Oculus breaks promise, uses DRM to kill app that let you switch VR systems

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As recently as 5 months ago, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was promising his customers that they could play the software they bought from the Oculus store on "whatever they want," guaranteeing that the company wouldn't shut down apps that let customers move their purchased software to non-Oculus hardware. Read the rest

Former Facebook staff say they routinely manipulated trending news topics

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Update: Facebook released a statement on Monday afternoon: “We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum.”

Facebook workers "routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers," reports Gizmodo, regarding the "trending" topics that are inserted in readers' feeds. This was apparently an issue of individuals working on their own initiative rather than the result of corporate policy, but they were directed to squelch news about Facebook itself and to manually inject "missing" stories into the trending topics.

These new allegations emerged after Gizmodo last week revealed details about the inner workings of Facebook’s trending news team—a small group of young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or private East Coast universities, who curate the “trending” module on the upper-right-hand corner of the site. As we reported last week, curators have access to a ranked list of trending topics surfaced by Facebook’s algorithm, which prioritizes the stories that should be shown to Facebook users in the trending section. The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic, and include links to news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, constitutes some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate what news Facebook’s users—167 million in the US alone—are reading at any given moment.

In short, Facebook's "trending" stuff comes out of a newsroom-like culture, with editorial direction and values. Which would be fine, except for the fact that Facebook claims that its trending topics are an organic or algorithmic representation of user interests and activities. Read the rest

Hilary Clinton campaign ad: mashup of Republicans bashing Trump

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With the release of a pair of anti-Trump ads, the Clinton campaign has begun to fight a war on two fronts. Read the rest

Facebook morphs into a clickhole, at the expense of personal sharing

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Surveillance capitalism continues to astound and confound: as Facebook has turned into the traffic-factory life-support for ad-supported media -- and as Facebook profits from those companies by charging for "access" to their own followers -- the amount of personal sharing on Facebook is dropping off sharply. Read the rest

Egypt blocked Facebook's Internet service over surveillance demands

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Egypt blocked Facebook's Free Basics Internet service late last year after Facebook refused the Egyptian government's demands to build in the ability to spy on users. Reuters reported the story late Thursday, citing two people familiar with the matter.

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Instagram now allows videos up to a full minute long, up from 30 seconds

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Instagram just increased the time limit on user video uploads to a full minute long.

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Surveillance has reversed the net's capacity for social change

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Sociologists describe the "spiral of silence": people with socially unpopular ideas fear that they're the only ones who think that way, and say nothing, and their silence convinces others that they, too are alone, begetting yet more silence. Read the rest

Instagram is a dialup BBS

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JWZ reminds us that all social media is some variation on the walled garden strategy, designed to lock you in and lock value away from the open, interoperable Web into a silo where it languishes and rots. You know, AOL. Read the rest

Facebook shutting legal weed pages

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Reminder: even if cannabis is now legal in 23 states, including recreationally in some, Facebook does not want you posting about it on its website. The BBC reports on its recent crackdown on accounts and pages set up by legal dispensaries and weedy websites.

So what's the logic behind the move? Well, although the drug may be legal in some places, it's still very much illegal for others. That creates a tough dilemma for a social network like Facebook, which is used by people all over the world. Facebook's "Community Standards", which users agree to maintain when they sign up, tend to take one standard global position on issues like the promotion of drugs.

When BBC Trending contacted Facebook, they issued this official statement: "In order to maintain a safe environment on Facebook, we have Community Standards that describe what is and is not allowed on the service. Anyone can report content to us if they think it violates our standards. Our teams review these reports rapidly and will remove the content if there is a violation."

The wave of shut-downs was noticed last week, reports NBC News.

In New Jersey, where medical marijuana is legal, three of the state's five dispensaries, or Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs), they're called, had their Facebook pages shut down last week. Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center, Compassionate Sciences Alternative Treatment Center (CSATC) and Garden State Dispensary all received messages from Facebook stating their pages had been "unpublished" because content posted on their pages "doesn't follow the Facebook Terms."

The delicious part is, of course, inconsistent enforcement: it appears that weed sellers are grassing one another up to Facebook. Read the rest

Facebook's "Free Basics" and colonialism: an argument in six devastating points

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Though India's independent telcoms regulator has banned services like Facebook's "Free Basics" -- which bribed phone companies to exempt Facebook's chosen services from the carriers' punishing data-caps -- the debate rages on, as Free Basics has taken hold through many poor countries around the world. Read the rest

Indian regulator stands up for net neutrality, bans Facebook's walled garden

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India's Internet activists have scored an epic victory in their battle against Facebook and its attempt to become gatekeeper to the Internet in India. Read the rest

Facebook's fourth-quarter earnings smash Wall Street expectations

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Social media giant Facebook today reported sales and earnings that well exceeded Wall Street's expectations, as both the number of users and mobile ad dollars rose from October to December.

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Facebook values Whatsapp users' data at $1/year

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This week, Whatsapp -- an instant messaging company that was founded on the principle of charging $1/year and preserving your privacy in exchange, but which sold to Facebook in 2014 for $19B -- sent users a message that their accounts would be free forevermore -- at the same time as the app quietly introduced a tickbox (optional, for now) to share your data with Facebook "to improve your Facebook experience." Read the rest

India's telcoms regulator says it will ignore Facebook's astroturf army

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Facebook's misleading, high budget astroturf campaign sent over 14 lakh (1.4m) comments to TRAI, the Indian telcoms regulator, almost none of which responded to the questions raised in the regulator's Net Neutrality consultation paper. Read the rest

Indian Net Neutrality vs Facebook's astroturf army

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When India's independent telcoms regulator opened up a consultation on whether to allow Facebook to continue bribing some ISPs to charge extra for access to URLs that Facebook hadn't approved, they were flooded with 5.5 million confused comments in support of the $300 billion US company. Read the rest

Facebook's FUDdy, full-page anti-Net-Neutrality Indian newspaper ads

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Facebook is desperate to ensure that the Internet never takes hold in developing nations -- they want a walled garden that they get to own and operate. Read the rest

Six months with a dumbphone

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In yearning for simplicity, the question is its own answer. Or maybe just get something old from Nokia.

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