Inside the Deadly War for Social Media Handles

Sheesh — it’s already Monday. Jordan Parker Erb here, reporting to you from New York. On social media, people are waging a deadly campaign over something seemingly banal: usernames. 

Oh, and for all you Wordle fans (guilty!), the online puzzle is being turned into a board game.

Now, let’s get to it.

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A man with a target on his face made of an @ sign

Deena So’Oteh for Insider

1. People are waging a deadly war over social media usernames. Unique usernames — so-called “OG handles” — have become increasingly coveted on social media, and some people are going to desperate lengths to get them.

  • One tech exec, who nabbed the handle @ginger, is used to fielding offers to buy the username. But in 2020, he became a part of a campaign of terror over the handle.
  • Platforms like Instagram and Twitter ban the sale of handles, so online marketplaces have sprung up instead. The most valuable usernames — two-letter handles, as well as memorable words like ginger — can sell for thousands of dollars.
  • But some people turn to more drastic measures to get rare usernames. Several people with pithy, coveted handles have been targeted, resulting in harassment and “swatting” — and in one case, death.

Inside the obsession with social media’s most sought-after handles.

In other news:

A cart full of Amazon packages and boxes


2. Amazon is shrinking private brands like AmazonBasics. The Wall Street Journal reported the company is cutting back on its private-label business — including its colossal AmazonBasics brand — and is considering nixing its private-label selections altogether.

3. Elon Musk could face prison time if he doesn’t comply with a court order in Twitter’s suit. According to a legal expert, the court handling the case has many ways to force compliance — including massive daily fines, taking control of Tesla stock, and even sending Musk to prison. Here’s what legal experts are saying.

4. A tech worker was fired after posting TikToks about her salary. The employee, based in Denver, deleted videos from her account to avoid angering her bosses, but was fired two days after superiors discussed the content of her videos with her. She breaks down what happened.

5. Inside the world of Weee, a rapidly rising online grocer. Weee’s CEO Larry Liu pivoted his failing group-buying startup into an Asian and Hispanic grocery delivery service worth $4 billion. While Liu cites the company’s diverse immigrant workforce as an advantage, some workers say the company’s culture is brutal. Read the full profile on Weee.

6. Coinbase is temporarily shutting down its US affiliate-marketing program on July 19. In leaked emails, Coinbase said “crypto market conditions” mean the company is “unable to continue supporting incentivized traffic to its platform.” Here’s what we learned from the emails.

7. Shopify is canceling some students’ internships via email. The company rescinded offers for some interns who were set to begin this fall, and is also pausing recruiting for other fall internships — drying up a key onramp into the tech industry.

8. Mark Cuban said he made a joke that made Bill Gates so “pissed” they never spoke again. In a podcast interview, Cuban said the interaction happened right after Cuban sold his company for $5.7 billion in 1999, and that they haven’t spoken since. See the joke that has the pair at odds.

Odds and ends:

A person plays Wordle: The Party Game, a new board game.

Hasbro/The New York Times

9. Wordle is being turned into a board game. The viral online puzzle, wherein players have six tries to guess a five-letter word, is being reimagined as a board game to play IRL. Here’s how to play “Wordle: The Party Game.”

10. Rivian’s new R1S is like three dream cars wrapped up into one EV. After test-driving the new electric SUV, Insider’s transportation reporter was enamored. With stunning features, off-roading capabilities, and practicality to boot, he came away thinking the R1S is the best of all worlds.

What we’re watching today:

  • IBM, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and others are reporting earnings. Keep up with earnings here.
  • It’s Sir Richard Branson’s birthday.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions, described as the “Summer Davos,” starts today.
  • GameStop Corp record date for 4-for-1 stock split.
  • A hearing is being held in the UK class action case against Google and Alphabet.

Keep updated with the latest tech news throughout your day by checking out The Refresh from Insider, a dynamic audio news brief from the Insider newsroom. Listen here.

Curated by Jordan Parker Erb in New York. (Feedback or tips? Email or tweet @jordanparkererb.) Edited by Hallam Bullock (tweet @hallam_bullock) in London.

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