Social Networks

Mark Zuckerberg Is Working On a Way To Connect You To People You 'Should' Know (recode.net) 134

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday shared some of what he has learned from his early trips around the country. Recode adds: The actual crux of the post comes later when Zuckerberg writes why he's taking on this new challenge. Basically: He's not running for office, he wants to find ways to strengthen Facebook's "community." Mark said, "I also think this is an area where Facebook can make a difference. Some of you have asked if this challenge means I'm running for public office. I'm not. I'm doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we're best serving our community of almost 2 billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. In many ways, relationships are the most important things in our lives -- whether we're trying to form healthy habits, stay out of trouble, or find better opportunities. And yet, research shows the average American has fewer than three close friends we can turn to for support." To make that difference Zuckerberg is talking about, he said that Facebook is helping people find people they already know but is also working on a way to connect you with people that you should know like mentors.
Social Networks

Facebook Flooded With 'Sextortion' and Revenge Porn, Files Reveal (theguardian.com) 54

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook had to assess nearly 54,000 potential cases of revenge pornography and "sextortion" on the site in a single month, according to a leaked document. Figures shared with staff reveal that in January Facebook had to disable more than 14,000 accounts related to these types of sexual abuse -- and 33 of the cases reviewed involved children. The company relies on users to report most abusive content, meaning the real scale of the problem could be much greater. But the Guardian has been told that moderators find Facebook's policies on sexual content the hardest to follow. "Sexual policy is the one where moderators make most mistakes," said a source. "It is very complex." Facebook admitted this was a high priority area and that it was using "image-matching" software to stop explicit content getting on to the site. It also acknowledged it was difficult to draw a line between acceptable and unacceptable sexual content.
Science

'Science Must Clean Up Its Act' (scientificamerican.com) 546

Our science community still struggles with diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, including systemic bias, harassment, and discrimination among other things, writes Heather Metcalf, mathematician, computer scientist, social scientist, and also the director of research for the Association for Women in Science. From her piece, in which she has shared both personal anecdotes and general examples, for the Scientific American: [...] Take the recent March for Science. Nearly two weeks ago, scientists and science supporters gathered in Washington, D.C, and around the globe to stand up for "robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity" and put forth a vision of science that "serves the interests of all humans, not just those in power." However, in its attempts to remain apolitical and objective, the march focused primarily on funding and communication aspects of its mission while losing sight of the need for a science that addresses human freedom and prosperity for all, not just the privileged. [...] In the early days of its organizing, the march offered up a strong statement of solidarity acknowledging the complacency with which the scientific community as a whole has handled issues that primarily impact marginalized communities: "many issues about which scientists as a group have largely remained silent -- attacks on black and brown lives, oil pipelines through indigenous lands, sexual harassment and assault, ADA access in our communities, immigration policy, lack of clean water in several cities across the country, poverty wages, LGBTQIA rights, and mass shootings are scientific issues. Science has historically -- and generally continues to support discrimination. In order to move forward as a scientific community, we must address and actively work to unlearn our problematic past and present, to make science available to everyone." This messaging was removed and replaced after much pushback, largely from white men, about the need to remain apolitical and objective. These debates resulted in many women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ scientists, and their allies feeling ostracized and even receiving disrespectful and hateful messages about their place in science generally and in M4S specifically. Rather than standing up for a science that is available to everyone, these conversations and the march itself merely served represent an exclusionary science by reinforcing longstanding, divisive norms within the scientific community, all in the name of objectivity..
United States

Is Russia Conducting A Social Media War On America? (time.com) 457

An anonymous reader writes: Time magazine ran a cover story about "a dangerous new route for antidemocratic forces" -- social media. "Using these technologies, it is possible to undermine democratic government, and it's becoming easier every day," says Rand Waltzman of the Rand Corp., who ran a major Pentagon research program to understand the propaganda threats posed by social media technology." The article cites current and former FBI and CIA officials who now believe Russia's phishing emails against politicians were "just the most visible battle in an ongoing information war against global democracy." They cite, for example, a March report by U.S. counterintelligence which found "Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department." Each message contained links tailored to the interests of the recipient, but "When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow's hackers to take control of the victim's phone or computer -- and Twitter account...

"In 2016, Russia had used thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect. Now counterintelligence officials wondered: What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States?" The article also notes how algorithms now can identify hot-button issues and people susceptible to suggestion, so "Propagandists can then manually craft messages to influence them, deploying covert provocateurs, either humans or automated computer programs known as bots, in hopes of altering their behavior. That is what Moscow is doing, more than a dozen senior intelligence officials and others investigating Russia's influence operations tell Time."

The article describes a Russian soldier in the Ukraine pretending to be a 42-year-old American housewife. Meanwhile, this week Time's cover shows America's White House halfway-covered with Kremlin-esque spires -- drawing a complaint from the humorists at Mad magazine, who say Time copied the cover of Mad's December issue.
Government

UK Conservatives Pledge To Create Government-Controlled Internet (independent.co.uk) 186

Martin S. writes: Theresa May, the leader of the UK Conservative Party has pledged to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government on re-election. An early lead in the polls appears to be slipping but not slowly enough to change the result. Social Media has rapidly become an intense political battlefield. Known as #Mayhem in some circles, but seemingly able to command significant support from new and old media. Also, applying new social media analytics. According to the manifesto, the plans will allow Britain to become "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet." It states, "Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet... We disagree."
AT&T

About 37,000 AT&T Workers Go On Three-Day Strike (reuters.com) 23

Roughly 37,000 AT&T workers -- less than 14 percent of the company's total workforce -- began a three-day strike on Friday after failing to reach an agreement with the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier over new contracts. Reuters reports: This is the first time that AT&T wireless workers are on strike, which could result in closed retail stores during the weekend, according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. The workers on strike are members of the CWA. The workers are demanding wage increases that cover rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, affordable healthcare and a fair scheduling policy. Slightly over half of the workers on strike are part of the wireless segment and the rest wireline workers, including a small number of DirecTV technicians, AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Reuters. The CWA had said on Wednesday that wireless workers across 36 states and Washington, D.C. would walk-off their jobs if an agreement was not reached by Friday 3 p.m. ET.
China

A Tip for Apple in China: Your Hunger for Revenue May Cost You (wsj.com) 57

Li Yuan, writing for the WSJ: Apple's latest predicament centers on its App Store. Last month, Apple told several Chinese social-networking apps, including the wildly popular messaging platform WeChat, to disable their "tip" functions to comply with App Store rules (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), according to executives at WeChat and other companies. That function allows users to send authors and other content creators tips, from a few yuan to hundreds, via transfers from mobile-wallet accounts. Those transfers are offered by the social-networking apps free of charge, as a way to inspire user engagement. Now, those tips will be considered in-app purchases, just like buying games, music and videos, entitling Apple to a 30% cut. For Apple, which has been observing slowing growth in mature markets, China is increasingly becoming important. But the company's my way or high-way approach might hurt the company's image in China. And that image as well as fortunes of local companies, is what the Chinese authorities deeply care about. As Yuan adds, "while it's understandable that Apple wants to tap the App Store for more money, its pressure on the app platforms risks alienating powerful Chinese companies, turning off Chinese iPhone users and drawing unnecessary attention from the regulators." Executives of these IM messaging apps tell WSJ that Apple has threatened that it would kick their apps out of the App Store if they don't comply. The problem is, WeChat is way more popular in China than Apple -- or its iPhones or its services or both combined, analysts say. WeChat is insanely popular in China, and people love to use the app to pay for things they purchase and send money to friends. Apple's greed could end up resulting in millions of new Android users, analysts said.
Social Networks

Facebook and Twitter 'Harm Young People's Mental Health' (theguardian.com) 120

Instagram and Snapchat are really bad for young people's mental health, according to research by two health organisations. Virtually all major social media platforms have a negative impact on the well-being of 14-24-year-olds, the study adds. Instagram was the worst -- followed by Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. From a report on The Guardian: Instagram has the most negative impact on young people's mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people's feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact. The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children's and young people's body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.
Social Networks

Facebook Now Battles Clickbait On a Post-by-Post Basis (engadget.com) 45

Facebook is taking further steps to decrease the reach and prevalence of clickbait headlines on its social network. Facebook says it will target clickbait on an individual post level and not just by analyzing the bulk posts of a page. It will also look at two distinct signals: whether a headline "withholds information or if it exaggerates information separately." From a report: This should "more precisely" downplay the number of misleading stories cluttering your timeline, the social network says. Moreover, it's promising a more exacting approach when it looks at individual headlines. Until now, Facebook examined clickbait titles in a holistic way: it looked for both the exaggerated language ("you have to see this!") and deliberate attempts to withhold info ("eat this every day").
Twitter

Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone Is Returning to the Company (techcrunch.com) 35

After leaving Twitter in 2011 to pursue new projects, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has announced that he's returning to the company to "guide company culture." Stone said in a statement: "It's important that everyone understands the whole story of Twitter and each of our roles in that story. I'll shape the experience internally so it's also felt outside the company." TechCrunch reports: About a month ago Stone sold his most recent startup, Jelly, to Pinterest. He said at the time that he wasn't required to stay on with Pinterest, so was available for new opportunities. Stone said he was recently back at Twitter as a "special guest" for an event open to employees, where current CEO and fellow co-founder Jack Dorsey -- another founder who left and then returned -- asked him onstage if he wanted to come back and work at Twitter. After some employee cheers, and a private clarification that Jack was in fact being serious, he accepted. Twitter diehards are reacting positively to the news -- many think that Twitter needs to get back to its roots, and what better way to do it than bringing back a co-founder? The market also seems to be happy. TWTR stock immediately jumped 2 percent on the news, reaching a three-month high of $19.62.
Businesses

UploadVR Had a 'Kink Room,' Pressured Female Employees To 'Microdose,' Alleges Lawsuit (gizmodo.com) 444

The virtual-reality company UploadVR is being sued by the company's former Director of Digital and Social Media for rampant sexual harassment. According to Gizmodo, "the lawsuit alleges that the company's employees and founders created a hostile work environment in which sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation occurred on a regular basis." From the report: In the suit documents, the former Director of Digital and Social Media for UploadVR claims that the office environment was a "boy's club" that employees expressly referred to as a "boy's club." From the suit: "Specifically, the male employees of UploadVR, including Mason and Freeman, would discuss their sexual exploits in graphic detail at the workplace in front of Plaintiff and other female employees. For instance, UploadVR employee [name redacted]'s sex life was a frequent topic of conversation. The other male employees would talk about how he 'refuses to wear a condom' and 'has had sex with over 1000 people.'" The documents also claim that employees were engaged in Silicon Valley's hot new trend of "microdosing" and "using Marijuana in the office." When female employees didn't want to participate, they would be ostracized by the male employees and excluded from important meetings and lunches.
Microsoft

Microsoft Job Posting Hints At VR MMO (roadtovr.com) 18

sqorbit writes: Microsoft has posted a job opening for a Senior Design Manager for a mixed-reality team. The posting states they are "looking to build a massively social gaming and entertainment experience for both the PC and the console." It looks like they are targeting both PC and Xbox Platforms for a VR socially geared development project. The requirements: "The Xbox Mixed Reality team is looking for an experienced senior design manager with deep expertise and passion around crafting immersive social systems and experiences. [...] Here is an opportunity to join a fun and collaborative team that experiments with the latest toys, works with state of the art tech, and crafts the future of entertainment." Road to VR notes that the company says they're looking for someone who has "Shipped at least 3 AAA consumer entertainment products" and has 7+ years using design tools; bonus points if they've got experience in "NUI, VR, AR, game design, art direction, and video storytelling."
United Kingdom

British PM Candidate Promises Social Media Crackdown (politico.eu) 218

Theresa May's party "is expected to win a majority at the June 8 election," reports Reuters -- and she's promising they'll pass new social media laws. An anonymous reader quotes Politico: They want to introduce a new measure that could fine or punish internet firms which fail to adequately flag and take down content harmful to minors or "direct users unintentionally to hate speech, pornography or other sources of harm," according to a press release. "The internet has brought a wealth of opportunity but also significant new risks which have evolved faster than society's response to them," May said. "We want social media companies to do more to help redress the balance and will take action to make sure they do"... The Conservative digital platform also promises to better protect Brits' personal information, compelling social media companies to trash user records from before the age of 18. The party plans to encourage the development of digital by default government and business services, as well.
Music

The Failed Experiment of the Digital Album Booklet (theoutline.com) 82

An anonymous reader writes: Before the ubiquity of MP3s and streaming platforms, one of the many small joys of buying a new album on CD was slipping the booklet out of the jewel case and reading the liner notes, credits, and lyrics while the music played for the first time. These days, the biographical information, album production notes, promotional photos, and printed lyrics that fans once relied on physical literature for have found homes in other areas online. Artist websites, social media accounts, and sites like Genius and WhoSampled offer a patchwork of album information, like credits and clues to what happened behind the scenes. But those details rarely exist in one place, and production and songwriting credits seem less and less important. Meanwhile, the form that was intended to replace the traditional booklet, the digital booklet, remains a rarity when it comes to new releases. The idea of digital album booklets may appeal to only the nerdiest of music fans, for whom having everything in one place is a ritualistic way to listen to music and for whom album credits are crucial. But in an age where branding is often as important as skill, the lack of digital booklets feels like a wasted opportunity for artists wanting to communicate directly to fans without a social network as a middleman.
Patents

Cloudflare Declares War On a Patent Troll With a $50,000 Bounty (fortune.com) 54

Internet security company Cloudflare has declared war on a company called Blackbird that consists of a group of lawyers who file patent lawsuits against tech and retail firms. In a blog post titled "Standing Up to a Dangerous New Breed of Patent Troll," Cloudflare called Blackbird's business model destruction and unethical, and announced a $50,000 bounty to anyone who would help invalidate Blackbird's patents. Fortune reports: "There's no social value here. There's no support for a maligned inventor. There's no competing business or product. There's no validation of an incentive structure that supports innovation. This is a shakedown where a patent troll, Blackbird Tech, creates as much nuisance as it can so its attorney-principals can try to grab some cash. Cloudflare does not intend to play along," said the blog post. While patent trolling has been around for years -- and is a particular bug bear of the tech industry -- Cloudflare says Blackbird's model of trolling involves a new and unethical twist. Specifically, the company says Blackbird's lawyer-executives are violating their professional obligations by buying the claims of potential clients and engaging in questionable fee-splitting arrangements. Here is how Cloudflare, which says it is filing complaints with the state bars of Massachusetts and Illinois, explains it: "Blackbird's 'new model' seems to be only that its operations set out to distort the traditional Attorney-Client relationship. Blackbird's website makes a direct pitch of its legal services to recruit clients with potential claims and then, instead of taking them on as a client, purchases their claims and provides additional consideration that likely gives the client an ongoing interest in the resulting litigation. In doing so, Blackbird is flouting its ethical obligations meant to protect clients and distorting the judicial process by obfuscating and limiting potential counterclaims against the real party in interest."
Businesses

Amazon Is the 2nd Most Popular App Among Teens, Says Study (cnbc.com) 56

An anonymous reader writes: When it comes to apps they're using these days, teens and millennials say Snapchat is king -- no surprise there. But second place? It's not Instagram: It's Amazon. This is according to a survey -- The 2017 Love List Brand Affinity Index, run by Conde Nast and Goldman Sachs -- that asked 2,345 U.S. millennial and Gen Z shoppers about their fashion, retail and consumer preferences. The survey skewed towards younger consumers. One question asked which apps they were using currently that they weren't using a few months ago: Snapchat and Amazon came in first and second. (Other popular apps -- Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest -- came in third, fourth and fifth respectively.) "Users are looking for efficiency, speed and convenience, and Amazon hits all those buckets," said Conde Nast chief marketing officer Pam Drucker Mann told CNBC. On a side note, it appears people generally don't have many gripes with Amazon. Early results of our poll from Wednesday suggests Amazon is the last company (of the five tech giants) whose services people are keen on ditching. Also, regardless of how some of us feel about Snapchat, the company seems to be a hit among teenagers.
Facebook

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel Is Not Afraid of Facebook (recode.net) 42

An anonymous reader writes: Snap CEO Evan Spiegel addressed on Wednesday what many have been hoping he would address for months: What he thinks about Facebook and the fact the social giant is copying all of Snapchat's best features. On Snap's Q1 earnings call Wednesday, Spiegel was asked bluntly: "Does Facebook scare you? Why or why not?" Spiegel laughed. Then talked about how important it is to be creative. Then said this: "At the end of the day, just because Yahoo, for example, has a search box, it doesn't mean they're Google." Fun fact: Yahoo is an investor in Snap.
United Kingdom

Call Center Operator and His Cousin Steal $645,000 From UK Water Supplier (bleepingcomputer.com) 97

An anonymous reader writes: "An unnamed UK-based regional water supply company lost over $645,000 in a sophisticated scam that involved social engineering, an inside man, and international bank transfers," reports BleepingComputer. According to a recently disclosed report, one of the water supplier's call center operators was taking screenshots of customer details and sending this data to his cousin in the UK. This person would trick other call center operators to reset the passwords for those accounts, add his bank account info to the account, and request a refund for previous transactions. Their operation was discovered after customers, usually small-to-medium businesses, discovered they couldn't access their accounts anymore, and also reported new bank account details. A search of the CRM logs revealed that only one call center operator had accessed those profiles, albeit he never initiated or approved refunds. When questioned, the arrogant employee signed an affidavit allowing investigators to search his home PC, thinking they would never discover anything, since he already wiped his hard drive. They did because he forgot to delete his shadow volume copies, where investigators discovered copies of emails sent to his cousin in the UK. These emails contained the screenshots of his work PC with SMB client data. In the end, the call center employee ended up helping authorities secure a conviction for his cousin.
Advertising

Facebook Downranks News Feed Links To Crappy Sites Smothered In Ads (techcrunch.com) 95

Facebook's New Feed algorithm is targeting links that send people to crappy websites filled with advertisements. According to their blog post, Facebook defines a "low-quality site" as one "containing little substantive content, and that is covered in disruptive, shocking or malicious ads." TechCrunch reports: The change could help Facebook fight fake news, as fakers are often financially motivated and blanket their false information articles in ads. High-quality sites may see a slight boost in referral traffic, while crummy sites will see a decline as the update rolls out gradually over the coming months. Facebook tells me that the change will see it refuse an immaterial number of ad impressions that earned it negligible amounts of money, so it shouldn't have a significant impact on Facebook's revenue. Facebook product manager for News Feed Greg Marra tells me Facebook made the decision based on surveys of users about what disturbed their News Feed experience. One pain point they commonly cited was links that push them to "misleading, sensational, spammy, or otherwise low-quality experiences... [including] sexual content, shocking content, and other things that are going to be really disruptive." Today's change is important because if users don't trust the content on the other side of the links and ads they see in News Feed, they'll click them less. That could reduce Facebook's advertising revenue and the power it derives from controlling referral traffic. Getting sent to a low-quality, shocking site from News Feed could also frustrate users and cause them to end their Facebook browsing session, depriving the social network of further ad views, engagement and content sharing.
Google

'Google Is As Close To a Natural Monopoly As the Bell System Was In 1956' (promarket.org) 248

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProMarket: In terms of market share and profit margins, the big digital platforms, particularly Google and Facebook, enjoy an astounding level of dominance. Google, in effect the world's largest media company, has an 88 percent market share in search advertising. Facebook (including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp) controls over 70 percent of social media on mobile devices. Together, the two firms received 85 cents of every new dollar spent in online advertising in the first quarter of 2016. Amazon has an over 70 percent share in the e-book market. Along with Apple and Microsoft, they are now the most valuable companies (in terms of market capitalization) in the world. The rise of digital platforms has had profound political, economic, and social effects, not least of which on the creators of content. While the internet brought immense benefits to consumers of content, the so-called "creative class" -- authors, journalists, filmmakers, musicians, artists -- has been particularly ravaged by the digital economy. This ravaging, and its roots in the monopolization of content delivery and data in the hands of a few digital giants, are at the heart of the new book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by media scholar Jonathan Taplin. In the book, Taplin explores the way in which the internet came to be dominated by a handful of monopoly platforms, and the subsequent capturing of regulators that has since all but ensured their dominance would not be challenged in court. In an interview with ProMarket, Taplin said in response to a question: "I would say Google is as close to a natural monopoly as the Bell System was in 1956. If you came to me and said 'Hey, I want to start a company to compete with Google in search,' I would say you're out of your mind and don't waste your energy or your time or your money, there's just no way. Classic economics would say that if there's a business in which there are 35 percent net margins, that would attract a huge amount of new capital to capture some of that, and none of that has happened. That tells you there's something wrong."

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