Kids shopping on Amazon and Instagram’s ‘technical issue’ 

in May 12th, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of May 12, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

“If I fits I sits” — this purr-fectly named study explored the phenomenon behind cats sitting in squares. You might have seen it for yourself on TikTok over the hashtag #catsquare with over 115,000 views. In short, researchers discovered that cats are capable of “illusory-contour perception,” which are visual cues suggesting the edge of a shape is there that’s not. Other animals (including humans) have this capability as well but in the case of cats, they might actually be seeing boxes where there are taped squares, and we all know how beloved boxes are by cats.


The Amazon cost of kids 

Wed May 5

Happy Mother’s Day — your kid just bought $2.6K worth of Spongebob popsicles! That was the reality for one mom last week, after her 4-year-old cartoon fanatic made the nonrefundable purchase. While a GoFundMe has helped her more than recover from this temporary debt, such child-made purchases on Amazon isn’t a foreign concept.

In 2016, a federal judge made Amazon pay $26.5 million in reimbursements to parents whose children made in-app purchases without permission, about a third of the actual amount accidentally spent ($86 million). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had claimed Amazon made it too easy for kids to rack up charges while playing Amazon games, a situation Google and Apple found themselves in two years earlier paying $19 million and $32.5 million, respectively, in settlements.  

Some additional resources...


Instagram’s weird pattern of censoring certain subjects

Fri May 7

Over the past few weeks, at least three hashtag conversations were inexplicably removed over what Instagram claims was a technical issue

  • #MMIWG stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The hashtag was used for both MMIWG posts and Red Dress Day posts (red dresses have become a symbol for missing and murdered Indigenous women in North America) on a day dedicated to honoring these women. 
  • #SheikhJarrah and #SaveSheikhJarrah were used to spread awareness after a video went viral showing an Israeli settler stealing a Palestinianwoman’s home in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. 
  • #Canna4Climate is a new effort encouraging the cannabis community to give back on April 21, the day between Cannabis Appreciation Day and Earth Day.

Users quickly saw that stories mentioning these various hashtags either got limited reach or were met with the message “this story is no longer available.” While Instagram tweeted that the technical issue had been resolved on May 6 — two weeks after #Canna4Climate and a day after #MMIWG — Instagram users continued to see the problem persist with #SheikhJarrah on May 7. Some users also complained that Instagram was only targeting certain users.

  • Artist Chief Lady Bird’s portrait of an Indigenous woman in a red dress disappeared from her story, but her original post was re-shared by actor Dan Levy whose story remained visible.
  • Account @muslim asked their audience to actively forward their content after experiencing limited viewership on #SheikhJarrah posts versus others.
  • WeedTube co-founder Arend Richard said his #Canna4Climate stories only got 400 views, far less than his usual 4,000+.

Some see it as shadow banning, a topic that led to controversy in 2018 when Vice claimed Twitter was shadow banning Republicans. Shadow banning makes your posts invisible to everyone but you, so it looks like you’re posting per usual but nobody can actually see it. A Vice reporter said that when searching for certain Republican names in the Twitter search bar, their names didn’t actually appear, though Twitter and a BuzzFeed News reporter argued this doesn’t match the definition of shadow banning since those names still appeared after hitting “enter” and seeing the search results. 

Some additional resources... 

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Oooh this cardboard has me feline good.

Art Credit: Ascii Art Archive

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