In a year that seemed to completely shake up Twitter — adding an edit button and shutting down expired verified users by selling them blue checks — it's easy to overlook how many other tech companies are throwing users off their feet due to unexpected policy changes in 2022.
Many of the decisions to change the policy were political in nature. We remind you that Wikipedia has stopped accepting contributions in cryptocurrency due to local costs. Google began allowing political emails to pass Gmail's spam filter before the election, then automatically removed location data from medically important websites after pressure from abortion rights activists. One of the most shocking changes to some since Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been Facebook's call to reclassify death threats against the Russian military as antisocial speech rather than acceptable "political expression."
Other decisions have definitely changed the direction of bad business practices. Amazon has stopped paying "ambassadors" to tweet about how they enjoy working in its warehouses. Apple has abandoned its controversial plan to scan all iCloud photos for child sexual abuse. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Tumblr has started allowing nudity again after losing revenue from its previous ban on adult content.
Ars covered every step as tech companies updated their policies in 2022. Below is a timeline of the most unexpected twists and turns we've seen this year as we track technology policy changes.
Amazon is ending Twitter's popular "Ambassador" plan.
In the year In 2018, Amazon decided that the best way to combat the negative perception of the company's warehouse situation was to pay social media influencers to tweet about how great it is to work at Amazon. The ambassador program pays warehouse workers to split their time between fulfillment centers and Twitter, answering questions about their specific jobs and sharing positive experiences. Critics derided the program as a "ridiculous attempt to reduce Amazon warehouse attacks." In January 2022, Amazon finally shut down the program due to social media backlash and general engagement.
Facebook considers some violent speech to be genuine "political expression".
Described as a temporary change in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, Meta took a bold political step in March by targeting Facebook and Instagram users from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Russia. Slovakia. , and Ukraine. Meta's unexpected decision allows these users to call for violence and even the death of Russian soldiers and politicians, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Such aggressive speech has historically been considered a violation of META policy, and META public affairs director Andy Stone said any calls for violence against real Russian citizens are prohibited. He explained that he had decided to temporarily allow some aggressive speeches that seemed like political expressions. An example of violent speech that Meta considers acceptable as political expression is the call for "death to the Russian occupier." In response, the Russian government launched an investigation into Meta as a possible "extremist organization."
Twitter adds an edit button
The feature is still not widely implemented, but plans for an edit key on Twitter were announced as an April Fool's joke in 2022 after Twitter users clamored for years. The next day, Twitter confirmed that it would indeed happen, saying the company had been working on the edit button for months.
The announcement comes shortly after Elon Musk conducted a survey to find out how many Twitter users wanted the feature. Until October, all paid Twitter followers in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had access to the edit button, but now the feature appears to have been put on hold. Starting in December, all Twitter users will be able to see an edit button that lets you edit tweets up to five times within 30 minutes of a post, but the feature is only available to "early access" Twitter Blue subscribers. "If Musk makes Twitter available. Again. Other "early access" features promised to Twitter Blue subscribers include NFT profile pictures and the ability to send 1080p video.
Turbo Tax has been forced to stop misleading "free, free, free" advertising.
During the 2016-2018 tax seasons, Turbo Tax advertised that customers could file their taxes "free, free, free," sometimes repeating the phrase dozens of times in a single ad. When customers responded to that ad, instead of directing 70 percent of users to a service that allows them to file tax returns for free, TurboTax directed them to a confusing "freemium" service that, for many, is not free. Nation. While Turbo Tax has denied any wrongdoing, it has settled with affected customers over the years and has agreed to stop any advertising that repeats the word "free". After that, ads touting so-called free services must post huge disclaimers.
Wikipedia has stopped accepting cryptocurrency donations
The Wikimedia Foundation began accepting cryptocurrency donations in 2014 when donors requested a direct payment method, but this year, after hundreds of Wikipedia editors voted, Wikipedia announced that those days were over and that it was closing its Bitpay account for charity. Concerned community members have pushed for policy change after arguing that cryptocurrencies are bad for the planet because they rely on energy-intensive networks. Community members who accept cryptocurrency donations have told the Wikimedia Foundation that accepting them could increase global carbon emissions and raise the value of the cryptocurrency.
The foundation took months to discuss the results of the community vote before announcing that it would "stop directly accepting cryptocurrency as a donation channel" in May 2022. However, this may not always be the policy. The foundation promises to remain flexible if cryptocurrencies become the preferred payment method for future donors and volunteers.
Google automatically removes location data from medically relevant locations.
In July, Google filed a Roe v. Wade has come under pressure from reproductive rights and privacy advocates who fear Google will inform the police about new abortion restrictions. In response to the criticism, Google announced that it would immediately begin removing location data from phones connected to confidential medical facilities, including abortion clinics, infertility centers, addiction treatment centers, weight loss clinics, plastic surgery clinics and domestic violence shelters for the elderly.
Google says user location history is disabled by default by policy, but any user who opts out of location tracking history can now set the data to be deleted automatically. But the policy change to automatically delete location data collected near medically important locations is a significant step to ensure that no data is collected after the company's users visit a potentially sensitive location.
TikTok has raised maturity levels after news of children's deaths.
In July, TikTok announced it would add new child safety features, including maturity levels, after the short video app was accused of being responsible for the deaths of seven children. The idea was to mark adult content at the same level as movies and games, and then prevent videos with "adult" or "sophisticated" themes from entering the channels of younger users between the ages of 13 and 17. TikTok has never featured such adult content before. Tik Tok says the rating will help the social media platform create a system that allows all users to easily filter content. Finally, the lawsuit against TikTok was dismissed in October, when the court ruled that Section 230 protects TikTok from a lawsuit aimed at holding TikTok liable for third-party uploads by vulnerable young users of the social network.
Google allows political emails to pass the spam filter
For some Gmail users, when the Federal Election Commission approved Google's pilot program, an influx of political emails allowed them to bypass the spam filter and reach primary inboxes instead. Their opposition did not stop the FEC from approving Google's program in August, which allowed Google to "test Gmail's new design features for free to authorized candidate committees, political party committees and governing CCPs."
Google deliberately tested the program before the election, hoping to see how hard it would hit the inbox when the volume of campaign emails sent was likely to rise. Users who didn't want to see the company's emails during the trial period were disappointed when they had to unsubscribe one after another. Although The Washington Post wrote that the plan "may only appeal to politicians," Republicans sued Google in October, alleging that Google was biased and still refused to let Republican emails pass its spam filter.
Twitter has suspended Donald Trump's account
After Elon Musk reinstated his Twitter account in November 2022, Donald Trump said: "I don't see any reason why we should." Twitter initially decided to ban Trump from the platform in 2021, saying the two tweets "may have encouraged and incited individuals to commit criminal acts at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021."
Shortly after taking over Twitter, Musk promised not to reinstate suspended accounts until he created a content moderation board to consult on those decisions. It later decided not to create a blackboard to punish civil rights activists who called for advertisers to ban Twitter amid the proliferation of hateful content. Instead of creating a content moderation board to make decisions, Musk began restoring permanently banned accounts like Trump's after surveying Twitter users and saying it was "the voice of the people" that prompted the Twitter CEO to reinstate Trump.
As of this writing, Trump has yet to tweet because Trump says Twitter is "in trouble."
Meta changes default settings to protect minor users from adults
Teenagers who have been using Facebook and Instagram for years have created accounts with default settings that allow unknown adult users to easily see their friends, pages they follow, and posts they've been tagged in. In the year In November 2022, Meta changed its policy to protect young users from adults by updating these default settings to prevent adult users from tracking youth online activities.
At the same time, Meta made it easier for minors to report "suspicious" accounts. Whenever a teen blocks an account, Meta will review the block and send them a message asking them to let them know "if it's bothering them while using our apps." If an account is reported as disturbing to a teen user, Meta will block it from appearing in recommendations for other teen users among people you know.
Twitter started selling blue tokens
Perhaps the most famous turn in Big Tech this year was Twitter's sudden surge in the sale of blue tokens. Previously, "clear" accounts received blue tickets to help users distinguish official posts from real sources and any prank, troll users known to deliberately cause confusion or spread misinformation. That period ended in November 2022, when Field's decision to charge $8 for blue checks led to a proliferation of fraudulent check stamp accounts. These accounts have posted fake tweets that hurt several brands such as Nintendo, Eli Lilly, Apple, Lockheed Martin and others.
By all accounts, Musk had no choice but to immediately reverse his decision and unsubscribe from Twitter Blue until he could figure out a way to prevent the influx of fake brand accounts. His solution: create multicolored checks, gold checks for companies, gray checks for government accounts, and blue checks for individuals. Since its launch in December, Twitter users can receive a blue check, and companies have started marking it with gold checks. For now, "legacy" accounts contain blue checks, but eventually Musk plans to phase out these outdated verification badges so only people who pay blue checks will be left.
Get rid of it again on Tumblr
In the year In 2018, Tumblr blocked all adult content based on an algorithm to flag and remove explicit content. Instead, users reported removing harmless content, including images of dinosaurs or offensive objects such as a hockey player's hands holding the puck. As Tumblr's value dropped from more than a billion in 2013 to $3 million in 2019, the decision to block adult content was seen as the end of the once-popular platform. That's why Tumblr Tumblr fans rejoiced when it announced in November 2022 that nudity would be allowed on Tumblr again.
After the ban on mature content was lifted, Tumblr created accounts for users to prevent the algorithm from removing newly approved content on "mature" or "sexual" themes. Some users cautiously hoped that the tags would stop Tumblr's ssppy auto-filtering, while others continued to insist that it would make it easier to report when Tumblr mistakenly removes harmless content.
Twitter will break the Trust and Security Council
Since 2016, Twitter has consulted with the Integrity and Safety Council, a group of other experts who help Twitter develop policies on controversial topics such as hate speech, terrorism and child abuse. Musk then took over Twitter and allegedly completely ignored his advice. But in December, Twitter appointed a new chief security officer, Ella Irwin, who told the audience that she would eventually meet with them to have an "open conversation" about changes at Twitter under Musk. Instead, a planned breakout session day meeting was canceled when board members reviewed how Twitter could "bring outside expertise to our product and policy development work."
"As part of this process, we have decided that trust and the Security Council are not the best part of this," said the letter, signed only on Twitter. Wishing the experts well in their future endeavours, Twitter permanently deleted the Trust and Safety Council, saying it would do more "timely information" in "bilateral meetings or small groups" while making strong statements on controversial topics.
Apple refuses to scan iCloud photos for CSAM.
Last year, Apple faced global backlash when the tech company announced plans to scan iCloud Photos for Child Sexual Abuse (CSAM) on all Apple devices. More than 90 human rights organizations told Apple that the policy does more harm than good, could lead to censorship, violate user privacy and security, and ultimately have dire consequences for children. After discussions with legal experts, Apple has temporarily suspended the release of its CSAM detection tool. Later, in December 2022, Apple concluded discussions, decided that the experts were right and the plan needed to be killed.