Posts tagged with "X"

‘Bluesky,’ a trendy rival to ‘X,’ finally opens to the public

February 7, 2024

When Jack Dorsey, then Twitter’s CEO, tweeted in 2019 that he planned to create a new, “decentralized” form of social media, most people scratched their heads. But Jay Graber immediately got excited, reports The Washington Post.

An idealistic, former software developer who had tried unsuccessfully to build her own social media system, Graber, then 28, saw Twitter’s involvement as the key to making the idea a reality. She applied and was chosen in August 2021 to lead the project, called Blueskyand soon convinced the Twitter honchos that it would work best as an independent organization, so that it wouldn’t be dependent on Dorsey for support.

“I didn’t see the future,” Graber said in an interview on Monday, February 5—referring to the subsequent ouster of Dorsey as Twitter’s CEO and sale of the company to Elon Musk. “But as I like to say, the captain can always sink the ship.”

Today, Bluesky is opening to the public after operating for nearly a year as an invitation-only app, with Graber as its CEO. With a little over 3 million users, it’s mounting a long-shot bid to take on the company that spawned it—and to set social media on a course that no single captain can control.

On the surface, Bluesky looks familiar to anyone who has used Twitter or Meta’s Threads, with a feed full of text posts and images from people you follow.

Underneath, however, the company is building what Graber calls “an open, decentralized protocol”—a software system that allows developers and users to create their own versions of the social network, with their own rules and algorithms. She compared the idea to email, where users of different apps like Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail can interact freely because they all run on the same underlying technology.

That system is a work in progress. So far, Bluesky is the only social network using its protocol. But it already has some features that set it apart.

For instance, users can subscribe to feeds where algorithms prioritize the most popular posts overall or the posts most popular among the people they follow. There are also options for feeds geared to their specific areas of interest, such as science or art. And users can toggle personal moderation settings that either “hide,” “warn,” or “show” categories of content such as nudity, violence, spam, and hate-group iconography.

The idea of a decentralized social media system is similar to that behind Mastodon, a seven-year-old nonprofit that relies on individual users and organizations to host and moderate their own, sometimes insular corners of its network. But Bluesky said its protocol would work differently, letting users customize their experience but keeping the network fundamentally public.

Rose Wang, who oversees operations and strategy for Bluesky, said its goal is to combine the ease of use and shared experience of closed platforms like X and Threads with the user choice and openness of systems like Mastodon’s. With Mastodon, which requires you to select and join one of thousands of differently managed servers before you can participate, “there’s almost too much user choice,” Wang said. “You don’t understand what you’re joining.”

But, for Bluesky, which now has a few dozen employees, mounting a serious challenge to X or Threads would be an uphill battle. Some of the early enthusiasm appears to have waned, with high-profile users such as Chrissy Teigen and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) going dormant or leaving the platform after making headlines when they joined last year. Even Dorsey, who remains a Bluesky board member, appears no longer to have an active account.

A page that tracks user statistics on Bluesky shows that the number of users actively posting each day has dipped slightly over the past month.

Still, at a time when the content moderation decisions of tech’s giants routinely alienate swaths of users, Wang said she’s optimistic the company’s choose-your-own-adventure approach will have enduring appeal.

“Lots of people want a different experience that’s not something run by Mark Zuckerberg or another billionaire,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to go back to a world where there’s only one microblogging client like Twitter.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Elmo’s wellness check turned into a mass online trauma dump

February 5, 2024

Big Bird is big again, finally. It was a long week for the Internet’s favorite yellow bird, who spent days grappling with an existential crisis that sent social media spiraling. So during that emotional time, Elmo decided to do a wellness check on the not-bird app, X, reports Mashable.

“Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?” Elmo asked the Internet on Monday, January 29.

“Not good,” users answered back, en masse.

Barely one month into 2024, and the Internet dumps trauma on Elmo. What was supposed to be a friendly check-in turned into a virtual therapy session as users on X spilled their woes to the beloved Sesame Street character—who is still only three years old—and lamented why life isn’t “life-ing” like it used to.

The people are struggling with rent, bills, heartbreak, and a looming presidential election between two guys who seem extremely out of touch with voters.

As just a few of the multitude of answers posted to America’s favorite red Muppet demonstrate, Elmo caught us at a really bad time:

  • Look, Elmo, it’s been a really long year;
  • Elmo, [I am] going to bed after being trauma-dumped on all day;
  • Elmo, life is just hard;
  • Tired, Elmo, we are tired;
  • It’s lot of mess happening right now, Elmo, we been better;
  • I guess I … I’m afraid Elmo; and
  • Elmo, we’re barely holding on.

Even the President of the United States got involved in the mass mental health discussion: “I know how hard it is some days to sweep the clouds away and get to sunnier days,” Biden posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Our friend Elmo is right: We have to be there for each other, offer our help to a neighbor in need and, above all else, ask for help when we need it. Even though it’s hard, you’re never alone.”

Did Elmo ask for 50,000 quote tweets trauma dumping on him on a random Monday? No. Was it a necessary check-in? Yes. To his credit, Elmo doesn’t seem to be too bothered by it.

“Wow! Elmo is glad he asked! Elmo learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing. Elmo will check in again soon, friends! Elmo loves you,” Elmo posted on X.

But now the big question is has anyone asked how Elmo is doing? We’ll circle back when the Internet checks up on the big red guy.

Research contact: @mashable

McDonald’s’ secret new spin-off chain CosMc’s prepares to open

December 5, 2023

From Big Macs to nuggets, McDonald’s has already given us so much—but now, they fast-casual food chain on the verge of opening a new spin-off restaurant, reports MetroUK.

Earlier this year, Maccies bosses announced CosMc’s—described as a ‘small-format concept with all the DNA of McDonald’s, but its own unique personality.’

The first location is well on the way to opening in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and—after a passer-by managed to take pictures of their menu screens being tested—MetroUK writer Kristina Beanland says she finally has some insight into what CosMc’s might serve.

While it’s unclear if the menus were simply dummy place holders, or the real deal, glimpses from the screens reveal an array of items, including iced teas, lemonades, slushies, sandwiches, and smaller bites.

Beanland is “particularly excited” by the sound of a Churro Frappe and Tumeric Spiced Latte; or perhaps, she says, the Blueberry Ginger Boost will be more to your liking.

Sandwiches include the Spicy Queso or a more traditional Sausage McMuffin.

As well as posting the menu pictures to X, formerly Twitter, user Iman Jalali also added: “It’s not open yet and there was a full team of actors in the drive-thru filming a commercial so the menu was up and I was able to snap a few pics from afar …. Four drive thru lanes to boot.”

It’s been speculated that the new CosMc’s will be extension of the already existing McCafe menu, and a rival to popular chains like Starbucks.

McDonald’s revealed they’d be launching the new ch in back in the summer, named after a mascot from the 1980s and 1990s: CosMc was an alien from outer space with a passion for McDonald’s French fries, who featured in adverts for the chain from 1986 to 1992.

And , while McDonald’s is being fairly tight-lipped about what CosMc’s has in store for us, it’s fair to say that fans of the Golden Arches are excited.

‘Suspense is killing me,’ wrote one user on X.

However, some aren’t impressed by the potential menu: ‘I feel like I need to brush my teeth just looking at that sugary drinks menu,’ wrote an unimpressed user.

There is still no set date for the big opening of CosMc’s.

Research contact: @MetroUK

Advertisers say they do not plan to return to X after Musk’s comments

December 4, 2023

Advertisers said on Thursday, November 30, that they did not plan to reopen their wallets anytime soon with X, the social media company formerly known as Twitter, after its owner, Elon Musk, insulted brands using an expletive and told them not to spend on the platform, reports The New York Times.

At least half a dozen marketing agencies said the brands they represent were standing firm against advertising on X, while others said they had advised advertisers to stop posting anything on the platform. Some temporary spending pauses that advertisers have enacted in recent weeks against X are likely to turn into permanent freezes, they added—noting that Musk’s comments giving them no incentive to return.

Advertisers are “not coming back” to X, said Lou Paskalis, the founder and chief executive of AJL Advisory, a marketing consultancy. “There is no advertising value that would offset the reputational risk of going back on the platform.”

Musk has repeatedly criticized and alienated advertisers since buying Twitter last year. At one point, he threatened a “thermonuclear name & shame” against advertisers who paused their spending because they were concerned about his plans to loosen content moderation rules on X.

In recent weeks, more than 200 advertisers had halted their spending on X after Musk endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory and researchers called attention to instances of ads appearing alongside pro-Nazi posts on the platform. The company, which has made most of its revenue from advertising, is at risk of losing up to $75 million this quarter as brands back away.

The situation was compounded on Wednesday when Musk made incendiary comments against advertisers at the DealBook Summit in New York. In a wide-ranging interview at the event, Musk apologized for the antisemitic post, calling it “one of the most foolish” he had ever published, but also said that advertisers were trying to “blackmail” him. He singled out Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, who also attended the DealBook Summit.

“Don’t advertise,” Musk then said, using an expletive multiple times to emphasize his point.

Hours later, Linda Yaccarino, X’s chief executive, tried to mitigate the damage. In a post on X, she shifted attention to Musk’s apology for associating himself with antisemitism and appealed to advertisers to return.

“X is enabling an information independence that is uncomfortable for some people,” Yaccarino wrote. “X is standing at a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street—and the X community is powerful and here to welcome you.”

A representative for X did not respond to a request for comment.

Among the brands that have been big spenders on X and that have recently halted their campaigns are Apple, Disney, and IBM. Other brands have remained, including the National Football League and The New York Times’ sports site, The Athletic.

At the DealBook event on Wednesday, Musk acknowledged that an extended advertiser boycott could bankrupt X. But the public would blame the failure on brands, he said, not on him.

“I will certainly not pander,” he said.

Research contact: @nytimes

Trump targets wife of New York judge overseeing civil fraud trial

December 1, 2023

The wife of the New York judge overseeing Donald Trump’s ongoing civil fraud trial is the latest target of the former president’s rage online, reports The Hill.

Trump took aim at Judge Arthur Engoron’s spouse in a series of posts on Tuesday afternoon, November 28, purporting that an account on X— formerly Twitter—that made several anti-Trump posts belongs to her.

The posts by “Dawn Marie,” which were first unearthed by conservative activist Laura Loomer, say Trump is “headed to the big house,” referring to prison, and remark on his ongoing trial. Two posts show what appears to be AI illustrations of the former president in an orange jumpsuit, and another depicts him as the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Judge Engoron’s Trump Hating wife, together with his very disturbed and angry law clerk, have taken over control of the New York State Witch Hunt Trial aimed at me, my family, and the Republican Party,” Trump wrote Wednesday, November 29, in a Truth Social post.

The Hill could not independently verify that the X account making anti-Trump posts belonged to the judge’s wife. The account appeared to be deactivated at the time of publication.

On a school alumni page run by Engoron, the judge previously wrote that his wife is a psychoanalyst named Dawn. The Hill attempted to reach her via numerous platforms, but she did not immediately return requests for comment.

The judge’s wife previously told Newsweek that the X account does not belong to her.

“I do not have a Twitter account. This is not me. I have not posted any anti Trump messages,” Dawn Engoron said.

Engoron and his principal law clerk have been frequent targets of the former president throughout his fraud trial.

The judge found Trump, the Trump Organization and several executives—including the former president’s adult sons—liable for fraud before the trial even began, ruling that New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) had proved the crux of her case that claims the Trumps falsely inflated and deflated the value of their business’s assets to receive lower taxes and better insurance coverage.

That ruling, plus Engoron’s interactive role in the bench trial, has placed him directly in Trump’s line of fire both in court and on social media.

When Trump testified earlier this month, he took shots at Engoron numerous times, calling him “Trump hating” and questioning his impartiality.

“Can you control your client?” Engoron asked Trump’s counsel at the time. “This is not a political rally.”

Trump’s attacks against the judge’s clerk resulted in a limited gag order issued against the former president and his attorneys—barring them from speaking about the judge’s staff. Trump previously testified that he thinks the clerk is “very biased against us.” The order is temporarily paused while it is being considered by an appeals court.

The purported bias of the trial judge and his principal law clerk against Trump was the basis for a mistrial motion earlier this month, asserting the pair have “tainted” the case. Trump’s legal team argued that the appearance of bias “threatens both Defendants’ rights and the integrity of the judiciary as an institution.”

Engoron denied the motion earlier this month, describing it as “utterly without merit.”

Research contact: @thehill

Santos says he won’t seek re-election after release of ethics report

November 17, 2023

House investigators found “substantial evidence” that Representative George Santos (R-New York) knowingly violated a litany of ethics and criminal laws, according to a House Ethics Committee report released on Thursday, November 15, that prompted Santos to declare he would not seek re-election next year, reports The Washington Post.

“Representative Santos’ conduct warrants public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office, and has brought severe discredit upon the House,” Reps. Michael Guest (R-Mississippi) and Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania), the committee’s chairman and senior Democrat, said in a joint statement.

The report recommended that the allegations against Santos be referred to the Justice Department but stopped short of calling for Santos’s expulsion from the House or other discipline. Guest told reporters Wednesday that recommending punishment for Santos would have taken the panel several more months. Instead, he said, the report would simply be publicly released so that lawmakers could read it and “take whatever action that they felt necessary.”

Santos railed against the ethics committee on Thursday in a lengthy post on X in which he called the report a “disgusting politicized smear” and claimed that he was being “stoned by those who have flaws themselves.”

He added he would not be seeking reelection to a second term in 2024 after all, reversing course from a previous announcement in April that he would. Santos stepped down from his committee assignments in January.

According to the report, Santos was given an opportunity to submit to investigators a signed written statement responding to the allegations, but he did not do so. Santos also did not respond to the committee’s requests to submit documents, to voluntarily testify, or to provide a statement under oath.

The long-awaited report lays out the conclusions of the committee’s months-long investigation in scathing language. According to the committee, investigators compiled more than 170,000 pages of documents and testimony from dozens of witnesses, including financial statements, to reach its conclusion.

“Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit. He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit,” the report stated.

It continued: “He reported fictitious loans to his political committees to induce donors and party committees to make further contributions to his campaign — and then diverted more campaign money to himself as purported ‘repayments’ of those fictitious loans.

“He used his connections to high value donors and other political campaigns to obtain additional funds for himself through fraudulent or otherwise questionable business dealings. And he sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience.”

Guest said he would file a motion to expel Santos on Friday morning, November 17, according to a person familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. The House can consider the motion upon its return from its holiday break on November 28.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Axelrod suggests Biden drop out of 2024 presidential race

November 7, 2023

On Sunday, November 5, former President Barack Obama’s Senior Adviser David Axelrod suggested that President Joe Biden  should drop out of the 2024 presidential race in the wake of a new poll showing the incumbent trailing former President Donald Trump, reports The Hill.

Pointing to a poll by The New York Times and Siena College poll published on Sunday, Axelrod wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “It’s very late to change horses; a lot will happen in the next year that no one can predict & Biden’s team says his resolve to run is firm.”

Arguing Biden is “justly proud of his accomplishments,” Axelrod said Biden’s poll numbers will “send tremors of doubt” through the Democratic Party.“Not ‘bed-wetting,’” but legitimate concern, Axelrod wrote.

“Trump is a dangerous, unhinged demagogue whose brazen disdain for the rules, [norms], laws, and institutions or democracy should be disqualifying,” Axelrod wrote in a separate post. “But the stakes of miscalculation here are too dramatic to ignore.”

“Only @JoeBiden can make this decision,” he continued. “If he continues to run, he will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. What he needs to decide is whether that is wise; whether it’s in HIS best interest or the country’s?”

The poll found Biden trailing Trump in five out of six battleground states—including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania—by margins of 3 percentage points to 10 percentage points among registered voters. In Wisconsin, Biden was ahead by 2 percentage points, according to the poll.

The poll’s findings serve as a major blow to Biden’s campaign after the incumbent carried all six states in 2020 when up against Trump, The New York Times reported.

Biden’s reelection campaign has faced growing concerns from voters within his own party over his age and policy actions on various issues, notably the economy.

The poll found that 71% of registered voters said they agree to some degree that Biden is “just too old to be an effective president,” while only 39% said the same about Trump.

Asked if Biden has the “mental sharpness to be an effective president,” 62% of participants said no, while 35% agreed with the statement. Meanwhile, 52 % of participants said they believe Trump has the mental sharpness to be an effective president, while 44% said he does not.

Biden has faced criticism over his age since his 2020 campaign and this criticism has continued throughout his time in the White House. At 80, Biden is the oldest U.S. president in history.

If reelected in 2024, he would be 86 at the end of his second term.

Axelrod called Biden’s age is “his biggest liability” and something he cannot change.

“Among all the unpredictables there is one thing that is sure: the age arrow only points in one direction,” Axelrod wrote on X.

Axelrod’s comments follow a series of calls from some Democrats who have suggested Biden’s age makes him “too old” to run for reelection next year. The president has argued it is fair for voters to discuss his age, but he has said they should judge him on his ability to perform the job.

Research contact: @thehill