Talking surveillance, elections, monopolies, and Facebook on the Bots and Ballots podcast

Grant Burningham interviewed me for his Bots and Ballots podcast (MP3), covering a bunch of extremely timely tech-politics issues: Facebook and the impact of commercial surveillance on democratic elections; Alex Jones, censorship and market concentration; and monopolism and the future of the internet. Read the rest

American Conservative laments market concentration and private property as bad for free expression

For years, the big social media platforms have used their market dominance to decide who could speak and on what terms: they forced drag queens and trans people to use their "real" names; kicked Black Lives Matter activists off their platforms; and allowed autocratic rulers to force opposition activists to expose themselves to arrest and torture as a condition of using their platforms. Read the rest

Facebook throws an extra $10m at Zuck's personal security

Zuckerberg -- who says privacy isn't a value that's important to most people any more -- owns the four houses on either side of his Silicon Valley house so that no one can use them as a perch to spy on him; he bought 100 acres around his Hawai'ain beach house, suing native Hawai'ians to force them to sell to him, so that he could have a buffer between him and the world. Read the rest

Leaked Facebook memo reveals "psychological trick" developed to entice high-school students to sign on

In October 2017, Facebook bought the startup TBH, whose product was an enormously successful polling app aimed at high-school students; as part of TBH's integration into the company, they circulated memos detailing the "psychological trick" they developed to maximize their penetration into high-schools and suggested ways this could be adapted for use by Facebook itself. Read the rest

Facebook to banks: give us our users' financial data and we'll let them bank with Facebook

Facebook wants to "deepen user engagement" with Messenger, and to that end, it's been pitching America's giant banks on joint enterprises where Facebook will get to see all your financial info (especially info on where you're shopping and what you're buying) to help it suck you into using Messenger for longer. Read the rest

Facebook takes down a legitimate anti-far-right protest page, calls it "inauthentic"

Like Linus Van Pelt searching the pumpkin patch for a really sincere pumpkin, Facebook has been scouring its political organizing pages for really sincere protesters, and loudly and performatively purging any activity it deems to be "inauthentic." Read the rest

John Oliver calls bullshit on Facebook's insincere apologies

After a month off, John Oliver is back and, where Facebook's bullshit apology for all of the greasy stuff they've been doing with their user's data is concerned, he's taking no prisoners. Read the rest

John Oliver's scorching debullshitification of Facebook's apology ads

Apparently Facebook is running TV ads apologizing for being a creepy stalker optimized for organizing Nazi hate-mobs and genocidal pogroms (also apparently: now that all the young people are leaving Facebook, TV is how you reach the company's core user-base). Read the rest

Facebook shares plummet on tiny shortfall in predicted growth

Analysts predicted that Facebook would average 1.48B daily users, but their latest quarterly figures showed only 1.47B dailies; their projected earnings were $1.33B, but they only turned in $1.32B, and they were expected to earn $5.97/user but only earned $5.95/user -- and so their shares dropped 24% (they're slightly up from that, but still down 20%). Read the rest

EFF has published a detailed guide to regulating Facebook without destroying the internet

If you're a dominant near-monopolist like Facebook, your first preference is to have no regulation at all -- but your close second choice is to have lots of regulation that you can afford, but that potential competitors can't, sparing you the tedious exercise of buying and killing any company that might grow up to compete with you some day. Read the rest

Facebook forced to drop "feature" that let advertisers block black people, old people and women

It's illegal to discriminate based on "protected classes," including "men and women on the basis of sex; any group which shares a common race, religion, color, or national origin; people over 40; and people with physical or mental handicaps" but from the earliest days of its self-serve ad platform, Facebook gave advertisers the ability to exclude people from ads for jobs, financial products, housing and other necessities based on these categories. Read the rest

Desperate Facebook poisons the well, spamming disenchanted users with torrents of notifications, including through 2FA

As Facebook users drift away from the platform, the company is becoming increasingly desperate to lure them back, doubling down on its obnoxious tactic of spamming users whose activity has fallen off with notifications intended to pique their interest in using the service again. Read the rest

As hoax-fueled lynchings continue in India, Whatsapp puts limits on video-forwarding

The viral hoax video purporting to show child-snatchers kidnapping Indian children continues to fuel lynchmobs, whose death toll has climbed to more than two dozen victims. Read the rest

Facebook Domination vs. Self-Determination

We're months removed from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the public outrage of #DeleteFacebook, and new information continues to surface about Facebook's sloppy handling of data and hunger for surveillance. Last month, we learned about an Orwellian patent that might allow Facebook to track you via mobile microphone. Though some have cast doubt on the reports, mobile spyware like the now-infamous Alphonso do track mobile devices via sound emitted by TVs.

Podcast: Zuck's Empire of Oily Rags

Here's my reading (MP3) of Zuck's Empire of Oily Rags, a Locus Magazine column about the corruption implicit in surveillance capitalism, which creates giant risks to users by collecting sensitive information about them in order to eke out tiny gains in the efficacy of targeted advertising. The commercial surveillance industry may not be very good at selling us fridges, but they're very good at locating racists and thugs and getting them to support violent political movements.

MP3 Read the rest

Portuguese translation of Zuck's Empire of Oily Rags

Brent Longborough did me the enormous favor of translating my latest Locus column, Zuck's Empire of Oily Rags, into Portuguese, and sent it to me to publish.

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An elegant plan to use peer-pressure to fight Alex Jones on Facebook

Alex Jones accused the grieving parents of the dead children of Sandy Hook of being "crisis actors" and kicked off a campaign of brutal harassment by his idiotic followers -- 900,000 of them on Facebook alone. Read the rest

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