Section 230 Is a Government License to Build Rage Machines

from Wired Facebook has been called the “ largest piece of the QAnon infrastructure.” The app has not only hosted plenty of the conspiracy group’s dark and dangerous content, it has also promoted and expanded its audience. QAnon is hardly the only beneficiary: Facebook promotes and expands the audience of militia organizers, racists, those who seek to spread disinformation to voters, and a host of other serious troublemakers. The platform’s basic business, after all, is deciding which content keeps people most engaged, even if it undermines civil society. But unlike most other businesses, Facebook’s most profitable operations benefit from a […]

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Mark Zuckerberg Is the Most Powerful Unelected Man in America

from NYTs On Thursday, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, announced the company’s “New Steps to Protect the U.S. Elections.” They include blocking new political ads in the week leading up to Election Day and attaching labels to posts containing misinformation, specifically related to the coronavirus and posts from politicians declaring victory before all the results are counted. One can — and many will — debate just how effective these measures will be at preventing election night chaos during a pandemic. (So far Facebook’s “misleading post” labels are vague to the point of causing additional confusion for voters. Similarly, blocking new […]

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We Can Have Social Media As We Know It, Or We Can Have Democracy

from Fast Company In early September, President Trump retweeted a video allegedly showing an “black lives matter/antifa” activist pushing a woman into a subway car. The video is nearly a year old, and the man in question was mentally ill and had no connection to either group. As a researcher studying social media, propaganda, and politics in 2016, I thought I’d seen it all. At the time, while working at University of Oxford, I was in the thick of analyzing Twitter bot campaigns pushing #Proleave messaging during Brexit. As a research fellow at Google’s thinktank Jigsaw that same year, I […]

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PSA: You Can Now Clear Your Facebook History, Disconnecting Apps And Websites

from Fast Times After a delay caused by a court case last year, you’ll now be able to clear your Facebook history – or, more precisely, force Facebook to forget everything it knows about your off-Facebook activity thanks to connections with apps and websites… Facebook first promised the feature back in 2018. In a post on the platform today, Mark Zuckerberg noted: “You’ll be able to see information about the apps and websites you’ve interacted with, and you’ll be able to clear this information from your account. You’ll even be able to turn off having this information stored with your […]

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Facebook’s Oversight Board Bylaws: For Once, Moving Slowly

from Lawfare As America’s longest-serving member of Congress once said, “I’ll let you write the substance … and you let me write the procedure, and I’ll screw you every time.” This wisecrack explains why the newly released bylaws for Facebook’s Oversight Board are important. Facebook announced in 2018 that it would be setting up the board as an independent institution to review the company’s decisions about what is or is not allowed on its services. Last year, Facebook released its global consultation report and final charter for the board. As I wrote at the time, those documents were high level […]

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Nothing Lasts Forever— Not Even On The Internet.

from NYTs Social media is broken. It has poisoned the way we communicate with each other and undermined the democratic process. Many of us just want to get away from it, but we can’t imagine a world without it. Though we talk about reforming and regulating it, “fixing” it, those of us who grew up on the internet know there’s no such thing as a social network that lasts forever. Facebook and Twitter are slowly imploding. And before they’re finally dead, we need to think about what the future will be like after social media so we can prepare for […]

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Building a World Where Data Privacy Exists Online

from NYTs Data is valuable — something that companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon realized far earlier than most consumers did. But computer scientists have been working on alternative models, even as the public has grown weary of having their data used and abused. Dawn Song, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the world’s foremost experts in computer security and trustworthy artificial intelligence, envisions a new paradigm in which people control their data and are compensated for its use by corporations. While there have been many proposals for such a system, Professor Song is one […]

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Whatsapp ‘Hack’ Is Serious Rights Violation, Say Alleged Victims

from The Guardian More than a dozen pro-democracy activists, journalists and academics have spoken out after WhatsApp privately warned them they had allegedly been the victims of cyber-attacks designed to secretly infiltrate their mobile phones. The individuals received alerts saying they were among more than 100 human rights campaigners whose phones were believed to have been hacked using malware sold by NSO Group, an Israeli cyberweapons company. WhatsApp launched an unprecedented lawsuit against the surveillance company earlier this week, claiming it had discovered more than 1,400 of its users were targeted by NSO technology in a two-week period in May. […]

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It’s Time to Push Tech Forward, and Rebuild What It Broke

from Wired In 1904, a group of Canadian workers began the hard slog of constructing the world’s longest bridge, across the Saint Lawrence River just south of the city of Quebec. It was a wildly ambitious project. And it wasn’t just for the Quebecois: Railroads were revolutionizing commerce and communications, and the bridge would connect people and allow trains to run from New Brunswick in the east to Winnipeg in the west. The river was 190 feet deep at the center, and ice piled high above the water’s surface in the winter. Nothing about the bridge’s construction would be easy. […]

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The Guy Who Wrote Facebook’s Content Rules Says Its Politician Hate Speech Exemption Is ‘Cowardice’

from Wired Last Tuesday, Facebook vice president Nick Clegg announced that Facebook was going to give politicians more leeway than other users in using offensive speech, and their assertions would not be fact-checked. That set Dave Willner over the edge. Two nights later, Willner posted a long explanation—on Facebook, of course—attacking the policy. The 35-year-old tech worker described the social network’s new stance as “foolish, wrong, and a significant betrayal of the original democratizing ideals of Facebook.” That essay is notable not just for its well-argued points but for who wrote it: Dave Willner is Facebook’s former head of content […]

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Google Antitrust Investigation Outlined by State Attorneys General

from NYTs The state attorneys general from four dozen states officially declared on Monday that they were beginning investigations into the market power and corporate behavior of big tech companies. The formal declaration, delivered from the steps of the United States Supreme Court by a bipartisan group of state officials, adds investigative muscle and political momentum to the intensifying scrutiny of the tech giants by federal watchdog agencies and Congress. The states are focusing on two targets: Facebook and Google. More here.

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Fearing 2020 ‘Deepfakes,’ Facebook Will Launch Industry AI ‘Challenge’

from Fast Company Facebook wants to be ready for a deepfake outbreak on its social network. So the company has started an industry group to foster the development of new detection tools to spot the fraudulent videos. A deepfake video presents a realistic AI-generated image of a real person saying or doing fictional things. Perhaps the most famous such video to date portrayed Barack Obama calling Donald Trump a “dipshit.” Facebook is creating a “Deepfake Detection Challenge,” which will offer grants and awards in excess of $10 million to people developing promising detection tools. The social network is teaming up with Microsoft and […]

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Facebook’s Role in Brexit

from TED In an unmissable talk, journalist Carole Cadwalladr digs into one of the most perplexing events in recent times: the UK’s super-close 2016 vote to leave the European Union. Tracking the result to a barrage of misleading Facebook ads targeted at vulnerable Brexit swing voters — and linking the same players and tactics to the 2016 US presidential election — Cadwalladr calls out the “gods of Silicon Valley” for being on the wrong side of history and asks: Are free and fair elections a thing of the past? ?   More here.

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The Only Way To Rein In Big Tech Is To Treat Them As A Public Service

from The Guardian After years of praising their virtues, governments across the world are belatedly waking up to the problems posed by big tech. From India and Australia to France and America – and now the UK, with its report from the Digital Competition Expert Panel – politicians have been reckoning with how to mitigate the harms of the world’s largest technology platforms. And they all seem to arrive at the same answer: competition is the magic mechanism that will somehow tame the giants, unleash innovation and fix our digital world. But what if competition is the problem rather than […]

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15 Months Of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook

from Wired THE STREETS OF Davos, Switzerland, were iced over on the night of January 25, 2018, which added a slight element of danger to the prospect of trekking to the Hotel Seehof for George Soros’ annual banquet. The aged financier has a tradition of hosting a dinner at the World Economic Forum, where he regales tycoons, ministers, and journalists with his thoughts about the state of the world. That night he began by warning in his quiet, shaking Hungarian accent about nuclear war and climate change. Then he shifted to his next idea of a global menace: Google and […]

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How Cambridge Analytica Sparked The Great Privacy Awakening

from Wired ON OCTOBER 27, 2012, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote an email to his then-director of product development. For years, Facebook had allowed third-party apps to access data on their users’ unwitting friends, and Zuckerberg was considering whether giving away all that information was risky. In his email, he suggested it was not: “I’m generally skeptical that there is as much data leak strategic risk as you think,” he wrote at the time. “I just can’t think of any instances where that data has leaked from developer to developer and caused a real issue for us.” If Zuckerberg had […]

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Legal Scholar Tim Wu Says The US Must Enforce Antitrust Laws

from Wired LAST WEEK, PRESIDENTIAL candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) announced an ambitious plan to break up big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon and block them from selling their own products on their platforms. Warren called out Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp and Google’s acquisition of online advertising giant DoubleClick as examples of the deals she’d like to see reversed. But why were these companies allowed to grow so big—and these purchases allowed—in the first place? In his book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, published in November, legal scholar Tim Wu explains […]

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Germany Has Ordered Facebook To Rein In Its Data Collection

From recode German regulators are trying to clamp down on Facebook’s data collection practices — a move that could force Facebook to make technical changes to its app in order to continue operating in the country. The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office in charge of antitrust laws, restricted Facebook from “[merging] user data from various sources,” the office announced Thursday. Essentially, it wants to block Facebook from combining user data that it collects through its other apps, like WhatsApp and Instagram, with data on Facebook. This would also restrict Facebook from collecting and combining any “data collected on third-party websites,” such […]

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How to Stop Facebook’s Dangerous App Integration Ploy

From NYTs In response to calls that Facebook be forced to divest itself of WhatsApp and Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg has instead made a strategic power grab: He intends to put Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger onto a unified technical infrastructure. The integrated apps are to be encrypted to protect users from hackers. But who’s going to protect users from Facebook? Ideally, that would be the Federal Trade Commission, the agency charged with enforcing the antitrust laws and protecting consumers from unfair business practices. But the F.T.C. has looked the other way for far too long, failing to enforce its own 2011 consent decree under which Facebook was […]

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