mfioretti: control*

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  1. A former Facebook executive has said he feels “tremendous guilt” over his work on “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”, joining a growing chorus of critics of the social media giant.

    Chamath Palihapitiya, who was vice-president for user growth at Facebook before he left the company in 2011, said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”

    The remarks, which were made at a Stanford Business School event in November, were just surfaced by tech website the Verge on Monday.

    “This is not about Russian ads,” he added. “This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”
    Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker: site made to exploit human 'vulnerability'
    Read more

    Palihapitiya’s comments last month were made a day after Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, criticized the way that the company “exploit s » a vulnerability in human psychology” by creating a “social-validation feedback loop” during an interview at an Axios event.

    Parker had said that he was “something of a conscientious objector” to using social media, a stance echoed by Palihapitiya who said that he was now hoping to use the money he made at Facebook to do good in the world.

    “I can’t control them,” Palihapitiya said of his former employer. “I can control my decision, which is that I don’t use that shit. I can control my kids’ decisions, which is that they’re not allowed to use that shit.”

    He also called on his audience to “soul-search” about their own relationship to social media. “Your behaviors, you don’t realize it, but you are being programmed,” he said. “It was unintentional, but now you gotta decide how much you’re going to give up, how much of your intellectual independence.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...ormer-executive-ripping-society-apart
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-16)
    Voting 0
  2. no serious scholar of modern geopolitics disputes that we are now at war — a new kind of information-based war, but war, nevertheless — with Russia in particular, but in all honesty, with a multitude of nation states and stateless actors bent on destroying western democratic capitalism. They are using our most sophisticated and complex technology platforms to wage this war — and so far, we’re losing. Badly.

    Why? According to sources I’ve talked to both at the big tech companies and in government, each side feels the other is ignorant, arrogant, misguided, and incapable of understanding the other side’s point of view. There’s almost no data sharing, trust, or cooperation between them. We’re stuck in an old model of lobbying, soft power, and the occasional confrontational hearing.

    Not exactly the kind of public-private partnership we need to win a war, much less a peace.

    Am I arguing that the government should take over Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple so as to beat back Russian info-ops? No, of course not. But our current response to Russian aggression illustrates the lack of partnership and co-ordination between government and our most valuable private sector companies. And I am hoping to raise an alarm: When the private sector has markedly better information, processing power, and personnel than the public sector, one will only strengthen, while the latter will weaken. We’re seeing it play out in our current politics, and if you believe in the American idea, you should be extremely concerned.
    https://shift.newco.co/data-power-and-war-465933dcb372
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  3. Facebook’s goal is to “push down the age” of when it’s acceptable for kids to be on social media, says Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. Golin says 11-to-12-year-olds who already have a Facebook account, probably because they lied about their age, might find the animated emojis and GIFs of Messenger Kids “too babyish,” and are unlikely to convert to the new app.

    Facebook launched Messenger Kids for 6-to-12-year olds in the US Monday, saying it took extraordinary care and precautions. The company said its 100-person team building apps for teens and kids consulted with parent groups, advocates, and childhood-development experts during the 18-month development process and the app reflects their concerns. Parents download Messenger Kids on their child’s account, after verifying their identity by logging into Facebook. Since kids cannot be found in search, parents must initiate and respond to friend requests.

    Facebook says Messenger Kids will not display ads, nor collect data on kids for advertising purposes. Kids’ accounts will not automatically be rolled into Facebook accounts once they turn 13.

    Nonetheless, advocates focused on marketing to children expressed concerns. The company will collect the content of children’s messages, photos they send, what features they use on the app, and information about the device they use. Facebook says it will use this information to improve the app and will share the information “within the family of companies that are part of Facebook,” and outside companies that provide customer support, analysis, and technical infrastructure.
    https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-...o-messenger-kids/?mbid=social_twitter
    Voting 0
  4. for us, changes like this can be disastrous. Attracting viewers to a story relies, above all, on making the process as simple as possible. Even one extra click can make a world of difference. This is an existential threat, not only to my organization and others like it but also to the ability of citizens in all of the countries subject to Facebook’s experimentation to discover the truth about their societies and their leaders.

    Serbia is a perfect example of why the political context of Facebook’s experimentation matters. Serbia escaped the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, but it hasn’t developed into a fully functioning democracy. One party, led by President Aleksandar Vucic, controls not only the Parliament but also the whole political system. Our country has no tradition of checks and balances. Mr. Vucic now presents himself as progressive and pro-European, but as minister of information in the Milosevic government, he was responsible for censoring news coverage.
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    Today, censorship in Serbia takes a softer form. Pliant outlets loyal to the government receive preferential treatment and better funding from local and central budgets. Those that stray out of line find themselves receiving unexpected visits from the tax inspectors.

    This isn’t an easy place to be an independent journalist. Since 2015, my investigative nonprofit, KRIK, has covered stories the mainstream media won’t touch. In return, we have been spied on and threatened, and have had lurid fabrications about our private lives splashed on the front page of national tabloids.

    Last year, KRIK published an investigation showing that when he was a young surgeon, Zlatibor Loncar, who is now minister of health, had been contracted by a gang to kill one of its enemies, according to court testimony by protected witnesses. You’d think the story of a future minister administering poison through an IV would make a splash — but the mainstream outlets ignored it.

    Going to KRIK’s website is the only way Serbian citizens could learn the truth about that story and many others like it. And until last month, most of our readers went to our site via Facebook.

    Facebook allowed us to bypass mainstream channels and bring our stories to hundreds of thousands of readers. But now, even as the social network claims to be cracking down on “fake news,” it is on the verge of ruining us.

    That’s why Mark Zuckerberg’s arbitrary experiments are so dangerous. The major TV channels, mainstream newspapers and organized-crime-run outlets will have no trouble buying Facebook ads or finding other ways to reach their audiences. It’s small, alternative organizations like mine that will suffer.

    We journalists bear some responsibility for this, too. Using Facebook to reach our readers has always been convenient, so we invested time and effort in building our presence there, helping it become the monster it is today.

    But what’s done is done — a private company, accountable to no one, has taken over the world’s media ecosystem. It is now responsible for what happens there. By picking small countries with shaky democratic institutions to be experimental subjects, it is showing a cynical lack of concern for how its decisions affect the most vulnerable.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/op...ion/serbia-facebook-explore-feed.html
    Voting 0
  5. I do believe that this time is different, the beginning of a massive shift, and I believe it’s the fault of these social networks.

    One of the problems is that these platforms act, in many ways, like drugs. Facebook, and every other social-media outlet, knows that all too well. Your phone vibrates a dozen times an hour with alerts about likes and comments and retweets and faves. The combined effect is one of just trying to suck you back in, so their numbers look better for their next quarterly earnings report. Sean Parker, one of Facebook’s earliest investors and the company’s first president, came right out and said what we all know: the whole intention of Facebook is to act like a drug, by “ giving » you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.” That, Parker said, was by design. These companies are “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya has echoed this, too. “Do I feel guilty?” he asked rhetorically on CNN about the role Facebook is playing in society. “Absolutely I feel guilt.”

    And then, there’s the biggest reason why people are abandoning the platforms: the promise of connection has turned out to be a reality of division. We’ve all watched the way Donald J. Trump used social media to drive a wedge between us all, the way he tweets his sad and pathetic insecurities out to the world, without a care for how calling an equally insecure rogue leader a childish name might put us all on the brink of nuclear war. There’s a point that watching it all happen in real time makes you question what you’re doing with your life. As for conversing with our fellow Americans, we’ve all tried, unsuccessfully, to have a conversation on these platforms, which has so quickly devolved into a shouting match, or pile-on from perfect strangers because your belief isn’t the same as theirs. Years ago, a Facebook executive told me that the biggest reason people unfriend each other is because they disagree on an issue. The executive jokingly said, “Who knows, if this keeps up, maybe we’ll end up with people only having a few friends on Facebook.” Perhaps, worse of all, we’ve all watched as Russia has taken these platforms and used them against us in ways no one could have comprehended a decade ago.
    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/...-social-era-twitter-facebook-snapchat
    Voting 0
  6. Look: no. Skedaddle is not going to eliminate Yelp or Facebook or tipping. It's not going to be "the first cryptocurrency for real world use." But at some level they're not wrong! One day 20 years from now we'll wake up and all of our interactions and performance will be tracked on the blockchain and will directly determine our income and socioeconomic status, and on the one hand we'll get pretty good customer service, but on the other hand we'll be terrified all the time. It is the logical endpoint of the "gig economy."

    The thing is that this omniscient blockchain of terror will be run by Facebook, not Skedaddle. If you just come out and say that your mission is to build a dystopia of economic precarity and constant surveillance, then you do not have the soft skills to actually carry out that mission. (Never mind if you say that your mission is "to completely take down Yelp and Facebook reviews, while completely eliminating tipping.") If you say that your mission is "to make the world more open and connected," then you have the ruthlessness, and the facility with euphemism, to actually do it.

    Elsewhere in dystopian blockchain fiction, here is a story about doomsday preppers who are hoarding bitcoins against the apocalypse. Doomsday prepping and bitcoin enthusiasm go well together psychologically: Both involve distrust of modern social systems, and both tap into deep libertarian and self-sufficiency themes. But they don't go at all well together logically: If modern society is wiped out in some massive catastrophe, it seems unlikely that the electric grid and global internet infrastructure will survive to run an energy-hungry blockchain for a currency with no physical form that even now basically can't be used to buy anything. But the bitcoin/apocalypse enthusiasts are undeterred:
    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articl...-might-scare-the-gig-economy-to-death
    Voting 0
  7. Earlier this month, writer James Bridle published an in-depth look at the underbelly of creepy, violent content targeted at kids on YouTube – from knock-off Peppa Pig cartoons, such as one where a trip to the dentist morphs into a graphic torture scene, to live-action “gross-out” videos, which show real kids vomiting and in pain.

    These videos are being produced and added to YouTube by the thousand, then tagged with what Bridle calls “keyword salad” – long lists of popular search terms packed into their titles. These keywords are designed to game or manipulate the algorithm that sorts, ranks and selects content for users to see. And thanks to a business model aimed at maximising views (and therefore ad revenue), these videos are being auto-played and promoted to kids based on their “similarity” – at least in terms of keywords used – to content that the kids have already seen. That means a child might start out watching a normal Peppa Pig episode on the official channel, finish it, then be automatically immersed in a dark, violent and unauthorised episode – without their parent realising it.
    Advertisement

    YouTube’s response to the problem has been to hand responsibility to its users, asking them to flag videos as inappropriate. From there, the videos go to a review team that YouTube says comprises thousands of people working 24 hours a day to review content. If the content is found to be inappropriate for children, it will be age-restricted and not appear in the YouTube Kids app. It will still appear on YouTube proper, however, where, officially, users must be at least 13 years old, but in reality, is still a system which countless kids use (just think about how often antsy kids are handed a phone or tablet to keep them occupied in a public space).

    Like Facebook’s scheme, this approach has several flaws: since it’s trying to ferret out inappropriate videos from kids’ content, it’s likely that most of the people who will encounter these videos are kids themselves. I don’t expect a lot of six-year-olds to become aggressive content moderators any time soon. And if the content is flagged, it still needs to be reviewed by humans, which, as YouTube has already acknowledged, takes “round the clock” monitoring.

    When we talk about this kind of challenge, the tech companies’ response is often that it’s simply the inevitability of scale – there’s no way to serve billions of users endless streams of engaging content without getting it wrong or allowing abuse to slip by some of the time. But of course, these companies don’t have to do any of this. Auto-playing an endless stream of algorithmically selected videos to kids isn’t some sort of mandate. The internet didn’t have to become a smorgasbord of “suggested content”. It’s a choice that YouTube made, because ad views are ad views. You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette, and you’ve got to traumatise a few kids to build a global behemoth worth $600bn.
    Facebook asks users for nude photos in project to combat revenge porn
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    And that’s the issue: in their unblinking pursuit of growth over the past decade, these companies have built their platforms around features that aren’t just vulnerable to abuse, but literally optimised for it. Take a system that’s easy to game, profitable to misuse, intertwined with our vulnerable people and our most intimate moments, and operating at a scale that’s impossible to control or even monitor, and this is what you get.

    The question now is, when will we force tech companies to reckon with what they’ve wrought? We’ve long decided that we won’t let companies sell cigarettes to children or put asbestos into their building materials. If we want, we can decide that there are limits to what tech can do to “engage” us, too, rather than watching these platforms spin further and further away from the utopian dreams they were sold to us on.
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...ra-wachter-boettcher?CMP=share_btn_tw
    Voting 0
  8. Similarly, GOOG in 2014 started reorganizing itself to focus on artificial intelligence only. In January 2014, GOOG bought DeepMind, and in September they shutdown Orkut (one of their few social products which had momentary success in some countries) forever. The Alphabet Inc restructuring was announced in August 2015 but it likely took many months of meetings and bureaucracy. The restructuring was important to focus the web-oriented departments at GOOG towards a simple mission. GOOG sees no future in the simple Search market, and announces to be migrating “From Search to Suggest” (in Eric Schmidt’s own words) and being an “AI first company” (in Sundar Pichai’s own words). GOOG is currently slightly behind FB in terms of how fast it is growing its dominance of the web, but due to their technical expertise, vast budget, influence and vision, in the long run its AI assets will play a massive role on the internet. They know what they are doing.

    These are no longer the same companies as 4 years ago. GOOG is not anymore an internet company, it’s the knowledge internet company. FB is not an internet company, it’s the social internet company. They used to attempt to compete, and this competition kept the internet market diverse. Today, however, they seem mostly satisfied with their orthogonal dominance of parts of the Web, and we are losing diversity of choices. Which leads us to another part of the internet: e-commerce and AMZN.

    AMZN does not focus on making profit.
    https://staltz.com/the-web-began-dying-in-2014-heres-how.html
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  9. A snap decision by Google has begun to reshape the drug treatment industry, tilting the playing field toward large conglomerates — the precise opposite outcome Google had hoped to achieve.

    The fateful decision was made September 14. Google faced pressure from an exposé in The Verge released a week earlier, documenting how shady lead generators game its AdWords system. High-cost ads based on rehab keywords referred users to phone hotlines that gave the impression of being independent information services, but were actually owned by treatment center conglomerates. Representatives, who reap large fees based on how many patients they sign up, employ high-pressure sales tactics to push people into their favored facilities, whether or not that facility is the right one for the patient.

    This deceptive marketing can lead to substandard treatment and massive overbilling. It also made lots of money for Google, which was shown in the story actively courting addiction treatment advertisers.

    And so Google made a quick call: It effectively stopped running ads from treatment facilities. At first blush, that may look like a happy alignment of the public good and a company’s need for good public relations, with Google taking a hit to make the world a better place in the midst of an epidemic.

    But the problem of economic concentration is so deep in the United States today that peeling back one layer merely reveals another. Without ads, addicts or their parents are left only with the organic search results.
    https://theintercept.com/2017/10/17/google-search-drug-use-opioid-epidemic
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-10-30)
    Voting 0
  10. In Slovakia, data from Facebook-owned analytics site CrowdTangle shows that “interactions” – engagement such as likes, shares and comments – fell by 60% overnight for the Facebook pages of a broad selection of the country’s media Facebook pages. Filip Struhárik, a Slovakian journalist with news site Denník N, says the situation has since worsened, falling by a further 5%.

    “Lower reach can be a problem for smaller publishers, citizens’ initiatives, small NGOs,” Struhárik said. “They can’t afford to pay for distribution on Facebook by boosting posts – and they don’t have infrastructure to reach people other ways.”

    Struhárik thinks his employer will survive the change. Denník N has subscription revenue, which means it doesn’t rely on the vast traffic that Facebook can drive for advertising income, and ensures that its most dedicated readers go straight to its homepage for their news. But Fernandez, in Guatemala, is much more concerned.
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...rnalists-democracy-guatemala-slovakia
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