Facebook offering "vulnerable teens" to advertisers shows it is willing to be used as a weapon

Facebook was caught offering advertisers a direct line to psychologically vulnerable teens. Nitasha Tiku writes that this exposes the deeper danger of its insight into our lives: it's not the data that's the problem, it's how it could be "weaponized in ways those users cannot see, and would never knowingly allow."

The company had offered advertisers the opportunity to target 6.4 million younger users, some only 14 years old, during moments of psychological vulnerability, such as when they felt “worthless,” “insecure,” “stressed,” “defeated,” “anxious,” and like a “failure.” ...

If the users in question weren’t teenagers—or if the emotion wasn’t insecurity—Facebook’s public statement might have been sufficient; the uproar from privacy advocates may have been duly noted, then promptly forgotten.

Instead, as Kathryn Montgomery, a professor at American University and the director of the school’s communications studies division—who is married to Chester—tells WIRED, The Australian’s report served as “a flashpoint that enables you to glimpse Facebook’s inner workings, which in many ways is about monetization of moods.”

As Tiku points out: "It’s not a dystopian nightmare. It’s just a few clicks away from the status quo."

The fences you put up are meaningless if Facebook owns the land.

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Thailand is losing the war on dissent, thanks to user notifications and HTTPS

Thailand's insane lese majeste laws make it radioactively illegal to criticize the royal family, reflecting a profound insecurity about the legitimacy of the ruling elites there that can only be satisfied through blanket censorship orders whenever one of the royals does something ridiculous, cruel or both (this happens a lot). Read the rest

Thai King strolls through mall in tiny crop top, then threatens to sue Facebook for showing video

Last year, the Thai Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (who became King of Thailand in December) walked around a Munich shopping center sporting a little yellow crop top, exposing tattoos on his belly and back. He was with a woman who was similarly dressed. They looked like an ordinary couple on a beach vacation.

But the new King is not happy that a video surfaced on Facebook last month, posted by Somsak Jeamteerasakul, "a prominent Thai historian and critic of the monarchy who lives in France," according to The New York Times. The King has had the video blocked in Thailand, but today he threatened to sue Facebook if it wasn't immediately removed from the site.

The video has been blocked in Thailand but was still available outside the country on Tuesday.

Facebook, which opened an office in Thailand in 2015, declined to answer questions about its operations in the country or the pages that the government wants to remove. A spokeswoman, Clare Wareing, said only that the company’s policy was to comply with requests by governments to restrict access to content that officials believed violated local laws.

“When we receive such a request, we review it to determine if it puts us on notice of unlawful content,” Ms. Wareing said in an emailed statement. “If we determine that it does, then we make it unavailable in the relevant country or territory and notify people who try to access it why it is restricted.”

In Thailand, it's illegal to poke fun of the king, queen, or crown prince, and can carry a maximum sentence of 15 years. Read the rest

Leaked confidential memo reveals Facebook program to identify and target "insecure" kids

The Australian reports on a leaked memo -- described but not published -- marked "confidential" and created and distributed internally by Facebook that describes how the system's surveillance tools can identify children and teens in "insecure" moments when they "need a boost," explaining that they had identified markers to tell them when a young person was feeling "stressed", "defeated", "overwhelmed", "anxious", "nervous", "stupid", "silly", "useless", and a "failure." Read the rest

Vietnam complained of "toxic" anti-government Facebook content, now says Facebook has committed to help censor

Vietnam's government today said Facebook has promised to work with the communist nation to prevent the publication and distribution of banned online content.

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Facebook use is a predictor of depression

A pair of social scientists from UCSD and Yale conducted an NIH study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology on the link between Facebook use and mental health, drawing on data from the Gallup Panel Social Network Study combined with "objective measures of Facebook use" and self-reported data for 5,208 subjects, and concluded that increased Facebook use is causally linked with depression. Read the rest

Facebook gave $120,000 to CPAC, half in cash and half in-kind contributions, Daily Beast reports

Why exactly is Facebook helping to fund CPAC, to the tune of about $120,000 in cash and in-kind contributions?

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Anonymous infiltrated the KKK by friending Blue Lives Matter supporters on Facebook

The Anonymous activists behind "OpKKK" -- which infiltrated and unmasked Klan members, including many in US military and police departments -- began by creating thin-but-plausible fake identities on Facebook that signalled support for "Blue Lives Matter." By friending other accounts that indicated support for Blue Lives Matter, they found themselves being auto-suggested friendships with KKK members. Read the rest

Georgia police captain got his ex-wife jailed for her Facebook comment about him

According to a lawsuit, Corey King, a police captain in Washington County, Georgia, conspired with his friends magistrate Ralph O. Todd and Sheriff's Investigator Trey Burgamy to arrest King's ex-wife, Anne King, and her friend, Susan Hines, for a Facebook exchange in which they commiserated over Captain King's refusal to pick up medicine for his sick children. Read the rest

Trump's big data "secret sauce" sorcery - a much-needed reality check

An article that went viral last week attributed Trump's Electoral College victory to the dark big data sorcery of Cambridge Analytica, a dirty, dementor-focused big data company that specializes in political campaigns. Read the rest

Scenes from the inauguration of President Zuckerberg

Quartz editor Gideon Lichfield has published a science fictional vignette depicting the final backstage moments before the 2025 inauguration of President Mark Zuckerberg's second term. Read the rest

Facebook CSO Alex Stamos is a human warrant-canary for the Trump era

Even before he took the job of Chief Security Officer of Yahoo, Alex Stamos had a reputation for being a badass: a thoughtful security ethicist who served as an expert witness in defense of Aaron Swartz, Stamos cemented his reputation by publicly humiliating the director of the NSA over mass surveillance. Read the rest

Mark Zuckerberg sues over 100 Hawaiians to force them to sell them their ancestral land

In 2015, Mark Zuckerberg (who insists that privacy is dead) bought 100 acres of land around his vacation home in Hawaii to ensure that no one could get close enough to spy on him. Read the rest

Whatsapp: Facebook's ability to decrypt messages is a "limitation," not a "defect"

Facebook spokespeople and cryptographers say that Facebook's decision to implement Open Whisper Systems' end-to-end cryptographic messaging protocol in such a way as to allow Facebook to decrypt them later without the user's knowledge reflects a "limitation" -- a compromise that allows users to continue conversations as they move from device to device -- and not a "defect." Read the rest

A critical flaw (possibly a deliberate backdoor) allows for decryption of Whatsapp messages -- UPDATED

Update: Be sure to read the followup discussion, which explains Facebook's point of view, that this is a deliberate compromise, and not a defect, that makes the app more usable for a wide variety of users, while putting them to little additional risk (namely, that Facebook might change its mind; or be forced to spy on its users; or suffer a security breach or internal rogue employee).

When Facebook implemented Open Whisper Systems' end-to-end encrypted messaging protocol for Whatsapp, they introduced a critical flaw that exposes more than a billion users to stealthy decryption of their private messages: in Facebook's implementation, the company can force Whatsapp installations to silently generate new cryptographic keys (without any way for the user to know about this unless a deep settings checkbox had been ticked), which gives the company the ability to decrypt user messages, including messages that have already been sent in the past.. Read the rest

Mark Zuckerberg says he's not an atheist anymore

Checkmate, atheists! The king of the Internet has found religion.

Zuckerberg, whose Facebook profile once identified him as an atheist, revealed his change of heart on his social media network after he wished everyone on Dec. 25 a “Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah” from “Priscilla, Max, Beast and me,” referring to his wife, daughter and dog. When a commenter asked him, “Aren’t you an atheist?” he responded: “No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.”

Zuckerberg aside, Silicon Valley's values will evolve in the immediate future. Monospace-L libertarianism is nothing if not adaptable to circumstances. Read the rest

Blue feed, red feed: side-by-side comparisons of social media feeds by politics

One of the most compelling data visualization projects from this year was Wall Street Journal's Blue Feed, Red Feed, which lets readers see exactly how divergent social media feeds have become, depending on someone's media diet. By coincidence, I capped an example that puts Boing Boing in their blue feed column. Read the rest

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