facebook

Undercover report shows the Facebook moderation sausage being made

An undercover reporter with the U.K.’s Channel 4 visited a content moderation outsourcing firm in Dublin and came away rather discouraged at what they saw: queues of flagged content waiting, videos of kids fighting staying online, orders from above not to take action on underage users. It sounds bad, but the truth is there are pretty good reasons for most of it and in the end the report comes off as rather naive. Not that it’s a bad thing for journalists to keep big companies (and their small contractors) honest, but the situations called out by Channel 4’s reporter seem to reflect a misunderstanding of the moderation process rather than problems with the process itself. I’m not a big Facebook fan, but in the matter of moderation I think they are sincere, if hugely unprepared. The bullet p...

Facebook would make a martyr by banning Infowars

Alex Jones’ Infowars is a fake news-peddler. But Facebook deleting its Page could ignite a fire that consumes the network. Still, some critics are asking why it hasn’t done so already. This week Facebook held an event with journalists to discuss how it combats fake news. The company’s recently appointed head of News Feed John Hegeman explained that, “I guess just for being false, that doesn’t violate the community standards. I think part of the fundamental thing here is that we created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice.” In response, CNN’s Oliver Darcy tweeted: “I asked them why InfoWars is still allowed on the platform. I didn’t get a good answer.” BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel meanwhile wrote that allowing the Infowars Page to exist shows that “Facebook simply is...

Facebook paid $88 million this year to build out its Seattle area Oculus hub

Facebook continues to expand its VR ambitions in the Pacific Northwest. The company has been quietly growing its footprint 16 miles East of Seattle, in Microsoft’s backyard. A new analysis by real estate resource BuildZoom sheds additional light on the Menlo Park-based company’s efforts to build a satellite virtual reality HQ in and around Seattle. Over the last three years, Facebook has spent $106 million on construction and development permits for Oculus offices in Redmond. In 2018 alone, Facebook spent $88.3 million on Oculus -related permits for as many as eight new offices in the area. BuildZoom’s analysis identifies five properties in particular, all on Willow Road in Redmond, that span more than 90,000 square feet of lab and office space. Those locations are 10545 Willows Rd., 10785...

Facebook’s diversity efforts show little progress after five years

Facebook has released its fifth diversity report, and it’s fine. Unless companies fire everyone and start over, we’re not going to see drastic improvements anytime soon. “A critical lesson we’ve learned is that recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse, inclusive workforce should be a priority from day one,” Facebook Chief Diversity Officer Maxine Williams wrote in a blog post. “The later you start taking deliberate action to increase diversity, the harder it becomes.” Anyway, worldwide, Facebook is 36 percent female, up from 31 percent in 2014. In the U.S., Facebook is 3.5 percent black, compared to just 2 percent in 2014, and 4.9 percent Latinx compared to 4 percent in 2014. White people, unsurprisingly, still makes up the single largest population of employees (46.4 percent today v...

Facebook independent research commission ‘Social Science One’ will share a petabyte of user data

Back in April, Facebook announced that it would be working with a group of academics to establish an independent research commission to look into issues of social and political significance using the company’s own extensive data collection. That commission just came out of stealth; it’s called Social Science One, and its first project will have researchers analyzing about a petabyte’s worth of sharing data. The way the commission works is basically that a group of academics is created and given full access to the processes and datasets that Facebook could potentially provide. They identify and help design interesting sets based on their experience as researchers themselves, then document them publicly — for instance, “this dataset consists of 10 million status updates taken during the week...

Facebook under fresh political pressure as UK watchdog calls for “ethical pause” of ad ops

The UK’s privacy watchdog revealed yesterday that it intends to fine Facebook the maximum possible (£500k) under the country’s 1998 data protection regime for breaches related to the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal. But that’s just the tip of the regulatory missiles now being directed at the platform and its ad-targeting methods — and indeed, at the wider big data economy’s corrosive undermining of individuals’ rights. Alongside yesterday’s update on its investigation into the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published a policy report — entitled Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence — in which it sets out a series of policy recommendations related to how personal information is used in modern poli...

UK’s Information Commissioner will fine Facebook the maximum £500K over Cambridge Analytica breach

Facebook continues to face fallout over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which revealed how user data was stealthily obtained by way of quizzes and then appropriated for other purposes, such as targeted political advertising. Today, the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced that it would be issuing the social network with its maximum fine, £500,000 ($662,000) after it concluded that it “contravened the law” — specifically the 1998 Data Protection Act — “by failing to safeguard people’s information.” The ICO is clear that Facebook effectively broke the law by failing to keep users data safe, when their systems allowed Dr Aleksandr Kogan, who developed an app, called “This is your digital life” on behalf of Cambridge Analytica, to scrape the data of up to 87 million Facebook...

Facebook is testing augmented reality ads in the News Feed

Facebook is giving advertisers new ways to show off their products, including with augmented reality. At its F8 developer conference earlier this year, Facebook announced that it was working with businesses to use AR to show off products in Messenger. Now a similar experience will start appearing in the News Feed, with a select group of advertisers testing out AR ads. Ty Ahmad-Taylor, vice president of product marketing for Facebook’s global marketing solutions, showed off ads that incorporated his face into Candy Crush gameplay footage, and other ads that allowed shoppers to see how virtual sunglasses and makeup would look on their own faces. “People traditionally have to go into stores to do this,” Ahmad-Taylor said. “People still really love that experience, but they would like to try i...

Facebook buys ads in Indian newspapers to warn about WhatsApp fakes

As Twitter finally gets serious about purging fake accounts, and YouTube says it will try to firefight conspiracy theories and fake news flaming across its platform with $25M to fund bona fide journalism, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is grappling with its own fake demons in India, where social media platforms have been used to seed and spread false rumors — fueling mob violence and leading to number of deaths in recent years. This week Facebook has taken out full page WhatsApp -branded adverts in Indian newspapers to try to stem the tide of life-threatening digital fakes spreading across social media platforms in the region with such tragic results. It’s not the first time the company has run newspaper ads warning about fake news in India, though it does appear to be first time it’s responded t...

Facebook was never ephemeral, and now its Stories won’t have to be

Before Snapchat made social media about just today, Facebook made it about forever. The 2011 “Timeline” redesign of the profile and keyword search unlocked your past, encouraging you to curate colorful posts about your life’s top moments. That was actually an inspiration for Snapchat, as its CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in its IPO announcement that “We learned that creativity can be suppressed by the fear of permanence.” Now Facebook is finding a middle ground by optionally unlocking the history of your Stories that otherwise disappear after 24 hours. Facebook will soon begin testing Stories Highlights, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. Similar to Instagram Stories Highlights, it will let you pick your favorite expired photos and videos, compile them into themed collections with titles and co...

One of Facebook’s most senior engineers just became Director of Engineering, Blockchain

It was already known that Facebook had set up a group within the company to “explore” blockchain tech, headed up by long time Messenger chief David Marcus. However, the latest executive reshuffle appears to point to the social networking behemoth getting more serious about developing on top of blockchain technology. According to his LinkedIn profile, Evan Cheng, a director of engineering at Facebook, has moved to the position of Director of Engineering, Blockchain. A well-respected “low level” computer engineer, he was previously responsible for heading up Programming Languages & Runtimes at the company, a position he held for nearly three years. Prior to that, Cheng spent nearly ten years working at Apple, most recently holding the position of Senior Manager, Low Level Tools. He also ...

AI spots legal problems with tech T&Cs in GDPR research project

Technology is the proverbial double-edged sword. And an experimental European research project is ensuring this axiom cuts very close to the industry’s bone indeed by applying machine learning technology to critically sift big tech’s privacy policies — to see whether AI can automatically identify violations of data protection law. The still-in-training privacy policy and contract parsing tool — which is called ‘Claudette‘: Aka (automated) clause detector — is being developed by researchers at the European University Institute in Florence. They’ve also now got support from European consumer organization BEUC — for a ‘Claudette meets GDPR‘ project — which specifically applies the tool to evaluate compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. Early results from this project hav...