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Twitter sells blue checks, Tumblr allows nudes: 2022’s biggest Big-Tech U-turns

Twitter sells blue checks, Tumblr allows nudes: 2022’s biggest Big-Tech U-turns

Aurich Lawson | Getty Images

During a year that seemingly shook Twitter up for good—adding an edit button and demoting legacy verified users by selling off blue checks—it’s easy to overlook how many other tech companies also threw users for a loop with some unexpected policy changes in 2022.

Many decisions to reverse policies were political. Recall that Wikipedia stopped taking cryptocurrency donations due to the environmental cost. Google started allowing political emails to bypass Gmail spam filters ahead of elections, and then, following pressure from abortion rights activists, began auto-deleting location data from sensitive medical locations. Among the most shocking shifts to some, after Russia invaded Ukraine, Facebook made a controversial call to start considering some death threats aimed at Russian military forces as acceptable “political expression”—instead of violent speech in violation of community guidelines.

Other decisions seemed to reverse course on admittedly bad business moves. Amazon stopped paying “ambassadors” to tweet about how much they loved working in lawsuit-riddled warehouses. Apple killed its controversial plan to scan all iCloud photos for child sexual abuse materials. And chasing profits that were lost through its prior adult-content ban, perhaps the greatest surprise came when Tumblr started allowing nudity again.

Ars has been covering each and every turn as tech companies updated their policies in 2022. Below find a timeline retracing some of the most unexpected U-turns we saw while tracking tech policy changes this year.

Amazon ends its widely mocked Twitter “ambassador” scheme

In 2018, Amazon decided the best way to counter negative impressions of the company’s warehouse conditions would be to pay social media influencers to tweet about how great it was to work at Amazon. The “ambassador” program paid warehouse employees to divide their time between fulfillment centers and Twitter, answering questions about their specific jobs and sharing positive experiences they had. Critics mocked the program as a “laughable attempt to minimize the abuses unfolding inside Amazon warehouses.” In January 2022, Amazon finally ended the program, reportedly due to backlash and overall poor social media engagement.

Facebook considers some violent speech valid “political expression”

Announced as a temporary change in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Meta in March made a bold political move impacting Facebook and Instagram users located in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine. Meta’s surprising decision permits these users to post calls for violence against—and even the deaths of—Russian soldiers and political figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

This kind of violent speech historically was considered in violation of Meta policies, and Meta communications director Andy Stone said that any actual calls for violence against Russian civilians were still banned. He clarified that the company decided to temporarily make allowances for some violent speech viewed as forms of political expression. One example of violent speech that Meta has temporarily considered acceptable political expression was posts calling for “death to Russian invaders.” In response, the Russian government began investigating Meta as a possible “extremist organization.”

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