Catch up with the online safeguarding news stories for May, in easy to read bitesize news segments.
10th May – FacexWorm attacks Facebook Messenger. It was reported that new malware FacexWorm is putting Facebook Messenger’s 1 billion daily users at risk of having their passwords and personal data stolen. It works by relying on Messenger users wanting to view certain videos through links to well-known websites. The malware directs them to download a Chrome extension in order to play the video’s content. The video links are in fact fake and by clicking the link, the user inadvertently installs FacexWorm instead, which then gets to work stealing your personal information from other websites the victim has previously used. Be fraud aware and never click on a link you don’t trust.
10th May – Spotify drops R&B artist R Kelly from its playlists. A tenuous safeguarding story but worthy of inclusion to demonstrate some of the ill thought out decision making, that occurs at the top table of some high profile social media platforms. At the beginning of the month Spotify changed their ‘Hate Content & Hateful Conduct’ policy. As a result, they decided that singer R Kelly’s music was not compatible with their policy and they dropped him from their playlists. This meant that whilst his music was still available on the streaming site , the site was not actively promoting his music on their playlists. This had nothing to do with the music content in R Kelly lyrics , but more to do with sexual conduct allegations against R Kelly that had surfaced in his private life. It followed the social media campaign #MuteRKelly. By the end of the month, Spotify had backtracked on their new policy following a backlash by other artists and record labels , stating its new policy “had created confusion and concern”. They went onto say they didn’t intend to “play judge and jury” which is exactly what they had done in the first place.
14th May – Twitter fails to take down Xanax adverts. The BBC followed up on their February expose about prescription only drugs being marketed and sold online. The Beeb described how adverts for anti-anxiety drug Xanax had not been removed from Twitter despite the social media company being informed in February that the adverts were there. They reported that Twitter had failed to remove all of the 16 posts and pages until the BBC had followed up on the story by asking Twitter to comment. Xanax (Alprazolam) is a minor tranquiliser used to treat anxiety and must be prescribed by a medical professional in the UK. However, it is widely used and available in the US and is seen by young people as a recreational drug. It has several potential side effects and is highly addictive. Medical experts warn that overdoses can be fatal particularly when mixed with alcohol and other drugs. Is this another example of mismanagement at the highest level of a social media company, or does it demonstrate that they just don’t care and believe they are untouchablel?
15th May – Facebook releases first data figures on abuse and hateful content. The social media giant stated that they had deleted or added warnings to approximately 29 million posts in the first quarter of the year. The posts breached the companies policy on ‘hate speech, graphic violence, terrorism and sexual content’. However, analysis of the report identified that the company was still struggling to identify certain safeguarding areas, such as hate speech. Highlights of the data:
• graphic violence up 183% . An estimated 7 in every 10,000 posts , contain some graphic violence.
• 3% to 4% of all active users on Facebook are fake.
• 1.9 million pieces of extremist content were removed between January and March, up 73% against the last quarter
• estimated 8 in every 10,000 posts contains adult nudity or sexual content
15th May – Dark Web criminal charges. There were reports in Germany that four men had been charged with offences relating to the dark web child abuse site Elysium. This is part of an ongoing investigation by German authorities who closed the site last year. We have included this snippet to highlight the vast numbers of people using the site. German Prosecutors stated it had 111,000 registered users.
21st May – ‘Sharenting’ putting children at risk. There were warnings that parents are putting their children at risk of future identity theft and fraud by openly sharing personal details of their children online – commonly known as ‘sharenting’. Any information posted online about children, will remain there unless deleted and can be used well into the future. However , it is not only future fraud. Fraudsters are able to access that information now and potentially identify adults password – most people use their children’s names in passwords.
21st May – ‘TeenSafe’ app data breach. The app TeenSafe is designed so parents can protect their children by monitoring their text messages, contact numbers, website use and what apps they have installed. In an ironic twist, the app allowed the Apple and Android identification details of more than 10,000 children to lay unprotected on Amazon cloud servers. It wasn’t only children’s details at risk, the passwords, email addresses and other personal data of the parents were also visible. Those exposing the story claimed that the app owners had failed to put in basic security measures. Not good for an app designed to safeguard children.
25th May – GDPR complaints filed. GDPR arrived and it didn’t take long for the first official complaints to be filed against Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Google. The complaints of non-compliance were brought by European consumer rights organisation Noyb. They claim that the social media companies have forced users into agreeing to new terms of service, rather than the user giving free consent. If the complaints are upheld each platform could be fined up to £3bn.
25th May – Men indicted in Call of Duty ‘swatting’ shooting. A story that has gripped America in the recent weeks is the case of a hoax call which led to a fatal shooting. Three people have now been charged with various offences arising from a feud between two ‘Call of Duty: World War II’ gamers. In December 2017, Shane Gaskill allegedly fell out with fellow gamer Casey Viner whilst playing the online game. Viner apparently threatened to ‘swat’ Gaskil, meaning he would make a hoax call to get an armed police SWAT (Special Weapons & Tactics) team to call on Viner. Gaskill dared Viner to go through with it and gave Viner an address which he said was his home address. It was in fact a house he was renting to a family. Viner then involved a third man, Tyler Barriss who phoned the police in Wichita, Kansas, claiming to be a man who had just shot his father and was holding his mother and brother at gunpoint. The whole thing was a hoax, but police went to the given address, where they confronted the occupier, an innocent man by the name of Andrew Finch. When Finch opened the door, he made some sudden movements that police believed were attempts to reach for a weapon. With the false information from Barriss in their minds, they regrettably shot Andrew Finch dead. We explore the dangers of online gaming in our article ‘Bullying, sexting and sexual exploitation are not the only online dangers!
26th May – Social media celebrities might be encouraging children to eat unhealthily. A study found that children who saw popular vloggers (video bloggers) eating junk food, generally consumed 26% more calories than those who didn’t follow the vloggers. The study used 176 children who were split into three groups and shown images of the media stars promoting unhealthy snacks, healthy foods and non-food products. The children were then offered a range of healthy and unhealthy snacks to choose from. Those children who had seen the unhealthy images consumed an average of 448 calories, while the others ate just 357. The researchers called for more protection for children against marketing of junk food.
26th May – Fortnite scam. The makers of Fortnite issued a warning that there were numerous videos (mainly on YouTube) that were claiming to reveal how to get the games free currency, known as V-Bucks. This currency is purchased using real money and can be used to buy assorted items within the game. Many of these videos are false and encourage the viewer to visit certain websites or download apps. In reality there is no such thing as a free V-Buck and these sites and apps are controlled by fraudsters who ask you for your Fortnite account information, including your credit details. For more information on Fortnite, read our article ‘Fortnite Battle Royale – Safe or dangerous?’
29th May – ‘Drill’ videos deleted from YouTube. At the request of the Metropolitan Police Service, YouTube have removed a substantial amount of music videos that the Met said promoted and incited violence. Known as ‘Drill’ videos, they generally feature hooded and masked gang members, making threats and preaching violence in their lyrics. Drill is a slang term for automatic weapons. Around 50 videos have been removed.
30th May – ‘Active Shooter’ game withdrawn. A new game called ‘Active Shooter’, due for release on 6th June was withdrawn by online store Steam. The game attracted massive criticism and a 180,000-signature strong petition calling for it to be banned after marketing revealed that part of this shooting simulation game was set in an American high school. The makers tried to defend the game by claiming that Steam had been selling other mass shooting games for several years, implying that why should theirs be any different.