How to fix the troll problem with social networks

The recent news that Kelly Marie Tran, the actress who played Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, deleted her Instagram account supposedly because of harassment, got me thinking. Social networks have done nothing to deal with the problem of troll accounts. These troll accounts exist for no other reason than to cause trouble and havoc. I think I have a solution and it doesn’t require any new technology.

Account Verification

Social networks should provide the option of verifying an account. To verify an account, a person would need two things: a valid credit card and a government issued I.D.

The social network could either charge a small fee ($10) or simply run a zero dollar authorization on the credit card. The result from the credit card company would show if the number portion of the street address matched their records or not. It would also show if the zip code the cardholder provider matched. If you verify the zip code, you have verified the cardholder’s city and state.

Unfortunately, most credit card companies do not verify the name on the credit card. The only credit card capable of name verification is American Express. Most people do not have an American Express card. This is where the government issued I.D. would come in.

How to fix the troll problem with social networks - Bent Corner

To complete the account verification process, a person would need to upload an image of their I.D. The social network would then manually inspect the image to verify the name on the card matches the name provided when they signed up. They could also verify the address on the I.D. matches what they submitted with the credit card.

Charging $10 to authenticate a user’s identity could more than cover the cost of manually verifying the government issued I.D. It’s not like any of the social networks are hurting for money.

Once everything has been authenticated, the user’s social network account would then be labeled as verified.

Make Account Verification Voluntary

I wouldn’t make account verification a requirement. A person should be able to choose whether they want to verify their account or not. That said, other users should then have the ability to filter out non-verified accounts. They should be able to go into their account settings and flip a virtual switch that will allow them not to see comments from non-verified accounts. They should also be able to choose whether non-verified accounts can leave comments or not.

How to fix the troll problem with social networks - Bent Corner

I think social networks have been reluctant to implement something like this because they want the largest number of users possible. They probably view any type of authentication as a roadblock to creating a large user base. If this is the case, they need to change the way they think about things. For every celebrity who quits a social network because of trolls, there are thousands of others who do the same thing. It doesn’t make the news because they’re just regular people.

If you have a better idea of getting rid of trolls on social networks, I’d like hear it. Explain your idea in the comment section.

Google is charging monthly for G Suite and I want it to stop

My wife noticed a weird charge appearing on our Capital One credit card statement. It was for five dollars and it was identified as:

GOOGLE *SVCSAPPS_richa

I had no idea what that means. I disputed the charge with Capital One.

I then received a letter from Capital One dated April 19. They informed me that I’ve been changed not five dollars, but ten dollars in total. It’s a recurring charge that happens every month. In the letter, Capital One strongly urged me to contact the merchant and cancel the recurring charge.

They want me to contact the behemoth known as Google and ask them to stop charging me five dollars a month. Got it.

I did some research. It turns out that GOOGLE *SVCSAPPS is Google-speak for G Suite by Google Cloud. I don’t really know what that is, but evidently, I signed up for it for my web developer business website a few months ago. I have no memory of doing this. Absolutely none.

I tried to log into the G Suite account but didn’t have any luck. I typed in the domain of my web developer business website and pressed the giant blue “GO” button.

This is the response I got:

It won’t let me log in using my regular Google account. I tried logging out of my regular Google account and tried again. It then showed my regular Google account and asked me to log in. Once I did, it then showed me the above message just like it did before.

I don’t know what to do at this point. If Capital One cannot remove this recurring monthly five dollar charge Google is applying to my account, I guess I’ll have to report the card as lost and/or stolen and get a new card. I don’t know what else to do. I truly don’t remember signing up for Google’s G Suite. It’s not something I think my web developer business would ever need. I only have one employee and it’s me.

Then again, do I really want to risk pissing off Google? Maybe I should just let them charge me five bucks a month for something I don’t use and have no memory of ever requesting. I do not want to get on Google’s bad side. Google helps me make money with my web developer business.

I like how PayPal handles recurring billing. At any time, you can go into your PayPal account and not only see any recurring payments you have set up, you can cancel them. It’s a much more efficient way of doing things. It’s only one more reason PayPal will be the only processor when our robot and artificial intelligence overlords take over.

Let the record show that I am very pro-robot and pro-AI. When it comes to intelligence, artificial is the only way to go. I’ve always said that. I hope our future technological overlords remember that.

What am I saying? Of course they’ll remember. They’re artificial intelligence, not forgetful biologic intelligence.

18-year-old girl kills herself over cyberbullying

Brandy Vela, an 18-year-old high school student from Texas City, Texas, shot and killed herself this week. Her family believes it was in response to the online bullying she had been receiving from her classmates. From CNN:

Brandy’s sister, Jackie, says the teen had always been bullied for her weight, but the cyberbullying ramped up in April.

“People would make up fake Facebook accounts and they would message her and she wouldn’t respond and they would still come at her,” Jackie said.

“They would say really, really mean things like, ‘Why are you still here?’ They would call her fat and ugly. She was beautiful, absolutely beautiful; the only thing people could find to pick on her was her weight.”

Jackie says her sister changed her phone number and reported the bullying to police, but was told they couldn’t help her.

“They couldn’t do anything because [the suspects] used an app and it wasn’t traceable and they couldn’t do something until something happened, like they fight,” Jackie said.

A non-traceable app? Even if they were using a VPN is mask their actual IP address, you have to use a working cell phone number or email address to sign up for Facebook. If the police didn’t care enough to work the case when the family first reported the bullying, perhaps that will change now that the girl is dead.

Is cyberbullying even a crime? Last time I checked, you can be mean to someone else on the Internet. You can say that someone is fat and ugly, just like you can say someone is thin and attractive. I found her Facebook account and looked for examples of people being rude to her. I didn’t see any. All that means is that she probably deleted the mean comments.

Almost all of her Facebook posts are her posting a photo of herself and then her friends telling her how gorgeous she is.

None of her posts are restricted to only her Facebook friends. They are all open to the public. Then again, considering that she had 1,969 Facebook friends, I’m not sure private or public would make a difference. It seems to me that she could have stopped the cyberbullies in their tracks if she had made her account more private and restricted her friend list to her actual friends.

She was also a member of a public Snap Chat Facebook group. I imagine if there was cyberbullying, it probably started there. There are currently over 100,000 members of this Facebook group. The object of the group seems to focus on posting selfies for the enjoyment of strangers. If I were a parent, I wouldn’t want my child contributing to or spending time with a group like that.

Speaking of being a parent, where were this girl’s parents? It didn’t seem like they were monitoring her Facebook activity. Here is a post she wrote two years ago:

If you take what Brandy Vela said at face value, if the girl she’s talking about is her cousin, she is referring to her own aunt as a slut. That’s not very nice. Some would even argue that it was cyberbullying. If I was the child’s parent, I would have insisted she remove that post when it was first posted, two years ago.

I find it hard to believe that it was cyberbullying that caused Brandy Vela to kill herself. Could it have been a contributing factor? Sure. I’m just not a big believer in single-reason suicide. I think it’s more of an accumulation of things that leads a person to take their own life. I have to wonder what would cause someone to post so many puckered-lip selfies online. Why would someone want complete strangers to tell them how attractive they are? That doesn’t seem very healthy to me.

According to CNN, Brandy Vela killed herself with a handgun. Where did she get that? I think people need to be held responsible for their guns. I’m not against gun ownership, but I am against irresponsibility. If you own a gun and that gun falls into the hands of someone who uses it to harm themselves or others, you should be held responsible.

The gun had more to do with Brandy Vela’s suicide than trolls on Facebook.

Volunteer moderators shut down parts of Reddit

Reddit, the popular online discussion site, had hundreds of its most popular individual discussion areas, called subreddits, closed Thursday. They were closed not by Reddit, but by subreddit moderators, unpaid volunteers who run the individual discussion areas. The reason they did this? To protest the company’s firing of its director of talent, Victoria Taylor. She was in charge of the /r/IAmA subreddit, a hugely popular subreddit where celebrities and other famous people would sit down at a keyboard and answer questions from Reddit users in real-time.

Victoria-Taylor
Former Reddit director of talent, Victoria Taylor

When Victoria Taylor was fired, the volunteer moderators of /r/IAmA took the subreddit to private. That meant nobody, including its over 8 million subscribers, could access it. Other volunteer moderators of other popular subreddits began doing the same thing, they made their subreddits private.

All the subreddits are now back up and running. At least they all appear to be.

Reddit vs. Usenet

I’ve never really understood Reddit. it reminds me of Usenet, only different. Where Reddit has subreddits, Usenet has newsgroups. The major difference between Reddit and Usenet is that Reddit is owned by Advance Publications, a large media company that also owns a lot of newspapers and magazines. For example, they own Wired and Vanity Fair.

Nobody owns Usenet.

Reddit and Usenet are also different in that Usenet doesn’t have a system of volunteer moderators who can just shut down a newsgroup because they feel like it.

Does Reddit make money?

I’m pretty sure when large media companies own something, the intention is for that property to turn a profit. I don’t understand how Reddit turns a profit. In fact, I don’t understand how they make any money. There are seemingly no ads on Reddit, at least none that I ever see. I’ve read that Reddit does have advertising, but I’ve personally never seen any. I’m running ad blocker software on my PC, but not only my iPad. I would think if there were ads on Reddit, I would see them.

The fact that hundreds of the most popular subreddits can be taken down, not by the company, but by volunteer moderators, shows a major problem with their business model. Reddit relies on investors to keep it afloat economically. How attractive can Reddit be to current and future investors if its most popular areas can be shut down by unpaid volunteers?

Not much.

Patreon has new community guidelines

Patreon, the San Francisco based company that allows people to give money on a recurring basis to the artists and creators they support, introduced new community guidelines. These new guidelines dictate what Patreon recipients can and cannot do to be eligible for receiving Patreon money. There’s a long list of violations that will get Patreon members banned from using Patreon, or depending on the severity of the supposed violations, strikes on their official Patreon record.

Reading through the lengthy new guidelines, they strike me as something written by a child.

The guidelines are vague and not really well-defined. For example, one of the actions that will get a Patreon recipient the boot is to engage in “malicious doxing”. Although I knew what doxing means, the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual, I had no idea there were different kinds of doxing. To ban malicious doxing implies not all doxing is wrong, and not all kinds of doxing will get you cut off from that sweet, sweet Patron money.

Before reading Patreon’s new community guidelines, I thought doxing was doxing.

As dumb as these new community guidelines are, the most ridiculous thing is how they will be enforced. If people see a page on Patreon that they feel violates the new community guidelines, they’re encouraged to send Patreon an email. In other words, to tattle on the Patreon precipitant they feel is violating the new guidelines.

This should go over really well with people who love to snitch on other people, especially when they can do it over the Internet.

Personally, I hope these new guidelines encourage people to stay away from Patreon. Instead of relying on handouts from people they don’t know, it’s better for artists and creators to actually earn the money they receive. It’s better for them, and it’s better for society.

What is Patreon?

pat_bannerPatreon is a crowdfunding platform that allows “artists” to receive a fixed amount of money on a regular, monthly basis, directly from the people, the patrons, who consume their work. There’s also an alternate method that collects money every time the artist creates a new piece of work, for instance, a new podcast episode or a new YouTube video.

Patrons who give to people on Patreon show up on the recipient’s Patreon page with a link to the other people they’ve given to.

Patreon was created by Jack Conte and Sam Yam. Conte is a musician who wanted an alternate method of generating revenue from his YouTube videos. The normal method of revenue from YouTube is Google Adsense.

Patreon sounds great!

In theory, Patron is a good idea. I listen to a lot of free podcasts. Though I wouldn’t mind the idea of contributing a few bucks a month through Patreon to each podcast I listen to, none of the podcasts I listen to take part in Patreon. They generate revenue in more traditional ways. By that, I mean advertisements.

If there’s a problem with Patreon, it’s that it allows people to receive money from strangers without really doing anything for it in return. Some e-celebrities use Patreon as their primary source of income.

What’s wrong with free money?

What is Patreon? • Bent CornerThe problem with people getting handouts, is that sometimes they grow too accustomed to it.

The way things normally work in our society, is that if you want to be a professional artist, yet you’re creating art that people don’t want to pay for, you need to learn to create art that people are willing to pay for. With Patreon, that natural dynamic no longer exists. Artists don’t have to evolve or adapt to the marketplace, as long as people are willing to just give them free money. They can just plow along creating art that holds no value in the marketplace.

Personally, I’d rather snort liquid drain cleaner than set up a Patreon page and ask strangers for monthly donations, but to each his own. When I look at what I have to go through to earn a paycheck, I’m clearly in no place to judge how someone else makes a living.