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It's Time for a Social Media and Disinformation Reckoning: ECT News Roundtable, Episode 6
February 13, 2020
Can social media be saved? Can democracy be saved? The first question may seem less compelling than the second, but to some very worried observers, they are intimately entwined. Social networking -- on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a host of other online networks -- is the root of all current cultural evils, in the eyes of some critics. Undeniably, social networks offer positive experiences too.
Building E-Commerce Wave: Social Media Shopping
January 13, 2020
Consumers are on social media constantly, scrolling through posts. Many have begun clicking on brand posts and making purchases. "Social commerce is becoming increasingly popular for brands," noted Darin Archer, chief strategy officer at Elastic Path. "Even when the transaction itself may be happening outside the app, there's a much smaller gap between discovery and purchase."
Facebook to Kick Out Some Deepfakes
January 8, 2020
Facebook has promised to remove certain "misleading manipulated media": videos edited or synthesized in ways that likely would mislead viewers to believe that video subjects said words they did not say; products of artificial intelligence or machine learning that merge, combine, replace, or superimpose content onto a video, creating a fake video that appears to be authentic.
Facebook Won't Let US, UK, Australia Get Toe in Backdoor
December 11, 2019
Facebook has rejected a request from the U.S., the UK and Australia for a "backdoor" in its encrypted messenger apps to help law enforcement agencies combat crime and terrorism. "Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly proven that when you weaken any part of an encrypted system, you weaken it for everyone, everywhere," wrote WhatsApp head Will Cathcart and Facebook Messenger head Stan Chudnovsky.
Twitter Sets Up Privacy Center but Moves to Skirt GDPR
December 4, 2019
Twitter's new Privacy Center will give users more clarity on what it does to protect the information people share. The center will host everything relevant to Twitter's privacy and data protection work, including initiatives, announcements, new privacy products and communication about security incidents, noted Twitter Data Protection Officer Damien Kieran and Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour.
New YouTube Terms of Service Create Stir
November 12, 2019
Google has published changes to YouTube's Terms of Service Agreement that have stoked fears among some users. "YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account's access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable," the new ToSA states. Many creators are deeply concerned over the prospect of YouTube changing its practices.
The Truth vs. Censorship Trap
November 4, 2019
There recently has been a lot of rumbling about Twitter deciding not to take political ads, and Facebook deciding -- and this was stupid -- that it would run political ads even if they were untrue. I'm becoming convinced that Zuckerberg is trying to put Facebook out of business. There are some real differences between the firms. Facebook does far more political advertising than Twitter.
Evidence of War Crimes Vanishing From Social Media
November 1, 2019
A controversy has erupted over YouTube's practice of taking down videos with graphically violent content, which also may be evidence of recent war crimes. YouTube's policy -- similar to other social media platforms -- has been to remove content that contains hate speech, disinformation or disturbing images. In the past, social media services have been called out for failing to do enough.
Facebook Employees Blast Company's Political Ads Policy
October 30, 2019
At least 250 Facebook employees signed a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticizing the company's hands-off policy against fact-checking political ads. "We strongly object to this policy as it stands," says the letter. "It doesn't protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy."
Facebook's After-the-Fact Oversight
October 19, 2019
I wanted to like Kara Swisher's recent piece about Facebook's attempt to wrestle with its demons, but I can't. It feels too much like self-delusion. To cut to the chase, Facebook announced it was forming an oversight board that eventually will have about 40 members with responsibilities for policing its domain and reducing or even eliminating fake news and propaganda.
New Trade Deal Provisions Give US Tech Firms Legal Shields
October 9, 2019
The Trump administration has begun inserting legal protections into trade agreements to shield online platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube from lawsuits. That move could help lock in America's tech-friendly regulations around the world even as they are being questioned at home. The legal protections are included in the administration's two biggest trade deals.
Leaked Audio Reveals Zuckerberg Spinning Hard
October 2, 2019
An attendee at a two-hour question-and-answer session during a Facebook company meeting held in July leaked a recording of founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg's comments that reveal deep insights into his thinking. Zuckerberg apparently decided the Q&A format would be an effective way to rally Facebook employees against rising criticism from competitors and the U.S. government.
Facebook's New Portals: More Ways to Follow
September 19, 2019
Facebook has announced three additions to the Portal family: a new Portal, Portal Mini and Portal TV. The devices let users make calls using Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The Portal has a new design that resembles a picture frame. The Portal Mini is similar but smaller. The Portal TV blends the functionality of a set-top box with social media and video conferencing.
Instagram May Roll Out App for 'Real Friends' Sharing
August 28, 2019
A new application may be in the works that allows Instagram users to share real-time information with their closest friends. Called "Threads," the app allows users to set up automatic sharing with their closest Instagram buddies of such information as location, movement and battery life, as well as text, video and photo messages generated using Instagram's tools.
Facebook Gives Privacy-Minded Users Some Control Over Activity Tracking
August 21, 2019
Facebook has announced the release of Off-Facebook Activity, a tool that will let members see which apps and websites supply information about their online activity, and clear that information from their Facebook accounts if they wish. Once members have cleared their off-Facebook activity, Facebook will remove their identifying information from the data it collects.
YouTube as Political Influencer Takes the Spotlight
August 16, 2019
YouTube, which operates as one of Google's subsidiaries, is under increased scrutiny after a report earlier this month highlighted the role it played in the recent presidential election in Brazil. Among concerns is YouTube's installation of a new AI system that can suggest additional videos to watch. The goal arguably is not much different from the way newspapers offer links to other stories.
Cloudflare Cuts Service to 'Cesspool of Hate'
August 6, 2019
Cloudflare has cut service to 8chan, an online forum it called a "cesspool of hate." The move was motivated by the role 8chan played in mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Christchurch, New Zealand; and Poway, California. "The rationale is simple: They have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths," wrote Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince.
UCSF Researchers Synthesize Speech From Brain Waves
August 1, 2019
Researchers led by speech neuroscientist Edward Chang at the University of California San Francisco have achieved success at decoding speech attempts in real time by reading the activity in the speech centers of test subjects' brains. Three persons capable of normal speech, who were being treated for epilepsy at the UCSF Medical Center, participated in the study.
Timely Antitrust Investigation
July 26, 2019
The Justice Department is opening antitrust investigations into some of the biggest tech companies around, including Facebook, Google, Amazon and others. This is nothing that either the public or the companies involved should fret about. This is part of the evolution of the tech sector. We've been through this kind of thing before. Each economic era follows a similar trajectory.
Bug in Facebook Messaging App Exposes Kids to Strangers
July 24, 2019
A flaw in a Facebook app designed for children under 13 years old allows kids to chat online with people unapproved by their parents. The messaging app for kids is designed to give parents control over who their kids text and video chat with online, but a bug in the software lets a contact approved to chat with one child to talk to another without the approval of the second child's parents.
Facebook Unfazed by $5B FTC Settlement
July 18, 2019
The Federal Trade Commission this week announced its approval of a $5 billion settlement with Facebook, ending a long-running investigation into the company's privacy practices. The commission's 3-2 vote was along party lines. The United States Department of Justice must finalize the settlement before the matter is closed. The DoJ's action will end the investigation that began early last year.
Twitter Tweaks Desktop Design
July 17, 2019
Twitter has unveiled a fresh new look for its desktop website that mimics the look and feel of its mobile platforms. The company has been testing a new version of its desktop website since the beginning of the year. The most noticeable change is the organization and layout of the Twitter home screen itself. The upgraded design simplifies navigation with a new and larger left-hand sidebar.
Mnuchin Sounds Alarm Over Facebook's Money-Minting Plan
July 17, 2019
The Treasury Department has "very serious concerns" about Facebook's new Libra cryptocurrency, according to Secretary Steve Mnuchin. "Libra could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, have been exploited to support billions of dollars of illicit activity, like cybercrime, tax evasion, extortion, ransomware, illicit drugs, human trafficking."
The Growing Menace of Weaponized Deepfakes
June 27, 2019
The U.S. House Intelligence Committee recently heard expert testimony on the growing threat posed by "deepfakes" -- altered videos and other AI-generated false information -- and what it could mean for the 2020 general elections, as well as the country's national security overall. The technologies collectively known as "deepfakes" can be used to manipulate and falsify images and videos.
LinkedIn Tweaks Its Algorithms to Skew Feeds to User Interests
June 26, 2019
LinkedIn has disclosed algorithm changes designed to favor conversations catering to niche professional interests. The criteria for posts showing up in members' feeds can be summed up as "people you know, talking about things you care about," said LinkedIn Senior Director of Product Management Pete Davies. LinkedIn tested 100 variations of its feed models through online A/B testing last year.
In Zuck We Trust: Facebook to Launch Own Cryptocurrency
June 19, 2019
Facebook's plans to mint its own digital coin will test the company's consumer credibility. After being savaged for months for its cavalier attitude toward users' privacy, the social network will be asking those same users to trust its new cryptocurrency. The currency, called "Libra," will be stashed in a digital wallet, the first product of new Facebook financial services subsidiary Calibra.
Facebook's Libra Cryptocurrency May Revolutionize E-Commerce
June 19, 2019
Facebook has released details about Libra, its long-rumored cryptocurrency. The company outlined plans "for a new decentralized blockchain, a low-volatility cryptocurrency, and a smart contract platform that together aim to create a new opportunity for responsible financial services innovation." The aim is to help people worldwide gain access to a cheaper, more connected global financial system.
Instagram Targets Account Hijacking
June 18, 2019
Account hijacking has become a nettlesome problem at Instagram so it has decided to do something about it. The social media company has begun testing a simpler method for users to reclaim their compromised accounts. It allows users locked out of their hacked accounts to ask for a six-digit code to be sent to the email address or phone number originally used to open the account.
For Brands the Future Is Facebook
June 7, 2019
Mark Zuckerberg recently said that the future of Facebook is private. Interestingly, connecting the dots between all the announcements made at Facebook's 2019 developers conference draws a bright picture of what the future looks like for brands, small e-commerce stores, and new businesses using the Facebook family of apps. It includes a whole new world of opportunities.
Dodging Facebook's 'Like' Trap for Small Businesses
June 7, 2019
Despite complaints about user privacy and the sharing of personal data, Facebook remains the de facto social media powerhouse. It may have started out as a place to connect with friends, but with 2.23 billion users worldwide it isn't hard to see why it matters to marketers. For the past decade Facebook has been a proven way for small businesses to connect with customers -- at least in theory.
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