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The FBI almost used an infamous spyware for criminal investigations

2023-03-19 06:19:47

The FBI almost used an infamous spyware for criminal investigations

The FBI came very, very close to using the Pegasus spyware tool in criminal investigations, according to a new report from the New York Times(Opens in a new tab). It's a tool that can basically steal the contents of someone's phone.

The FBI almost used an infamous spyware for criminal investigations(图1)

The FBI had previously said they had looked into using the tool made by Israeli spyware firm NSO in order to counteract bad actors. But apparently, the bureau had other designs. In fact, the FBI had made detailed plans for using the spyware and how it would be deployed in investigations.

Citing internal FBI documents and court records, the Times wrote(Opens in a new tab):

F.B.I. officials made a push in late 2020 and the first half of 2021 to deploy the hacking tools — made by the Israeli spyware firm NSO — in its own criminal investigations. The officials developed advanced plans to brief the bureau’s leadership, and drew up guidelines for federal prosecutors about how the F.B.I.’s use of hacking tools would need to be disclosed during criminal proceedings.

It isn't yet clear who the FBI intended to use the tool on, but the Times reported it only shut down the idea of using it once stories of other governments abusing the tool went public in 2021.

The fact that the FBI purchased and considered using the tool is worrying for folks concerned about privacy. Imagine the consequences of law enforcement having unfettered access to people's phones.

The Pegasus tool can be installed remotely without the target(Opens in a new tab) having to do so much as click a link. Then the hacker has access to everything in your phone like texts, photos, and emails. It can even reportedly remotely(Opens in a new tab) turn on the microphone or camera without the target knowing.

It's tough to imagine a world where we'd want the government having that tool at its disposal.

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    audio porn stars Credit: bob al-greene / mashable

    Like Scarlett, Joe Bianco performs audio erotica in addition to doing commercial work. Bianco began his acting career in theater, but when he moved to commercial work he thought there'd be limited options. "I look like a Disney villain," Bianco joked in an interview with Mashable. "I'm bald, I have 'resting evil face.'"

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    SEE ALSO: Can't figure out what kind of porn to consume? This handy infographic can help.

    "I did a gig for … this potato chip company and I left the gig and I just felt dirty and slimy and kind of gross," said Bianco. The client asked him to do "sexy" takes, which left Bianco feeling objectified.

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    That's why Dipsea has become one of his top clients. "I appreciate how professional they are because it's such a delicate subject matter," he said, "and because they are so professional it never feels like a delicate subject matter. You never feel like you're walking on eggshells or anything like that. You can just really focus on getting the job done."

    Shava'sha Dickerson, an actor, singer, songwriter, and voice actor for both commercial and creative projects, reiterated what Bianco said about Dipsea. She's worked with them for about a year, and it was her first foray into voice acting after a friend sent her the link to audition.

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    Dickerston plays Cory in a four-part queer series on the app called "Ride or Die." She loves the character because, like herself, Cory is an intimate person. "I think they do that on purpose," Dickerson said of Dipsea, "They find a character that represents the actor well."

    Dickerson voices a character in the Dipsea story 'Ride or Die.' Credit: dipsea

    She continued, "Because the script can get so intimate and descriptive, it's nice to know that you have an engineer that's cool."

    Both Bianco and Dickerson are public about their work with Dipsea. Their respective wives and loved ones know. Bianco's wife was the one to push him to audition in the first place, and his 20-something niece jokes that she can't download the app despite friends telling her about it. Dickerson's mother even made a cameo when a script called for a mom character.

    "Dipsea will take the extra step to incorporate things like consent in a very sexy way, very natural, healthy, not-mood-breaking way which I think some people will falsely say is not possible," said Bianco, who signed an exclusivity deal with the app.

    He works from home in a broadcast quality studio. While he's alone, he has Dipsea producer in his ear along with his co-star, if he's working with one that day. Bianco said the most awkward part of the experience is when his wife comes home and he's making sex noises in his studio.

    "You're making out with your own hand," he said. "You're doing pushups or jumping jacks to try to make the breath [sound] real." When his character reaches climax, there's so much exhalation and breathing. "You will definitely get lightheaded," he said.

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    The biggest adjustment for Bianco, however, is the type of performance he gives. "It's really a cinematic performance," Bianco said of recording with Dipsea. "I do voiceover all day every day, and a lot of commercial stuff or video games is just not in the same world." Going down at the end of sentences, stumbling over words — basically, making his character sound natural — is different from the upbeat, stylized work of commercials and video games.

    Dickerson said that while one may assume it'd be uncomfortable, the process doesn't feel erotic. "You're not even really thinking about the sexual aspects," she said. "You're just really trying to get them what they're asking you for."

    Nathan Grant, an actor for the newer audio erotica site Audiodesires(Opens in a new tab), feels sexy when he records. Like Quinn, Audiodesires has self-insert stories. The site's protocol is for actors to conduct breathing exercises before each read. "Basically, we record a sequence of breaths that turn into a mini orgasm," said Grant, who chose to go by his site alias for this interview.

    To get in the right headspace, he imagines a sexy scene and connects with his personal life. "By the time the warm-up exercise is finished, I’m quite aroused and ready for some audio love-making," he said.

    Grant got his start narrating romance audiobooks. Over time, the writing became "saucier," so the transition to full-blown erotica was seamless. Audiodesires approached him after they heard audiobook demos. "They described their erotic audio stories for women and couples as 'body positive, diverse, equal, imaginative, relatable, and feminist,'" he said. "When I heard this, I knew that I wanted to work with them."

    "You're making out with your own hand. You're doing pushups or jumping jacks to try to make the breath [sound] real."

    Elle Corney, another Audiodesires performer who spoke to Mashable under her site alias, has worked in voiceover for nearly two decades. She even used to record voiceovers for adult movies — no moaning involved, just narrating up to the explicit sex. Audiodesires found her through a site that connects creatives with performers.

    Acting is Corney's first love, and she's happy to be open and talk about sex — so she enjoys recording for Audiodesires. She figured it would be awkward with other people, but since she's able to record alone, it's a fun experience for her.

    As Corney does "boring corporate stuff," in her own words, she needs to get in the zone before recording erotic stories. "They like to get some room atmosphere at the beginning so that's a good time to sit still and let all the other thoughts of the day go away and try to get into a more appropriate mood," she said. "Then I will do some moaning and other noises for the story before starting to read. That way, I am loose and limber and ready to go, just like warming up."

    Grant also described a feeling of letting go when recording, both of oneself and the script. The script doesn't articulate realistic noises that occur during sex, according to Grant, so the narrator needs to go beyond what's written and put themselves in the scene. This work can conjure up self-consciousness and vulnerability, Grant said, because these noises are primal and intimate.

    "Moans, grunts, mouth sounds, breathing, and cries of ecstasy are all very personal experiences," he said, "so if a narrator is able to overcome certain acting apprehensions and really commit to bringing honesty and a lack of inhibition to the erotic content, then authors and producers will appreciate this commitment and want to continue collaborating."

    Grant goes the distance for his work. For one series, which includes his favorite story "Shower for Two," he recorded sounds in a gym, sauna, locker room, bathroom, and shower. "I had a huge amount of fun providing original recorded content for the sound design and hope that the level of immersion feels quite high for our members," he said. "We are all working hard to take our audio erotica to the next level."

    While actors for Dipsea and Audiodesires receive a script, Scarlett improvises her stories for Quinn. "It's just me sitting in a closet improvising different fantasies," she said. Usually, Scarlett records from her booth in New York but she relocated to California amidst the pandemic.

    A choreographer who was connected to her sexuality once served as a mentor to Scarlett, and she was inspired. When recording to Quinn, she tries not to judge herself. "When I shed the judgment, then it is actually very liberating," she said, "because I get to explore parts of myself that I don't necessarily explore in my daily life."

    Artwork for "Shower for Two," Grant's favorite Audiodesires story. Credit: audiodesires

    Sometimes she feels silly, especially if she improvises something and it sounds off. "I have fun with myself … I keep good humor while I do it." But overall, it is freeing for her. "That's actually the thing I tell my friends about it is that it's incredibly empowering as well, just to be able to like explore."

    RedJess(Opens in a new tab), another Quinn performer, found out about the site when she met the content creator on set for a commercial. Jess, also an alias, had never heard of any audio erotica platform and was fascinated. "Plus, I was already used to working as a voice actor, and liked the anonymity aspect," she told Mashable. "Being in the business of saying 'yes' I thought of it as a fun, new adventure."

    Unlike Scarlett, Jess writes a short script herself and riffs when the moment calls for it. Since it's only her recording, she writes in another person but no one else actually speaks. While she's not an avid porn watcher, Jess knows there's a loose plot — a situation of some sort, the relationship between the people involved, and eventually, sex. "That’s usually where I go off script and you know…make it sexy," she said.

    Like Scarlett and some other performers, though, Jess performs alone and finds it liberating. "I try to have fun, keep it real, and trust my instincts," she said.

    All the performers were adamant that they wanted to keep recording erotica. "Luckily you never see my face so I can probably keep doing it until I'm in my 80s," Corney joked. "I might need some glasses to read the script by then though."

    "I could look different to different people. I love not having a face. Being no one. Being anyone."

    Dickerson believes Dipsea is groundbreaking in helping people become more sexually liberated. "They're so intentional — and it shows in each and every email that they send down [and] up to every episode that they produce," she said. Both she and Bianco said they'll continue to record with them.

    Scarlett reiterated the feeling of liberation in the work. "Digging into one's own sensuality is a beautiful thing, to feel connected with yourself," she said. "I think often in society we can push down. It can be freeing. And I think that's a beautiful thing that I get to experience with doing this kind of work."

    Anonymity, which some performers prefer to maintain, is also a beautiful thing. Porn may not be personal, but audio erotica is as close as it can get. "I like being anyone they need me to be," Grant said.

    He enjoys having an experience with the listener that's both collaborative and intimate. He continued, "I could look different to different people. I love not having a face. Being no one. Being anyone. Being the one to feed them the words on the page line by line, like delicious grapes."

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    A whole new kind of "safe sex"

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    As in any industry, not every studio complied. Some tiny porn production outfits whose members all share the same house also kept on shooting content, while complying with pandemic restrictions, by drawing on the small pool of people in their socially distanced bubbles, Freixes adds. But for the most part, the gigs that many performers relied on for part of their income, and as functional high-profile promotions for their personal brands, independent content, and live appearances at clubs, suddenly just vanished.

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    Studios are used to closing down, sometimes for weeks on end, when industry health monitoring systems detect HIV infections in their performer pools. (The last such shutdown occurred in 2018.) They stockpile scenes that they can keep churning out even during a shutdown — big studios may have enough content to last to the end of the year. Major production companies also tend to have rainy day funds or diverse investments and side hustles, like their own fan site platforms. Performers also often turn to side hustles, or dip into their savings(Opens in a new tab), during those shutdowns. But they’re usually only off for a couple of weeks at a time, and on rare occasions.

    SEE ALSO: Twitter and the porn apocalypse that could reshape the industry as we know it

    But this functional shutdown has lasted so long that small-to-mid-tier studios are starting to run out of content. Performer and content creator Joslyn Jane(Opens in a new tab) notes that some are already recycling old scenes, a move that does not often go over well with paid subscribers. Some of these studios “were already in a precarious position pre-pandemic, or just getting by — maybe had 10, 20 percent profits,” explains Freixes. And it has been difficult for them to acquire pandemic relief funds, thanks to structural anti-adult access barriers(Opens in a new tab).

    No one Mashable spoke to for this story has seen a studio go under thanks to the pandemic yet. But Jane is already predicting that “about a third of studios, the member sites,” or more will have closed up shop permanently, or get absorbed by the biggest industry players, by the time the pandemic fades. J.W. Ties(Opens in a new tab), the producer behind the mid-sized fetish studio Desperate Pleasures, says that, after over a decade in the industry, he is “actually teetering on the edge of solvency,” and that he’s “seen several producers in my regularly group talking about… quitting because of the uncertainty” afflicting the industry right now. And some industry observers worry that many small-to-mid-sized studios that do come back will do so with decimated audiences and budgets(Opens in a new tab).

    The pain may not be temporary

    Freixes stresses that the decline of studios and rise of premium fan sites is really an old trend(Opens in a new tab), led by the growing consumer demand for authentic and intimate content over heavily produced and mediated studio fare. He argues that the pandemic has just accelerated it by five or ten years — albeit in uniquely painful ways.

    Most porn viewers may not even register the fall of these studios, as they often have niche followings, or operate entirely behind the scenes, making content for big brands. The gap between studios and independent content creators is also shrinking(Opens in a new tab), as performers gain access to better and cheaper recording and editing equipment, hone their production skills, and increasingly sell their self-produced content to major studios and distributors, who even before the pandemic were eager to tap into their fanbases, and the growing market for raw and intimate clips. “In many ways, the top [independent] clip producers will become the studios of tomorrow,” if these trends continue, Freixes argues.

    But this trend will hurt the crews — the camera people, makeup artists, production assistants, and so on — who build the quality studio content is known for. It may also lead to the decline of certain kinds of fetish content that mid-tier studios have historically produced for small but loyal audiences, like sci-fi porn that requires specialized or labor-intensive prop building and special effects work that might not gel with the low overhead of independent performer-producers.

    Shifting interests in difficult times

    Speaking of genres, Alex Hawkins, of the prominent porn tube site xHamster, notes that viewers have not been searching for usually popular content like MILF and incest roleplay porn over the last few months. He suspects this is a response to the fact that many people are spending more time than they’d like with their families, making these sorts of adult fantasies less appealing than they usually are.

    It is also likely the result of shifting interests, driven by other realities of pandemic life. Hawkins notes that searches for public sex scenes are up 87 percent since the spring, and interest in kissing, not usually a key porn search term, is up substantially as well. So are(Opens in a new tab) searches for(Opens in a new tab) medical-, pandemic-, and quarantine-themed porn. People often seek out porn that reflects and riffs on the zeitgeist, or that delivers them the things they crave but cannot currently access.

    Hawkins suspects that genres whose viewership numbers have been hit by the pandemic will bounce back once our lives return to some semblance of normalcy. A few key search terms are already beginning to climb, he notes. However, the safety precautions put in place by independent actors and studios that have started shooting may make it functionally impossible to film certain types of sex acts(Opens in a new tab) — like golden showers or anything that involves a lot of bodily fluids; like group sex or anything that involves a ton of people in close proximity to each other — for the foreseeable future.

    Related Video: How to have virtual sex, according to a sex expert

    Performers may come out on top

    Performer and producer jessica drake argues that the industry always finds a way of catering to fans’ desires, and fans always have a way of finding what they’re looking for. But, depending on whether or not some pandemic-era set safety protocols become new norms, and on the content restrictions newly dominant platforms impose on creators and distributors, certain types of content could grow rarer in a post-pandemic world.

    Even if studios and their staff and some specific genres suffer, prevailing cultural and industry narratives still maintain that “performers are by far the winners” in the pandemic-fueled upheavals facing the industry, as Kat Revenga of the premium site FanCentro puts it. Sure, a lack of studio work, restrictions on who they can shoot with and where, and temporary changes in audience demands may force them to explore new platforms and types of content. But studio work was always scarce, expensive (as performers often have to pay for their own STI tests, hair and makeup, wardrobe, and more), and limited (as performers usually just get one check up front and no residuals on future sales of their scenes).

    “It’s really empowering during this time for performers to understand where the power lies.”

    The premium sites many are flocking to rarely offer performers guaranteed income, but they may ultimately offer many(Opens in a new tab) greater flexibility in when, where, what, and how they shoot content — which usually translates to more opportunities to shoot. They also offer more earning potential, as performers can secure rolling subscription payouts, and the proceeds from the passive a la carte sales of new and old content that they own the rights to. (Most premium sites take a fairly modest cut off the top of their profits.) “It’s really empowering during this time for performers to understand where the power lies” within the industry, and to seize autonomy, says drake.

    As performers take control of their own work and content, they get to bypass agents and other gatekeepers, and ideally to work and speak more freely. Queer porn producer and performer Jiz Lee(Opens in a new tab) notes that this is empowering performers to speak out more often “against injustices experienced in the industry [and finding] time to come together to strategize to create systems of mutual aid, resource and skill sharing, and more.” Drake adds that many also seem to be using this freedom to make more diverse content, and work with more diverse co-stars, than these gatekeepers would have let them pursue in the studio-centric past. They’re also finding new ways to integrate SFW hustles into their NSFW brands, like Twitch channels and Etsy stores.

    “Myself and many others who were professional studio performers before COVID are unsure about whether or not we’ll return to studio work after this,” says performer Kate Kennedy.

    SEE ALSO: The art of the porn GIF

    But not every performer is thriving in the pandemic era. Hustling for fans and producing your own content requires its own skill set, which not all existing performers have(Opens in a new tab). Rather than shake things up, performer Kiki D’Aire(Opens in a new tab) says that she knows a number of performers who, for lack of studio work and uncertain prospects, “have gone into retirement or semi-retirement” recently.

    Increased viewership also does not always lead to increased profits, for platforms or performers, as many site visitors never turn into paying customers. Many performers have also tried to keep new, paying eyes on them by slashing their subscription or a la carte content and services prices(Opens in a new tab) to work with tight budgets. Partnered sex clips usually sell better on these platforms than solo performances, says Kennedy, especially now, when people in isolation crave depictions of the type of intimacy most of them cannot get. So, performers quarantining with partners that they can shoot content with may on average have an easier time making money than their fully isolated peers.

    Perhaps most importantly, the coronavirus has led a ton of out of work individuals to try their hands at digital sex work, especially on premium fan sites. OnlyFans alone reportedly registered between 7,000 and 8,000 new creators every day in May, many (but not all) of whom are taking a crack at making porn. Most amateurs will not succeed in making a living on these platforms because they don’t have the exact hustle or skills it takes to hack it in adult work, especially in these environments. But as long as they’re around, they will siphon eyes and dollars off from other established sex workers using these platforms, at times sparking tensions(Opens in a new tab) with them.

    Big and established performers have large and loyal enough fan bases that Kennedy and others believe they’ll be able to weather a little market saturation and global economic hardship just fine, seeing only slight dips, no change, or even increases in their profits throughout the pandemic. However, Kennedy believes that new professionals, especially those who have not had the chance to build up their profiles through studio work, will suffer disproportionately.

    Because no one knows how long this pandemic, or the economic crunch it’s creating, will last, it is hard to figure out exactly who and what in the industry will suffer, or suffer the most, because of it. If the U.S. government fails to provide further economic stimulus and one of the world’s largest adult markets contracts, or if the coronavirus continues to surge in the fall, the industry’s current trajectories could shift dramatically once again, exacerbating existing or creating new pandemic trends and pain points. None of these pandemic trends are developing in a vacuum either, as reckonings around race, consent, and wider power dynamics are also rocking the adult industry now.

    The only general trend that seems firm and clear is that the pandemic will likely spare (or even help) the people, genres, and platforms that were ascendant in the industry. Meanwhile, it will squeeze the smallest, already most precarious people, genres, and platforms. It will accelerate trends and hurt the vulnerable. Just as it has throughout the wider economy.

    Thanks to performers Jayden Cole, MelRose Michaels, and Sarah Vandella, and to producers Freakmob of FreakMob Media and Zsolt Abraham of MixedX, for commenting for this piece too.

  • Master at-home learning with this supply cheat sheet

    Master at-home learning with this supply cheat sheet

    You Got This is a series that spotlights the gear you need to improve one area of your life. If you buy something from this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.


    As the school year approaches, you’re probably already working on your first assignment: putting together your own online learning space at home.

    Setting yourself up for success is key. From maximizing your comfort in front of your screen to having the right gear for an intense study sesh, here’s our school-at-home cheat sheet. Snag these supplies from eBay’s student-budget friendly refurbished program to save some serious cash.

    But first, coffee

    Need a kickstart in the morning? Rise, shine, and get that coffee brewing. Start your day off with a caffeine boost to get your brain firing for the day.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Cuisinart
    Get a refurbished Cuisinart coffee maker for $49.50 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Get comfy

    If you’re setting up your own space, get a chair that’s comfortable. Your back will appreciate it.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Steelcase
    Sit up straighter with a new desk chair for $449.11 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Your new BFF

    Find a laptop that meets your needs for your class load and interests. You’ll be spending a lot of time together.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Microsoft
    Connect to your classes with your new laptop for $899 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Screen time

    Have a lot of information to digest? Sometimes, a single computer screen just doesn’t cut it. Add an extra monitor to your setup to have all the info you need visible at all times.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Acer
    Snag an extra monitor for $104.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Extra credit

    Now that you’re working with multiple screens, you’ll want to upgrade the rest of your set up. Having an external mouse and keyboard lets you be even more flexible in your learning space and helps avoid unnecessary stressors to your eyes and wrists.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Logitech
    Become more efficient with a wireless mouse and keyboard for $109.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Participation is key

    Learning from home means you’ll need high quality headphones. Snag a pair for listening to lectures, but make sure they have a built-in mic so you can speak clearly in class discussions.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Jabra
    Get some headphones with a built in mic for $124.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Safe and fast connection

    Has there ever been a more important pair? Secure your network and maximize your internet speeds with one small device.

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    Credit: NetGear
    Get a safer, faster internet connection with a modem router duo for $119.00 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    De-stressing 101

    Don’t let your full course load stress you out. Scheduling in some time during your day to recharge and destress is imperative for a successful at-home learning experience.

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    Credit: MaxKare
    Find your zen with shoulder massager for $29.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

  • Boredoom is the perfect term for the crushing mix of boredom and anxiety in 2020

    Boredoom is the perfect term for the crushing mix of boredom and anxiety in 2020

    Never in my life did I imagine that living through some of the world's darkest days would be so incredibly... boring.


    I've been quarantining at home since March 1, and while I'm more than happy to stay inside, isolate from friends and family, and avoid public settings to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, I have to admit: I'm bored as hell.

    In addition to the boredom, I also somehow simultaneously overwhelmed with anxiety about politics, health, safety, the environment, and, basically, the future of humanity as a whole. I've certainly experienced boredom and anxiety in tandem before. (The past few years haven't exactly been a cakewalk, after all.) But in this moment, with the relentless chaos that is 2020, the constant overlap of the two has caused them to blend into a single, troubling new sensation — one that I now call "boredoom."

    What the heck is boredoom?

    It's defined by a 2009 Urban Dictionary entry(Opens in a new tab) as "doomed by boredom." But I think we can all agree that's not our current fate. A more recent entry from March 30, 2020 (near the start of the coronavirus era) defines the term as "the intense feeling of boredom resulting from sheltering in place during an emergency." Closer. But in my mind, boredoom is simply the state of feeling numb and restless while things around you seem hopeless. And if that doesn't scream "2020," then I don't know what does.

    Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting that everything that's happening right now in the world is boring. It's absolutely not. And the ability to even be "bored," that is safe at home and not contending with being sick or having a family member who is, is in itself a great privilege. But that doesn't mean this drastic and sudden change in the way we live hasn't taken it's toll.

    Quarantining in a pandemic is essential, but it also prevents you from doing a lot of the activities that you'd typically turn to for entertainment and stress relief. While normal boredom might arise from not having new or especially exciting plans, boredoom happens when you actually can't have any plans as a result of all the doom.

    For the past several months we've been unable to grab dinner with friends on the weekends, temporarily check our worries at the door of a movie theater, or unwind at an IRL happy hour after work.

    Instead of living our normal lives we're left to entertain ourselves at home with whatever hobbies, chores, and ambitious to-do lists we can come up with. The stay-at-home life had a charming novelty to it back in March, but that quickly faded away and finding distractions has become increasingly difficult.

    When the boredom hits, you have nothing to stop you from dwelling on all the doom. The anxious energy that generates within you then has no outlet for release. So you begin desperately searching anew for ways to occupy your mind. This is boredoom.

    Boredoom is what led me to sculpt this flower out of Babybel cheese wax(Opens in a new tab). It's the reason my colleague Tim runs around his coffee table and turns to these other chaotic time wasters. And it's why so many people are cutting and dyeing their hair, attempting to bake bread, doing puzzles, learning TikTok dances, and doomscrolling in quarantine.

    We're all just trying to keep our minds even slightly occupied during the slow roll through this seemingly endless calamity.

    Is there any cure for boredoom?

    Signs point to no — or at least not in the short term. Not only are we in the middle of a global pandemic, but the United States is simultaneously fighting for racial equality and prepping for a crucial presidential election. In such a stressful, chaotic time many people want to be out helping and fighting for causes that are close to their hearts. But current circumstances make that more challenging.

    I'm a scaredy cat, so I can count the number of terrifying, dystopian movies I've watched on one hand. From everything I've seen on-screen, when characters fear their country and loved ones are in grave danger they're not panic-consuming news, tirelessly refreshing social media, or rage-screaming every time Netflix's "Still watching?" screen has the audacity to show up. They're actively doing something to try and stop the doom. The problem is, in a pandemic, staying home is one of the biggest ways we can help reduce the spread of germs.

    Until it's safe to cut down on social distancing, many of us will remain stuck in the vicious cycle of quarantining and searching for ways to distract ourselves from our new levels of fatigue and malaise. If you're suffering from boredoom, be kind to yourself, but don't just accept it. Do something to relieve it.

    There are a bunch of ways to safely take positive action related to pandemic relief, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the upcoming election(Opens in a new tab)... even in a pandemic. If you can find even a few meaningful ways to alleviate your boredom and help those around you, the doom may start to seem less scary.

    Boredoom won't last forever (at least it better not!?), so once it's over let's never take regular old boredom for granted again. Deal?

  • Inventor breaks record for worlds fastest electric ice cream van

    Inventor breaks record for worlds fastest electric ice cream van

    There's something deeply nostalgic about the familiar sound of an ice cream van as it slowly winds its way down your street on a hot summer's day.


    Speed, when it comes to the musical meander of that moving treat dispenser, is never of the essence. Well, until now, that is.

    British inventor Edd China has broken the Guinness World Record title for fastest electric ice cream van after reaching speeds of 73.921 mph. Mr Whippy won't know what's hit him.

    China broke the record with his Whitby Morrison "Amalfi" ice cream van over a standing mile at Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire, UK. For those used to driving on UK motorways, you'll know that the record also surpasses the motorway speed limit — hence why the record was likely completed off road.

    I'll have a 99 Flake, please. Credit: Paul Michael Hughes/GWR

    Two years prior to breaking the record, China started to modify his ice cream van to "electrify" it. In the Spring of 2018, the van ran on a Mercedes Sprinter diesel engine, which he then replaced with an electric engine.

    SEE ALSO: How the hottest temperatures in the world are verified

    When China found out that some ice cream vans had been banned by London councils(Opens in a new tab) due to worries over air pollution, he decided to do something about it. China created a conversion kit for ice cream vans so they can change over from diesel to electric. He plans to roll out the kit globally in the future.

    This isn't China's first Guinness World Record rodeo. He's already broken seven records involving fast motorised vehicles — including "world's largest motorised shopping trolley".

    Too fast for the motorway. Credit: Paul Michael Hughes/GWR

    China's achievement will be featured in the 2021 edition of the Guinness World Records book. Craig Glenday, Editor-in-Chief of Guinness World Records, said that it's been an unusual year for record breaking. "This year's incredible edition has been compiled in the most extraordinary of circumstances," he said. "Halfway through writing it, the world was turned upside down by COVID-19, but despite lockdowns and quarantines, it's not prevented amazing characters like Edd from breaking records."

    Maybe next time, he can try for 99(Opens in a new tab) miles per hour.

    GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS 2021 (£20) is available for purchase in stores and online from 17th September 2020.

  • Lara Trump used a fake Lincoln quote from a meme in her RNC speech

    Lara Trump used a fake Lincoln quote from a meme in her RNC speech

    Anyone who's been online in their lifetime has probably heard the adage, "Don't believe everything you read on the internet." But apparently not Lara Trump.


    Even before this age of rampant misinformation(Opens in a new tab), the warning not to take online quotes at their word was true. It's so easy to doctor a photo, fudge a quote, and blur the line between fact and fiction. This is why fact checkers are essential.

    Well, true to the Trump Administrations brand of rarely adhering to facts, Eric Trump's wife Lara didn't fact check her RNC speech on Wednesday night. Lara cited a fake Abraham Lincoln quote(Opens in a new tab) that's a popular meme with conservatives: "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." Trump goes on to say that while those words were said over 150 years ago, they've never been more relevant.

    If you'd like to see it for yourself, Trump says the quote around the four minute mark of this video:

    Perhaps this Lincoln "quote" seems oddly relevant to today because it's fake. As the New York Times (Opens in a new tab)RNC fact check(Opens in a new tab) pointed out, President Lincoln never uttered those words. Snopes even debunked it(Opens in a new tab) 2019. Lincoln's original statement was made during the Lyceum Address(Opens in a new tab) of 1838, and it has been botched and manipulated over time. Here is the quote as Lincoln said it:

    At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

    So how did Lara Trump come to use those twisted words and wrongly attribute them to Lincoln? Why, memes of course — lots and lots of memes. Right-wing organizations like PragerU have shared memes of the fake quote to their social media accounts:

    PragerU notes in tiny little text at the bottom that this is "paraphrased," but the quote is distorted from Lincoln's actual words (note that he didn't say "destroyed" or "freedom"). If you google the false quote, you see a plethora of memes(Opens in a new tab) as well, coming from sources such as the pro-Trump newspaper Epoch Times(Opens in a new tab).

    As Lara Trump should know, memes aren't historical documents or an especially good way of conveying accurate truths. And it was certainly not the only misinformation spread during the RNC. Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle also could have used a fact-check after she claimed in her speech that her mother was an immigrant from Puerto Rico, which is... part of the United States.

    Just another reminder to check your sources — and please, don't believe every meme you see on your Facebook feed.

  • Amazons Halo tracks your body fat and how happy you sound

    Amazons Halo tracks your body fat and how happy you sound

    Amazon knows your shopping secrets. Now it wants to collect data on your body fat and emotional state.


    The company announced the launch of a new fitness band and companion app Thursday that it's calling Amazon Halo(Opens in a new tab). Like competitors Apple Watch and Google-owned FitBit, it measures things like activity, sleep, and other health metrics. But it goes much further.

    Amazon says that it can measure your body fat percentage just through photos. Using the full-body selfies you submit to the app, it can create a "3D body model" that it recommends re-doing every two weeks. That measurement will also tell you how your body fat compares to other people of your sex and age according to "medical literature." You can use a slider to "visualize" what you would look like with more or less body fat.

    Look, it's me, in the cloud! Credit: amazon

    Its second distinctive feature is that it measures the tone of your voice, or how energetic and positive you sound. It's supposed to help you reflect on your interactions with other people to understand how you're coming off in conversations.

    First, you create a "voice profile" so that your Halo can recognize when you're talking. Then, Amazon says(Opens in a new tab) that Tone runs "passively and intermittently in the background...Throughout the day, it will take short samples of your speech and analyze the acoustic characteristics that represent how you sound to the people you interact with." You can also get "continuous tone analysis" for a conversation of up to 30 minutes if you press a button to "bookmark" an interaction you're having with another human being.

    Hmm, wonder how I felt today. Better ask a robot! Credit: amazon

    Let's just get this out of the way: these features sound creepy as hell. Who is the person just dying for an eavesdropping robot on their wrist to tell them how happy they sound while chatting with friends? Is the goal to sound happier, more energetic, all the time?! WHY?

    And, excuse me, Amazon, but why would I want to create a 3D model of myself that exists in the Amazon cloud? It seems like that would encourage a negative body image and obsessive thinking (especially with that comparison feature).

    On the other hand, we gotta acknowledge that a lot of the AI technology Amazon Halo relies on sounds pretty cool. Measuring body fat usually involves sending electrical pulses through your body on specialty smart scales. Amazon says it can do it with just your pictures.

    But just because Amazon can doesn't mean anybody should.

    Amazon has been making inroads into the health industry for some time. It already analyzes and stores health data for hospitals. It acquired prescription delivery service PillPack(Opens in a new tab), and it's launching an insurance venture with Berkshire Hathaway.

    So Amazon clearly has big plans for healthcare. But how does Halo fit into them? Yes, it gets money from the fitness tracker and the subscription fee of $3.99/month. But given Amazon's reliance on collecting mountains of information(Opens in a new tab) to sell products, you can bet data will have something to do with it.

    That's especially true since your Amazon Halo account is linked to your Amazon Prime account. So data about your fitness and engagement with the app is quantified alongside information about past purchases.

    Amazon has built in a few important privacy features(Opens in a new tab), and, of course, insists that Halo is dedicated to privacy. Most crucially, data is encrypted when it's moving between your device and your smartphone, and you can download and delete your Halo data at any time.

    Additionally, Amazon says the most sensitive data — your voice recordings — never leave your device and are deleted immediately after processing. Similarly, Body Scan images are supposedly deleted from Amazon's cloud after they're processed, and only live on your device (unless you enable cloud backup).

    But aside from the raw voice and image files, what about the data related to your mood and emotions? How about your fluctuations in body fat? Amazon told Mashable that data related to users' body fat and tone will not be used to make shopping recommendations.

    Halo's privacy policy(Opens in a new tab), however, does say Amazon "can collect information relating to your fitness metrics, body fat composition, demographic data, sleep, and tone of voice," but does not clearly specify what it will do with that data. It merely says: "This helps us improve the Halo service to provide features and content that are most useful for customers." Amazon wouldn't explain further when contacted by Mashable.

    Amazon's privacy statement on Halo includes some important data protections, but leaves many questions unanswered. Credit: screenshot: rachel kraus / mashable /amazon

    We know that Amazon uses our data to sell us things. Its cloud storage systems have been at the root of multiple third-party data breaches. Add that to the numerous privacy questions around its Echo inappropriately listening to users (including kids)(Opens in a new tab) and collecting voice data. Is this the company you want knowing how often you go for a run, when you go to sleep and when you wake up, whether you're gaining or losing weight, and how damn happy you are?

    Well, if the answer is yes, we have good news for you. Amazon is offering a six-month promotion with Halo on sale for $64.99 instead of $99.99.

Random articles


  • How big porn sites convert viewers into workers

    How big porn sites convert viewers into workers

    The big porn streaming platforms might offer what seems to be a great public service, giving viewers everything they want for free. But the model for these free porn platforms has been bad for porn production companies and has lowered the pay and conditions of their workers(Opens in a new tab).


    Not only is it bad for performers/sex workers, it's also bad for the viewer. The reason why many people struggle with their relationship to porn is not the porn itself, but the way that capitalism has organised it and our desires.  

    Porn sites turn viewers into workers

    Historically, to look at porn has been to take part in a sexual activity which was strictly outside of the norms of how a good capitalist subject ‘should’ behave. If we were wanking, we weren’t working, and we were also not having the kinds of sex that might be reproductive (i.e. penis in vagina sex). However, what used to be excessive, obscene, anti-authority, and radical, is now productive labour. Perhaps not to your employer, but to the porn platforms. 

    To quote the academic, Dr. Rebecca Saunders, from her book Bodies of Work: The Labour of Sex in the Digital Age(Opens in a new tab): "Digital pornography becomes the means by which capital continues to extract value from the sexual body, now not through strict judicial and religious discipline, but through the consummately pleasurable and voluntary activity of watching porn."

    SEE ALSO: How problematic is bi pornography?

    Porn is part of the attention economy, which means that just being on a porn streaming website we are generating value for the companies that own the platform — to look is to labour. Millions and millions of us do: the most popular porn websites are some of the most visited websites online(Opens in a new tab)

    The longer we look, the more value we create for them. Which means they extract our scarce attention in an immersive and bewildering arcade(Opens in a new tab) of windows, clips, categories, tags, phrases, enticements, taboo headlines, and ads. Not that much (or any) of this value goes to the people we might be looking at, but to the platforms that host it. In pornography most of this goes to just two companies Mindgeek and WGCZ holdings(Opens in a new tab)

    "Porn is part of the attention economy, which means that just being on a porn streaming website we are generating value for the companies that own the platform."

    Porn streaming platforms want us to keep working for them by clicking and looking, and to keep coming back for more. Their business model relies on us to create value for them, they don’t care whether we are having a nice time or not.

    Porn sites just want your attention and clicks

    Porn streaming sites aren’t interested in us experiencing pleasure or learning about our sexualities, they are interested in our clicks. This means that leaving people unsatisfied is part of the way that free porn sites have to operate. They rely on us clicking on a few things and leaving with a sense of ‘was there something that might have been sexier?’ ‘Is there something I need to go back for?’ Or a nagging sensation that we haven’t found ‘the thing’ that we are really searching for. 

    Porn platforms (whether they do this consciously or not) tap into this idea that we are lacking and searching for, what psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan would call ‘objet a’ or the object cause of desire. Writers and scholars Bonni Rambatan and Jacob Johanssen explain this nicely in their book Event Horizon(Opens in a new tab): "Throughout their life, the Subject [the viewer of porn] feels that something is missing or not quite right and, often unconsciously, seeks to fill this void through particular fantasies and actions…"

    SEE ALSO: Has sex tech capitalism hijacked sexual liberation?

    Of course, the porn streaming sites also want people to buy porn, which isn’t necessarily a problem — we should pay for the porn we watch. The issue is that they want people to buy the porn that they make. The two companies who own most of the porn tube sites Mindgeek and WGCZ Holdings also own a huge chunk of porn business(Opens in a new tab) too. This runs the risk of creating an anti-competitive market which squeezes out the small independent companies. But even beyond the paywall, the same immersive and bewildering and seemingly infinite array of porn is there, which offers yet more opportunity for object a. Opportunities for us to feel lack and a sense that there is still ‘the real porn clip’ out there that will be the ‘porn clip to beat all porn clips.’ 

    As academic and author Alfie Bown explained to me in a podcast I recorded with him(Opens in a new tab) about his book Dream Lovers, the Gamification of Relationships(Opens in a new tab), this feeling of lack isn’t necessarily bad. Desiring desire is productive and can give us the possibility of connection and becoming something other. But where desires are categorised, tagged, headlined, and datafied, then those desires might end up being territorialised by the platform. 

    The divided porn viewer

    The desires that we are presented with and which we seek out are thus divided into millions and millions of data points. This data is then used by the owners of the tube sites as their market research for the kinds of content their studios should create. We feed the algorithms with data in order that we receive back a coded version of what our desires are.

    If our desires live only on these platforms, we may have a sense of ourselves as a ‘dividual’ which is an idea of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze(Opens in a new tab). Alfie summed this up nicely in his book(Opens in a new tab): "The ‘dividual’ is the idea of the individual as a collection of data but also as a consistent identity who can only follow predetermined paths, just as computational machines can… the ‘dividual’ is an experience of ourselves in which we are encouraged to restart and reorganise ourselves regularly in a ruptures or fractured way." This is deeply theoretical, but for anyone with a compulsive relationship with porn, it probably sounds pretty familiar. 

    "Instead of gazing, we are encouraged to glance, scan the infinite pages to see if there’s another object cause of desire."

    The platforms are not in the least bit interested in our desire to desire, or in what way our desires are productive. They want us to click and look, click and look. Instead of gazing, we are encouraged to glance, scan the infinite pages to see if there’s another object cause of desire. There’s always something else we might be glancing at. Their job is to distract us, to affect us, and keep us just clicking. 

    But we also need to get back to work(Opens in a new tab), or to sleep (in order to get up for work). Looking at porn we might increasingly click faster, fast forward, jump from scene to scene, in order that we might stop looking at porn. We are looking to be reset back to zero. Instead of a pleasurable climax, or a jumping off point, we might simply be looking for a scene which hits the spot, in order that we can put the porn away. 

    What can we do about this? 

    Apart from paying for any porn we might watch, we might also want to think about where and who we buy the porn from. Instead of buying porn from the big porn companies who own the tube sites we might instead think about buying from independent porn studios or producers. There’s a difference between capitalism (where profits are accumulated and turned into wealth) and commercial activity (where profits are divided between the workers and invested in more and better products). Porn producers such as A Four Chambered Heart(Opens in a new tab) also do a great job in making their labour practices very clear and upfront.

    If we are still heading to the tube sites, we could perhaps think about slowing down our consumption. We might easily find ourselves lost in this overwhelming window shopping. So what can we do to give ourselves a gentle reminder that we are there? What can we notice about our bodies in that moment? Is this actually something we want right now? Do we have the time to really enjoy it? If this was sex with a partner, would it be okay? How consensual are we being with ourselves? 

    Porn is categorised around who is in the content and what sex acts they are doing, but the things we might find sexy may be beyond the categories. Maybe it was how they looked at each other? Or something someone said? Perhaps it was the way they kissed? Maybe the way it was filmed, or the speed, or how bright it was? 

    Experiment with watching the same same scene over and over again. Can we just be slow and look at it differently? Each time we blink, what else do we see? What can we hear? Do we find ourselves identifying with any of the performers? What kinds of athleticism are on display in the performances? Are we in the room with them? What might we like to do if we were? How did we get there? How do we all know each other? What happens after? What else? After we watch a scene, how do we remember it? Can we recall it later in the day?

    By understanding how porn platforms work, and make us work, we might be able to have a more conscious relationship with any porn we might watch. To be able to be slow and pay close attention to both ourselves, as well as the skill and hard work of the performers in the scenes we watch, might help us to explore new ways of desiring which may also be more ethical and pleasurable.

  • How to tell who’s viewed your TikTok profile

    How to tell who’s viewed your TikTok profile

    Thanks to a new feature on TikTok called Profile Views, you can finally see who’s been lurking on your profile. The catch is that both parties must have Profile Views enabled.


    Eager to see who’s been checking out your TikTok page? Let’s get started:

    Credit: Rizwana Zafer

    Open the TikTok app and tap on the "Profile" tab on the bottom right of your screen.

    Credit: Rizwana Zafer

    Once you’re on your profile page, tap on the icon of an eye, on the top right of your screen.

    Credit: Rizwana Zafer

    The icon should lead you to a prompt screen that asks if you want to turn on "profile view history."

    After you turn on Profile Views, you will be presented with a list of TikTok users who viewed your profile within the last 30 days. However, only users that also have Profile Views turned on are visible on your list. That means that if you turn Profile Views off, you won’t be able to see who’s viewed your profile, but other users won’t be able to see if you’ve viewed their profiles either.

    While going through my normal TikTok feed, I wondered: Is it possible to lurk on TikTok without other users knowing, while also keeping tabs on who’s viewed your profile? In the name of journalism, I put the theory to the test by lurking on my unsuspecting sister.

    With Profile Views turned on, I popped over to my sister’s TikTok profile and spent a few minutes scrolling through her content. I asked her if she could see that I viewed her profile, and she said yes. However, when I turned off Profile Views, my TikTok username disappeared from my sister’s list of profile views. This means that you can only see users who actively have Profile Views turned on, making the profile view history an incomplete list.

    You can have your cake and eat it, too: as long as you remember to turn off Profile Views after you’re done lurking.

  • Mandalorian fans: Baby Yoda underwear and loungewear just launched at MeUndies — take 15% off

    Mandalorian fans: Baby Yoda underwear and loungewear just launched at MeUndies — take 15% off

    The following content is brought to you by Mashable partners. If you buy a product featured here, we may earn an affiliate commission or other compensation.


    Fans of The Mandalorian will have to wait until 2022 for Season 3, leaving us a lot of time to ponder the fate of the galaxy’s most adorable 50-year-old toddler. Right now, it’s still anyone’s guess what will happen to this Force-sensitive tot.

    This is the way.

    In the meantime, we can re-watch our favorite episodes comfortably outfitted in MeUndies’ newly released collection of The Mandalorian-inspired underwear and loungewear. Launching on April 27, the limited-edition line for men and women features original artwork inspired by Grogu (a.k.a. The Child).

    Best of all, if you’ve never ordered from MeUndies before, you can also save 15% off your first purchases with code MEFAM15.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: MeUndies
    May the deal be with you - take 15% off your first purchase from MeUndies using code MEFAM15. (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Buy now, but not for long

    Credit: meundies

    Hit the buy button with hyperdrive speed: When the limited-edition Baby Yoda undies and loungewear pieces sell out, they won’t be restocking.

    A neatly packaged narrative

    Each order from The Mandalorian-inspired collection comes in special, limited-edition packaging for maximum collectability. This is Star Wars, after all.

    Designed with super-soft fabric

    All MeUndies products have stretchy, breathable fabrics for supreme comfort. (They’re also ethically sourced, for sticking it to the Dark Side.)

    Go solo or all matchy-matchy

    Shop for yourself or coordinate PJ outfits for cuddling up on the couch with your streaming partner.

    Keep it casual or subscribe

    You can shop once or get a monthly membership for regular deliveries — and, honestly, this wouldn’t be the first subscription we started for The Mandalorian.

  • Tinder launches significant redesign to its sexual violence reporting system

    Tinder launches significant redesign to its sexual violence reporting system

    Tinder is changing the way it handles reports of sexual violence and harassment with the aim of providing better support for survivors.


    The dating app worked with U.S. anti-sexual assault organisation RAINN(Opens in a new tab) (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) to develop the redesign of this trauma-informed reporting process, which aims to give survivors "more agency over what step they want to take next," per a press release from the company.

    The new changes include significant improvements to the reporting process, improved access to survivor resources, and education for internal teams at Tinder.

    What's new

    A new screen has been introduced in the reporting process asking "are you or the person involved in a safe place?" and recommends contacting local authorities if required.

    It's now easier to report someone you've unmatched from. Experts at RAINN identified that seeing a former abuser in a match list can be triggering and traumatising. In view of that, Tinder has changed its reporting system to let users unmatch while still easily reporting directly within the app. Previously, members have always been able to report members they've unmatched from, but it's now much easier to do so within the app, rather than doing it in an out-of-app browser experience. This is also helpful in instances where abusers have already unmatched from the survivor in an effort to make it more difficult to be reported.

    There is now also more choice and transparency for those making reports. This acknowledges that many survivors do not report abuse or harassment straight away and some might not want to receive a follow-up from Tinder's support team. There is now a more direct way to report a member you've unmatched if you've decided to wait to make a report.

    Why does this matter? Per Tinder's announcement, "many survivors don’t report what happened to them immediately — being able to unmatch an abuser and yet still easily report when they’re ready is critical. Members should feel confident they can hold someone accountable, even if they have unmatched, so we have created a more direct way to report directly in the app."

    For survivors of sexual violence, the process of coming to terms with what's happened is extremely personal. In many instances, it can take a long time for survivors to realise or accept(Opens in a new tab) that something that happened to them constituted sexual assault or rape. Some people may never label their experiences as rape or assault — something academics refer to as "unacknowledged rape." The disparity between cultural stereotypes(Opens in a new tab) about rape (for example, the violent stranger rape) and the reality of sexual violence makes it difficult for people to identify when sexual violence has happened to them. For these reasons, it's vital that survivors have more options than simply reporting abuse immediately after it has occurred.

    Within the seven-page reporting process, users will now find a progress bar along the top, that lets them see how much of the form they've completed.

    There's now the option of reporting individual images or messages. When reporting, there is now unlimited space for providing details about what's occurred, so users can include as much, or as little, detail as they choose.

    Users can now decide whether or not they want to receive any follow-ups on the report they've submitted. If users would prefer to close the loop, they can opt out of any further communication.

    There's also a final review screen in the reporting process. This means members can check everything they've included in the report and add extra information should they wish to.

    Users will also have easier access to to different support options. The change acknowledges that not every survivor is comfortable making a report. Users can now find a variety of different support options in Tinder’s Safety Center(Opens in a new tab), which is now accessible from most places in the app.

    SEE ALSO: 97% of young women have been sexually harassed, study finds

    Trauma-informed training for staff

    Every member of Tinder's customer care team has now taken part in a new training developed with RAINN designed to equip staff with the awareness of how survivors process and report abuse and harassment. They've also been trained to identify serious abuse from reports that include vague language, in addition to what the appropriate response should be to these types of reports. Tinder has made the training a mandatory part of its onboarding of Tinder's member care teams.

    "Our members are trusting us with an incredibly sensitive and vulnerable part of their lives, and we believe we have a responsibility to support them through every part of this journey, including when they have bad experiences on and off the app," Tracey Breeden, VP of Safety and Social Advocacy for Tinder and Match Group, said in a statement emailed to Mashable. Breeden added that working with RAINN has enabled the app to take a take a trauma-informed approach to supporting Tinder users affected by harassment and assault.

    Clara Kim, Vice President of Consulting Services at RAINN, said that the adoption of these support practices will make Tinder "better positioned to support members who may have experienced harm and take faster, more transparent action on bad actors."

    Tinder has a number of safety features that users can make use of. Last summer, Tinder committed to making ID verification available worldwide, allowing users to verify their identity by uploading a photo of documentation. When users receive potentially offensive messages on the app, a message that reads "does this bother you?" will automatically appear, providing the recipient with the option of reporting the user for their actions. Tinder says this feature has led to a 46 percent rise in the reporting of harassment. Similarly, the "are you sure?" feature asks senders is they're sure they want to send a potentially offensive message.

    If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting in a new tab).

  • Twitter has raised a Pope meme from the dead

    Twitter has raised a Pope meme from the dead

    A new old meme has been resurrected on Twitter, and Mass just got interesting.


    Twitter users are exploiting the website's tiled image format to make it look like Pope Francis is holding various objects with sincere reverence, including Simba, Baby Yoda, and the One Ring.

    The original photo of the Pope was taken in Brazil in 2013, when he celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida. In it he holds aloft a wafer of sacramental bread, meant to stand for Christ's body as part of the Eucharist or Holy Communion rite.

    The image became a meme in the intervening years, Know Your Meme(Opens in a new tab) noting edits replacing the bread with various other objects have appeared on both Tumblr and Instagram(Opens in a new tab).

    Now it's had a resurgence on Twitter, the new tiled variation allowing people to join in even if they weren't blessed with Photoshop skills. The meme is risen.

    The Pope meme has largely been in good fun, and has probably made a lot of people think about God slightly more than they otherwise would (judging from the frequency with which Twitter users will just go balls-to-the-wall horny on main).

    SEE ALSO: 'How it started' meme takes over Twitter timelines

    However some Catholics have expressed(Opens in a new tab) offence(Opens in a new tab) at seeing the pontiff memed, particularly as the Church believes the bread used in the Eucharist sacrament actually becomes Jesus Christ's body(Opens in a new tab).

    Twitter's response to this is exactly what you'd expect.

  • The most heartwarming reunions and hugs post-COVID-19 vaccine

    The most heartwarming reunions and hugs post-COVID-19 vaccine

    When COVID-19 first began spreading around the globe, the world responded by locking down. The rules were clear: Do not see people you do not live with. Do not gather together in groups. Wear masks. Do not touch strangers, or acquaintances, or even loved ones. And of course: Do not hug. It left many of us lonely and starved for connection.


    Then, vaccinations began rolling out, albeit slowly. By July 6, according to (Opens in a new tab)The New York Times(Opens in a new tab), more than 3.29 billion vaccine doses have been administered across the world. But some countries — particularly those in North America and Europe — are much more highly vaccinated than others, including countries with lower incomes. In some areas in the U.S. with the highest vaccination rates(Opens in a new tab), another new normal began springing up. Public health experts announced that, if everyone is vaccinated, you can reunite with your family, friends, loved ones, and, yes, even acquaintances. Videos of these reunions flooded our feeds, and gave us something pure and nice to look at! Here are some of our favorite reunions and hugs as the world began to open up thanks to COVID-19 vaccinations.

    This video(Opens in a new tab) from KAPP-KVEW, a news station that covers the Tri-Cities of Washington state, of a three-year-old greeting his grandmother after months apart.

    This video of Twitter user Jenny Montgomery surprising a whole host of kiddos after 9 months apart.

    This clip from ABC News that shows a grandfather surprised by his grandkids in bed.

    After more than a year, this grandad got to see the grandson he calls "my man."

    A quick jump and hug from this grandson who finally got to hug his grandmother.

    This mother and daughter who were reunited after getting vaccinated in New Mexico. "It means a lot to me."

    This video, posted by 9 & 10 News, showing a man and his grandmother reunited in Brazil after more than a year apart because his family got vaccinated.

    Newsday reporter Chelsea Irizarry tweeted out this heartwarming video of an 80-year-old man who was finally able to hug his wife and sister from his nursing home after his family got vaccinated.

    While these joyous moments are just that — joyous — they should also be viewed with trepidation. In the U.S. and other nations with higher vaccination rates, this is possible. But in places like Africa and Oceana, where vaccinations aren't nearly as accessible, reunions aren't as festive. Vaccine hesitancy is on the rise in some communities even in the U.S.(Opens in a new tab), and the delta variant, which highly transmissible and dangerous, is becoming a dominant and powerful strain(Opens in a new tab).

  • IRL Squid Game gets 100 million YouTube views in 4 days

    IRL Squid Game gets 100 million YouTube views in 4 days

    It had to happen eventually.


    There have been whisperings(Opens in a new tab) of people running real-life versions of Squid Game, Hwang Dong-hyuk's record-breaking Netflix thriller about contestants playing a series of life-or-death children's games for money, ever since the show became a hit back in September.

    With over 80 million subscribers, a track record of running games with cash prizes and a lot of money(Opens in a new tab) to fund such an endeavour, it's not really any surprise that YouTuber MrBeast took on the challenge.

    On Friday, his channel released an IRL version of the Netflix show (without the actual life or death bit, obviously), which saw 456 contestants playing (mostly) the same series of games from the show for a $456,000 top prize.

    At the time of writing, the video has around 110 million views. It's on track to become one of the creator's most popular videos of all-time.

    As you can see from those images, it's clear a lot of work went into the set design. The individual games in the video — from "Red Light, Green Light" to "Glass Bridge" — all look impressively similar to the sets in the actual show. Based on MrBeast's Twitter timeline, his team started work on the games back in mid-October(Opens in a new tab), and as he reveals in the video itself the end result cost "over $3.5 million" to make (it's his most expensive video of all-time).

    Over 100 million views in four days is pretty huge, but maybe it's not such a surprise.

    SEE ALSO: 7 subtle 'Squid Game' clues you may have missed on your first viewing

    Squid Game was watched for over 63 million hours in its first week on Netflix(Opens in a new tab) but became a massive word-of-mouth hit, clocking up over 448 million hours in its second week(Opens in a new tab) and over 571 million hours in its third week(Opens in a new tab).

    It's now Netflix's most popular show ever(Opens in a new tab).

  • 8 TikTok accounts to follow if you dream about renovating your house all day

    8 TikTok accounts to follow if you dream about renovating your house all day

    There's something deeply pleasing about watching someone take something old, or broken, or just generally not great, and turning it into something beautiful or useful. Giving something new life! It's a joy to watch, and so satisfying.


    Just because there's a national shortage of lumber(Opens in a new tab) doesn't mean you can't spend all of your time dreaming about woodworking and restoration while you wait for your order to arrive.

    And, thanks to these eight TikTok accounts focused on restoration, you can feel confident going into your next project, whether that's restoring an old dollhouse or renovating and entire century-old Victorian home. Or maybe you're just fixing up a teeny house for your rabbit.

    1. @bensondwelling(Opens in a new tab)

    Kristy and Paul renovated a whole room in this TikTok posted to their account @bensondwelling. Credit: Screenshot from @bensondwelling tiktok

    Kristy and Paul Benson are an interior design, DIY and lifestyle blog duo out of Philly who post everything from creating an arched cane cabinet(Opens in a new tab) to making over a small bedroom (Opens in a new tab)for their Airbnb.

    2. @renovationhusbands(Opens in a new tab)

    David and Stephen renovated their cowboy room in this video posted to their TikTok account @renovationhsubands. Credit: screenshot from @renovationhsubands tiktok

    David and Stephen are our DIY dads, taking us through the renovation process of their old abandoned Victorian home.

    3. @manualshow(Opens in a new tab)

    An antique coin shining like new from @manualshow's TikTok account. Credit: screenshot from @manualshow's tiktok

    If you're more into restorations of all things vintage, try out manual show, which restores everything from antique coins(Opens in a new tab) to old wheels(Opens in a new tab).

    4. @guesthouserenovation(Opens in a new tab)

    @guesthouserenovation showing off one of their renovated rooms Credit: screenshot from @guesthouserenovation's tiktok

    This TikTok account is taking viewers through the restoration process of turning their old guest house into a whole family home.

    5. @westonroadrenovation(Opens in a new tab)

    That's a normal sized bunny, and a small man, in Scarlett and Ben from @westonroadrenovation's dollhouse. Credit: screenshot from @westonroadrenovation's tiktok

    Alright, this might not be your typical restoration account. Scarlett and Ben from @westonroadrenovation are renovating their tiny, little, itty bitty dollhouse.

    6. @thesorrygirls(Opens in a new tab)

    Kelsey MacDermaid from The Sorry Girls asking the important questions. Credit: screenshot from @thesorrygirls's tiktok

    You may know The Sorry Girls from their successful DIY YouTube channel(Opens in a new tab), in which some of their work is mirrored. But come to their TikTok for quick DIY tips for your next restoration project.

    7. @HGTV(Opens in a new tab)

    A hidden cabinet from @HGTV's TikTok account Credit: screenshot from @HGTV's Tiktok

    No restoration list would be complete without HGTV's restoration TikTok, complete with everything from a hidden spice cabinet(Opens in a new tab) to hacks for your hardwood floors.

    8. @alittlevictorianreno(Opens in a new tab)

    @alittlevictorianreno taking viewers through the renovation of their century-old home. Credit: screenshot from @alittlevictorianreno's tiktok

    Becky and Ro renovated their old Victorian home with TikTok videos for everyone to follow along on their difficult task of redoing every room, from the lounge to the bedroom(Opens in a new tab).

  • Travel hack: Heres how to reserve your spot in the airport security line

    Travel hack: Heres how to reserve your spot in the airport security line

    Ah, the dreaded airport security line — a place where dreams of early gate arrival are crushed and flights are missed. Even though you may have packed your bag like a pro, checked in early, and downloaded your boarding pass, the security line can still trash your savvy travel prep like that bottle of water you accidentally left in your bag. But there's a way to avoid the hurt, hack the system, and breeze through like a VIP.


    Yes, there are apps for checking wait times so you can budget your time appropriately, including an official one from the Transportation Security Administration. But true travel pros know that the best way to expedite the airport security process is to reserve your spot in line.

    SEE ALSO: The best carry-on luggage for every traveler

    And it's free. Here's how it works.

    How to reserve your spot in the security line

    Clear, a travel tech company that uses biometric ID verification to expedite the security process, has a tool called Reserve. Get started by going to in a new tab) on your computer or mobile and select the airport you're flying from. How far in advance you can reserve a spot depends on the airport, which can be found on the airport's website.

    Reserve powered by Clear is available in 15 airports in North America and Europe: Calgary, Charleston, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, Orlando, Phoenix, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Munich. These cover many of the major travel hubs, but Reserve is planning to roll out in more cities, so don't worry if none of these are close to you. That will eventually change.

    Fill out your flight info

    Click on the airport you're departing from, and you'll then be directed to a new page where you'll need to fill out your flight info, including the date of departure, destination, airline, and flight number.

    Credit: Clear

    Next, select the number of people you'll be traveling with — up to 10 people.

    Then, choose from a list of 15-minute time slots for your reservation. Note: Reserve will hold your spot for 15 minutes before or after your reservation time, so you have some wiggle room if you show up early or you're running late.

    Credit: Clear

    Fill out your name, email, and phone number.

    Credit: Clear

    Finally, review your information and click "Create an Appointment."

    Credit: Clear

    We love a QR code

    Now that you've booked your spot, you'll receive a confirmation email with a QR code. When you get to the airport, follow signs to the Reserve line and scan your QR code with a Reserve agent. This will enable you to move to the front of the TSA line. Don't forget to wave to all the suckers standing in line.

    Credit: Clear

    The fine print

    Reserve is different than Clear and Clear Plus, the latter of which is a paid membership that grants you access to Clear express lanes. If you have Clear or Clear Plus, you can use Reserve to book a spot in the security line. Although Clear Plus members already have expedited access in the Clear lane, so that wouldn't make much sense. If you have TSA PreCheck and use Reserve, it won't help much because Reserve takes you through the standard TSA screening line.

    Plus, there's always privacy to consider. Using Clear has inherent risk because of all the biometric data it collects. According to its privacy policy(Opens in a new tab), Clear says it will never sell your data, you can delete your data at any time, and meets the highest standards of data protection. However, Clear's wealth of its customers' personal data makes it an appealing target for hackers, and it shares non-biometric data with its partners for marketing purposes. While Reserve doesn't require you to provide any biometric information, you'll still be sharing personal information (name, email, flight info) with the company.

    As the saying goes, if you're getting something for free, you are the product, which is important to keep in mind whenever you share your info online. So be smart, stay vigilant, and happy travels.

  • Equipment to get you in the cardio zone at home

    Equipment to get you in the cardio zone at home

    You Got This is a series that spotlights the gear you need to improve one area of your life. If you buy something from this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.


    Winter is coming, and for most of us, our outdoor runs we’ve gotten used to will need to move indoors. With a few additions to your home gym setup, you can keep your heart rate up and work up a serious sweat all winter long.

    So grab your water bottle, a towel, and lace up those sneakers because we’re about to enter the cardio zone with some awesome equipment from Best Buy.

    Get in the right headspace

    Sometimes we all need that extra kick in the pants to get ourselves going. For an extra burst of motivation, try the JBL Boombox 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker. Not only are they waterproof with a 24-hour battery life, but the monstrous bass will also keep you motivated throughout your workout.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: JBL
    Get in the zone with a JBL Boombox 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker for $499.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Be smart and know your numbers

    Using a smartwatch like the Fitbit Versa 2 helps you work out, well, smarter. Knowing where your heart rate is during your workouts can help you know when you should pick up the pace a little more or when you should slow down a bit.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Fitbit
    Stay in tune with your body by using a Fitbit Versa 2 for $179.95 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Keep the cardio sesh fresh

    If you’re looking to take your cardio to the next level, give the Bowflex BXT116 Treadmill with the Bowflex JRNY app a try. You can keep your workouts exciting by getting real time feedback from coaches. If you’re into a solo run, there are dozens of virtual courses and gorgeous virtual trails that automatically adjust to your pace to keep you motivated.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Bowflex
    Your pathway to a great workout with Bowflex BXT116 Treadmill for $1,599.00 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Small, but packs a punch

    If you're tight on space, try using a compact elliptical that you can tuck anywhere in your room.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Cubbi
    Compact cardio with Cubbi Pro Elliptical Machine for $349.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Jump right in

    This may be a schoolyard favorite, but a good ol’ jump rope can give you a full body workout and burn a ton of calories in a short period of time.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: GoFit
    Get going with a GoFit jump rope for $19.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Weight training

    Cardio and weight training, what a dynamic duo! Don’t have space for a full weight set? Check out the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells. This super versatile dumbbell has a range of 5-52.5 pounds with a simple twist of a dial.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Bowflex
    Top off your cardio with the Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells for $329.00 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Recovery is key

    Reduce your recovery time after a hard workout with a percussive therapy massager. Use the Theragun Elite Handheld Percussive Massage Device with the Therabody app to get customized wellness routines pulled directly from your activity data.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Theragun
    Cooldown and give your muscles a treat with the Theragun Elite Handheld Percussive Massage Device for $399.00 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)