Connect with us

Industry

The US is “Looking at” a Potential TikTok Ban, Pompeo Says as the Company Pulls Out of Hong Kong

Published

on

  • Early Monday, TikTok announced that it would be leaving the Hong Kong market over fears regarding China’s new national security law, which would require the company to hand over user data.
  • Later in the day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the U.S. is “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.
  • The Chinese-owned app has long been accused of giving data to the Chinese Communist Party, which it has repeatedly denied.
  • If put in place, an American ban would just be the latest national-restriction against TikTok. India banned the app on July 1 over similar fears that it gave away user data to Chinese authorities.

Could TikTok Face an American Ban?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News Monday night that the United States was “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including the popular video-sharing app TikTok.

When speaking to host Laura Ingraham about potential plans to restrict the app, Pompeo said, “We’re taking this very seriously, but we’re certainly looking at it. We’ve worked on this very issue for a long time.”

“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cellphones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too,” he added.

Despite his claims, there haven’t been any concrete efforts made public yet. Still, when asked if he’d recommend for people to download TikTok, the Secretary of State replied, “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

TikTok has adamantly claimed that despite its parent company ByteDance being based in China, TikTok itself isn’t controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor does it have deep ties with the party.

The app claims that the executives and managers who actually make decisions about its business and make its content rules are all outside of China. The company also states that Chinese authorities have no say in what is and isn’t allowed on the app, and lastly, that user data isn’t stored in China.

American authorities doubt these claims, as the company is owned by ByteDance, which is based in China and like most large Chinese companies, is thought to have close ties to the ruling Communist Party. Adding to the fuel that TikTok complies with Chinese authorities is the fact that ByteDance also owns its sister company, Douyin, which is essentially a Chinese version of TikTok.

A U.S. ban would be a massive loss for the company, which is home to some of its biggest creators. The app has also faced hurdles in India, where a ban went into effect on July 1 that blocked TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps. The nation of over 1 billion is among its largest markets.

Australia has also floated the idea of banning the platform over concerns it inappropriately shares data with the Chinese government.

Pulling Out of Hong Kong

Aside from promising that it isn’t controlled by Chinese authorities, TikTok has also made recent moves to distance itself from the country. Hours before Pompeo spoke to Fox News, TikTok announced that it would be pulling out of the Hong Kong market over fears about a sweeping national security law imposed on the city by China on June 29.

According to TikTok, the app would be inoperable within Hong Kong in a few days. Additionally, it wouldn’t process data requests from China or Hong Kong police, although some current residents already say they can’t download the app.

Hong Kong authorities used the new national security law to release strict new rules regarding online posts. If police suspect an “electronic message” endangers “national security,” they can ask the publisher, platform, host, or network provider to remove or restrict access to it. Those who publish messages and don’t comply face a $100,000 fine and upwards of six months in jail.

Users who actually make the posts face a similar fine and up to a year in jail.

According to multiple reports, the rules explicitly allow authorities to jail employees at internet companies that don’t reply, regardless if they’re based in Hong Kong or not. It should be noted that punishment would only be applicable if one was to actually travel to Hong Kong or China, as most nations wouldn’t comply with another country claiming extraterritorial authority.

However, it still puts companies in an awkward position; comply with Chinese authorities and face backlash for caving on free speech, or disregard the rules and potentially risk employee safety and losing market access.

It wasn’t just TikTok that responded to the new rules, other tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter all said they would temporarily halt data requests from Hong Kong authorities as they decide what to do in the long run. All three had spokespeople and statements that were remarkably similar.

A Facebook spokesperson told Reuters, “We are pausing the review of government requests for user data from Hong Kong pending further assessment of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with international human rights experts.”

“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” the statement continued.

Even though at face value it may seem like a hollow gesture, considering the fact that these companies are banned in China, it’s actually a big risk to a massive revenue stream. All three of those companies have major advertiser programs in China.

While they debate whether to comply with the law or not, it’s interesting to note that TikTok went further than the rest by actually pulling services out of the city. That might be because Hong Kong wasn’t a huge market for the company.

It consistently lost them money and only about 150,000 Hong Kongers used the app. Another facet that may limit the impact of “losing” Hong Kong is that TikTok’s sister app, Douyin, is still usable and popular in Hong Kong, despite not officially being available in the city.

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

Advertisements

Industry

Authorities Accuse 17-Year-Old of Orchestrating July’s Massive Bitcoin Twitter Hack, Teen Has More Than $3M in Bitcoin

Published

on

  • Three people were charged on Friday in connection to a massive Twitter bitcoin hack in July that compromised dozens of high profile accounts, including those of Kim Kardashian-West, Kanye West, and former President Barack Obama.
  • Among those charged was 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark who reportedly stole nearly $180,000 and is being described as the mastermind behind the attack.
  • On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Clark has over $3 million in bitcoin, and prosecutors believe that money was also obtained illegally. 
  • This is not Clark’s first run in with authorities. Last year, they seized cash and $700,000 bitcoin in a criminal investigation, though he was never charged.

17-Year-Old “Mastermind” Arrested

In news that would otherwise appear to come straight from a best-selling young adult heist novel, a 17-year-old Florida teen has been charged as the “mastermind” behind Twitter’s largest hack ever. Reportedly, he’s also worth $3 million in bitcoin. 

That hack, which happened on July 15, successfully infiltrated dozens of high-profile accounts including: Kim Kardashian-West, Kanye, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, former President Barack Obama, and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. It also attacked Twitter accounts for companies like Apple and Uber.

All of those accounts then tweeted out some variation of the same message: “I am giving back to my community due to Covid-19! All Bitcoin sent to my address below will be sent back doubled. If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000! Only doing this for the next 30 minutes! Enjoy.” 

On Friday, state authorities arrested 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark in Tampa, Fl. Though he reportedly lives alone and is a recent high school graduate, Clark is still a minor, which is why he was not arrested by federal officials. He will be tried as an adult.

Clark faces 30 different felonies, including 17 counts of communications fraud and one count of fraudulent use of personal information (over $100,000 or 30 or more victims).

On July 16, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it was opening an investigation into the hack. The same day that Clark was arrested and charged, two others were charged by federal agents. 

One of those men, 22-year-old Nima Fazeli of Orlando, Fl., has been arrested by federal agents. The other, 19-year-old Mason John Sheppard of the United Kingdom, still hasn’t been arrested but the FBI is expecting him to be taken into custody soon. 

How Clark Hacked Twitter 

Despite many details around Clark being restricted because he is a minor, a criminal affidavit from Florida has still revealed some of the specifics behind how that attack happened.

According to that affidavit, Clark gained access to a portion of Twitter’s network on May 3. Reportedly, this happened after Clark convinced a Twitter employee that he was also an employee in the technology department. He then told the real employee that he needed their  credentials to access the customer service portal.

From there, the affidavit jumps to July 15 and it’s not clear what happened between then, but according to Zdnet, “it appears Clark wasn’t immediately able to pivot from his initial entry point to the Twitter admin tool that he later used to take over accounts.”

In fact, according to The New York Times, he only got access to those credentials after he found a way into Twitter’s internal Slack workspaces and saw them posted there. 

Still, that alone was not enough for him to make his way past Twitter’s two-factor authentication. Likely, he maneuvered around that through what Twitter called a “phone spear phishing attack.”

“The attack on July 15, 2020, targeted a small number of employees through a phone spear phishing attack,” Twitter Support said on Thursday. “This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems.”

The affidavit accuses Discord user Kirk#5270, believed to be Clark, of initiating the attacks.

“I work for Twitter,” Kirk said in a chatroom on July 15. “I can claim any @. Let me know. Don’t tell anyone.”

Soon after, Sheppard and Fazeli joined under separate usernames of their own, and the three reportedly began selling access to Twitter accounts. 

However, this attack is different from the one that targeted personalities like Kim K. Instead, this attack focused on stealing short handles like @drug, @xx, @vampire.

By the end of it, Kirk was accused of netting around $33,000 in bitcoin. Sheppard is accused of acquiring around $7,000 in bitcoin. Fazeli is accused of having worked in cooperation with the two in exchange for a Twitter handle he wanted. 

From here, the criminal complaints against Sheppard and Fazeli end. Of course, that wasn’t the end of the attack. Later that same day, the main hack against numerous high profiles figures began. 

By the end of that, Clark had reportedly stolen around $177,000 from both attacks.

How the 17-Year-Old “Mastermind” Got Caught

If the first part of their plan went off without a hitch, the latter half did not. The alleged criminals reportedly failed to hide their real identities and scrambled to hide their stolen money once the hack went public. Such mistakes led to a quick discovery of their identities by law enforcement.

Clark himself has faced legal trouble before, as well.

According to  the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday, he has 300 Bitcoin — making him worth more than $3 million. Prosecutors have argued that most — if not all of that money — was likely illegally obtained, though Clark’s attorney has denied that claim. 

Last year, Clark was the subject of a criminal investigation where authorities seized $15,000 in cash and 400 bitcoin. Ultimately, Clark was never charged, prosecutors returned 300 bitcoin to him. 

While July’s Twitter hack stirred up significant (and justified) fear over just how easy it was for hackers to target users, as of now, it is unknown if this hack had any more sinister intentions outside of stealing money.

See what others are saying: (Tampa Bay Times) (Zdnet) (WIRED)

Advertisements
Continue Reading

Industry

James Charles, Tana Mongeau, and Erika Costell Apologize for Attending Parties During Pandemic

Published

on

  • Youtube and TikTok personalities have recently come under fire for attending parties during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
  • After much backlash online for attending a party last week, YouTuber James Charles issued a text apology within a new video, calling it a “selfish and stupid decision.”
  • Viral footage from Tana Mongeau’s social media showed her and Erika Costell at another party Saturday, saying “We don’t care!” which many interpreted as their stance on the pandemic.
  • Both later issued text apologies for attending parties and clarified that the comment was in reference to suspected drama between them.

Influencers Just Want to Party

Influencers James Charles, Tana Mongeau, and Erika Costell have issued apologies for attending parties during the coronavirus pandemic after widespread backlash.

On July 21, an estimated 70 people gathered at a Hollywood Hills home to celebrate Hype House member Larray Merritt’s birthday. Influencers in attendance included James Charles, Tana Mongeau, Nikita Dragun, and the D’Amelio sisters.

The guests were widely criticized for ignoring social distancing recommendations and not wearing face masks after fans and fellow creators saw photos and videos of the party online. Despite online backlash, most creators were silent about being involved with the party, only Larray issued a quick apology.

James Charles Apology

Photos of the event showed James Charles ignoring social distancing guidelines and not wearing a mask. Most of these images have since expired from his Instagram story, but on Twitter, he still has a photo up with the caption, “uhh, I think this is the best paparazzi photo I’ve ever taken oh my god.”

It wasn’t until Saturday, after delaying a video he was supposed to have released on Friday, that he finally broke his silence on the matter.

Saturday’s video is titled A Day in the Life of James Charles,” and shows what the title suggests. Around 17 minutes in, there’s footage of James in an Uber, wearing a mask on his way to the party. The video also shows him at the party wearing a mask, albeit ignoring social distancing.

Then the video cuts to the following message, “Hi sisters! I decided to cut the party footage from the video. Even though I have been wearing a mask in public and have tested negative multiple times, going to a party during a pandemic was a selfish & stupid decisions. People’s safety and keeping COVID-19 contained is FAR more important than celebrating a friend’s birthday and unsafe partying is not something I want to promote to my audience.”

“I recognize that with my platform comes responsibility,” he continued, adding, “and I encourage you guys to be smarter than I was – Wear your masks and continue to social distance. Love you.”

The message stays on screen for 12 seconds before showing footage of James speaking with paparazzi while standing outside of the party.

His apology for attending the party was met with severe backlash online.

“James Charles apology is bs. He knew what he was doing when he went and he knew he shouldn’t go but he didn’t care. He’s only apologizing because he got in trouble and the same with everyone else apologizing,” wrote one user.

However, there were people who defended the YouTuber, saying, “Y’all just an excuse to hate, nothing ever pleases you all, he could’ve made a 1 hr long apology and y’all still would have been shitting on him, he messed up…”

One Party Is Bad Enough…

While James faced critiques over attending Larray’s party, Tana has received particular backlash for attending at least three parties during the pandemic: one at Jake Paul’s home, Larray’s birthday bash, and another party on Saturday.

Outrage against her grew after an Instagram story she posted with Erika Costell Satursady made it seem like the two were making light the pandemic. In the now-expired Instagram live story, the two can be heard saying, “Listen, we don’t fucking care.”

The video quickly caused outrage, and users wrote things like, “Nobody is surprised at the fact that tana mongoose is out there partying everyday day and instead of posting an apology shes out there saying “we dont fucking care” during a whole ass pandemic.”

Although, it’s worth noting that many pointed out that both women were involved with Jake Paul, leading to theories that the post was actually about that.

The confusion was clarified on Sunday night, when Costell tweeted out, “Hey guys – I just want to apologize for the video that was posted last night on Tanas Instagram story. The comment we made as NOT intended as it was perceived. Saying “we don’t care” was about our previous “beef”. It was in no way related to the COVID-19 pandemic we are in.”

She went on to add that she understands why people were offended, calling her attendance “careless and stupid.”

“I am truly sorry to anyone I let down or upset in any way & I fully take accountability for my actions,” she added.

A few hours later, Tana followed up with her own apology on her Instagram story.

“Partying/going to any social gatherings during a global pandemic was such a careless and irresponsible action on my behalf. I fully hold myself accountable for this + will be staying inside,” she wrote.

Actions like that don’t deserve a platform and I want to fully apologize and be better than this. I’m sorry. While Erika and I were referring to past drama in our video the topic no longer matters – I need to be a example and person.”

Tana Mongeau apologizes for party with Erika Costell
Tana’s apology as seen on her Instagram Story, July 27, 2020.

While many appreciated that an apology and explanation was finally given, not everyone was buying it. Many pointed out that Tana is constantly giving apologies over the various controversies that she seems to find herself in. YouTuber Elijah Daniel directly called out Tana and Erika for partying, and later added that he was fed up with influencers constantly apologizing and not actually changing.

“hi influencers caught partying, this video is for you. spread this to your fans on ALL of your platforms (since you don’t mind spreading things!), then self quarantine for 14 days and come back and we will consider even reading your apologies.”

See What Others Are Saying: (Dexerto) (Vulture) (Newsweek)

Advertisements
Continue Reading

Industry

US Army Suspends Twitch Streaming Amid Recruitment Concerns and Free Speech Controversies

Published

on

  • The U.S. Army has faced substantial blowback for banning Twitch users asking about war crimes on its eSports channel, a move that potentially violates free speech laws.
  • The criticism has been so intense that the Army has now paused streaming on its Twitch channel, which it uses as a recruitment method. 
  • Also on Wednesday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) filed a measure that aims to completely block the military from using Twitch to recruit. 
  • Separately, the Army has come under fire for seemingly hosting a fake giveaway that linked to a recruitment page. Twitch ultimately forced it to remove that giveaway, but the Army maintains that it was a legitimate giveaway.

Army Suspends Twitch Streaming

The United States Army has hit pause on the Twitch channel for its eSports team as of Wednesday, following mounting concerns that it has repeatedly violated First Amendment free speech laws by banning viewers who ask about everything from U.S. war crimes to Eddie Gallagher.

The news of the Army’s banning practice gained traction on July 8 when activist Jordan Uhl posted a clip of him asking about war crimes during a stream on the channel. Notably, the channel is used as a way for the Army to promote recruitment and talk with viewers about life in the military.

“What’s your favorite U.S. w4r cr1me?” Uhl asked after learning that “war crime” was already a banned phrase on the channel. 

Uhl also posted a link in the chatbox to the Wikipedia page for U.S. war crimes. He was then banned. 

“Have a nice time getting banned, my dude,” said Army recruiter and gamer Joshua “Strotnium” David.

On Saturday, Uhl was again banned for asking similar questions, this time on the Twitch channel for the Navy’s eSports team. Reportedly, others asking similar questions were also banned during that stream.

On Wednesday, the Knight First Amendment Institute then demanded that the Army and Navy change their banning practices. It also asked the Army to restore access for not only Uhl but also for 300 others who have been banned for similar comments. 

“When the government intentionally opens a space to the public at large for expressive activity, it has created a ‘public forum’ under the First Amendment, and it cannot constitutionally bar speakers from that forum based on viewpoint,” the Institute said in a letter to the two branches.

Later that same day, the Army announced it would suspend streaming on Twitch to “review internal policies and procedures, as well as all platform-specific policies.”

Still, a spokesperson for the Army has maintained that the branch did not violate free speech laws, arguing that people like Uhl were banned because the term war crimesis “meant to troll and harass the team.” 

AOC Files Measure to the Block Military from Twitch

Also on Wednesday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) announced plans to file an amendment that would block the military from using video games and esports as recruitment methods. 

“It’s incredibly irresponsible for the Army and the Navy to be recruiting impressionable young people and children via live streaming platforms,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

“War is not a game,” she added while pointing to the Marine Corps, which is the only branch of the U.S. military that has refused to form an esports team.

For its part, the Marines have said it does not want to “gamify” combat since it is a military agency that deals in combat. 

“The Marine Corps’ decision not to engage in this recruiting tool should be a clear signal to the other branches of the military to cease this practice entirely,” Ocasio-Cortez said. 

Is the Army Violating the First Amendment on Twitch?

Uhl has maintained that he wasn’t simply trying to troll the Army eSports Team; rather, he said the reason he asked questions about war crimes was because he had heard rumors of people receiving bans by the Army and Navy for broaching such topics on their Twitch channels. 

“Was I undiplomatic? Sure,” Uhl said in an article posted on The Nation. “But if the military is going to use one of the world’s most popular platforms to recruit kids, then it shouldn’t be able to do so without some pushback. Right now, with the support of Twitch, gamers with the US military are spending hours with children as young as 13, trying to convince them to enlist.”

“While members of military e-sports teams offer the regular gaming skill set, they’re also on-screen talent and recruiters,” Uhl said. “Instead of approaching a recruiter behind a table in a school cafeteria, kids can hang out with one who is playing their favorite video games and replying to their chat messages for hours on end.”

While a normal Twitch streamer can generally moderate their channel however they want, public forums hosted by the government must abide by free speech laws. In fact, there’s even legal precedent to support this. 

For example, in June 2019, a federal appeals court ruled that President Trump can’t block critics from his Twitter account because it constitutes a public forum.

Despite that, in a statement, the Army originally argued that it banned Uhl because he had violated Twitch’s harassment policies.

“Team members are very clear when talking with potential applicants that a game does not reflect a real Army experience,” a spokesperson said following the July 8 incident. “They discuss their career experiences in real terms with factual events.”

“Team members ensure people understand what the Army offers through a realistic lens and not through the lens of a game meant for entertainment,” the spokesperson added. “This user’s question was an attempt to shift the conversation to imply that Soldiers commit war crimes based on an optional weapon in a game, and we felt that violated Twitch’s harassment policy.”

That spokesperson also went on to defend the Army by noting that it offers multiple career paths and that “the goal of the Army eSports Team is to accurately portray that range of opportunities to interested youth.”

Despite that, the statement quickly drew the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union, which responded on Twitter by saying, “Calling out the government’s war crimes isn’t harassment, it’s speaking truth to power. And banning users who ask important questions isn’t ‘flexing,’ it’s unconstitutional.” 

US Army Caught Seemingly Offering Fake Giveaways

In addition to free speech concerns, the Army has also found itself defending its recruitment practices on the platform.

Last week, Uhl accused the branch of “repeatedly” presenting viewers “with an automated chat prompt that says they could win a Xbox Elite Series 2 controller… and a link where they can enter the ‘giveaway.’” 

However, upon clicking that link, Uhl said he was redirected to a recruiting form with no additional information on the “contest, odds, total number of winners, or when a drawing will occur.”

The news prompted outrage among streamers and game developers who urged Twitch to take action against the Army’s esports channel. 

On Thursday, Twitch finally responded, telling Kotaku that it had forced the Army to stop advertising that giveaway, saying, “This promotion did not comply with our Terms, and we have required them to remove it.” 

Since then, an Army representative has said that, despite transparency issues, a legitimate giveaway system had been in place. 

“Each giveaway has its own URL and marketing activity code that directly connect the registrant to the specific giveaway,” the rep said. “An eligible winner is selected at random, and the prize is given out. Twitch asked our team to remove the giveaway for lack of transparency, and they did. The team is exploring options to use platforms for giveaways that will provide more external clarity.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Kotaku) (Vice)

Advertisements
Continue Reading