Connect with us

FACEBOOK

Facebook is a harmful presence in our lives. It’s not too late to pull the plug on it – The Guardian

Published

on

Facebook is in perpetual crisis mode. For years now, the company has confronted waves of critical scrutiny on issues caused or exacerbated by the platform. Recent revelations have lengthened the charge sheet.

That list includes the mass data collection and privacy invasion by Cambridge Analytica; the accusations of Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election; unrestrained hate speech, inciting, among other things, genocide in Myanmar; the viral spread of disinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines, with Joe Biden proclaiming about Facebook and other social media platforms: “They’re killing people”. Add to that Facebook Marketplace: with a billion users buying and selling goods, ProPublica found a growing pool of scammers and fraudsters exploiting the site, with Facebook failing “to safeguard users”.

The latest wave of investigative reporting focused on the company, meanwhile, comes from the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series. After pouring over a cache of the company’s internal documents, the WSJ reported that “Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects”. For instance, the company downplayed findings that using Instagram can have significant impacts on the mental health of teenage girls. Meanwhile, it has been implementing strategies to attract more preteen users to Instagram. The platform’s algorithm is designed to foster more user engagement in any way possible, including by sowing discord and rewarding outrage. This issue was raised by Facebook’s integrity team, which also proposed changes to the algorithm that would suppress, rather than accelerate, such animus between users. These solutions were struck down by Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, because he prioritised growing engagement above other objectives.

What’s more, the WSJ reported, Facebook employees “raised alarms” about drug cartels and human traffickers in developing countries using the platform, but the company’s response has been anaemic. Perhaps because executives are, yet again, hesitant to impede growth in these rapidly expanding markets.

This is consistent with claims by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who said at the weekend, in an interview with 60 Minutes, “Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety.” It also emerged that Haugen has filed at least eight complaints with the US financial watchdog over Facebook’s approach to safety. Haugen testified before the US Senate on Tuesday, backing up her revelations. “I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” she said. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.” We shouldn’t be surprised that making money hand over fist is any company’s primary motivation. But here we have further evidence that Facebook is a uniquely socially toxic platform.

Advertisement

Despite the executive team’s awareness of these serious problems, despite congressional hearings and scripted pledges to do better, despite Zuckerberg’s grandiose mission statements that change with the tides of public pressure, Facebook continues to shrug off the great responsibility that comes with the great power and wealth it has accumulated.

See also  Facebook harms children and is damaging democracy, claims whistleblower - The Guardian
Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House financial services committee hearing in Washington DC, October 2019.
‘Mark Zuckerberg’s company continues to shrug off the great responsibility that comes with great power and wealth.’ Zuckerberg testifies at a House financial services committee hearing in Washington DC, October 2019. Photograph: Erin Scott/Reuters

Each surging wave builds on the last, hitting Facebook even harder, enveloping it in scandal after scandal. In response, the company has decided to go on the offensive – rather than truly address any of its problems.

In August, Zuckerberg signed off on an initiative called Project Amplify, which aims to use Facebook’s news feed “to show people positive stories about the social network”, according to the New York Times. By pushing pro-Facebook stories, including some “written by the company”, it hopes to influence how users perceive the platform. Facebook is no longer happy to just let others use the news feed to propagate misinformation and exert influence – it wants to wield this tool for its own interests, too.

With Project Amplify under way, Facebook is mounting a serious defence against the WSJ Facebook Files. In an article posted on Facebook Newsroom by Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, , accusations of “deliberate mischaracterisations” by the WSJ reporters are lobbed in without supplying any specific details or corrections. Similarly, in an internal memo sent by Clegg to pre-empt Haugen’s interview, Clegg rejected any responsibility for Facebook being “the primary cause of polarisation”, blamed the prevalence of extreme views on individual bad actors like “a rogue uncle” and provided talking points for employees who might “get questions from friends and families about these things”.

It’s all spin, with no substance. A trained politician deflecting accusations while planting seeds of doubt in the public’s mind without acknowledging or addressing the problems at hand.

In another response to the WSJ, Facebook’s head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, made a strange analogy between social media and cars: “We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents, but by and large, cars create way more value in the world than they destroy,” Mosseri said. “And I think social media is similar.” Mosseri can no longer deny that platforms like his are forces for destruction. His tactic is to convince us that a simple cost-benefit analysis comes out in his favour. He happens to elide the fact that cars cause more than crashes; they are also responsible for systemic social and environmental consequences at every level. Of course, this is exactly the kind of self-interested myopia we should expect from a tech executive under fire.

Advertisement

Beyond pushing back against critical reporting, however, an initiative like Project Amplify should be understood as Facebook attempting to pave the way for its deeper penetration into every facet of our reality. After all, when asked last year by Congress why Facebook is not a monopoly, Zuckerberg said it’s because he views all possible modes of “people connecting with other people” as a form of competition for his business. And if we know anything about Facebook, they are very good at capturing market share and crushing competitors – no matter what it takes.

See also  Facebook asks: Are your friends becoming extremists?

Facebook needs users to form an intimate relationship with the platform. In quick succession this summer, it announced two new products that represent the company’s next planned phase of existence – both its own and ours.

First is the “metaverse”. Named after an explicitly dystopian sci-fi idea, the metaverse is, for now, pitched as essentially a virtual reality office – accessed through VR goggles like Facebook Oculus – where you go to see colleagues, attend meetings, and give presentations without having to leave home. Zuckerberg proclaimed that over the next five years, Facebook “will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”

Second is Ray-Ban Stories, Facebook’s attempt to succeed where Google Glass failed. Ray-Ban Stories are pitched as a frictionless way to stay constantly connected to Facebook and Instagram without that pesky smartphone getting in the way. Now you can achieve the dream of sharing every moment of your day with Facebook – and the valuable data produced from it – without ever needing to think about it.

Importantly, access to both kinds of reality – virtual and augmented – are mediated by Facebook. The executives at Facebook would like you to believe that the company is now a permanent fixture in society. That a platform primarily designed to supercharge targeted advertisements has earned the right to mediate not just our access to information or connection but our perception of reality. And Facebook’s aggressive attempts to combat any scepticism, combined with its reality-shaping ambitions, shows how desperate it is to convince us to accept the social poison it peddles and ask for more.

Advertisement

Days before Facebook’s latest congressional hearing – this time on the mental impacts of Instagram on teenagers – Mosseri announced his team was pausing Instagram Kids, a service aimed at people under 13 years old, and developing “parental supervision tools”. It seems yet again that they will do the bare minimum only when forced to do so. Speaking about this change of direction in her Senate hearing, Haugen was sceptical: “I would be sincerely surprised if they do not continue working on Instagram Kids, and I would be amazed if a year from now we don’t have this conversation again.”

See also  Admins reflect on nostalgic Facebook page - Eagle News Online

For Facebook, all this negative attention amounts to an image problem: bad publicity that can be counteracted by good propaganda. For the rest of us, this is indicative that Facebook doesn’t just have a problem; Facebook is the problem. Ultimately, an overwhelming case is growing against Facebook’s right to even exist, let alone continue enjoying unrestricted operation and expansion.

We must not forget that Facebook is still young. It was founded in 2004, but didn’t really come into itself, becoming the behemoth we know today, until going public in 2012, buying Instagram for $1bn (£760m) that same year and then acquiring WhatsApp for $19bn two years later. True to its original informal motto – “Move fast and break things” – Facebook has wasted no time wreaking a well-documented path of destruction.

When Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp temporarily went offline this week due to a technical problem, we saw just how dependent we have already become on these services for so many everyday activities. It was a shock to suddenly be without them. The company would probably see this as evidence that our lives are too intertwined with its services for them to ever go away. But, as the company has proven time and time again, our interests and its interests are rarely aligned. We should instead recognise that allowing a rapacious company to design and own critical infrastructure with zero accountability is the worst of all possible options.

If its executives want to compare social media to cars, then at the very least this dangerous technology must be subjected to the same level of heavy regulation and independent oversight as the automotive industry. Otherwise, Facebook must be reminded that it’s not too late for the public to pull the plug on this social experiment gone wrong. Right now, almost any alternative would be better.

Advertisement
  • Jathan Sadowski is a research fellow in the emerging technologies research lab at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Read More

FACEBOOK

Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Published

on

By

Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

See also  Facebook to pay $650 million settlement to users over photo tagging

Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Advertisement

Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

Continue Reading

FACEBOOK

Facebook Owner Meta Launches New Platform, Safety Hub to Protect Women in India

Published

on

By

Meta Image

Meta (formerly Facebook) on Thursday announced a slew of steps to protect woman users on its platform, including the launch of StopNCII.org in India that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

Meta has also launched the Women’s Safety Hub, which will be available in Hindi and 11 other Indian languages, that will enable more women users in India to access information about tools and resources that can help them make the most of their social media experience, while staying safe online.

This initiative by Meta will ensure women do not face a language barrier in accessing information Karuna Nain, director (global safety policy) at Meta Platforms, told reporters here.

“Safety is an integral part of Meta’s commitment to building and offering a safe online experience across the platforms and over the years the company has introduced several industry leading initiatives to protect users online.

“Furthering our effort to bolster the safety of users, we are bringing in a number of initiatives to ensure online safety of women on our platforms,” she added.

Advertisement

StopNCII.org is a platform that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

“It gives victims control. People can come to this platform proactively, hash their intimate videos and images, share their hashes back with the platform and participating companies,” Nain said.

She explained that the platform doesn’t receive any photos and videos, and instead what they get is the hash or unique digital fingerprint/unique identifier that tells the company that this is a known piece of content that is violating. “We can proactively keep a lookout for that content on our platforms and once it”s uploaded, our review team check what”s really going on and take appropriate action if it violates our policies,” she added.

See also  Facebook to pay $650 million settlement to users over photo tagging

In partnership with UK Revenge Porn Helpline, StopNCII.org builds on Meta’s NCII Pilot, an emergency programme that allows potential victims to proactively hash their intimate images so they can”t be proliferated on its platforms.

The first-of-its-kind platform, has partnered with global organisations to support the victims of NCII. In India, the platform has partnered with organisations such as Social Media Matters, Centre for Social Research, and Red Dot Foundation.

Advertisement

Nain added that the company is hopeful that this becomes an industrywide initiative, so that victims can just come to this one central place to get help and support and not have to go to each and every tech platform, one by one to get help and support.

Also, Bishakha Datta (executive editor of Point of View) and Jyoti Vadehra from Centre for Social Research are the first Indian members in Meta”s Global Women”s Safety Expert Advisors. The group comprises 12 other non-profit leaders, activists, and academic experts from different parts of the world and consults Meta in the development of new policies, products and programmes to better support women on its apps.

“We are confident that with our ever-growing safety measures, women will be able to enjoy a social experience which will enable them to learn, engage and grow without any challenges.

“India is an important market for us and bringing Bishakha and Jyoti onboard to our Women”s Safety Expert Advisory Group will go a long way in further enhancing our efforts to make our platforms safer for women in India,” Nain said.

See also  ELI5: RocksDB - Fast Data Storage

Advertisement
Continue Reading

FACEBOOK

Facebook Adds New Trend Insights in Creator Studio, Which Could Help Shape Your Posting Strategy

Published

on

By

facebook-adds-new-trend-insights-in-creator-studio,-which-could-help-shape-your-posting-strategy
en flag
sv flag

Facebook’s looking to provide more content insight within Creator Studio with the rollout of a new ‘Inspiration Hub’ element, which highlights trending content and hashtags within categories related to your business Page.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when it becomes available to you, you’ll be able to access the new Inspiration Hub from the Home tab in Creator Studio.

At the right side of the screen, you can see the first of the new insights, with trending hashtags and videos from the last 24 hours, posted by Pages similar to yours, displayed above a ‘See more’ prompt.

When you tap through to the new hub, you’ll have a range of additional filters to check out trending content from across Facebook, including Page category, content type, region, and more.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

That could be hugely valuable in learning what Facebook users are responding to, and what people within your target market are engaging with in the app.

Advertisement

The Hub also includes insights into trending hashtags, within your chosen timeframe, which may further assist in tapping into trending discussions.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

How valuable hashtags are on Facebook is still up for debate, but you’ll also note that you can filter the displayed results by platform, so you can additionally display Instagram hashtag trends as well, which could be very valuable in maximizing your reach.

Much of this type of info has been available within CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform for journalists, for some time, but not everyone can access CrowdTangle data, which could make this an even more valuable proposition for many marketers.

See also  3 Reasons to Buy Facebook, and 1 Reason to Sell | The Motley Fool

Of course, overall performance really relates to your own creative, and thinking through the action that you want your audience to take when reading your posts. But in terms of detecting new content trends, including hashtag usage, caption length, videos versus image posts, and more, there’s a lot that could be gleaned from these tools and filters.

It’s a significant analytics addition – we’ve asked Facebook for more info on the rollout of the new option, and whether it’s already beyond test mode, etc. We’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending