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

50 million people in Myanmar can now get Facebook, and they're spreading a trumpian ethnic cleansing movement

Myanmar has been a technologically backwards authoritarian state for much of the past 50 years, with less than 1% of the country connected to the net, until 2015, when the country held its first elections in decades, a moment that was swiftly followed by a relaxation in telcoms controls and widespread access to the internet via mobile devices. Read the rest

Quitting Facebook feels GREAT

It's been six years since I quite Facebook and not a day goes by that I don't realize that my life is better for it. Read the rest

Even superheroes have problems with social media

The perils of modern online life even affect the Man of Steel. Jimmy Olsen's snap run through Facebook's evil autotagging is more observant than Lois. Lots more brilliant stuff by Brakken here. Read the rest

Trump's presidential hires and advisors own a hell of a lot of fake news sites

Floyd Brown invented the Reagan-era Willie Horton lie, helped create the Citizens United group, and now owns Liftable Media, including sites like Conservative Tribune (50th most-trafficked site in the USA) and Western Journalism (81st), whence came fake news stories like the lie that Obama had altered the White House logo to include a white flag of surrender (the logo change came from GWB's White House); the lie that Muslims had been "ordered" to vote for Hillary; the lie that Obama had encouraged millennial non-citizen Latin@s to vote without fear of reprisals; the lie that Clinton had a Vegas "drug holiday" before the debate; the lie that Obama's birth certificate was not accepted by experts as genuine -- Brown's sites are all included in Facebook's verified news sources. Read the rest

Beyond fake news: the "constructed realities" of the polarized world

Gilad Lotan -- our favorite fake-news sleuthing data-scientist -- writes about the problem of not-quite-fake news, which is much more pernicious than mere lies: it's news that uses attention-shaping, one-sided "news" accounts that divide their readers into their own "constructed realities." Read the rest

Facebook creates censorship tool to convince China to allow it to do business there

The New York Times reports that Facebook is completing work on censorship software to accommodate demands made by the Chinese government.

The social network has quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas, according to three current and former Facebook employees, who asked for anonymity because the tool is confidential. The feature was created to help Facebook get into China, a market where the social network has been blocked, these people said. Mr. Zuckerberg has supported and defended the effort, the people added.

Filtering fraudulent propaganda is something he insists is both irrelevant and practically impossible, but explicitly censoring credible news comes so easily to him. Seems odd.

Some of us are still talking about Mark Zuckerberg as if he were the moronic child-man depicted in The Social Network, a nerd who must be sighed or screamed at until he Gets whatever human thing is escaping him. But it's long past time to accept that he's a powerful and self-aware adult businessman, as cynical as the best of them, who benefits to our detriment when we cast him in that role.

Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters Read the rest

Hugely successful Facebook fake news author considers himself a "satirist"

Paul Horner says he made more than $10,000 month writing fake news on Facebook that was widely shared by Trump supporters and picked up by the real press -- for example, hoax stories about protesters being paid to turn out against Trump -- and that he targeted Trump supporters as an act of "satire" to show that they would credulously share anything, providing that it confirmed their conspiracy theories about the left and the Democratic party. Read the rest

Facebookers defy Zuckerberg, form fake news "task force"

Days after Mark Zuckerberg called the idea that Facebook -- and specifically, the fake news circulated on Facebook -- had influenced the US election as "a pretty crazy idea," a group of "renegade" Facebook employees have formed themselves into a "task force" to tackle the issue, and have been warned by their managers that they may not speak to the press about this on pain on termination. Read the rest

Google and Facebook's "fake news" ban is a welcome nail in the coffin of "software objectivity"

In the wake of the Trump election -- a triumph of fake news -- both Google and Facebook have announced that they will take countermeasures to exclude "fake news" from their services, downranking them in the case of Facebook and cutting them off from ad payments in Google's case. Read the rest

Zuckerberg: it's crazy to think Facebook fake news influenced voting

New York Mag's Max Read wrote that Facebook, stuffed with hoaxes and largely-right wing fake news, has to face up to its role in promoting political disinformation that helped Donald Trump win the election: "it’s not just that Facebook makes politics worse, it’s that it changes politics entirely."

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg denies this, saying that Facebook doesn't influence people's decisions..

"To think it influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea," Zuckerberg said Thursday evening during the Techonomy conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif... "I do think there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason someone could have voted the way they did is they saw some fake news."

The obvious quip is to point out that he now has to explain why advertising on Facebook does influence decisions.

But the truth isn't funny: Facebook was exposed years ago secretly experimenting on users to influence psychological states, so it's well-aware of the extent to which they can be manipulated. Read the rest

John Oliver shreds multi-level-marketing pyramid schemes

Oliver's 30+ minute investigative piece on Mary Kay, Amway, Herbalife, Avon, Rodan and Fields and the rest of the MLM basket of deplorables shows how the Facebook era has supercharged these semi-criminal enterprises, entrapping thousands of people in a cycle of debt and deception that is fuelled by celebrity endorsers, including Madeline Albright. Read the rest

Germany investigates Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook over failure to remove hate posts

Prosecutors in Germany have launched a formal investigation of Mark Zuckerberg and other executives at Facebook, the Munich prosecutor's office said Friday, over a complaint that Facebook broke German laws against hate speech and sedition by failing to remove racist hate-posts on the social media service.

Read the rest

Lawsuit: mayor's social media blocklists are public records

Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine has a history of blocking his critics on social media, including Grant Stern, who runs the Photography is Not a Crime group. Read the rest

Facebook's crackdown on publishers feeds has sites paying celebs to repost

Facebook -- which accounts for as much as 75% of the traffic to popular websites -- tweaked its algorithm to downrank those same publishers, who had been engaged in an arms-race to dominate Facebook users' feeds through techniques intended to gain high rank in Facebook's secret scoring system. Read the rest

More posts