Boomerang nude GIFs are the latest sexting trend

A buffet of Boomeranged nudity.
A buffet of Boomeranged nudity.
Image: bob al-greene / mashable 

Last week, while I was brushing my teeth before bed, my phone flashed up with a voice note sent by a close friend. “Rachel!” my friend yelled down the phone with some urgency. “The days of the dick pic are gone. I can’t tell you how many dick GIFs I’m getting.”

The next day, I launched an investigation into whether or not people are *actually* sending “dick GIFs”. What I discovered was this: people are sending Boomeranged solicited nudes to one another. 

And it’s not just dick pics. It’s also butt GIFs, boob GIFs, and a veritable buffet of moving nudity. According to the people I’ve spoken to, a nude Boomerang offers something that a pic does not: a flirty bit of movement. 

Boomerang — an Instagram owned app — allows you to create “mini-videos” by capturing 10 photos and sticking them together to create a looping GIF. You can use the app to create Boomerangs without sharing them publicly and you can save them to your phone and send them via a messaging app. 

Ann (not her real name), who works as an editor, told me she started making nudes on Boomerang — Instagram’s app which lets you make “mini videos that loop back and forth” — about a year ago. Ann says she feels that Boomeranged butt GIFs are “like the flirty wink of nudes.” 

“Most of my nudes focus on my butt and the light/mirror situation in my apartment isn’t great, so I was trying to figure out how to take better ones using the front facing camera,” says Ann. She tried taking a photo by lying on her stomach and taking a pic of her butt over her shoulder. 

“I was struggling a bit to capture the thiccness of my butt because it looked flat.”

“I was struggling a bit to capture the thiccness of my butt because it looked flat,” Ann continues. “And then somewhere along the line — trial and error! — I realised I could do a boomerang to get some motion.” 

She likes Boomerang nudes because they feel “a bit more playful” and fun. “I would feel like an absolute cornball ever taking a video, so Boomerang is like the perfect middle ground,” says Ann. “They’re only like, what, five seconds long at most? So there’s not really pressure to nail a move or anything like that — you can just do something cute and silly.”

A writer who’d prefer to remain anonymous says she’s had nude GIFs made of her consensually. 

“I’m not a big fan of videos being made of me because I think with sound and everything it can get really identifiable,” she says. “But GIFs seem really fun and catch something sexy and short.”

She says one of her current sexual partners has, with her consent, used Boomerang to capture “little moments” during sex. “I’m into kink and he has made GIFs of me being hit on the ass with a flogger, for example. Or a moment during sex.

“I’ve sent them on to others instead of nudes,” she adds. “Like, you can’t see my face and people are always really into it.”

How to save your Boomerangs in the app without posting publicly.

How to save your Boomerangs in the app without posting publicly.

Image: rachel thompson / boomerang

I ask what the appeal of sending a gif is over, say, sending a still image. “I think it feels more real in some way too, because of the short movement,” she says. “It’s like you’re in the room a bit more.” 

While Boomerang is being used for solicited and consensual nudes, it’s perhaps unsurprising that people are also sending unsolicited Boomeranged nudes. 

Erin, who’d prefer to be identified by her first name only, says she received a Boomeranged gif of a penis after going on a date with a guy. “I’ve had some guy send me a helicopter dick Boomerang once and needless to say there was not another date. Fucking gross,” she tells me. “Helicopter dick alone is terrifying.” (Just as an FYI, the term “helicopter dick” is defined by Urban Dictionary as “a sexual display wherein a male gyrates his pelvis so that his flaccid penis whirls in a radial manner like the blades of a helicopter.”)

“Is anyone ever ready for a helicopter dick Boomerang nude?”

Erin says they had started to get “a little sexy” during texting, but “not so much that I was 100 percent helicopter dick nude.” 

“But is anyone ever ready for a helicopter dick Boomerang nude?” she asks. Good question. 

She replied to the dick gif saying “WTF” and the sender then accused her of “killing the mood.” 

“But seriously — how am I the one that killed the mood?” she muses. 

If you’re sharing nude Boomerangs with a consenting partner, there are a few things to bear in mind.  Instagram — which owns Boomerang — has a strict policy on the sharing of nude or sexual content. That rule applies to content showing sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully naked buttocks. The policy also applies to some photos of women’s nipples — with the exception of photos showing post-mastectomy scarring, active breastfeeding, or images of breasts where the nipples are censored by blurring or pixelation. So, sharing your nude Boomerangs to your Instagram Stories or grids would be in breach of Instagram’s policies.

Instagram has a section in its Help Centre detailing how to share photos safely. This section also contains advice on what to do if someone is threatening to “share things you want to keep private.” In instances where you feel you’re being threatened with revenge porn, Instagram asks people to report the profile of the person making the threat — and if you don’t have an Instagram account, you can use this form to submit a report. If you’re receiving unsolicited nudes that you believe are in breach of Instagram’s community guidelines and terms of use, you can report the sender using Instagram’s reporting tool. 

In this day and age, it often feels like no app is immune from hacks and data breaches. As with any app that’s used to create images or videos, it’s important to think about your own digital safety and privacy. 

Stay safe out there.

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With antitrust investigations looming, Apple reverses course on bans of parental control apps

With Congressional probes and greater scrutiny from Federal regulators on the horizon, Apple has abruptly reversed course on its bans of parental control apps available in its app store.

As reported by The New York Times, Apple quietly updated its App Store guidelines to reverse its decision to ban certain parental control apps.

The battle between Apple and certain app developers dates back to last year when the iPhone maker first put companies on notice that it would cut their access to the app store if they didn’t make changes to their monitoring technologies.

The heart of the issue is the use of mobile device management (MDM) technologies in the parental control apps that Apple has removed from the App Store, Apple said in a statement earlier this year.

These device management tools give control and access over a device’s user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions and browsing history to a third party.

“We started exploring this use of MDM by non-enterprise developers back in early 2017 and updated our guidelines based on that work in mid-2017,” the company said.

Apple acknowledged that the technology has legitimate uses in the context of businesses looking to monitor and manage corporate devices to control proprietary data and hardware, but, the company said, it is “a clear violation of App Store policies — for a private, consumer-focused app business to install MDM control over a customer’s device.”

Last month, developers of these parental monitoring tools banded together to offer a solution. In a joint statement issued by app developers including OurPact, Screentime, Kidslox, Qustodio, Boomerang, Safe Lagoon, and FamilyOrbit, the companies said simply, “Apple should release a public API granting developers access to the same functionalities that Apple’s native “Screen Time” uses.”

By providing access to its screen time app, Apple would obviate the need for the kind of controls that developers had put in place to work around Apple’s restrictions.

“The API proposal presented here outlines the functionality required to develop effective screen time management tools. It was developed by a group of leading parental control providers,” the companies said. “It allows developers to create apps that go beyond iOS Screen Time functionality, to address parental concerns about social media use, child privacy, effective content filtering across all browsers and apps and more. This encourages developer innovation and helps Apple to back up their claim that “competition makes everything better and results in the best apps for our customers”.

Now, Apple has changed its guidelines to indicate that apps using MDM “must request the mobile device management capability, and may only be offered by commercial enterprises, such as business organizations, educational institutions, or government agencies, and, in limited cases, companies utilizing MDM for parental controls. MDM apps may not sell, use, or disclose to third parties any data for any purpose, and must commit to this in their privacy policy.”

Essentially it just reverses the company’s policy without granting access to Screen Time as the consortium of companies have suggested.

“It’s been a hellish roller coaster,” said Dustin Dailey, a senior product manager at OurPact, told The New York Times . OurPact had been the top parental control app in the App Store before it was pulled in February. The company estimated that Apple’s move cost it around $3 million, a spokeswoman told the Times.

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WarnerMedia hires Bob Greenblatt in leadership shuffle

Changes are afoot at WarnerMedia.

Last week, Richard Pleper announced that he was leaving the CEO role at HBO, following reports that WarnerMedia and its new corporate parent AT&T were pushing for network to get bigger and broader. Turner President David Levy is also departing.

Today, WarnerMedia announced  that former NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt (who The Hollywood Reporter had previously said was a likely hire) has joined as chairman of of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer. That means Greenblatt will be in charge of HBO, TBS, truTV and the forthcoming WarnerMedia streaming service.

The company announced other leadership changes at the same time: CNN head Jeff Zucker will become the chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports (which includes Turner Sports, Bleacher Report and AT&T’s sports networks, as well as CNN) and president of CNN. Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara is taking charge of a new kids and young adults business that will include Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang . (He’ll also be leading Otter Media and Turner Classic Movies.) And Turner International President Gerhard Zeiler is becoming WarnerMedia’s chief revenue officer.

“Adding Bob Greenblatt to the WarnerMedia family and expanding the leadership scope and responsibilities of Jeff, Kevin and Gerhard – who collectively have more than 80 years of global media experience and success – gives us the right management team to strategically position our leading portfolio of brands, world-class talent and rich library of intellectual property for future growth,” WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said in a statement.

In addition to tinkering with its leadership structure, WarnerMedia has also been culling its existing streaming services in advance of its big direct-to-consumer launch.

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Facebook adds Boomerangs, AR stickers, and portrait mode to Messenger

Boomerangs, portrait mode, and AR stickers come to Messenger.
Boomerangs, portrait mode, and AR stickers come to Messenger.
Image: facebook

Facebook is adding three new dynamic camera features to Messenger, it announced Monday. Users will be able to create and send Boomerangs, use a portrait mode, and integrate AR stickers into photos they send over chat.

These camera features come on the heels of a Messenger redesign that sought to simplify the interface, which Facebook rolled out in October.

Boomerangs were originally a standalone video creating app created by Instagram. A Boomerang is a looped short video that looks like a custom-made gif. They rose to popularity on Instagram, especially once the platform integrated the ability to create Boomerangs into the app itself. 

Portrait mode will add focus to the subject, and blur the background. AR stickers lets users place three-dimensional stickers within your photos. 

AR stickers move out of chat and into the world.

AR stickers move out of chat and into the world.

Image: Facebook

In the redesign, three tabs — chat, people, and discover — replaced the previous five. Incidentally, that made Messenger look more like Snapchat. Now, Messenger’s photo sending options are more playful and robust — an area where Snapchat has previously been dominant. Snapchat pioneered AR lenses and stickers, and Snapchat began testing its own version of Boomerangs in June.

1.3 billion people use Messenger every month, according to Facebook. In the summer of 2017, Facebook rolled out ads on Messenger to start capitalizing on that sizable audience. Now, ads appear in the chat feed alongside messages with your friends. Integrating business bots has also been a priority for Facebook with Messenger; at Facebook’s developer conference in May, it boasted that Messenger hosted 300,000 bots.

The new features are a fun, consumer facing update. But they also show the importance of Messenger to Facebook’s ecosystem. The growth of messaging platforms is outpacing “traditional” social media. And Facebook is making investments in Messenger, and Facebook-owned WhatsApp, to capitalize on people’s love of DMs. 

At this point, messenger apps are starting to converge in what they can do. With chat, AR lenses and stickers, photo filters, and even, now, Boomerangs, available in various combinations on on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp, one feature isn’t likely to pull you one way or the other. 

What you use to send messages will probably just depend on where your friends are. And with 1.3 billion users, those are good odds for Messenger.

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Facebook Messenger's camera fakes portrait mode photos


Facebook

Facebook Messenger’s camera just caught up to Instagram’s in a few key areas, and then some. To start, you can snap software-based portrait mode photos — if you don’t have a dual-camera phone (or one with clever AI photography), you can still get that blurred background for your headshots. You can also shoot animated Boomerang loops if you want to capture a brief bit of movement without recording a whole video.

You’ll also find a new batch of augmented reality stickers you can drop into your photos and videos. If you’d like a pig on your table, it’s a couple of quick taps away. There’s an abundance of holiday-themed filters and stickers as well. No, these features aren’t about to pull you away from Instagram if you’re a die-hard fan, but they will give you a consistent experience as you switch between Facebook’s social apps.

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