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Facebook’s suspension of ‘tens of thousands’ of apps reveals wider privacy issues • The New York Times
Kate Conger, Gabriel J.X. Dance and Mike Isaac:
<p>Facebook said on Friday that it had suspended tens of thousands of apps for improperly sucking up users’ personal information and other transgressions, a tacit admission that the scale of its data privacy issues was far larger than it had previously acknowledged.

The social network <a href="">said in a blog post</a> that an investigation it began in March 2018 — following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy, had retrieved and used people’s Facebook information without their permission — had resulted in the suspension of “tens of thousands” of apps that were associated with about 400 developers. That was far bigger than the last number that Facebook had disclosed of 400 app suspensions in August 2018.

The extent of how many apps Facebook had cut off was revealed in court filings that were unsealed later on Friday by a state court in Boston, as part of an investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general into the technology company. The documents showed that Facebook had suspended 69,000 apps. Of those, the majority were terminated because the developers did not cooperate with Facebook’s investigation; 10,000 were flagged for potentially misappropriating personal data from Facebook users.

The disclosures about app suspensions renew questions about whether people’s personal information on Facebook is secure, even after the company has been under fire for more than a year for its privacy practices.</p>

I had to use Facebook a lot over the past two weeks, and realised that I really don't like using it. The interface is noisy, it's confusing, and working out whether what you've written is private, semi-private, public, or what - always with the knowledge that it could be screenshotted anyway - makes it a viper's nest if you're saying anything that you might not want made totally public. By contrast, Twitter's a doddle: flat, and what you say is public. Couldn't be simpler.
facebook  apps 
7 minutes ago by charlesarthur
Facebook working on smart glasses with Ray-Ban, code-named Orion • CNBC
Salvador Rodriguez:
<p>Facebook has been working to develop augmented reality glasses out of its Facebook Reality Labs in Redmond, Washington, for the past couple of years, but struggles with the development of the project have led the company to seek help. Now, Facebook is hoping a partnership with Ray-Ban parent company Luxottica will get them completed and ready for consumers between 2023 and 2025, according to people familiar.

The glasses are internally codenamed Orion, and they are designed to replace smartphones, the people said. The glasses would allow users to take calls, show information to users in a small display and live-stream their vantage point to their social media friends and followers.

Facebook is also developing an artificial intelligence voice assistant that would serve as a user input for the glasses, CNBC previously reported. In addition, the company has experimented with a ring device that would allow users to input information via motion sensor. That device is code-named Agios.</p>

Problem for Facebook doing hardware is always that its platform is so limited. You're doing Facebook; you're not doing Google, not doing Netflix, not doing Twitter, not doing a million other things that any platform company can offer.
facebook  augmentedreality 
3 days ago by charlesarthur
A veterans for Trump Facebook page was hijacked by a North Macedonian businessman for months • The Washington Post
Craig Timberg:
<p>The takeover of Vets for Trump, which has not previously been reported, underscores how money, politics and online misinformation remain deeply and often invisibly entangled ahead of the 2020 presidential election, despite years of promises by government officials and technology companies to combat such problems.

Foreign actors — some seeking profit, some seeking influence and some seeking both — haven’t flagged in their efforts to reach U.S. voters through online information sources such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Veterans and active-duty military personnel are especially valuable targets for manipulation because they vote at high rates and can influence others who admire their records of service.

“Veterans as a cohort are more likely than others to participate in democracy. That includes not only voting but running for office and getting others to vote,” said Kristofer Goldsmith, chief investigator for Vietnam Veterans of America. He was the first to discover the takeover of Vets for Trump during research for a report to be released Wednesday that documents widespread, persistent efforts by foreign actors to scam and manipulate veterans over Facebook and other social media.</p>

Doesn't say many good things about veterans though does it?
facebook  trump  macedonia 
4 days ago by charlesarthur
Period tracker apps: Maya and MIA Fem are sharing deeply personal data with Facebook • Buzzfeed News
Megha Rajagopalan:
<p>UK-based advocacy group Privacy International, sharing its <a href="">findings</a> exclusively with BuzzFeed News, discovered period-tracking apps including MIA Fem and Maya sent women’s use of contraception, the timings of their monthly periods, symptoms like swelling and cramps, and more, directly to Facebook.

Women use such apps for a range of purposes, from tracking their period cycles to maximizing their chances of conceiving a child. On the Google Play store, Maya, owned by India-based Plackal Tech, has more than 5 million downloads. Period Tracker MIA Fem: Ovulation Calculator, owned by Cyprus-based Mobapp Development Limited, says it has more than 2 million users around the world. They are also available on the App Store.

The data sharing with Facebook happens via Facebook’s Software Development Kit (SDK), which helps app developers incorporate particular features and collect user data so Facebook can show them targeted ads, among other functions. When a user puts personal information into an app, that information may also be sent by the SDK to Facebook.

Asked about the report, Facebook told BuzzFeed News it had gotten in touch with the apps Privacy International identified to discuss possible violations of its terms of service, including sending prohibited types of sensitive information.

Maya informs Facebook whenever you open the app and starts sharing some data with Facebook even before the user agrees to the app’s privacy policy, Privacy International found.</p>
app  privacy  menstruation  facebook 
7 days ago by charlesarthur
France will block development of Facebook Libra cryptocurrency • Yahoo News
<p>France warned Thursday it will block development of Facebook's planned Libra cryptocurrency in Europe because it threatens the "monetary sovereignty" of governments.

"I want to be absolutely clear: in these conditions, we cannot authorise the development of Libra on European soil," Bruno Le Maire said at the opening of an OECD conference on virtual, cryptocurrencies.

Facebook unveiled in June its plans for Libra in an announcement greeted with concern by governments and critics of the social network behemoth whose reputation has been tarnished by its role in spreading fake information and extremist videos.

Expected to launch in the first half of 2020, Libra is designed to be backed by a basket of currency assets to avoid the wild swings seen with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Another major difference is that control over it would not be decentralised but entrusted to a Swiss-based non-profit association.</p>

Had forgotten about Libra from day to day until this.
libra  facebook 
9 days ago by charlesarthur
Internal Facebook memo reveals guidelines for showcasing news • The Information
Alex Heath and Jessica Toonkel on the upcoming guidelines for its forthcoming news tab:
<p>According to the memo, the other guidelines Facebook is giving to its editors include:

• Editors will wait for two whitelisted media outlets—publishers who have qualified to be listed as official news sources on Facebook—to confirm a breaking news story if the story is based on an “unsubstantiated report.” How a report would be defined as “unsubstantiated” couldn’t be learned.<br />• Editors won’t feature stories “constructed to provoke, divide, and polarize,” but Facebook notes that “fact-based stories that rely upon journalistic standards” will be promoted even if they are “divisive.”<br />• Headlines that include profanity or obscenities won't be featured.<br />• Editors will “prioritize stories with on-the-record sources rather than anonymous sources.”<br />• Editors will seek to promote the media outlet that first reported a particular news story, and additionally prioritize stories broken by local news outlets. “If a local story then becomes the subject of national or international coverage, we will make subsequent, independent decisions about those developments,” the social network’s internal guidelines note.<br />• Facebook said that editors will “show a range of topics and publishers” with the goal of showing “a diversity of voices.”<br />• Facebook said it will also tell its editors that they shouldn’t censor bad news about the company itself. Editors will be instructed to “impartially share stories about Facebook, Facebook executives, and tech at large,” according to the internal memo.</p>

Sounds like your average boring US news outlet, too afraid to have anything interesting or present it in an interesting way.
facebook  news 
10 days ago by charlesarthur
Facebook giving massive distribution to dangerous misinformation about diabetes • Popular Info
<p>Facebook is giving a page featuring incendiary right-wing memes and dangerous misinformation about diabetes massive distribution — reach that exceeds some of the nation's largest news outlets. 

The Rowdy Republican page, which has over 780,000 followers, is run by an affiliate marketer with a history of legal problems and deceptive practices. He is seeking to drive people to a site about "The Big Diabetes Lie," which tries to convince people to purchase a $55 paperback book. According to the website, if you have diabetes and don't purchase this book, you will soon die…

One of the leading medical experts in treating diabetes, Dr. David Goldstein, an endocrinologist affiliated with the University of Missouri, reviewed the website and told Popular Information that the information was "ridiculous" and contained "dangerous misinformation." 

The Daily Caller, a member of Facebook's official fact-checking program, reviewed a post by Rowdy Republican that included a link to "The Big Diabetes Lie" and rated it "true."

The runaway success of the Rowdy Republican page is a sign that Facebook's efforts to reduce the spread of misinformation is failing. As a result, its users are being put in danger. </p>

Yeah, having the Daily Caller - noted for its Pluto-like relationship with the truth - as a fact-checker is an evident error there.
facebook  diabetes  content 
12 days ago by charlesarthur
Facebook, Google face off against a formidable new foe: state attorneys general • The Washington Post
Tony Romm:
<p>The nation’s state attorneys general have tangled with mortgage lenders, tobacco giants and the makers of addictive drugs. Now, they’re setting their sights on another target: Big Tech.

Following years of federal inaction, the state watchdogs are initiating sweeping antitrust investigations against Silicon Valley’s largest companies, probing whether they undermine rivals and harm consumers. Their latest salvo arrives Monday, when more than 40 attorneys general are expected to announce their plan to investigate Google, delivering a rare rebuke of the search-and-advertising giant — and its efforts to maintain that dominance — from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The states seek to probe allegations that the tech industry stifles start-ups, delivers pricier or worse service for Web users and siphons too much personal information, enriching their record-breaking revenue at the cost of consumer privacy.

“The growth of these [tech] companies has outpaced our ability to regulate them in a way that enhances competition,” said Keith Ellison, a Democratic attorney general from Minnesota who is signing on to the effort to probe Google.

“They need to be regulated,” he continued, “and my view is, it’s the state AGs job to do it, particularly when the federal government is not necessarily a reliable partner in the area."</p>

Going to be fun seeing how they do it, though. How do you split up Google? Which bits do you break off, which do you allow to remain together? Easier to regular individual pieces (such as Google Shopping) than the whole, but even then you run into problems around what is corporate "speech" and thus, in effect, protected.
antitrust  google  facebook 
13 days ago by charlesarthur
Creating a data set and a challenge for deepfakes • Facebook AI
Mike Schroepfer, chief technology officer:
<p>“Deepfake” techniques, which present realistic AI-generated videos of real people doing and saying fictional things, have significant implications for determining the legitimacy of information presented online. Yet the industry doesn't have a great data set or benchmark for detecting them. We want to catalyze more research and development in this area and ensure that there are better open source tools to detect deepfakes. That’s why Facebook, the Partnership on AI, Microsoft, and academics from Cornell Tech, MIT, University of Oxford, UC Berkeley, University of Maryland, College Park, and University at Albany-SUNY are coming together to build the Deepfake Detection Challenge (DFDC).

The goal of the challenge is to produce technology that everyone can use to better detect when AI has been used to alter a video in order to mislead the viewer. The Deepfake Detection Challenge will include a data set and leaderboard, as well as grants and awards, to spur the industry to create new ways of detecting and preventing media manipulated via AI from being used to mislead others. The governance of the challenge will be facilitated and overseen by the Partnership on AI’s new Steering Committee on AI and Media Integrity, which is made up of a broad cross-sector coalition of organizations including Facebook, WITNESS, Microsoft, and others in civil society and the technology, media, and academic communities.

It’s important to have data that is freely available for the community to use, with clearly consenting participants, and few restrictions on usage. That's why Facebook is commissioning a realistic data set that will use paid actors, with the required consent obtained, to contribute to the challenge. No Facebook user data will be used in this data set. We are also funding research collaborations and prizes for the challenge to help encourage more participation. In total, we are dedicating more than $10m to fund this industry-wide effort.</p>
deepfake  facebook  detection 
17 days ago by charlesarthur
Teens exposed to highly charged political ads on Facebook and Instagram • Sky News
Rowland Manthorpe:
<p>Political parties are showing partisan, highly charged adverts to teenagers on Facebook and Instagram, Sky News can reveal.

The Children's Commissioner has described the practice of targeting young people as "irresponsible".

Sky News has seen 208 political ads shown to 13 to 17-year-olds on Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram, where advertisers can target campaigns according to age. The majority of the ads came from the Conservatives, which showed 102 ads to teenagers, mostly featuring Boris Johnson.

Sky News revealed last month that the Tories had welcomed the new prime minister with an online ad blitz costing tens of thousands of pounds. Labour only showed four ads to 13 to 17-year-olds, but these were extremely partisan.

Two Instagram ads from the party featured a picture of Nigel Farage next to Tommy Robinson, and claimed that: "The only way to stop the far-right from winning is by voting Labour." Users were urged to "double tap this and then share it to your story".

Ads for Change UK featured news articles and videos of Mr Farage, saying that the party "would not stand idly by whilst others whip up fear, division and hatred".

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner, who promotes and protects the rights of children, told Sky News this lack of balance could be misleading for young people.</p>

Ironically, Sky News had to check with lawyers before it could show this story on TV because of the UK's strict rules on political advertising. The age targeting is what's different: this is a generation growing up with partisan political ads that they wouldn't see on billboards or in newspapers being directed at them.
advertising  politics  facebook 
5 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook paid contractors to transcribe user audio files • Bloomberg
Sarah Frier:
<p>Facebook has been paying hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe clips of audio from users of its services, according to people with knowledge of the work.

The work has rattled the contract employees, who are not told where the audio was recorded or how it was obtained - only to transcribe it, said the people, who requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. They’re hearing Facebook users’ conversations, sometimes with vulgar content, but do not know why Facebook needs them transcribed, the people said.

Facebook confirmed that it had been transcribing users’ audio and said it will no longer do so, following scrutiny into other companies. “Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” the company said Tuesday. The company said the users who were affected chose the option in Facebook’s Messenger app to have their voice chats transcribed. The contractors were checking whether Facebook’s artificial intelligence correctly interpreted the messages, which were anonymized.</p>

But of COURSE Facebook was doing this, same as everyone else. Clearly this was an open secret within the voice assistant industry.
facebook  ai  privacy  voice 
5 weeks ago by charlesarthur
February 2013: Why email spam is on the decline • Fortune
Dan Mitchell, in February 2013:
<p>Those weird little ads on the right side of your Facebook page—the ones depicting ugly shoes or pitching iffy continuing education degrees—are partly the result of the changing economics of both spam and online advertising in general.

Email spam became a huge business—and a huge problem for both Internet users and network managers—because marginal costs are near zero. Once a sleazy pitch for gray-market Viagra or a porn site is written, the additional cost of each spam message sent is almost nothing. Sending out millions of emails doesn’t cost much more than sending out just one. Very few people fall for the usually scammy offers, so sending them in bulk is necessary to actually snag paying customers.

But improvements to spam-blocking technologies, together with ever-cheaper “legit” advertising have worked to decrease email spam, according to a report from Kaspersky Lab, a maker of antivirus software. “With the emergence of Web 2.0,” the report states, “advertising opportunities on the Internet have skyrocketed: banners, context-based advertising, and ads on social networks and blogs.”

The percentage of email identified as spam is still huge—72.1% in 2012, according to the report. But it’s been dropping every year recently, and is the lowest it’s been in five years.</p>

Wonder how this looks now. Facebook is definitely not too troubled about who advertises there; it's only if they have huge problems - such as some cryptocurrency ads - that they block them. Statista, meanwhile, has some stats <a href="">saying that spam now is about 56% of email</a>.
spam  facebook 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook hit by Apple’s crackdown on messaging feature • The Information
Aaron Tilley:
<p>Debate about how app makers use the internet calling feature, which relies on a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, has been simmering for years. After Facebook split off messaging into a standalone Messenger app in 2014, the social media giant tried to keep the technology in its main app. But Apple figured out what Facebook was doing and made it stop, said Phillip Shoemaker, who until 2016 was the head of Apple's app review team. But Messenger and WhatsApp, which allow internet voice calls, still use the feature.

“Messenger can still use [VoIP background] mode, and does,” said Mr. Shoemaker. “What they do in the background, whether it be accept calls, listen in all the time or update the content of the main app, it’s all unclear to Apple, but could be happening.”

Aside from potentially gathering data, the feature also sucks up system resources, shortening battery life. The impact on battery life briefly made it into the headlines back in 2015 when it was discovered that the main Facebook app was using the voice-calling feature to run in the background.

Other major messaging apps like Snapchat and China’s WeChat have been using the feature to run in the background for a number of reasons unrelated to voice calling, one of the people familiar with the issue said.</p>

Guess that's another API closed off to Facebook/WhatsApp for data collection. Though of course once iOS 13 happens, people are going to test what ads they see when they say some particular set of words.
ios13  facebook  api  voice 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook’s Libra: it’s not the ‘crypto’ that’s the issue, it's the organisation behind it
Bill Maurer is professor of Anthropology and Law at the University of California, and Daniel Tischer is a lecturer in Management at the University of Bristol:
<p>When setting up Visa, it was important for [Visa founder Dee] Hock that Visa would not be owned by self-interested shareholders. Instead, it was the users, banks and credit unions, who “owned” Visa as a cooperative membership organisation. Ownership here did not entail the right to sell shares, but an irrevocable right of participation – to jointly decide on the rules of the game and Visa’s future.

The incentive was to create a malleable but durable payment infrastructure from which all members would benefit in the long term. To work, everyone had to give something up – including their own branding on credit cards, subordinating their marks to Visa. This was a really big deal. But Hock convinced the network’s initial members that the payoff would come from the new market in payment services they would create. He was right.

For most of its existence, until it went public in 2016, Visa was an anomalous creature: a for-profit, non-stock corporation based on the principle of self-organisation, embodying both chaos and order. Hock even coined a term for it: “chaordic”.

Libra envisions a similar collaborative organisation among the founding members of its Libra Association. But it turns Hock’s principles upside down. The Libra Association is all about ownership and control by its members as a club…

…Libra’s white paper outlines an organisation that could become a decentralised, participatory system like Hock envisioned Visa would become. But Libra, if it is successful, will likely become an undemocratic behemoth. Alarm bells ring about a global currency’s de facto governance by a private, exclusive club serving the purposes of its investor-owners, not the public good.</p>

That is, pretty much, my objection to Libra as well.
libra  facebook  cryptocurrency 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook says it was 'not our role' to remove fake news during Australian election • The Guardian
Katharine Murphy:
<p>“We do not agree that is is our role to remove content that one side of a political debate considers to be false,” [Facebook VP for Asia, Simon] Milner says in the letter sent a month after election day.

The Facebook executive says the company invested significantly in an effort to support “the Australian government’s work to safeguard the 2019 election” and said the requirement for the social media giant was to “respect applicable law” and work with the Australian Electoral Commission by responding to queries or concerns.

The backwards and forwards between Labor and the social media behemoth comes as Facebook is firmly in the sights of Australia’s competition and consumer regulator as a consequence of its landmark review of digital platforms.

One of the recommendations of the ACCC review, released last week, was digital platforms be required to implement a code of conduct to govern how they handled complaints about the spread of inaccurate information, which would be registered and enforced by an independent regulator such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

While Milner makes a rhetorical distinction in his letter to Carroll about content that one side of a political debate “considers to be false”, the Facebook executive also acknowledges in the same correspondence that the death tax material circulated on the social media platform during the campaign was, in fact, found to be false by the platform’s independent fact-checking procedures.

Milner says once the claims were found to be false on April 30, “we demoted the original posts and thousands of similar posts”. Posts were demoted in Facebook’s News Feed but not removed from the platform. Milner said that, on average, this practice reduces distribution by 80%.</p>
facebook  socialwarming  politics 
7 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook connected her to a tattooed soldier in Iraq – or so she thought • The New York Times
Jack Nicas:
<p>Ms. Holland and Mr. Anonsen represent two sides of a fraud that has flourished on Facebook and Instagram, where scammers impersonate real American service members to cheat vulnerable and lonely women out of their money. The deception has entangled the United States military, defrauded thousands of victims and smeared the reputations of soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines. It has also sometimes led to tragedy.

The scheme stands out for its audacity. While fraud has proliferated on Facebook for years, those running the military romance scams are taking on not only one of the world’s most influential companies, but also the most powerful military — and succeeding. Many scammers operate from their phones in Nigeria and other African nations, working several victims at the same time. In interviews in Nigeria, six men told The New York Times that the love hoaxes were lucrative and low risk.

“Definitely there is always conscience,” said Akinola Bolaji, 35, who has conned people online since he was 15, including by posing on Facebook as an American fisherman named Robert. “But poverty will not make you feel the pain.”

Facebook has long had a mission to “connect the world.” But in the process, it has created a global gathering place where the crooks outnumber the cops.</p>

It's the 419 scam on steroids.
facebook  socialwarming  fakes 
7 weeks ago by charlesarthur
FTC hits Facebook with $5bn fine and new privacy checks • The Verge
Makena Kelly:
<p>In the agreement filed today, the FTC alleges that Facebook violated the law by failing to protect data from third parties, serving ads through the use of phone numbers provided for security, and lying to users that its facial recognition software was turned off by default. In order to settle those charges, Facebook will pay $5 billion — the second-largest fine ever levied by the FTC — and agree to a series of new restrictions on its business.

Aside from the multibillion-dollar fine, Facebook will be required to conduct a privacy review of every new product or service that it develops, and these reviews must be submitted to the CEO and a third-party assessor every quarter. As it directly relates to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook will now be required to obtain purpose and use certifications from apps and third-party developers that want to use Facebook user data. However, there are no limits on what data access the company can authorize to those groups once the disclosure is made.

“The Order imposes a privacy regime that includes a new corporate governance structure, with corporate and individual accountability and more rigorous compliance monitoring,” the three supporting FTC commissioners wrote in a statement. “This approach dramatically increases the likelihood that Facebook will be compliant with the Order; if there are any deviations, they likely will be detected and remedied quickly.”</p>

Apparently the 3-2 vote was on party lines - Republicans 3, Democrats 2. It's absurdly weak. The <a href="">FTC writing of it</a> naturally suggests that it is going to tamp down everything that Facebook wants to do. It won't. Rohit Chopra, one of the FTC commissioners (who voted against) has <a href="">a Twitter thread explaining why he thinks it's a bad settlement</a>.
facebook  ftc  fine 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
AI is supercharging the creation of maps around the world • Facebook
Xiaoming Gao, Christopher Klaiber, Drishtie Patel and Jeff Underwood:
<p>For more than 10 years, volunteers with the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project have worked to address that gap by meticulously adding data on the ground and reviewing public satellite images by hand and annotating features like roads, highways, and bridges. It’s a painstaking manual task. But, thanks to AI, there is now an easier way to cover more areas in less time.

With assistance from Map With AI (a new service that Facebook AI researchers and engineers created) a team of Facebook mappers has recently cataloged all the missing roads in Thailand and more than 90 percent of missing roads in Indonesia. Map With AI enabled them to map more than 300,000 miles of roads in Thailand in only 18 months, going from a road network that covered 280,000 miles before they began to 600,000 miles after. Doing it the traditional way — without AI — would have taken another three to five years, estimates Xiaoming Gao, a Facebook research scientist who helped lead the project.

“We were really excited about this achievement because it has proven Map With AI works at a large scale,” Gao says.

Starting today, anyone will be able to use the Map With AI service, which includes access to AI-generated road mappings in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, with more countries rolling out over time. As part of Map With AI, Facebook is releasing our AI-powered mapping tool, called RapiD, to the OSM community. </p>

This, at least, is good. Though it's a repetition of what undoubtedly already exists at Google and other mapping companies. The benefit is that this is open data.
facebook  ai  maps 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Border Patrol admits being member of controversial Facebook group • CNNPolitics
Geneva Sands and Kate Sullivan:
<p>US Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost said on Wednesday that she was a member of a secret Facebook group that reportedly contains vulgar and offensive posts, adding that she told internal investigators once she realized her involvement.

"Not only did I self-report, I turned my entire Facebook account over," she said before a House Appropriations subcommittee. "I gave them my log-in and my password."

Provost denied knowing of the "highly offensive and absolutely unacceptable posts" ahead of the ProPublica investigative report that first exposed the Facebook group dubbed "I'm 10-15." The name refers to Border Patrol code 10-15 for "aliens in custody." Earlier this month, The Intercept reported Provost was a member of the Facebook group.</p>

You're in a group but you don't realise you're in the group? Then again, you can be coopted into a group without your knowledge, or can join one when it's relatively peaceful (Provost says she was invited to join it in 2017, when it may have been very different in character) and then find it change under you. The problem, fundamentally, is Facebook.
facebook  border  socialwarming 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook’s Libra currency spawns a wave of fakes, including on Facebook itself • The Washington Post
Drew Harwell, Tony Romm and Cat Zakrzewski:
<p>A wave of fakes purporting to sell or represent Facebook’s not-yet-available Libra currency have swept onto the social-media giant’s platforms, highlighting how the tech firm is struggling to rebuild trust and fight the fraud likely to surround the new financial system.

Roughly a dozen fake accounts, pages and groups scattered across Facebook and its photo-sharing app Instagram present themselves as official hubs for the digital currency, in some cases offering to sell Libra at a discount if viewers visit potentially fraudulent, third-party websites.

A number of fake Facebook and Instagram accounts were removed Monday after The Washington Post alerted Facebook to their spread.

The spread of fakes — and Facebook’s inability to detect them on its own — could undermine Facebook-backed efforts to inspire confidence and satisfy the regulators now scrutinizing the newly proposed global currency. Many of the fakes included Facebook’s logo, photos of Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg or Libra’s official marketing imagery.</p>

Totally predictable, and depressing. Everything can be copied.
facebook  cryptocurrency  fake  libra 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Mark Zuckerberg's Ponzi scheme • Aaron Greenspan
<p>Zuckerberg's version [of a Ponzi scheme] is slightly different, but only slightly: old users leave after getting bored, disgusted and distrustful, and new users come in to replace them. Except that as Sam Lessin told us, the "new users" part of the equation was already getting to be a problem in 2012. To balance it out and keep "growth" on the rise, all Facebook had to do was turn a blind eye. And did it ever.

In Singer v. Facebook, Inc.—a lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California alleging that Facebook has been telling advertisers that it can "reach" more people than actually exist in basically every major metropolitan area—the plaintiffs quote former Facebook employees, understandably identified only as Confidential Witnesses, as stating that Facebook's "Potential Reach" statistic was a "made-up PR number" and "fluff." Also, that "those who were responsible for ensuring the accuracy ‘did not give a shit.'" Another individual, "a former Operations Contractor with Facebook, stated that Facebook was not concerned with stopping duplicate or fake accounts."

That's probably because according to its last investor slide deck and basic subtraction, Facebook is not growing anymore in the United States, with zero million new accounts in Q1 2019, and only four million new accounts since Q1 2017. That leaves the rest of the world, where Facebook is growing fastest "in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines," according to Facebook CFO David Wehner. Wehner didn't mention the fine print on page 18 of the slide deck, which highlights the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam as countries where there are "meaningfully higher" percentages of, and "episodic spikes" in, fake accounts. In other words, Facebook is growing the fastest in the locations worldwide where one finds the most fraud. In other other words, Facebook isn't growing anymore at all—it's shrinking. Even India, Indonesia and the Philippines don't register as many searches for Facebook as they used to. Many of the "new" users on Instagram are actually old users from the core platform looking to escape the deluge of fakery.</p>

Before you say "who is this Greenspan guy anyway?" - he's the person on whose computer Zuckerberg wrote the original code for So he's known Zuck a little while.
facebook  accounts  fake  ponzi 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Barr revives debate over ‘warrant-proof’ encryption • WSJ
Dustin Volz:
<p>While [US Attorney General William] Barr offered examples in which he said encryption thwarted criminal investigations, he didn’t provide fresh statistics about the extent of the problem. The FBI suffered a setback last year when it revealed it had accidentally inflated public statistics about the number of encrypted devices investigators were unable to break open, and officials haven't provided an updated metric since then.

Mr. Barr sought to convince technology companies to work toward a compromise with law-enforcement agencies, lest they are forced to deal with hastily passed laws in the wake of a crisis. “Given the frequency with which these situations are now arising, it is only a matter of time before a sensational case crystallizes the issue for the public,” Mr. Barr said.

The National Security Council convened a deputies meeting from various federal agencies last month to consider options on how to move forward on the encryption issue, but the meeting ended without any clear resolution on how to proceed, according to people briefed on it.

A US official said Mr. Barr’s speech wasn’t aimed at outlining the path forward but reflected consensus within the Trump administration that a solution must be found to address the proliferation of too-tough-to-crack encryption. Critics contend that the FBI and contractors that specialize in bypassing encryption possess the tools to get into many devices they want to unlock.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), a longtime privacy advocate who has vocally opposed government efforts to weaken encryption, called it an “outrageous, wrongheaded and dangerous proposal.”</p>

No clue what to do about it, but sure something should be done about it, and picking the wrong thing to do about it: the Trump administration in a nutshell. There's already been a "sensational case" - the San Bernadino one in 2016 - and the FBI paid an Israeli company about $1m to break into the iPhone in question, to find nothing useful. There was more, and better, data on the terrorists' Facebook profiles.
encryption  barr  apple  facebook 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook deceived users about the way it used phone numbers, facial recognition, FTC to allege in complaint • The Washington Post
Tony Romm:
<p>The Federal Trade Commission plans to allege that Facebook misled users’ about its handling of their phone numbers as part of a wide-ranging complaint that accompanies a settlement ending the government’s privacy probe, according to two people familiar with the matter.

In the complaint, which has not yet been released, federal regulators take issue with Facebook’s earlier implementation of a security feature called two-factor authentication. It allows users to request one-time password, sent by text message, each time they log onto the social-networking site.

But some advertisers managed to target Facebook users who uploaded those contact details, perhaps without the full knowledge of those who provided them, the two sources said. The misuse of the phone numbers was first identified in media reports and by academics this year.

The FTC also plans to allege that Facebook had provided insufficient information to users — roughly 30 million — about their ability to turn off a tool that would identify and offer tag suggestions for photos, the sources added.</p>

The switcheroo of <a href="">getting people to supply their phone number, and then using that for advertising</a> - that's doubly crap: it discourages people who hear about it from securing their account (and perhaps securing it on other platforms because they fear the same), and it gives advertisers access to people that the people haven't consented to.

I wonder if there's a GDPR version of that - though it's not clear whether Facebook did this in Europe.
facebook  2fa  phone 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook is backpedaling from its ambitious vision for Libra • Ars Technica
Timothy Lee:
<p>Facebook now seems to recognize its original vision was a non-starter with regulators. So this week Marcus sketched out a new vision for Libra—one in which the Libra Association will shoulder significant responsibility for ensuring compliance with laws relating to money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes.

Facebook's new stance addresses some of the questions I raised in <a href="">last week's Libra feature</a>. But it also raises new questions that Facebook will need to answer in the coming months. Marcus said Wednesday that the Libra Association will require regulatory compliance by Libra-based service providers, but he didn't explain how it will do so. However it's done, there's likely to be an inherent tension between improving regulatory compliance and Facebook's other goals to build an open network and make it accessible to marginalized people around the world.</p>
libra  facebook  cryptocurrency 
9 weeks ago by charlesarthur
There’s a big problem with Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency • Ars Technica
Timothy B. Lee:
<p>Facebook envisions a Libra ecosystem that looks a lot like the existing bitcoin ecosystem. Just as people use intermediaries like Coinbase to acquire and manage their bitcoins, Facebook envisions users interacting with the Libra network via exchanges and user-friendly apps—including Facebook's own app called Calibra. Each company building a Libra payment service will need to hire its own lawyers to make sure it's complying with all applicable laws.

A key assumption behind this plan is that the Libra network itself will operate beyond the reach of any country's regulatory regime in the same way that bitcoin does. A Libra Association representative, Dante Disparte, articulated this principle in a recent interview with blockchain podcaster Laura Shin. Shin asked Disparte what would happen if a government like the United States demanded that the Libra Association blacklist certain Libra addresses in order to comply with sanctions laws—something that's required of most conventional payment networks.

"The Association won't interact with any jurisdiction," Disparte said. "The Association has three macro-level functions: governance, management of a reserve, management of an open-source technology. The companies that offer consumers and citizens in different jurisdictions around the world are the regulated entities that provide an on- and off-ramp to Libra the currency."

But this position has a fair number of skeptics. One of them is Jerry Brito, a lawyer who runs a blockchain-focused think tank called the Coin Center.

"I don't understand how this is possible," Brito tweeted. If the US government asked the Libra Association to block a list of Libra addresses, the Association's members—big companies like Facebook, Mastercard, Visa, and Uber—would have little choice to comply, he argued.</p>

See for comparison: Amazon’s hosting, briefly, of Wikileaks during the US diplomatic cables leak; Paypal and Visa denying payments to Wikileaks subsequently.
Facebook  libra  cryptocurrency 
9 weeks ago by charlesarthur
FTC approves roughly $5 billion Facebook settlement • WSJ
Emily Glazer, Ryan Tracy and Jeff Horwitz:
<p>Facebook said in April that to settle the probe it was expecting to pay up to $5bn. A resolution was bogged down by the party-line split on the FTC, with the Democrats pushing for tougher oversight of the social-media giant.

One point of disagreement was the extent to which Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg should be held responsible or be made accountable for future missteps.

The FTC investigation began more than a year ago after reports that personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users improperly wound up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked on President Trump’s 2016 campaign. The FTC investigation centered on whether that lapse violated a 2012 consent decree with the agency under which Facebook agreed to better protect user privacy.

Cambridge Analytica shut down in 2018 after the allegations surrounding Facebook data and other questions about its political tactics. The company had won political consulting work in the US by promising to use data to profile and influence voters with political messages. It contracted for several Republican presidential candidates ahead of the 2016 election, including Mr. Trump’s campaign.</p>

So the decision split along party lines, in the bizarre way that everything in the US must be politicised. The question about Zuckerberg isn't resolved anywhere in the story: guess we'll have to wait for the official FTC announcement.
ftc  facebook  fine 
9 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Why the US Federal Reserve should oversee Facebook’s Libra • Yahoo Finance
Sheila Bair:
<p>Let’s say you still want to buy this hip new digital coin, regardless of the foreign exchange risk. Where do you get the money? For citizens in the U.S. and other developed countries, the money will probably come from your bank account. It’s not going to hurt the banking system if you withdraw a few hundred a month for Libra transactions. But what if everyone decides they want to replace their bank accounts with Libra? After all, this would be a great way to avoid checking account fees. Retailers will love Libra as a way to avoid paying network fees on debit and credit card transactions. All of a sudden, that giant sucking sound is money coming out of the banks and into Libra’s kitty.

You may think, “Fine. Let’s stick it to the banks. Look what they did to the economy in 2008.” But most of that money you withdraw from the banks is money they will no longer have to lend to the economy. So as Libra captures your cash, banks have less to make loans. With a run on the banks, we also get a credit contraction.

Now Libra has your money (not the banks) and you have your digital coins. What will Libra do with your money? …there is no regulatory body to ensure that it does so, nor to require that Libra’s sponsors put up any of their own capital or reserves to backstop those investments if they go sour.</p>

There are two big things to worry about with Libra: if it's really successful, or something goes badly wrong. Either could be global-financial-scale catastrophic, and it's hard to say which might lead to the worse scenario.
libra  cryptocurrency  facebook 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Inside Facebook’s information warfare team • Financial Times
Hannah Murphy:
<p>Staff are quick to point to efforts to address these issues: Facebook has developed technology to better weed out fake accounts and it works with third-party fact-checkers. It also ran a pilot ahead of the US midterms to better secure the Facebook accounts of staff working on campaigns.

Meanwhile, the introduction of more transparency around political adverts has made it more arduous and expensive for bad actors to interfere. 

But the team faces new challenges. One is the commercialisation of the space: organised and government-backed troll farms are now being replaced by marketing and PR companies offering manipulation-for-hire.

While the tactics used by these private companies are similar, their motivations — and the actual source of the campaign — are now harder to track.

One non-government domestic campaign in the Philippines, taken down by Facebook, was led by a marketing company with 45m followers. Ahead of the Brazilian elections, several social media marketing companies were behind campaigns, he added. 

“The services they were offering were things like, ‘We will organise people and pay them to post . . . on your behalf, or we have a network of fake accounts, you pay us and then we’re going to use that network to go and comment on your behalf’,” he said. 

“They’re doing it as a service and that in a way disperses the breadth of these type of activities, both geographically and the type of actors that are involved,” [David] Agranovich [who heads the threat review process] said. </p>
facebook  cyberwars  disinformation 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook resolves day-long outages across Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger • The Verge
Jacob Kastrenakes:
<p>The issues started around 8AM ET and began slowly clearing up after a couple hours, according to DownDetector, which monitors website and app issues. The errors aren’t affecting all images; many pictures on Facebook and Instagram still load, but others are appearing blank. DownDetector has also received reports of people being unable to load messages in Facebook Messenger.

The outage persisted through mid-day, with Facebook releasing a second statement, where it apologized “for any inconvenience.” Facebook’s platform status website still lists a “partial outage,” with a note saying that the company is “working on a fix that will go out shortly.”

Apps and websites are always going to experience occasional disruptions due to the complexity of services they’re offering. But even when they’re brief, they can become a real problem due to the huge number of users many of these services have. A Facebook outage affects a suite of popular apps, and those apps collectively have billions of users who rely on them.</p>

Obviously, this wouldn't be a problem once all your money and transactions were tied up in a digital currency which relied on Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp to validate and carry them out. Outages would be a thing of the past. Of course. (Interestingly, Apple <a href="">had a two-hour outage</a> on a number of its iCloud services and Apple Pay on Thursday. Linked to Amazon?)

Related: this week <a href="">the Talking Politics podcast discusses Libra</a>, Facebook's digital currency (isn't really a cryptocurrency). Always worth listening.
facebook  libra  outage 
11 weeks ago by charlesarthur
House lawmakers officially ask Facebook to put Libra cryptocurrency project on hold • The Verge
Makena Kelly:
<p>Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, hinted at a move like this last month shortly after the project was announced. Waters’s letter today, sent to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, and Calibra CEO David Marcus, formalizes that request from a few weeks ago. Aside from Waters, the letter is signed by House Finance’s subcommittee leaders.

“If products and services like these are left improperly regulated and without sufficient oversight, they could pose systemic risks that endanger U.S. and global financial stability,” Water writes. “These vulnerabilities could be exploited and obscured by bad actors, as other cryptocurrencies, exchanges, and wallets have been in the past.”

Skepticism of the project isn’t only couched in the Democrat-controlled House, either. Senate Banking Chair Mike Crapo (R-ID) scheduled a hearing with Marcus for July 16th, citing concerns over the currency and the potential risks for data privacy it poses. The following day, Waters’s committee will also hold a hearing on the project.

“We look forward to working with lawmakers as this process moves forward, including answering their questions at the upcoming House Financial Services Committee hearing,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge Tuesday.</p>

Facebook won't be able to answer their questions, because they have no idea of what systemic risks are really posed by having a billion people swapping in and out of local currencies via bigger ones; if it becomes big enough Libra could be a currency basket with heft enough to dampen other forex markets, and so big enough to determine market rates. But we don't know. Facebook doesn't know. Nobody knows.
libra  facebook  regulation 
11 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook, YouTube overrun with bogus cancer-treatment claims • WSJ
Daniela Hernandez and Robert McMillan:
<p>Now, the companies say they are taking steps to curb such accounts. Facebook last month changed its News Feed algorithms to reduce promotion of posts promising miracle cures or flogging health services, a move that will reduce the number of times they pop up in user feeds, the company says. Some of the affected posts involve a supplement salesman who promotes baking-soda injections as part of cancer treatment.

“Misleading health content is particularly bad for our community,” Facebook said <a href="">in a blog post announcing the moves</a>.

Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube has been cutting off advertising for bogus cancer-treatment channels, a spokesman said. It is working with medical doctors to identify content promoting unproven claims and medical conspiracy theories and has tweaked its algorithms to reduce the number of times these dubious videos are presented to users.

Facebook and YouTube detailed their recent actions on cancer-related content after the Journal presented them with its findings. Widespread misinformation sometimes appeared alongside ads, videos or pages for proven treatments, the Journal found.</p>

Once again, news organisations have to function as the moderator for these networks. It repeats and repeats and repeats.
facebook  youtube  socialwarming  cancer  fake 
11 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Inside the secret Border Patrol Facebook group where agents joke about migrant deaths and post sexist memes • ProPublica
A.C. Thompson:
<p>ProPublica received images of several recent discussions in the 10-15 Facebook group and was able to link the participants in those online conversations to apparently legitimate Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor based in El Paso, Texas, and an agent in Eagle Pass, Texas. ProPublica has so far been unable to reach the group members who made the postings.

ProPublica contacted three spokespeople for CBP in regard to the Facebook group and provided the names of three agents who appear to have participated in the online chats. CBP hasn’t yet responded.

“These comments and memes are extremely troubling,” said Daniel Martinez, a sociologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who studies the border. “They’re clearly xenophobic and sexist.”

The postings, in his view, reflect what “seems to be a pervasive culture of cruelty aimed at immigrants within CBP. This isn’t just a few rogue agents or ‘bad apples.’”</p>

In Trump's administration, that sort of thing will make them more, not less, employable. A reminder: dehumanising fellow human beings is a key step towards fascism.
facebook  immigration  socialwarming 
11 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook's Libra has staggering potential: state control of money could end • The Conversation
Gavin Brown:
<p>Imagine ten years from now if, say, 40% of all US dollars are held on deposit by Facebook/the council to back the issued libra coins, which have by now become widely used across the world. We can hypothesise that US dollars might constitute a 30% weight of libra’s asset-backing basket – to have a steady exchange rate for libra, the idea is to underpin it with a selection of stable and widely traded financial assets.

In the likely event that the US experiences a moderate, or even severe economic crisis, Facebook/the council would need to rebalance the basket of assets to defend the value of libra. Let’s say they decided to revise down the US dollar weighting in their reserve to 25% of the basket. This would involve selling huge sums of US dollars and replacing them with, say, euros, and would significantly drive down the value of the dollar.

This would be a very negative market signal, encouraging other holders of dollars to dump them as well, thereby exacerbating the fall. And even before this happened, Facebook could potentially use the mere threat as leverage in negotiating with nation states on matters of regulation, taxation and so on. Based on Facebook’s current revenues, it would already be 90th in the world by GDP if it was a nation state, so its power to face off in negotiations with states and trading blocs is formidable even without libra.</p>

Brown is senior lecturer in finance at Manchester Metropolitan University. (He's also "a Non-Executive Director and Co-founder at Blockchain Capital Limited, a start-up digital assets fund which has yet to launch. It would not benefit directly from this article but does have an interest in digital asset investments such as bitcoin which leverage blockchain technology.") That scenario isn't so unlikely. And it's slightly worrying, isn't it? Libra's value being like that of a share in an exchange-traded fund is slightly problematic if it's used for transactions.
libra  facebook  economics  currency 
12 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook, Libra, and the long game • Stratechery
Ben Thompson:
<p>the reality is that credit card penetration is much lower amongst the poor in developed countries and in developing countries generally: a digital currency ultimately premised on owning a smartphone has the potential to significantly expand markets to the benefits of both consumers and service providers.

To put it another way, Libra has the potential to significantly decrease friction when it comes to the movement of money; of course this potential is hardly limited to Libra — the reduction in friction is one of the selling points of digital currencies generally — but by virtue of being supported by Facebook, particularly the Calibra wallet that will be both a standalone app and also built into Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, accessing Libra will likely be much simpler than accessing other cryptocurrencies. When it comes to decreasing friction, simplifying the user experience matters just as much as eliminating intermediary institutions.

There is also another component of trust beyond caring about who is verifying transactions: confidence that the value of Libra will be stable. This is the reason why Libra will have a fully-funded reserve denominated in a basket of currencies. This does not foreclose Libra becoming a fully standalone currency in the long run, but for now both users and merchants will be able to trust that the value of Libra will be sufficiently stable to use it for transactions.

If all of these bets pay off — that users and merchants will trust a consortium more than Facebook; that Libra will be cheaper and easier to use, more accessible, and more flexible than credit cards; and that Libra itself will be a reliable store of value — than that decrease in friction will be realized at scale.</p>

This is a thoughtful article; Thompson isn't taking things for granted. That idea of Libra growing at scale implies a world, eventually, where you have two currencies: WeChat Pay and Libra.
facebook  stratechery  libra  cryptocurrency  wechat 
12 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook’s new currency has big claims and bad ideas • Foreign Policy
David Gerard offers a counter-narrative:
<p>David Marcus, the Facebook executive in charge of the project, told the press last week that the problems of banking the unbanked were technical — that banks were unable to move money fast enough without a blockchain. This is completely backward. Experts know how to move numbers on a computer. The slow part is settlement and compliance: making sure that money transmitters are solvent, honest, and not fronting for drug runners. Banking the unbanked is a slow, one-on-one social process. Libra’s public relations material describes this as if it were entirely a technical problem — and none of it is.

The real motivation for the project seems to be ideological. Marcus was formerly at PayPal, and he understands payments and regulation. But he’s been a bitcoin fan since 2012 and was on the board of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in 2017.

Marcus had been thinking about something like Libra for several years and had discussed the project with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg since January 2018. Zuckerberg was interested in the project and the ideas—“a high-quality medium of exchange for the world, on a blockchain that could scale,” as Marcus described it in a press conference on June 17.

Facebook is under increasingly close attention from governments deeply suspicious of its track record on privacy, election manipulation, and fake information and its repeated defiance of calls to appear before elected representatives. Yet Facebook and its closest partners seem to think that they are large and powerful enough to swing a coup against the concept of government control of money.</p>

So, take your pick.
libra  facebook  cryptocurrency 
12 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook adds new limits to address the spread of hate speech in Sri Lanka and Myanmar • TechCrunch
Manish Singh and Jon Russell:
<p>As Facebook grapples with the spread of hate speech on its platform, it is introducing changes that limit the spread of messages in two countries where it has come under fire in recent years: Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

In a blog post on Thursday evening, Facebook said that it was “adding friction” to message forwarding for Messenger users in Sri Lanka so that people could only share a particular message a certain number of times. The limit is currently set to five people.

This is similar to a limit that Facebook introduced to WhatsApp last year. In India, a user can forward a message to only five other people on WhatsApp . In other markets, the limit kicks in at 20. Facebook said some users had also requested this feature because they are sick of receiving chain messages.

In early March, Sri Lanka grappled with mob violence directed at its Muslim minority. In the midst of it, hate speech and rumors started to spread like wildfire on social media services, including those operated by Facebook.</p>

Missed this at the time, but it's quite the thing to see how remarkably hard Facebook is rowing back on the whole "sharing stuff really easily is terrifically good for everyone" idea.
facebook  srilanka  myanmar  socialwarming 
12 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Facebook’s Libra must be stopped • Project Syndicate
Katharina Pistor:
<p>Zuckerberg seems to understand that technological innovation alone will not ensure Libra’s success. He also needs a commitment from governments to enforce the web of contractual relations underpinning the currency, and to endorse the use of their own currencies as collateral. Should Libra ever face a run, central banks would be obliged to provide liquidity.

The question is whether governments understand the risks to financial stability that such a system would entail. The idea of a private, frictionless payment system with 2.6 billion active users may sound attractive. But as every banker and monetary policymaker knows, payment systems require a level of liquidity backstopping that no private entity can provide.
Unlike states, private parties must operate within their means, and cannot unilaterally impose financial obligations on others as needed. That means they cannot rescue themselves; they must be bailed out by states, or be permitted to fail. Moreover, even when it comes to states, currency pegs offer only an illusion of safety. Plenty of countries have had to break such pegs, always while insisting that “this time is different.”

What sets Facebook apart from other issuers of “private money” is its size, global reach, and willingness to “move fast and break things.”</p>

So to put it in words that <a href="">Zuckerberg might understand</a>, "Libra delenda est"?
facebook  libra  economics  money 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Deepfakes: a threat to individuals and national security • Lionbridge AI
Limarc Ambalina:
<p>The dangers of deepfakes are serious, but OpenAI policy director Jack Clark emphasized that misinformation is not a new problem and fake media is not a new issue. AI itself is not the problem, but just an “accelerant to an issue that’s been with us for some time.” Deepfake technology is merely a tool which has more positive applications than negative. Certain actions and precautions should be taken to minimize the damage done by those who use deepfakes with nefarious intent.

“The people that share this stuff are part of the problem,” said Doermann. Individuals, social media platforms, and the press should all have the tools readily available to quickly and easily test media they suspect to be fake. Policing content should be put it in the hands of individuals rather than the government. Individuals should be able to identify immediately whether or not something they are viewing or sharing is authentic.

[Former head of Media Forensics (MediFor) at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), David] Doermann also called for social media sites to be pressured to moderate their content more seriously. Websites and platforms where harmful manipulated media is shared should hold more responsibility and accountability. Not all deepfakes are nefarious, but at the very least, social media sites should more diligently label synthetic media, increase public awareness of such material and allow the public to make better decisions.</p>

The trajectory to watch is Facebook's position on whether it removes deep fakes, particularly about politicians, or not. So far it looks like it will say no, but there's going to be a lot of pressure which it might find irresistible.
facebook  Deepfake  politics 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook moderators break their NDAs to expose desperate working conditions - The Verge
Casey Newton:
<p>[Keith] Utley worked the overnight shift at a Facebook content moderation site in Tampa, FL, operated by a professional services vendor named Cognizant. The 800 or so workers there face relentless pressure from their bosses to better enforce the social network’s community standards, which receive near-daily updates that leave its contractor workforce in a perpetual state of uncertainty. The Tampa site has routinely failed to meet the 98 percent “accuracy” target set by Facebook. In fact, with a score that has been hovering around 92, it is Facebook’s worst-performing site in North America.

The stress of the job weighed on Utley, according to his former co-workers, who, like all Facebook contractors at the Tampa site, must sign a 14-page nondisclosure agreement.

“The stress they put on him — it’s unworldly,” one of Utley’s managers told me. “I did a lot of coaching. I spent some time talking with him about things he was having issues seeing. And he was always worried about getting fired.”

On the night of March 9th, 2018, Utley slumped over at his desk. Co-workers noticed that he was in distress when he began sliding out of his chair. Two of them began to perform CPR, but no defibrillator was available in the building. A manager called for an ambulance.

The Cognizant site in Tampa is set back from the main road in an office park, and between the dim nighttime lighting and discreet exterior signage, the ambulance appears to have had trouble finding the building. Paramedics arrived 13 minutes after the first call, one worker told me, and when they did, Utley had already begun to turn blue.</p>

Stunning reporting by Newton. Still feeling good about how your digital money will be handled if you need to dispute a transaction?
facebook  moderation 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook's Libra will not help the unbanked • FT Alphaville
Brendan Greeley has an alternative view:
<p>The organisations that actually work on getting people into this banking system, most significantly Bank On in the United States, have identified two hurdles. First, existing consumer banks need to offer entry-level, low-fee checking accounts. Bank On has developed a list of standards for these accounts, and leans on banks, city by city, to offer them. And that's the easy part.

The hard part is that, city by city, Bank On creates local coalitions of city governments, regional banks, and local nonprofits and social services. Actual people, following best practices that have been developed through experience in other cities, find locals where they are — kids at summer jobs, parolees at halfway houses, people receiving public benefits at the benefit offices — and work with them, over time, to walk through the sociological and administrative hurdles to getting a basic checking account.

“I don’t have enough money to open a bank account” isn’t a problem that can be solved by putting a bank account on the internet. It takes a lot of face-to-face conversations about what banking is, how it works, and why it’s an important tool for every household. For example, a recent pilot in New York City (paid for by Michael Bloomberg, that other billionaire) found some success in offering a series of personal financial inclusion counselling sessions, almost like therapy.

This is personal, detailed, local work. It does not scale. It requires trust, and good relationships with civic authorities. To start with, there's not much in our recent experience with Facebook that suggests they’d flourish as the senior partner in any initiative that demands personal, detailed, local work that requires civic trust. Let us also point out, though, that nowhere, in any research on the unbanked, does it state that the US dollar is unsuited to the task of moving people into the formal financial system. </p>
libra  facebook  unbanked  finance 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Alarming and unnecessary: Facebook’s new cryptocurrency must be resisted • The Guardian
I opined over at The Guardian:
<p>Have you heard about Facebook’s new “cryptocurrency”, called Libra? Its basic pitch boils down to “we messed up your privacy and gave your data to all sorts, and let foreign actors screw up your elections – now let’s see what we can do with banking!”…

…Facebook insists that 1.7 billion people without bank accounts in developing countries need it; strange they can’t see that M-Pesa [the phone-based non-bank money transfer system used in Africa and India] fits the bill already.

Overall, it’s not reassuring that Facebook is doing this. First, it has a track record of screwing up when it comes to looking after or respecting your data – Cambridge Analytica and the Onavo VPN that spied on users being just two obvious examples. Second, it has problems being consistent in how it applies its rules: see the many, many rows over content. It’s ignorant of its naivete, and so big it repeatedly causes huge problems.

Third, its size and US-centredness means that the new currency could gain critical mass, and take on a life of its own. And that carries gigantic risks. Lana Swartz, an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, put it succinctly: “Facebook wants to be/is now a government.” But have Marcus and Zuckerberg thought of the inevitable problems that will emerge? What if other governments don’t like what Libra does to their local currency, perhaps by undermining financial export rules? If they block Facebook, what happens to citizens’ money tied up in Libra?</p>

I wish I felt confident that they'd wargamed the possible downsides of this, but I suspect they haven't.
facebook  libra 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook's Libra will give billions access to cryptocurrency • CNBC
Salvador Rodriguez:
<p>Facebook on Tuesday unveiled its long-rumored digital coin called Libra that will become available to users in the first half of 2020. The open-source digital currency has been under development by Facebook over the past year, but it will be managed by a nonprofit association with support from a variety of companies and organizations.

“Libra is a major validation of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to be the financial infrastructure of the future,” said Garrick Hileman, head of research at Blockchain, which makes a cryptocurrency wallet. Libra “could be one of the most significant and positive events in cryptocurrencies’ history as billions of Facebook users could join the ecosystem we’ve been building over the last decade.”

Many in the blockchain space say they believe Libra will leverage Facebook’s more than 2.7 billion monthly users to finally bring cryptocurrencies into the mainstream.

“Worst case scenario, Facebook crypto could become the gateway drug to introduce people to the greater crypto ecosystem,” said Roneil Rumburg, CEO of Audius, a blockchain-based music streaming service. “Best case, their stablecoin is sufficiently decentralized to enable interesting censorship-resistant use cases and is still usable by a mainstream audience.”</p>

I don't think it's going to bring cryptocurrencies into the mainstream; it might bring Libra into the mainstream, but it's colossally well funded compared to many others, and has the infrastructure behind it. That to me makes it worrying more than anything else.
libra  facebook  cryptocurrency 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
The new wilderness • Idle Words
Maciej Cieglowski on the erosion of what he calls "ambient privacy" - the expectation that your interactions aren't monitored or remembered:
<p>Ambient privacy is particularly hard to protect where it extends into social and public spaces outside the reach of privacy law. If I’m subjected to facial recognition at the airport, or tagged on social media at a little league game, or my public library installs an always-on Alexa microphone, no one is violating my legal rights. But a portion of my life has been brought under the magnifying glass of software. Even if the data harvested from me is anonymized in strict conformity with the most fashionable data protection laws, I’ve lost something by the fact of being monitored.

One can argue that ambient privacy is a relic of an older world, just like the ability to see the stars in the night sky was a pleasant but inessential feature of the world before electricity. This is the argument Mr. Zuckerberg made when he unilaterally removed privacy protections from every Facebook account back in 2010. Social norms had changed, he explained at the time, and Facebook was changing with them. Presumably now they have changed back.

My own suspicion is that ambient privacy plays an important role in civic life. When all discussion takes place under the eye of software, in a for-profit medium working to shape the participants’ behavior, it may not be possible to create the consensus and shared sense of reality that is a prerequisite for self-government. If that is true, then the move away from ambient privacy will be an irreversible change, because it will remove our ability to function as a democracy.

All of this leads me to see a parallel between privacy law and environmental law, another area where a technological shift forced us to protect a dwindling resource that earlier generations could take for granted.</p>

Always a must-read; easily comprehensible phrasing, but conveying deep meaning.
google  facebook  privacy  politics  democracy 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Doctored video of sinister Mark Zuckerberg puts Facebook to the test • The Guardian
Luke O'Neil:
<p>A doctored video of Mark Zuckerberg delivering a foreboding speech has been posted to Instagram, in a stunt that put Facebook’s content moderation policies to the test.

Videos known as “deepfakes” use artificial intelligence to manipulate the appearance and voices of individuals, often celebrities, into theoretically real-looking footage. They are likely to become the next wave in the battles over disinformation online.

The clip, posted four days ago, casts the Facebook founder in a sinister light, boasting of his power, and is meant to appear as if it is a legitimate news program.

“Imagine this for a second: one man with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures,” the faux-Zuckerberg says. “I owe it all to Spectre. Spectre showed me that whoever controls the data, controls the future.”

The video was made by a team including the artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe and the advertising company Canny, according to Vice. Spectre is the name of a recent installation from the artists…</p>

Facebook/Instagram has indeed left it up. But of course, it doesn't matter what deepfakes there are about Mark Zuckerberg; you can't vote him out of office. Nobody can.
facebook  zuckerberg  Deepfake 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook will once again pay users to install an app that tracks their app usage • CNBC
Salvador Rodriguez:
<p>Facebook on Tuesday announced a new app that will let the company collect data on how people use their smartphones in exchange for money.

The new app is called Study, and it is designed to give Facebook data on what apps participants install, how much time they spend on those apps, what features they use on those apps, what country they’re in, and type of device and network they’re using.

Facebook has a long history of using apps to collect information about usage habits in order to improve its own products.

In 2013, Facebook bought a free security app called Onavo, which let users access a virtual private network, or VPN, to browse the web and download apps with a greater degree of privacy. Facebook used data from Onavo to gather broad information about which apps were popular and how people were using them, which it used to improve its own products, but claims it did not collect information about individual users.

However, Facebook pulled the app from the App Store in 2018 after Apple reportedly told the company that it violated rules then-new rules about user privacy.</p>

Meet the new app, same as the old app (but with Apple's blessing this time).
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook turned off search features used to catch war criminals, child predators, and other bad actors • Buzzfeed News
Craig Silverman:
<p>In August 2017, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for [Libyan military commander Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli] for allegedly participating in or ordering the execution of 33 people in Benghazi, Libya. At the core of the evidence against him are seven videos, some of which were found on Facebook, that allegedly show Werfalli committing crimes. His case marked the first time the ICC issued a warrant based largely on material gathered from social media.

Now that kind of work is being put in jeopardy, according to Koenig, executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley. She said Facebook’s recent decision to turn off the features in its graph search product could be a “disaster” for human rights research.

“To make it even more difficult for human rights actors and war crimes investigators to search that site—right as they’re realizing the utility of the rich trove of information being shared online for documenting abuses—is a potential disaster for the human rights and war crimes community,” she said. “We need Facebook to be working with us and making access to such information easier, not more difficult.”

Simply put, Facebook graph search is a way to receive an answer to a specific query on Facebook, such as “people in Nebraska who like Metallica.” Using graph search, it’s possible to find public — and only public — content that’s not easily accessed via keyword searches.

Late last week, Facebook turned off several features that have long been accessible via graph search, such as the ability to find public videos that a specific Facebook user was tagged in. </p>
facebook  search  privacy 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
FTC gets jurisdiction for possible Facebook antitrust probe • WSJ
Brent Kendall and John D. McKinnon:
<p>The Justice Department and FTC now have established that each is responsible for antitrust issues for two of the Big Four tech companies: the Justice Department has authority over Google and Apple, while the FTC has oversight of Facebook and Amazon.

It was unclear whether the allocations of Apple and Amazon were related to the same agreement that divided Google and Facebook between the agencies. But Google and Facebook appear to be closest to being in the agencies’ investigative crosshairs.

The FTC and Justice Department share authority in enforcing US antitrust law and at times must work out turf arrangements regarding which agency will handle what issues.

The FTC already has spent more than a year investigating Facebook on privacy issues related to how it handles users’ data. That probe, however, doesn’t focus on antitrust questions of whether Facebook is stifling competition in the digital realm. The fact that the commission formally secured jurisdiction on those issues suggests it is considering even more rigorous scrutiny of the social media giant.</p>

As with Google, it's a bit difficult to know on what grounds the FTC would go ahead. Where's the consumer harm? Sure, Facebook's takeover of Instagram and WhatsApp cornered the market in social media. But it's pretty difficult to see a persuasive case emerging.
ftc  facebook  antitrust 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
We found the guy behind the viral ‘drunk Pelosi’ video • Daily Beast
Kevin Poulsen:
<p>[Shawn] Brooks, a 34-year-old day laborer currently on probation after pleading guilty to domestic battery, claims that his “drunk” commentary on an unaltered Pelosi video had no connection to the now-infamous fake clip that premiered less than 15 minutes later. “I wasn't the individual who created that Pelosi video,” he insisted in a telephone interview.

It’s conceivable that someone else actually edited the clip. But a Facebook official, confirming a Daily Beast investigation, said the video was first posted on Politics WatchDog directly from Brooks’ personal Facebook account.

Brooks acknowledged that he’s involved in the management of both Politics WatchDog and AllNews 24/7, the Facebook pages that sent the bogus video on it’s viral tear. To the outside observer, the two pages are unconnected, but after a tell-tale link on one of the pages led The Daily Beast to Brooks, he admitted that the ad revenue for both outlets goes directly into his personal PayPal account.

In the first hint at a possible motive for the Pelosi smear, Brooks volunteered that the video brought in nearly $1,000 in shared ad revenue.

That number would have been higher, he said, except that Facebook cut off any future earnings when the company’s fact-check partners ruled the clip a hoax about 36 hours after its Politics WatchDog debut. “It makes money for Facebook too,” he groused. “I'm sure that's their motive for not taking it down."

In a statement, Facebook disputed that, saying, “We have zero interest in making money from fake news and our policy is to not allow people to make money from content that has been rated false by a fact-checker.”</p>

..but it is a policy to leave it up so people spend more time on Facebook. There's controversy though because Facebook provided Poulsen with the data about Brooks, but only after seeing that Brooks was using fake accounts to amplify and control his "news" sites. But Poulsen had done a lot of the identification work first, right down to Brooks's personal account. Facebook tends not to help if you ring up and ask "hey, who first posted that video?"
fake  facebook  video 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Instagram Adam Mosseri: profile of important Facebook business leader • CNBC
Salvador Rodriguez:
<p>In late 2017 and early 2018, Mosseri was involved in a series of meetings about how Facebook would deal with the issue going forward, according to people with knowledge of the matter. In those sessions, Mosseri supported aggressively removing fake news across Facebook’s services, the people said.

On multiple occasions, they said, Mosseri squared off with Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of US public policy and a former member of the George W. Bush Administration who stirred controversy last year for showing up at the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Mosseri, who has donated to Democratic political campaigns in past years, advocated for completely removing fake news from the company’s News Feed, rather than simply pushing it down the rankings, the people said. He also lobbied for the removal of far right outlet Breitbart News from the list of publications that receive preferential treatment on the company’s News Feed, and opposed partnering with the Daily Caller, founded by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, for fact-checking.

Kaplan argued that Facebook couldn’t afford to appear biased against conservative media, but Mosseri countered by focusing on the difference between showing bias and banning objectively false information. On one occasion, the debate got so heated that Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s former vice president of communications and public policy, had to calm Mosseri down, sources said.

Mosseri was ultimately unsuccessful. Breitbart still gets equal treatment with other major publications, and last month Facebook added Check Your Fact, the Daily Caller’s fact-checking site, as a partner.</p>

Which is just absurd. Outside the US, the Democrats look like a centre-right party, on a par with the Tories in the UK. The Republicans are far to the right, and Breitbart and Daily Caller on the wild extremes. Kaplan is a blight, and Zuckerberg's failure to recognise that indicative of the failure of its (lack of) shareholder model.
facebook  instagram  mosseri 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Nancy Pelosi and Fakebook’s dirty tricks • The New York Times
Charlie Warzel is as angry as I was, but sets it out so well:
<p>By conflating censorship with the responsible maintenance of its platforms, and by providing “rules” that are really just capricious decisions by a small coterie of the rich and powerful, Facebook and others have created a free-for-all with no consistent philosophy.

The Chewbacca mom video is sure fun, and so are New York Times articles, because classy journalism looks good on the platform. But the toxic stew of propaganda and fake news that is allowed to pour into the public river without filters? Also A-O.K., in the clearly underdeveloped mind of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who has been — try as he might with great earnestness — guiding his ship into dangerous waters.

Don’t believe me? Listen to what came out of his mouth during a podcast interview with me less than a year ago, a comment that in hindsight makes his non-action against the Pelosi video look completely inevitable. We had been talking about the vile Alex Jones, whom Mr. Zuckerberg had declined to remove from Facebook despite his having violated many of its policies. (This month Facebook finally did bar him from the platform). For some reason, presumably to make a greater point, he shifted the conversation to the Holocaust. It was a mistake, to say the least.

“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”

I was shocked, but I wanted to hear more, so I said briefly: “In the case of Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.”</p>

And Zuckerberg did go ahead. Warzel was just astonished at the ensuing "senseless jumble of words", and thinks that the company has "been wandering ever since from one ethical quandary to the next".

Time to make hard choices, Facebook. Time to grow up.
facebook  socialwarming 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
nothing bad can stay • Substack
Mike Isaac (who prefers not to bother with capitals):
<p>there’s one more big problem [with Facebook de-emphasising the Newsfeed in favour of Snapchat-style Stories]: Making money off of Stories is not as simple as making money from the News Feed. the advertising formats are fundamentally different. it’s easy to skip a story ad with a tap of the finger. you don’t linger on the image or video as long when you realize it’s an ad. and the less time you spend on ads, the less Facebook gets paid. that’s a remarkable contrast to how much time people spent lingering on news feed ads.

here’s an example: snapchat, which has been impermanent from the very start, ended 2018 with a little over $1.1bn in annual revenue from its different ad formats. Facebook, by contrast, raked in more than fifty times that amount, some $55bn, most of that coming from news feed ads. that is an insane amount of money. but it is also based on a permanent internet, one that is quickly going away.

so we are left with a few questions. as people realize their digital pasts are a liability and post less frequently, are some of these companies going to grow smaller and less lucrative? will facebook — the biggest social network on the planet — end up shrinking? will those annual revenues dry up?

and what happens to Twitter, the absolute furthest behind in terms of any and all product development that deals with an impermanent internet? (in my mind, twitter is super fucked if it doesn’t start testing different versions of itself to experiment with ephemerality. but god knows whats going on over there these days, since it takes them 3+ years to formulate a plan to deal with its harassment problems.)

anyway, food for thought. </p>
facebook  snapchat  socialwarming 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
November 2018: Facebook’s dangerous push to appease the right • Arc Digital
Elizabeth Picciuto, in November 2018:
<p>Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy, was brought on board by Sandberg in 2011 with an eye toward improving the company’s outreach to Republicans. Before coming to Facebook, Kaplan had played several important roles in the Bush administration and had clerked for the conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

In December 2015, then-candidate Trump put out a statement, which was also published as a Facebook post, proposing a total ban on Muslims entering the U.S. The Times reports that Zuckerberg was appalled at the message. Several senior Facebook employees wanted to make a stand against hate speech and remove the post. Kaplan advised Sandberg not to “poke the bear”—that is, Facebook should avoid angering conservatives who would see such a move as violating principles of speech. Facebook was already suspected of liberal bias. No fodder should be given to the powerful right wing media companies, not to mention politicians, to nourish outrage. The post remained up.

Over the next three years, the Times exposé shows the extraordinary lengths Facebook went to avoid poking that bear. Kaplan repeatedly encouraged Sandberg and Zuckerberg to tone down—to the point of dishonesty—their descriptions of Russia’s actions on Facebook, lest they be seen as siding with Democrats. Again and again, Facebook listened.

Kaplan reviewed their press releases carefully to strike out any phrasing that might set off conservative rage. These moves are notable both for their partisan pandering and their inefficacy.</p>
facebook  rightwing 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Nancy Pelosi fake video: Facebook defends its decision not to delete • The Washington Post
Alex Horton:
<p>There is no dispute that the Facebook video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) viewed by millions is a fake, deliberately altered to make her appear drunk. YouTube acted fast and removed duplicates. Other social media outlets have not made the same call.

Facebook acknowledged the video is “false” but said the videos would remain on the platform.

Amid fierce calls across the public and government for Facebook to remove the video — which has been viewed 2.6 million times — and others like it, a Facebook official took to CNN on Friday to defend its decision.

Monika Bickert, a company vice president for product policy and counterterrorism, said the video was reviewed by fact-checking organizations, and after it deemed the video a hoax, the company “dramatically” reduced its distribution. But Facebook did not remove the video, Bickert said.

“We think it’s important for people to make their own informed choice for what to believe. Our job is to make sure we are getting them accurate information,” she said.</p>

This is such horseshit. It's not accurate information. There's no "informed choice what to believe". Bickert knows that it's fake, and not to be believed.

If you want a conspiracy theory: Trump and his team are spending huge amounts on advertising on Facebook. Can't upset the big advertisers. Whatever; this is blatant cowardice by Facebook. Increasingly, I feel the world would be better without it.
facebook  video  fake 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
The platform patrons: how Facebook and Google became two of the biggest funders of journalism in the world • Columbia Journalism Review
Mathew Ingram:
<p>Taken together, Facebook and Google have now committed more than half a billion dollars to various journalistic programs and media partnerships over the past three years, not including the money spent internally on developing media-focused products like Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s competing AMP mobile project. The result: These mega-platforms are now two of the largest funders of journalism in the world.

The irony is hard to miss. The dismantling of the traditional advertising model—largely at the hands of the social networks, which have siphoned away the majority of industry ad revenue—has left many media companies and journalistic institutions in desperate need of a lifeline. Google and Facebook, meanwhile, are happy to oblige, flush with cash from their ongoing dominance of the digital ad market.

The result is a somewhat dysfunctional alliance. People in the media business (including some on the receiving end of the cash) see the tech donations as guilt money, something journalism deserves because Google and Facebook wrecked their business. The tech giants, meanwhile, are desperate for some good PR and maybe even a few friends in a journalistic community that—especially now—can seem openly antagonistic.

Given that tangled backstory, it’s no surprise the funding issue is contentious. Should media companies really be involved in rehabbing the images of two of the wealthiest companies on earth, especially when they are fundamentally competitors? Yet, given the financial state of journalism, wouldn’t it be irresponsible not to take the funds?</p>

Do you think they might be conflicted? Now read on.
Facebook  google  media  journalism 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook and Google pressured EU experts to soften fake news regulations, say insiders • Open Democracy
Nico Schmidt and Daphné Dupont-Nivet:
<p>Matters came to a head when Goyens and other members of the group suggested looking into whether European policy on commercial competition could have a role in limiting fake news. Such a move would have allowed the EU competition commissioner to examine the platforms’ business models to see whether they helped misinformation to spread. "We wanted to know whether the platforms were abusing their market power," says Goyens.

She recalls that in a subsequent break Facebook’s chief lobbyist, Richard Allan – another member of the expert group – said to her: "We are happy to make our contribution, but if you go in that direction, we will be controversial."

Allan spelled out more clearly what this meant to another group member: "He threatened that if we did not stop talking about competition tools, Facebook would stop its support for journalistic and academic projects.”

Facebook declined to comment on these incidents. In the end, the proposed vote on competition policy tools never took place.

The platforms had influence over the group’s decisions in other ways, too. "It was not made transparent [to some members of the group] that some members had a conflict of interest. Because they worked for organisations that received money from the platforms," says Goyens.

“The Google people did not have to fight too hard for their position,” says another group member, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It quickly became clear that they had some allies at the table.”

At least 10 organisations with representatives in the expert group received money from Google. One of them is the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, at the University of Oxford. By 2020, the institute will have received almost €10m from Google to pay for its annual Digital News Report. Google is one of 14 funders of this major project, which began in 2015. The institute declared this funding relationship to the European Commission in its application to be part of the expert group.

A number of other organisations represented on the group have also received funding from the Google Digital News Initiative, including the Poynter Institute and First Draft News.</p>
Facebook  google  news 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook busts Israel-based 'fake news' campaign to disrupt elections worldwide • The Japan Times
<p>Facebook said Thursday it banned an Israeli company that ran an influence campaign aimed at disrupting elections in various countries and has canceled dozens of accounts engaged in spreading disinformation.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters that the tech giant had purged 65 Israeli accounts, 161 pages, dozens of groups and four Instagram accounts.

Although Facebook said the individuals behind the network attempted to conceal their identities, it discovered that many were linked to the Archimedes Group, a Tel Aviv-based political consulting and lobbying firm that publicly boasts of its social media skills and ability to “change reality.”

“It’s a real communications firm making money through the dissemination of fake news,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council, a think tank collaborating with Facebook to expose and explain disinformation campaigns.

He called Archimedes’ commercialization of tactics more commonly tied to governments, like Russia, an emerging — and worrying — trend in the global spread of social media disinformation. “These efforts go well beyond what is acceptable in free and democratic societies,” Brookie said.</p>

It feels like we get a story like this - company paid to spread disinformation (especially around elections), Facebook identifying lots of accounts, and shutting down said accounts - every week or so. It's quite troubling that Facebook is so easily used for manipulation.
facebook  fakenews 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Friend portability is the must-have Facebook regulation • TechCrunch
Josh Constine:
<p>as the FTC considers how many billions to fine Facebook or which executives to stick with personal liability or whether to go full-tilt and break up the company, I implore it to consider the root of how Facebook gets away with abusing user privacy: there’s no simple way to switch to an alternative.

If Facebook users are fed up with the surveillance, security breaches, false news, or hatred, there’s no western general purpose social network with scale for them to join. Twitter is for short-form public content, Snapchat is for ephemeral communication. Tumblr is neglected. Google+ is dead. Instagram is owned by Facebook. And the rest are either Chinese, single-purpose, or tiny.

No, I don’t expect the FTC to launch its own “Fedbook” social network. But what it can do is pave an escape route from Facebook so worthy alternatives become viable options. That’s why the FTC must require Facebook offer truly interoperable data portability for the social graph.

In other words, the government should pass regulations forcing Facebook to let you export your friend list to other social networks in a privacy-safe way. This would allow you to connect with or follow those people elsewhere so you could leave Facebook without losing touch with your friends. The increased threat of people ditching Facebook for competitors would create a much stronger incentive to protect users and society.</p>

Good idea. Facebook has been able to strangle companies by denying them access to the social graph that people need to be able to build a presence on a new social network, while boosting its own by crosslinking Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp data, all purloined from your phonebook.
socialgraph  facebook  antitrust  regulation 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Privacy rights and data collection in a digital economy • Idle Words
Maciej Cieglowski, who runs the Pinboard service but is also one of the clearest thinkers on the state of the internet, gave evidence last week to the US Congress. As you'd expect, it's a must-read:
<p>Until recently, even people living in a police state could count on the fact that the authorities didn’t have enough equipment or manpower to observe everyone, everywhere, and so enjoyed more freedom from monitoring than we do living in a free society today. [Note: The record for intensive surveillance in the pre-internet age likely belongs to East Germany, where by some estimates one in seven people was an informant.].

A characteristic of this new world of ambient surveillance is that we cannot opt out of it, any more than we might opt out of automobile culture by refusing to drive. However sincere our commitment to walking, the world around us would still be a world built for cars. We would still have to contend with roads, traffic jams, air pollution, and run the risk of being hit by a bus.

Similarly, while it is possible in principle to throw one’s laptop into the sea and renounce all technology, it is no longer be possible to opt out of a surveillance society.

When we talk about privacy in this second, more basic sense, the giant tech companies are not the guardians of privacy, but its gravediggers.

The tension between these interpretations of what privacy entails, and who is trying to defend it, complicates attempts to discuss regulation.

Tech companies will correctly point out that their customers have willingly traded their private data for an almost miraculous collection of useful services, services that have unquestionably made their lives better, and that the business model that allows them to offer these services for free creates far more value than harm for their customers.

Consumers will just as rightly point out that they never consented to be the subjects in an uncontrolled social experiment, that the companies engaged in reshaping our world have consistently refused to honestly discuss their business models or data collection practices, and that in a democratic society, profound social change requires consensus and accountability.</p>
Surveillance  society  google  facebook 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Opinion: breaking up Facebook is not the answer • The New York Times
Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister of the UK, now a PR for Facebook, in a placed op-ed at the NYT:
<p>In this competitive environment, it is hard to sustain the claim that Facebook is a monopoly. Almost all of our revenue comes from digital advertising, and most estimates say Facebook’s share is about 20% of the United States online ad market, which means 80% of all digital ads happen off our platforms.

The second misunderstanding is of antitrust law. These laws, developed in the 1800s, are not meant to punish a company because people disagree with its management. Their main purpose is to protect consumers by ensuring they have access to low-cost, high-quality products and services. And especially in the case of technology, rapid innovation. That is exactly where Facebook puts its attention: building the best products, free for consumers, and funded by advertisers.

What antitrust law isn’t about is size alone. In Facebook’s case, our size has not only brought innovation, it has also allowed us to make a huge investment in protecting the safety and security of our services.

Over the past two years we’ve focused heavily on blocking foreign adversaries from trying to influence democratic elections by using our platforms. We’ve done the same to protect against terrorism and hate speech and to better safeguard people’s data. And the resources that we will spend on security and safety this year alone will be more than our overall revenues at the time of our initial public offering in 2012. That would be pretty much impossible for a smaller company.</p>

And here's Clegg, <a href="">writing in 2017</a> (after he'd left government), in The Independent:
<p>As an old-fashioned liberal who believes in the virtues of competition, I remain perplexed at the way in which US competition law only seems to care about the effect of near monopoly market dominance by a tiny number of big players if and when it increases the prices paid by consumers.</p>
(H/t Olivia Solon, who spotted the latter.)
facebook  antitrust 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
It’s time to break up Facebook • The New York Times
Chris Hughes, formerly of Facebook (he worked to develop its News Feed), with a very long article about why he thinks it's time for antitrust action, which boils down to this:
<p>How would a breakup work? Facebook would have a brief period to spin off the Instagram and WhatsApp businesses, and the three would become distinct companies, most likely publicly traded. Facebook shareholders would initially hold stock in the new companies, although Mark and other executives would probably be required to divest their management shares.

Until recently, WhatsApp and Instagram were administered as independent platforms inside the parent company, so that should make the process easier. But time is of the essence: Facebook is working quickly to integrate the three, which would make it harder for the F.T.C. to split them up.
Mark Zuckerberg after ringing the opening bell for the Nasdaq stock market on the day his company went public.

Some economists are skeptical that breaking up Facebook would spur that much competition, because Facebook, they say, is a “natural” monopoly. Natural monopolies have emerged in areas like water systems and the electrical grid, where the price of entering the business is very high — because you have to lay pipes or electrical lines — but it gets cheaper and cheaper to add each additional customer. In other words, the monopoly arises naturally from the circumstances of the business, rather than a company’s illegal maneuvering. In addition, defenders of natural monopolies often make the case that they benefit consumers because they are able to provide services more cheaply than anyone else.

Facebook is indeed more valuable when there are more people on it: There are more connections for a user to make and more content to be shared. But the cost of entering the social network business is not that high. And unlike with pipes and electricity, there is no good argument that the country benefits from having only one dominant social networking company.</p>
facebook  regulation  antitrust 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Google thought my phone number was Facebook’s and it ruined my life • VICE
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:
<p>In the last three days, I’ve gotten more than 80 phone calls. Just today, in the span of eight minutes, I got three phone calls from people looking to talk to Facebook. I didn’t answer all of them, and some left voicemails.

Initially, I thought this was some coordinated trolling campaign. As it turns out, if you Googled “Facebook phone number” on your phone earlier this week, you would see my cellphone as the fourth result, and Google has created a "card" that pulled my number out of the article and displayed it directly on the search page in a box. The effect is that it seemed like my phone number was Facebook's phone number, because that is how Google has trained people to think.

Considering that on average, according to Google’s own data, people search for “Facebook phone number” tens of thousands of times every month, I got a lot of calls.

“[Google is] trying to scrape for a phone number to match the intent of the search query,” Austin Kane, the director for SEO strategy for the New York-based consulting company Acknowledge Digital, told me in an email. “The first few web listings ... don't actually have a phone number available on site so it seems that Google is mistakenly crawling other content and exposing the phone number in Search Engine Results Pages, thinking that this is applicable to the query and helpful for users.” (Vice Media is a client of Acknowledge Digital.)

When I reached out to Facebook’s PR to get their thoughts, a spokesperson started his email response with: “Huh, that’s an odd one.”</p>

But the fault is Google's.
facebook  google  search 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook building cryptocurrency-based payments system • WSJ
Jeff Horwitz:
<p>Seeking total investments of about $1bn, Facebook has talked to financial institutions including Visa, Mastercard and payment processor First Data, the people said. The money would underpin the value of the coin to protect it from the wild price swings seen in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, they said.

Facebook is also talking to e-commerce companies and apps about accepting the coin, and would seek smaller financial investments from those partners, one of the people said.

Bloomberg News reported in December that Facebook was working on a digital coin that users of its WhatsApp messaging service could use to transfer money, with a focus on overseas remittances. The New York Times reported in February that the company was seeking to raise as much as $1bn for the project.

Facebook is following rivals including Apple and Amazon into the financial lives of its users. Each has explored or launched major financial products in the past year, joining with traditional financial firms to manage the logistics and regulatory burdens.

Facebook aims to burrow more deeply into the lives of its users. It is building a type of checkout option that consumers could use on other websites, some of the people said. Similar to how a Facebook profile can be used to log into hundreds of websites (including The Wall Street Journal), Facebook envisions allowing those credentials to be selected as a payment method when users buy goods online.

One idea under discussion is Facebook paying users fractions of a coin when they view ads, interact with other content or shop on its platform—not unlike loyalty points accrued at retailers, some of the people said.

This would reward the kind of genuine interaction that Facebook, beset by bots and hate speech, has been trying to encourage. It could also blunt criticism that the company makes billions of dollars on the backs of its users, sometimes in troubling or invasive ways.</p>

One can see that a cryptocoin (this is definitely not Bitcoin) being used for transactions on WhatsApp could work. As Ben Thompson said in his discussion of this, it might be used to pay for ads. But it would also make it way easier for Facebook to track what you're doing - and this time, through your spending.
Facebook  cryptocurrency 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Instagram and Facebook ban far-right extremists • The Atlantic
Taylor Lorenz:
<p>In an effort to contain misinformation and extremism that have spread across the platforms, Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, have banned Alex Jones, Infowars, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, and Paul Nehlen under their policies against dangerous individuals and organizations. They also banned the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has repeatedly made anti-Semitic statements.

Infowars is subject to the strictest ban. Facebook and Instagram will remove any content containing Infowars videos, radio segments, or articles (unless the post is explicitly condemning the content), and Facebook will also remove any groups set up to share Infowars content and events promoting any of the banned extremist figures, according to a company spokesperson. (Twitter, YouTube, and Apple have also banned Jones and Infowars.)

Jones, Yiannopoulos, Watson, Loomer, Nehlen, and Farrakhan are all personally banned, as are any accounts set up in their likeness. But users may still praise those figures on Instagram and share content related to them that doesn’t violate other Instagram and Facebook terms of service. “We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today,” a Facebook spokesperson said via email.</p>

So overdue. Very interesting to see Facebook (and thus of course Instagram) decide that they want to be known for not hosting extremism, and in favour of truth. It also puts a lot of the edge cases on notice: tip too far over, and you're out.
Extremism  facebook  instagram  infowars  ban 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
These ads think they know you • The New York Times
Stuart Thompson:
<p>“The way ads are targeted today is radically different from the way it was done 10 or 15 years ago,” said Frederike Kaltheuner, who heads the corporate exploitation program at Privacy International. “It’s become exponentially more invasive, and most people are completely unaware of what kinds of data feeds into the targeting.”

With that in mind, we want to share how we targeted these ads, what we learned, and why it might disturb you.

Targeted advertising was once limited to simple contextual cues: visiting ESPN probably meant you’d see an ad for Nike. But advertising services today use narrow categories drawn from a mind-boggling number of sources to single out consumers. (Like many publishers, The Times uses targeted advertising to find potential subscribers and readers.)

To build the ads for our experiment, we imagined some extremely specific targets and built profiles of those people. Then we chose 16 attributes that matched those profiles from a list of about 30,000 – a list that’s rarely seen by people outside the industry.

We could do this because many companies, like retailers and credit card providers, sell customer information to data companies. Most data providers declined to tell us where their data comes from or how they built their models, so the sources in the ads below come from the ad experts who helped us create the campaign. Our experiment would have been blocked on Facebook because the company bans most ads showing how you’ve been targeted…

…“In the next election, I think it is inevitable that every single voter will have been profiled based on what they have been reading, watching and listening to for years online,” said Johnny Ryan, the chief policy officer at Brave, a private web browser that allows users to block ads and trackers.</p>

Very clever piece of work.
advertising  facebook 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
If a $5bn fine is chump change, how do you punish Facebook? • The New York Times
Charlie Warzel:
<p>That the FTC is negotiating what appears to be a trivial fine, suggests that the organization isn’t just deferential to Facebook, but that it doesn’t truly understand the company’s power.

“We don’t have a good regulatory framework [for Facebook] because this kind of scale and impact is unprecedented. And our ideas for remedies, things like fines, are based on an outdated view of how markets work,” the Glitch CEO and longtime developer, Anil Dash, told me.

“The FTC is based on the premise of markets where consumers have choice,” Mr. Dash continued. “As long as their remedies are conceived of within that outdated framework, it will remain structurally impossible for them to hold any major platform accountable in any meaningful way.”

Don’t believe the critics? Then just ask the market. As BuzzFeed News pointed out on Wednesday, in just one hour of after-hours trading after signaling its impending $3bn to $5bn fine, Facebook’s market capitalization increased by $40bn.

Which means that most fines likely to be considered by the FTC might amount to what Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute, described to me as “a parking ticket and a news release.”

Some with insider experience disagree. A former FTC consumer protection official told me Thursday that if the numbers they’d heard around the fine are real, “they might not be transformative to the bottom line” but would be “symbolic of the gravity.” Similarly, they believed the organization could add requirements that “change the way Facebook handles and shares data. I’d be very surprised if Facebook didn’t continue in the same general lines of business, but operating with more restrictions,” they said.</p>

Nope, that's not going to be what they do. They'll just plough on.
facebook  fine  ftc 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook admits it ran hundreds of Trump campaign ads that violate Facebook rules • Popular
Judd Legum:
<p>Melania Trump’s birthday is April 26. For weeks, the Trump campaign has used the First Lady’s big day — she’ll be 49 — to build their email list. They’ve run thousands of ads urging Facebook users to sign a “card to wish Melania a Happy Birthday!”

But today the Trump campaign is doing something different. It has produced hundreds of ads targeting women in practically every city in Texas.

These ads, accessible through the Facebook political ad library, go on and on and on. The campaign appears to be leaning on Melania to bolster Trump’s low support with women. Focusing on Texas, which some Democrats believe is the next swing state, is also an interesting choice.

But these ads also explicitly violate Facebook’s ad guidelines because they include “prohibited content.” Facebook’s rules prohibit ads that reference the “personal attributes” of the people being targeted.

“Ads must not contain content that asserts or implies personal attributes” Facebook’s rules state, including “direct or indirect assertions or implications about a person’s… gender identity.” The phrase “Attention Ladies” at the beginning of each of these ads violates the guidelines…

…Asked what Facebook is doing to prevent political ads that violate its policies from running in the first place, a spokesperson said, "we’re always looking to improve our enforcement, which is never perfect." The company acknowledges that the ads were "subject to Facebook's ad review system, which relies primarily on automated tools to check ads against these policies."</p>

So basically nothing at all, especially if it misses "Attention Ladies".
facebook  advertising  politics 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
API updates and important changes • Facebook Developer News blog
Eddie O'Neil:
<p>as of today, previously approved user permissions that your app has not used or accessed in the past 90 days may be considered expired. Access to expired permissions will be revoked. Going forward, we will periodically review, audit, and remove permissions that your app has not used. Developers can submit for App Review to re-gain access to expired permissions.</p>

Good idea - and it would be great if other platforms did this too. Why not make it the default on Twitter, iOS, Android? 90 days is a long time not to use an app or its permissions.
facebook  app  permissions 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook racism? Black users say racism convos blocked as hate speech • USA Today
Jessica Guynn:
<p>For Wysinger, an activist whose podcast The C-Dubb Show frequently explores anti-black racism, the troubling episode [of Liam Neeson's talking about wanting when young to kill someone black in retaliation for an attack on a friend] recalled the nation's dark history of lynching, when charges of sexual violence against a white woman were used to justify mob murders of black men.

"White men are so fragile," she fired off, sharing William's post with her friends, "and the mere presence of a black person challenges every single thing in them."

It took just 15 minutes for Facebook to delete her post for violating its community standards for hate speech. And she was warned if she posted it again, she'd be banned for 72 hours.

Wysinger glared at her phone, but wasn't surprised. She says black people can't talk about racism on Facebook without risking having their posts removed and being locked out of their accounts in a punishment commonly referred to as "Facebook jail." For Wysinger, the Neeson post was just another example of Facebook arbitrarily deciding that talking about racism is racist.

"It is exhausting," she says, "and it drains you emotionally."

Black activists say hate speech policies and content moderation systems formulated by a company built by and dominated by white men fail the very people Facebook claims it's trying to protect.</p>
facebook  harassment  racism 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook sets aside billions of dollars for a potential FTC fine • The Washington Post
Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm:
<p>Facebook on Wednesday said it would set aside $3bn to cover costs in its ongoing investigation with the US Federal Trade Commission over the social media company’s privacy practices, as its recent scandals take a toll on its balance sheet in a big way.

That number, which the company said could ultimately range between $3bn and $5bn, correlates with the size of the fine the agency is expected to levy against the tech giant and would be represent the largest the FTC has ever imposed.

Facebook’s decision to set aside billions of dollars comes as the company continues negotiating with the FTC on a settlement that would end its investigation. As part of those talks, federal officials have sought to force Facebook to pay a fine into the billions of dollars, sources previously told the Post. That would set a new record for the largest fine imposed by the FTC for a repeat privacy violation, after Google had to pay $22.5m a few years ago.

The FTC came to determine that violations could result in a multi-billion dollar fine after computing the number of times Facebook breached a 2011 order with the government to improve its privacy practices.</p>

This is going to be quite a thing to watch. Will Facebook, like Google, be able to shrug it off and move on? If the FTC hands down that size of fine it's going to lead a lot of news bulletins. That will get a lot of peoples' attention.
facebook  privacy  fine 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
How eleven people try to stop fake news in the world's largest election • Bloomberg
Saritha Raj:
<p>“In a country largely driven by local and community news, we knew it was critical to have fact-checking partners who could review content across regions and languages,” Ajit Mohan, Facebook’s managing director and vice president in India, wrote in a recent company blog post.

Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers in India analyze news in 10 of India’s 23 official languages, more than any other country, according to a spokesperson.

“Fact-checking is part of a broader strategy to fight false news that includes extensive work to remove fake accounts; cut off incentives to the financially-motivated actors that spread misinformation; promote news literacy; and give more context about the posts they see,” the company said in a statement.

Facebook has said that fighting misinformation is a top priority, and that it hands such critical responsibilities over to contractors to help it keep a better-informed watch around the world at all hours. Contractors also work for much less than the typical Facebook employee, can appear more objective than the company’s own employees, and can make for easier scapegoats if needed.

A visit to Boom’s offices makes clear that the scale of Facebook’s response in India so far isn’t enough. The small team appears capable and hardworking almost to a fault, but given the scale of the problem, they might as well be sifting grains of sand from a toxic beach. “What can eleven people do,” says Boom Deputy Editor Karen Rebelo, “when hundreds of millions of first-time smartphone-internet users avidly share every suspect video and fake tidbit that comes their way?”</p>

You can start to wonder now whether it wouldn't be better just to turn this stuff off. Speaking of which...
facebook  whatsapp  factchecking  socialwarming 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
2018: “We had to stop Facebook”: when anti-Muslim violence goes viral • Buzzfeed News
Aisha Nazim, in mid-2018:
<p>Government officials, researchers, and local NGOs say they have pleaded with Facebook representatives from as far back as 2013 to better enforce the company’s own rules against using the platform to call for violence or to target people for their ethnicity or religious affiliation. They repeatedly raised the issue with Facebook representatives in private meetings, by sharing in-depth research, and in public forums. The company, they say, did next to nothing in response.

Ethnic tensions run deep in Sri Lanka, particularly between the majority Sinhala Buddhists and minority groups, and the country has seen a troubling rise in anti-Muslim hate groups and violence since the end of its decades-long civil war in 2009. Many of those hate groups spread their messages on Facebook. The problem came to a head in March when Buddhist mobs in central Sri Lanka burned down dozens of Muslim shops, homes, and places of worship. In response, the government blocked social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, in a decision it says was made to prevent the violence from spiraling further out of control. Facebook, officials said, couldn’t be relied on to respond to posts and videos inciting violence quickly enough.

“[Facebook] would go three or four months before making a response,” Harin Fernando, minister of telecommunications and digital infrastructure, told BuzzFeed News. “We were upset. In this incident, we had no alternative — we had to stop Facebook.”</p>

And at Easter weekend there was a wave of attacks on churches and hotels. Again and again it feels as though Facebook really isn't helping things, even if it isn't directly involved in them.
Facebook  srilanka 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook building voice assistant to rival Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri • CNBC
Salvador Rodriguez:
<p>The tech company has been working on this new initiative since early 2018. The effort is coming out of the company’s augmented reality and virtual reality group, a division that works on hardware, including the company’s virtual reality Oculus headsets.

A team based out of Redmond, Washington, has been spearheading the effort to build the new AI assistant, according to two former Facebook employees who left the company in recent months. The effort is being lead by Ira Snyder, director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant. That team has been contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain, according to two people familiar.

It’s unclear how exactly Facebook envisions people using the assistant, but it could potentially be used on the company’s Portal video chat smart speakers, the Oculus headsets or other future projects.

The Facebook assistant faces stiff competition. Amazon and Google are far ahead in the smart speaker market with 67% and 30% shares in the U.S. in 2018, respectively, according to eMarketer.</p>

Odd that the headline mentions Siri when it's bringing up the rear with the 3%, then. But Google's assistant doesn't have a name, I suppose.

What's the betting that in a year or two it'll turn out that Facebook is accidentally recording everything you say and using it to target ads? Like people suspect happens already?
facebook  voice 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook stored millions of passwords in plaintext—change yours now • WIRED
Lily Hay Newman:
<p>By now, it’s difficult to summarize all of Facebook’s privacy, misuse, and security missteps in one neat description. It just got even harder: On Thursday, following a <a href="">report by Krebs on Security</a>, Facebook acknowledged a bug in its password management systems that caused hundreds of millions of user passwords for Facebook, Facebook Lite, and Instagram to be stored as plaintext in an internal platform. This means that thousands of Facebook employees could have searched for and found them. Krebs reports that the passwords stretched back to those created in 2012.</p>

Brian Krebs's report was on 21 March. This acknowledgement has come nearly a month later, at the end of the day before Easter Friday, after the release of the Mueller report which of course sucked up huge amounts of media attention.

Did it really take four weeks to acknowledge this?
facebook  security 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook bans far-right groups including BNP, EDL and Britain First • The Guardian
Alex Hern:
<p>In a statement, the far-right group Knights Templar International said it was “horrified” by the ban, and that it was exploring legal options. “Facebook has deemed our Christian organisation as dangerous and de-platformed us despite never being charged, let alone found guilty of any crime whatsoever,” a spokesman said. “This is a development that would have made the Soviets blush.”

The company’s decision to ban five of Britain’s most prominent far-right organisations shows it has moved a long way from its previous position on the groups.

As early as 2016, concerns were raised about the scale of the far right’s activities on social media. Britain First, then a registered political party, had used a combination of canny tactics and sponsored posts on the social network to push anti-Islam posts to millions of users, drawing one of the largest social media followings of any British political party. When queried on whether this was desirable, Facebook told reporters the site “is used by parties and supporters of many political persuasions to campaign for issues they feel passionately about.

“Like individuals and all other organisations on Facebook, they must adhere to our community and advertising standards, which set out the limits for acceptable behaviour and content.” It would be another two years before Facebook banned Britain First from the site.

When Facebook initially banned the organisation in early 2018 it was for repeated breaches of the site’s posting policies, and did not reach the level of designating it as a dangerous organisation. That ban came a few months after the group had ceased to be a political party.</p>

So basically Facebook is starting to follow the UK government's classifications of "proscribed groups". Start out as a private company, get big enough and effectively you're a regulated utility.
facebook  ban  rightwing 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook uploaded 1.5 million users' email contacts without permission • Business Insider
Rob Price:
<p>Facebook harvested the email contacts of 1.5 million users without their knowledge or consent when they opened their accounts.

Business Insider has learned that since May 2016, the social networking company has collected the contact lists of 1.5 million users new to the social network. The Silicon Valley company says they were "unintentionally uploaded to Facebook," and it is now deleting them. You can read Facebook's full statement below.

The revelation comes after a security researcher noticed that Facebook was asking some users to enter their email passwords when they signed up for new accounts to verify their identities, in a move widely condemned by security experts. Business Insider then discovered that if you did enter your email password, a message popped up saying it was "importing" your contacts, without asking for permission first.

At the time, it wasn't clear what was actually happening — but a Facebook spokesperson has now confirmed that 1.5 million people's contacts were collected this way, and fed into Facebook's systems, where they were used to build Facebook's web of social connections and recommend friends to add. It's not immediately clear if these contacts were also used for ad-targeting purposes. [Later: it did.]

Facebook says that prior to May 2016, it offered an option to verify a user's account and voluntarily upload their contacts at the same time. However, Facebook says, it changed the feature, and the text informing users that their contacts would be uploaded was deleted — but the underlying functionality was not. Facebook didn't access the content of users' emails, the spokesperson added.</p>

Notice how Facebook's errors always fall in favour of it getting more information, and using it to target ads? Never getting less information and reducing ad loads? Though at this point it looks sociopathic.
facebook  email  privacy 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Revealed: Brexit group covered up its targeting of right-wing extremists • Channel 4 News
Channel 4 Investigations Team:
<p>Leave.EU paid for Facebook adverts targeted at supporters of the National Front, the BNP [British National Party], Britain First and the EDL [English Defence League]. [All are extreme right-wing groups.]

But when the BBC asked for a response to a story they planned to run, Mr Banks sent a barrage of emails in an attempt to get the story dropped. Leaked emails, seen by Channel 4 News, show Mr Banks insisted the BBC’s accusation were “wholly wrong” – despite his own staff telling him the story was true.

One Leave.EU employee told him: “Those are our ads, we have targeted those groups since the beginning of the campaign as they gain most traction.” Another Leave.EU staffer proposed telling the BBC: “We pay for target ads for all political parties, not just right wing.”

But Mr Banks replied: “Not the right answer.” Instead, Mr Banks told the BBC: “It’s wholly wrong to say we have targeted extreme right parties… your report needs to reflect this or it will be biased and if we have to we will take whatever legal action we need.”

Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s Head of Communications, even appealed to the head of BBC Westminster, Robbie Gibb, in a further attempt to prevent the story from being run.

Mr Gibb is now Theresa May’s head of communications.</p>

Gibb's role in this isn't necessarily about his attitude to Brexit; the BBC has become incredibly worried about libel and lawsuits after a number of high-profile errors. Wigmore's response to Channel 4 was to accuse it of using "stolen and hacked emails", which isn't in any way a denial.
bbc  brexit  facebook 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
15 months of fresh hell inside Facebook • Wired
Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein:
<p>Far from Davos, meanwhile, Facebook’s product engineers got down to the precise, algorithmic business of implementing Zuckerberg’s vision. If you want to promote trustworthy news for billions of people, you first have to specify what is trustworthy and what is news. Facebook was having a hard time with both. To define trustworthiness, the company was testing how people responded to surveys about their impressions of different publishers. To define news, the engineers pulled a classification system left over from a previous project—one that pegged the category as stories involving “politics, crime, or tragedy.”

That particular choice, which meant the algorithm would be less kind to all kinds of other news—from health and science to technology and sports—wasn’t something Facebook execs discussed with media leaders in Davos. And though it went through reviews with senior managers, not everyone at the company knew about it either. When one Facebook executive learned about it recently in a briefing with a lower-­level engineer, they say they “nearly fell on the fucking floor.”

The confusing rollout of meaningful social interactions—marked by internal dissent, blistering external criticism, genuine efforts at reform, and foolish mistakes—set the stage for Facebook’s 2018. This is the story of that annus horribilis, based on interviews with 65 current and former employees. It’s ultimately a story about the biggest shifts ever to take place inside the world’s biggest social network. But it’s also about a company trapped by its own pathologies and, perversely, by the inexorable logic of its own recipe for success.

Facebook’s powerful network effects have kept advertisers from fleeing, and overall user numbers remain healthy if you include people on Insta­gram, which Facebook owns. But the company’s original culture and mission kept creating a set of brutal debts that came due with regularity over the past 16 months. The company floundered, dissembled, and apologized. Even when it told the truth, people didn’t believe it.</p>

Terrific work, assembled by talking to 65 former and current staff. But what a way to define "news".
Facebook  news  socialwarming 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Power in the shadows • Tortoise
Xavier Greenwood:
<p>[The closed Facebook group started by a local in a Welsh village] Merthyr Council Truths has emerged as a powerful force in local politics, stepping into the space left by the waning enthusiasm for political parties and the decline of local media. It’s not alone. Across the UK, these networks are growing. They’re private, popular and powerful. The gates are kept by locals; they’re where members can buy and sell, fight and gossip, but also politick: talk, protest, organise.

The pattern is repeating elsewhere, from Newport’s Casnewydd News (6,099 members), where dubious claims about “no deal” and the European Union infect discussions, to Essex’s Rayleigh Community Group (10,437 members), which a former councillor is “disappointed to see being used for party political purposes”. Next month’s local elections are argued out on them through the furious lens of the perceived disrespect shown towards the Brexit vote by the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.

The nation is engaged in intense political discussions which most of us can’t see. With 270 councils up for grabs in the local elections on 2 May, Merthyr Council Truths is beginning to look like a prototype. Not as a folksy community group, but as an alternative, opaque kind of political organisation…

…In politics, Facebook is creating the next version of the public square, only it’s in private.</p>

But there's also trouble in the not-paradise. Tortoise is a new "slow news" publication: it takes its time and writes at length. Interesting concept, though how do you tell the difference between "slow news" and "news that arrives like all the other stuff"?
facebook  politics  wales 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook to use AI to stop telling users to say hi to dead friends | Technology | The Guardian
Alex Hern:
<p>Facebook has promised to use artificial intelligence to stop suggesting users invite their dead friends to parties.

The site’s freshly emotionally intelligent AI is part of a rash of changes to how Facebook handles “memorialised” accounts – pages whose owner has been reported deceased, but that are kept on the social network in their memory.

Memorialisation of accounts allows for treasured images, videos and posts to be kept online, as well as providing a focal point for grieving friends and relatives to share memories.

But the feature has caused its fair share of pain: since the account is kept on the social network and treated similarly to any other Facebook user, it is used for the same algorithmic features as anything else. That means users have been sent recommendations to invite dead relatives to parties, suggestions to wish them a happy birthday, and more.

Facebook said that should be a thing of the past. “Once an account is memorialised, we use AI to help keep the profile from showing up in places that might cause distress, like recommending that person be invited to events or sending a birthday reminder to their friends,” wrote Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, in a blogpost published on Tuesday. “We’re working to get better and faster at this.”</p>

Ah, but after that was written on Tuesday, Facebook tweaked Sandberg's blogpost:
<p>The post now says that AI will be used, not to keep memorialised accounts from showing up in algorithmic features, but to keep accounts that haven’t been memorialised from doing so. “If an account hasn’t yet been memorialized, we use AI to help keep it from showing up in places that might cause distress,” Sandberg is now quoted as saying. In other words, Facebook’s AI is being deployed to work out which of its users are dead, rather than waiting to be told.</p>

Given the average mortality rate of 8.1 per thousand per year, and 2 billion users, about 16.2 million users die every year - that's about 45,000 per day. That AI can't come too soon.
facebook  death 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
What kind of local news is Facebook featuring on Today In? Crime, car crashes, and not too much community • Nieman Journalism Lab
Christine Schmidt:
<p>If you don’t know what “Today In” is, don’t feel too bad — not many Facebook users do. Only about 1.1 million users have opted in to it in their app. (Check the hamburger-menu tab; you may have to tap on “More” to see it. It may sometimes pop up in your News Feed.) It began in a few test cities in early 2018 and it’s now live in 400-plus cities in the United States.

To see what sort of news it was surfacing, I tracked Today In’s stories for 10 different cities over a Monday–Friday period. The cities are a mix of big and small, some of which you’ll probably recognize without the state — Raleigh, New Orleans, Akron, Boise — and some you might not — Somerville, Massachusetts; Kingsport, Tennessee; Fort Pierce, Florida; Katy, Texas; Lincoln, Nebraska, and Toms River, New Jersey. Some are close to places Facebook considers “news deserts”; others still have a comparatively rich local news ecosystem. I noted the first five stories shared each afternoon in each city. (You can get more by tapping a “see more” button.) It’s not the most scientific method, but it’s a pretty good scan of what Facebook is surfacing.

What did I see? Satire, obituaries from funeral home websites, lots of local TV, and a weird network of sites that scrape other local news and yet somehow make it into Facebook’s scanner. And again, over half of the news was just crime, courts, and dead bodies.</p>

Basically, having laid waste to local journalism (along with Google), Facebook now finds there's none to report. But also: its algorithms don't know how or where to look.
facebook  news  journalism 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
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