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All the economists who told the FTC we shouldn't break up Big Tech are paid by Big Tech

From the Open Markets Institute's Mat Stoller and Austin Frederick, who analyzed the FTC's panel, "The Current Economic Understanding of Multi-Sided Platforms," in which economic experts told the regulator that Big Tech's monopoly power just isn't a problem: "every single economist testifying on the issue of corporate concentration derived income, directly or indirectly, from large corporations. Beyond that, the hearing itself was held at the Antonin Scalia Law School, which is financed by Google and Amazon." Read the rest

Brazil Elections: Facebook's WhatsApp “taking immediate legal action” against political spammers

WhatsApp, the messaging application business owned by Facebook, said on Friday it is “taking immediate legal action” against companies responsible for a flood of political spam ahead of Brazil's presidential elections. Read the rest

Facebook hires Nick Clegg, British politician who annihilated his own party, as new global affairs chief

Nick Clegg's leadership of the UK's Liberal Democrats brought it briefly into the halls of power only to be destroyed by political incompetence and ambitious indifference. He started out commanding a quarter of the popular vote in a three-party system and left it with just 8 MPs, marginalized for a generation. Let's hope he can do the same thing for Facebook as their Head of Global Affairs.

Facebook has hired Nick Clegg, the former UK deputy prime minister, to head its global affairs and communications team as it faces escalating problems over data protection and the threat of greater government regulation.

Mr Clegg, 51, will move to Silicon Valley in January to succeed Elliot Schrage, who announced he would leave Facebook after 10 years in June.

His recruitment will be as much of a surprise to the British political establishment as it will be to Silicon Valley, where few European politicians enjoy a high profile in the insular tech industry.

"Months of wooing by Mark Zuckerberg," the Financial Times says, but you may recall this recent licking of the boot from Clegg, who just last month called criticism of Facebook "outright Luddism."

Mark Zuckerberg et al are regularly criticised for not doing enough to stop fake news and extremism, and doing too much to mine our data for the benefit of advertisers, but a threat to the continued existence of humankind? Hardly. ... It’s time we pause for breath before everyone charges off in a stampede of condemnation of tax-dodging-fake-news-extremism-promoting-data-controlling tech firms.

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This is what a Facebook election security charm offensive looks like

Facebook is working very hard right now to prove it can be trusted to protect users from malicious fake news, political disinformation, and cyberattacks intended to throw the 2018 midterms. What Facebook is not doing: providing details. Read the rest

Instagram's bullying, stalking, and harassment crisis

Twitter gets well-deserved attention for online harassment, but know who else has a huge problem there? Instagram. Big time. Read the rest

Slaves - including children - make the bricks for Cambodia's housing bubble

Two bedroom apartments in Phnom Penh start at $260,000 -- equivalent to 2,000 years' worth of average annual wages for Cambodia's workers. Read the rest

Deleting Facebook is not enough: without antitrust, the company will be our lives' "operating system"

Facebook is the poster-child for the techlash, the worst offender in the monopolistic bunch, and recent books like Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan (previously) and Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier present variations on the main critiques of Facebook with some prescriptions for what to do about it. Read the rest

Facebook lied: its in-home "Portal" cameras will collect your data

Facebook Portal is a camera that is supposed to follow you around your house while you videoconference; the product launch was repeatedly delayed because of the company's string of horrific privacy breaches; when the company finally pulled the trigger on the launch it was at pains to insist that Portal would not collect your data while you used it. Read the rest

Lawsuit: "pivoting to video" was a disaster led by Facebook's cooked viewing data

Several years ago media sites began firing writers en-masse to hire video people instead, because Facebook and other social media companies told them that this was the future. "Pivoting to video," some called it. But what Facebook actually delivered was "fraudulent" analytics. Advertisers slowly figured out the videos weren't being watched. Facebook lied about it for a while. Then it apparently admitted it. Then the media sites started firing the video people too.

Here's an excerpt from a lawsuit unsealed yesterday, posted to Twitter by Jason Kint, the CEO of an online publishers' trade group.

63. In June 2016, a Facebook engineering manager finally followed up on advertiser complaints dating back to early 2015, writing that "[s]omehow there was no progress on the task for a year." But even once it was decided to take action on the metrics, Facebook did not promptly fix its calculation or disclose that the calculation was wrong. Instead, it continued reporting miscalculated viewership metrics for another several months, as it developed a "no PR" strategy to avoid drawing attention to the error. The company decided to "obfuscate the fact that we screwed up the math" by quietly retiring the erroneous metrics and replacing them with corrected metrics under a new name. For instance, Average Duration of Video Viewed would be replaced with Average Watch Time.

64. In August 2016, Facebook began reaching out privately to select, large advertisers, telling them that Facebook had "recently discovered a discrepancy" in the video ad average view metrics.

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White woman blocks black man from entering his own apartment building

D'Arreion Toles just wanted to go home. But Hilary Brooke Mueller, apparently fresh out the air-fluff cycle of the dryer, didn't want him in the building where she too lived.

“Do you live here?”

“I’ve already answered that question,” Mr. Toles, 24, replies as he continues to try to get in. “Excuse me.”

But the woman, Hilary Brooke Mueller, refused to move as she continued to ask Mr. Toles what unit he lived in and to see his key fob. When he declined to tell her, she remained in his path.

“If you want to come into my building —” she begins to say in the video.

“It’s not your building, you’re not the owner,” Mr. Toles says, getting past her. “Excuse me.”

Toles posted his video of the encounter to his Facebook page. Mueller's yelp when he finally slips past her -- "are you kidding me?" -- is really something. Pure incomprehending outrage that he walked into the building without her permission. Her employer, a real estate firm named Tribeca-STL, released a statement saying that it was a minority-owned company and that it had fired her after viewing the video. Read the rest

No identity theft protection for latest Facebook hack victims

Facebook will not provide fraud protection for victims of its latest data breach, details of which were announced in a Friday news dump. It set up a page where you can check if your Facebook account was breached.

One analyst told the BBC the decision was "unconscionable" ... For the most severely impacted users - a group of around 14 million, Facebook said - the stolen data included "username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches".

Typically, companies affected by large data breaches - such as Target, in 2013 - provide access to credit protection agencies and other methods to lower the risk of identity theft. Other hacked companies, such as on the Playstation Network, and credit monitoring agency Equifax, offered similar solutions.

A Facebook spokeswoman told the BBC it would not be taking this step "at this time". Users would instead be directed to the website's help section.

They're done caring. If you're still using Facebook, you're done caring too. Read the rest

Against all evidence, city of Savannah claims googly eyes glued to Revolutionary War statue are "not funny"

An extremely funny prankster glued googly eyes to the statue of Revolutionary War commander Nathaniel Greene; the City of Savannah took to its Facebook page to insist that this was "not funny" but rather "vandalism" and saying that the police had been involved. Read the rest

Facebook: Hackers got (very) personal data from 29M users. FIND OUT if your info was breached.

The good news: Facebook downgrades the number of accounts hit in the breach they disclosed two weeks ago to 29 million, down from 50 million. The bad news: Uh, that's still a LOT. And if you were one of those 29 million Facebook users, A LOT of your intimate personal data was stolen. Read the rest

Facebook's value has crashed 30% since July

"Investors are bailing" from Facebook, writes CNN Money. The share price for the disgraced social media firm has dropped 30% since July. Facebook has had a hard time shaking its image as a firm that happily violates users' privacy, manipulates users emotional well-being, doesn't take proper steps to secure users' data, courts advertisers interested in targeting white supremacists, and sells users' behavioral information to unscrupulous entities.

Despite hours of testimony, a blitz of executive interviews and numerous tweaks to its privacy settings, Facebook has yet to put the Cambridge Analytica issue behind it. And now, Facebook faces the prospect of additional regulatory scrutiny after disclosing a new security breach affecting nearly 50 million users.

The longer the privacy backlash continues, not to mention ongoing concerns about election meddling, the more potential for damage to Facebook's core business.

"For the first time, we've heard some grumblings from the advertiser community that the hot water that Facebook is in politically is creating some hesitation on budget allocations (for some)," Ross Sandler, an analyst with Barclays, wrote in an investor note this week.

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What is this mystery object that washed up on a South Carolina beach?

This mysterious large object washed up last week on Seabrook Island in Charleston County, South Carolina. Apparently it has the consistency of foam and does not seem to contain any metal. Read the rest

Couple's 'maternity shoot' turns weird

Some strange things happened to papa-to-be Todd Cameron and his pregnant partner during their maternity photo shoot. It started off harmless enough, a nice couple in a field of pumpkins showing off that baby bump. But then it got weird... fast:

Looks like "baby" isn't going to wait for the delivery room

Oh dear

Baby come back...!

This wasn't the end. See what happens next by checking out their Facebook photo album with all the photos from the shoot.

photos by Li Carter, used with permission Read the rest

Trump's EPA chief Andrew Wheeler caught 'liking' racist & conspiracy memes, yet again

Acting EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler has been caught --yet again-- engaging with racist and conspiracy theory posts on social media. He pooh-poohed questions about online interactions he had with a Pizzagater, and tells a reporter he doesn’t remember liking a racist picture of the Obamas. Read the rest

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