of Egungun warriors walk amongst us. They have tried, and for centuries they have failed to violate us… to silence us. This is not breaking. This is opening. The cracks are windows. The holes are doors. Shine your light through.” – Dr. Fahamu Pecou⁣ ⁣ Say their names #AhmaudArbery #BreonnaTaylor #GeorgeFloyd

A post shared by Emma Watson (@emmawatson) on

“Like the police and other systems they’ve weaponized against us, the names of those they tried to silence go off in their ears like nuclear bombs,” Pecou’s quote read. “Names that swell in their throats and linger until they can no longer breathe. So let us haunt their dreams and their waking moments alike. Say their names: Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.”

In the following post, she expressed some of her own thoughts. 

“There is so much racism, both in our past and present, that is not acknowledged nor accounted for,” she wrote. “White supremacy is one of the systems of hierarchy and dominance, of exploitation and oppression, that is tightly stitched into society. As a white person, I have benefited from this.”

View this post on Instagram

I stand with you.

A post shared by Emma Watson (@emmawatson) on

“Whilst we might feel that, as individuals, we’re working hard internally to be anti-racist, we need to work harder externally to actively tackle the structural and institutional racism around us,” she continued. “I’m still learning about the many ways I unconsciously support and uphold a system that is structurally racist.”

She then promised to share information and resources that she has found useful in examining race and privilege herself. Her Instagram bio now links to a Google Doc of anti-racism resources that includes guides on how to talk to children about race, as well as podcasts and books that discuss race.

Her Instagram story also encouraged her followers to sign petitions and donate to organizations fighting for justice for George Floyd and other Black victims of police brutality. On Twitter, she has been retweeting articles, allyship guides, information on violence against black women, and other projects demanding justice.

“I see your anger, sadness and pain,” Watson wrote. “I cannot know what this feels like for you but it doesn’t mean I won’t try to.”

While some were upset that it took Watson so long to speak up, some were glad she user her voice more and did research on the matter. 

See what others are saying: (Entertainment Tonight) (Fox News) (Metro)

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Star Samantha Marie Ware Says Lea Michele Made Glee Set a “Living Hell”

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  • Lea Michele was called out by former Glee co-star Samantha Marie Ware, who said Michele made the set a “living hell” and once said she would shit in Ware’s wig.
  • Some of Michele’s former colleagues shared this tweet with messages supporting it, while others echoed Ware’s statement with stories of their own.
  • The topic of racism in Hollywood also made its way to Twitter after someone said Josie and the Pussycats were written off Riverdale because actress Ashleigh Murray was a diva who did not like working with talented women. 
  • Both Murray and co-star Vanessa Morgan denied this. Morgan also made a statement condemning stereotypes being portrayed on television, as well as black characters being sidelined in plots while white characters get more screen time.

Former Co-Stars Call Out Lea Michele

Actress Lea Michele was called out by former co-stars for alleged racist behavior on the set of Glee. 

Michele, who appeared on the show for the duration of its run from 2009-2015, tweeted about the death of George Floyd on Friday. On Monday night, Samantha Marie Ware, who starred alongside her for a duration of season six, shared that tweet and said Michele made her time on the show “a living hell.”

“I believe you told everyone that if you (sic) had the opportunity you would ‘shit in my wig!’ amongst other microagressions that made me question a career in Hollywood,” she added in her all-caps tweet. 

After she shared this, many of Michele’s other former co-stars made posts that either directly or indirectly indicated that they agreed with Ware or had a similar experience.

Amber Riley, who was also a lead on Glee, shared a gif of her sipping from a coffee mug. 

Alex Newell, who was on the show for several years shared Ware’s tweet along with a gif of a RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant saying “Get her, Jade!”

Musician and actor Dabier, who appeared on one episode of Glee claimed that Michele told him he could not sit at a table with the main cast because he did not “belong there.”

“Seeing her message brought back bad memories of being less than on set of glee. Ain’t goin stand for her being fake like she care,” he later added. 

Actors who worked with her on other projects also responded, including Yvette Nicole Brown, who worked with Michele on the short-lived comedy The Mayor.

“I felt every one of those capital letters.” she said in response to Ware’s tweet. 

Brown posted several tweets inr response to this, but never called Michele out on any behavior or detailed a specific experience she had. In one tweet, she emphasized that every person on any set should be respected, and that this starts with main cast actors creating a welcoming environment. 

Riverdale Cast Speaks Out

Michele has not yet responded to the tweets. However, these claims were not the only reason people online were discussing racism in Hollywood. Actors from the cast of Riverdale also spoke out against racial stereotypes often depicted on television. 

This discussion started Sunday when someone tweeted about Ashleigh Murray. Murray played Josie of Josie and the Pussycats for several years on Riverdale and now plays that same character in Katy Keene, another show in the Archie Comics Universe.

In the now-deleted post, someone alleged that Josie and the Pussycats were written off of Riverdale because Murray is a “known diva” and didn’t want to share the screen with other talented women. They also claimed that in Katy Keene, Josie has few scenes with women because of this. 

You clearly have me mixed up with someone else,” Murray responded. I love the Pussycats more than any show ever did. If it were up to me, we’d have our own show.”

Vanessa Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdale, also stepped up to Murray’s defense. 

“You don’t know what the fuck your talking about and don’t talk about my friend like that,” she wrote. “Another thing i hate BLACK women being called DIVAS for sticking up for themselves. Maybe the show should write for her like the white characters.”

She also sent another tweet criticizing the the way Black people are represented on television.

“Tired of how black people are portrayed in media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people,” she wrote. “Tired of us also benign used as side kick non dimensional characters to our white leads.”

On Riverdale, Morgan’s character usually only has plotlines related to the character she dates, who is a white lead that gets more screen time.

These Riverdale stars were not the only ones creating an open dialogue about race in Hollywood. Lesley-Ann Brandt, who appears on the show Lucifer tweeted on Tuesday morning that leaders in the industry should be reaching out to Black artists to learn about their experiences. 

Murray shared that tweet and added that “these are the ways we can implement real change.

See what others are saying: (Entertainment Weekly) (BuzzFeed News) (Variety)

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