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Last Week Online #14 – Some online platforms tried to clean up their messes. Others faced the consequences of doing so.

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
3 min read

Reddit bans r/watchpeopledie in the wake of the New Zealand mosque massacres

Following the tragic mosque massacre that claimed 50 lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, tech companies sanitised their platforms of promotional materials the shooter left behind. As too many internet users are unfortunately aware, the event was broadcast live on Facebook, making it one of the most violent incidents spread through online communities in real-time.

While users on Twitter cautioned others from sharing the extraordinarily graphic video, Reddit users knew precisely where to look for it. The infamous subreddit r/watchpeopledie was made unsearchable ("quarantined") in September 2018 but has been active for anyone to visit directly until today. The subreddit has a long history of sharing extremely graphic videos following tragic events and acts of violence, like the 2018 murder of two female tourists in Morocco.

After Thursday’s shooting, the subreddit became extremely active with users looking for the video, shot with a first-person perspective from a head-mounted camera.

Reddit banned the controversial community late Friday morning in California, some 20 hours after the attack. And while they declined to provide details about the decision to ban the long-running community after this particular event, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch: “We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites or glorifies violence will get users and communities banned from Reddit.”

Facebook suffered the most severe outage ever, impacting the whole family of apps

A “server configuration change” made on Wednesday had a cascading effect through Facebook's network. It created a repeating loop of problems that kept growing. Facebook said on Thursday that it had repaired a technical error that led to long lapses in service at its various properties; Instagram users couldn’t view other profiles, WhatsApp users couldn’t send messages, and news feeds across Facebook’s main app went blank.

The interruption lasted nearly 24 hours on some of the services and was the longest in Facebook’s recent history – an important reminder that even the most powerful internet companies are still vulnerable to human error.

“All of the big web companies have multiple lines of defence, but sometimes a coding mistake made by one engineer can make its way onto many thousands of computers and cause major errors,” said Alex Stamos, a former chief security officer at Facebook and a lecturer at Stanford University, to the New York Times. “In other words, rebooting something as complex as Facebook is very, very hard.”

Tumblr banned adult content – traffic drops with 150 million views in two months

Tumblr's ban on adult content appears to be hitting the site hard. When the popular blogging site initiated the ban, on December 3 last year, total Tumblr views on desktop and mobile were at just over 520 million. At the end of January, views had dropped by more than 150 million, according to the web analytics firm Similarweb.

The ban was as a reaction to child pornography slipping through the company's content filters, an event that removed Tumblr's app from the Apple App Store for roughly a month. The ban got off to a rocky start. Users complained about the inconsistency in blocked posts and ultimately found ways around the flagging process. Other users complained about the filter hiding images incorrectly.

In December, Tumblr CEO Jeff D'Onofrio said in a blog post that it chose to remove adult content after weighing the pros and cons of expression in the community. D'Onofrio said the platform had to consider the impact on different age groups, demographics, cultures, and mindsets. "We made a strategic decision for the business that better positions it for long-term growth among more types of users. This was the right decision," a Tumblr spokesperson said Thursday in a statement.

Tool of the week: VoiceFlow

VoiceFlow lets anyone create voice apps for Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Without any coding, you can design, prototype, and publish voice apps for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Using drag and drop functionality, you can quickly iterate a conversational flow using built-in blocks – lego style. You ask your users for the input you need, and using logic you decide how they should move through your app.

Additionally, you can integrate APIs (your own or others) to your VoiceFlow app, and soon you will be able to integrate with services like Google Drive and Airtable out of the box.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.

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