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  • How fraudulent DMCA takedowns censored a prominent cryptocurrency critic on Substack
    UNFT News false DMCA takedowns

    Nefarious actors have long weaponized systems put in place to protect creators' original work. When filing fake copyright takedowns, these parties have the power to claim, monetize, or remove content that they have no rights to. YouTubers, musicians, digital artists – they're all quite familiar with content ID strikes, copyright infringement notices, and other similar bad faith takedowns of their work on internet platforms. 

    But writers, reporters, and journalists: Are you aware that this can happen to you too? One cryptocurrency muckraker learned this the hard way when fake DMCA takedown requests took down his entire body of work and put a spotlight on the failings of online copyright protection.

    Dirty Bubble Media, a newsletter hosted on the writing platform Substack, has been covering the shadiest aspects of the crypto industry since the beginning of 2020. Under the pseudonym Mike Burgersburg, the newsletter's author has been on top of some of this year's biggest stories in the space.

    For example, have you heard of Celsius, the crypto lender allegedly running as a Ponzi scheme which helped crash the entire cryptocurrency market this year? Burgersburg was diving into the inner workings of the company and sounding the alarm back in January. Around the time Celsius paused customer withdrawals, Burgersburg was also looking into another crypto lender called Voyager. Not long after, Voyager would suffer a fate similar to Celsius'.

    Burgersburg had become a trusted source of information in the small-yet-growing crypto-skeptic circle…which is why it was odd when the online home for all his reporting was suddenly taken down by Substack on July 15.

    "Publication Not Available," read a notice on the Substack page when anyone tried to access DirtyBubbleMedia.substack.com. "The page you are attempting to access is unavailable." 

    It seemed unusual for Substack to deplatform one of its own creators. The newsletter platform has generated controversy over the years due to its less stringent content moderation policies. For example, the company has gone to bat to defend writers on its platform accused of creating transphobic content. 

    "Just went to find one of @dirtybubblemed3's blog posts to use in a citation and found that substack took down his research ("Flagged as TOS violation")," tweeted Web3 Is Going Great creator Molly White on July 17. "Hopefully @SubstackInc restores it soon once they realize people are weaponizing their reporting flow."

    On Twitter, Burgersburg explained that Substack had taken down his blog due to "multiple spurious DMCA complaints." 

    "People don't think about copyright as a restriction on speech because it's supposed to help creators," said EFF's Associate Director of Policy and Activism Katharine Trendacosta in a phone call with Mashable. "But, copyright is a monopoly right on expression that has been granted by law, and that makes it in conflict with free speech, and that makes the DMCA, which gives unprecedented ability for people to take things down without a court order, an incredibly effective tool for censorship."

    Trendacosta noted how these false takedown tactics have increased in frequency over the years, where even authoritarian regimes overseas have weaponized copyright to silence critics.

    In a statement provided to Mashable on July 15, a Substack spokesperson confirmed that the company had "received multiple valid DMCA infringement notices regarding Dirty Bubble Media" and that it "notified the writer and explained our copyright dispute policy each time." Substack said it had removed the Dirty Bubble Media content at the time due to its "repeat infringer policy."

    Mashable reached out to Burgersburg, who provided copies of three DMCA takedown requests that were sent to Substack and resulted in his reporting being taken down. Two were for unique articles and one was for an updated version of an article that a takedown was already filed on. 

    While every platform's policies differ, Jonathan Bailer, copyright and plagiarism consultant at CopyByte and author at the website Plagiarism Today, tells Mashable that he found it odd for the platform to completely take down his website in this particular case.

    "If the case could be handled with a single DMCA notice and we aren't talking about a sky high number of works, it really shouldn't have tripped [their termination] policy," Bailer said.

    Burgersburg also confirmed that multiple DMCA takedowns were sent over a period of four months and Substack had attempted to reach him as early as April. However, he had not seen these early inquiries because he did not regularly check the email address he had used to signup for Substack.

    Approximately five days after the Dirty Bubble Media account, Substack restored the account. However, a few of Burgersburg's posts were still conspicuously absent. According to Burgersburg, Substack was giving the complainant 10 days to respond to the dispute.

    Since Spring, a company called "Mevrex" filed three separate DMCA takedown requests claiming that Burgersburg plagiarized their original work on one of their online properties, UNFT News. 

    A DMCA takedown refers to the 1998 U.S. copyright law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which basically provides copyright holders with a way to remove material that they own from a web host or online platform. Mevrex went through the DMCA takedown service, DMCA.com, to file their takedown complaints. DMCA.com provides customers with a subscription service as low as $10 a month or a flat fee of $199 to file a DMCA takedown.

    After receiving the third takedown notice from DMCA.com on behalf of "Mevrex," Substack decided to remove Burgersburg's newsletter and its archives from the internet. 

    One problem: The copyright claims were false. Burgersburg did not plagiarize UNFT News' work. In fact, the opposite happened. UNFT News copy-and-pasted Burgersburg's reporting verbatim. They then claimed it as their own by simply backdating the post on their website so it appeared on their website as being published before Burgersburg posted it.

    DMCA.com did not reply to an inquiry from Mashable.

    "It seems unlikely that the service [DMCA.com] knowingly filed a false notice (they were likely deceived too)," Bailer of Plagiarism Today said, noting the issues this brings for the filing company too. "Cases like this cause hosts to understandably mistrust your notices, which causes problems down the road."

    The Burgersburg articles that UNFT News is claiming as their own include "Who Spends $24 Million On An NFT? Meet Deepak Thapliyal, The CEO From Nowhere," and "Heidi Klum Owns A Cryptopunk. How It Got To Her Wallet Is A Bit Odd." Burgersburg originally posted these on his Substack newsletter in February. UNFT News claims they published these pieces first, under the byline "UNFT News."

    Burgersburg originally posted the piece on Deepak Thapliyal on February 14. UNFT News re-posted Burgersburg's work on their own website under the UNFT News byline and simply backdated the post to February 12. They then issued a DMCA takedown request and submitted the post dates as proof Burgersburg was the plagiarist. 

    UNFT News repeated this process with the Heidi Klum NFT article which was backdated to Feb. 9. As Burgersburg pointed out, there's one problem with that publishing date. The UNFT News domain name, unft.news, was not registered until Feb. 10, meaning UNFT News is claiming to have published that piece before their website even existed.

    A Mashable investigation into these claims uncovered archived versions of the UNFT News website on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. UNFT News, which claims to be "a leading online magazine" operated by "4NFT Media, the largest operating NFT Media company," did not appear to even launch until mid-March 2022. The earliest archived version of the website is from March 19. The archived page from this time period doesn't show either of the pieces that Burgerberg actually authored. 

    In fact, looking at archives of the website throughout March 2022, there isn't much crypto coverage on UNFT News at all. The majority of the UNFT News website in March 2022 included articles dating back to 2016 with titles such as "Top 10 Best Photo Hunt Of Ice Rugby," "The Great Time For Enjoy City View On Mountain," and "Outdoor Photo Shooting With Sexy And Beautiful."

    Mevrex, the company that claims to own UNFT News in the DMCA takedown requests, advertises itself online as "a media agency that offers services to more than 200 brands and businesses in over 30+ Countries." The vast majority of mentions of Mevrex online consist of paid-for press releases and advertorials by the company itself, which says it was founded by a young entrepreneur named Lakshay Jain and is based out of India.

    A screenshot of an archived UNFT News article
    Articles like this one filled UNFT News in March 2022. But the articles they claimed Burgerburg took from them are nowhere to be found Credit: Screenshot

    Diving into UNFT News' social media, it looks like the accounts have received artificially-inflated growth.

    UNFT News' Instagram page, @UNFT, first posted on March 29, 2022. With 244k followers, posts rarely receive more than single-digits worth of likes. Its Facebook Page, which was created 2 days prior, has around 13k followers and receives very little engagement as well. Its YouTube channel has over 280k subscribers, yet not a single uploaded public video appears on its profile page. The UNFT News Twitter account, @UNFT_News, seems to have been suspended sometime in April or May of this year. Archived versions of the Twitter profile appear to show that the account used to be known as @NFTNews and switched usernames sometime in April. 

    Attempts to reach Mevrex and UNFT News for comment were unsuccessful.

    "Absent a lawsuit," EFF's Trendacosta explained, "there's really no deterrence for sending a bad takedown." 

    As for Mike Burgersburg and Dirty Bubble Media, Substack has still not restored two of the three posts Mevrex falsely claimed were plagiarized.

  • Who owns the rights to your face?
    An illustration of a face.

    Last year, I received an Instagram DM from someone I was friends with in college. It had been a couple years since we’d caught up: We lived in different cities, had pursued different careers and, of course, the pandemic had brought any plans of hanging out again to a standstill. I was surprised to see her name pop up on my screen but even more so by the contents of her message. 

    It was my face. Specifically, it was me in a sponsored Instagram Story ad, putting on a lip balm. In the video, I applied the balm and smiled at the camera, looking pleased with my newly moisturized lips. In real life, I was confused. I had never agreed to appear in a nationwide social campaign, otherwise my checking account would have a couple more zeroes to show for it. I worked in the media industry then, sourcing the right influencers to participate in sponsored articles. I’ve spent years casting with talent, negotiating contracts to ensure fair compensation and modest usage rights for influencers, models, and real people. Based on my experience, it was clear that my image was being exploited by a multibillion dollar brand.

    Usage rights dictate who owns an image or asset, exactly how, where it’s allowed to appear, and for how long: A video is pricier than a photo, one month costs more than one year, and you’d charge a global brand much more than what you’d charge a growing business. Depending on the talent, the scale of the client, and the length of the campaign, standard licensing of images on social media alone can cost anywhere from $250 to $20,000.

    Despite this, anyone who has worked at a media company will tell you that employees are often pressured to serve as a stand-in or supplement to these influencers. However, these campaigns are not a part of the full-time job and likely go uncompensated. 

    I’d been laid off from my position at one of these companies and out of its physical office for over a year. Studios everywhere had rightfully shut down to halt the spread of COVID-19, and clients were canceling their campaigns, citing a lack of fresh content to promote their latest products. But the top of my phone screen attributed the Instagram ad to an international skin care conglomerate, and I immediately knew where it came from. 

    It was shot pre-pandemic, where I had been told to participate in a photoshoot demonstrating the product’s healing benefits. Despite the shoot taking up the entirety of my work day, I was not paid, and the campaign itself was only supposed to run on my then employer’s social media accounts for a few months. Since my colleague, who lives hundreds of miles away, was seeing this video over a year later, it’s likely that my former employer passed this content to the skin care giant directly and allowed them to continue using my face without my permission.

    I don’t have a large social media presence or a notable platform but, even as a regular person,  thousands of dollars can be tallied up in lost compensation. Unfortunately, my participation in the campaign was undocumented, so when I considered the blurred lines that come along with being an employee in the media industry, pursuing further action was not worth the trouble. However, as the shape of culture and technology continues to evolve, such exploitation of people and the images we create will only grow if we lack the information needed to prevent it.

    Generally speaking, we hold the copyright to any content we upload to social media platforms. However, when we create our accounts, we agree to grant those platforms a free license to use our content as they wish. Twitter's recent ad campaigns are a perfect example: the everyday thoughts of regular people are what fuel the platform, and the decision to feature those tweets in marketing has been widely applauded. But as a Twitter user myself, spotting my own words on the train ride home would feel great, until I remember that one month of subway ads can cost up to $75,000. But, based on the terms and conditions I agreed to, none of that money has to make its way to me.

    Our content is even more valuable to brands, who are slowly narrowing in on the average social media user. Where large companies were once funneling most of their influencer marketing budget into one or two macro influencers with 500,000 followers or more, companies like HelloFresh and Canon are now prioritizing the niche audiences of micro- and nano-creators. Research shows that shoppers find smaller creators “more authentic” and brands have identified those creators as “less costly,” making regular people a win-win for boosting sales.

    Based on the terms and conditions I agreed to, none of that money has to make its way to me.

    As the preferred audience size continues to shrink, it is paramount to understand the financial risks associated with creating on a public profile. “If you're a local bartender, and your image is associated with a spirits brand for an extended period of time,” Lauren McGrath, founder of talent and influencer consultancy, Novel Projects, shared as an example. “Whether you have 500 or 500,000 followers, that alignment will absolutely have an impact on what you can and cannot do with a brand or future employer.”

    As a model, Hannah Ann Sluss was used to having her photo taken. However, those images became much more valuable after she won Season 24 of ABC’s long-running dating series, The Bachelor, in January of last year. In a 2021 lawsuit against Procter & Gamble, Sluss alleges that the consumer goods giant latched onto her newfound nationwide popularity by affixing a stock photo of her onto several unapproved Downy products until July 2020, even though the license for use expired in October 2019. 

    According to McGrath, a usage rights transgression of this scale can be costly. ”A couple years ago, a loss like this would come out to maybe a couple hundred dollars.” Citing the rapid evolution of the creator economy and the pricier arena of product merchandising, she states that “even if you’re not an influencer, your image and likeness can accrue thousands of dollars over a period of several years.” 

    Dance creators who have gone viral know this type of loss intimately. In the past two years, the impact of creators on the music industry has been undeniable, with 29 percent of new music being discovered on video or dance sites like TikTok. Unfortunately, recognition and compensation of those who shaped this growth lags behind, leaving creators like Keara Wilson, who created the mega-popular “Savage Dance,” and Young Deji, who created “The Woah,” especially under-supported. 

    Celebrity choreographer JaQuel Knight was already hard at work copyrighting the moves in his iconic “Single Ladies” routine when the team at Logitech saw a chance to make this protective measure more accessible. In collaboration with Knight, Logitech is funding the copyright protection processes for 10 BIPOC creators, including Keara Wilson and Young Deji, paving the way for education around monetizing creativity and owning your image. 

    “Up until this point,” Meridith Valiando Rojas, the global head of entertainment and creator marketing at Logitech, shared about the company’s partnership with Knight, “choreography has been considered ephemeral and not tangible to be protected by law.” However, this archaic ruling fails to keep up with the constant evolution of social media. Relatively unknown people can find themselves racking up millions of views on a single video, leading to thousands of iterations being recreated and misappropriated around the world. 

    With the copyright protections Knight and Logitech are working to put in place, creators are able to pursue retroactive attribution for lost opportunities: Rojas recounted a scenario where she came across a store selling an uncredited T-shirt with the “Woah” dance on it and sent it to their lawyers on Young Deji’s behalf. 

    When asked how everyday people can protect themselves right now, Rojas states that education around usage rights is a creator’s most valuable asset, as many creators and non-creators are unaware of the protective measures currently available to them. Logitech’s mission with the #Creators4BIPOC project is to spotlight what is possible for creators in protecting their image and remarking on the lasting impact of such education, Rojas stated that “When you know your rights, you create differently.” 

    Locking down who can use your name, image, and likeness has long been a priority for talent managers in the media and entertainment industries. Multi-million dollar productions have been shut down for not securing the correct rights for a designated period of time and, given how quickly the sphere of influence between celebrity and the general public is closing, it would be wise to apply similar precautions to our everyday lives. 

    Take time in reviewing your next job offer, identifying where the potential employer may have slipped in language granting them more access to your image than necessary. Similarly, while Terms and Conditions on social media platforms can be long, it’s worth inspecting what you’re signing up for before sharing your image on these apps. With the rise of the creator and the ever-deepening reach of the internet, concerns over usage rights are no longer just a problem for the already-famous: After all, the next face of a global brand could be you.

  • Taylor Swift can't stop emitting CO2 with her private plane. The internet can't stop cracking jokes.
    Taylor Swift

    In the song "Last Kiss" off of her 2010 album Speak Now, Taylor Swift sings "I ran off the plane, that July 9th." Nowadays, Swift likely finds herself running off the plane every other day of the year as well.

    A recent study by the sustainability marketing agency Yard looked into the usage of private planes by celebrities in order to track carbon emissions and find out the worst celeb contributors to climate change. 

    At the top of the list when it comes to CO2 emissions from their private jets: music superstar Taylor Swift.

    According to Yard, Swift's plane took to the skies 170 times in the first 200 days of 2022, emitting 8,293.54 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That's 22,923 minutes, almost 16 total days, of airtime. The CO2 released into the atmosphere courtesy of Taylor Swift's private plane during these past 7 months is the equivalent to what 1,184 average people would emit in a year. The data came from the Twitter account, @CelebJets, which tracks celebrities' jets.

    In response to this information, which is now going viral online, Swift's representatives say Swift isn't responsible for all the flights.

    ​​"Taylor's jet is loaned out regularly to other individuals," said the pop star's spokesperson in a statement. "To attribute most or all of these trips to her is blatantly incorrect."

    Still, it is Taylor Swift's private plane! The fact that the list wasn't topped by someone like Kylie Jenner with her 12-minute flights or her sister Kim Kardashian seems to have surprised social media users a bit. But, the internet still delivered with some jokes. (And to be fair, it seems like it's all just a variation of the same joke over and over again. But, damn, they're all still pretty funny.)

    Eve 6, the alternative rock band most well-known for their 90s hits "Inside Out" and "Here's to the Night," got a little creative and decided to crack a joke about the statement from Swift's team.

    And one Taylor Swift fan decided to make a compilation of times that the artist mentions flying, airplanes, or any sort of travel in the lyrics of her songs.

    Some Swift stans are even jokingly playing damage control for Swift by posting photoshopped messages claiming the singer is donating to their (fake) environmental charity. It also might not be a joke, "Stan Twitter" can be quite unhinged at the best of times.

    As for the rest of the list, boxer Floyd Mayweather comes in at number two. He's followed by Jay-Z, Alex Rodriguez, and Blake Shelton. After the top 5, Steven Spielberg, Kim Kardashian, Mark Wahlberg, Oprah, and Travis Scott make up the rest of the list.

    While these rich and famous celebs certainly deserve your scorn for their contributions to climate change, don't forget that roughly 100 companies are responsible for the most significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions.

  • No, Elon Musk. There's no conspiracy behind low engagement on Twitter. It's summer.
    Elon Musk Twitter

    Elon Musk seems confused by what people do during the summer.

    On July 30, 2022, Musk logged on to Twitter dot com with an important observation. 

    "Interaction with almost all twitter accounts seem to be much lower in recent weeks & days," Musk tweeted. "Accurate?"

    Many users in Musk's replies seemed to have agreed.

    Musk's tweet about low engagement on Twitter – with its 7,532 retweets, 1,512 quote tweets, and 125,344 likes – seems to have struck a nerve. It's unclear exactly what the Tesla CEO was trying to get at. However, based on Musk's previous vocal opinions about "free speech," bans, and censorship on social media platforms, it's clear how his followers were taking it.

    Something nefarious is afoot. 

    Many Musk faithful assume Twitter, the company that Elon Musk apparently pretended to want to buy and is now suing the billionaire over backing out of the signed deal to acquire it, is to blame for their tweets not receiving more interactions.

    Is Twitter shadowbanning specific, ostensibly pro-Musk, users? Shadowbans are basically when a social media platform demotes accounts or specific content in its algorithm so they reach fewer users. Others questioned if Twitter was hard at work removing all the fake accounts and bots thanks to Musk's complaint (and his excuse as to why he wants to back out of his legally binding $44 billion contract with Twitter.)

    Here's the truth. The reason you may be seeing less engagement on Twitter in July 2022 is because the Earth is conspiring with the Sun and its affecting the weather.

    This is called Summer. 

    The Northern Hemisphere of the Earth experiences this phenomenon during the months of June, through September. Days begin earlier and nightfall comes later. July, smackdab in the middle of that period, is often the hottest month of the year. Many people go outside to enjoy the warm weather and take part in outdoor events. Music festivals, barbecues, beach trips, and visits to the theme park are popular summer activities. People step away from long days working on their computers at their office desks, log off, and go on vacation.

    "In past years, entire industries saw summer slumps -- or seasonal dips in sales or web traffic," wrote Pamela Bump, manager of content growth at HubSpot, in a 2021 report on this phenomenon. 

    The report, published in July 2021 and updated the following September with additional data, compared last year's summer internet slump with the summer slumps from previous years. The only industry that didn't experience a web traffic downturn was leisure and hospitality because, obviously, people were using the online businesses in that field to plan trips and getaways. Post-COVID, that summer internet traffic slump appears to increase as individuals look to get out of their houses and make up for those lost summer getaways during the heights of the pandemic.

    This isn't a new trend, and it's not relegated to just Twitter, either. A 2013 study by the social media analytics firm Fanpage Karma found that interactions on Facebook posts increased by 42 percent on average when there was bad weather compared to when there was good weather. A rainy day on a summer weekend could increase Facebook post interactions by as much as 90 percent.

    There has been data showing that mobile web use – people surfing the web via their smartphones – has increased during the summer in recent years. But, people are most likely logging into their social media profiles to talk about their summer activities, not Elon Musk's latest tweet complaining about the lack of sex he's been having.

    ​​"We’re seeing a 220% increase in conversations about music festivals during the summer," says Twitter, in a Twitter Insights blog post from the company's marketing department. Twitter finds that the type of conversations currently trending on the platform involves "summer anticipation and prep." Many users are focused on the summer activities they're experiencing or are excited about.

    So, historically, as a result of SUMMER, many websites, platforms, and online businesses see a decrease in traffic. But, if it helps with your engagement numbers, Elon, I guess we can all pretend you're being shadowbanned by the sun.

  • YouTube creators can now quickly make Shorts from their long-form videos
    YouTube Shorts

    YouTube Shorts, the company's short-form video TikTok competitor, has proven to be a big success for the platform.

    But YouTube is still synonymous with its longer content and its well known long-form content creators. To help remedy this, the platform is releasing a brand-new tool to help YouTubers pull 60-second clips from their existing long-form videos and quickly create content for YouTube Shorts.

    "We want to empower creators to easily take a moment from one of their VODs [videos-on-demand], bring it into our tools and easily edit it into an engaging Short for their viewers," said YouTube Shorts creation product lead Vadim Lavrusik in a statement provided to Mashable.

    This new feature, announced by YouTube in a post on Thursday, will start rolling out today and should reach all mobile users in the next few weeks. The tool is only available within the YouTube app on iOS and Android devices.

    "To use this feature, all creators need to do is to navigate to their channel and choose a video that they’d like to Edit into a Short," explained Lavrusik. 

    Edit into a Short
    Just tap "Edit into a Short" and any YouTube creator can make a Shorts clip out of long-form video content. Credit: YouTube

    After clicking the "Edit into a Short" option while on the watch page for one of their own videos, "they’ll be able to choose a video segment up to 60 seconds in length to create a new Short with," he continued. "Similar to importing a video from your device gallery to create a Short using our tools, this simply allows you to import a segment from one of your already uploaded YouTube videos."

    In addition to expediting the process of clipping longer videos, creators will also be able to add additional content to the Short if the clip is shorter than the 60-second maximum length to make a YouTube Short video. This could help creators add additional context or new updates to Shorts they make from older long-form clips. Creators can also utilize all other YouTube Shorts editing features such as filters, text, and more.

    YouTube noted to Mashable that this feature is only available for the creator of the original piece of long-form content. There are other previously existing features, such as Cut and Green Screen for viewers to repurpose their favorite channels' videos.

    One real interesting aspect of this new feature for YouTube's long-form video creators is that it provides an attribution to the source material. If a creator clips a 60-second segment from a longer clip for YouTube Shorts using this feature, YouTube automatically provides a link back to the original long-form video right within the Shorts Player.

    YouTube Edit into a Short feature
    Attribution is a key component to this Shorts feature. Credit: YouTube

    "Attributing content and raising viewer awareness of a creator’s vast array of videos is an important part of this feature," said Lavrusik. "Viewers can easily tap the link to navigate to the video it came from and watch the full thing if they want to go deeper."

    With the audience for YouTube Shorts being wholly different than the platform's viewer base, attribution can really help short-form-content viewers discover new creators who make longer videos.

    Hannah Warling, a YouTube creator who has already used this feature, believes Edit into a Short will help creators who usually upload long-form content become more familiar with YouTube's growing Shorts platform.

    "I expect to use this tool to not only drive my short form audience to my long form, but vice versa," she explained. "I also believe it will allow me to post more consistently in both formats. When making content, creators have a limited amount of time which often leads to them having to choose between one format or the other. By allowing creators to easily repurpose content they’ve worked so hard to make, you’re giving them more opportunities for their hard work to reach the largest possible audience."

  • Is one of Twitter’s enduring mysteries at its endgame?
    The hands of a senior man in a sweater clutch a coffee cup

    A decade ago, not long after the decline of Ashton Kutcher's supremacy on Twitter, in the days when the @horse_ebooks account was making the concept of “Weird Twitter” mainstream, an enigmatic character quietly surfaced.

    But there’s much more to this guy than coffee, and if his most recent activities are any indication, his tragic, ten-year story arc may finally be approaching its climax — or perhaps a new beginning.

    The account known as “coffee dad,” with the handle @coffee_dad, is “just a dad who loves his coffee,” according to his bio. Coffee dad almost exclusively posts brief, low-key updates about his present status vis-a-vis his favorite hot drink. The updates tend to be nothing more than sentence fragments about obtaining, making, or consuming coffee. Posts might be “need coffee,” “time for coffee,” or just “coffee.”

    Coffee dad might occasionally seem unusually keyed up or overcaffeinated just because he, say, posted “MAKING COFFEE” in all caps, but hey, you can chalk that up to him being a middle-aged dad, and probably not great at using Twitter, not any sort of deeper pathology…right?

    Don’t be so sure. Every so often, when his followers least expect it, coffee dad takes a break from sipping coffee to drop hints about his intense struggle with powerful and prolonged grief over the untimely loss of his son. “Please leave me alone today. This is a very difficult day for our family. Thinking of you always my son,” he tweeted in 2013. Over time the rare mentions of coffee dad’s son became more and more elaborate. 

    Months may pass with nothing but coffee tweets, and then coffee dad will post something like this:

    Apparently, the son died in some sort of motorcycle-related event, and the dad feels at least partly responsible. These blink-and-you-miss-them outbursts of pain aren’t funny. They’re more cathartic, and they give the “normal” coffee tweets a tragic subtext. The experience of following a grieving dad for years and years makes his followers admire the depth of his love, and it’s hard not to root for him to find a path out of his despair. 

    But there have long been indications that this story was not headed toward a happy ending. Tweets like 2017’s “It is time for them to pay for what they have done,” suggest that coffee dad holds some unknown group — bikers? — responsible for his son’s death, and these people have reason to fear coffee dad’s righteous anger.

    Many of coffee dad’s non-coffee tweets have suggested that the dad’s quest for retribution has already begun. But one posted on Sunday, July 17 — a date established back in the account’s first year as the son’s birthday — hints at a finality that has never been present in a coffee dad tweet before:

    I’ll let you tease out the meaning of this one, but it’s clear to me that coffee dad’s enemies aren’t the only ones in danger now. I doubt this is the end of coffee dad, but he’s clearly crossing a threshold, and the next time he posts about needing coffee, I’ll wonder if it’s because he’s in a place where there is none to drink.

  • A once-lost WWE wrestling match just resurfaced on Instagram
    Bret Hart vs. Hulk Hogan

    You really can find anything on the internet.

    Once thought to be long-lost, a 1986 WWE wrestling match featuring superstar wrestler Bret Hart has resurfaced in full on the internet. Yes, this was back when the pro wrestling giant was called WWF, and Hulkamania was taking over the world.

    On Saturday, Instagram user @abuyousef2007 uploaded the wrestling match, clocking in at 10 minutes and 10 seconds, on the social media platform. It's the first time ever that this much-talked-about match has been available at full length.

    Why is Bret Hart vs. Tom Magee a big deal?

    The bout features Hart taking on an up-and-comer Tom Magee in October 1986 at the Rochester War Memorial Arena in Rochester, New York. While Hart vs. Magee was part of an event taped for television, it was previously thought that the match never actually aired anywhere. However, the existence of this particular version: the full bout with Arabic commentary, appears to prove that the match did air in at least one market in the 80s.

    Making the event even more noteworthy was the fact that the WWE itself, which has one of the most comprehensive wrestling video archives in the world, could not locate the match in their vault. So over the years, the match became somewhat of an urban legend. 

    However, back in 2019, wrestling photographer Mary-Kate Anthony found the long lost tape in her collection. According to Anthony, she had previously helped Hart convert his personal collection of matches on VHS to digital and Hart had not requested the physical copies back. The legendary Magee match was in that collection. 

    The discovery was such a big deal in the wrestling community that the WWE reached out to Anthony in order to obtain the match. The wrestling company quickly produced an entire documentary about the once-lost match and its resurfacing called Holy Grail: The Search for WWE's Most Infamous Lost Match, which is available on the WWE Network on Peacock. The documentary includes a better quality recording of the Hart vs. Magee match, but for some reason this version starts mid-fight.

    The match itself gained notoriety in pro wrestling circles because of its backstory. Magee was an all-star athlete at the time, competing in powerlifting and strongman competitions, and had a physique and look well suited to pro wrestling. But he was unproven in the world of wrestling. So, to test the waters, WWE booked Magee to take on a seasoned veteran in the form of Bret Hart.

    Hart, at the time, was less than a decade into his wrestling career, but the match truly showcases why he'd go on to be known as "the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be." Magee is green as can be in the match, yet Hart helps carry the rookie throughout the 10 minute bout and makes Magee look like a future superstar. Reportedly, WWE owner Vince McMahon, on the lookout for his next Hulk Hogan-esque superstar shouted "that's my next champion!" when watching Magee take on Hart from backstage. Pro wrestling journalist David Bixenspan dubbed the fight the "holy grail miracle match."

    Hart would go on to become WWE world champion and help spark the 90s wrestling boom known as the "Attitude Era." Magee, without having a talent such as Bret Hart to put him over in his matches, would quietly fade out of the wrestling industry by 1990 without much success.

    The internet has been really good at rediscovering lost content recently. An episode of Sesame Street from 1976 was recently uploaded online for the first time. The episode in question was originally removed from the air after parents complained that it was too scary for the kids. It featured Margaret Hamilton reprising her classic Wicked Witch of the West role from the Wizard of Oz.

    So whether it's an old wrestling match you think may not exist, a weird kids' TV show episode, or some other pop culture artifact you only half-remember, ask the internet to hunt it down, and it may miraculously surface like Hart vs. Magee.

  • Algorithm reveals how Twitter hurts the quality of news
    The blue bird representing Twitter is besieged by exclamations, and appears to be in distress.

    UPDATE: Jul. 11, 2022, 3:20 p.m. EDT This article was updated for clarity purposes. The research used for this article comes from the London-based Center for Economic Policy Research, not to be confused with the Center for Economic and Policy Research based in America as previously stated in the original article.

    While social media, in general, is influential, Twitter has power beyond its direct influence on its users. Using nearly two billion tweets produced in French between 2018 and 2019, a new study found that Twitter affects publishers’ production and editorial decisions in ways that may be good for business but not for readers.

    Researchers at the Center for Economic Policy Research, "an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization," have found that Twitter has a considerable influence on what content is published by mainstream media. Published in CEPR's policy portal VoxEU, authors Julia Cagé, Nicolas Hervé, and Béatrice Mazoyer detail in their findings the increasing influence of Twitter as a source for news content.

    Twitter as it exists today has become an important news source for journalists, their research shows. In addition, the value of Twitter as a news source increases for media outlets that have a high number of journalists that use Twitter.

    To quantify this, the researchers built an algorithm to identify news stories covered by both social media and traditional media, called "joint events." So for example, researchers looked at documents (tweets and media articles) talking about the Hokkaido Eastern Iburi earthquake in September 2018. The algorithm would then look for documents that shared similar use of language or "semantic similarity." The researchers found that 97 percent of these "joint events" originated on Twitter first. They also found that the more viral a tweet about an event becomes, the more articles are written about that particular event.

    Beyond the use of Twitter for stories, the researchers also investigated how the business models of media outlets factor into what kind of content is produced. Their findings showed that Twitter has a greater influence on outlets that rely fully or predominantly on advertising revenue than sites with online content locked behind a paywall. Ad-based or soft paywall media outlets were more likely to cover stories from tweets with high engagement than outlets with metered or hard paywalls.

    "In other words, Twitter influences mainstream media because of short-term considerations generated by advertising revenue-bearing clicks," the article says.

    Because of this, the authors surmise that the quality of news is worsening for those who can't afford or are unwilling to buy news. And because media outlets that are more influenced by the popularity of content on Twitter don't have paywalls, the researchers suggest that this is generating information inequality that allows for easier voter manipulation.

    Finally, the use of Twitter as a source may also create bias in what media outlets think readers want to see, according to the researchers. Only 23 percent of Americans use Twitter, according to a Pew Research Center study, meaning that the app is not representative of the general news-reading population. Looking at audience data, the researchers concluded that "news articles covering events that are more popular on Twitter do not get more views compared to the other articles" and "journalists’ reliance on Twitter might distort the information they produce compared to what citizens actually prefer."

  • Elon Musk is backing out of Twitter deal
    Elon Musk against a dark backdrop

    We have our answer: Elon Musk will not buy Twitter.

    On Friday afternoon, the (current) richest person in the world notified the SEC that he had terminated his painfully drawn-out effort to buy his favorite social media site, reportedly claiming "material breach of multiple provisions of the Agreement" as the cause. He had already previously declared the deal "on hold."

    Another way of saying this would be that the owner of SpaceX and CEO of Tesla won't buy the rest of Twitter for a total of $44 billion, but he'll still own a big chunk. In April, Musk took on a 9 percent stake in the company, making him the largest individual shareholder and, later that same month, he announced he wanted to take it private by swallowing up the rest. So if the deal had gone through, it would have been Elon Musk's private company, rather than what it still is: a publicly traded corporation owned in large part by Elon Musk.

    Musk had become a critic of Twitter's moderation policies in recent months, and his announcement that he wanted to buy it came with promises that he would address issues with the way the algorithm presents tweets, and make Twitter a bastion of free speech. And, yes, he was going to let former President Donald Trump rejoin the platform if he wanted.

    It has been previously established that Musk can be charged a $1 billion fee to the SEC for pulling out of the deal, according to the terms of his purchase. There's no word yet on whether that money will ever be successfully extracted by the government.

    Mashable reached out to Twitter for comment, and will update this story if we hear back.

    This story is developing...

  • 'Twitter Circle' is here for all your trash-talking needs
    Screenshot of the new Twitter Circle feature.

    UPDATE: Jul. 7, 2022, 2:19 p.m. AEST This story was first published in May 2022 when the Circle feature test was announced. As of July 7, Twitter has begun offering Circle setup to a wider group of users, but not all — leading to widespread commentary on the platform. Just like a Twitter Circle itself, it seems either you're in, or you're out.

    Look, not everyone needs to see all of your tweets all of the time.

    On Tuesday, Twitter announced a new feature which lets users tweet exclusively to pre-selected followers. Dubbed "Twitter Circle," the limited test is being run globally and appears designed for instances where users explicitly don't want their content to go viral.

    "Some Tweets are for everyone & others are just for people you've picked," explained Twitter. "We're now testing Twitter Circle, which lets you add up to 150 people who can see your Tweets when you want to share with a smaller crowd."

    According to a company spokesperson, as of now Twitter Circle is only available for a "small group of people."

    Notably, Twitter has put in place restrictions on what can be done with tweets once they've been launched into the Circle.

    "People in your Twitter Circle can't use the Retweet icon to share your Twitter Circle Tweets on Twitter, or in their own Twitter Circle," reads the Twitter Circle FAQ. "Please remember that your Twitter Circle members can still download, capture and / or re-share images or screenshots of your Twitter Circle content."

    Twitter has tested variations on this theme before. Super Follows, which the social media giant began testing in June of 2021, lets people charge for access to exclusive content. Communities, which Twitter starting testing in September of 2021, allows users to coalesce around specific topics or interests.

    Twitter Circle, with its emphasis on limited sharing, is yet another acknowledgement that users' tweets are not always intended for 100 percent of their followers. Sometimes, after all, you and your Twitter friends need a place to talk shit in relative peace.

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