By Grayson Bell | FORT COLLINS, Co. – I have been running Facebook ads on and off ever since I published my first novel in 2018. I’ve occasionally run into issues with their advertising review team, but none as seemingly insurmountable as what I’ve just experienced.
Why was I running Facebook ads?
Over the years, I experimented with boosted posts from my Facebook author’s page, having varying degrees of success. What I eventually learned was that if I kept the ad running for a longer time with a smaller budget, I would have a lot more success than running a short campaign with a larger budget.
Instead of running a quick weekend campaign over two to four days with a budget of $50-$100, I began running month-long campaigns for only $30–40. The shorter campaigns only got me around $10–20 in sales, where the longer ones led to $100-$200. Once I figured that trick out, I launched a new campaign at the start of every month and kept earning a steady and slowly increasing stream of revenue.
When I tried Amazon ads or running boosted Twitter posts, neither worked nearly as well. Both required more upfront cost and wouldn’t let me run anything for as low as $1 per day, and I never saw the same return on my investment as I was getting on Facebook. Instagram was nearly as successful, but then Facebook ran my ads on both platforms, so I didn’t see the need to run separate campaigns.
What went wrong?
My earliest experience with Facebook ads was a foreshadowing of what recently happened. When I published my first novel, Coffee-to-Go, in 2018, I tried creating some ads to promote the book. The only platform that rejected the ad was Facebook, telling me that the ad was too sexual. Why? Because it depicted the artwork of two men kissing, one of whom was shirtless.
After failing to get the ad approved upon requesting a review, I tried several variations of coffee shop themes and the novel cover. They also deemed them too sexual. This time, they told me it was inappropriate to show two men’s hands with their fingers touching. Whoever was reviewing the ads found any touch between men as too sexual.
That made me realize I was dealing with a homophobic reviewer who did not want to allow me to promote my gay romance novel. What happened after that was somewhat amusing, as the ad went back and forth between being approved and rejected over the course of a couple of hours. I like to imagine that another reviewer was arguing with the one who wanted to reject it and they kept clicking accept and reject back and forth. Eventually, they accepted it, and it ran without further issue.
After that, it was hit-or-miss whether they would approve my ads or not. However, if I made a slight change, they would usually approve the ad. I was careful with the imagery, wording, and even hashtags I used to promote on Facebook. If I wanted to get a little more daring with my promotion, I wouldn’t boost it as a paid ad, knowing they would likely reject it. Instead, I would merely share it in various romance promotion groups and leave it at that.
When I published my novel, Suddenly Omega, in February 2022, I once again began running month-long campaigns on Facebook. For the first several months, I only promoted the newest novel, before switching to promoting all five novels that I’d published so far. By now, I knew what words and imagery to avoid, and they approved my promotions without an issue.
Unfortunately, when I posted my ad for July 2022, it remained in review for more than a day before finally being rejected. The only message I received was that I had violated advertising policies. I checked to see if any of the policies had changed since I’d last read them, and they hadn’t. I was certain my ad wasn’t violating any of the policies, as it was nearly identical to the ones I ran in May and June. The only difference was a change in the background image, all of which were colorful abstracts.
I requested the ad go through another review, and once again, they rejected it. I tried changing the image, including the background and how I displayed the covers of my novels, and it was also rejected.
I have a Meta for Business account, so I contacted their support, hoping they could help. The support person I spoke with was very patient with me and she tried to get my rejected ads approved. However, because they had rejected the ad after a requested review, there was nothing she could do. So, she suggested I recreate the ad from scratch and inform her when it was rejected. She would then help me get it approved, and that worked.
While somewhat annoyed over the entire situation, I was grateful when Meta for Business went to bat for me. When I submitted my ad for August 2022, I was relieved that they approved it immediately. I hoped that perhaps going through Meta for Business had cleared up whatever hang-up had happened in July.
Unfortunately, this is where things went completely sideways.
In mid-August, they notified me that my August ad, that they had approved two weeks earlier, was now rejected. They did not even give me the option to request a review. Not only that, but they also retroactively rejected the ads from June and July, although they had finished running. I reached out to Meta for Business for help, and the person I spoke to this time was far less sympathetic to my plight and they abruptly ended the chat after reaching out to the advertising policy review team.
I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I decided they had some issue with my ads now that they hadn’t previously. So, I completely redesigned the ad. I went with a simpler design, using a stock image of a man sitting on a bench reading a book. I removed all my book covers from the ad, and only stated Queer Romance Reads by Grayson Bell, and included a shortened link to my website and the usual Amazon Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Kindle Vella logos that most indie authors use.
This ad was instantly rejected. I tried one more time by changing Queer to LGBTQ and changing the link from a shortened one to the full link to my website. They also rejected those changes. I reached out to Meta for Business again, explaining the edits I did, as they had suggested. This resulted in a response that stated I should review their advertising policies and community guidelines and edit my ad accordingly.
Naturally, I was becoming frustrated by being stuck in this ridiculous loop, and it seemed as if they hadn’t even looked at the changes I’d made to my ad. Out of sheer desperation, I wrote a polite, but strongly worded, email, demanding clarification of which advertising policies I had violated. This finally led them to sending me the following response.
“Your Ad/s appear to be non-compliant with our Systems Policy. Ads must not use tactics intended to circumvent our Ad review process or other enforcement systems. This includes techniques that attempt to disguise the Ads’ content or destination Page.”
This was less vague, but wasn’t helpful. I had already suspected that using the bit.ly redirect was the issue, which is why I had removed it from the most recent version of my ad. So, I crafted a detailed reply, complete with screenshots, explaining where each link goes. This included the link in my ad to my website, and the links to Amazon that the buy now and read now buttons take them.
Everything in my ad is completely transparent and isn’t taking anyone somewhere that would be false or misleading. Nor does my website have any content on it that would violate Facebook’s policies. I host with WordPress, and they wouldn’t allow that kind of content either.
Now I am stuck in a loop where I cannot edit any of my ads, all new ones are being instantly rejected, and the Meta for Business team has permanently closed the case so I can no longer respond to it. I could open a new case, but I do not feel hopeful that I would receive any more help than I already have.
What’s going on here?
I know quite a few romance authors on Facebook, many who run ads with rarely a rejection. Most of them write very steamy, sexy romances with one difference. The couples in them are straight. One man. One woman. Typically white, able-bodied, and cisgender. Their ads are far more salacious and bawdy than any that I’ve dared to run since that first rejection back in 2018. Many of them link their ads to their websites because indie and self-published authors offer their books on multiple platforms. As long as our websites comply with Facebook content policies, it usually isn’t an issue.
The only conclusion I can draw from any of this is that the Facebook Advertising Policy Review team has a bias against queer romance books. The rejection of the Coffee-to-Go ad was a sign of things to come. I’m sure not everyone who works for Facebook is homophobic, but those who make advertising content policy decisions might be.
As I’ve ranted about it on social media, I’ve had people try to placate me by suggesting various workarounds. Workarounds that I’ve already tried. Workarounds I shouldn’t even have to use because nothing in my ads violates any of their policies.
Also, don’t suggest it’s because the novels I’m trying to promote contain gay sex scenes and therefore I’m trying to sell sexually explicit content. Because if that were the issue, then they shouldn’t allow the promotion of the straight romance novels filled with sexually explicit scenes, either.
Where will I go from here?
For the time being, Facebook ads are out. It’s possible that I may never run ads on that platform again, but certainly not any time soon. So, what’s next?
Unfortunately for me, I will have to go back to a more manual approach. If I can’t run an automated ad that will get my promotions in front of targeted eyeballs, I’ll have to do it myself. That means spending time creating a lot more marketing graphics and videos, posting more frequently across all social media platforms, and making more of a nuisance of myself.
All this effort will take time away from the writing and editing I would prefer to work on. Why don’t I hire a marketing firm to do the work for me, I hear you ask? Because I’m not selling books at a level where I can afford something like that. Besides my books, I have a few other revenue streams set up, although none of them are nearly as lucrative yet.
Medium is the next highest earning platform for me. I also have a Ko-Fi account set up, where I am trying to drum up donations to help me afford other advertising platforms. I also have a merchandise store where I have various items for sale with my novel cover art displayed on them.
My only option right now is to keep hustling.
Grayson Bell has had a love affair with the written word since the age of four. He taught himself how to read with the help of a phonics segment on Sesame Street, and he’s been devouring books ever since.
Sharing his home in Colorado with his dogs, Grayson also enjoys whipping up something creative in the kitchen or escaping into the world of video games. He is an out and proud gay, transgender man.
The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.
How rise of school surveillance software affects LGBTQ students
“Should students who identify as LGBTQ be identified from monitoring software, and potentially be disciplined or punished?”
By Anne Wen | NEW YORK CITY – During the pandemic, 15-year-old Desmond Napoles looked up the definition of sexuality out of personal interest on their school-issued tablet. The New York City sophomore did not realize at the time that school administrators and teachers could be alerted to the search.
As schools increasingly monitor students’ online activities, LGBTQ students find themselves at particular risk. The tracking can “out” queer students because the software can notify school officials or law enforcement officers of searches related to sexuality and other topics. And it can make it harder for LGBTQ students, in particular, to access sexual health information online.
The increase in district-issued devices during the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated worries among some queer students, who now feel they are constantly watched by their schools at home and school.
“When you realize that you’re being tracked and you looked up something already, it’s pretty stressful,” said Napoles. The New York City Department of Education did not respond to questions from Youth Today about its use of monitoring software. But the district signed a contract with tracking software company GoGuardian in 2021, according to Bloomberg.
“UNINTENDED BUT HARMFUL CONSEQUENCES”
Eighty-nine percent of teachers surveyed in a spring 2022 Center for Democracy & Technology poll said their school monitors student activity on school-issued or personal devices.
Desmond Napoles (Photo by Aaron Williams)
“When you realize that you’re being tracked and you looked up something already, it’s pretty stressful,” said Desmond Napoles.
“Students are working under the false assumption that certain things — their chats, their documents — are private, when in fact, they’re being actively monitored by the school,” said Cody Venzke, one of the authors of the report. “That can come as a shock for students not aware that what they’re writing in the document they thought was their private journal is in fact being scanned by an algorithm and potentially relayed to school counselors or even law enforcement.”
A U.S. Senate investigation into educational technology companies that sell products to monitor students’ online activity found that the products “raise significant privacy and equity concerns.”
“Studies have highlighted unintended but harmful consequences of student activity monitoring software that fall disproportionately on vulnerable populations: artificial intelligence and algorithmic systems frequently mischaracterize students’ activity and flag harmless activity as a ‘threat,’ and students from minority or marginalized communities, including students of color and LGBTQ students, are far more likely to be flagged,” according to the Senate report, which focused on companies including Gaggle, GoGuardian, Bark Technologies and Securly Inc.
The Senate report noted research showing that algorithms used in the products are more likely to flag language used by people of color and LGBTQ students as problematic, and that, since LGBTQ students largely prefer to seek help online, some of these monitoring tools’ website filtering features “frequently” prevent them from accessing health information by flagging words related to sexual orientation.
“The impacts of these shortcomings range from disproportionate disciplinary rates of LGBTQ students to unintentional outing of LGBTQ students to parents and other adults,” according to the Senate report.
In responses to the Senate investigation, the companies emphasized their commitments to student safety. Gaggle, which reports its products are used by about 1,500 school districts, provided a list of more than a dozen school superintendents and officials who had agreed to serve as references for their products.
Gaggle and GoGuardian, two major companies providing surveillance software to schools, declined interview requests from Youth Today.
But in an emailed statement, Gaggle said that its software had helped save the lives of 1,562 students who were planning or actively attempting suicide last school year and noted that LGBTQ youth were four times more likely to consider or attempt suicide than their peers. The company also cited a Gaggle-sponsored white paper that found 85% of educators reported the monitoring software helps reduce the harassment of LGBTQ students.
GoGuardian sent a statement reading, in part, “GoGuardian believes that our schools and classrooms should be spaces where all students are treated equitably and have the opportunity to learn and thrive.”
The company noted its work with experts to strengthen “internal resources” in support of marginalized communities, citing recent educational content and a webinars produced in partnership with The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ youth.
In a statement to Youth Today, a spokesperson for The Trevor Project wrote that the nonprofit does not partner with GoGuardian and does not plan to do so. Earlier this fall, The Trevor Project returned a $25,000 donation from Gaggle, citing concerns about the software’s “role in negatively impacting LGBTQ students.”
“TECHNOLOGY COULD HAVE BEEN A LIFESAVER”
Photo courtesy of Chris Wood
Chris Wood, executive director of LGBTQ Tech, a nonprofit that provides tech policy advice about LGBTQ individuals, believes that schools ask students to use the services with good intentions, but the inadvertent effects of monitoring make schools less safe for queer students.
“If you can’t have a supportive environment at home, then you look to a supportive environment, in the places that you’re at most often, like a public school or a library,” Wood said. “And if you’re then making it harder for them to gain access to those resources, through monitoring or filtering, then you’re creating an environment where we’re creating a mental health nightmare.”
Wood also said that the web filters many districts use to protect students against sexual content, may also inadvertently block advice that helps LGBTQ individuals without supportive biological families.
The way some districts use monitoring software may particularly harm students of color who are LGBTQ, Wood noted, by exposing them to a disparate risk of discipline due to their online activity.
“Technology could have been a lifesaver. It could have been an opportunity for an individual to explore their identity and have safe and equitable conversations about their identity” Wood said. “Instead, we’re doing quite the opposite.”
To better serve students, teachers should connect LGBTQ students with more resources so that they can come to terms with their identity, said Maria Dolores Cimini, a psychologist and behavioral health researcher at the State University of New York at Albany.
“Should students who identify as LGBTQ be identified from monitoring software, and potentially be disciplined or punished, that is inappropriate,” Cimini said. “It is something that could negatively affect their mental health and could even increase increased concerns such as depression, anxiety, and even risk for suicide.”
Photo courtesy of Maria Dolores Cimini
Wendy Napoles, Desmond’s mother, is thankful for the New York school district’s use of filters to prevent students from viewing inappropriate content such as pornography on district devices. Both she and Desmond Napoles acknowledged that the monitoring software can provide safety, especially if a student’s search history reveals chronic mental health problems.
But the potential to track a student’s search history, including topics related to sexuality and gender, feels like an invasion of privacy, Wendy Napoles said.
“I’m just really worried, as Desmond is, about who is looking at this, and what are they doing with that data?” Wendy Napoles said. “Are teachers seeing it, where they may not have known a child was part of the LGBTQ community, and are they going to treat that child differently?”
Anne Wen is a Guam-based journalist who covers college education and Pacific islands for The Guardian, Teen Vogue, Pacific Daily News, and Youth Today.
The preceding article was previously published by Youth Today & is republished with permission.
League Of Legends’ first gay black game character censored
“The straightwashing of queer characters from games proves that there is nothing more important than making the most money”
SAN FRANCISCO – At the global gaming championship tournament ‘Worlds 2022′ held this weekend in the City by the Bay, Riot Games’ League Of Legends executive producer Jeremy Lee told British media outlet Sky News gaming reporter Martin Kimber, the company removes some references to LGBTQ+ people in countries in which same-sex marriage or being LGBTQ+ is illegal.
Riot Games, which is owned by Chinses Tech Media powerhouse conglomerate Tencent, has introduced the first gay black character of K’Sante into its League Of Legends with great fanfare including a promotional campaign with Out singer-rapper Lil Nas X.
Lil Nas X gave a performance at the Opening Ceremony during the Worlds Finals on Nov 5, an event that was hosted and promoted by Riot Games.
League is a phenomena as one of the most played video games across the world. Since its release in October 2009, League has been free-to-play and is monetized through purchasable character customization. The game is available on the Microsoft Windows and macOS platforms along with a mobile version and has spawned tournaments, numerous spin-off games and merchandise.
League’s gamers take on the role of champions in teams to work together to achieve objectives, and each has a backstory composed for them by the game’s writers.
Lee told Sky News he was “very proud” of the new character and that Riot Games wants “everyone who plays League Of Legends to find a champion that resonates with them”.
But he admitted that “each region can localise and publish that story in what they feel like is best for the players”.
“Each region may publish certain aspects of the game a little bit differently to fit into the local culture,” he added.
Tencent’s global public relations lead Hanna Woo told Sky News when asked whether the company makes changes or omissions to the storyline behind some characters to suit the regime under which the game is published, she admitted: “Yes, I would say we do.”
Ben Austwick, known by his Twitch streamer handle of “biggusbennus” twitch.tv/biggusbennus told Sky he saw the admission of censorship by Riot Games as; ‘straightwashing shows money is most important.
“Video games are part of culture and should be at the forefront pushing boundaries, especially in places where LGBT+ oppression is rife,” Austwick said.
“The straightwashing of queer characters from games in countries with a poor record of LGBT+ rights is sad and proves that there is nothing more important than making the most money,” he added.
Massive layoff spurs lawsuit & increased fear of anti-LGBTQ Twitter
“As a company, Twitter has a right, and a responsibility, to keep its platform from being exploited to fuel a dangerous media environment”
SAN FRANCISCO – In a company-wide email sent out Thursday evening, Twitter employees worldwide were informed that the now privately controlled company, by billionaire Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, would be laying off nearly half of the workforce.
Musk last week completed his $44 billion acquisition of the company, and has already commenced restructuring the social media platform after his initial take-over when he dissolved the Twitter board of directors and now acts as the social media company’s sole director.
In the hours after acquiring Twitter in late October, Musk in addition to the board fired Twitter’s chief executive Parag Agrawal, as well as Vijaya Gadde, who ran the social media company’s legal, policy and trust teams.
He has also demanded company employees to find new sources of revenue and in a widely condemned move announced that the verified user blue check would be a monthly fee based status which prompted celebrities, journalists, and other currently verified users to protest or leave the platform saying the diluted fee-based “check” would be useless and open to rampant abuse.
🚨Ben Collins, NBC News: “Twitter employees want to stress that the company is a nightmare right now and you cannot work there. And the website is built on sticks and it might fall apart. It’s a house of cards.” “Elon is deeply out of his depth.” “This could be really bad.” pic.twitter.com/MLh9fGe1NV— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) November 4, 2022
One of those affected Politico reported Friday, Joan Deitchman, who was a senior engineer in Twitter’s machine learning, ethics, transparency and accountability team, wrote on the platform that the unit — whose job included research on how to improve transparency around automated algorithms — had been completely disbanded. That work is central to how regulators are now looking to police social media, including how potentially hate-filled content is promoted automatically across these platforms.
“All that is gone,” she said according to Politico.
As Musk made these changes, several large advertisers on the platform paused or stopped prompting the tech billionaire allege in a tweet: “Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists. […] They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”
Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 4, 2022
Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.
Hate speech on the platform with effective and fair content moderation, particularly that aimed at transgender Americans is a major concern to LGBTQ+ advocacy groups.
In a statement, Jay Brown, HRC Senior Vice President of Programs, Research, and Training, said:
“We are very concerned about Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. Musk has pledged to restore the accounts of dangerous people who push extremism and disinformation. When this happens, Twitter – a place where many marginalized people, including LGBTQ+ people, find both community and face an onslaught of hate – will quickly become even more hostile. Adding insult to injury, Musk’s reported plans to cut staff levels – including employees who provide moderation – are deeply troubling.
As a company, Twitter has a right, and a responsibility, to keep its platform from being exploited to fuel a dangerous media environment. This isn’t about censorship or discrimination of ideas – it is about what kind of company they want to be and what kind of world they want to shape.”
Bloomberg business correspondent Josh Eidelson reported Twitter was sued Friday in a proposed class action for conducting a mass layoff without the required 60 day notice as provided in California and federal law.
Twitter Inc. was sued over Elon Musk’s plan to eliminate about 3,700 jobs at the social-media platform, which workers say the company is doing without enough notice in violation of federal and California law.
A class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday in San Francisco federal court. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act restricts large companies from mounting mass layoffs without at least 60 days of advance notice.
The lawsuit asks the court to issue an order requiring Twitter to obey the WARN Act, and restricting the company from soliciting employees to sign documents that could give up their right to participate in litigation.
Scoop: Twitter was just sued in a proposed class action for conducting a mass layoff without the required 60 day notice https://t.co/lMoxDMo7W1— Josh Eidelson (@josheidelson) November 4, 2022
Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) released the following statement following Elon Musk’s announcement that he has laid off half of Twitter’s workforce:
“Today’s move by Elon Musk to mass-fire 50% of Twitter’s employees, including many San Franciscans, is deeply concerning, particularly after Musk fired the executives responsible for enhancing user safety on the platform. While companies periodically engage in layoffs to acknowledge economic realities, firing a full half of employees goes well beyond that.
“Combined with Musk’s signals that he will allow toxic accounts back onto the platform — thus leading to targeting and incitement of violence against LGBTQ people, Jews, people or color, and others — I see trouble ahead for Twitter, its users, and our democracy.”
Musk promoted anti-gay conspiracy theory about Paul Pelosi attack
SFPD said the victim & suspect did not know each other. SFPD noted the assault followed a break-in.” Musk deleted his original tweet
AUSTIN – Elon Musk on Sunday retweeted a tweet that falsely claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)’s husband and the man who police say attacked him were lovers.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted a Los Angeles Times story about far-right conspiracy theories to which David DePape, the man who authorities say attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer in his San Francisco home on Oct. 28, had subscribed.
NBC News reported Musk responded to Clinton’s tweet with a link to the Santa Monica Observer, a right-wing website, that said Paul Pelosi “was drunk again, and in a dispute with a male prostitute.”
“There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” said Musk in his tweet.
The Santa Monica Observer in an update it posted to the original story on Sunday said “San Francisco Police said today that victim Pelosi and suspect DePape did not know each other prior to the attack. SFPD reaffirmed that the assault followed a break-in.” Musk has deleted his original tweet.
Paul Pelosi underwent surgery at a San Francisco hospital after the attack. DePape has been charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse and other charges.
Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on Oct. 27, hours before Paul Pelosi was attacked.
#DeleteGrindr trending over incoming CEO’s past right-wing tweets
Arison identified himself as a ‘conservative’ supporting some Trump policies in a tweet he deleted, in a 2020 thread
WEST HOLLYWOOD – Some LGBTQ+ Grindr users are advocating people delete the popular dating app after old Twitter posts surfaced supporting anti-LGBTQ right wing politicians by the new incoming openly gay Grindr Chief Executive Officer George Arison were shared and retweeted.
Arison, 44, identified himself as a ‘conservative’ supporting some Trump policies in a tweet he deleted, in a 2020 thread that appeared to show support for former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg in the presidential race that year.
Grindr which boasts about 11 million gay, bisexual, transgender and queer users per month around the world, is preparing to go public this fall with a $2.1 billion valuation. Arison is slated to take over as CEO on October 19.
The contreversary over Arison’s right-wing leaning support, which extended to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and Virginia’s Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin who have anti-LGBTQ+ records, comes on the heels of controversy stemming from Facebook posts published by former Grindr CEO Scott Chen:
“Some think marriage is between a man and a woman. I think so, too, but it’s a personal matter,” he wrote. “Some people think the purpose of marriage is to have your own biological children. It’s a personal matter, too.”
In another tweet earlier this year as well Arison signaled apparent approval of Governor Ron DeSantis:
He also voiced support this past February for Virginia’s Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin as the war in Ukraine commenced:
Arison, the openly gay founder and former CEO of Shift Technologies, takes over as the app continues revamping its help center, community guidelines, and safety tips. Grindr has also worked to fight the sexual exploitation of minors and mitigate instances of bullying on the app.
In the months since the conservative leaning tweets Arison has also retweeted a mixture of progressive posts and voicing support for Ukraine.
Ahead of its merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), and as it is preparing to go public, Grindr in addition to naming Arison CEO, also formed a board comprised of 60% LGBTQ+ members.
A spokesperson for the company referring to the online outrage over the past tweets and right-wing leaning retweets and tweets by Arison in a statement to media outlets said:
“George [Arison] is an out gay man, proudly married to his husband and the father of two children,” Grindr said. “George is passionate about fighting for the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ people around the world.”
Facebook busts 400 malicious Apps on Apple & Google App stores
Malicious developers create malware apps disguised as apps with fun or useful functionality — like cartoon image editors or music players
MENLO PARK, CA. – The Threat Disruption, Malware Discovery and Detection security team at Meta, parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp announced Friday that its security research and engineering teams have identified 400 malicious Android and iOS apps this year that target people across the internet to steal their Facebook login information.
According to David Agranovich, Director of the Threat Disruption, Malware Discovery and Detection security team at Meta, the apps were listed on the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store and disguised as photo editors, games, VPN services, business apps and other utilities to trick people into downloading them. Some examples include:
- Photo editors, including those that claim to allow you to “turn yourself into a cartoon”
- VPNs claiming to boost browsing speed or grant access to blocked content or websites
- Phone utilities such as flashlight apps that claim to brighten your phone’s flashlight
- Mobile games falsely promising high-quality 3D graphics
- Health and lifestyle apps such as horoscopes and fitness trackers
- Business or ad management apps claiming to provide hidden or unauthorized features not found in official apps by tech platforms.
This is a highly adversarial space and while our industry peers work to detect and remove malicious software, some of these apps evade detection and make it onto legitimate app stores. We’ve reported these malicious apps to our peers at Apple and Google and they have been taken down from both app stores prior to this report’s publication. We are also alerting people who may have unknowingly self-compromised their accounts by downloading these apps and sharing their credentials, and are helping them to secure their accounts.
How Do These Apps Work?
Malicious developers create malware apps disguised as apps with fun or useful functionality — like cartoon image editors or music players — and publish them on mobile app stores.
To cover up negative reviews by people who have spotted the defunct or malicious nature of the apps, developers may publish fake reviews to trick others into downloading the malware.
When a person installs the malicious app, it may ask them to “Login With Facebook” before they are able to use its promised features. If they enter their credentials, the malware steals their username and password.
If the login information is stolen, attackers could potentially gain full access to a person’s account and do things like message their friends or access private information.
To protect yourself against these bad actors Facebook recommends being aware of the following:
How You Can Stay Safe
There are many legitimate apps that offer the features listed above or that may ask you to sign in with Facebook in a safe and secure way. Cybercriminals know how popular these types of apps are and use these themes to trick people and steal their accounts and information.
Malware apps often have telltale signs that differentiate them from legitimate apps. Here are a few things to consider before logging into a mobile app with your Facebook account:
- Requiring social media credentials to use the app: Is the app unusable if you don’t provide your Facebook information? For example, be suspicious of a photo-editing app that needs your Facebook login and password before allowing you to use it.
- The app’s reputation: Is the app reputable? Look at its download count, ratings and reviews, including negative ones.
- Promised features: Does the app provide the functionality it says it will, either before or after logging in?
Here are a few examples of malware apps we found to provide no functionality until you log in with your social media account.
What to Do If You’re Affected
If you believe you’ve downloaded a malicious app and have logged in with your social media or other online credentials, we recommend that you delete the app from your device immediately and follow the following instructions to secure your accounts:
- Reset and create new strong passwords. Never reuse your password across multiple websites.
- Enable two-factor authentication, preferably using an Authenticator app, to add an extra security layer to your account.
- Turn on log-in alerts so you’ll be notified if someone is trying to access your account. Be sure to review your previous sessions to ensure you recognize which devices have access to your account.
We also encourage people to report malicious applications that compromise Meta accounts to us through our Data Abuse Bounty program.
Threat indicators are also available in CSV, TSV, and JSON formats at https://github.com/facebook/malware-detection
Meta’s security team listed the Apps discovered to be malicious:
|Android Package Name||App Name|
|apex.hoolom.racecar.app||Apex Race Game|
|com.abs.provideo_editor||Video Converter Master|
|com.acetoon.studio.facephoto||Acetoon Photo Cartoon|
|com.addtextcoon.shapermoter||Photo Frame PIP Collage Maker|
|com.adonarusso.daily.horoscope||ZodiHoroscope – Fortune Finder|
|com.ads_manager_helper||Ads Manager Helper|
|com.ads.optimization||Ad Optimization Meta|
|com.adsagency.socialmng||Ad Manager For Social|
|com.agehohn.fpsgame.app||Agent John FPS Game|
|com.amazcam.apbest||Best Fun Cam|
|com.androiddharmesh.editor||Cool Photo Editor|
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Jon Stewart tackles the issue of gender-affirming care
“The Problem With Jon Stewart” begins this episode with a primer on the issue, using his trademark sense of humor and snark
NEW YORK – Jon Stewart on Friday launched the second season of “The Problem with Jon Stewart,” his AppleTV+ news interview program, with a hard-hitting and yet still funny show dedicated to conflicts over transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming identity.
The focus was largely on legislation targeting gender-affirming healthcare, highlighted by a one-on-one interview with Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
“Ninety-eight percent of the young people who have gender dysphoria are able to move past that,” Rutledge told Stewart. “Without medical treatment,” she added.
“Wow,” Stewart replied. “That’s an incredibly made-up figure.”
Arkansas was the first state in the country to outlaw gender-affirming medical care for transgender adolescents. As the Los Angeles Blade reported, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction in August blocking enforcement of Arkansas’ ban, Act 626.
Stewart repeatedly pressed Rutledge for the name of the medical organization supporting her claims, but she wasn’t able to name any.
“We have all of those in our briefs and I apologize that I wasn’t prepared to have a Supreme Court argument today in front of you.”
Rutledge did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
Stewart also interviewed ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, who is himself a trans man and deputy director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. Strangio joined two cisgender moms raising trans children: Keisha Michaels and Debi Jackson, in a panel discussion with Stewart.
“These parents, their experiences, that’s what we hear across the country, across communities, and around the world: That kids know who they are. That what improves their health, what makes them thrive is love and support,” Strangio told Stewart. “When we hear about ‘experimental,’ ‘surgery,’ that is not happening on children, period. Children means pre-pubertal children. There are no medical interventions, period. That is a distortion designed to make people support legislation targeting our community.”
“What we do know harms children, for example, is removing children from loving homes,” Strangio added, referring to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s policy of equating gender-affirming care to child abuse.
Before committing to joining the panel discussion, Jackson told the Blade that she was concerned about Stewart’s support for comedian Dave Chappelle and others who make a living telling transphobic jokes.
“I’m sure a lot of people in the trans community had concerns about Jon Stewart doing a show on trans issues because of past jokes and support of other comedians,” said Jackson. “I was, too, and I told his staff that I had my doubts about him. But he openly admits that he had to grow, and he models what we want all people to do…ask questions, do research, and listen to those at the center of the issue. We say, ‘When you know better, do better,’ and it’s clear that he has.”
“The Problem With Jon Stewart” begins this episode with a primer on the issue, using his trademark sense of humor and snark. Jackson said she was grateful for how the producers handled the topic.
“Every part of the show was put together before the panel showed up for the live taping,” she said. “We had no hints about what the Arkansas AG had said. And because of that, I appreciate that each of us was able to authentically tell our stories and share our expertise that directly refuted everything that she claimed about affirming healthcare and the importance of receiving that care. There is never enough time to cover all of the important points we want to make, so I appreciate that the show’s team asked us more questions after the show.”
Season two of “The Problem With Jon Stewart” premieres today, October 7, and is available on Apple TV+ with a subscription, with new episodes every week.
“The Problem With Jon Stewart” series trailer:
LGBTQ+ friendly Netflix could lose a quarter of its subscribers
70% of survey respondents use Netflix the most, meaning it has higher usage than any other streaming service—by a 60% margin
LOS ANGELES – Streaming service Netflix which is home to LGBTQ+ friendly fare including the smash hit series Heartstopper, Queer Eye, Uncoupled, and Grace and Frankie along with a robust portfolio of other queer friendly content is poised to lose a staggering quarter of its subscribers.
In a recent survey conducted by REVIEWS.org, a organization staffed by teams of experts who rate and review connected home services and products including Mobile & Wireless; TV & Streaming; Home Security & Smart Home along with other web based offerings surveyed 1,000 Americans to gauge their streaming habits in 2022 and found that 1 in 4 are planning to leave Netflix this year.
Based on the report’s findings, that could be over 18 million US subscribers—and an estimated $272 million in lost subscriber revenue for the streaming company. The experts noted that Netflix has had a difficult 2022, losing nearly 1.2 million subscribers in the first two quarters of 2022 and recording subscriber loss for the first time in a decade.
The company hopes to add one million new subscribers in the third quarter, but the report questions if the streaming company face another loss of that magnitude.
The survey noted that nearly two-thirds of respondents cited Netflix’s increasing cost as a reason for leaving.
- Netflix’s Basic one-screen plan went up by 11% in January 2022 for the first time in three years.
- Meanwhile, Standard and Premium plans increased 20% and 25%, respectively, in the same time period.
The REVIEWS report also pointed out that Netflix currently has the highest average plan cost among the eight most popular streaming services in the United States. And that is leading 30% of surveyed subscribers to share their password with people outside their household.
Netflix cost vs. competitors
|Streaming service||Average monthly cost||Number of plans|
|$15.15||Three plans, no ads|
|$12.49||Two plans: With and without ads|
|$9.99||Two plans: With and without ads (does not include Hulu Live+)|
|$14.99||One plan, no ads|
|$7.49||Two plans: With and without ads|
|$4.99||One plan, no ads|
|$7.49||Two plans: With and without ads|
Data as of 09/05/22. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
* Does not include Disney bundle
Another issue with those surveyed was lack of content. 1 in 3 respondents said Netflix no longer has the shows they want to watch and then 30% said that they use other streaming services more.
The report notes that Netflix became popular for licensing many TV shows and movies for streaming before the company developed its own original programming. In recent years, those shows and movies have left Netflix for other streaming services—mainly to build the libraries of WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, Walt Disney Company’s Disney+, and NBCUniversal’s Peacock—leading to ‘the streaming wars.’
The report’s findings state that the average American is subscribed to 4 streaming platforms:
- 78% subscribe to Netflix
- 46% are Disney+ subscribers
- 42% subscribe to HBO Max
- 33% are Peacock subscribers
- 26% subscribe to Hulu
- 22% are Apple TV+ subscribers
- 5% subscribe to Hulu
- 5% are Amazon Prime subscribers
In a distant second place is HBO Max with a 10% share of respondents and Disney+ takes third place with 6%. Every other streaming service is under 5%.
So can anything beat Netflix the REVIEWERS.org asked? Their answer was “Right now, no. But rising prices, a lack of content, and increased competition could lead 1-in-4 subscribers to cancel their Netflix subscription within the year.”
Twitter shareholders ok Elon Musk deal, GLAAD expresses alarm
“Our community is at disproportionate risk for harassment online, which itself has damaging impacts and can also lead to offline harms”
SAN FRANCISCO – Twitter shareholders voted Tuesday to approve Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to buy the company and take it private, CNBC reported. The vote comes as the billionaire entrepreneur seeks to scrap the deal, casting doubt on Twitter’s self-reported percentage of fake accounts and alleging the company was not as forthcoming as it should have been with its explanation of the calculation.
The vote comes as Musk seeks to scrap the deal, casting doubt on Twitter’s self-reported percentage of fake accounts and alleging the company was not as forthcoming as it should have been with its explanation of the calculation. Twitter has stood by its figure of less than 5% of monetizable daily active users being spam or fake and has said it’s provided Musk plenty of information meeting the requirements of the deal.
In New York, GLAAD released a statement reacting to the shareholder’s vote expressing alarm in part due to Musk has a record of posting anti-LGBTQ content as well as content targeting other marginalized communities.
In a statement the LGBTQ+ advocacy group noted: “While the outcome of the deal remains uncertain amidst ongoing litigation, GLAAD reiterates that Elon Musk’s previously stated plans for Twitter threaten the safety and best interests of users, society, and democracies around the world.”
“Today, Twitter shareholders voted for profits over people. We are deeply concerned with the safety of LGBTQ people on Twitter and join the voices of other organizations representing marginalized communities to express opposition to Elon Musk’s potential acquisition of the platform,” said GLAAD President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis.
“Our community is at disproportionate risk for harassment online, which itself has damaging impacts and can also lead to offline harms. It is critical that Twitter as a company, regardless of ownership, prioritizes policies and content moderation that creates spaces where truth is elevated over dangerous mis- and disinformation and hate,” Ellis added.
GLAAD is one of the founding members of the “Stop the Deal” coalition, a campaign launched in June 2022 by Accountable Tech, Media Matters, UltraViolet and others to warn of the potential dangers of the possible acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk.
More information is available at StopTheDeal.com.
GLAAD released its inaugural Social Media Safety Index in July, evaluating LGBTQ user safety experience across the social media landscape, showing the entire sector is effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users, with high prevalence and intensity of hate speech and harassment.
The Index provided recommendations for the industry at large and reports on LGBTQ user safety across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok.
‘Ring the Alarm’ podcast on murders of LGBTQ people in Jamaica
Insightful and engaging conversations with LGBTQ men and women, including exclusive interviews from inside a network of secret safe houses
LOS ANGELES – The fifth episode, in award-winning journalist Jasmyne Cannick’s podcast series ‘Ring the Alarm’ about the murders of LGBTQ people in Jamaica, was released this past week.
18-year-old Keneil grew up in Jamaica, where he was sexually abused at home starting at the age of 8 years old. Because of the isolation and denial he faced from his mother, and narrowly escaping a murder attempt, Keneil tried to commit suicide several times. After being disowned by his mother, Keneil lived in abandoned buildings with no food. He recently found housing at the Unity Fellowship Church Jamaica safe house, where he is receiving support and is now awaiting relocation assistance to another country that is more accepting of LGBTQ people. Through it all, the teenager has managed to smile, remain hopeful, and look forward to living a life where he can be free, even if it means being away from his family and the country he is from.
‘Ring the Alarm’ is a special podcast series of frank conversations with lesbian, gay, and trans men and women in Jamaica about living in one of the most homophobic countries in the world. Award-winning journalist Jasmyne Cannick shares their challenges, dreams, and aspirations to live a life where they don’t have to fear being murdered for being queer.
Produced in Jamaica, through insightful and engaging conversations with LGBTQ men and women, including exclusive interviews from inside a network of secret safe houses that helps to hide queer Jamaicans until they can be relocated to another country, Jasmyne continues to provide much-needed context while calling attention to the plight of Black queer people in American’s top Caribbean vacation destination.
You can listen to ‘Ring the Alarm’ wherever you get your podcasts.
To support Unity Fellowship Church Jamaica safe house, donate through Cash App to $UFJamaica or UFJamaica.com.
- I AM JASMYNE https://iamjasmyne.com/ringthealarm
- SPOTIFY https://open.spotify.com/episode/7yDPohpLYywzlPmY2bqRDp?si=fsjp9g07ToyAzasOWoShQQ
- APPLE https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ring-the-alarm-with-jasmyne-cannick/id1605856690
- AMAZON MUSIC https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/98ca69f3-2a57-4c8f-9fb1-a2e39465fa60
- iHEART – https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-ring-the-alarm-with-jasmyn-91719902/
- DEEZER https://www.deezer.com/show/3332072
- PLAYER FM https://player.fm/series/series-3306153
- PODCAST INDEX https://podcastindex.org/podcast/4789335
About Jasmyne Cannick
Jasmyne Cannick is an award-winning nationally known journalist and on-air contributor who writes and speaks about collisions at the intersection of politics, race, and society.
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