Archive for Facebook

Facebook Is Using Its Newsfeed To Make Itself Look Better…. This Is The Best Reason To #DeleteFacebook Ever

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 21, 2021 by itnerd

From the “this is really low, even for Facebook” department comes this New York Times story that Facebook is using its own newsfeed to push positive stories about the company. Check this out:

The effort, which was hatched at an internal meeting in January, had a specific purpose: to use Facebook’s News Feed, the site’s most important digital real estate, to show people positive stories about the social network.

The idea was that pushing pro-Facebook news items — some of them written by the company — would improve its image in the eyes of its users, three people with knowledge of the effort said. But the move was sensitive because Facebook had not previously positioned the News Feed as a place where it burnished its own reputation. Several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal, one attendee said.

Project Amplify punctuated a series of decisions that Facebook has made this year to aggressively reshape its image. Since that January meeting, the company has begun a multipronged effort to change its narrative by distancing Mr. Zuckerberg from scandals, reducing outsiders’ access to internal data, burying a potentially negative report about its content and increasing its own advertising to showcase its brand.

That’s really bad. Clearly Facebook isn’t even pretending to give a damn anymore. It’s clearly all about the profits no matter what the cost. Despite the fact that racism, anti-vaccine info and other sorts of bad things are running rampant on Facebook.

Here’s what Facebook had to say about this when asked about it by the New York Times:

Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman, denied that the company had changed its approach.

“People deserve to know the steps we’re taking to address the different issues facing our company — and we’re going to share those steps widely,” he said in a statement.

This isn’t the way to go about doing this. If you combine this with this other story that I wrote earlier today, Facebook has really sunk to a new low. Even by their standards. Thus the option to #DeleteFacebook looks like the best option as I cannot see Facebook changing their ways.

Facebook Makes Changes To Stop People From Monitoring The Platform…. Which Is An Excellent Reason To #DeleteFacebook

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 21, 2021 by itnerd

From the “this seems underhanded” department comes the news that Facebook has begun rolling out an update that is interfering with watchdogs monitoring the platform:

The Markup has found evidence that Facebook is adding changes to its website code that foils automated data collection of news feed posts — a technique that groups like NYU’s Ad Observatory, The Markup, and other researchers and journalists use to audit what’s happening on the platform on a large scale. The changes, which attach junk code to HTML features meant to improve accessibility for visually impaired users, also impact browser-based ad blocking services on the platform. The new code risks damaging the user experience for people who are visually impaired, a group that has struggled to use the platform in the past.

The updates add superfluous text to news feed posts in the form of ARIA tags, an element of HTML code that is not rendered visually by a standard web browser but is used by screen reader software to map the structure and read aloud the contents of a page. Such code is also used by organizations like NYU’s Ad Observatory to identify sponsored posts on the platform and weed them out for further scrutiny. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment before press time. Following the changes, the Citizen Browser project experienced a drop in data collection rates from early September, prompting the investigation that uncovered these changes to the code. At around the same time, users of certain ad blockers noticed a decrease in their effectiveness.

What we are seeing is that Facebook appears to be actively taking steps to prevent other groups from holding them accountable in any meaningful way. I can’t say that I’m surprised by this as Zuckerberg or some other Facebook official has said in public over and over again that they want to make things better on the platform. But then they then pull a stunt like this. I am glad that this is being highlighted so that it makes it clear that the best way to deal with Facebook is to #DeleteFacebook.

Facebook Apologizes After Its AI Labeled Black Men ‘Primates’…. WTF?

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 7, 2021 by itnerd

As you know, I am not a fan of Facebook. And this incident has made me less of a fan. According to the BBC, Facebook users who watched a newspaper video featuring black men were asked if they wanted to “keep seeing videos about primates” by an artificial-intelligence recommendation system:

Facebook told BBC News it “was clearly an unacceptable error”, disabled the system and launched an investigation. “We apologise to anyone who may have seen these offensive recommendations.” It is the latest in a long-running series of errors that have raised concerns over racial bias in AI.

Their methodology for training the AI was probably flawed. Somewhere along the line the training set that this AI used likely contained black men and whatever was labeled “primates”. The AI correctly identified that yes, humans are primates, but the training set didn’t have anything in there to discern why “primate” was the wrong word to use. Which means that Facebook really needs to go back to the drawing board to come up with an AI that doesn’t show racial bias. Having a more diverse workforce would help with this seeing as Facebook has a problem with that. But, you know, baby steps.

The FTC Is Trying To #DeleteFacebook Again

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 19, 2021 by itnerd

It’s time for take two in terms of Facebook vs. the US Government. The latter refiled their monopoly lawsuit against Facebook hoping to take them down this time after having their previous lawsuit tossed out of court:

The Federal Trade Commission filed the new complaint in federal court in Washington, alleging that Facebook violated antitrust laws by buying Instagram and WhatsApp in order to eliminate them as competitors. The agency is trying to revive the case after U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in June dismissed it, saying the agency failed to provide enough detail to support its claim that Facebook has a monopoly in the social-media market. Boasberg had given the FTC 30 days to fix the error and refile, and the commission won an extension until Aug. 19.

The Facebook case, first filed in December, presents an early test for FTC Chair Lina Khan, who was named head of the agency in June by President Joe Biden. Khan is a leading advocate for taking a more forceful antitrust stance against companies and is already taking steps to bolster the agency’s authority. Facebook is seeking to bar Khan from participating in the case, arguing that her academic writing about the company and her work on the House antitrust panel, which investigated Facebook and other tech platforms, showed she is biased.

Let’s see if this goes better for the FTC this time around. My thinking is that Facebook might actually have to work harder this time to escape being slapped silly. But we’ll have to see how this plays out.

President Biden Says Facebook Is “Killing People” Because Of Vaccine Misinformation On Their Platform

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 17, 2021 by itnerd

The United States has a big problem with COVID. Cases are surging again and vaccinations are slowing at around 48% having been fully vaccinated, and 56% having received one dose. And President Joe Biden is understandably freaked out about this. And he lays the blame for this at the feet of Facebook:

“They’re killing people,” Biden said on the lawn of the White House. “The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.”

Facebook to nobody’s surprise, rejected this:

A Facebook spokesman pushed back against Biden’s accusations, noting the company directed more than 2 billion people to reliable information about COVID-19 and vaccines. Facebook has an online hub for COVID-19 information as part of an effort to steer people toward authoritative sources. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used Facebook’s vaccine finder tool, he said.

“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”

But the White House pushed back on that:

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there are about a dozen people creating 65% of the vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. That stat appears to come from a May report published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate

Psaki also specifically called out Facebook on Thursday, saying the administration is flagging problematic posts to the social media giant. 

“There are about 12 people who are producing 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms, all of them remain active on Facebook, despite some even being banned on other platforms that Facebook owns,” Psaki said.

Here’s what I would say. A quick browse of Twitter and Instagram shows that those platforms have vaccine misinformation on them as well. And it wasn’t hard to find. So I would say that all social media platforms need to crack down on this sort of misinformation because the planet is in the worst public health crisis ever. While President Biden does have a point that misinformation kills, to single out Facebook seems narrow minded to me. I would like to see the Biden administration work with social media companies to address this, and only call out those that don’t play ball if they deserve it.

Trump Ban From Facebook To Last 2 Years Says Facebook

Posted in Commentary with tags , on June 4, 2021 by itnerd

It seems that Facebook is going to keep former President Donald Trump off of their platforms for 2 years. That’s all the way through January 2023 which means that assuming that he stays out of jail, and he behaves himself, he’ll be able to get back onto Facebook in time to take another run at being president:

We are today announcing new enforcement protocols to be applied in exceptional cases such as this, and we are confirming the time-bound penalty consistent with those protocols which we are applying to Mr. Trump’s accounts. Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols. We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year.

At the end of this period, we will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded. We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest. If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.

When the suspension is eventually lifted, there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts.

In what seems to be a related announcement, a new strike system has been announced. That way users can know what actions will be taken depending on the policies that have been violated. I am going to go out on a limb and say Trump is going to be subject to this system.

Facebook’s full responses are available here. It’s worth reading as it seems detailed. But it really doesn’t change my mind about Facebook.

Facebook To End Special Treatment for Politicians….. But You Should Still #DeleteFacebook

Posted in Commentary with tags on June 4, 2021 by itnerd

A report claims that Facebook plans to end its controversial policy that shields politicians from the content moderation rules that apply to other users, a sharp reversal that could have global ramifications for how elected officials use the social network:

The change, which Facebook is set to announce as soon as Friday, comes after the Oversight Board — an independent group funded by Facebook to review its thorniest content rulings — affirmed its decision to suspend former President Donald Trump but critiqued the special treatment it gives politicians, stating that the “same rules should apply to all users.” The board gave Facebook till June 5th to respond to its policy recommendations.

Mark Zuckerberg is notorious for not wanting to do anything in terms of policing free speech on the Facebook platform. So if this actually happens, this would be one hell of a reversal. But I don’t expect it to happen. Which means that you should still #DeleteFacebook as that platform isn’t worth being part of.

A Facebook Scam That Steals Your Facebook Credentials Is Making The Rounds At The Moment

Posted in Commentary with tags , on May 23, 2021 by itnerd

It may be a long weekend in Canada, but there’s a Facebook scam that seems to be making the rounds at the moment. And this one is kind of nasty based on interacting with a client of mine who was affected by this scam. Here’s how it works.

It starts by you receiving a message in Facebook Messenger from one of your Facebook friends with a link to what looks like to be a YouTube Video. But it isn’t a YouTube video. Instead it is a link that tricks Facebook users into clicking a link to a video. The video will often have some variation of “Is this you?” or “Did you make this video?” in the description to pique your interest. If you click on the link, you’ll be taken to a fake Facebook login page with a message about confirming your information before you can access the video. Here’s what it looked like when I tried this on a burner Android phone that I had lying around:

Now if you’re paying close attention to this login prompt, you’ll see right off the bat that this is fake. Not only does it not look right due to the website address not being from facebook.com for example, but Facebook has zero need to re-authenticate you in a manner like this. At this point the scammers not only have access to your account, but from what I can tell they also take your entire friends list and use it so that they can send this scam to others.

Here’s where it gets really nasty. There is also the possibility that you will get bombarded with offers varying from VPN services for sale to “free” phone deals that require you to pay shipping and handling. Which I assume are ways to grab your credit card details. Though part of me wonders if this is meant to buy time for the scumbags to use the info that they’ve harvested to perpetrate the scam.

And it doesn’t stop there.

While this is not an “infection” from computer virus perspective, the video scam only works by tricking someone into revealing their Facebook login credentials. And as far as I can tell, you can’t have your Facebook credentials stolen simply by clicking on the link and not entering anything. But based on my research, it is possible that an affected Facebook account can be cloned. Thus this would keep this scam going as the cloned account would be purporting to be you and sending out these messages to trick others into giving up their Facebook credentials.

Nasty.

So what if you get one of these messages in Facebook Messenger? Do not click on anything, delete the message and inform the person outside of Facebook that their Facebook account might have been compromised. That’s great if you haven’t clicked on anything. But if you have clicked on the links, and handed over your Facebook credentials, then time is of the essence. Get into your account as soon as you can (without clicking on any links that anyone just sent you!), assuming you can still access it, and change your password right away so the old password is useless to the criminals. These instructions will help you with that. Then you should force logout all devices that are associated with your Facebook account as this will stop the scumbags behind this attack cold. These instructions will help with doing that. You will then have to log into Facebook again from all your devices with the new password.

One thing that will protect you from this attack scenario is to use 2FA on any account you can. Adding a second factor of authentication means that the crooks can’t phish your password alone and then access your account. 2FA is a minor inconvenience to you, but a major roadblock for scumbags like the one behind this scam. This article from Facebook explains what 2FA is and how to turn it on. You should give it a read and consider utilizing 2FA.

Finally, if the scammers have already taken control of your Facebook account, you’ll need to go through Facebook’s account recovery process to regain access. In the case of this client, she recognized that she got scammed and quickly reached out to me so that help her to keep control of her Facebook account. Fortunately I was available, but I shudder to think what would have happened if I wasn’t.

Unfortunately the scams don’t stop coming. But as I trip over them, I’ll publish the info here and let you know how protect yourself from them.

Instagram Deletes Signal Ads Because Facebook Doesn’t Want Signal To Show You How Invasive Facebook Ads Truly Are…. So You Should Really #DeleteFacebook

Posted in Commentary with tags , on May 5, 2021 by itnerd

Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from Instagram after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook owned company collects about them and how it’s used to push targeted ads. The ads used Signal branding and featured the user’s professional role, education, interests, hobbies, location, and relationship status, among other personal data points pruned from their interaction with the platform to. Unsurprisingly the ads never made it to Instagram users’ feeds and Signal’s ad account for the platform was quickly disabled by Instagram.

In a blog post Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them:

We created a multi-variant targeted ad designed to show you the personal data that Facebook collects about you and sells access to. The ad would simply display some of the information collected about the viewer which the advertising platform uses. Facebook was not into that idea.

Facebook is more than willing to sell visibility into people’s lives, unless it’s to tell people about how their data is being used. Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook’s world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you’re doing from your audience.

Any business that has to actively hide what it does in order to conduct business is a business that is to borrow a phrase that the young people say is “sketchy A.F.” If you don’t know what that means, ask a millennial. I did. That means that Facebook is “sketchy A.F.” Not that you or I are surprised by that because this is Facebook we are talking about.

In any case, this is another example as to why you should delete all things Facebook.

FaceBook To Decide Today Whether To Reinstate Donald Trump’s Account…. Which Causes #DeleteFacebook To Trend World Wide On Twitter

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 5, 2021 by itnerd

It has come to light that Facebook’s Oversight Board is meeting today to decide if former President Donald Trump can return to the platform after being “Thanos Snapped” off the platform as a result of his part in instigating the January 6 riots in Washington DC that left five dead:

The Facebook Oversight Board will announce its decision Wednesday morning whether to allow former President Donald Trump back on the platform, nearly five months after he was suspended following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

If the board decides to let him on the platform, Facebook has seven days to unlock Mr. Trump’s account and turn it back over to him. The decision cannot be appealed. 

The Facebook Oversight Board has 20 members who are based around the world and are lawyers, professors, journalists, and human rights activists. The committee, established by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2019, is sometimes referred to as “Facebook’s Supreme Court” because it can overturn decisions made by company executives and its decisions are final. Mr. Trump’s case will be the tenth decision the board has handed down.

This to nobody’s surprise has resulted in #DeleteFacebook trending world wide on Twitter as evidenced by this:

And of course, people have lots to say about this:

Now if you want to #DeleteFacebook, this Mashable article can help you do it. I suggest that you read it because even if you turn off your Facebook account, the platform or others associated with the platform will still make money off of you. That would be bad. And even if you delete your account, it is possible that third parties may still have access to your data. That is also bad and illustrates why everyone should #DeleteFacebook. The platform is so invasive that nobody should be on it. Not to mention the fact that such a divisive figure like Trump might be allowed back onto the platform.

UPDATE: The decision has just been released and the short answer is no. But you should still #DeleteFacebook.