Facebook is reportedly considering making it just a wee bit clearer that pro-Bloomberg political campaign posts come from paid staffers on Michael Bloomberg's political campaign. Yes, 2020 is bonkers. Read the rest
The IRS is suing Facebook for $9bn over unpaid taxes, reports Reuters, targeting its licensing of "intellectual property" to its own Irish subsidiary to shift profits to that lower-taxed jurisdiction.
Under the arrangement, Facebook’s subsidiaries pay royalties to the U.S.-based parent for access to its trademark, users and platform technologies. From 2010 to 2016, Facebook Ireland paid Facebook U.S. more than $14 billion in royalties and cost-sharing payments, according to the court filing.
The company said the low valuation reflected the risks associated with Facebook’s international expansion, which took place in 2010 before its IPO and the development of its most lucrative digital advertising products.
Facebook is designed to make you anxious, depressed and dissatisfied, three states of mind that make you more vulnerable to advertising and other forms of behavioral manipulation. Small wonder, then, that people who quit using Facebook report higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of depression and anxiety [pdf]. Bloomberg's article about the study is a few months old but one that should be revisited regularly between now and November.
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People who deactivated Facebook as part of the experiment were happier afterward, reporting higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of depression and anxiety. The change was modest but significant — equal to about 25 to 40 percent of the beneficial effect typically reported for psychotherapy.
Why are people willing to pay so much money for something that reduces their happiness? One possibility is that social media acts like an addictive drug — in fact, the people Allcott et al. paid to deactivate Facebook ended up using it less after the experiment was over. But another possibility is that people use services like Facebook because they’re compelled by motivations other than the pursuit of happiness.
Ten months ago the director of New Jersey's Division on Civil Rights alerted Facebook about a racist and anti-Semitic group page it was hosting, but Facebook took no action, reports Ars Technica. It took a letter from the state's attorney general to convince Facebook to remove the group page.
On Wednesday New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a joint statement, which read:
"We just learned that Facebook has decided to take down the public page on the company’s social network called ‘Rise Up Ocean County.’ Facebook’s action comes ten months after the Director of our Division on Civil Rights, Rachel Wainer Apter, first sent a letter to Facebook expressing concerns about racist and anti-Semitic statements on the page. Since then, we’ve consistently and repeatedly made clear our view that the page appeared to violate Facebook’s terms of service, and we appreciate that Facebook has now decided that this kind of hateful rhetoric has no place on its platform.
There remains much that should be done to stop the spread of hate on the Internet. The Murphy Administration will continue to call out hate whenever and wherever we see it, we will persist in demanding meaningful reforms to address the proliferation of hate online, and we will continue working to make New Jersey a safe and inclusive place for all of our residents.”
From the Ars Technica article:
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In January the Facebook page went briefly offline, leading state officials to believe Facebook had in fact taken it down, but the group came back several hours later, "gloating" about its perseverance.
Facebook issued a disappointed quarterly report, sending its stock price down by 8%, reports CNBC. In the report, "Facebook also warned of advertising headwinds related to privacy and regulatory changes on the horizon, leading to slowing growth in the U.S. Facebook said privacy improvements on Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Android software could hurt its ability to target advertising."
Facebook has agreed to pay $550m to users in Illinois who sued it over its storing of biometric data without consent. This allowed the social network to automatically tag photographs—and to build a vast database of facial recognition data. It also contravenes the state's privacy laws, reports the BBC:
The case has been ongoing since 2015, and the settlement was announced in its quarterly earnings. It comes as facial recognition use by the police, and in public spaces, comes under intense scrutiny. The lawsuit against Facebook was given the go-ahead in 2018 when a federal judge ruled it could be heard as a class action (group) case. The appeals court disagreed with Facebook's attempts to stop this, and in January the Supreme Court also declined to review its appeal.
Facebook made the facial recognition feature opt-in a few months after the state Supreme Court left them on the hook.
Mike Isaac at The New York Times reports a "major victory" for privacy campaigners.
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“The Illinois law has real teeth. It pretty much stopped Facebook in its tracks,” said Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit group that filed a brief in the Facebook case. “Tech firms and other companies that collect biometric data must be very nervous right now.”
Since the Illinois law was enacted in 2008, it has vexed companies that market voice assistants, doorbell cameras, photo labeling and other technology that may collect biometric details from people without their knowledge or consent.
The Homeowners' Association in Val Vista Lakes -- a private community in Gilbert, Arizona -- has threatened at least 11 residents with fines of $250 each if they do not delete Facebook posts that are critical of the HOA and its board, thereby demonstrating the case for criticizing the HOA and its board. Read the rest
When Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer of blackmailing him over personal messages he sent to his lover while married to his then-wife, many pointed the finger at his lover's brother, noted asshole Michael Sanchez, suggesting Sanchez received $200,000 from the Enquirer for stealing the data from his sister's phone -- but Bezos's own investigative team said that they suspected an unspecified government actor had played a role in the leak. Read the rest
Former Vice President and current 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden says U.S. Section 230 should be immediately revoked for Facebook and other social media platforms, and that Mark Zuckerberg should be submitted to civil liability. Read the rest
W Aaron Waychoff created these great diecut #DeleteFacebook stickers ($5 for 5); he sells them from his Etsy store where he also offers a bounty of other political stickers, pins and swag. Read the rest
Wow, this blew up and imploded and tried to disappear quickly and totally did not disappear at all. Read the rest
This is the future, I guess. Read the rest
50 states' Attorneys General are investigating Google for antitrust violations, doing the work that Federal regulators have shirked since the Reagan era. Read the rest
Ever since the glorious disaster that was Cambridge Analytica and the entire political climate of 2016, Mark Zuckerberg has been making the rounds from press outlets to private meetings with Republican donors to Congressional testimonies to more private meetings with Republican donors, all with increasing frequency. But he has yet to grant an audience to the Guardian since they broke the initial story with whistleblower testimony.
So naturally, the Guardian enlisted the help of Botnick Studios to create a neural network trained on some 200,000+ words from Zuckerberg's interviews, speeches, and blogposts over the last three years. And they interviewed that instead.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this "Zuckerbot" sounds about as convincing as the real Zuckerberg — which is to say like an eerily fabricated alien simulacrum of a human being. For example, here's how it describes the purpose of Facebook:
First, I want to thank you all for being a part of my mission. The purpose of Facebook is to bring about internet for people in the digital room. It is about advertising dollars to people who pay to be able to pay. We believe in building $8bn of voice on the platform for dads who are hungry for coffee.
And on his secret meetings with Donald Trump:
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Is anything ever secure? Is anything ever secret? Guess what? The answer is a clear maybe. Or maybe not. I am going to say quiet words in your face just like I did with him and Congress. You can’t expect me to tell you a secret that I didn’t share with him but I am confident that we are sharing the same infrastructure.