Boing Boing 

Strengthening neighborhoods with ... Facebook!

SHN group pic

Facebook gets a bad rap, but where I live, it has brought neighbors together, and it started because of the things I didn't want to share.

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Imaginary ISIS attack on Louisiana and the twitterbots who loved it


Gilad Lotan has spotted some pretty sophisticated fake-news generation, possibly from Russia, and possibly related to my weird, larval twitterbots, aimed at convincing you that ISIS had blown up a Louisiana chemical factory.

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Facebook tells Native Americans that their names aren't "real"


Facebook's "real names" policy means that from time to time, it arbitrarily decides what its users are allowed to call themselves, which sucks if your name is something like Dana Lone Hill or Robin Kills The Enemy or Shane Creepingbear.

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Use Facebook while in South Carolina jail, go to solitary for 37 years


Prisons have a legitimate interest in controlling contraband, but in South Carolina, using social media from behind bars is a Class I offense, carrying stiffer penalties than murder, escape and hostage-taking.

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Facebook must face privacy violation lawsuit over scanning users' messages to target ads

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Just before the Christmas holiday, a judge in Oakland, California ruled that Facebook does indeed have to face a class action lawsuit charging that the social media firm violated user privacy when it scanned the contents of users' messages for the purposes of targeting advertising to those users.

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Algorithmic cruelty


With its special end-of-year message, Facebook wants to show you, over and over, what your year "looked like"; in Eric Meyer's case, the photo was of his daughter, who died this year: "For those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year."

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Focus on the Family's Singapore sex-ed class promotes rape, bigotry


A plagiarized sex-ed textbook presented to Singapore junior college students by Focus on the Family volunteers left student Agatha Tan aghast, so she penned an open letter to her principal including photos of some of the more grossly offensive pages.

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Daughter of Hong Kong leader thanks "taxpayers" for diamonds on Facebook


Chai Yan Leung thanked the taxpayers who paid for it, and then dismissed her critics as non-taxpayers, since employed people wouldn't have time to comment on Facebook.

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TSA employee to security theater skeptics: "You don't have shit for rights"


A person who "works for the TSA" accidentally posted a public comment to Facebook excoriating Rebecca Hains for expressing skepticism about the TSA's efficacy.

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Facebook manipulation experiment has connections to DoD "emotional contagion" research


Here's a new wrinkle on the massive emotion-manipulation study that Facebook conducted in concert with researchers from Cornell and UCSF: one of its researchers is funded under a US Department of Defense program to study "emotional contagion" and civil unrest.

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Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal


Researchers from Facebook, Cornell and UCSF published a paper describing a mass-scale experiment in which Facebook users' pages were manipulated to see if this could induce and spread certain emotional states.

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Eternal vigilance app for social networks: treating privacy vulnerabilities like other security risks

Social networking sites are Skinner boxes designed to train you to undervalue your privacy. Since all the compromising facts of your life add less than a dollar to the market-cap of the average social network, they all push to add more "sharing" by default, with the result that unless you devote your life to it, you're going to find your personal info shared ever-more-widely by G+, Facebook, Linkedin, and other "social" services.

Arvind Narayanan has proposed a solution to this problem: a two-part system through which privacy researchers publish a steady stream of updates about new privacy vulnerabilities introduced by the social networking companies (part one), and your computer sifts through these and presents you with a small subset of the alerts that pertain to you and your own network use.

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Turkey orders block of Twitter's IP addresses

Just a few days after Turkey's scandal-rocked government banned Twitter by tweaking national DNS settings, the state has doubled down by ordering ISPs to block Twitter's IP addresses, in response to the widespread dissemination of alternative DNS servers, especially Google's 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 (these numbers were even graffitied on walls).

Following the ban, Turkey's Twitter usage grew by 138 percent. Now that Twitter's IP range is blocked, more Turkish Internet users are making use of Tor and VPNs, and they continue to use SMS for access to the service.

It's interesting that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has singled out Twitter for his attacks ("Twitter, schmitter! We will wipe out Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says.") Why not Facebook or Google Plus? I'm not certain, but my hypothesis is that Facebook and Google's "real names" policy -- which make you liable to disconnection from the service if you're caught using an alias -- make them less useful for political dissidents operating in an environment in which they fear reprisals.

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Unless companies pay, their Facebook updates reach 6 percent of followers

Facebook continues to tighten the screws on the businesses that use the service to market to their customers. Independent research shows that new updates from businesses reach about six percent of the people who follow those businesses. It is rumored that Facebook intends to reduce this number to "between one and two percent" over time. Businesses that want to reach the people who follow them at higher rates will have to pay Facebook to reach them through paid advertisements.

If you're building your business's marketing and customer relations strategy atop Facebook, take note -- and remember that if you have a real website, all your readers see your posts, even if you don't pay Facebook!

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Business Software Alliance accused of pirating the photo they used in their snitch-on-pirates ad


The Business Software Alliance -- a proprietary software industry group -- has pulled a controversial ad that promised cash to people who snitched on friends and employers who used pirated software, after they were credibly accused of pirating the image used in the campaign.

The ad used a photo of a pot of gold, captioned with "Your pot of gold is right here baby. Report unlicensed software and GET PAID." The photo used in the ad was of a cake baked by Cakecentral user Bethasd (the cake itself is pretty amazing! "St. Patrick's Day Pot O' Gold - Chocolate Guinness cake with Bailey's Irish Buttercream").

The BSA has refused to comment on its use of the photo, or to confirm that it was licensed prior to use, but they immediately pulled the ad after being asked about it. Meanwhile, Torrentfreak "encourage[s] 'bethasd' to get in contact with the software industry group, and demand both licensing fees and damages for the unauthorized use of her photo. Surely, the BSA will be happy to hand over a pot of gold to her."

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Peak Facebook


Jeswin proposes that Facebook has failed, explaining that the more you use Facebook, the worse it gets. He describes a login screen with 30 stories on it, four of which are interesting, and blames Facebook for encouraging its users -- especially commercial users -- to share in ways that make the experience worse for everyone.

I don't have a Facebook account and tend not to pay much attention to stories about the service, but I was struck by this: "their product looks like one of those spam filled mailboxes from the nineties." One of the claims for walled gardens is that they're able to use a combination of data-mining and the ability to kick out bad actors to make your inbox spam-free. I've always felt that this was wildly oversold: the hardest-to-deal-with "spam" in my inbox is stuff from people I know, or who know me, and who want attention from me for something that is worthy but that I lack time for (if I pay attention to their stuff, I'll have to neglect something else I've already committed to). Facebook makes it easier for more people to do this, which always sounded like a recipe for disaster to me. Likewise the ability to exclude bad actors: once you get to Facebook's size, you can't police spammers and crazies in realtime -- they pop up faster than you can get rid of them. Every walled garden I ever used, all the way back to Compuserve, had problems with bad actors who'd fill up your screen with commercial pitches, hatemail, and other undesirable junk.

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Zuckerberg phones Obama to complain about NSA spying


The day after a Snowden leak revealed that the NSA builds fake versions of Facebook and uses them to seed malicious software in attacks intended to hijack "millions" of computers, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg telephoned President Obama to complain about the NSA's undermining of the Internet's integrity.

As many have pointed out, it would have been nice to hear Zuckerberg taking the Internet's side before his own stock portfolio was directly affected, but better late than never. Zuckerberg's post on his conversation excoriates the US government for its Internet sabotage campaign, and calls on the USG to "be the champion for the internet, not a threat." Curiously, Zuckerberg calls for "transparency" into the NSA's attacks on the Internet, but stops short of calling for an end to government-sponsored attacks against the net.

In the end, though, Zuckerberg calls on companies to do a better job of securing themselves and their users against intrusive spying. It's not clear how that will work for Facebook, though: its business model is predicated on tricking, cajoling, and siphoning personal data out of its users and warehousing it forever in a neat package that governments are unlikely to ignore. I'm told that 90% of US divorce proceedings today include Facebook data; this is a microcosm of the wider reality when you make it your business to stockpile the evidentiary chain of every human being's actions.

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Whatsapp abused the DMCA to censor related projects from Github

Prior to Whatsapp's $19B acquisition by Facebook, the company sent a large number of spurious takedowns against projects on Github. In a DMCA notice served by Whatsapp's General Counsel to Github, a number of projects are targeted for removal on the basis that they are "content that infringes on WhatsApp Inc.'s copyrights and trademarks."

This is grossly improper. DMCA takedown notices never apply to alleged trademark violations (it's called the "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" and not the "Digital Millennium Trademark Act"). Using DMCA notices to pursue trademark infringements isn't protecting your interests -- it's using barratry-like tactics to scare and bully third parties into participating in illegitimate censorship.

The letter goes on to demand takedown of these Github projects on the basis that they constitute "unauthorized use of WhatsApp APIs, software, and/or services" -- again, this is not a copyright issue, and it is improper to ask Github to police the code its hosts on this basis. It is certainly not the sort of activity that the DMCA's takedown procedure exists to police.

So what about copyright infringement? In the related Hacker News thread, a number of the projects' authors weigh in on the censorship, making persuasive cases that they software did not infringe on any of Whatsapp's copyrights -- rather, these were tools that made use of the Whatsapp API, were proof-of-concept security tools for Whatsapp, or, in one case, merely contained the string "whatsapp" in its sourcecode.

There may well have been some legitimately infringing material on Github, but it's clear that Whatsapp's General Counsel did not actually limit her or his request to this material. Instead, the company deliberately overreached the bounds of the DMCA, with total indifference to the rights of other copyright holders -- the creators of the software they improperly had removed.

Unfortunately, there are no real penalties for this sort of abuse. Which is a shame, because Whatsapp has $19B in the bank that a smart lawyer who wanted to represent the aggrieved parties could certainly take a chunk out of.

(via Hacker News)

The most concise explanation yet for why Facebook's paying $19 billion for WhatsApp

As I wrote in my post when the news broke, it's all about growth.

Read Parmy Olson's Forbes story out today, which she began reporting long before the acquisition announcement: "The Rags-To-Riches Tale Of How Jan Koum Built WhatsApp Into Facebook's New $19 Billion Baby"

[Via]. [Previously on Boing Boing].

What is exposed about you and your friends when you login with Facebook


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When you log in to a service with Facebook, the company exposes an enormous amount of sensitive personal information to the service's operator -- everything from your political views to your relationship status. What's more, logging into a service with Facebook also exposes your contacts' personal information to the service: their locations, political views, organizations, religion, and more.

...and here's what a brand knows when you login via facebook (via Dan Hon)

Euroteens embarrassed to be seen on Facebook

But their parents insist they use it, so their personal lives can be scrutinized by the olds. They'd prefer to be on Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat. "Facebook is basically dead and buried," says Daniel Miller, who led the extensive study.

EuroMaidan: a Facebook revolution in the streets of Kiev

In Kiev, Ukraine, Daniel Kovzhun is a 37 year-old, remarried father of two, a partner in an IT firm, and a political rebel. He trusts only one news source: "I am either out there, on barricades, or I am in Facebook."Read the rest

Facebook monitors unposted comments

Matthew says: "Facebook says it is within its terms of service to see what users are typing even when the status or comment is never posted on the social network.

Facebook has confirmed it tracks users' unpublished posts after two Facebook researchers disclosed that they had tracked the activity of about 5 million random users."

Facebook now OK with beheading videos, but nudity stays verboten

It's easy to make a mountain out of Facebook's explicit OK to posting videos of people being beheaded. Tabloids see such lowest-common-denominator topical material as a threat to their own product, and their outrage seeks to impose their own limitations upon the competition. But it's also true that Facebook still bans nudity and other sexual content. As the matter is therefore one of editorial judgment, rather than protecting users' free speech, what does Facebook's editorial judgment say about its audience?

Facebook-fooling shirts to foil auto-tagging


Simone C. Niquille's REALFACE Glamoflage shirts are designed to confound Facebook's face-recognition software by covering you in famous faces when you venture into public. The project was sparked by a(nother) privacy-undermining Facebook terms-of-service change, this one allowing the company to auto-tag the people in the photos you upload. The shirts were part of FaceValue, a master's thesis in design at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, and Niquille's explanation of her work is fascinating:

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Pro-tip for jurors: don't write on Facebook about your intent to convict defendant

Two jurors in England will spend August in jail after one asserted a defendant's guilt on Facebook—"I've always wanted to Fuck up a paedophile & now I'm within the law!"—and the other blabbed to co-jurors about researching their case online. [BBC]

What walled gardens do to the health of the Web, and what to do about it

David Weinberger took great notes from what sounds like a barn-burner of a talk by Anil Dash at Harvard's Berkman Center on what has happened to the net, and where it's headed:

“We have a lot of software that forbids journalism.” He refers to the IoS [iphone operating system] Terms of Service for app developers that includes text that says, literally: “If you want to criticize a religion, write a book.” You can distribute that book through the Apple bookstore, but Apple doesn’t want you writing apps that criticize religion. Apple enforces an anti-journalism rule, banning an app that shows where drone strikes have been.

Less visibly, the laws is being bent “to make our controlling our data illegal.” All the social networks operate as common carriers — neutral substrates — except when it comes to monetizing. The boundaries are unclear: I can sing “Happy Birthday” to a child at home, and I can do it over FaceTime, but I can’t put it up at YouTube [because of copyright]. It’s very open-ended and difficult to figure. “Now we have the industry that creates the social network implicitly interested in getting involved in how IP laws evolve.” When the Google home page encourages visitors to call their senators against SOPA/PIPA, we have what those of us against Citizens United oppose: now we’re asking a big company to encourage people to act politically in a particular way. At the same time, we’re letting these companies capture our words and works and put them under IP law.

A decade ago, metadata was all the rage among the geeks. You could tag, geo-tag, or machine-tag Flickr photos. Flickr is from the old community. That’s why you can still do Creative Commons searches at Flickr. But you can’t on Instagram. They don’t care about metadata. From an end-user point of view, RSS is out of favor. The new companies are not investing in creating metadata to make their work discoverable and shareable.

[berkman] Anil Dash on “The Web We Lost” (via Beyond the Beyond)

Positive externalities thrive online

My latest Guardian column is about positive externalities, the value that bystanders get from the stuff you're already doing:

That's the crux of this irrational fear of positive externalities: "If something I do has value, I deserve a cut." It's one thing to say that someone who hires you to do a job, or purchases your product, should pay you money. But positive externalities are the waste-product of something we were already going to do. They're things that you have thrown away, that you have thrown off, that you have generated in the process of enjoying yourself and living your life.

The mania to internalise your positive externalities is the essence of cutting off your nose to spite your face. I walk down the street whistling a jaunty tune because I'm in a good mood — but stop as soon as I see someone smiling and enjoying the music. I keep my porchlight on to read by on a warm night, but if I catch you using the light to read your map, I switch it off, because those are my photons — I paid for 'em!

Worse still: the infectious idea of internalising externalities turns its victims into grasping, would-be rentiers. You translate a document because you need it in two languages. I come along and use those translations to teach a computer something about context. You tell me I owe you a slice of all the revenue my software generates. That's just crazy. It's like saying that someone who figures out how to recycle the rubbish you set out at the kerb should give you a piece of their earnings. Harvesting positive externalities involves collecting billions of minute shreds of residual value – snippets of discarded string –and balling them up into something big and useful.

If every shred needs to be accounted for and paid for, then the harvest won't happen. Paying for every link you make, or every link you count, or every document you analyse is a losing game. Forget payment: the process of figuring out who to pay and how much is owed would totally swamp the expected return from whatever it is you're planning on making out of all those unloved scraps.

Why trying to charge for everything will kill online creativity