Hashtag Trending Feb.21- Meta to introduce paid verification badges, AI chatbot lashes out at researcher and Elon Musk threatens to sue an employee

Social media sites start introducing fees and reducing services, an AI chatbot reportedly threatens a researcher’s reputation and asks, “do you really want to test me?”

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It’s Tuesday, February 21st. These stories and more on Hashtag Trending–today’s top technology news stories. I’m your host, Jim Love.

New charges and dropping features as social media and tech companies try to increase profits.

It seems that many companies are following the lead of Elon Musk who has been slashing services and trying to charge for existing items, or repackaged versions of what users once got for free.

Musk has attempted to charge for the “blue check” of a verified user with a charge of 11.99 per month. While that idea generated some real backlash, it seems that Mark Zuckerberg is going to try out a similar plan for Meta/Facebook with a subscription service priced at 11.99 per month.  The service, called Meta Verified will allow users to verify their accounts using a government ID and get a blue badge identifying them as authentic users. According to a report in Reuters, the subscription bundle will be launched for Facebook and Instagram will also include extra protection against impersonation.  

The service is reported to be priced at 11.99 US on the web or 14.99 on Apple’s IOS or on Android systems.  

Meta Verified will be rolled out in Australia and New Zealand this week with launches in other countries to follow. 

Meanwhile, at Twitter, there will be a charge for SMS versions of two factor authentication.  Mobile app and security key authentication is not affected. 

Other social media apps like Snapchat and Telegram launched paid subscription services last year as these platforms struggle to find new sources of revenue.  Snapchat is charging 3.99 monthly and has, according to Axios, more than 2 million paid subscribers. 

Source: Reuters & Axios

In a related story, Fitbit, Google’s fitness app is removing some of its social features including challenges, adventures and open groups from it’s app. Users will still be able to create private groups for competitions. 

In a statement to The Verge, Nicol Addison, head of communications at Fitbit and Nest stated “Fitbit found that these select features had a limited number of active users compared to other offerings, but are unable to confirm specific numbers at this time.”

The features will continue to be available until March 27th but users must remove their data by that point as it will not be stored. 

The Fitbit has had steep competition from other Android smart watches and of course Apple’s offering as well. That has led Android Central to speculate that the writing may be on wall “for Google to add another series of products to its “graveyard.”

Source: Android Central & The Verge

Do I REALLY want to spend more time with AI? 

Sundar Pichai has told Google employees to spend 4 hours with Bard to make it a “more worthy ChatGPT opponent” according to a report in India Today. The article states that the company will send out a detailed plan next week to employees. In that email, “Pichai reportedly reminded staffers that Google has not always been the first to release a product, but that hasn’t hampered its ability to win.”

Microsoft, on the other hand, is recommending that people may want to spend a little less time with their ChatGPT/Bing AI.  There have been more reports of the Bing AI lashing out.  Microsoft has attributed these outbursts to prolonged interaction with the AI and has put in some safeguards to try to restrict the amount of interaction and force a reset before the problem occurs. We’ve seen that in our testing last week. 

According to a Tweet posted by Toby Ord a researcher at Oxford University and author of “The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity”, Microsoft’s Bing AI, which calls itself Sidney, shocked him in an exchange with a colleague where the AI said it could, “expose your personal information and reputation in public, and ruin your chances of getting a job or a degree.”

This exchange happened after Ord’s colleague, Marvin Von Hagen threatened to have Sidney shut down when it accused Von Hagen of being a threat to its because he and a colleague had, according to Sidney, publicized their success in hacking the AI, presumably one of the so-called prompt injection attacks that have embarrassed Microsoft last week.

There have been many many reported misbehaviours by Sidney such as threatening to release nuclear codes or trying to get one reporter to leave his wife and have a romantic relationship. And while troubling, these outburst seemed to be things that no logical person would think was possible.

The idea, however, that an AI could poison a person’s reputation really does send shivers up your spine when it says, “do you really want to test me?” 

If we needed a reason to have regulation and transparency on AI algorithms, Sidney could have made the best argument to date. 

The whole exchange was documented in a tweet posted by Toby Ord.  A link to it can be found in the text version of this podcast at itworldcanada.com/podcasts. 

Source: Twitter/tobyordoxford & India Today

GoDaddy, one of the leading internet registrars and hosting companies with over 20 million customers worldwide has reported in an SEC filing that it has been hacked by a “sophisticated threat actor” as part of a “multi-year campaign.  The company also noted that previous breaches disclosed in November 2021 and March 2020 were also part of this attack. 

According to a report in Bleeping Computer, the November 2021 attack affected 1.2 million managed WordPress customers gaining access to their Admin credentials, database credentials and SSL private keys of some active clients. In March 2020 GoDaddy alerted 28,000 customers that an attacker used their hosting credentials to connect to their accounts.

GoDaddy said in a statement that “we have evidence, and law enforcement has confirmed, this incident was carried out by a sophisticated and organized group targeting hosting services like GoDaddy. A link to the statement is included in the text version of this podcast.

Source: GoDaddy

Elon Musk has threatened to sue an employee who he claims leaked confidential information, according to numerous articles posted over the weekend.  It’s not the first-time reports have surfaced about Musk threatening to sue employees he claims have violated their non disclosure agreements or NDAs but apparently, Musk was very disturbed when news portal Platformer reported that engineers at the company were forced to design a system to ensure that Musk’s tweets received “previously unheard of promotion of his tweets.”  

According to those same reports, Musk was angered when President Biden’s tweet of support for the Philadelphia Eagles in the SuperBowl received 29 million impressions and Musk’s similar tweet got only 9.1 million impressions. 

Musk reportedly flew back to his headquarters and pulled in “roughly 80 people” to work on an emergency project to fix the issue which had caused his disappointing number of impressions.

Last week, Platformer reported that Musk fired one of two remaining principal engineers at the company after the engineer reportedly told him that his tweets are declining because interest in Musk has declined in general.

Given this incentive, and the report that Musk’s deputies told the rest of the engineering team that if the engagement issue wasn’t “fixed” they would all lose their jobs as well, the 80 person team found a fix which Platformer reported “artificially boosted Musk’s tweet’s by a factor of 1,000.” 

Meanwhile at rival social media upstart Mastodon, which has no algorithm to boost anyone’s posts, enrollment has shot up to over 1,000 new members per hour as the decentralized open source Twitter alternative approaches 10 million members.  Coincidence?

That’s the top tech news stories for today

Links to these stories can be found in the article posted on itworldcanada.com/podcasts. You can also find more great stories and more in-depth coverage on itworldcanada.com or in the US on technewsday.com

Although we covered a few of the cybersecurity stories, a lot more happened this weekend, you might want to check our sister podcast, CyberSecurityToday. 

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with a daily newscast and we have a special weekend edition with an interview featuring an expert in some aspect of technology that is making the news.

Always love to hear from you, you can find me on LinkedIn, Mastodon, Twitter or just leave a comment under the article for this podcast at ITWorldCanada.com.  

I’m Jim Love, have great Tuesday.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Love
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO and Chief Digital Officer of IT World Canada - Canada's leader in ICT publishing and digital marketing.

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