Tag Archives: Facebook

Pluribus AI Bot Beat Pros in Six-Player Poker



Pluribus is the first AI bot capable of beating human experts in six-player no-limit Hold’em, the most widely played poker format in the world. It makes me think of AlphaZero, an AI system that taught itself how to master chess, shogi, and Go. AlphaZero was created by DeepMind.

Pluribus is a new AI bot that was created in a collaboration between Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University. In recent years, new AI methods have been able to beat top humans in poker if there is only one opponent. But developing an AI system capable of defeating elite players in full-scale poker with multiple opponents at the table was widely recognized as the key remaining milestone.

Pluribus has defeated pro poker players in both a “five AIs + one human player” format and a “one AI + five human players” format.

If each chip was worth a dollar, Pluribus would have won an average of about $5 per hand and would have made about $1,000/hour playing against five human players. These results are considered a decisive margin of victory by poker professionals.

There is a lot of detail in the Facebook post about Pluribus, including the AI bot’s blueprint strategy and information about how it stacked up against humans in the poker games. The post also includes some comments from the human professional poker players who share their thoughts about playing against Pluribus.

It has been said that robots are coming to take our jobs. In some industries, they already have pushed out the human workers. Should we now start to worry that robots may someday replace humans players in games? I suppose it might be possible that, in the future, AI bots will have replaced all the humans on eSports teams. That might be fun to watch once, but I think it would get really boring after that.


Senate Hearing to Explore Facebook’s Libra Project



Well, that didn’t take long! The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will hold a hearing about Facebook’s Libra project on July 16, 2019. Reuters reported that the hearing will explore the Libra project as well as any data privacy considerations it may raise.

This comes after Senate Banking Committee members wrote to Facebook asking for information on rumors about its cryptocurrency project in May of 2019. The Committee wanted to know how Facebook would protect consumer information.

Senator Sherrod Brown (Democrat – Ohio), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs wrote “This new cryptocurrency will give Facebook competitive advantages with regard to collecting data about financial transactions, as well as control over fees and functionality”. He continued:

“Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy. We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight. I’m calling on our financial watchdogs to scrutinize this closely to ensure users are protected.”

In addition, Representative Maxine Waters, (Democrat – California) Chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services posted a statement about Facebook’s cryptocurrency. She wrote “I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues and take action. Facebook executives should also come before the Committee to provide testimony on these issues.”

My best guess is that Facebook failed to consider that creating its own cryptocurrency could result in questions from legislators. Either that, or Facebook decided it was better to ask forgiveness than permission with Libra.


Facebook Announced Libra Cryptocurrency and Calibra Wallet



Facebook announced Libra, its very own cryptocurrency powered by blockchain technology. It is also introducing Calibra, a digital wallet for Libra. The wallet will be available in Messenger, WhatsApp and as a standalone app. Facebook expects to launch these products in 2020.

For many people around the world, even basic financial services are still out of reach: almost half of the adults in the world don’t have an active bank account and those numbers are worse in developing countries and even worse for women. The cost of that exclusion is high – approximately 70% of small businesses in developing countries lack access to credit and $25 billion is lost by migrants every year through remittance fees.

I see a problem. People who don’t have bank accounts might not be able to afford a smartphone to access Calibra and the Libra cryptocurrency on. I suspect Facebook is aiming mostly at businesses and not-so-much on people who are poor.

Facebook says that Calibra will let you send Libra “to almost anyone with a smartphone, easily and instantly as you might send a message, and at low to no cost.” In time, Facebook hopes to offer additional services for people and businesses, such as paying bills with the push of a button, buying a cup of coffee with the scan of a code, or riding your local public transit without needing to carry cash or a metro pass.

According to Facebook, Calibra will use the same verification and anti-fraud processes that banks and credit cards use. There will be automated systems that proactively monitor activity to detect and prevent fraudulent behavior. If someone gains access to your account and you lose some Libra as a result, Facebook will offer you a refund.

What about privacy? Facebook says Calibra will not share account information or financial data with Facebook or any third party without consumer consent. Personally, I wonder exactly how that consent will be given. Will users have the choice to opt-in to giving consent? Or will Calibra require that consent before people can use it?

Facebook also says Calbra customers’ account information and financial data will not be used to improve ad targeting on the Facebook family of products. Given Facebook’s history, it would be wise to be skeptical of that claim.


Facebook and Twitter Disabled a Disinformation Campaign with Ties to Iran



The Washington Post reported that both Facebook and Twitter said they had disabled a “sprawling disinformation campaign that appeared to originate in Iran”. It included two Twitter accounts that mimicked Republican congressional candidates and may have sought to push pro-Iranian political messages.

According to The Washington Post, a private security firm called Fire Eye “did not attribute the activity to either Iranian state leaders or malicious actors operating within the country.” However, some of the tweets supported the Iranian nuclear deal, which President Trump withdrew from a year ago.

Some of the disabled account appeared to target their propaganda at specific journalists, policymakers, dissidents and other influential U.S. figures online. Those tactics left experts fearful that it could mark a new escalation in social-media warfare, with malicious actors stealing real-world identities to spread disinformation beyond the web.

Facebook posted on its Facebook Newsroom that it had removed 51 Facebook accounts, 36 Pages, seven Groups, and three Instagram accounts involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Iran.

Facebook said the individuals involved misled people about who they were and what they were doing. “They purported to be located in the US and Europe, used fake accounts to run Pages and Groups, and impersonated legitimate news organizations in the Middle East. The individuals behind this activity also represented themselves as journalists or other personas and tried to contact policymakers, reporters, academics, Iranian dissidents and other public figures.”

Yoel Roth, Head of Site Integrity at Twitter, posted a thread of tweets that began with: “Earlier this month, we removed more than 2,800 inauthentic accounts originating in Iran. These are the accounts that FireEye, a private security firm, reported on today. We were not provided with this report or its findings.”

In another tweet, he wrote: “These accounts employed a range of false personas to target conservatives about political social issues in Iran and globally. Some engaged directly through public replies with politicians, journalists, and others.”

People need to be smarter about how they consume content on Facebook and Twitter. Think before you click a link. Seek out the real news website instead. Don’t retweet or share something without first taking the time to verify that it isn’t “fake news”.


Facebook Plans to Launch GlobalCoin in 2020



Facebook is planning to launch GlobalCoin, its very own form of cryptocurrency, in about a dozen countries in 2020. Facebook wants to start testing GlobalCoin by the end of 2019.

Facebook wants to create a digital currency that provides affordable and secure ways of making payments, regardless of whether users have a bank account. According to the BBC, Facebook will join forces with banks and brokers that will enable people to change dollars and other international currencies into GlobalCoin. Facebook is also talking with money transfer firms like Western Union.

Personally, I can see plenty of problems with Facebook creating its own cryptocurrency. Facebook doesn’t have a good record of protecting people’s privacy or their data. If someone buys GlobalCoin, and their data or GlobalCoin account is hacked, I doubt Facebook is going to do anything about it. This whole things

feels like even more of a gamble than other types of cryptocurrency are.

What happens if a Facebook user buys GlobalCoin and then Facebook suspends that user’s account for breaking Facebook’s Terms and Policies? Does that person lose the GlobalCoin they paid for? If not, how would that user be able to access it without a Facebook account?

I’m not the only one with concerns. The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs sent Mark Zuckerberg a letter with a bunch of questions about Facebook’s cryptocurrency.

Here are a few of the Committee’s questions:

  • What privacy and consumer protections would users have under the new payment system?
  • What consumer financial information does Facebook have that it has received from a financial company?
  • Does Facebook share or sell any consumer information (or information derived from consumer information) with any unaffiliated third parties?

Another huge problem for Facebook is that it will have to navigate the legislation that a multitude of countries have put in place regarding financial transactions. This is not going to be easy to do.


Trump Administration Launches Tool to Report Censorship



The Trump Administration has launched a web survey for people to use if they feel they have been wrongly censored on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. The survey was created with the online form-building tool Typeform. The first page of the survey says:

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear “violations” of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.

The Guardian reported that the survey asks users to provide their names, contact information, social media accounts, and screenshots of interactions with social media platforms. Only US citizens and permanent residents are asked to participate. The Guardian wonders what the Trump administration will do – and what it won’t do – with the names and contact information of the people who fill out the survey.

Typeform tweeted: “We didn’t get any further than this @WhiteHouse”. The tweet included a screenshot of the question “Are you a U.S. citizen or permanent resident?” Typeform checked “no”. The Guardian reported that Typeform is based in Barcelona.

As always, it is a good idea to read a survey’s user agreement before you post any of your information into it. Ars Technica reported that the user agreement gives the Trump Administration a broad license to use the information that users post into the survey, including publishing it.

More specifically, the user agreement “grants the U.S. Government a license to use, edit, display, publish, broadcast, transmit, post, or otherwise distribute all or part of the Content (including edited, composite, or derivative works made therefrom)”.

“You waive any right to inspect or approve of any Content edited, composite or derivative works made from Content (including those which may contain your information) before use. You are not entitled to any prior notice before the U.S. Government uses Content or Information. You are not entitled to any compensation for Content.”

“You understand that Content may not be altered or deleted by you after submission, You further understand that your submission may be subject to the Federal Records Act and/or the Presidential Records Act and may be subject to public release according to those statutes.”

The Verge reported that near the end of the survey, it invites users to opt into email newsletters from President Trump “so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”

Another part of the survey points users toward the user agreement, and states: “you understand this form is for information gathering only.” I think there are going to be a lot of disappointed people who presume that filling out the survey will instantly make their suspended or banned accounts accessible once again. In addition, some people may not realize they opted-in to a newsletter.


Social Media Companies to Tackle Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content



Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter have responded to the Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online by committing to remove that content from their social media sites. As far as I can tell, this is the first time those three companies have decided to work together on removing that type of content.

In March of this year, a terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was livestreamed. The Christchurch Call was created by New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and French President, Emmanuel Macron. Ars Technica reported that Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom have signed on.

The Christchurch Call is a commitment by Governments and tech companies to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. It rests on the conviction that a free, open and secure internet offers extraordinary benefits to society. Respect for freedom of expression is fundamental. However, no one has the right to create and share terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have all committed to the Christchurch Call. Each company posted nearly identical details about how they will enact policies to combat the spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Each company will be: “identifying appropriate checks on livestreaming, aimed at reducing the risks of disseminating terrorist and violent extremist content online. These may include enhanced vetting measures (such as streamer ratings or scores, account activity, or validation processes) and moderation of certain livestreaming events where appropriate. Checks on livestreaming necessarily will be tailored to the context of specific livestreaming services, including the type of audience, the nature or character of the livestreaming service, and the likelihood of exploitation.”

The companies will also improve technology to detect and remove terrorist and violent extremist content. They will combat hate and bigotry by providing greater support for relevant research – with an emphasis on the impact of online hate on offline discrimination and violence – and supporting capacity and capability of NGOs working to challenge hate and promote pluralism and respect online.

Personally, I think this is a step in the right direction. It is abundantly clear that hateful content online influences some people to take that hate offline and to act in ways that cause harm to other people. Something must be done to prevent that.