TripAdvisor apologizes for deleting warnings of rape

Kristie Love's TripAdvisor review on her vacation in Riviera Maya, Mexico was deleted.
Image: Darren Carroll/Getty ImageS

TripAdvisor has apologized to a sexual assault survivor after an investigation revealed the website had deleted posts alleging assaults at resorts in Mexico. The belated apology comes seven years after the attack.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shared the story of Kristie Love, who had posted on TripAdvisor about her rape at an Iberostar resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Love said she had her post removed several times. 

“Since 2010, when the forum post was removed, our policies and processes have evolved to better provide information like this to other travelers. As a result, when recently brought to our attention, the victim’s initial forum post was republished by our staff,” TripAdvisor wrote in a statement. 

But it wasn’t just Love. The several-month-long investigation revealed more than a dozen travelers had their posts on TripAdvisor removed for similar reasons. In fact, three people reported being sexually assaulted or raped at the same resort in Mexico and subsequently had their TripAdvisor posts deleted. 

The problem stems from TripAdvisor’s content moderation. Other crowdsourced review sites like Yelp and social networks like Facebook and Twitter face similar problems with deciding what violates their policies. Mistakes are frequently made. TripAdvisor also tries to manage any hearsay, but the policy appears to inconsistently enforced. 

“To me, it’s like censoring,” Wendy Avery-Swanson told the Journal Sentinel. She had a post about her blacking out from alcohol served at a swim-up bar removed.

TripAdvisor provided several different reasons at the time for why their reviews were removed. One instance claimed the post contained language or was about a topic that was not “family friendly.” 

According to TripAdvisor, the site does allow for negative reviews and stories like Love’s and Avery-Swanson’s. Specifically, its interpretation of the family-friendly guidelines has changed since Love’s review was removed in 2010. 

“We recognized then that our previous guidelines went too far.”

“At the time, we had a policy whereby we judged content to be in breach of our guidelines if it did not adhere to family friendly language. More than 7 years ago that meant all language needed to be G-rated. … We recognized then that our previous guidelines went too far in preventing information like this from being shared,” a TripAdvisor spokesperson told Mashable in an email.

“A simple search of TripAdvisor will show numerous reviews from travelers over the last several years who wrote about their first-hand experiences that include matters of robbery or theft, assault and rape,” the spokesperson continued. 

It’s worth noting that TripAdvisor’s business model in part relies on users booking through its website. TripAdvisor denied any link between how its content guidelines are applied and its commercial relationships.

TripAdvisor boasts more than 535 million reviews on hotel, airlines, restaurants, and local attractions. Unlike other companies that help with direct booking like Airbnb, airlines, and hotels, TripAdvisor doesn’t verify that reviews or forum posts are written by people who actually experienced what they wrote about.

The tech company follows its own publishing guidelines and employs about 300 people to moderate posts and ensure “content integrity,” a spokesperson told the Journal Sentinel. TripAdvisor also relies on software to detect fake reviews. 

The alleged censorship may fall outside of TripAdvisor’s offices, however. As the Journal Sentinel notes, TripAdvisor allows non-employees known as “trusted community members” to remove posts. The company declined to disclose who they are or how they are chosen but said they are “trusted, highly rated users and volunteers drawn from the global travel community.”  

TripAdvisor added that these privileges can be removed if a member is “overly promoting” their businesses. These volunteers are unable to remove reviews but do moderate forum posts. 

After the Journal Sentinel report, TripAdvisor said it is making changes. For example, Love’s post has been reinstated. The site is also creating a “badge” notification that will alert users to health, safety, and discrimination issues. This designation will be based on media reports and other credible sources, TripAdvisor said.

“We’re currently going through additional quality assurance testing, and expect it to be launched before the end of the year,” a TripAdvisor spokesperson told Mashable

This post was updated with additional insight from TripAdvisor.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/02/tripadvisor-deleted-warnings-rapes-mexico-resorts-journal-sentinel/

A timeline of the rogue Twitter employee’s last day at work before deleting Trump’s account

Image: mashable composite. max knoblauch; shutterstock

This post is a part of Mashable Humor. It is not real. We drew the bird, though, and think it’s pretty good.

A Twitter customer support employee is responsible for temporarily deactivating the account of President Trump for 11 minutes on Thursday night, just before 7:00 p.m. EST. According to a statement from the company, it was said employee’s last day, and they acted without the approval of anyone else at Twitter.

What follows is a comprehensive timeline of the “rogue” employee’s infamous last day at Twitter HQ.

9:05 a.m.: Employee arrives at office on their last day. Employee sits at desk.

9:15 a.m.: Employee’s manager approaches, asks employee if they received email. “I haven’t checked my email,” employee replies. “Oh, okay. Well, when you get a chance,” manager answers. The employee will not look at the email.

9:20 a.m.: Employee tells coworker Devin that his coffee mug is on their desk, technically, and has been every day for several months.

9:25 a.m.: Employee leaves for “early lunch.”

1:15 p.m.: Employee returns from lunch.

1:19 p.m.: Employee sends email recommending lunch spot’s Moscow Mules to full New York office.

1:25 p.m.: Employee forwards Moscow Mule email to global staff list with message, “In case any of you are ever in town.”

1:30 p.m.: Using Sharpie, employee writes, “This bread taste like DOGGGG SHIT” on a loaf of bread in the employee kitchen.

1:35 p.m.: Employee reminds coworker Devin about the coffee mug’s location, asking him, “Did you know?”

1:40 p.m.: Employee leaves for “late lunch.”

4:10 p.m.: Employee returns from late lunch.

4:45 p.m.: During team meeting, employee is asked to say a few words. Employee uses full time to again recommend the Moscow Mules. The employee has worked at Twitter for 4 years.

5:00 p.m.: Employee enters back room and adjusts office thermostat to 68 degrees.

5:03 p.m.: Employee arrives at HR for exit interview.

5:10 p.m.: Employee responds to HR’s question of, “How do you feel about your time here?” with simply, “Bad.”

5:12 p.m.: Employee responds to HR’s question of, “Is there anything you feel you have not been able to do in your time here?” with, “Delete the president’s Twitter.” Employee tells HR they think they will be deleting President Trump’s account later in the day. The HR representative chuckles.

5:15 p.m.: Employee returns to desk.

5:30 p.m.: Employee watches the first 25 minutes of Netflix’s What the Health at desk without headphones.

5:55 p.m.: Employee says, “Wow.”

5:56 p.m.: Employee messages manager that the office chairs are very uncomfortable. Manager replies with, “Well, I don’t furnish the office lol.” Employee replies, “I do not like you and I have not liked you for some time now.” Manager does not reply.

6:00 p.m.: Employee stands on desk and announces that they will be drinking Moscow Mules at the lunch spot nearby if anyone wants to go.

6:48 p.m.: Employee returns to office to retrieve coat.

6:49 p.m.: Employee throws Devin’s mug in the garbage.

6:50 p.m.: Employee deactivates the president’s Twitter account.

6:55 p.m.: Employee returns to lunch spot for Moscow Mules.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/04/rogue-twitter-employee-deletes-trump-timeline-satire/

The iPhone 8 might cost up to $1,200

The iPhone 8 (or Edition or X, take your pick) could weigh down your bank account.
Image: loris ravera/mashable

Apple is finally slated to reveal the highly-anticipated deluxe anniversary iPhone on Sept. 12, and you will want to buy it immediately — but the sticker price could wind up dampening your excitement for the phone’s next-gen features. 

Rumors claim the iPhone 8 (or Edition or X, depending on who you trust) will be much more expensive than any of its predecessors, pushing the starting cost up to at least the $1,000 mark. That means the top-of-the-line model will cost a whopping $1,200, for anyone who wants more than just the basic level of storage on their deluxe device. 

Leaker Benjamin Geskin tweeted out a pricing tier for the new iPhones, citing information from a friend who has a friend at Apple. 

The sourcing sounds sketchy, but Geskin is far from the first to suggest that the next iPhone will cost more than $1,000. Apple insider John Gruber suggested the deluxe new device would debut at the price point back in July, speculating that Apple could justify the cost by showcasing next-level tech that will be common in future iPhones in a premium device today. 

A New York Times report also backed the idea of a starting price “around $999,” for the iPhone, citing anonymous sources who had been briefed on the device. That’s a much more reliable report than just the whispers of friend of a friend — but others aren’t so convinced that Apple will ask such a high price for a phone.

UBS analysts Steven Milunovich and Benjamim Wilson wrote in an investors note that they “questioned the logic” of Apple putting such a premium on an iPhone. They claim instead that the company will roll out the deluxe device at a $900 starting point for a 64GB model, with a 256GB version eclipsing the $1,000 mark. 

The analysts also noted that Apple typically takes some cues from its competitors, and with Samsung’s latest offerings starting well under $1,000 — the new Galaxy Note 8 starts at $930 unlocked — there’s little incentive for Apple to set the bar any higher.   

None of these projections questioned the features expected in the deluxe iPhone, which include a new edge-to-edge OLED display, a nearly bezel-free screen with no home button, and a new sensor system for facial recognition. 

Speculation over the price of the iPhone is nothing new for the rumor cycle, with reports flying about the extra costs for as long as there have been rumors about a new OLED screen. Now that we’re a week away from the big reveal, however, those projected costs are all the more pressing, since we’re finally closer to getting a shot to put down the cash for one of our own.  

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/05/iphone-8-price-tier-rumors-/

Why youll probably want the next Apple Watch

The next version of the Apple Watch could be a game changer.
Image: Getty Images

Apple is getting ready to launch a new version of the Apple Watch that doesn’t need to be paired with an iPhone in order to work, according to Bloomberg. The report, published earlier this month, claims the next version of the watch will include an LTE chip for internet connectivity and suggests the watch’s square casing may receive a radical new design.

If true, the next-generation Apple Watch’s features could make it the first truly must-have wearable product, finally offering people the right balance of connectivity, usefulness, and fashion credibility that they’ve been asking for.

The Watch wasn’t a breakout success initially, but over time, Apple has correctly adjusted to consumer sentiment and found a great niche for the product. The first iteration was marketed as a general smartwatch for everyone, but as excitement for the shiny new Apple product wore off, the company pivoted to emphasize health and fitness features, like a built-in GPS and water resistance. That shift led to stronger sales that appeared to put Apple atop the entire wearables market.

The third soon-to-be-released version of the Watch will likely continue this health and fitness focus that much was clear from the preview of watchOS 4 we saw at WWDC earlier this year. But it could also make the Watch even more useful for everyone in their everyday lives, making it a must-have for all of us in the iEcosystem.

Connectivity, everywhere

The most exciting rumor about the next-generation Apple Watch is, without question, standalone internet connectivity. Many market analysts believe that the addition of LTE connections will finally convince consumers that wearables are worth their time (and more importantly, money), giving them the ability to use their devices as more than a glorified extension of their smartphone. The feature could be the key for the market’s growth as it enters a “new phase,” in which sales are projected to double by 2021.

The new Apple Watch won’t be the first smartwatch to have standalone internet connectivity, however; the Samsung Gear 3 offered a mass-market 4G LTE-connected smartwatch and was launched last year.

But introducing LTE connectivity to the best-selling device on the market from the most visible company in the world will instantly bring the feature to a wider audience, letting Apple play off its image as an innovator even if Samsung was there first. This happens with the iPhone nearly every product cycle, and the gigantic base of Apple fans eat it up. There’s little reason to believe the Watch would be much different.

There are some concerns about how functional Apple’s standalone wearable could be in its first iteration. Screen size, battery life, and memory are already concerns for such a small device adding LTE chips and giving it even more processing power could make those problems even worse.

The Watch won’t ever be used for major tasks, though. It’s more likely to be used when production is secondary, like, say, when wearers’ hands are otherwise occupied. Runners and other exercisers will be relieved to ditch their phones and retain the ability to send texts, download apps, and stream music online. And a more general audience will be interested in boosting productivity, like when they first started using an iPhone.

LTE-connection will make the Watch all the more attractive to those of us who can’t spend a moment without being connected, which is one of the most important requirements of a gadget these days.

A fresh new look

The rumored new form factor for the Watch shouldn’t be taken lightly as a majorly attractive feature that could make it a must-have device. There’s even a rumor that Apple could introduce microLED screen technology with the new Watch, which could make it even brighter and better looking than the current OLED setup.

Smartwatches have previously fallen in the middle of a strange space between fashion and function, but the scales could be tipping toward looks as a potential determining factor for general consumers. Android Wear devices from major tech companies have largely struggled since the OS was updated earlier this year but fashion companies haven’t been deterred from using the platform, since their customers are worried about looks first, performance second.

If Apple, a famously design-centric company, begins to really treat its Watch like the fashion plate it has the potential to be, its general appeal could go through the roof as hypebeasts and fashionistas lust after the new form factor.

That type of sentiment doesn’t apply to most gadgets, where one generation replaces the last because it works better but in fashion, where aesthetics are the most important quality, consumers can justify buying a new model on looks alone. There’s more of an incentive to upgrade to the new redesigned Watch to go along with your Series 2 for Apple fans, too, giving them an opportunity collect them all and cycle between looks.

Some might be leery of Apple’s movement toward a fitness and fashion focused wearable (Mashable tech editor Pete Pachal chief among them), but the company will find a more receptive general audience by crafting a sexy, always-connected Watch.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/14/apple-watch-3-must-have/

Here are some of the weirder and more creative ad blockers on the market

Image: Shutterstock / underverse

A host of niche ad blockers are helping web surfers trade annoying ads for cats, art, and inspiration.

The tools are part of a burgeoning cottage industry of blocking software birthed by a popular frustration with disruptive digital ads in recent years.

But where most of their ilk simply scrub pop-ups and promos from your screen, a handful of developers have tried to set their services apart by taking it a step further: They want to turn the lemons of online ads into lemonade.

These ad blockers replace aggressive web advertising with a more pleasant alternative, whether that be images of goofy cats, vintage billboards, fine art, inspirational memes take your pick.

Like many one-note browser extensions, most of them are novelty gags and open-source hobbyist projects. Their gimmicks may be fun at first, but at some point the clutter of cats on every page might get old.

A small segment of startups, however, are more serious about their missions. Companies like Intently a Pinterest-like ad replacer are actually hoping to create viable rivals to industry heavyweights like Eyeo’s AdBlockPlus and AdBlock (two confusingly named, yet separate companies).

There is a potentially enticing moneymaking opportunity hidden in this deceptively simple model. The secret to ad blockers is that, despite the contradictory name and intra-industry antagonism, they aren’t much different than the ad networks they block. Ad blocking startups also make their money by selling the screen space in front of you to advertisers.

For most of the popular ad blocking services, that means charging certain high-traffic platforms like Google and Microsoft for the privilege of being whitelisted a practice trade groups have likened to extortion.

But the prospect of slipping ads in among aspirational memes or social content could make for a more sustainable and less shady model provided there’s actually an appetite among web users for content in place of ads.

Judging by the number of projects that have already stumbled on this path, that demand is by no means guaranteed. But it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy morphing ads into anything under the sun.

Vintage social ads

Image: kindai

What would your Facebook feed look like in ’80s get-up?

French ad agency Kindai answered that question this week with a new tool that papers over sponsored posts with classic ads from the decade.

The browser extension will transport you back to a world of Atari’s Pong, Sony Walkmans, and Apple II’s. There’s a tribute to a partnership between Pizza Hut and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other retro cultural signifiers galore.

The program is also a reminder of how easy it remains to block Facebook ads nearly a year after the company’s supposed crackdown on the practice.

Image: screenshot

CatBlock

Image: screenshot

Developers at AdBlock originally intended for CatBlock to be an April Fool’s joke in 2012. But they apparently underestimated the force of feline fanaticism on the internet.

The service a temporary code tweak that rendered blocked ads as “Lolcat” memes or Flickr images got such an overwhelming reception that AdBlock decided to spin it into part of a monthly subscription package.

Two years later, however, AdBlock turned the project over to open-source developers who now maintain it as a free browser extension. Last year, it became the first ad blocker to run on Microsoft’s Edge browser.

Intently

Image: screenshot

Image: screenshot

Intently replaces aspiration-mongering and health-shaming in service of consumerism with… aspiration-mongering and health-shaming as an end unto itself.

To be clear, the latter is definitely preferable. The service first lets you customize your interests and life goals by selecting from a few preset choices. You’ll then start to see peppy positive mantras like “start by believing that things can change” and “7 days without fruits and vegetables makes one ‘weak'” where you’d otherwise see ads.

The company’s eventual goal is to become a sort of Pinterest-like platform that operates in the space vacated by blocked ads.

Image: screenshot

Addendum

Image: screenshot

Image: screenshot

Probably the most intriguing project on this list, Addendum lets you replace ads with one of several “essays,” or sets of similarly themed art, curated by the influential Kadist art organization.

The collections are all compiled from archives uncovered by Kadist’s various research projects, according to Addendum’s site, but you can also upload your own galleries and share them with friends.

It’s not the fastest or most reliable blocker at this point, and it’s currently only available on Firefox though Chrome and Safari versions are in the works.

The developers are also among the few to directly confront the ethical underpinnings of ad blocking.

“You downloaded the page, and you own it,” the developers write in their justification of the practice. “Its yours and you can do whatever you want to it. Just like if you get a free newspaper, you can read it, or cut it up, or burn it. Its your life and you have no legal obligation to look at every ad presented to you.”

Image: screenshot

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/08/ad-blockers-replacers/