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Posts tagged ‘Facebook’


Facebook’s Slack competitor may be coming next month

With nearly two years of development and 450 companies already on board, Facebook at Work is gearing up for a commercial launch of its in-house social network and communications platform for companies. According to a report from The Information, the service will launch next month and the social network will charge a set monthly fee per active user.

Although Facebook hasn’t disclosed how much that will cost exactly, several people briefed on the launch say companies of any size will be able to sign up for Facebook at Work through the social network’s main site. Companies will also have a few months to try out the service before getting charged. With 5.25 million users already using the service, the executives in Menlo Park are hoping Facebook at Work will provide a much more steady revenue stream than the advertisements in the core product.

As we’ve seen during the trial run, Facebook at Work uses familiar communication tools like the News Feed, Groups, Events and a dedicated Messenger app, all powered by the same algorithm as Facebook itself, except dedicated to the chatter within your company rather than your friends and the general public. One interesting — and potentially dystopian — twist the company has reportedly been pitching alongside the Facebook at Work product is the potential to use artificial intelligence to determine employee sentiment. In other words, Facebook at Work will be able to learn how employees feel about topics within the company, so be careful what you say about the boss in those backchannel messages.

Source: The Information


Germany orders Facebook to stop collecting WhatsApp data

Germany has ordered Facebook to stop collecting WhatsApp data from users and delete all the information it has already collected. The Hamburg regulator said the social network hadn’t properly notified the nation’s 35 million WhatsApp users that it recently started gathering their data. “Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened,” said Commissioner Johannes Caspar.

After purchasing WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, Facebook said it would never sell “personally identifiable information” from users or otherwise change the app’s privacy policy. Late last month, however, it announced that WhatsApp would share phone numbers, profile data, status messages and more with its parent. That prompted critics in the US like the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) to accuse it Facebook of “lying” and violating an FTC order.

This is the first time a government regulator has waded into the dispute, though. Caspar said he was concerned that Zuckerberg and Co. could upload users’ WhatsApp contacts to Facebook, even if they’re not on the social network, a violation of German law. He added that even though Facebook hasn’t done that, “[this] is cause for concern that the gravity of the data protection breach will [be even more serious].”

Europe, and Germany especially, have strong privacy laws and frequently clash with Google, Facebook and other tech companies over the issue. Just last year, for instance, German courts ordered Facebook to allow pseudonyms instead of real names, something it has fought for a long time. Following the decree, Facebook told the New York Times that it had complied with European law and was willing to work with the Hamburg commissioner to deal with the issue.

Via: New York Times

Source: Hamburg Privacy Commissioner


Facebook briefly suspended accounts of Palestinian journalists

Last week, seven Palestinian editors from two different publications reported that they had been locked out of their personal Facebook accounts without notice or reason. The social giant told The Electronic Intifada that it was accidental and restored access to six of them by Saturday, though one remains suspended as of press time. But employees from both Shehab News Agency and Quds News Network doubt that their colleagues were banned in error. Rather, they have pointed to Facebook’s recent agreement with Israel earlier this month to jointly crack down on “incitement” by Palestinians on social media.

Accidental or not, temporarily banning journalist accounts chills a social media platform’s assumption of freedom of speech, especially if the suspensions are one-sided. Under the Israeli government’s conviction that some posts on networks have directly inflamed a new wave of attacks against Israelis since last October, they have pressured Facebook to delete such content. Soon, they might progress past asking, as the Israeli government continues drafting a law legally compelling social media companies to comply with their takedown requests.

As expected, the collaboration has raised concerns that Facebook has become complicit in silencing portions of its userbase. Facebook, along with Google and YouTube, has reportedly complied with 95 percent of the Israeli government’s requests to take down content it deemed would inspire more attacks. At least 100 Palestinians have been arrested for posting similar content since last November, according to the Israeli military. Sentences have varied, from days of house arrest to months in jail and the equivalent of thousands of dollars in fines.

Facebook has certainly been thrust into a complex geopolitical situation, but it’s been accused of censoring viewpoints before. No less than a Congressional committee and an internal investigation determined that, no, the network’s Trending Topics was not biased in its selections, and wasn’t muffling conservative voices. The censorship anxiety was so acute that Mark Zuckerberg himself came out to defend the news digest’s neutrality.

Seeing him stand up for equal conservative and liberal representation in Trending Topics while Facebook takes down most of the content that the Israeli government wants removed seems conflicting. But they aren’t the same: According to Al Jazeera, 230 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese have been killed since in the country and the West Bank since last October. Israel believes policing speech on the social network will prevent others from getting inspired to commit more attacks.

But what they consider “inciting” violence is broad. According to reports, it ranges in intensity. Some have been arrested for praising a bus bombing that injured 20 settlers to instructions on “how best to stab an Israeli.” Other statements fall more into what is usually considered free speech, from poems calling for resisting Israel to simply “disparaging authorities.” And the government legislation being developed would lower the threshold even further for what content they consider inflames further violence.

Under these circumstances of scrutiny, mistakenly suspending social media accounts from separate Palestinian news outlets is unfortunate at best. Ultimately, only those in legal control of the digital space can truly say whether the content of their posts got them banned. Facebook says the pages were accidentally removed after being flagged, and mistakes happen when their team processes millions of reports per week. When they realized the error, they restored access. But this is the fourth time Shehab News Agency”s accounts have been taken down in a year, they told Al Jazeera. Twice, those suspensions were permanent, and they had to entirely recreate their Facebook pages.

Engadget reached out to Facebook, which did not respond at press time.

Source: Al Jazeera


Why is the Oculus founder trying to bring hateful memes offline?

Online abuse and bullying have existed as long as the internet has, but it’s gone mainstream in a big way over the last few years. Perhaps not coincidentally, we’ve also spent the last year-plus subjected to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, an outing built on lies, harassment, intimidation and a whole host of other behavior not befitting a candidate for the country’s highest office.

These two trends collided late last week when it was revealed that Oculus VR founder and Facebook employee Palmer Luckey donated $10,000 to a pro-Trump group called Nimble America. The group’s stated purpose is to prove “shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real.” Thus far, there’s no evidence that Nimble America has been able to do anything aside from put up one insulting but fairly mild anti-Hillary Clinton billboard outside of Pittsburgh. Despite the group’s lack of impact thus far, the fact that Luckey found Nimble America worth supporting shows just how widespread trolling has become.

Campaign 2016 Trump

Luckey is, of course, well within his rights to support any group he sees fit. But the fact that he thinks bringing Reddit’s worst garbage to billboards for the world to see is, as he says in a Facebook post confirming his donation, a “fresh idea” speaks to just how ugly things have become in 2016 — both online and in the “real world.” In fact, there’s barely any distinction between the two at this point. Hate speech, whether offline or online, is becoming the best way to get what you want. It got Trump to the doorstep of the presidency, when everyone assumed he was a reality TV joke that would get bounced in the primaries.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the Nimble America controversy, here’s a quick recap. Last week, The Daily Beast reported that a Reddit poster under the pseudonym “NimbleRichMan” was providing funds for Nimble America, and Luckey confirmed that he wrote some of the posts published by that handle. Shortly after The Daily Beast published its report, the handle and posts were deleted.

This is a message from @PalmerLuckey, the founder of @Oculus.

— Cody Brown (@CodyBrown) September 23, 2016

The following day, Luckey apologized on his Facebook page for his actions “negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners.” He also confirmed that he donated $10,000 to Nimble America, said he was a Gary Johnson supporter and that he did not write the NimbleRichMan Reddit posts. But emails between Daily Beast reporter Gideon Resnick and Luckey make it sound as if he wrote the posts and wanted them posted under that handle, even if it wasn’t technically “his” Reddit account. The account may have been under the control of one of the Nimble America founders, but all evidence points to Luckey having written the posts in question.

“A generous understanding of the situation is that in other instances, besides the donation one, he was given a password and used the account occasionally,” Resnick told Motherboard. “So is there wiggle room in the sense that it’s not clear if he wrote each and every post? Perhaps. But he’s not telling the whole truth in terms of his involvement.”

Whether or not we ever hear of Nimble America again is beside the point — the intent of Luckey’s actions is far more significant. A contribution by a prominent employee at one of the world’s largest and most important companies adds an air of legitimacy that is entirely undeserved. The group isn’t interested in debating the issues or even releasing more traditional attack ads that go after a candidate’s background, temperament, behavior or policy positions. They’re trying to turn insulting, racist, sexist, politically incorrect memes into mass media. For now, these memes have been limited to the internet, but Nimble America wants to them to go mainstream.

The one billboard sign that has thus far been attributed to Nimble America says that Clinton is “too big to jail” alongside a grossly distorted image of her face. It’s possibly a reference to her considerable political stature insulating her from prosecution for misuse of a personal email server — but the picture makes it an attack on her looks, as well. Nimble America’s desire to push “shitposts” into the public consciousness makes it clear that this group is more interested in trolling than having any sort of informed debate, and apparently Luckey is on the same page.

It’s a position that has both Oculus fans and developers alike shaking their heads. There’s a thread on the Oculus Reddit with more than 4,000 posts discussing the subject, and a number of developers have come out against Luckey’s statements. “Finding out last night that the founder of one of the main platforms for [virtual reality] basically thinks white supremacy is funny was a crystallizing moment,” one unnamed developer told Adi Robertson at The Verge.

That sums up why Luckey’s actions were so disturbing to me. He’s welcome to use his considerable wealth to support any candidate he chooses, but a quick search of the FEC database shows no donations by Luckey directly to any campaign. This would indicate that believes his money is better spent plastering shitty memes on billboards than it is directly supporting a candidate. That he dropped $10,000 on an organization that seems bent on lowering the level of political discourse even further — when the bar for that is already horrifyingly low as it is — says a lot about Luckey’s judgement. It also highlights how concentrated abuse has become an effective strategy at silencing those you disagree with.

Most recently, actor Leslie Jones was harassed and had her personal information hacked and released; gold medal Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas faced a disproportionate and abusive backlash this summer for transgressions that should barely be on anyone’s radar. Feminist writer and Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti quit social media altogether after her receiving death and rape threats directed at her child, and superstar singer Adele quit Twitter temporarily back in 2012 after receiving death threats focused on her newborn son. And these are just a handful of high-profile cases; plenty of average internet users have dealt with similar things but had no platform of which to really make them known. (Charlie Warzel at Buzzfeed wrote an excellent feature on Twitter’s abuse problem that has plenty more examples of this behavior.)

Combine this behavior with the hate and anger that Trump has been stoking throughout his presidential campaign (we won’t recount all his horrible statements, but Politico has a comprehensive round-up here) and it’s not surprising to see someone like Luckey putting money towards Nimble America. Their “plan” is the logical outcome of internet abuse and political hate speech becoming normalized. The first presidential debate of the 2016 election is happening in just a few hours. From now until election day, all the hate planted over the last year will be on display for all to see. Here’s hoping calmer, more peaceful minds win out — and that Luckey’s foolish donation ends up being a footnote to a turbulent election year.

Images: Getty (Palmer Luckey, lead); AP Photo/ Evan Vucci (Trump closeup)


How to watch tonight’s US presidential debate

So you’re determined to watch the first of 2016’s US presidential debates, but you don’t subscribe to TV… or you live in a country that won’t have a live broadcast. What to do? Relax. This year, there are more choices than ever for watching online, and not just in the US. We’ve rounded up the main internet viewing sources for Clinton versus Trump, including the kind of commentary you’ll get. Whichever option you choose, you’ll probably want to keep our guide to the candidates on hand when things kick off at 9PM Eastern — the odds are that the grand speeches and spirited arguments won’t answer all your technology policy questions.


GOP 2016 Debate Kasich

This is the first American presidential debate where Facebook Live will play a part, and you’ll have no shortage of choices for streaming the event on the world’s largest social network. ABC News has a deal with Facebook to livestream the debate ad-free, complete with commentary before and after (including responses to viewer questions) as well as extra details on its Facebook page. You can also expect BuzzFeed, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News, the New York Times, PBS, Telemundo and Univision to stream on Facebook as well, although you won’t necessarily get a TV-like broadcast.



Twitter was a go-to place for live discussion of the national conventions, and it wants to be the cornerstone of your debate viewing, too. It’s allying with Bloomberg to stream the debate both at on the web as well as through its official mobile apps. Bloomberg will logically handle the on-air analysis and commentary, but the real star may be the flood of tweets from everyday viewers.



YouTube is already big on live video, so you’d expect it to have plenty of streams, right? Sure enough, you’re getting a smorgasbord. Bloomberg, Fox News, NBC News, PBS, Telemundo and the Washington Post are all using Google’s video service to air the political showdown. You can also expect YouTube-oriented producers like Complex and The Young Turks to have on-the-ground reporting if you’re not as interested in the raw event.

Conventional media outlets

Campaign 2016 Debate

Old-school media sources may still revolve around TV, but they’ll have their share of online viewing beyond the partnerships we’ve already mentioned. ABC will offer free streams through its ABC News apps, and access for some TV subscribers through the regular ABC app. CBS will offer feeds through as well as its myriad mobile and set-top apps, while Reuters will show the debate through both its Reuters TV site and its own mobile clients.

Images: AP Photo/John Minchillo; AP Photo/Julio Cortez; AP Photo/J. David Ake


Tanzania charges man with ‘insulting’ its leader on WhatsApp

Attempts to clamp down on free speech online aren’t just limited to public social network posts. Tanzania has charged five men with insulting President John Magufuli on social networks, one of whom (lecturer Dennis Mtegwa) is accused of offending the country’s leader in a WhatsApp discussion group. The other four have also been charged with using Facebook and WhatsApp posts to turn people against the police. All five have denied the charges and are currently free on bail.

The five men are the latest to run afoul of a recently instituted cybercrime law meant to punish anyone posting “false, deceptive, misleading or inaccurate” content online. As with many such laws, though, the administration is mainly using the law as a pretext for stifling political dissent. The man charged with disparaging the President on WhatsApp was only questioning Magufuli’s treatment of the political opposition as “an enemy” — there’s nothing to suggest that he was posting insults or lies. The other men, meanwhile, were only criticizing the police for focusing more on the opposition than on actual crimes.

There is mounting pressure to change the law. A US government aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, cancelled a $500 million funding package on the grounds that the law is “inconsistent” with its criteria. That’s unfortunate for regular Tanzanians who might benefit from the money, but the financial incentive might be what it takes to strike down a measure creating a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

Via: Quartz, Reuters

Source: The Citizen


CBS News will feature Instagram Stories in debate coverage

Monday’s US Presidential debates are shaping up to be the most easily streamable live TV in history, with options ranging from Twitter and YouTube to Facebook Live and Snapchat. Not wanting to be left out of the party, Instagram and CBS News have announced a new partnership that will make CBSN the first network to feature Instagram Stories in live coverage.

Unlike ABC’s deal to stream the debates on Facebook Live, CBS News will be taking a slightly more editorial slant. According to a statement from the nework, CBS News anchors and reporters will contribute original Instagram stories that will be rolled into the traditional debate coverage alongside additional curated Stories from political experts and voters across the US. The Instagram tie-in is also a slightly different approach than their competition at Snapchat, which will cover the debates from a variety of different angles via a Live Story with contributions from a variety of students, volunteers and media personalities on the ground at the debate.

CBSN, CBS News’ 24/7 Streaming service is currently available on, via the CBS News mobile app for Android and iOS or connected TVs and streaming devices.

Source: CBS News


Oculus founder responds to ‘Nimble America’ political controversy

Last night The Daily Beast reported that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is the “NimbleRichMan” behind a group of Donald Trump supporters pushing anti-Hillary Clinton memes, and now Luckey has responded. In a Facebook post claiming recent news stories don’t accurately reflect his views (and light on references to either shitposting or meme magic), the 24-year-old claimed his support of the Nimble America group consisted of a $10,000 donation because “because I thought the organization had fresh ideas,” and that he did not write the posts credited to the pseudonym or delete the account.

Facing claims by a number of developers (including Polytron, TomorrowTodayLabs and others) that they would not support the Oculus VR platform if he remained attached to it, Luckey apologized for the impact of his actions.


Source: Facebook


Facebook’s Safety Check was activated by protesters in Charlotte

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that the company was working on a way for users to activate its Safety Check feature back in August. During this week’s protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, users of the social network employed the feature for the first time without the social network flipping the switch itself. Facebook confirmed to BuzzFeed News that it didn’t activate the feature and this was the first time Safety Check was used during a protest.

The move to allow user-driven Safety Checks follows criticism that the social network was picking which events were important enough to use the tool. Thus far, it has been activated during a number of natural disasters and attacks in Paris, Nice and the nightclub shooting in Orlando. A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed that when “a significant number” of users post about an incident and are close to “a crisis area,” they will be asked to let their friends know they’re safe. Again, the company confirmed that it didn’t employ the Safety Check, but rather it was turned on by the activity of users in the Charlotte area.

Thursday marked the third day of protests after Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police shot and killed 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. Police say Scott was holding a gun and didn’t respond to requests to drop the weapon. Scott’s family says he was actually holding the book he was reading while waiting on his son to get back from school. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency for the area and brought in the National Guard to assist local law enforcement. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts announced a curfew between midnight and 6:00 AM, however police said it wouldn’t be enforced so long as the protests were peaceful.

Source: BuzzFeed News


Facebook has been exaggerating video views for two years

So here’s a funny thing about Facebook videos: it turns out people actually weren’t watching them nearly as much as the social network said. The Wall Street Journal reports that since it introduced video ads in 2014, the company miscalculated average viewing time because it didn’t include views that lasted less than three seconds. An ad buying agency says it was told by Facebook that average time spent viewing was likely overestimated by 60 to 80 percent.

In a post on its advertising help center, a Facebook employee announced the discrepancy and explained the difference between how it defined the statistic, and how it was actually measured.

We had previously *defined* the Average Duration of Video Viewed as “total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who have played the video.” But we erroneously had *calculated* the Average Duration of Video Viewed as “the total time spent watching a video divided by *only* the number of people who have viewed a video for three or more seconds.”

In response, Facebook says it’s introducing two new metrics:

Video Average Watch Time: the total watch time for your video, divided by the total number of video plays. This includes plays that start automatically and on click. This will replace the Average Duration of Video Viewed metric.

Video Percentage Watched: reflects the percentage of your video somebody watches per session, averaged across all sessions of your video where the video auto-played or was clicked to play. This will replace the Average % Video Viewed metric.

As a user, this probably doesn’t affect you much. But even though Facebook says the discrepancy didn’t affect billing, advertisers who relied on the numbers and outlets (like Engadget) who posted video to the platform may have more questions. Bloomberg points out that Facebook is set to meet top advertisers next week during the Advertiser Week conference — we probably haven’t heard the last of this.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Facebook

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