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  1. Facebook shares plummeted more than 18 percent in midday trading on Thursday, erasing over $110 billion from the social media giant’s market value. The sharp stock decline came a day after Facebook, one of the largest publicly traded companies in the United States, reported disappointing second-quarter earnings. Of particular concern to investors was Facebook’s warning that revenue growth rates would continue to slow sharply in the coming quarters. “Management commentary about decelerating topline growth during a quarter where the company fell short of ad revenue for the first time is what has led to the stock’s after-hours performance,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a note to clients, referring to the initial market reaction to the earnings report on Wednesday. Facebook has been one of the most influential stocks in recent years. I ts losses dragged down the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index’s technology sector, the worst-performing part of the market early Thursday. Because the S.&P. 500 is weighted by market size, large companies — even after its early losses on Thursday, Facebook was worth more than $500 billion — exert the greatest influence. There were signs that investors viewed Facebook’s woes as specific to the company. Shares of Apple, the largest company in the world by market value at more than $950 billion, were down only slightly at midday. It was unclear whether Facebook’s sharp drop would derail a stock market that has been gaining traction this month. The S.&P. 500 has climbed more than 6 percent this year, despite a number of concerns, including rising trade tensions between the United States and its largest trading partners and the Federal Reserve’s increases in interest rates. The S.&P. 500 is only about 1 percent below its high hit on Jan. 26. On Thursday, markets again showed their resilience. The S. & P. 500 was down only slightly despite the carnage in Facebook shares. In recent weeks markets have rallied as investors took heart in second-quarter earnings reports. Once the results are tallied, second-quarter earnings for companies in the S. & P. 500 are expected to have grown more than 20 percent, compared with the same period last year, reflecting the strength of the American economy and the impact of corporate tax cuts. Still, the sheer size of Facebook’s fall became a focus for investors. It was one of the largest single-day losses, in terms of market value, on record for a single stock. The dollar value decline in Facebook’s market value Thursday is roughly equivalent to the entire value of some of the country’s most-well known companies, including General Electric, Texas Instruments and Union Pacific railroad. But in a sense, the large decline shouldn’t be surprising. In recent years, valuations of the largest technology firms have surged. Apple is foremost among then. But Amazon, Google’s parent company Alphabet and Microsoft are not far behind, with market values of more than $800 billion. And even after the sharp decline Thursday, Facebook is the fifth-largest publicly traded company, by market value, at more than $500 billion. Source
  2. PepsiCo really doesn’t want anyone talking shit about its corn puffs online. There is a rumor that Kurkure, a corn puff product developed by the company in India, is made of plastic. The conspiracy theory naturally thrived online, where people posted mocking videos and posts questioning whether the snack contained plastic. In response, PepsiCo obtained an interim order from the Delhi High Court to block all references to this conspiracy theory online in the country, MediaNama reports. Hundreds of posts claiming that Kurkure contains plastic have already been blocked across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, according to LiveMint, and the court order requires social networks to continue to block such posts. According to MediaNama, PepsiCo petitioned for 3412 Facebook links, 20244 Facebook posts, 242 YouTube videos, six Instagram links, and 562 tweets to be removed, a request the court has granted. Source
  3. Ahead of the general election in Brazil this October, Facebook took a major step to purge its platform of fake accounts created to sow misinformation across the country. Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, said in a blog post that the company terminated 196 pages and 87 accounts that constituted part of a coordinated network aiming to mislead people in Brazil. Those pages and accounts were taken down on the grounds of violating Facebook's policy for authenticity. While Facebook didn't specifically mention the names of the fake accounts and pages involved, Reuters reports that Movimento Brazil Livre (MBL) or the “Free Brazil Movement” is behind the network. The latest crackdown is part of Facebook's efforts to prevent abuse on the social networking site. In September last year, the company closed 470 fake accounts and pages that the company believed were based out of Russia. Gleicher noted that Facebook uses community reports, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to detect suspicious behavior. Currently, about 15,000 people work to monitor the social media platform for security events and review all content worldwide. Facebook plans to increase that team to over 20,000 by the end of 2018. Source
  4. This year’s developer conference held by Facebook, which lost more than $120 billion in market value in less than two hours on Wednesday. SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook may not be bulletproof after all. For months, the social network has weathered a series of scandals — including Russian misuse of the platform to interfere in the 2016 American presidential campaign and the harvesting of its users’ data through the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica — with hardly any effect to its business. Facebook has continued to post healthy double-digit increases in revenue and profit every quarter. But on Wednesday, it showed some of the first signs of wear and tear from the months of scrutiny. The Silicon Valley company reported a 42 percent increase in revenue and a 31 percent jump in profits for its second quarter, compared with a year earlier. But the results, which would be robust for most companies, were accompanied by decelerating growth in sales and Facebook’s slowest growth since 2011 in the number of its users. The numbers were compounded by comments from Facebook’s top executives. On a conference call to discuss earnings, the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said profits would most likely take a further hit because the company planned to spend more on security. And the chief financial officer, David Wehner, said revenue growth would substantially decline for the rest of the year, partly because the company planned to give users more options with their privacy settings, which would let them limit the kinds of ads they saw. The results and commentary sent Facebook’s stock tumbling more than 23 percent in after-hours trading, erasing more than $120 billion in market value in less than two hours. Some Wall Street analysts said the various issues Facebook faced were bound to have an impact on its business. “It should not be surprising that there was some impact from Cambridge Analytica,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research. “To explain that there is a couple million people who chose not to continue using Facebook is unsurprising.” Source
  5. An open-source collaboration for ‘the future of portability’ Today, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter joined to announce a new standards initiative called the Data Transfer Project, designed as a new way to move data between platforms. In a blog post, Google described the project as letting users “transfer data directly from one service to another, without needing to download and re-upload it.” The current version of the system supports data transfer for photos, mail, contacts, calendars, and tasks, drawing from publicly available APIs from Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Remember the Milk, and SmugMug. Many of those transfers could already be accomplished through other means, but participants hope the project will grow into a more robust and flexible alternative to conventional APIs. In its own blog post, Microsoft called for more companies to sign onto the effort, adding that “portability and interoperability are central to cloud innovation and competition.” The existing code for the project is available open-source on GitHub, along with a white paper describing its scope. Much of the codebase consists of “adapters” that can translate proprietary APIs into an interoperable transfer, making Instagram data workable for Flickr and vice versa. Between those adapters, engineers have also built a system to encrypt the data in transit, issuing forward-secret keys for each transaction. Notably, that system is focused on one-time transfers rather than the continuous interoperability enabled by many APIs. “The future of portability will need to be more inclusive, flexible, and open,” reads the white paper. “Our hope for this project is that it will enable a connection between any two public-facing product interfaces for importing and exporting data directly.” The bulk of the coding so far has been done by Google and Microsoft engineers who have long been tinkering with the idea of a more robust data transfer system. According to Greg Fair, product manager for Google Takeout, the idea arose from a frustration with the available options for managing data after it’s downloaded. Without a clear way to import that same data to a different service, tools like Takeout were only solving half the problem. “When people have data, they want to be able to move it from one product to another, and they can’t,” says Fair. “It’s a problem that we can’t really solve alone.” Most platforms already offer some kind of data-download tool, but those tools rarely connect with other services. Europe’s new GDPR legislation requires tools to provide all available data on a given user, which means it’s far more comprehensive than what you’d get from an API. Along with emails or photos, you’ll find thornier data like location history and facial recognition profiles that many users don’t even realize are being collected. There are a few projects trying to make use of that data — most notably Digi.me, which is building an entire app ecosystem around it — but for the most part, it ends up sitting on users’ hard drives. Download tools are presented as proof that users really do own their data, but owning your data and using it have turned into completely different things. The project was envisioned as an open-source standard, and many of the engineers involved say a broader shift in governance will be necessary if the standard is successful. “In the long term, we want there to be a consortium of industry leaders, consumer groups, government groups,” says Fair. “But until we have a reasonable critical mass, it’s not an interesting conversation.” This is a delicate time for a data-sharing project. Facebook’s API was at the center of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the industry is still feeling out exactly how much users should be trusted with their own data. Google has struggled with its own API scandal, facing outcry over third-party email apps mishandling Gmail users’ data. In some ways, the proposed consortium would be a way to manage that risk, spreading the responsibility out among more groups. Still, the specter of Cambridge Analytica puts a real limit on how much data companies are willing to share. When I asked about the data privacy implications of the new project, Facebook emphasized the importance of maintaining API-level controls. “We always want to think about user data protection first,” says David Baser, who works on Facebook’s data download product. “One of the things that’s nice about an API is that, as the data provider, we have the ability to turn off the pipeline or impose conditions on how they can use it. With a data download tool, the data leaves our hands, and it’s truly out there in the wild. If someone wants to use that data for bad purposes, Facebook truly cannot do anything about it.” At the same time, tech companies are facing more aggressive antitrust concerns than ever before, many of them centering on data access. The biggest tech companies have few competitors. And as they face new questions about federal regulation and monopoly power, sharing data could be one of the least painful ways to rein themselves in. It’s an unlikely remedy for companies that are reeling from data privacy scandals, but it’s one that outsiders like Open Technology Institute director Kevin Bankston have been pushing as more important than ever, particularly for Facebook. “My primary goal has been to make sure that the value of openness doesn’t get forgotten,” Bankston says. “If you’re concerned about the power of these platforms, portability is a way to balance that out.” Update 7/20/2018 12:00PM EST: This piece was updated to include reference to Microsoft’s announcement of the Data Transfer Project. Source
  6. Match owns several of the world’s biggest dating sites and apps — including Tinder, Match.com and OKCupid — but now has to think of Facebook as a competitor. At its F8 developer conference in May, Facebook announced that it would launch a dating service for long-term relationships. The news freaked out investors in dating juggernaut Match Group, which owns Tinder, OKCupid, Match.com and dozens of other dating apps and sites. On the latest episode of Recode Decode, Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg explained why she’s not too worried about the impact of Facebook on her business. Although she acknowledged it would be foolish to write them off as a competitor, Match’s data shows that its users already employ multiple dating apps, and its crown jewel — Tinder — connects with a different demographic. “Tinder’s our big growth engine, and Tinder tends to skew very young, so 18 to 25. Facebook does not skew that young in general,” Ginsberg told Recode’s Kurt Wagner. “If you’re a 23-year-old and you’re going to be using two or three apps, definitively, we think you’re going to use one of our apps, most likely Tinder.” On top of that, Ginsberg said, “5 percent or less” of Match’s revenue comes from advertising, a stark contrast to Facebook’s 98.5 percent. She pointed out that that might assuage some consumers’ concerns about privacy. “People have to come to us and realize that we’re not going to expose their information, we’re not going to sell their information, and that they have to feel confident because dating is highly, highly personal,” she said. “It used to be, prior to last year, that if you joined Tinder, you had to join through Facebook,” Ginsberg added. “When given the option for new users coming through, 75 percent of people said, ‘I’d just rather use my phone and not use Facebook,’ even though it was the second option and Facebook was the big option on top. So it was clear that they wanted to separate their dating world from their Facebook world.” < Here >
  7. Facebook has been fined £500,000 ($664,000) in the U.K. for its conduct in the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. Facebook has been fined £500,000 in the U.K., the maximum fine allowed by the UK’s Data Protection Act 1998, for failing to protect users’ personal information. Political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica improperly collected data of 87 million Facebook users and misused it. “Today’s progress report gives details of some of the organisations and individuals under investigation, as well as enforcement actions so far. This includes the ICO’s intention to fine Facebook a maximum £500,000 for two breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998.” reads the announcement published by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office. “Facebook, with Cambridge Analytica, has been the focus of the investigation since February when evidence emerged that an app had been used to harvest the data of 50 million Facebook users across the world. This is now estimated at 87 million. The ICO’s investigation concluded that Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people’s information. It also found that the company failed to be transparent about how people’s data was harvested by others.” This is the first possible financial punishment that Facebook is facing for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. “A significant finding of the ICO investigation is the conclusion that Facebook has not been sufficiently transparent to enable users to understand how and why they might be targeted by a political party or campaign,” reads ICO’s report. Obviously, the financial penalty is negligible compared to the gains of the giant of social networks, but it is a strong message to all the company that must properly manage users’ personal information in compliance with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). What would have happened if the regulation had already been in force at the time of disclosure? According to the GDPR, the penalties allowed under the new privacy regulation are much greater, fines could reach up to 4% of the global turnover, that in case of Facebook are estimated at $1.9 billion. “Facebook has failed to provide the kind of protections they are required to under the Data Protection Act.” Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner said. “People cannot have control over their own data if they don’t know or understand how it is being used. That’s why greater and genuine transparency about the use of data analytics is vital.” Facebook still has a chance to respond to the ICO’s Notice of Intent before a final decision on the fine is made. Source
  8. A report says the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Facebook adequately warned its investors about privacy lapses involving the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica. The Wall Street Journal said Thursday that the SEC has requested information from Facebook on how much the company knew about Cambridge Analytica's use of user data. The report cited unnamed people familiar with the matter. Cambridge Analytica, which was affiliated with President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign, got access to data on up to 87 million Facebook users. Both Facebook and the SEC declined to comment. The report says the agency is also investigating how Facebook analyzed the risk it faced from developers who shared data with outsiders in violation of Facebook's policies—which is what Cambridge Analytica did. < Here >
  9. Germany's highest court has ruled that the parents of a dead daughter have the rights to her Facebook account under inheritance law. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) said online data should be treated the same as private diaries or letters, and pass to heirs. The case involves parents of a 15-year-old girl killed by a train in 2012. They sought access to her Facebook account to try to determine whether the death was suicide. Aside from emotional closure, the parents also wanted to know whether the train driver was entitled to compensation - as would be the case in the event of a suicide. Facebook had refused access to the account after their daughter's death, citing privacy concerns about the girl's contacts. Under its current policy, the company only allows relatives of the dead partial access to the account, allowing them to change the page into an online memorial or to delete it entirely. A lower German court backed the parents in 2015, supporting the claim that Facebook data was covered by inheritance law as the equivalent of private correspondence. But in 2017, an appeals court backed Facebook and overturned the ruling, on the grounds that any contract between the girl and the company ended with her death and could not pass on to the parents. The case went to the BGH, and her parents have now reportedly taken over the account. Judge Ulrich Hermann said it was common to hand over private diaries and correspondence to legal heirs after death, and there was no reason to treat digital data any differently. Moreover, the court added that the parents had a right to know who their child, a minor, had spoken to online. In recent years, Facebook has come under increasing scrutiny in Germany - in particular over fake news on the platform. The company introduced new tools in Germany to combat fabricated stories, shortly before the government approved plans to levy heavy fines on social media firms if they failed to remove inappropriate comments and content quickly. < Here >
  10. Facebook is apologizing after its algorithms tagged 65,000 Russian users as “interested in treason.” Facebook algorithmically tags users based on their behavior, making it easier for advertisers to target people interested in specific topics. In this case, however, the tag “treason” may have put users under the threat of government intervention. Facebook says it has since removed the interest category. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “Treason was included as a category, given its historical significance. Given it’s an illegal activity, we’ve removed it as an interest category,” a Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian. Automated profiling is useful when you’re an orange juice vendor looking for people who say they like orange juice, but a landmark 2016 report from ProPublica found that many of the interests Facebook links to users aren’t self-selected. Facebook records your behavior, then makes inferences on who you may be or what you might like, including your race, gender, sexuality, and religion. As an example, Facebook wouldn’t explicitly ask a user in the profile section whether they are an East Coast liberal or a Southern conservative, but it knows if you live on the east coast versus the south, if you completed high school or college, and, of course, it can make sharp inferences based on “Likes” and whether you, say, clicked an ad for “Defend 2A” versus “March For Our Lives.” In the case of Facebook’s “treason” label, it would be shockingly feasible to unmask some of these users without access to Facebook’s internal data, as the Guardian’s write-up explains. Advertisers need only create ads targeted specifically to people selected as having that interest, and then attempt to keep track of whoever clicked through. Let’s be clear: Facebook is an automated profiling machine that synthesizes the enormous amounts of behavior data we create as we click, share, and friend other users. Advertisers can tap into that machine whenever they want, for the right price, and governments can request data. Overall, Facebook hands data over about 75% of the time, according to its 2018 Transparency Report. “Officially, the internet is not censored in Russia,” Mette Skak, an authority on Russia, told the Guardian. “However, these methods, which Facebook has probably unwittingly given the Russian authorities, make it much easier for governmental agencies to systematically track persons marked as potential traitors.” When I reported on Facebook’s hidden profiles two years ago, I asked readers to send in the interests Facebook had assigned to them. One journalist found that Facebook had marked him as interested in Hezbollah, a terrorist group. What happens when information like that, absurd and erroneous as it is, ends up in the hands of repressive regimes? It’s bad enough in the hands of advertisers. Facebook is currently fighting off a civil rights suit from housing advocates, who say advertisers used the hidden profiles to exclude housing ads from Hispanics or disabled people. The reasoning is simple: Advertisers could show housing ads to everyone except those interested in “Disability.gov,” “wheelchairs,” or “English as a second language,” “Telemundo,” etc. Facebook knows. It knows things users provide willingly, and it knows things that users were never asked (and thus, couldn’t refuse). Facebook doesn’t have to ask and in fact, even if you don’t have Facebook it may still know who you are. All of this is useful when targeting orange juice enthusiasts, but it also means oppressive governments across the world have the means to identify or interrogate users based on concealed algorithms. A tool that makes life easier for advertisers can also do the same for authoritarians. More at the [The Guardian] Source
  11. Tether-tenna was grounded last summer after F8 debut The Aquila drone isn’t the only aerial internet project Facebook abandoned in the last year. The Tether-tenna, a small helicopter drone that could temporarily replace cellular service in emergency situations, was discontinued a few months after being shown off at the F8 developer conference in May of 2017, the company has confirmed to The Verge. “Tether-tenna was a proof of concept project we were evaluating when we discussed it at F8 in early 2017,” a spokesperson for Facebook said. “It wasn’t something we pursued further as we chose to focus our efforts on continued development and advancement of our Terragraph, millimeter-wave, and HAPS [high altitude platform station] programs. We engage in a number of proof of concept initiatives like this one as they’re great learning vehicles for our connectivity teams.” Yael Maguire, who runs Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, described the concept at F8 last year in front of a video of the Tether-tenna prototype that showed it take off, hover, and land. The idea was that the helicopter would be able to tether to fiber and power lines in places where cellular infrastructure was damaged, fly skyward, and broadcast a signal from hundreds of feet up in the air. Facebook provided the antenna for Tether-tenna, but the helicopter drone that the company showed in the video at F8 was mostly built by a small startup called Everfly, which had been spun out of a research innovation firm called Otherlab, according to a Recode report from last year. “What Facebook told you is correct, they did nothing more with [Tether-tenna] following what they showed at F8,” Mikell Taylor, who served as CEO of Everfly, said in a message to The Verge. “The group at Otherlab that worked on the FB project tried to spin out a startup focusing on commercializing that technology for more general telecommunications applications, but we couldn’t get any traction with funding and the team parted ways last summer.” Everfly disbanded later that summer. Maguire said on the F8 stage that the hope with Tether-tenna was that it could provide “connectivity to people who most need it” for “months at a time,” and that the drone had already flown for 24 hours straight. But he also said that it was “in the early stages of development,” and that there were challenges — particularly because Tether-tenna was working with high voltage lines — that could get in the way. Tether-tenna was a much smaller scale idea compared to Aquila, which involved ultra-light solar-powered drones that were bigger than a 737, and beamed internet to the ground using lasers. But backing away from both is a sign that, while Facebook still thinks aerial internet is worth exploration, the company doesn’t want to deal with the aerial hardware side of the equation. When the death of the Aquila project was announced at the end of June, Maguire wrote in a blog post that Facebook instead wants to partner on high-altitude internet delivery systems going forward. This allows Facebook to focus on things it’s more familiar with, he wrote, like working with the government, dealing with policy matters, and solving problems more directly related to the connectivity being provided. < Here >
  12. Social media giant is blocking accounts of firebrand monks and radical groups that use the platform to spread anti-Muslim sentiment. Will the censorship backfire? Who could have predicted that six years after the abolition of military-imposed pre-publication censorship and freeing up of political discourse in Myanmar that the international community would be calling for new limitations on freedom of expression? This week, Buddhist nationalists hailing from the monastic heartland of the Mandalay Region launched a campaign against Facebook, pushing back as the social media giant has begun to take action against repeat offenders using its platform to disseminate hate speech and incite violence. A Facebook representative confirmed to Asia Times that the US company has designated anti-Muslim Buddhist monk U Wirathu as a “hate figure” and the Ma Ba Tha radical Buddhist sect he leads as a “hate organization.” Both have recently been banned from using the social media platform. Military-linked parliamentarian Hla Swe was also temporarily suspended for repeated violations of Facebook policies, though his suspension has since been lifted. The company’s appraisal of who should be considered a “hate figure” includes those whose ideology, statements or physical actions attack people based on “protected characteristics” such as race, religion, sexuality and others. “As well as barring them from using Facebook, we will also remove any other profile, page, group or piece of content that praises or supports them,” the Facebook representative told Asia Times. That’s already causing a stir among free speech advocates. “It is a violation of freedom of expression,” Thuseitta, a member of the Patriotic Myanmar Monks’ Union, told Reuters, while indicating that this would not silence his group. “We will keep using Facebook with different names and accounts to tell the truth to people.” U Wirathu, once branded by Time magazine as the face of “Buddhist terror”, has likewise indicated he will not be silenced by Facebook’s ban. The firebrand monk recently set up his own website, wirathu.com, and his own internet radio station to continue disseminating his sermons and pronouncements. Facebook has come under heavy fire for its perceived failure to address the spread of virulent hate speech and incitement on its platform, particularly in connection with last year’s violent purge of minority Rohingya from northern Rakhine state. The US company has responded by sending a delegation to Myanmar, as well as ramping up recruitment efforts for Burmese speakers — although the exact number of hires remains unclear. It is also taking steps toward greater transparency on certain fronts, with sections of its website dedicated to government data requests, content restrictions and internet disruptions. All of this is cautiously being regarded as a positive development in the tech community. For all the press coverage about the spread of hate speech in Myanmar, one could be forgiven for thinking the link is so direct and causal that pogroms were events organized on Facebook. However, this is not quite a “machete in one hand and a transistor radio in the other” situation, as former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power described the role of hate speech broadcasts on Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines in Rwanda’s genocidal spasm of violence. While Facebook tries to understand and counter how its platform is being weaponized, the suggestion that “jamming the broadcasts” will make a positive difference is already coming under scrutiny. In fact, it could have the opposite effect, some observers say. Today in Myanmar there is alarmingly high popular buy-in to varying extent of the conspiracy theory that the West is seeking to undermine the Myanmar government and advance a pro-Muslim agenda by shrieking about human rights and ignoring the concurrent atrocities committed by Rohingya insurgents. The widely accepted but convoluted theory claims it is all part of an elaborate cabal bankrolled with petro-dollars by a nefarious triumvirate of the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and billionaire philanthropist George Soros. In this climate, without striving for greater transparency in its clampdown on incitement and hate speech from all parties, Facebook runs the risk of being seen as a foreign tool for silencing “patriotic” voices and exacerbating an already rising nationalist persecution complex. As decades of censorship and repression in Myanmar showed, particularly in the case of previously persecuted pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, silencing people often gives them martyr status. It may have escaped many Myanmar nationalists’ attention, but content deemed as supporting Rohingya militants represented by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army has also recently been removed by Facebook. While fear-mongering occupies much of Ma Ba Tha’s and other hardline nationalist groups’ messaging, it’s far from their only activity. Ma Ba Tha also performs more benign public works, including blood donation drives and fundraising for healthcare for the rural poor. They have also successfully pushed legislation to the forefront of the national legislative agenda. Meanwhile, parliamentarian Hla Swe shot to prominence in the English-language press after an anti-LGBT Facebook rant in which he made a jocular confession to the commission of homophobic war crimes. He was at one point elected to serve as an MP and is now the publisher of a popular news journal. While Facebook’s removal of specific and actionable incitement and hate speech is a no-brainer, the banning of legitimate organizations and public figures — no matter how problematic – leads into fairly murky and uncharted territory. The message needs to be driven home that hate speech and incitement to violence are universally unacceptable, and a big part of doing so successfully will be providing a forum for people to deconstruct it. It goes without saying that Facebook’s new team of Burmese-speaking content-sifters will be very busy. This kind of reactive approach to censoring hate speech will presumably get easier with time: refining of artificial intelligence (AI) interventions will speed the process. However, this is not without its pitfalls. One of Facebook’s earliest AI-based interventions in Myanmar’s context was the much-ridiculed initiative to ban the word “kalar.” Kalar means foreign, and is used as a casual if not racist epithet for those with dark skin, including the Rohingya. Similarly, it can be weaponized and deployed as a racial slight. Facebook’s decision to ban the term may have seemed prudent at its headquarters, were it not for the fact kalar as a prefix in the local language has some rather more prosaic applications. A chair, for example, is a kalar-thaing. The use of automated censorship mechanisms could likely see constructive discussion quashed alongside hate speech, as anyone airing an opinion on chairs last year will be able to attest. As has been noted elsewhere, state media has done a fairly impressive job propagating dehumanizing and incendiary rhetoric (see, for example, its use of “detestable human fleas” and “thorn that needs removing” in vague reference to persecuted minorities.) It is the sort of rhetoric that history has shown presages mass atrocities. The international concern is warranted: if there were such thing as a Bingo card for genocide precursors, Myanmar has but a few more boxes to tick. Meanwhile, there has been little discussion over how effectively Facebook has been used as a platform for distributing pro-military propaganda. Government bodies and military figures enjoy “verified” status on Facebook, while the Ministry of Information occasionally boosts posts of dubious veracity. However, there is no way to see which posts have been boosted at the expiration of a campaign. On this front, there is arguably a pressing need for greater transparency when it comes to Facebook’s advertising model. As a direct link between citizen and government, Facebook occupies a unique and important place in Myanmar’s political context. And despite recent criticism of the social media platform’s role in spreading hate speech, it’s difficult to envision that changing any time soon. Calls for Facebook to take more proactive action should not drown out the very real need for the Myanmar government and its citizens to take practical steps towards reconciliation and away from fear-mongering. What needs to change is the message, not just the medium. < Here >
  13. It may be time to leave the world’s biggest social network If you’ve finally given up on the world’s most popular social media network and want to get rid of Facebook, it’s not too complicated to remove yourself from the service. But before you delete all of those pictures, posts, and Likes, you should download your personal information from Facebook first. Your Facebook archives contain just about all of the pertinent information related to your account, including your photos, active sessions, chat history, IP addresses, facial recognition data, and which ads you clicked, just to name a few. That’s a ton of personal information that you should probably maintain access to. To download your archive, go to “Settings” and click “Download a copy of your Facebook data” at the bottom of General Account Settings, and then click “Start My Archive.” After you’ve finished downloading your archive, you can now delete your account. Beware: once you delete your account, it cannot be recovered. If you are ready to delete your account, you can click this link, which will take you to the account deletion page. (Facebook doesn’t have the delete account option in its settings, for some reason.) Once you click “Delete My Account,” your account will be marked for termination, and inaccessible to others using Facebook. The company notes that it delays termination for a few days after it’s requested. If you log back in during that period, your deletion request will be canceled. So don’t sign on, or you’ll be forced to start the process over again. Certain things, like comments you’ve made on a friend’s post, may still appear even after you delete your account. Facebook also says that copies of certain items like log records will remain in its database, but notes that those are disassociated with personal identifiers. The company says it can take up to 90 days to fully delete your account and the information associated with it, but it notes that your account will be inaccessible to other people using Facebook during that time. If you’re really serious about quitting Facebook, remember that the company owns several other popular services as well, like Instagram and WhatsApp, so you should delete your accounts there as well. Source
  14. Facebook disclosed a new “bug” on Monday that temporarily let some users who’d been blocked on the service send messages to the people who had blocked them. The bug also let some previously-blocked users view posts that were shared “to a wider audience,” such as publicly or with friends of friends, Facebook said. Facebook’s privacy boss Erin Egan apologized for the error, writing in a blog that the company is reaching out to “over 800,000" users about the screw-up. The “blocking bug” was active between May 29 and June 5, for eight days, though the company now says Messenger should be acting normally. Egan’s post details the features of this newly disclosed bug. It isn’t clear when Facebook discovered the bug or how many people were actually contacted by the people they’d blocked. It’d be interesting to know if Facebook discovered the issue itself, or after users complained about unblocking. We’ve reached out to Facebook for more information. Facebook’s announcement post closes by mentioning the serious consequences of a faulty blocking system, chiefly harassment or bullying, both significant issues that are exacerbated when platforms make mistakes like this. Source
  15. The federal investigation into Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal—in which prior versions of Facebook’s advertising API allowed the shady election data firm to partner with an app to harvest data on at least 87 million users without their consent—has expanded to include a multi-agency inquiry into the social network’s data practices. Per the Washington Post, five people familiar with the investigation said the Department of Justice is now joined by “representatives for the FBI, the SEC and the Federal Trade Commission... in its inquiries about the two companies,” and specifically Facebook’s “actions and statements” over a period of years. The paper wrote the multi-agency inquiry is focused on what Facebook knew years ago and what it failed to tell “users or investors,” as well as whether there were “discrepancies in more recent accounts” like executives’ testimony before Congress. The Post wrote that CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s evasive congressional testimony is considered part of the investigation: Cambridge Analytica has attracted considerable attention not just for the data harvesting, but for undercover news investigations that caught executives bragging about scummy campaign tactics, role working on Donald Trump’s campaign, and possibly illegal use of foreign contractors to work on US elections. It has since shut down, though the DOJ and FBI are reportedly still looking into its practices. According to the New York Times, while the DOJ and FBI investigations into Facebook primarily branch from those ongoing inquiries into Cambridge Analytica, Facebook representatives admitted the SEC one focuses on “the social network’s public statements about Cambridge Analytica.” SEC investigators want to know whether when Facebook said Cambridge Analytica duped them by claiming its project was only harvesting data for academic purposes, it knew full well what was going on. The Times wrote: The FTC involvement is notable because in March 2018, the agency disclosed that it had learned of “substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook” and launched an investigation as a result. The Post confirmed that said investigation concerns a 2011 consent decree on user privacy that Facebook signed with the FTC—violations of which could potentially result in mind-boggling fines in the billions of dollars, though the agency’s approach to monitoring such breaches of agreements has historically been toothless. It’s not clear whether the agencies currently are considering whether the investigation could result in “criminal charges or civil penalties” for Facebook or Cambridge Analytica, the Post wrote. “The fact that the Justice Department, the FBI, the SEC and the FTC are sitting down together does raise serious concerns,” former FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection chief David Vladeck told the Post, adding that the number of agencies involved “does raise all sorts of red flags.” Former FTC chief technologist Ashkan Soltani told the Times that the growing number of agencies involved in the inquiry is “very significant because it means the government is not just interested in harms to privacy, but is interested in a broad array of harms.” So this all certainly sounds like bad news for the social media giant. But Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Nate Cardozo told Gizmodo in April that it’s not clear authorities have the appetite to hand down more than token punishments for Facebook’s corporate practices in current climate. While President Donald Trump’s administration has “made it clear that it is no friend of Silicon Valley,” Cardozo said, it has similarly “made it clear that it doesn’t like government regulation and the administrative state.” Of course, while investigators may determine Facebook’s historical data-sharing policies do not constitute civil or criminal matters, they could always conclude otherwise about anything the site did to cover those issues up. Source
  16. One of the best ways to gather intelligence on what a company is up to is to look at the patents they’ve applied for and have received. While some companies apply for patents for ideas they never use, or to block a competitor from using the idea, the patents provide a good indication of what’s important to a company, because patents can cost many tens of thousands of dollars apiece for worldwide coverage. Sahil Chinoy of the New York Times, looked at some of the patents Facebook has applied for and the results he discovered are very creepy. One of the patents describes the use of the forward-facing camera in your cell phone to figure out how you feel from your expressions while you're reading your Facebook feed. Apparently, clicking a "like" or "dislike" button is not good enough for them. Another patent proposes listening to you and your surroundings using the microphone in your phone. The patent describes using the mic to listen to the TV show you’re watching in the background, listen to what you’re talking about, and track your sleeping patterns. According to the article, their review of hundreds of patent applications filed by Facebook “reveals that the company has considered tracking almost every aspect of its users’ lives: where you are, who you spend time with, whether you’re in a romantic relationship, which brands and politicians you’re talking about. The company has even attempted to patent a method for predicting when your friends will die.” Facebook’s response is that its patents should not be used to judge what its future products will be. They say that most of the technology cited in the patents will never be used. But it does show their intense desire to capture every possible detail of what we do, how we look and what we're thinking. And Facebook is doing this in the face of heavy criticism that it's already collecting too much personal information. What’s striking about these revelations is that Jason M. Schultz, a law professor at New York University, was quoted in the article. “A patent portfolio is a map of how a company thinks about where its technology is going," he said. Here are some of the specific patents discussed in the New York Times article: Predicting whether you’re in a romantic relationship by monitoring how often you visit another user’s page and the number of friends you have of the opposite gender Using your posts to determine your personality traits, including emotional stability Detecting defective pixels or lens scratches on your camera to find a connection with someone else who might be using the same camera Detecting interference in the electrical power cable running to your TV to figure out what program is playing Detecting your phone’s location in the middle of the night to capture your home address Considering that Facebook has two billion active users, imagine the data they are amassing. If just a couple of these patents are put to practice, it dramatically increases the personal knowledge they will have about their subscribers. And from previous revelations, they are just as interested in learning personal details about those of us who don't use Facebook by gaining that information from our friends that are on Facebook. < Here >
  17. We wanted actual C-suiters, growls EU committee Facebook has once again irked EU politicos by failing to send sufficiently senior staffers to face another grilling on the data-harvesting saga. Today, it was the turn of the EU Parliament's civil liberties committee (LIBE) to issue a disappointed statement after it was denied access to the execs it had asked for. Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw 87 million users' information sucked up and shared by an app developer Facebook insists was breaking its policies, the social networking firm has been hauled in front of a variety of committees to justify its business model and atone for its data-hungry sins. However, the Zuckerborg has not always toed the line as closely as politicians would like, with it repeatedly rejecting advances from the Mother of Parliaments' digital committee. EU politicos were rather more smug when Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg announced he would make the trip to Brussels to meet the leaders of its biggest political parties. That glow was short-lived, as the session was one of the least informative and most frustrating, with Zuck getting off pretty much scot-free. LIBE is hoping to address the many gaps left by the cosy fireside chat, and has launched its own investigation. Following the first session earlier this month – which heard from former staffers at CA and Facebook, the Guardian journalist investigating the incident and the UK's information commissioner – the MEPs had invited three specific people for the next hearing, set for Monday. These were Facebook's chief privacy officer Erin Egan, vice-president for advertisements Rob Goldman and vice president for global public policy Joel Kaplan. However, the firm has only offered up Kaplan from their most-wanted list, who will be joined by two members of his public policy team, Steve Satterfield and Richard Allan. "Despite a follow-up exchange between Facebook and the Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee, Facebook decided to disregard the request by the European Parliament," the committee said in a statement. The group's chairman, Claude Moraes MEP, said: "It is with reluctance, therefore, that we will now hear from public policy team members proposed by Facebook. It will be up to Members to see if Facebook's answers will be sufficient, convincing and trustworthy." The bumper hearing is scheduled to start at 3.30pm CEST on Monday and is expected to run until 8pm. Source
  18. A 22-year-old man from California has pleaded guilty to uploading a pirated copy of the movie Deadpool to Facebook. The film was shared to the social media network, shortly after it premiered, where it was viewed 6,386,456 times. The man was indicted following an FBI investigation last year and faces a one-year prison sentence. Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook to share photos, videos and other information. While most of the content posted on the site is relatively harmless, some people use it to share things they are not supposed to. A pirated copy of Deadpool, for example. This is what the now 22-year-old Trevon Franklin from Fresno, California, did early 2016. Just a week after the first installment of the box-office hit Deadpool premiered in theaters, he shared a pirated copy of the movie on the social network. To be clear, Franklin wasn’t the person who originally made the copy available. He simply downloaded it from the file-sharing site Putlocker.is and then proceeded to upload it to his Facebook account, using the screen name “Tre-Von M. King.” This post went viral with more than six million viewers ‘tuning in.’ While many people dream of this kind of attention, in this case, it meant that copyright holder Twentieth Century Fox and the feds were alerted as well. The FBI launched a full-fledged investigation which eventually led to an indictment and the arrest of Franklin last summer. After months of relative silence, Franklin has now signed a plea agreement with the Government where he admits to sharing the pirated film on Facebook. In return, the authorities will recommend a sentence reduction. “Defendant admits that defendant is, in fact, guilty of the offense to which defendant is agreeing to plead guilty,” the plea agreement reads. The legal paperwork, signed by both sides, states that Franklin downloaded the pirated copy from Putlocker, knowing full well that he didn’t have permission to do so. He then willfully shared it on Facebook where it was accessed by millions of people. “Between February 20 and 22, 2016, while Deadpool was still in theaters and had not yet been made available for purchase by the public for home viewing, the copy of Deadpool defendant posted to his Facebook page had been viewed over 6,386,456 times,” the paperwork reads. From the plea agreement While a federal case over Facebook uploads is unlikely, the risk of legal trouble was pointed out to Franklin by others. According to Facebook comments from 2016, several people warned “Tre-Von M. King” that it wasn’t wise to post copyright-infringing material on the social media platform. However, Franklin said he wasn’t worried. It’s unclear why the US Government decided to pursue this case. Copyright infringement isn’t exactly rare on Facebook. However, it may be that the media attention and the high number of views may have prompted the authorities to set an example. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Franklin will be sentenced for a Class A misdemeanor. This can lead to a maximum prison sentence of one year, followed by probation or a supervised release, as well as a fine of $100,000. Meanwhile, he has waived his right to a trial by jury. — A copy of the plea agreement is available here (pdf). Source
  19. Facebook has once again updated its advertising policies. This time the social media giant is cracking down on content related to guns, explosives, and other weapons. Facebook has banned advertisements relating to the sales of guns since 2016, but it is now turning its attention to the sale of firearms-related accessories to minors. The social network’s updated pollicies will allow companies to advertise scopes, holsters and belt accessories, firearms safety and training courses, and other such wide-ranging products and services — provided the minimum target age is at least 18. In some ways, it looks like this might actually be a bit less restrictive than the site’s current rules. Currently, the only gun-related content that Facebook specifically allows are “Blogs or groups connecting people with weapon-related interests, as long as the service doesn’t lead to the sale of these products.” Facebook lists examples of ads that are not allowed, such as “Get your ammo here!” and “Our $1,800 Ammo Giveaway starts now! Click here to enter for your chance to win.” That being said, Facebook is currently facing a lot of scrutiny regarding its advertisement and data policies. In addition to the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, the social network has often been accused of being less than forthcoming about how its advertising works. These updated perameters, which are said to go into effect on the June 21, may simply be Facebook’s way of ensuring everyone is on the same page when it comes to weapons-related services and products. Facebook gave little in the way of details regarding why it chose to update these policies. It is possible it has to do with the recent school shootings in the U.S., but this hasn’t been confirmed. The policies still forbid the sale of weapons and ammunition regardless of the targeted age group. Furthermore, these guidelines also include non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray, BB guns, or even paintball and airsoft guns. The latter are used for entertainment rather than any form of self-defense, though the ban on airsoft guns does make sense considering that many of them are designed to look like actual firearms. A concern here is that someone could try selling real weapons disguised as airsoft guns. Source
  20. SEATTLE - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday sued Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), saying the companies failed to maintain information about political advertising as required by state law. Washington law requires the companies to maintain information about buyers of political ads, the cost, how they pay for it and the candidate or ballot measure at issue, according to the lawsuits, filed in King County Superior Court on Monday. The companies also must make that information available to the public upon request. Ferguson said neither Facebook nor Google did so, even though Washington candidates and political committees have spent nearly $5 million to advertise on those platforms in the past decade. "Washington's political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone, whether you are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation," Ferguson said in a statement. "Washingtonians have a right to know who's paying for the political advertising they see." Social media companies have been under pressure to be more transparent when it comes to political ads, including issue ads, which factored prominently in Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections. Facebook has started allowing users to search an archive of political ads. It announced last month that it was expanding its ad disclosure requirements, which include labels that users can click to learn more about who paid for the ads and how many people saw them. "Attorney General Ferguson has raised important questions and we look forward to resolving this matter with his office quickly," Rob Leathern, Facebook's director of product management, said in an emailed statement. Last month Google said it would do a better job of verifying the identity of political ad buyers in the U.S. by requiring a copy of a government-issued ID and other information. Google would also require the disclosure of who is paying for the ad. "We are committed to transparency and disclosure in political advertising," Google said in a statement Monday. "We are currently reviewing the complaint and will be engaging with the Attorney General's office." The lawsuits in Washington state cited reporting by the Seattle alternative newspaper The Stranger, which sought the information from Google and Facebook last December, to no avail. The state is seeking fines and legal fees. < Here >
  21. Apple didn't shy away from criticizing Silicon Valley rival Facebook Monday at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in California. Why it matters: The feud is part of a bigger battle brewing between the two companies over their governing philosophies and practices. "We think privacy is a fundamental human right ... I think the privacy thing has gotten totally out of control." — Apple CEO Tim Cook to CNN's Laurie Segall The remarks were made in conjunction with the announcement Monday that Apple would be shutting down "like" buttons that track Internet activity of users logged into certain social platforms, like Facebook. Apple showed an image of a Safari browser blocking "Facebook.com" from using cookies and website data in a demo on stage. Facebook was quick to fire back: "If this is about protecting privacy, and not just cute virtue signaling, then they should block all 3rd party JS and pixels," Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos tweeted. Apple also highlighted new features to help customers better manage the amount of time and attention they devote to their devices, as well as parental controls, another not-so-subtle reference to criticism Facebook (along with other tech companies) has recently faced, per Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva. Earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook took a swipe at Facebook, arguing his company would never been in a situation like Facebook's when it comes to user privacy because it elects not to make the consumer's data "the product" the company is selling. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg later called his criticism "glib." The quarrel comes as Facebook is facing Congressional inquiries over a New York Times report that it gave device partners (including Apple) access to user data, which could have potentially violated a regulatory decree. But as Axios' Scott Rosenberg points out, many people aren't understanding what Facebook was doing. For the most part it was letting phone makers either build their own Facebook apps, or include direct Facebook posting into their products. Both firms are also trying to navigate the ever-complicated news business, with Apple announcing Monday that it's bringing its Apple News product to Macbooks and Facebook announcing last week that it's ending its Trending Topics news feature, in an effort to reportedly replace it with curated news shows. The two companies are currently nearly neck and neck when it comes to current trade value, although Apple's market value is nearly 70% higher than Facebook's. Go deeper: Axios' Ina Fried has a full run-down of all developer conference updates. < Here >
  22. The company formed data-sharing partnerships with Apple, Samsung and dozens of other device makers, raising new concerns about its privacy protections. As Facebook sought to become the world’s dominant social media service, it struck agreements allowing phone and other device makers access to vast amounts of its users’ personal information. Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said. The deals allowed Facebook to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, “like” buttons and address books. But the partnerships, whose scope has not previously been reported, raise concerns about the company’s privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The New York Times found. Most of the partnerships remain in effect, though Facebook began winding them down in April. The company came under intensifying scrutiny by lawmakers and regulators after news reports in March that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, misused the private information of tens of millions of Facebook users. In the furor that followed, Facebook’s leaders said that the kind of access exploited by Cambridge in 2014 was cut off by the next year, when Facebook prohibited developers from collecting information from users’ friends. But the company officials did not disclose that Facebook had exempted the makers of cellphones, tablets and other hardware from such restrictions. “You might think that Facebook or the device manufacturer is trustworthy,” said Serge Egelman, a privacy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the security of mobile apps. “But the problem is that as more and more data is collected on the device — and if it can be accessed by apps on the device — it creates serious privacy and security risks.” In interviews, Facebook officials defended the data sharing as consistent with its privacy policies, the F.T.C. agreement and pledges to users. They said its partnerships were governed by contracts that strictly limited use of the data, including any stored on partners’ servers. The officials added that they knew of no cases where the information had been misused. The company views its device partners as extensions of Facebook, serving its more than two billion users, the officials said. “These partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform,” said Ime Archibong, a Facebook vice president. Unlike developers that provide games and services to Facebook users, the device partners can use Facebook data only to provide versions of “the Facebook experience,” the officials said. Some device partners can retrieve Facebook users’ relationship status, religion, political leaning and upcoming events, among other data. Tests by The Times showed that the partners requested and received data in the same way other third parties did. Facebook’s view that the device makers are not outsiders lets the partners go even further, The Times found: They can obtain data about a user’s Facebook friends, even those who have denied Facebook permission to share information with any third parties. In interviews, several former Facebook software engineers and security experts said they were surprised at the ability to override sharing restrictions. “It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant who formerly served as the F.T.C.’s chief technologist. [...] If interested, please read the entire article < here >.
  23. steven36

    Facebook Kills Trending Topics

    Facebook announced on Friday that it is killing off its controversial Trending news section next week. “From research, we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful,” Facebook’s Head of News Products said. Instead, Facebook says it’s pivoting to focus on a handful of other efforts, including live-streaming news coverage. New services will replace Trending, with a focus on pushing breaking news “from trustworthy and quality sources.” The company’s announcement post teases a few of the new features: Breaking News Label: A test we’re running with 80 publishers across North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia lets publishers put a “breaking news” indicator on their posts in News Feed. We’re also testing breaking news notifications. Today In: We’re testing a dedicated section on Facebook called Today In that connects people to the latest breaking and important news from local publishers in their city, as well as updates from local officials and organizations. News Video in Watch: We will soon have a dedicated section on Facebook Watch in the US where people can view live coverage, daily news briefings and weekly deep dives that are exclusive to Watch. There’s no word on whether the curation of the newer products is algorithmic or human-led, or how Facebook will vet trustworthiness, both enormous points of contention in the original Trending product. During CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony in the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the question of the company’s “conservative bias” was raised repeatedly. As a result, Facebook agreed to an audit determining whether conservative viewpoints are censored on the platform. Whatever replaces Trending, Facebook will certainly attempt to make it as controversy-free as possible. Source
  24. Snapchat and even Facebook’s own Instagram are getting more clicks from the kids these days than the aging social network. Three years ago, Facebook was the dominant social media site among U.S. teens, visited by 71 percent of people in that magic, trendsetting demographic. Not anymore. Now only 51 percent of kids ages 13-17 use Facebook, according to Pew Research Center. The world’s largest social network has finally been eclipsed in popularity by YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook Inc.-owned Instagram. “The social media environment today revolves less around a single platform than it did three years ago,” the researchers wrote in a survey published on Thursday. Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube is the most popular, used by 85 percent of teens, according to Pew. The U.S. is by far Facebook’s most lucrative advertising market, where it makes a staggering $23.59 in quarterly revenue per user. But that doesn’t mean growth can continue forever. The company said in its most recent earnings call that it’s effectively saturated the market in the U.S. and Canada, counting 185 million users in those two countries combined. The study demonstrates how difficult it may be to keep up that level of dominance, and how important the 2012 Instagram acquisition has been for Facebook’s future. Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Instagram is slightly more popular than Snapchat overall, Pew said, with 72 percent of respondents saying they use the photo-sharing app, compared with Snapchat’s 69 percent. But Snap Inc. is holding its own, despite Instagram’s frequent parroting of its features. About one-third of the survey’s respondents said they visit Snapchat and YouTube most often, while 15 percent said Instagram is their most frequent destination. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of teens said Facebook is their most-used online platform. The Pew analysis was based on a survey of 1,058 parents who have a teenager from 13 to 17, as well as interviews with 743 teens themselves. Interviews were conducted online and by telephone from March 7 to April 10. Pew noted that the biggest change since its last teen survey, besides Facebook’s fall from dominance, was just how ubiquitous smartphones have become among young people. Ninety-five percent of teens own a smartphone or have access to one, and 45 percent said they’re online “on a near-constant basis.” So in some ways, all the apps are winners. Source
  25. Facebook tools are being used to screen out older job seekers, lawsuit claims A proposed class-action lawsuit alleging Facebook's ad placement tools facilitate discrimination against older job seekers has been expanded to identify additional companies, further widening the latest front in claims that candidates are being filtered out by gender, geography, race and age. "When Facebook's own algorithm disproportionately directs ads to younger workers at the exclusion of older workers, Facebook and the advertisers who are using Facebook as an agent to send their advertisements are engaging in disparate treatment," a communications union alleged in the amended complaint – citing a legal test for employment discrimination – filed on Tuesday in San Francisco federal court. The union added claims under California's fair employment and unfair competition statutes to the lawsuit, which was initially filed in December. The Communications Workers of America is suing on behalf of union members and other job seekers who allegedly missed out on employment opportunities because companies used Facebook's ad tools to target people of other ages. The original filing named as defendants Amazon.com, Cox Media Group, Cox Communications and T-Mobile, as well as what the union estimates to be hundreds of employers and employment agencies who used Facebook's tools to filter out older job hunters when seeking to fill positions. The amended filing adds Ikea, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the University of Maryland Medical System to its list of companies that allegedly used Facebook's tools to filter by age. Those three entities, as well as Facebook, aren't named defendants in the lawsuit. The Cox companies and Ikea declined to comment. Amazon, T-Mobile, Facebook and Enterprise didn't return requests for comment. The University of Maryland denied the allegations in the union complaint, saying that it doesn't discriminate in hiring and recruiting and that it adheres to all applicable local, state and federal laws. In its amended lawsuit, the union alleged that Facebook also uses age-filtering in ads intended to find its own new employees. In January, the union filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint about the alleged practice, according to a copy obtained by Bloomberg News. The CWA says it has filed similar claims against dozens of companies, and that the agency has asked those employers, and Facebook, to respond to the allegations. An EEOC spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny the existence of any complaints. "It's important that the EEOC engages in a rigorous and comprehensive investigation of Facebook, since Facebook is the largest employment agency in the history of the world," Peter Romer-Friedman, a lawyer for the union, said in an interview. In a December statement, Facebook vice-president of advertisements Rob Goldman said: "Facebook tailors our employment ads by audience" and "we completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory". Regarding other companies, he said the company helps educate advertisers about their legal responsibilities and requires them to certify they are complying with the law. Comparing age-targeted employment ads to ads placed in magazines or on TV shows favoured by people of certain ages, Goldman wrote: "Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work." The debate over targeted online advertising has drawn the attention of the US Senate Special Committee on Ageing, whose Republican and Democratic leaders jointly requested that Facebook hand over information, including how many jobs have been advertised on Facebook over the past five years using age-specific ads and what age criteria were used. The CWA litigation may be a sign of things to come as hiring increasingly migrates onto internet platforms, said Ifeoma Ajunwa, a lawyer and sociologist who teaches at Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations School. 'Using platforms is worse' "The same types of discrimination issues that you would see in traditional hiring are now just being transferred over to the platforms," she said. "You could even argue that the new way – using platforms – is worse, because it's more solidified; there's no wiggle room, there's no accidental meetings." In the amended complaint, CWA alleged that Facebook encourages advertisers to exclude some job seekers by providing both age filters and regularly updated data on how ads perform among different age groups. The union also claims Facebook targets employment ads to "lookalike audiences" chosen for their demographic similarity to the people who already have a job at the same company, a practice which further marginalises older job seekers. The union also alleged that, "in addition to encouraging and allowing employers and employment agencies to restrict which Facebook users will receive job ads based on their age", Facebook's algorithm further factors in age when determining which users among the population chosen by the advertiser will actually see the ad. Federal law offers immunity for internet platforms acting as "passive conduits" of information. In a Q&A posted in its online Help Centre, Facebook tells users that, to "decide which ads to show you", it uses factors that include such information from user accounts as location, gender and age. How much discretion Facebook uses in serving up ads based on user age could be a crucial question in the EEOC complaint and the CWA lawsuit. The 1996 Communications Decency Act offers internet companies a shield from being held liable "as the publisher or speaker" of content placed on their site by other parties, such as comments left in public forums. That law could be a potential defence against the union's EEOC allegations, or in resisting efforts to force disclosures about how advertisements were targeted and what role Facebook played, if any. The US Court of Appeals in San Francisco has previously ruled that, while the law offers immunity for platforms acting as "passive conduits", it doesn't shield a company that "contributes materially to the alleged illegality of the conduct". The circuit, which subsumes the CWA lawsuit's venue, ruled in a 2008 case that the Communications Decency Act wouldn't prevent liability for a company that specifically offered prospective roommates drop-down menus from which to declare preferences based on race. Still, courts have generally interpreted the CDA's protections very broadly, said University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks, including in a series of rulings siding with the website Backpage.com when it was sued for allegedly facilitating sex trafficking. Those rulings spurred congressional passage of a law meant to quash Backpage's defence against the CDA. While that move to carve out an exception to the law's protections of internet companies was tailored to punish alleged sex trafficking, Franks says it could contribute to a climate of greater scepticism about the breadth of the law's protections, which could also influence judicial rulings. Romer-Friedman said the plaintiffs' new allegations would make it that much harder for Facebook to use the CDA as a shield. "To the extent that Facebook's algorithm is using age to determine who will get what ads, and that results in older workers being excluded," he said, "those decisions are Facebook's decisions." Source