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Publicly platformed: what it’s like to be called out by a celebrity on Twitter 0

Publicly platformed: what it’s like to be called out by a celebrity on Twitter

When you tweet to JK Rowling, you never imagine that she ll actually see it. Despite the ostensible accessibility of celebrities on Twitter, their overcrowded mentions and busy schedules mean they don t read most of the 140-character messages directed towards them. Yet sometimes, of course, they do. And sometimes they retweet these messages for their own followers to see and share. Immediately after she retweeted my original tweet my notifications blew up, says Isobel Sweeney, an 18-year-old English literature student from Merseyside who tweeted at Rowling [1] to Fuck off after the author shared her opinions on Jeremy Corbyn yesterday. I think I got somewhere in the region of about fifty replies, most were just fans of Rowling who were offended that I’d disagreed with her. A quick glance through the other tweets JK Rowling retweeted yesterday shows that their authors also received online hate. One was called a foul, loathsome evil little cockroach , another labelled a commie twat and an embarrassment . When Rowling shared a tweet [2] saying Corbyn was like Dumbledore, the tweeter deleted their message and set their account to private. Rowling has 8.07 million Twitter followers. The tweeter in question has 78. It must be exhausting to be JK Rowling on Twitter and receive vitriol and threats merely for having an opinion. But when Rowling retweets people who send her hate, or worse, people who just disagree with her, she opens them up to an army of fans ready to dish out vitriol in return. The author herself is aware of this, as yesterday she blocked out the name and picture of a person who sent her a positive tweet before sharing it, writing: I feel I have to remove this person’s avi because I know the hate she’ll get. Think that through for a moment. I feel I have to remove this person’s avi because I know the hate she’ll get. Think that through for a moment. pic.twitter.com/WOACwm0Hm9 [3] J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) August 31, 2016 [4] Rowling also blocked out Sweeney s name when she shared a second tweet [5] from her account, so she is again presumably aware of the impact she can and did have. Yet yesterday and today she has continued to share people s tweets with their names clearly visible. But so what, right? If you tweet at JK Rowling, especially hatefully, don t you open yourself up to this, 78 followers or not? If you’re scared the door might open, try not hurling abuse through the letterbox. https://t.co/3Z4n0LvJrN [6] J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) September 1, 2016 [7] Perhaps, but not all celebrities just call out people who @ them. Some actually search for their own names and retweet or quote tweet (that is, share the tweet and add their own message to it) people who have criticised them. Emily Reynolds, a 24-year-old freelance writer and author, has experienced this twice. In 2014, Reynolds tweeted criticism of Ricky Gervais [8] for his stance on the iCloud hack of celebrity nudes. Although she didn t directly tag Gervais in the tweet by @ing him, the comedian shared her tweet after it gained traction. Because of his retweet, Reynolds began to receive hateful messages and death threats from his fans. It was genuinely awful, she says. Someone sent me a Facebook message with my address and the manner they were going to kill me with in it. I had to call the police, who eventually failed to investigate it, even though I had his name and workplace, because it had happened online . The whole experience was awful. Recently, it happened again. Last month, Reynolds shared her opinion of Gervais latest movie [9] and although she didn t @ the star, or even mention him by name, he retweeted her message to his 11.4 million followers. Fortunately, after she tweeted him to say she had previously received death threats, Gervais quickly undid the retweet, although he didn t apologise. there is a song on the david brent album called ‘please don’t make fun of the disableds’ and i strongly recommend you do not listen to it Emily Reynolds (@rey_z) August 22, 2016 [10] I figured he was too busy to name search so I didn t think he d see it, says Reynolds. Also, he didn t even search Ricky Gervais , my tweet mentioned David Brent , who is literally his fictional character. What I said wasn’t abusive or cruel, I didn’t directly share my tweet with him, I just said that I didn’t like a song he’d written. If you work in a creative industry I think you should probably be more thick-skinned than that. And thick skin is the crux of the issue. Although it is terrible that Gervais and Rowling receive an abundance of hateful tweets, it is something that unfortunately comes with being a celebrity. When they expose average people to their fans, they open them up to a world of fame and hate that they may not be prepared for. Thankfully, Sweeney admits that she wasn t really bothered by the tweets she received, though does believe that Rowling retweets people simply so that her army of Twitter followers will come after them and give them hate . That seems like unlikely behaviour from a woman who fell off the Forbes billionaires list due to the sheer amount of her charitable donations, but it does leave you wondering what celebrities hope to achieve by exposing hateful tweeters. You could argue they simply want the right to argue back, but quote-tweeting someone s message is an active decision to showcase what they said to your followers, as if you merely send a direct reply it doesn t show up on your followers timelines. Perhaps celebrities quote-tweet and retweet to reveal the truth about celebrity life. Due to her own large number of followers, Reynolds herself feels it would be irresponsible to retweet criticism, but she does have her own rules. I feel like it’s different if someone @s you directly, and I feel like it’s different when I receive actively misogynistic hate speech or threats, because I think it’s important that those accounts are deleted and people are aware of how it is to be a woman day to day online. Despite the reasoning behind the retweets, however, it doesn t seem unfair to argue that celebrities should be more careful, especially when they don t know who the tweeter they re exposing really is. In 2015, an 11-year-old girl had her picture shared online and received hundreds of hateful tweets [11] after YouTuber Gabriella Lindley called her out for posting Moo under her Instagram pictures. According to the girl s sister, the incident left her hysterical . Ultimately, both Reynolds and Sweeney do believe celebrities should be more responsible. You can’t be responsible for what other people say on Twitter, and obviously I don’t think Ricky Gervais actually condones the kind of vile and abusive language towards women some of his fans deployed, says Reynolds. But you absolutely have to be aware of the power you have when you use particular platforms and be really careful how you wield that power. References ^ tweeted at Rowling (twitter.com) ^ Rowling shared a tweet (twitter.com) ^ pic.twitter.com/WOACwm0Hm9 (t.co) ^ August 31, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ shared a second tweet (twitter.com) ^ https://t.co/3Z4n0LvJrN (t.co) ^ September 1, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ tweeted criticism of Ricky Gervais (twitter.com) ^ shared her opinion of Gervais latest movie (twitter.com) ^ August 22, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ received hundreds of hateful tweets (superfame.com)

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You shouldn’t believe your eyes: how to identify fake images online

A photo of Jeremy Corbyn walking through a train carriage of empty seats is many things, but it is not faked. The image, taken from CCTV footage of the 11am train from London to Newcastle on 11 August, hit the headlines last week after Virgin refuted the Labour leader s claims that he couldn t find a seat on its service. Due to the highly-politicised nature of this image (yes, really) many people were quick to question its legitimacy. It’s in the papers…it must be true! Cos technology can’t enable anyone to airbrush or photo shop things like seat tickets yet, wrote a commenter on the New Statesman s own Facebook page [1] , with another noting that Virgin took two weeks to release the images. @ghostflaneur [2] they’re there in the video shot by one of the passengers. In the virgin footage, they’re gone. Remittance Girl (@remittancegirl) August 23, 2016 [3] It is true that in today s post-truth society we should question photographs that we see online, particularly those that arguably have an agenda. Many people find it easy to Photoshop an image, but you don t have to create a fake image to be complicit in the damage they cause. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, researchers found [4] that 86 per cent of tweets spreading fake images were retweets, not original tweets. Before you share an image online, it is important to analyse its legitimacy. Great. But how? Hurricane Sandy approaching New York. pic.twitter.com/HJVCfOYA [5] amonn Fitzmaurice (@efitz6) October 29, 2012 [6] Let me emphasise that there is no single test that will tell you everything you d want to know about the provenance of an image, says Kevin Connor, the ex-vice president of product management at Adobe and founder of Fourandsix Technologies, a company dedicated to analysing the authenticity of digital images. Instead, you really need to play detective, searching for a variety of clues that can provide you with an indication of where an image came from and what has happened to it. One of the first and most useful things you can do is to perform a reverse image search, using a service like Google Images [7] or TinEye [8] . You may want to use both, because they sometimes provide different results. If you find any matches, look for the earliest appearance. If the earlier version looks different than the version you have, then your version is probably modified. Even if the image doesn’t appear modified, you may discover that the image is not what it claims to be. For example, it’s not uncommon for an image to appear on social media claiming to be of a crowd in a recent protest, but reverse image searches then reveal that the image was actually taken in a completely different city years earlier. The results of a Google reverse image search on the alledged Hurricane Sandy photograph Connor became interested in analysing the authenticity of images because he spent over 15 years driving the Photoshop product line at Adobe and found that journalists and law enforcement professionals frequently questioned him on how to tell when images were manipulated. I didn’t have great answers for them, he says, but then I became aware of the research of Hany Farid from Dartmouth College. He was the first person to seriously study algorithms for authenticating photographs. When I was leaving Adobe and deciding what to do next, I decided to team up with Hany and see if we could productise his work. One of the main products resulting from this collaboration is izitru.com [9] , a website that allows photographers to certify that their images are original, unmodified files from their camera. This is useful if you want to prove to an online beau that you aren t catfishing them, or that the trainers you re selling on eBay are the real deal. Unfortunately, the service is limited. For the typical files you find online or in social media, izitru won’t be very useful, because these files are generally not the original files captured from the camera, says Connor. For example, Facebook and Twitter never serve up the original image file that someone uploads. It always gets re-saved at a smaller size, with most of the metadata stripped out. Izitru is most useful if you know the person who is sharing the photo, and you can ask for the original. They can either upload it to izitru themselves as proof, or they can send it to you so that you can upload it. Reverse image and izitru are both accessible and reliable because you don t need to be an expert to use them. When it comes to image forensics and analysing the make-up of an image, however, Farid warns me: There is little the average person can do to reliably determine that a photo is fake. If you do know more about image editing software, then you could start looking for clues within the image traces that the image editing tools leave behind, or mistakes that the editor made, says Connor. This is difficult, though, and many people reach inappropriate conclusions. This was best illustrated during the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year [10] , when Dr Neal Krawetz, a photography forensics expert, argued the winning image was a composite of various photos. Connor, Fadid and Eduard de Kam from the Nederlands Instituut voor Digitale Fotografie were called in to forensically analyse the photo, and verified that it was real. FAKE PHOTO WINS AWARD: How 2013 World Press Photo of the Year was faked w Photoshop http://t.co/rTjoQ9Mkqp #tcot pic.twitter.com/jWzQ0FMtrr [11] [12] [13] slone (@slone) May 13, 2013 [14] De Kam says the easiest way to analyse an image is to get your hands on the raw file, something that can often be difficult. If there is no raw file, the highest resolution is what I have to work with, he says. That means slowly moving through the image trying to find errors, a slow and not very certain process. That s not something you or I can easily do, and the meme This looks shopped, I can tell from some of the pixels [15] mocks those who think they can. There are, however, a variety of services online that claim to be able to automatically detect fake images. Connor warns against many of these. In collaboration with Hany while I was still at Adobe we demonstrated a plug-in that would automatically point out regions in an image that might have been cloned, he says. We chose not to release this, however, because we felt that in novice hands it might lead people to incorrect conclusions. That’s because most of these techniques are not 100 per cent conclusive, and you still need to make an educated judgment about the results. One of the most common ways websites and internet sleuths will claim to delegitimise an image is through error-level analysis (ELA). ELA shows the differing levels of compression throughout an image, in a way that ostensibly highlights where an image has been changed. For example, if I run this still of Harry Potter through fotoforensics.com [16] , it will rightly highlight the differing compression levels on the image of Danny DeVito I have pasted onto the Dursleys heads in their family portrait. Yet although this seems pretty irrefutable, Connor warns against ELA. We simply don’t place much value in that test because its results are especially inconclusive, he says. People like to use it because it’s available online for free and it provides visually interesting results, but these results don’t have a lot of value. Firstly, it just provides you with a pretty picture without giving you much indication of how to interpret it. Yes, you’re told to look for areas of the image that look different than the rest, but how is someone supposed to judge what is different ? Additionally, because the technique is testing for something that’s only tangentially related to image editing, it’s prone to producing unacceptable levels of both false positives and false negatives. In other words, it’s not very difficult to find edited images that don’t product suspicious results in ELA, and it’s also not too difficult to find unedited images that do produce suspicious results. At best, ELA might be useful for directing your attention to certain areas of the image that may deserve future scrutiny, but you shouldn’t make any final conclusions based on ELA alone. When it comes to analysing an image then, it might be best to use the cheapest and most user-friendly computer at your disposal: your brain. It is harder to fake an image then to write total nonsense, says de Kam. So we should always keep thinking whatever we see, whatever we read, how much sense does this make? Many fake images that spread online aren t fake in the sense that they ve been manipulated, but fake in that the stories attributed to them are false. The first step, therefore, is to apply critical thinking. Are there any other images that can corroborate the one you re looking at? For example, by finding other images from the day Hillary Clinton was photographed next to a woman wearing an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt, we can easily see the image was faked. Hillary, reaching the end of the route, says the parade was “fabulous.” pic.twitter.com/AQ6WdLZGlL [17] Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) July 4, 2015 [18] Another important question to ask is whether the source reliable, and what agenda they might have. Once you’ve exhausted your brain, there are a multitude of low-tech services that can help you find answers, such as Snopes.com [19] and Twitter accounts like @HoaxOfFame [20] or @PicPedant [21] , which are dedicated to uncovering fake images and stories. Being sceptical and asking questions are therefore most people s best options. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has recently begun a large research effort into image forensics, and, with Hany Farid working on the team, might develop a way to automatically detect image manipulation. For now, though, says Connor, it’s still some tricky detective work. References ^ New Statesman s own Facebook page (www.facebook.com) ^ @ghostflaneur (twitter.com) ^ August 23, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ researchers found (ebiquity.umbc.edu) ^ pic.twitter.com/HJVCfOYA (t.co) ^ October 29, 2012 (twitter.com) ^ Google Images (www.wikihow.com) ^ TinEye (www.tineye.com) ^ izitru.com (www.izitru.com) ^ 2013 World Press Photo of the Year (www.wired.co.uk) ^ http://t.co/rTjoQ9Mkqp (t.co) ^ #tcot (twitter.com) ^ pic.twitter.com/jWzQ0FMtrr (t.co) ^ May 13, 2013 (twitter.com) ^ This looks shopped, I can tell from some of the pixels (knowyourmeme.com) ^ fotoforensics.com (fotoforensics.com) ^ pic.twitter.com/AQ6WdLZGlL (t.co) ^ July 4, 2015 (twitter.com) ^ Snopes.com (www.snopes.com) ^ @HoaxOfFame (www.twitter.com) ^ @PicPedant (www.twitter.com)

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What it’s like to be called out by a celebrity on Twitter

When you tweet to JK Rowling, you never imagine that she ll actually see it. Despite the ostensible accessibility of celebrities on Twitter, their overcrowded mentions and busy schedules mean they don t read most of the 140-character messages directed towards them. Yet sometimes, of course, they do. And sometimes they retweet these messages for their own followers to see and share. Immediately after she retweeted my original tweet my notifications blew up, says Isobel Sweeney, an 18-year-old English literature student from Merseyside who tweeted at Rowling [1] to Fuck off after the author shared her opinions on Jeremy Corbyn yesterday. I think I got somewhere in the region of about fifty replies, most were just fans of Rowling who were offended that I’d disagreed with her. A quick glance through the other tweets JK Rowling retweeted yesterday shows that their authors also received online hate. One was called a foul, loathsome evil little cockroach , another labelled a commie twat and an embarrassment . When Rowling shared a tweet [2] saying Corbyn was like Dumbledore, the tweeter deleted their message and set their account to private. Rowling has 8.07 million Twitter followers. The tweeter in question has 78. It must be exhausting to be JK Rowling on Twitter and receive vitriol and threats merely for having an opinion. But when Rowling retweets people who send her hate, or worse, people who just disagree with her, she opens them up to an army of fans ready to dish out vitriol in return. The author herself is aware of this, as yesterday she blocked out the name and picture of a person who sent her a positive tweet before sharing it, writing: I feel I have to remove this person’s avi because I know the hate she’ll get. Think that through for a moment. I feel I have to remove this person’s avi because I know the hate she’ll get. Think that through for a moment. pic.twitter.com/WOACwm0Hm9 [3] J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) August 31, 2016 [4] Rowling also blocked out Sweeney s name when she shared a second tweet [5] from her account, so she is again presumably aware of the impact she can and did have. Yet yesterday and today she has continued to share people s tweets with their names clearly visible. But so what, right? If you tweet at JK Rowling, especially hatefully, don t you open yourself up to this, 78 followers or not? If you’re scared the door might open, try not hurling abuse through the letterbox. https://t.co/3Z4n0LvJrN [6] J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) September 1, 2016 [7] Perhaps, but not all celebrities just call out people who @ them. Some actually search for their own names and retweet or quote tweet (that is, share the tweet and add their own message to it) people who have criticised them. Emily Reynolds, a 24-year-old freelance writer and author, has experienced this twice. In 2014, Reynolds tweeted criticism of Ricky Gervais [8] for his stance on the iCloud hack of celebrity nudes. Although she didn t directly tag Gervais in the tweet by @ing him, the comedian shared her tweet after it gained traction. Because of his retweet, Reynolds began to receive hateful messages and death threats from his fans. It was genuinely awful, she says. Someone sent me a Facebook message with my address and the manner they were going to kill me with in it. I had to call the police, who eventually failed to investigate it, even though I had his name and workplace, because it had happened online . The whole experience was awful. Recently, it happened again. Last month, Reynolds shared her opinion of Gervais latest movie [9] and although she didn t @ the star, or even mention him by name, he retweeted her message to his 11.4 million followers. Fortunately, after she tweeted him to say she had previously received death threats, Gervais quickly undid the retweet, although he didn t apologise. there is a song on the david brent album called ‘please don’t make fun of the disableds’ and i strongly recommend you do not listen to it Emily Reynolds (@rey_z) August 22, 2016 [10] I figured he was too busy to name search so I didn t think he d see it, says Reynolds. Also, he didn t even search Ricky Gervais , my tweet mentioned David Brent , who is literally his fictional character. What I said wasn’t abusive or cruel, I didn’t directly share my tweet with him, I just said that I didn’t like a song he’d written. If you work in a creative industry I think you should probably be more thick-skinned than that. And thick skin is the crux of the issue. Although it is terrible that Gervais and Rowling receive an abundance of hateful tweets, it is something that unfortunately comes with being a celebrity. When they expose average people to their fans, they open them up to a world of fame and hate that they may not be prepared for. Thankfully, Sweeney admits that she wasn t really bothered by the tweets she received, though does believe that Rowling retweets people simply so that her army of Twitter followers will come after them and give them hate . That seems like unlikely behaviour from a woman who fell off the Forbes billionaires list due to the sheer amount of her charitable donations, but it does leave you wondering what celebrities hope to achieve by exposing hateful tweeters. You could argue they simply want the right to argue back, but quote-tweeting someone s message is an active decision to showcase what they said to your followers, as if you merely send a direct reply it doesn t show up on your followers timelines. Perhaps celebrities quote-tweet and retweet to reveal the truth about celebrity life. Due to her own large number of followers, Reynolds herself feels it would be irresponsible to retweet criticism, but she does have her own rules. I feel like it’s different if someone @s you directly, and I feel like it’s different when I receive actively misogynistic hate speech or threats, because I think it’s important that those accounts are deleted and people are aware of how it is to be a woman day to day online. Despite the reasoning behind the retweets, however, it doesn t seem unfair to argue that celebrities should be more careful, especially when they don t know who the tweeter they re exposing really is. In 2015, an 11-year-old girl had her picture shared online and received hundreds of hateful tweets [11] after YouTuber Gabriella Lindley called her out for posting Moo under her Instagram pictures. According to the girl s sister, the incident left her hysterical . Ultimately, both Reynolds and Sweeney do believe celebrities should be more responsible. You can’t be responsible for what other people say on Twitter, and obviously I don’t think Ricky Gervais actually condones the kind of vile and abusive language towards women some of his fans deployed, says Reynolds. But you absolutely have to be aware of the power you have when you use particular platforms and be really careful how you wield that power. References ^ tweeted at Rowling (twitter.com) ^ Rowling shared a tweet (twitter.com) ^ pic.twitter.com/WOACwm0Hm9 (t.co) ^ August 31, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ shared a second tweet (twitter.com) ^ https://t.co/3Z4n0LvJrN (t.co) ^ September 1, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ tweeted criticism of Ricky Gervais (twitter.com) ^ shared her opinion of Gervais latest movie (twitter.com) ^ August 22, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ received hundreds of hateful tweets (superfame.com)