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    Reddit calls for “a few new mods” after axing, polarizing some of its best / ArsTechnica · Friday, 28 July - 21:14 · 1 minute

In this photo illustration the Reddit logo seen displayed on

Enlarge (credit: Getty )

Reddit is campaigning to replace numerous longstanding moderators who were removed from their positions after engaging in API protests. Over the past week, a Reddit employee has posted to subreddits with ousted mods , asking for new volunteers. But in its search, the company has failed to address the intricacies involved in moderating distinct and, in some cases, well-known subreddits. And it doesn't look like the knowledge from the previous moderators is being passed down.

Redditors were enraged over suddenly high API access pricing, and the social media platform's subsequent responses to protests and feedback have beleaguered Reddit for weeks. A two-day blackout of over 8,000 subreddits, for example, shut Reddit down for three hours in June. Protestors complicated matters further with moves like suddenly making subreddits not-safe-for-work (NSFW), all about John Oliver, or focusing on some unhelpful tweak of its original topic (like r/malefashionadvice only allowing posts related to the stylings of the 18th century).

It's a tough job...

Reddit's response has included threatening to remove moderators who are engaging in protests to actually removing them. Recently, efforts to replace the departed volunteers who were booted or quit have picked up steam. A Reddit employee going by ModCodeofConduct (Reddit has refused to disclose the real names of admins representing the company on the platform) has posted to numerous subreddits over recent days, including r/IRLEasterEggs , r/donthelpjustfilm , r/ActLikeYouBelong , r/malefashionadvice , and r/AccidentalRenaissance .

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    Did Facebook fuel political polarization during the 2020 election? It’s complicated. / ArsTechnica · Friday, 28 July - 14:14 · 1 minute

Did Facebook fuel political polarization during the 2020 election? It’s complicated.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Aurich Lawson)

Over the last several years, there have been growing concerns about the influence of social media on fostering political polarization in the US, with critical implications for democracy. But it's unclear whether our online "echo chambers" are the driving factor behind that polarization or whether social media merely reflects (and arguably amplifies) divisions that already exist. Several intervention strategies have been proposed to reduce polarization and the spread of misinformation on social media, but it's equally unclear how effective they would be at addressing the problem.

The US 2020 Facebook and Instagram Election Study is a joint collaboration between a group of independent external academics from several institutions and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. The project is designed to explore these and other relevant questions about the role of social media in democracy within the context of the 2020 US election. It's also a first in terms of the degree of transparency and independence that Meta has granted to academic researchers. Now we have the first results from this unusual collaboration, detailed in four separate papers—the first round of over a dozen studies stemming from the project.

Three of the papers were published in a special issue of the journal Science. The first paper investigated how exposure to political news content on Facebook was segregated ideologically. The second paper delved into the effects of a reverse chronological feed as opposed to an algorithmic one. The third paper examined the effects of exposure to reshared content on Facebook. And the fourth paper , published in Nature, explored the extent to which social media "echo chambers" contribute to increased polarization and hostility.

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    Reddit mods fear spam overload as BotDefense leaves “antagonistic” Reddit / ArsTechnica · Friday, 7 July - 19:51 · 1 minute

Close-up of cans of SPAM

Enlarge / There could soon be much more of this on Reddit. (credit: Getty )

The Reddit community is still reckoning with the consequences of the platform's API price hike. The changes have led to the shuttering of numerous third-party Reddit apps and have pushed several important communities, like the Ask Me Anything ( AMAs ) organizers, to reduce or end their presence on the site.

The latest group to announce its departure is BotDefense. BotDefense, which helps removes rogue submission and comment bots from Reddit and which is maintained by volunteer moderators, is said to help moderate 3,650 subreddits. BotDefense's creator told Ars Technica that the team is now quitting over Reddit's "antagonistic actions" toward moderators and developers, with concerning implications for spam moderation on some large subreddits like r/space.

Valued bot fighter

BotDefense started in 2019 as a volunteer project and has been run by volunteer mods, known as "dequeued" and "andabrownn" on Reddit. Since then, it claims to have populated its ban list with 144,926 accounts, and it helps moderates subreddits with huge followings, like r/gaming (37.4 million members), /r/aww (34.2 million), r/music (32.4 million), r/Jokes (26.2 million), r/space (23.5 million), and /r/LifeProTips (22.2 million). Dequeued told Ars that other large subreddits BotDefense helps moderates include /r/food, /r/EarthPorn, /r/DIY, and /r/mildlyinteresting.

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    Threads attracts 30M users in 24 hours despite design flaws, privacy concerns / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 6 July - 19:47

Threads attracts 30M users in 24 hours despite design flaws, privacy concerns

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

Meta has officially launched its surprisingly popular Twitter alternative, Threads—shocking even Mark Zuckerberg as signups hit 30 million within the first 24 hours. Though a separate app, Threads is built as a convenient extension of Instagram, requiring an Instagram account to join and allowing users to port their entire Instagram following over in one click. That has clearly made Threads appealing to a huge chunk of Instagram users.

"We didn't expect tens of millions of people to sign up in one day, but supporting that is a champagne problem," Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said in a cheery update on Thursday.

With its well-timed launch coming just after Twitter announced unpopular rate limits on tweets , Threads has quickly surpassed ChatGPT as the fastest-growing consumer app, TechCrunch reported . But as signups explode, Threads is also experiencing immediate backlash from critics who have complained about how Threads was designed and about the app's seemingly ample privacy issues.

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    Mastodon fixes critical “TootRoot” vulnerability allowing node hijacking / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 6 July - 19:45

Mastodon fixes critical “TootRoot” vulnerability allowing node hijacking


The maintainers of the open-source software that powers the Mastodon social network published a security update on Thursday that patches a critical vulnerability making it possible for hackers to backdoor the servers that push content to individual users.

Mastodon is based on a federated model. The federation comprises thousands of separate servers known as "instances." Individual users create an account with one of the instances, which in turn exchange content to and from users of other instances. To date, Mastodon has more than 24,000 instances and 14.5 million users, according to , a site that tracks statistics related to Mastodon.

A critical bug tracked as CVE-2023-36460 was one of two vulnerabilities rated as critical that were fixed on Thursday . In all, Mastodon on Thursday patched five vulnerabilities.

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    State Dept. cancels election meetings with Facebook after “free speech” ruling / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 6 July - 18:21 · 1 minute

Joe Biden walking outside the White House, wearing sunglasses and holding a stack of index cards in his right hand.

Enlarge / US President Joe Biden exits the White House before boarding Marine One on Thursday, July 6, 2023. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The Biden administration is appealing a federal judge's ruling that ordered the government to halt a wide range of communications with social media companies. President Biden and the other federal defendants in the case "hereby appeal" the ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, according to a notice filed in US District Court yesterday. The US will submit a longer filing with arguments to the 5th Circuit appeals court.

On Tuesday, Judge Terry Doughty of US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction that prohibits White House officials and numerous federal agencies from communicating "with social-media companies for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech posted on social-media platforms."

Doughty found that defendants "significantly encouraged" and in some cases coerced "the social-media companies to such extent that the decision [to modify or suppress content] should be deemed to be the decisions of the Government." The Biden administration has argued that its communications with tech companies are permissible under the First Amendment and vital to counter misinformation about elections, COVID-19, and vaccines.

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    Musk on path to turn Twitter into the next MySpace or Yahoo, co-founder suggests / ArsTechnica · Friday, 9 June - 21:08

Ev Williams, Twitter co-founder, delivers remarks at Web Summit in Altice Arena on November 8, 2018, in Lisbon, Portugal.

Enlarge / Ev Williams, Twitter co-founder, delivers remarks at Web Summit in Altice Arena on November 8, 2018, in Lisbon, Portugal. (credit: Horacio Villalobos / Contributor | Corbis News )

Twitter co-founder Evan "Ev" Williams has broken his silence and joined other co-founders in expressing his dismay at how Elon Musk is running the platform.

In his first public remarks on Musk's leadership since Musk's Twitter takeover, Williams told Bloomberg's "The Circuit" yesterday that after Musk's purchase went through, he felt "sad."

Ever since, he hasn't been encouraged by developments at Twitter. The company's ongoing financial struggles include most recently recording a five-week period from April to May, where its advertising revenue dropped by 59 percent , compared to ad revenue at the same time last year.

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    Google Is Not Deleting Old YouTube Videos / Schneier · Thursday, 18 May - 20:18

Google has backtracked on its plan to delete inactive YouTube videos—at least for now. Of course, it could change its mind anytime it wants.

It would be nice if this would get people to think about the vulnerabilities inherent in letting a for-profit monopoly decide what of human creativity is worth saving.