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From: JakeStraw9/15/2017 2:49:57 PM
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Facebook is reinventing art, and maybe consciousness, too

Augmented reality art, which you can only see through special apps on your phone, is coming. And with it, questions about what’s real and what’s not.

cnet.com

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From: Glenn Petersen9/18/2017 10:02:21 PM
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Facebook Faces a New World as Officials Rein In a Wild Web

By PAUL MOZUR, MARK SCOTT and MIKE ISAAC
New York Times
SEPT. 17, 2017

On a muggy, late spring evening, Tuan Pham awoke to the police storming his house in Hanoi, Vietnam.

They marched him to a police station and made their demand: Hand over your Facebook password. Mr. Tuan, a computer engineer, had recently written a poem on the social network called “Mother’s Lullaby,” which criticized how the communist country was run.

One line read, “One century has passed, we are still poor and hungry, do you ask why?”

Mr. Tuan’s arrest came just weeks after Facebook offered a major olive branch to Vietnam’s government. Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, met with a top Vietnamese official in April and pledged to remove information from the social network that violated the country’s laws.

While Facebook said its policies in Vietnam have not changed, and it has a consistent process for governments to report illegal content, the Vietnamese government was specific. The social network, they have said, had agreed to help create a new communications channel with the government to prioritize Hanoi’s requests and remove what the regime considered inaccurate posts about senior leaders



Vietnam’s government has said Facebook agreed to help create a new communications channel with the government. Credit Na Son Nguyen/Associated Press
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Populous, developing countries like Vietnam are where the company is looking to add its next billion customers — and to bolster its ad business. Facebook’s promise to Vietnam helped the social media giant placate a government that had called on local companies not to advertise on foreign sites like Facebook, and it remains a major marketing channel for businesses there.

The diplomatic game that unfolded in Vietnam has become increasingly common for Facebook. The internet is Balkanizing, and the world’s largest tech companies have had to dispatch envoys to, in effect, contain the damage such divisions pose to their ambitions.

The internet has long had a reputation of being an anything-goes place that only a few nations have tried to tame — China in particular. But in recent years, events as varied as the Arab Spring, elections in France and confusion in Indonesia over the religion of the country’s president have awakened governments to how they have lost some control over online speech, commerce and politics on their home turf.

Even in the United States, tech giants are facing heightened scrutiny from the government. Facebook recently cooperated with investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the American presidential election. In recent weeks, politicians on the left and the right have also spoken out about the excess power of America’s largest tech companies.

As nations try to grab back power online, a clash is brewing between governments and companies. Some of the biggest companies in the world — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba among them — are finding they need to play by an entirely new set of rules on the once-anarchic internet.

And it’s not just one new set of rules. According to a review by The New York Times, more than 50 countries have passed laws over the last five years to gain greater control over how their people use the web.


“Ultimately, it’s a grand power struggle,” said David Reed, an early pioneer of the internet and a former professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “Governments started waking up as soon as a significant part of their powers of communication of any sort started being invaded by companies.”

Facebook encapsulates the reasons for the internet’s fragmentation — and increasingly, its consequences.
__________________________

Global Reach Facebook has grown by leaps and bounds around the world to over 1.3 billion daily users worldwide.



Source: Company reports | 2017 as of the second quarter
___________________________

The company has become so far-reaching that more than two billion people — about a quarter of the world’s population — now use Facebook each month. Internet users (excluding China) spend one in five minutes online within the Facebook universe, according to comScore, a research firm. And Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, wants that dominance to grow.

But politicians have struck back. China, which blocked Facebook in 2009, has resisted Mr. Zuckerberg’s efforts to get the social network back into the country. In Europe, officials have repudiated Facebook’s attempts to gather data from its messaging apps and third-party websites.

The Silicon Valley giant’s tussle with the fracturing internet is poised to escalate. Facebook has now reached almost everyone who already has some form of internet access, excluding China. Capturing those last users — including in Asian nations like Vietnam and African countries like Kenya — may involve more government roadblocks.

“We understand that and accept that our ideals are not everyone’s,” said Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy. “But when you look at the data and truly listen to the people around the world who rely on our service, it’s clear that we do a much better job of bringing people together than polarizing them.”

Friending China

By mid-2016, a yearslong campaign by Facebook to get into China — the world’s biggest internet market — appeared to be sputtering.



Facebook has tried various methods to get back into China, where the social network has been blocked since 2009. Credit Ng Han Guan/Associated Press
__________________________________

Mr. Zuckerberg had wined and dined Chinese politicians, publicly showed off his newly acquired Chinese-language skills — a moment that set the internet abuzz — and talked with a potential Chinese partner about pushing the social network into the market, according to a person familiar with the talks who declined to be named because the discussions were confidential.

At a White House dinner in 2015, Mr. Zuckerberg had even asked the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whether Mr. Xi might offer a Chinese name for his soon-to-be-born first child — usually a privilege reserved for older relatives, or sometimes a fortune teller. Mr. Xi declined, according to a person briefed on the matter.

But all those efforts flopped, foiling Facebook’s attempts to crack one of the most isolated pockets of the internet.

China has blocked Facebook and Twitter since mid-2009, after an outbreak of ethnic rioting in the western part of the country. In recent years, similar barriers have gone up for Google services and other apps, like Line and Instagram.

Even if Facebook found a way to enter China now, it would not guarantee financial success. Today, the overwhelming majority of Chinese citizens use local online services like Qihoo 360 and Sina Weibo. No American-made apps rank among China’s 50 most popular services, according to SAMPi, a market research firm.

Chinese tech officials said that although many in the government are open to the idea of Facebook releasing products in China, there is resistance among leaders in the standing committee of the country’s Politburo, its top decision-making body.

In 2016, Facebook took tentative steps toward embracing China’s censorship policies. That summer, Facebook developed a tool that could suppress posts in certain geographic areas, The Times reported last year. The idea was that it would help the company get into China by enabling Facebook or a local partner to censor content according to Beijing’s demands. The tool was not deployed.

In another push last year, Mr. Zuckerberg spent time at a conference in Beijing that is a standard on the China government relations tour. Using his characteristic brand of diplomacy — the Facebook status update — he posted a photo of himself running in Tiananmen Square on a dangerously smoggy day. The photo drew derision on Twitter, and concerns from Chinese about Mr. Zuckerberg’s health.



Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, on a run in Beijing in 2016. The outing set the internet abuzz as “the smog jog.” Credit Facebook/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
____________________________

For all the courtship, things never quite worked out.

“There’s an interest on both sides of the dance, so some kind of product can be introduced,” said Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google in China who now runs a venture-capital firm in Beijing. “But what Facebook wants is impossible, and what they can have may not be very meaningful.”

This spring, Facebook tried a different tactic: testing the waters in China without telling anyone. The company authorized the release of a photo-sharing app there that does not bear its name, and experimented by linking it to a Chinese social network called WeChat.

One factor driving Mr. Zuckerberg may be the brisk ad business that Facebook does from its Hong Kong offices, where the company helps Chinese companies — and the government’s own propaganda organs — spread their messages. In fact, the scale of the Chinese government’s use of Facebook to communicate abroad offers a notable sign of Beijing’s understanding of Facebook’s power to mold public opinion.

Chinese state media outlets have used ad buys to spread propaganda around key diplomatic events. Its stodgy state-run television station and the party mouthpiece newspaper each have far more Facebook “likes” than popular Western news brands like CNN and Fox News, a likely indication of big ad buys.

To attract more ad spending, Facebook set up one page to show China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, how to promote on the platform, according to a person familiar with the matter. Dedicated to Mr. Xi’s international trips, the page is still regularly updated by CCTV, and has 2.7 million likes. During the 2015 trip when Mr. Xi met Mr. Zuckerberg, CCTV used the channel to spread positive stories. One post was titled “Xi’s UN address wins warm applause.”



At a White House dinner in 2015, Mr. Zuckerberg asked the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whether Mr. Xi might offer a Chinese name for his soon-to-be-born first child — usually a privilege reserved for older relatives, or sometimes a fortune teller. Credit Charles Ommanney/Facebook, via Associated Press
___________________________

Fittingly, Mr. Zuckerberg’s eagerness and China’s reluctance can be tracked on Facebook.

During Mr. Xi’s 2015 trip to America, Mr. Zuckerberg posted about how the visit offered him his first chance to speak a foreign language with a world leader. The post got more than a half million likes, including from Chinese state media (despite the national ban). But on Mr. Xi’s propaganda page, Mr. Zuckerberg got only one mention — in a list of the many tech executives who met the Chinese president.

Europe’s Privacy Pushback

Last summer, emails winged back and forth between members of Facebook’s global policy team. They were finalizing plans, more than two years in the making, for WhatsApp, the messaging app Facebook had bought in 2014, to start sharing data on its one billion users with its new parent company. The company planned to use the data to tailor ads on Facebook’s other services and to stop spam on WhatsApp.

A big issue: how to win over wary regulators around the world.

Despite all that planning, Facebook was hit by a major backlash. A month after the new data-sharing deal started in August 2016, German privacy officials ordered WhatsApp to stop passing data on its 36 million local users to Facebook, claiming people did not have enough say over how it would be used. The British privacy watchdog soon followed.

By late October, all 28 of Europe’s national data-protection authorities jointly called on Facebook to stop the practice. Facebook quietly mothballed its plans in Europe. It has continued to collect people’s information elsewhere, including the United States.

“There’s a growing awareness that people’s data is controlled by large American actors,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, France’s privacy regulator. “These actors now know that times have changed.”

Facebook’s retreat shows how Europe is effectively employing regulations — including tough privacy rules — to control how parts of the internet are run.



Facebook’s international headquarters in Dublin. The company has faced regulatory pushback in Europe. Credit Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg
_________________________

| The goal of European regulators, officials said, is to give users greater control over the data from social media posts, online searches and purchases that Facebook and other tech giants rely on to monitor our online habits.

As a tech company whose ad business requires harvesting digital information, Facebook has often underestimated the deep emotions that European officials and citizens have tied into the collection of such details. That dates back to the time of the Cold War, when many Europeans were routinely monitored by secret police.

Now, regulators from Colombia to Japan are often mimicking Europe’s stance on digital privacy. “It’s only natural European regulators would be at the forefront,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer. “It reflects the importance they’ve attached to the privacy agenda.”

In interviews, Facebook denied it has played fast and loose with users’ online information and said it complies with national rules wherever it operates. It questioned whether Europe’s position has been effective in protecting individuals’ privacy at a time when the region continues to fall behind the United States and China in all things digital.

Still, the company said it respected Europe’s stance on data protection, particularly in Germany, where many citizens have long memories of government surveillance.

“There’s no doubt the German government is a strong voice inside the European community,” said Richard Allan, Facebook’s head of public policy in Europe. “We find their directness pretty helpful.”

Europe has the law on its side when dictating global privacy. Facebook’s non-North American users, roughly 1.8 billion people, are primarily overseen by Ireland’s privacy regulator because the company’s international headquarters is in Dublin, mostly for tax reasons. In 2012, Facebook was forced to alter its global privacy settings — including those in the United States — after Ireland’s data protection watchdog found problems while auditing the company’s operations there.

Three years later, Europe’s highest court also threw out a 15-year-old data-sharing agreement between the region and the United States following a complaint that Facebook had not sufficiently protected Europeans’ data when it was transferred across the Atlantic. The company denies any wrongdoing.



A Facebook event in Berlin last year. Europe, where Cold War-era suspicions over monitoring still linger, is exporting its views of privacy to other parts of the world. Credit Tobias Schwarz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
__________________________________

And on Sept. 12, Spain’s privacy agency fined the company 1.2 million euros for not giving people sufficient control over their data when Facebook collected it from third-party websites. Watchdogs in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere are conducting similar investigations. Facebook is appealing the Spanish ruling.

“Facebook simply can’t stick to a one-size-fits-all product around the world,” said Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer who has been a Facebook critic after filing the case that eventually overturned the 15-year-old data deal.

Potentially more worrying for Facebook is how Europe’s view of privacy is being exported. Countries from Brazil to Malaysia, which are crucial to Facebook’s growth, have incorporated many of Europe’s tough privacy rules into their legislation.

“We regard the European directives as best practice,” said Pansy Tlakula, chairwoman of South Africa’s Information Regulator, the country’s data protection agency. South Africa has gone so far as to copy whole sections, almost word-for-word, from Europe’s rule book.

The Play for Kenya

Blocked in China and troubled by regulators in Europe, Facebook is trying to become “the internet” in Africa. Helping get people online, subsidizing access, and trying to launch satellites to beam the internet down to the markets it covets, Facebook has become a dominant force on a continent rapidly getting online.

But that has given it a power that has made some in Africa uncomfortable.

Some countries have blocked access, and outsiders have complained Facebook could squelch rival online business initiatives. Its competition with other internet companies from the United States and China has drawn comparisons to a bygone era of colonialism.

For Kenyans like Phyl Cherop, 33, an entrepreneur in Nairobi, online life is already dominated by the social network. She abandoned her bricks-and-mortar store in a middle-class part of the city in 2015 to sell on Facebook and WhatsApp.



Phyl Cherop, who lives in Kenya, closed her bricks-and-mortar store to sell items through Facebook. Credit Adriane Ohanesian for The New York Times
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“I gave it up because people just didn’t come anymore,” said Ms. Cherop, who sells items like designer dresses and school textbooks. She added that a stand-alone website would not have the same reach. “I prefer using Facebook because that’s where my customers are. The first thing people want to do when they buy a smartphone is to open a Facebook account.”

As Facebook hunts for more users, the company’s aspirations have shifted to emerging economies where people like Ms. Cherop live. Less than 50 percent of Africa’s population has internet connectivity, and regulation is often rudimentary.

Since Facebook entered Africa about a decade ago, it has become the region’s dominant tech platform. Some 170 million people — more than two thirds of all internet users from South Africa to Senegal — use it, according Facebook’s statistics. That is up 40 percent since 2015.

The company has struck partnerships with local carriers to offer basic internet services — centered on those offered by Facebook — for free. It has built a pared-down version of its social network to run on the cheaper, less powerful phones that are prevalent there.



Mr. Zuckerberg visited Lagos, Nigeria, last year. Credit Andrew Esiebo for The New York Times
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Facebook is also investing tens of millions of dollars alongside telecom operators to build a 500-mile fiber-optic internet connection in rural Uganda. In total, it is working with about 30 regional governments on digital projects.

“We want to bring connectivity to the world,” said Jay Parikh, a Facebook vice president for engineering who oversees the company’s plans to use drones, satellites and other technology to connect the developing world.

Facebook is racing to gain the advantage in Africa over rivals like Google and Chinese players including Tencent, in a 21st century version of the “Scramble for Africa.” Google has built fiber internet networks in Uganda and Ghana. Tencent has released WeChat, its popular messaging and e-commerce app, in South Africa.

Facebook has already hit some bumps in its African push. Chad blocked access to Facebook and other sites during elections or political protests. Uganda also took legal action in Irish courts to force the social network to name an anonymous blogger who had been critical of the government. Those efforts failed.

In Kenya, one of Africa’s most connected countries, there has been less pushback.

Facebook expanded its efforts in the country of 48 million in 2014. It teamed up with Airtel Africa, a mobile operator, to roll out Facebook’s Free Basics — a no-fee version of the social network, with access to certain news, health, job and other services there and in more than 20 other countries worldwide. In Kenya, the average person has a budget of just 30 cents a day to spend on internet access.

Free Basics now lets Kenyans use Facebook and its Messenger service at no cost, as well as read news from a Kenyan newspaper and view information about public health programs. Joe Mucheru, Kenya’s tech minister, said it at least gives his countrymen a degree of internet access.

Still, Facebook’s plans have not always worked out. Many Kenyans with access to Free Basics rely on it only as a backup when their existing smartphone credit runs out.

“Free Basics?

I don’t really use it that often,” said Victor Odinga, 27, an accountant in downtown Nairobi. “No one wants to be seen as someone who can’t afford to get online.”



A cybercafe in Nairobi, Kenya, earlier this year. Africa, where many people are only just beginning to get online, is a greenfield for internet companies like Facebook. Credit Adriane Ohanesian for The New York Times
_______________________________

Correction: September 19, 2017
An article on Monday 18 about the effect on Facebook and other technology companies of government efforts around the world to regulate online activity misspelled the surname of Facebook’s head of public policy in Europe. He is Richard Allan, not Allen.

Paul Mozur reported from Hong Kong, Mark Scott from Nairobi, and Mike Isaac from San Francisco.

Follow Paul Mozur, Mark Scott and Mike Isaac on Twitter @paulmozur @markscott82 @MikeIsaac.

A version of this article appears in print on September 18, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Facebook Is Navigating a Global Power Struggle.

nytimes.com

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From: Microwave Jim9/19/2017 1:32:39 PM
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Been holding FB since January and still wondering when they are going to monetize messenger and WhatsApp....

What do you guys think about the new direction they are taking in the video space? I feel like the platform needs to improve so they can cater to content creators and the likes.

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From: FUBHO9/20/2017 2:25:06 PM
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GOOGLEFACEBOOK face punishing fines unless they remove terror propaganda -- within 2 HOURS!


ISLAMIC STATE BACKERS FIND PLATFORM IN INSTAGRAM...

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From: FUBHO9/20/2017 11:28:54 PM
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Internet Giants Face New Political Resistance in DC...

EU ready to move on digital tax...


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said the EU should proceed with an overhaul of taxes on digital firms even if the rest of the rich world did not follow suit, a draft report said.

The document is part of an EU push to tap more revenues from online multinationals such as Amazon and Facebook, who are accused of paying too little tax in Europe by routing most of their profits to low-rate countries such as Ireland or Luxembourg.

The draft report, to be adopted on Thursday, said that on average brick-and-mortar multinationals pay in taxes in the EU more than twice what their digital competitors do.

Traditional large firms face a median 23.2 percent tax rate, while digital giants do not pay more than 10.1 percent - and when they sell directly to customers, rather than to firms, their effective rate goes down to 8.9 percent, data cited by the Commission showed.

An earlier report by a European lawmaker said EU states may have lost in tax revenues up to 5.4 billion euros ($6.5 billion) just from Facebook and Google, now part of Alphabet, between 2013 and 2015.

"A level playing field is a pre-condition for all businesses to be able to innovate, develop and grow," the Commission said, adding that fairer taxation of the digital economy was urgently needed.

Partly because of the uneven taxation, revenues in the EU retail sector grew on average by only 1 percent a year between 2008 and 2016, while in the same period revenues of the top-five online retailers, such as Amazon, grew on average by 32 percent per year, the Commission's report says.

NEXT STEPS

The document, seen by Reuters, will be presented at a summit of EU leaders on September 29 dedicated to digital issues. Despite divergences and scepticism among some smaller states, the 28 EU countries are expected to find common ground on digital taxation by December.

The Commission is seeking a compromise among rich countries worldwide in a bid to reduce opposition from EU states that fear losing competitiveness if the EU moves ahead on its own in this field.

But "in the absence of adequate global progress, EU solutions should be advanced within the single market", the document said, adding that a legislative proposal may be presented in the spring regardless of global developments.

The best way to tackle distortions would be to review the notion of "permanent establishment" so that firms could be taxed also in countries where they do not have a physical presence, the Commission said.

At the moment online companies can often avoid paying taxes in countries where they generate large revenues because they do not have a physical presence there.

A proposal to change the corporate tax base is already under discussion in the EU. The Commission believes it represents "a basis to address these key challenges", but needs the unanimous support of EU states to turn the plan into law.

To move ahead more quickly, the Commission said short-term solutions could be considered. They include an "equalization" tax on turnover, as proposed by France and backed by 10 EU countries, the report said.

Alternative short-term options would be a withholding tax on payments to digital businesses and a levy on revenues from advertisements or other services provided by digital firms.

But short-term options "have pros and cons, and further work is needed", the Commission said, warning that they may go against double-taxation treaties, state aid rules, fundamental freedoms and EU international commitments under free trade agreements and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

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From: FUBHO9/21/2017 6:43:02 PM
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Artificial intelligence pioneer calls for the breakup of Big Tech...

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From: Glenn Petersen9/22/2017 4:37:39 PM
3 Recommendations   of 2782
 
Facebook cancels plan to change ownership share structure
  • Under investor pressure, Facebook is squashing a proposed ownership structure that would allow CEO Mark Zuckerberg voting control of the company even though he owned a minimal amount of shares.
  • The company was being sued by investors who claimed diluting shares would cause shares to lose billions of dollars of value.



    David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
    Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg
    _________________________________

    Under investor pressure, Facebook is squashing a proposed ownership structure that would allow CEO Mark Zuckerberg to retain voting control of the company even though he could potentially own a minimal amount of shares.

    "Facebook's board determined that withdrawing the reclassification was in the best interests of Facebook and its shareholders," a spokesperson told CNBC via email.

    Shareholders filed a class action lawsuit intending to block Facebook from issuing reclassified C shares, which some investors argued could cause shares to lose billions of dollars of value when they were traded. The new C shares would be publicly listed but come with no voting rights.

    "We are gratified that Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg have agreed not to proceed with the reclassification we were challenging," Lee Rudy, partner at Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP which was representing the shareholders, said in a statement. "This result is a full victory for Facebook's stockholders, and achieved everything we could have hoped to obtain by winning a permanent injunction at trial."

    It was reported earlier that Facebook had settled the lawsuit, but the company announced it will abandon the plan instead.

    Zuckerberg said in a post on Facebook he felt reclassifying the shares was the best way to allow him to still lead the company while donating money to work on global issues like curing diseases, improving education and climate change with his wife Priscilla Chan through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. However the company's stock has performed better than expected, making it unnecessary for Zuckerberg to sell shares to fund his project.

    "Over the past year and a half, Facebook's business has performed well and the value of our stock has grown to the point that I can fully fund our philanthropy and retain voting control of Facebook for 20 years or more," he wrote. "As a result, I've asked our board to withdraw the proposal to reclassify our stock -- and the board has agreed."

    cnbc.com



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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (2758)9/22/2017 5:31:15 PM
From: Sr K
3 Recommendations   of 2782
 
Bloomberg's take:

bloomberg.com

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From: Sr K9/22/2017 6:25:29 PM
   of 2782
 
There's a feature story

Mark Zuckerberg's Fake News Problem Isn't Going Away

in the September 25 Businessweek.

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From: Glenn Petersen9/22/2017 9:17:55 PM
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Facebook’s Frankenstein Moment

By KEVIN ROOSE
New York Times
SEPT. 21, 2017




Victor Frankenstein, looking over a creature he had made, eventually realized that he couldn’t control his creation. Credit Hammer Film, via Photofest
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On Wednesday, in response to a ProPublica report that Facebook enabled advertisers to target users with offensive terms like “Jew hater,” Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer, apologized and vowed that the company would adjust its ad-buying tools to prevent similar problems in the future.

As I read her statement, my eyes lingered over one line in particular:

“We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way — and that is on us,” Ms. Sandberg wrote.

It was a candid admission that reminded me of a moment in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” after the scientist Victor Frankenstein realizes that his cobbled-together creature has gone rogue.

“I had been the author of unalterable evils,” he says, “and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.”

If I were a Facebook executive, I might feel a Frankensteinian sense of unease these days. The company has been hit with a series of scandals that have bruised its image, enraged its critics and opened up the possibility that in its quest for global dominance, Facebook may have created something it can’t fully control.

Facebook is fighting through a tangled morass of privacy, free-speech and moderation issues with governments all over the world. Congress is investigating reports that Russian operatives used targeted Facebook ads to influence the 2016 presidential election. In Myanmar, activists are accusing Facebook of censoring Rohingya Muslims, who are under attack from the country’s military. In Africa, the social network faces accusations that it helped human traffickers extort victims’ families by leaving up abusive videos.

Few of these issues stem from willful malice on the company’s part. It’s not as if a Facebook engineer in Menlo Park personally greenlighted Russian propaganda, for example. On Thursday, the company said it would release political advertisements bought by Russians for the 2016 election, as well as some information related to the ads, to congressional investigators.

But the troubles do make it clear that Facebook was simply not built to handle problems of this magnitude. It’s a technology company, not an intelligence agency or an international diplomatic corps. Its engineers are in the business of building apps and selling advertising, not determining what constitutes hate speech in Myanmar. And with two billion users, including 1.3 billion who use it every day, moving ever greater amounts of their social and political activity onto Facebook, it’s possible that the company is simply too big to understand all of the harmful ways people might use its products.

“The reality is that if you’re at the helm of a machine that has two billion screaming, whiny humans, it’s basically impossible to predict each and every possible nefarious use case,” said Antonio García Martínez, author of the book “Chaos Monkeys” and a former Facebook advertising executive. “It’s a Whac-a-Mole problem.”

Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy, said in a statement: “We work very hard to support our millions of advertisers worldwide, but sometimes — rarely — bad actors win. We invest a lot of time, energy and resources to make these rare events extinct, and we’re grateful to our community for calling out where we can do better.”



Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, vowed on Wednesday that the company would work to prevent advertisers from targeting users with offensive terms in the future. Credit Frank Franklin Ii/Associated Press
__________________________

When Mark Zuckerberg built Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004, nobody could have imagined its becoming a censorship tool for repressive regimes, an arbiter of global speech standards or a vehicle for foreign propagandists.

But as Facebook has grown into the global town square, it has had to adapt to its own influence. Many of its users view the social network as an essential utility, and the company’s decisions — which posts to take down, which ads to allow, which videos to show — can have real life-or-death consequences around the world. The company has outsourced some decisions to complex algorithms, which carries its own risks, but many of the toughest choices Facebook faces are still made by humans.

“They still see themselves as a technology middleman,” said Mr. García Martínez. “Facebook is not supposed to be an element of a propaganda war. They’re completely not equipped to deal with that.”

Even if Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg don’t have personal political aspirations, as has been rumored, they are already leaders of an organization that influences politics all over the world. And there are signs that Facebook is starting to understand its responsibilities. It has hired a slew of counterterrorism experts and is expanding teams of moderators around the world to look for and remove harmful content.

On Thursday, Mr. Zuckerberg said in a video posted on Facebook that the company would take several steps to help protect the integrity of elections, like making political ads more transparent and expanding partnerships with election commissions.

“We will do our part not only to ensure the integrity of free and fair elections around the world, but also to give everyone a voice and to be a force for good in democracy everywhere,” he said.

But there may not be enough guardrails in the world to prevent bad outcomes on Facebook, whose scale is nearly inconceivable. Alex Stamos, Facebook’s security chief, said last month that the company shuts down more than a million user accounts every day for violating Facebook’s community standards. Even if only 1 percent of Facebook’s daily active users misbehaved, it would still mean 13 million rule breakers, about the number of people in Pennsylvania.

In addition to challenges of size, Facebook’s corporate culture is one of cheery optimism. That may have suited the company when it was an upstart, but it could hamper its ability to accurately predict risk now that it’s a setting for large-scale global conflicts.

Several current and former employees described Facebook to me as a place where engineers and executives generally assume the best of users, rather than preparing for the worst. Even the company’s mission statement — “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” — implies that people who are given powerful tools will use those tools for socially constructive purposes. Clearly, that is not always the case.

Hiring people with darker views of the world could help Facebook anticipate conflicts and misuse. But pessimism alone won’t fix all of Facebook’s issues. It will need to keep investing heavily in defensive tools, including artificial intelligence and teams of human moderators, to shut down bad actors. It would also be wise to deepen its knowledge of the countries where it operates, hiring more regional experts who understand the nuances of the local political and cultural environment.

Facebook could even take a page from Wall Street’s book, and create a risk department that would watch over its engineering teams, assessing new products and features for potential misuse before launching them to the world.

Now that Facebook is aware of its own influence, the company can’t dodge responsibility for the world it has helped to build. In the future, blaming the monster won’t be enough.

Follow Kevin Roose on Twitter @kevinroose.

nytimes.com

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