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Internet Explorer

Microsoft Officially Retires Internet Explorer Web Browser 

This past week Microsoft confirmed that its well-known web browser, Internet Explorer, would be retired after years of declining user engagement. Initially launched in 1995, Internet Explorer was the standard for web browsing on all Windows computers. 

More often than not, Windows users opted not to upgrade from the traditional IE browsing format, but security researchers are emphasizing that IE and its many security vulnerabilities, that also contributed to its shut down, were still existent. 

Microsoft will begin disabling the IE application on all Windows 10 devices, prompting users to instead download its next-generation Edge web browser, which was initially released back in 2015. The original IE icon will remain on user devices, and Edge will be incorporating a service called “IE Mode” so users can preserve access to old websites that were specifically made for Internet Explorer. 

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Microsoft says it will support “IE mode through at least 2029. Additionally, IE will still work for now on all supported versions of Windows 8.1, Windows 7 with Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates, and Windows Server.”

Industry analysis shows that more than half a percent of total global browser market shares are held by Internet Explorer. 

“I do think we’ve made progress, and we probably won’t see as many exploits against IE in the future, but we will still have remnants of Internet Explorer for a long time that scammers can take advantage of,” says Ronnie Tokazowski, an independent malware researcher and principal threat advisor at the cybersecurity firm Cofense.

“Internet Explorer as the browser will be gone, but there are still pieces that exist.”

“We haven’t forgotten that some parts of the web still rely on Internet Explorer’s specific behaviors and features,” Sean Lyndersay, the general manager of Microsoft Edge Enterprise, wrote.

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“There was a real need to start over with Edge rather than trying to salvage IE. The web has evolved and so have browsers. Incremental improvements to Internet Explorer couldn’t match the general improvements to the web at large, so we started fresh,” he stated. 

Maddie Stone, a researcher for Google’s Project Zero vulnerability hunting team, wrote that hackers are still able to exploit vulnerabilities within the IE application, which is a problem, referring to previously unknown vulnerabilities as “zero-days.” 

“Since we began tracking in-the-wild 0-days, Internet Explorer has had a pretty consistent number of 0-days each year. 2021 actually tied 2016 for the most in-the-wild Internet Explorer 0-days we’ve ever tracked, even though Internet Explorer’s market share of web browser users continues to decrease. Internet Explorer is still a ripe attack surface for initial entry into Windows machines, even if the user doesn’t use Internet Explorer as their internet browser,” she wrote.

IE will begin to be phased out of Windows devices in the coming months, but its legacy will live on for the standard it set for optimal web browsing.

Iphone

Apple’s New iOS 16 Transforms The Texting Game With Edit, Unsend Features

It’s happened to all of us. You send a text, and then immediately regret it. Perhaps it wasn’t finished, or you should have worded it differently. Maybe you didn’t mean for it to ever see the light of day. Regardless, it’s done, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Until now, that is.

Unveiling their new iOS 16, Apple revealed that it will allow iPhone users to not only edit sent messages, but also unsend them at the same time for up to 15 minutes. Select users will be able to beta test the new features this month, while the iOS will hit everyone’s phones in September.

“Today we’re going to push our platforms further than ever,” Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook said in a prerecorded message for the WWDC 2022 event.  The iOS will also allow for recovering deleted messages for up to 30 days, while marking messages and threads as “unread.”

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While the feature is certainly intriguing — and helpful to those hasty texters — it doesn’t appear that all the kinks will be sorted out upon its debut, as explained by Apple software engineering senior vice president Craig Federighi.

“It’s not implemented properly,” Federighi told The Charlotte Observer. “If the other person doesn’t have iOS 16, the message won’t unsend for them.” The feature will also only be available for those who have the iPhone 8 and up.

Additionally, users will be notified if a text has been unsent or edited. Of course, the texting wasn’t the only big change the iOS is set to bring. You’ll notice another massive development as soon as you turn on your phone.

The lock screen will undergo several major updates, including the ability to customize the screen’s color, font, and placement of elements. iPhone users will also be able to display widgets — shortcuts to apps like weather, calendar, and alarms — to the screen, similar to the Apple Watch.

Apple is also adding “live activities” to the screen, which means you can keep track of a sports game or watch your workout in real time, instead of having to see updates through a series of notifications.

Speaking of notifications, they’re seeing alterations as well. Instead of piling up at the top of the screen, they’ll now roll in from the bottom, which the tech company states will make them easier to read at a glance.

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Apple will be attempting to build on their safety features by offering a Safety Check feature for those in an abusive relationship. The feature will allow users to review and change who has access to information like passwords, location, messages, and other apps.

Speaking at WWDC, Apple privacy engineering manager Katie Skinner explained just how impactful a feature like that can be to those in such a situation. “Many people share passwords and access to their devices with a partner. However, in abusive relationships, this can threaten personal safety and make it harder for victims to get help.”

Considering technology can heighten the danger of an abusive relationship — such as if the abuser sees the victim was searching or texting for resources or help, is at a location they don’t approve of — this is a feature that should go far beyond simply giving users more privacy.

Federighi explained the iOS 16 beta is still “buggy,” though it should be ready to go for the Apple masses come fall. “Occasionally, things will take a bit longer to load than usual, but it’s normal. It’s always like this when they launch the beta.”

Blizzard Workers Create First Union At A Big U.S. Video Game Company

19 quality assurance workers at Raven Software, a division of American video game publisher Activision Blizzard, have successfully voted to unionize, marking the first labor union at a major U.S. video game company. Backed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), three of the 21 total workers voted against the union.

Much of Raven Software’s work primarily comes on the numerous chapters of the renowned first-person shooter franchise “Call of Duty,” which includes “Black Ops Cold War,” “Warzone,” “Black Ops 2,” “Modern Warfare 3,” and “WWII.” Over the course of its history, “Call of Duty” has made more than $17 billion.

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The workers previously announced their intent to unionize back in December, which came days after Microsoft announced the purchasing of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, one of the largest acquisitions in tech history. The workers had been on strike protesting the layoff of 12 contractors.

Speaking to TechCrunch at the time, Raven Software quality assurance tester Onah Rongstad stated the layoffs came after a five-week stretch of “overtime, consistent work.” That period of work, referred to in the industry as a “crunch,” can cause burnout and stress.

With the creation of the union — now known as the Game Workers Alliance — workers can now bargain with their employer to circumvent those crunches of unexpected layoffs. While Activision Blizzard spokesperson Jessica Taylor told The Verge the company respected the employees’ right to unionize, her choice words showed Blizzard has undeniable issues with the procedure.

“We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether or not to support or vote for a union. We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees.”

Meanwhile, the Game Workers Alliance stated it hopes the unionization will serve as an inspiration to the growing movement of video game workers to “create better games and build workplaces that reflect our values and empower all of us.”

Along from “Call of Duty,” Activision Blizzard’s collection of premiere video game franchises include Diablo, Crash Bandicoot, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft, which possesses around 4.8 million users. Of course, the long-running and well-established properties fail to hide Activision Blizzard’s less-than-stellar history of employee treatment.

In July of 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed suit against the company for 10 violations of state employment law. According to the DFEH, Activision Blizzard “discriminated against female employees in terms and conditions of employment, including compensation, assignment, promotion, termination, constructive discharge, and retaliation.”

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The DFEH also found that Activision Blizzard’s female employees were subjected to sexual harassment, while the company’s leadership failed to take action against or prevent the unlawful discrimination and harassment.

According to the lawsuit, among the harassment female World of Warcraft workers were forced to endure included unwanted advances from fellow male workers, derogatory comments about rape, and overall demeaning behavior.

Since that time, Activision Blizzard has attempted to polish its reputation and work environment by hiring 1,000 game testers as full-time employees — increasing the company’s workforce by 25% — along with boosting the minimum salary of those workers to $20 an hour.

Elon Musk’s Acquisition Of Twitter Raises Questions About Platform’s Future

If there’s one thing you can say about Elon Musk, it’s that once he has his mind set on something, he won’t stop until he achieves or owns it. That was the case for Twitter, where Musk purchased the platform for $44 billion after his offer was accepted.

The conclusion wraps up a lengthy acquisition timeline between Musk and Twitter. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO — who has a networth of $264.6 billion — first purchased a 9.2% share of Twitter back on April 4, around $2.9 billion in value. Following that, Musk obtained a seat on Twitter’s board before pulling out and offering to buy the entire company.

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Initially, Twitter resisted Musk’s attempts, adopting a limited-duration shareholders plan. Known as the “poison pill,” the plan enforced that if anyone acquired at least 15% of Twitter’s outstanding common stock without board approval, other shareholders could purchase shares at discounts.

Ultimately, after meeting, the board would approve Musk’s bid on April 25. It’s clear Musk has a specific vision in mind, as he’s previously stated he doesn’t feel the social media site was living up to its potential in regards to free speech. The billionaire also questioned whether Twitter was losing steam due to the lowering amount of activity from the site’s most popular personality.

While Musk doesn’t plan on allowing all kinds of free speech, such as hate speech and fake news — he said that Twitter should “match the laws of the country” in a TED talk — he will have an impact on what kinds of speech policies are in place and who could be banned.

These potential changes has led to speculation that former President Donald Trump, who was banned in January 2021, could return. However, Trump has been adamant he won’t return after the creation of his own social media app.

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Regardless of what direction Musk takes his ideas, it will have a significant influence on not just the site, but the internet. A central figure wielding that much control and potential concerns some like American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) executive director Anthony Romero. “In today’s world, a small handful of private tech companies — including Twitter — play a profound and unique role in enabling our right to express ourselves online,” Romero told NBC News.

“We should be worried about any powerful central actor, whether it’s a government or any wealthy individual — even if it’s an ACLU member — having so much control over the boundaries of our political speech online.”

Another area of interest regarding Musk’s takeover include spam and scam bots, which The Verge has noted Musk is making Twitter’s “new Public Enemy No. 1.” Between January to June of 2021, 5.1 million spam reports were submitted, the highest total since that same span in 2020. However, the attempt to take on spam and building up Twitter’s anti-bot system could work against his goal of less restrictions and more transparency.

The addition of an edit button for tweets is a real possibility under Musk as well, as Twitter had been working on the idea for the past year. It won’t available for everyone — only those in Premium Blue — and looks to only be used for grammatical purposes. Of course, that development took place under Twitter’s former regime, and Musk could look to widen the purposes or usage of an edit button.

Instagram Now Allowing All Users To Tag Products As Ads In Posts

Instagram is now allowing all users to tag products in the posts they upload to their feeds, enabling any photo to act as an advertisement for whatever product is tagged.

Instagram initially announced their plans to give everyone the ability to tag products in their photos last month. The feature is now currently available for all users. Originally this feature was only available for content creators who make their income by selling products through their Instagram posts.

Users can now tag products in their images as long as the business is registered and set up with Instagram Shopping. The company made a statement regarding the update to the app and their hopes for the future.

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“From supporting brands you love to helping your friends and family discover new products they may like, sharing products on Instagram just got easier.”

Full instructions on how users can tag a brand and specific product are posted on the company’s blog, but it essentially works the same way as when you would tag a person in your picture.

Like when another individual is tagged in a post, users will be able to see when an image has product tags, and can easily click the image to have the link appear. Users can then purchase the tagged product directly in the app or through the brand’s product page.

With this new feature any Instagram post can be an advertisement, something that is likely very exciting for brands, however, it’s not clear what the benefits are to the average user, who’s essentially providing free advertising through their posts. Instagram, however, believes that this is a feature many users will utilize.

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Business owners will receive a notification whenever someone tags a product of theirs in a photo and they can manage and view all tagged content on their profile. Businesses can also manage who can tag their products in their preference settings.

Instagram claims that this is just the beginning for product tagging for the average user, and they’re currently working on more ways to bring this feature to other aspects of the app as well. For the past couple of years Instagram has pivoted to become more of a platform for shopping, and the company has been transparent about the ways in which they’re trying to monetize every aspect of the app.

The company even said they no longer want to be viewed as just a photo-sharing app, unless it’s referring to their goals of expanding shopping and video features on the app.

In December, Instagram’s head Adam Mosseri said that it” is prioritizing Reels as well as shopping in 2022,” so time will tell what other features will be implemented to further support the app’s goals.

Amazon

Historic Union Vote For New York Amazon Workers Is Just The Beginning

In a recent interview, The Teamsters’ new president said that organizing Amazon is “vital,” as the company has “total disrespect” for its workers and their efforts to unionize to better protect their rights as employees. 

Google with Magnify Glass

Russia Blocks Google News, Citing “Unreliable Information”

Russia’s communication, information technology, and mass media regulator Roskomnadzor has blocked Google News, accusing them of promoting “unreliable information” in regards to the invasion of Ukraine according to Russian news agency Interfax.

The request to block Google comes from the Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov’s Office, regulators said. The release also referred to the invasion as a “special military operation,” a familiar phrase that the Kremlin has used every single time in regards to the conflict in an attempt to demilitarize themselves.

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Google also recognized the blocking. “We’ve confirmed that some people are having difficulty accessing the Google News app and website in Russia and that this is not due to any technical issues on our end,” Google said in a statement. “We’ve worked hard to keep information services like News accessible to people in Russia for as long as possible.”

The blocking comes after the introduction of Google’s new policy, which says that it would not help websites, apps, and YouTube users sell ads alongside content that dismisses, exploits, or condones the conflict that has now reach its second month. The company expanded on their ruling, citing examples of content that implies “victims are responsible for their own tragedy or similar instances of victim blaming.”

Previously, Google paused all commercial activity in Russia, with includes Google ads, new Cloud sign ups, and payment functionality for the majority of their service. The tech company has also taken a number of steps to aid Ukrainians under siege, from rolling out a rapid Air Raid Alerts system for Android phones in the country to providing services for refugees.

Over the last couple weeks, Russia has accused Google and YouTube of “terrorist activities,” claiming that the services were threatening the lives and health of Russian citizens. Roskomnadzor stated that YouTube users were using adverts with calls to shut down railway communications between Russia and ally Belarus.

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Other U.S. tech companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have seen their usage blocked after Twitter and Facebook removed Russian state media RT and Sputnik from their platforms. Russia additionally accused Meta — the parent of Facebook and Instagram — of inciting hatred and propaganda, moving to label them as an extremist organization.

The Kremlin — which has always been an extremely restrictive regime when it comes to communications and freedom of speech — has proceeded to intensify their efforts of controlling media by passing a law that carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison for anyone who is found to be spreading false information on the Russian military.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, University of New South Wales’ associate Professor in regulation and governance Rob Nicholls said Google proved a serious enough threat to Russia for them to block it entirely. “Google’s prohibition on content that exploits, dismisses or condones the conflict in Ukraine would have been an issue for Moscow. However, blocking access is a significant step.”

“It’s likely that similar geoblocking will be extended to other large networks as Moscow tries to control the narrative of the conflict. It’s hard to portray the conflict as a “special operation” when Google News provides access to NATO’s Russian casualty estimates.”

With Google News gone, citizens have one less credible news source that can provide them with information that isn’t affected by Vladimir Putin’s censorship. The chokehold has worked, with many Russians having little to no awareness of the war whatsoever, making pushback from inside the country harder to achieve.

EU, U.K. To Open Antitrust Investigations Into Ad Bidding Agreement Between Meta, Google

EU and U.K. regulators have opened parallel antitrust investigations on tech titans Google and Meta for a possibly illegal ad bidding agreement that took place back in September of 2018, which eliminated competition between the two and allowed for a controlling of the market.

According to a press release by the European Commission (EC), through the agreement — known as “Jedi Blue” — “a competing technology to Google’s Open Bidding may have been targeted with the aim to weaken it and exclude it from the market for displaying ads on publisher websites and apps.”

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“If confirmed by our investigation, this would restrict and distort competition in the already concentrated ad tech market, to the detriment of rival ad serving technologies, publishers and ultimately consumers,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) stated their own concern that Meta and Google put obstacles in the way of “competitors who provide important online display advertising services to publishers.” Like the EC, the CMA emphasized that the agreement could significantly damage the industry, particularly when it comes to smaller businesses.

“If one company has a stranglehold over a certain area, it can make it hard for start-ups and smaller businesses to break into the market – and may ultimately reduce customer choice.”

As The Verge notes, the Jedi Blue agreement is already under investigation in the U.S., where 15 state attorney generals have filed lawsuits against Meta and Google. The Verge also detailed the traces of Jedi Blue, which go back to 2017, when Meta (then Facebook) made a decision to support an adtech system that would rival Google.

The lawsuits claim Meta dropped that technology when Google offered them special access to its online ad bidding system. Meta was then able to be the first in line when buying real estate ads from Google, and proceeded to stop investing into rivaling ad technology or use any header bidding.

The probes could take years to complete, as the EC stated there is no legal deadline for bringing an antitrust investigation to an end. The length depends on a number of factors, from the complexity of the case to the extent of Google and Meta’s cooperation. Appeals by the companies could also draw out the process.

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If found guilty of breaking the law, the companies could be subject to a fine up to 10% of worldwide turnover, along with legally binding directions to bring the breach to an end. In 2021, Meta saw a $117 billion annual revenue while Google reached $258 billion, so 10% wouldn’t exactly be chump change.

The companies have denied any wrongdoing, and labeled the allegations as false. “This is a publicly documented, pro-competitive agreement that enables Facebook Audience Network (FAN) to participate in our Open Bidding program, along with dozens of other companies,” Google said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Meta explained the agreement has helped to not only increase competition for ad bidding, but enables them to bring more value to advertisers and publishers, resulting in a “better outcome for all.”

For Meta, the probe is just one of numerous messy situations currently occurring to the company in Europe. Russia wants them to be labeled as an “extremist organization” and have all their activities banned in the country following claims that they broke laws on terrorist propaganda while inciting hatred.

Donald Trump’s New “Truth Social” App Begins With Stumbles, Reaches #1 On Apple Store

Former President Donald Trump’s newest project, Truth Social, launched Monday as he attempts to create a digital space that — along with rivaling other services like Twitter — will allow his supporters to exercise free speech and “let [their] voices be heard.”

The network — owned by Trump Media & Technology Group (TM&TG) — reached #1 on the App Store’s social networking chart on its release day, and has remained in the spot since, beating out apps such as Meta’s Facebook and Messenger. It also hit the top spot on the free apps chart above Tik Tok, HBO Max, Youtube, and “Talking Ben the Dog.”

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However, Truth Social won’t be immediately available for many. The app was offered for download on the store for a limited number of subscribers who preordered. Others were added to a waiting list and will be given access over the next 10 days.

The network isn’t expected to be open for anybody to download and use until a month later, according to the Associated Press. Despite the controlled number of users to start, the app experienced troubles almost immediately, encountering technical issues that shut out subscribers for hours and prevented some from signing on.

Trump’s vision for a social media network launched after his January 2021 ban from Twitter, where he would frequently tweet. While many felt Trump’s — who possessed around 90 million followers — tweets were always contentious, they became increasingly accusative and controversial throughout the 2020 presidential election amid claims of a rigging.

In the days following the Capitol Riots on Jan. 6, Twitter ruled that Trump’s tweets had violated their “Glorification of Violence” policy and permanently banned him, feeling that his intentions were to incite the public during a tense time in the nation. The network based the ruling off a number of factors, from Trump using “American Patriots” as a way of describing his supporters to the former President writing statements that seemed to infer future disorder.

Looking at Truth Social’s layout from previews, you might be getting deja vu. That’s probably because the format of the network is almost identical to Twitter, from the user’s profile to retweet buttons – a design implementation that’s all but intentional given Trump’s continual grievances with the service. Of course, there are a few obvious changes. For example, “Tweets”  and “Retweets” are now changed to “Truths” and “Re-Truths.”

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AP pointed out that Trump, whose Truth followers sits around 120,000, was notably quiet during the debut. A screenshot showed his only message came from last week: “Get Ready! Your favorite President will see you soon!” However, other conservative members like Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers and GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wasted no time promoting Trump’s network.

Investments in TM&TG have seen gigantic hype throughout recent months, with the company being promised $300 million from a publicly traded company that also plans to merge with it, along with pledges from investors of up to $1 billion. However, approval from regulators is needed before TM&TG can access the cash.

Even with the potential fundings and support from party members, it remains to be seen if Truth Social can compete with Twitter and Facebook over the long run. Trump’s actions — such as a third run for Presidency — could certainly aid in beefing up usage.

Snapchat Fights Drug Dealing With Automated Drug Detection System On App 

Snapchat announced that they will be making a greater effort to combat drug dealing on the platform. The announcement is partially due to the increased amount of drug-related deaths among US high school and college-aged students. 

Snapchat announced that they have adopted improved automated drug detection systems as well as enhancing partnerships with law enforcement. The app will also now have a portal that can be used for educating users on the dangers of drugs. 

“Our position on this has always been clear: we have absolutely zero tolerance for drug dealing on Snapchat. We have a unique opportunity to use our voice, technology and resources to help address this scourge, which threatens the lives of our community members.”

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The increased security efforts come after the CDC warned of a major spike of drug overdoses in 2021, mainly driven by fentanyl; a cheap synthetic opioid that’s 100 times more potent than heroin, and is often mixed with counterfeit pills that young people buy through social media. 

In 2020 fentanyl fatalities rose by 32% when compared to 2019; more than 93,000 deaths. Individuals aged 24 or younger have seen a 50% increase in drug deaths as well.

“Every drug you try now is a game of Russian roulette,” Shabbir Safdar, director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a non-profit fighting pharmaceutical counterfeits, said

A recent study from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) found that pills labeled as Oxycontin, Percocet, Xanax or Adderall are readily available on platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Craigslist. 

Within the past year Snapchat claims it has increased its proactive detection of drug sales by 390%; increasing security efforts by 50% within the last quarter alone. When Snapchat’s systems detect drug dealing activity on the app the account is automatically banned and the creator is blocked from creating new accounts on the platform. 

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The company has also increased their partnerships with law enforcement and improved on response times to law enforcement inquiries by 85% within the past year. 

Snapchat said it is “working with experts to continually update the list of slang and drug-related terms blocked from search results on Snapchat. Other platforms should also take measures to put a stop to the massive rise in online drug dealing. This is not just a Snapchat problem,” said Christine Elgersma, a senior editor at children’s safety non-profit Common Sense Media.

At a 2021 congressional hearing, Instagram executive Adam Mosseri had to answer questions regarding drug dealing on social media.

“Why are children’s accounts even allowed to search for drug content to begin with, much less allowed to do so in a way that leads them to a drug dealer in two clicks?” asked the Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah.

“Accounts selling drugs or any other regulated goods are not allowed on the platform. The app uses technology to proactively take down a huge number of drug-related posts, Mosseri responded.