Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook Tests Telling Users if Their Post was Removed by Automation

Facebook posted its First Quarterly Update on the Oversight Board. Part of the update involves sharing their progress on the board’s non-binding recommendations.

…The board’s recommendations touch on how we enforce our policies, how we inform users of actions we’ve taken and what they can do about it, and additional transparency reporting…

Facebook provided some examples of things it has done that the board recommended:

They launched and continue to test new user experiences that are more specific about how and why they remove content. I think this is a good idea, because there will always be someone new to Facebook that hasn’t been there long enough to learn what is, and is not, allowed.

They made progress on the specificity of their hate speech notifications by using an additional classifier that is able to predict what kind of hate speech is in the content: violence, dehumanization, mocking hate crimes, visual comparison, inferiority, contempt, cursing, exclusion, and/or slurs. Facebook says that people using Facebook in English will now receive more specific messaging when they violate the hate speech policy. The company will roll out more specific notifications for hate speech violations in other languages in the future.

I’m not sure that more specific notifications will influence people to stop posting hate speech. A user who is angry about having a post removed might double-down and post something even worse. It is unclear to me if Facebook is providing any penalty for posting hate speech (other than having the post removed).

Facebook is running tests to assess the impact of telling people whether automation was involved in the enforcement. This likely means that if a user’s post is removed because it broke the rules, and the decision was made by automation – the user will be informed of that.

Personally, I think that last recommendation could be controversial. An individual person might get really angry after learning that their post was removed by automation instead of a human. This might lead to the user trying to convince Facebook to have a human check over that post (in the hopes of getting a more favorable result). It that happens a lot, I suspect that political leaders might add to the conversation – with their own recommendations.

Facebook Oversight Board Considers Posting of Private Residential Addresses

Facebook announced that its Oversight Board has accepted its first policy advisory opinion referral from Facebook. The Board is asked to consider if posting private residential addresses on Facebook is acceptable.

It is important to know that Facebook itself states that the decision made by the Oversight Board is not binding. To me, that sounds like Facebook is giving itself an opportunity to either go along with – or completely ignore – what the Oversight Board determines.

…Access to residential addresses can be an important tool for journalism, civic activism, and other public discourse. However, exposing this information without consent can also create a risk to an individual’s safety and infringe on privacy…

Facebook is asking the Oversight Board for guidance on the following questions:

  • What information sources should render private information “publicly available?” (For instance, should we factor into our decision whether an image of a residence was already published by another publication?”)
  • What information sources should render private information “publicly available?”
  • Should sources be excluded when they are not easily accessible or trustworthy (such as data aggregator websites, the dark web, or public records that cannot be digitally accessed from a remote location?)
  • If some sources should be excluded, how should Facebook determine the type of sources that won’t be considered in making private information “publicly available?”
  • If an individual’s private information is simultaneously posted to multiple places, including Facebook, should Facebook continue to treat it as private information or treat it as publicly available?
  • Should Facebook remove personal information despite its public availability, for example, in news media, government records, or the dark web? That is, does the availability on Facebook of publicly available but personal information, which may include removing news articles that publish such information or individual posts of publicly available government records?

I think we all know that posting someone else’s personal residential information on the internet, without the person’s permission, is wrong. Facebook shouldn’t need to consult an Oversight Board to understand that.

WhatsApp Users Must Comply with Update or Lose App’s Functionality

WhatsApp issued a privacy policy that will go into effect on May 15, 2021. Those who have not agreed to the policy will slowly have portions of the functionality of WhatsApp become inaccessible.

To me, it sounds like WhatsApp (and its parent company, Facebook) are using this tactic to pressure users into accepting the privacy policy.This could backfire if people choose leave WhatsApp in favor of similar apps like Signal and Telegram.

For the last several weeks we’ve displayed a notification in WhatsApp providing more information about the update. After giving everyone time to review, we’re continuing to remind those who haven’t had the chance to do so to review and accept. After a period of several weeks, the reminder people receive will eventually become persistent.

A post on the WhatsApp website explains what will happen to users who don’t accept the privacy policy on May 15, 2021:

No one will have their account deleted or lose functionality of WhatsApp on May 15th because of this update.

After receiving a persistent reminder, users will encounter limited functionality on WhatsApp until you accept the updates. It appears this will not happen to all users at the same time,

Here is what non-complying users will experience:

  • You won’t be able to access your chat list, but you can still answer incoming phone and video calls. If you have notifications enabled, you can tap on them to read or respond to a message or call back a missed phone or video call.
  • After a few weeks of limited functionality, you won’t be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone.

In short, if you want to continue using WhatsApp – and have access to all of its functionality – you have no choice other than to accept the privacy policy. This is not a good look for WhatsApp (or Facebook). I understand that WhatsApp and Facebook have a right to create privacy policies. I think they should have handled this situation in a kinder, more ethical, way.

Facebook Tests a Prompt that Twitter Released Last Year

Today, Facebook tweeted about something that could be a new feature on the platform. Facebook will be testing a prompt that was originally released by Twitter in September of 2020. The prompt will encourage Facebook users to actually read an article before posting a comment about it.

Starting today, we’re testing a way to promote more informed sharing of news articles. If you go to share a news article link you haven’t opened, we’ll show a prompt encouraging you to open it and read it before sharing it with others.

The Verge reported that those who are shown this pop-up can choose to continue sharing it without having opened that article if they want to. To me, it sounds like giving users the option of sharing an unread article and/or commenting on it defeats the entire purpose of the prompt.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Verge that the test of this prompt would be rolled out to 6 percent of Android users worldwide. I suppose that the way the prompt is used – or ignored – might determine whether or not Facebook eventually rolls it out to everyone.

There are some flaws with these type of prompts. It appears that the prompt will require a person to actually open the article through Facebook before they can share it. That doesn’t necessarily mean the person is going to read the article. A person who wants to share an article from a less-than-credible website will be permitted to do so.

Based on the article from The Verge, it appears that the primary reason Facebook is testing this prompt is to combat the spread of misinformation. That is a noble goal – but it won’t work if people choose to share articles from tabloids and other questionable sources.

96% of iOS Users in the U.S. Opted-Out of App Tracking

Apple’s release of iOS 14.5 included the ability for users to opt-out of allowing apps to track them. Ars Technica reported that 96% of iOS users in the United States chose to opt-out of tracking. This news should surprise no one, because it is well known that people use ad blockers and VPNs to avoid being tracked.

The information about the percentage of users in the United States who chose to opt-out of app tracking comes from a company called Flurry Analytics. It is owned by Verizon Media. Flurry is updating that data daily.

Until now, apps have been able to rely on Apple’s Identifier for Advertiser (IDFA) to track users for targeting and advertising purposes. With the launch of iOS 14.5 this week, mobile apps now have to ask users who have upgraded to iOS 14.5 for permission to gather tracking data. With opt-in rates expected to be low, this change is expected to create challenges for personalized advertising and attribution, impacting the $189 billion mobile advertising industry worldwide.

Ars Technica reported that Flurry Analytics says U.S. users agree to be tracked only four percent of the time. The global number of users deciding to opt-in to tracking is at twelve percent. That number is below some advertising companies’ estimates.

Predictably, the news appears to be alarming to companies like Facebook who heavily rely on tracking and data collection from users for the purpose of showing ads to users. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature does allow Facebook (and other companies that track people) to provide a brief explanation about why they absolutely need to keep grabbing your data. Clearly, those explanations are falling flat as most users opt out of tracking.

Facebook Oversight Board Upholds Trump’s Suspension

Facebook created an Oversight Board to make the decision on whether or not overturn Trump’s indefinite suspension. Later on, the Oversight Board chose to delay its decision and extended the public comments deadline for this case.

Today, Facebook posted information in their Newsroom titled: “Oversight Board Upholds Facebook’s Decision to Suspend Donald Trump’s Accounts”. It was written by Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs and Communications.

Today, the Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s suspension of former US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. As we stated in January, we believe our decision was necessary and right, and we’re pleased the board has recognized that the unprecedented circumstances justified the exceptional measure we took.

In the post, Nick Clegg stated that the Oversight Board has not required Facebook to immediately restore Mr. Trump’s accounts. It also has not specified the appropriate duration of the penalty. The Oversight Board called the open-ended nature of the suspension an “indeterminate and standardless penalty”. As a result, Facebook will now consider the Oversight Board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate.

In the meantime, Mr. Trump’s accounts remain suspended.

It is worth pointing out that the Oversight Board’s determination is not binding, which leaves room for Facebook to either chose to follow it – or to ignore it completely. The Oversight Board included a list of recommendations for Facebook to consider, but the company doesn’t have to adhere to any of them.

One of the recommendations stated that Facebook should “provide users with accessible information on how many violations, strikes, and penalties have been assessed against them, and the consequences that will follow future violations.” Personally, I think that would be a good thing for Facebook to implement. It could make people think twice before posting something that breaks Facebook’s terms of service.

Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms is a Clubhouse Competitor

It was bound to happen. Facebook has announced something called Live Audio Rooms, which they expect to make available to everyone on the Facebook app by the summer of 2021. It is obviously Facebook’s way of competing with Clubhouse.

We believe that audio is a perfect way for communities to engage around topics they care about. We’ll test Live Audio Rooms in Groups, making it available to the 1.8 billion people using Groups every month and the tens of millions of active communities on Facebook.

In addition, Facebook also plans to release Live Audio Rooms on Messenger this summer. It appears Facebook wants to allow people who create a Live Audio Room the ability to record what is said and put that audio into a podcast. Naturally, this is because Facebook has teamed up with Spotify to bring podcasts to Facebook.

The one good thing that Facebook is doing is making the audio from Live Audio Rooms and Soundbites include captions. Giving people who are hearing impaired or deaf the ability to know what is being said in a Live Audio Room makes the experience more accessible.

However, I’m not a fan of Facebook’s plan to enable people to take their Live Audio Rooms chat and upload it to their podcast. Right now, we don’t know for certain if Facebook will require creators of Live Audio Rooms to specifically gain permission to record those who attend. It is possible Facebook might put something in the “fine print” stating that entering a Live Audio Room means you consent to being recorded. In short, if you join a Live Audio Room, you should be mindful of what you say.

I believe that Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms will be a strong competitor to Clubhouse. There have been plenty examples where Clubhouse has failed to protect the privacy of users. People cannot join Clubhouse without receiving an invite from someone who is already on it. Clubhouse requires users to upload their contact list – which feels to me like an invasion of privacy.

Facebook very likely has more users than Clubhouse. If you use Facebook (or its other products) you might be aware that Facebook has been grabbing your data. The biggest advantage Facebook has over Clubhouse is that Facebook will make it as easy as possible for people to host and join Live Audio Rooms.

In my opinion, if you want to start a podcast, you shouldn’t do it on Clubhouse or Facebook. Get a WordPress blog and find a credible podcast host provider. Doing so gives you control over where your podcast “lives”, and does not require you to feed your data to voracious companies (such as Facebook and Clubhouse).