mfioretti: social networks* + 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.”
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-16)
    Voting 0
  2. 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.
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  3. Can outside sources verify what God believes to be holy? Can anyone verify God’s existence? Can anyone think of more hypothetical questions like this to underscore the point?

    As religious leaders expressed their concerns to The Literalist, The Literalist in turn became increasingly worried about Facebook deciding what is “fake” and “real” news. So The Literalist sent a short note to Facebook headquarters reading, “Now, don’t take this literally, but The Literalist encourages you to let users use reason when it comes to fake news. Satire included.”
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  4. non voglio farla lunga, ma in allora, come oggi, io non controllavo affatto il dato e l’informazione personale volontariamente o forzosamente appresa ad ogni mio movimento; ciò che in qualche modo mi salvava nella tribolata adolescenza (non sempre invero) era il controllo della situazione sociale e del contesto.

    Il controllo sul dato-informazione non l’avevo con il macellaio del paese e non posso pensare di averlo oggi sul web con Google, Facebook e soprattutto con le mille agenzie statuali affette, per svariate e talvolta encomiabili ragioni, da bulimia informativa. Ma in allora avevo contezza e in qualche modo governavo le banali regole tecniche (le vie del paese, gli orari della corriera) e quelle sociali di prossimità del mio territorio.

    Oggi non ci riesco più. E non è solo per la quantità dei dati captati e memorizzati ad ogni passo ma per la totale opacità del contesto e delle regole tecniche e sociali che governano la nostra vita digitale.

    Algoritmi ignoti, insondabili ai loro stessi creatori, ricostruiscono la nostra immagine, creano punteggi e giudicano rilevanze e congruità a nostra totale insaputa. Banche, assicurazioni, imprese di ogni risma e fattezza (a breve l’internet delle cose ci stupirà) ma soprattutto lo Stato, con le sue mille agenzie di verifica e controllo, accedono ad ogni informazione decontestualizzandola, creando relazioni e correlazioni di cui non abbiamo coscienza, ma di cui subiamo quotidianamente le conseguenze.

    Non possiamo impedire tutto questo, il big data e gli open-data salveranno il mondo, d’accordo. Ma possiamo e dobbiamo pretendere di sapere il chi, il come e il quando. Abbiamo bisogno di sapere qual è il contesto, e quali sono le regole; solo così troveremo strategie, non per delinquere o eludere la legge (come sostiene parte della magistratura), ma per esercitare i diritti fondamentali della persona.

    Nel mondo fisico sappiamo quando lo Stato ha il diritto di entrare in casa nostra, o a quali condizioni possa limitare le nostre libertà personali, di movimento, d’espressione; nel mondo digitale non sappiamo, e neppure ci chiediamo, chi, quando e a quali condizioni possa impossessarsi dei nostri dati, dei nostri dispositivi tramite software occulti, della nostra vita. Accettiamo supinamente un’intollerabile opacità.

    Io ho qualcosa da nascondere da quando ho ricordi: sono riservatezze variabili a seconda dell’interlocutore, del tempo, del luogo e del contesto. E non voglio per me e i miei figli una società stupidamente disciplinata da una costante sorveglianza e decerebrata dagli algoritmi. Vorrei una società in cui l’asimmetria dell’informazione sia l’esatto opposto dell’attuale, dove purtroppo il cittadino è totalmente trasparente e lo Stato e le sue regole sono opache e incerte.
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    Carlo Blengino
    Carlo Blengino

    Avvocato penalista, affronta nelle aule giudiziarie il diritto delle nuove tecnologie, le questioni di copyright e di data protection. È fellow del NEXA Center for Internet & Society del Politecnico di Torino. @CBlengio su Twitter
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  5. Soon, foreign visitors to the United States will be expected to tell U.S. authorities about their social media accounts.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to start collecting “information associated with your online presence” from travelers from countries eligible for a visa waiver, including much of Europe and a handful of other countries. Earlier this summer, the agency proposed including a field on certain customs forms for “provider/platform” and “social media identifier,” making headlines in the international press. If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the change could take effect as soon as December.

    Privacy groups in recent weeks have pushed back against the idea, saying it could chill online expression and gives DHS and CBP overbroad authority to determine what kind of online activity constitutes a “risk to the United States” or “nefarious activity.”

    The United Nations special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression wrote last month that the scope of information being collected was “vague and open-ended,” and that he was “concerned” that with the change, “government officials might have largely unfettered authority to collect, analyze, share and retain personal and sensitive information about travelers and their online associations.”

    “If a ‘follower’ of an applicant raises a red flag for the agency, the applicant herself may be denied permission to travel to the United States.”

    CBP and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, said that the social media question will be optional, and that the agencies “would only have access to information publicly available on those platforms, consistent with the privacy settings of the platforms.”

    A CBP spokesperson provided a statement saying that collecting social media information “may help detect potential threats because experience has shown that criminals and terrorists, whether intentionally or not, have provided previously unavailable information via social media that identified their true intentions.”
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  6. the social Web: a glorious dystopia where everybody works for likes — as in, “for free” — while a handful of tech tycoons profit.

    Never has this been clearer than in the past month, as Reddit — a private company that recently accepted $50 million in venture funding — quelled an uprising among the volunteers who actually run the site: its moderators.

    What will happen to the Internet if Reddit shuts down? »

    But insomuch as Reddit relies on digital work to run its business, it is not alone. In fact, that’s basically the elevator pitch of every major Internet institution, from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to Wikipedia. Even when these sites don’t openly rely on “consumers” to create the content that keeps venture capital, ad revenue or donations pouring in, they’re mining them for other sorts of resources that can be monetized.

    Can something truly be called exploitative, or even labor, if the exploited parties enjoy it? That’s a difficult question and one that theorists haven’t conclusively answered yet.

    And still, there’s plenty to suggest that different sorts of labor arrangements would be really good for users and the sites they work on. When people aren’t paid for their work, for instance, the only people who can contribute are the ones who (a) have money from other sources or (b) are overwhelmingly compelled by motivations like power, popularity or revenge. (The writer and tech theorist David Banks has implied this is one of the reasons that Reddit skews so heavily young and male.)
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  7. Critics say the social network does this by shaping our perception of the world with its algorithmically-filtered newsfeed. Facebook, however, has come out with a study that it says proves this isn’t true—if there is a filter bubble, the company says, it exists because users choose to see certain things, not because of Facebook’s algorithmic filters.

    But even that’s not the biggest problem, Jurgenson and others say. The biggest issue is that the Facebook study pretends that individuals choosing to limit their exposure to different topics is a completely separate thing from the Facebook algorithm doing so. The study makes it seem like the two are disconnected and can be compared to each other on some kind of equal basis. But in reality, says Jurgenson, the latter exaggerates the former, because personal choices are what the algorithmic filtering is ultimately based on

    But is this really what the study proves? There’s considerable debate about that among social scientists knowledgeable in the field, who note that the conclusions Facebook wants us to draw—by saying, for example, that the study “establishes that … individual choices matter more than algorithms”—aren’t necessarily supported by the evidence actually provided in the paper.

    For one thing, these researchers point out that the study only looked at a tiny fraction of the total Facebook user population: less than 4% of the overall user base, in fact (a number which doesn’t appear in the study itself but is only mentioned in an appendix). That’s because the study group was selected only from those users who specifically mention their political affiliation. Needless to say, extrapolating from that to the entire 1.2 billion-user Facebook universe is a huge leap.

    Sociologist Nathan Jurgenson points out that while the study claims it conclusively proves individual choices have more effect on what users see than algorithms, it doesn’t actually back this up. In fact, while that appears to be the case for conservative users, in the case of users who identified themselves as liberals, Facebook’s own data shows that exposure to different ideological views is reduced more by the algorithm (8%) than it is by a user’s personal choice.
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  8. It's the notion that in a free society, anyone should be able to read, learn, and debate without being monitored and recorded. Americans have long cherished this freedom, but author Neil Richards says it's being threatened by pervasive online tracking of digital habits and social media discussions.

    intellectual privacy is for anyone with an intellect – which is to say, it’s for everyone. Intellectual privacy is about needing to have protections from being watched and interfered with when we’re making up our minds about the world – when we’re reading, surfing the Web, talking on the phone, and sending e-mail to confidants. It's a way of understanding why people get so annoyed when the government and companies monitor our lives, and it was perhaps the greatest interest threatened by the surveillance Edward Snowden leaked. Although intellectual privacy is incredibly important, the right hasn't been well understood. We didn’t have to think about our beliefs, desires, and fantasies as matters of intellectual privacy until recently when we started interacting over digital devices that keep long and detailed records of our thoughts and reading habits.

    Beyond government surveillance, is anything else undermining intellectual privacy?

    Richards: Yes, corporations are. A few years ago Facebook offered “social reading” and automatically shared things we clicked on and read with our friends. People ended up accidentally disclosing embarrassing things. Amongst all the shame, the trend died a secret and unheralded death. But while this obvious case of intellectual privacy infringement is behind us, we’re still stuck with the fuel that keeps Facebook and so many other companies going: Internet advertising.
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  9. Silicon Valley’s relations with the British government have hit a new low after an official report in the UK blamed Facebook for failing to prevent the jihadi-inspired murder of a British soldier.

    Behind closed doors in the tech community – where relations are already strained following the revelations from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden – there is fury over the intelligence and security committee (ISC) report, published on Tuesday, which accused Facebook and its peers of running a “safe haven” for terrorists.

    The ISC was investigating what the UK intelligence agencies knew about the two men who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby in a street near his military barracks in Woolwich, London, in May 2013.
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  10. here were plenty of reasons Diaspora didn’t take off, Dwyer told me in a phone interview. But the biggest was probably the simplest: No matter how many people joined, it still felt like a “ghost town” compared with Facebook. (Sound familiar, Google Plus?) It’s awfully hard to build a social network with better features than Facebook—especially when the one feature people really care about in a social network is that all their friends are on it.

    It doesn’t help that Facebook has managed to bake itself into the most popular sites all across the Web, and is beginning to do the same with mobile apps.

    Despite Diaspora’s struggles, Dwyer doesn’t believe Facebook is invulnerable. Other upstarts might have a better chance, he speculated, if they could build a network that maps onto existing, real-world social groups. That’s what Zuckerberg did at Harvard and other Ivy League colleges before expanding Facebook to universities and then high schools across the country and the world.

    “You can see from things like Ello, from Diaspora, that whenever some kind of alternative emerges, people stampede to it,” Dwyer said. “There’s a power to this idea.”

    But what if the idea of an “anti-Facebook,” powerful though it might be in theory, is fatally flawed? That’s what Bradford Cross, co-founder and CEO of the social news platform Prismatic, has come to believe after years of struggling to build a vibrant online community of his own.

    Social-media startups, Cross says, need to define themselves by what they are, rather than what they aren’t. “No one care about something that’s just ‘not Facebook.’ People care about having their needs met. Facebook is meeting a deep human need for people to stay connected to other people they care about—specifically, to stay connected to people they wouldn’t otherwise stay connected to.

    he social startups that have struck it big in the post-Facebook era have all started by carving out a different niche. That difference, Cross argues, can’t just be about a site’s back-end architecture or business model, as with Diaspora (an open-source Facebook) or (a Twitter without ads). The product itself has to fulfill a fresh purpose for its users, like sharing snazzy smartphone snapshots (Instagram), networking and advancing their careers (LinkedIn), or showing off their taste in fashion, food, and design (Pinterest).

    Trying to beat Facebook at its own game, Cross argues, is like “trying to beat Google in search.” Not only does Facebook have a huge head start, but it has vast resources with which to outmaneuver or overwhelm any direct competitors. And when all else fails, it simply buys them.

    That doesn’t mean Facebook will rule social networking forever. The history of Internet companies is littered with the ruins of companies that once looked impregnable. But Facebook’s fortress today looks formidable from the front. Ultimately, it’s more likely to be toppled by someone sneaking in a side door with a very different model for online social interactions.

    Meanwhile, erstwhile Facebook challengers like Instagram and WhatsApp are flourishing as standalone products under the Facebook corporate umbrella. So if you’re tired of Facebook, you do have options. It’s just that a lot of them happen to be owned by Facebook.
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