Author Topic: After Facebook  (Read 116954 times)

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Offline Thucydides

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Re: After Facebook
« Reply #50 on: February 23, 2016, 14:28:54 »
Fighting back against Twitter's Orwellian approach to business. As the author says, Twitter is a private company and can do as they like, but *we* are also people with agency, and can take steps of our own:

Using @Twitter's own risk factor analysis to force it to respect viewpoint diversity

As mentioned in an earlier post, many conservatives (including yours truly) are increasingly concerned by Twitter's lack of respect for viewpoint diversity and silencing of center-right and right of center voices. Of course, as a private company, Twitter is free to engage in any sort of non-invidious discrimination it chooses. As consumers, however, we are free to fight back.
So I took a look at Twitter's most recent SEC Form 10-K. Such reports have to identify "risk factors," which are defined as items that could have a material adverse effect on the company or its securities.
Twitter's risk factors analysis includes a number of items that could represent useful pressure points:

If we fail to grow our user base, or if user engagement or ad engagement on our platform decline, our revenue, business and operating results may be harmed.
Idea 1: Don't engage with ads on Twitter. Ever.

We generate a substantial majority of our revenue based upon engagement by our users with the ads that we display. If people do not perceive our products and services to be useful, reliable and trustworthy, we may not be able to attract users or increase the frequency of their engagement with our platform and the ads that we display.
Idea 2: Complain to companies that advertise on Twitter (nicely). Remember, a reasoned argument will be heard more than ranting and raving. Make clear that your willingness to buy their goods and services is adversely affected by their presence on Twitter.
Idea 3: Don't quit Twitter. They make no money off you unless you engage with their advertisers. Use the service but not the advertisers. Use ad blockers. (But see idea # 6 below.)

A number of factors could potentially negatively affect user growth and engagement, including if: ... we are unable to present users with content that is interesting, useful and relevant to them;
Idea 4: Let Twitter AND its advertisers know that you value strong conservative voices.

A number of factors could potentially negatively affect user growth and engagement, including if: ... we do not maintain our brand image or our reputation is damaged.
Idea 5: Let Twitter AND its advertisers know that Twitter's ideological biases have substantially damaged its brand image.
If our users do not continue to contribute content or their contributions are not valuable to other users, we may experience a decline in the number of users accessing our products and services and user engagement, which could result in the loss of advertisers, platform partners and revenue. ... If we experience a decline in the number of users, user growth rate, or user engagement, including as a result of the loss of world leaders, government officials, celebrities, athletes, journalists, sports teams, media outlets and brands who generate content on Twitter, advertisers may not view our products and services as attractive for their marketing expenditures, and may reduce their spending with us which would harm our business and operating results.

Idea 6: Individual conservative users quitting Twitter does it little harm and deprives you of a soapbox for criticizing the company and its advertisers. But if a critical mass of conservatives, including GOP politicians, opinion leaders, commentary outlets and so on all quite at once, that would do something. Sadly, there is a collective action problem here. It is in all of our interests for all conservatives to quit Twitter, but it's not in any of our individual interest to do so. This needs thought.

Negative publicity about our company, including about our product quality and reliability, changes to our products and services, privacy and security practices, litigation, regulatory activity, the actions of our users or user experience with our products and services, even if inaccurate, could adversely affect our reputation and the confidence in and the use of our products and services.
Idea 7: Spread the word that Twitter is hostile to viewpoint diversity.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: After Facebook
« Reply #51 on: May 30, 2017, 13:21:37 »
A look at how deeply Facebook has penetrated the Internet. How this affects you, or how it will affect you downstream as all this personal information is collected in one (possibly insecure) place is yet to be explored:

How Facebook's tentacles reach further than you think
By Joe Miller
Business reporter
26 May 2017

Facebook's collection of data makes it one of the most influential organisations in the world. Share Lab wanted to look "under the bonnet" at the tech giant's algorithms and connections to better understand the social structure and power relations within the company.

A couple of years ago, Vladan Joler and his brainy friends in Belgrade began investigating the inner workings of one of the world's most powerful corporations.

The team, which includes experts in cyber-forensic analysis and data visualisation, had already looked into what he calls "different forms of invisible infrastructures" behind Serbia's internet service providers.

But Mr Joler and his friends, now working under a project called Share Lab, had their sights set on a bigger target.

"If Facebook were a country, it would be bigger than China," says Mr Joler, whose day job is as a professor at Serbia's Novi Sad University.

He reels off the familiar, but still staggering, numbers: the barely teenage Silicon Valley firm stores some 300 petabytes of data, boasts almost two billion users, and raked in almost $28bn (£22bn) in revenues in 2016 alone.

And yet, Mr Joler argues, we know next to nothing about what goes on under the bonnet - despite the fact that we, as users, are providing most of the fuel - for free.

"All of us, when we are uploading something, when we are tagging people, when we are commenting, we are basically working for Facebook," he says.

The data our interactions provide feeds the complex algorithms that power the social media site, where, as Mr Joler puts it, our behaviour is transformed into a product.

Trying to untangle that largely hidden process proved to be a mammoth task.

"We tried to map all the inputs, the fields in which we interact with Facebook, and the outcome," he says.

"We mapped likes, shares, search, update status, adding photos, friends, names, everything our devices are saying about us, all the permissions we are giving to Facebook via apps, such as phone status, wifi connection and the ability to record audio."

All of this research provided only a fraction of the full picture. So the team looked into Facebook's acquisitions, and scoured its myriad patent filings.

The results were astonishing.

Visually arresting flow charts that take hours to absorb fully, but which show how the data we give Facebook is used to calculate our ethnic affinity (Facebook's term), sexual orientation, political affiliation, social class, travel schedule and much more.

One map shows how everything - from the links we post on Facebook, to the pages we like, to our online behaviour in many other corners of cyber-space that are owned or interact with the company (Instagram, WhatsApp or sites that merely use your Facebook log-in) - could all be entering a giant algorithmic process.

And that process allows Facebook to target users with terrifying accuracy, with the ability to determine whether they like Korean food, the length of their commute to work, or their baby's age.

Another map details the permissions many of us willingly give Facebook via its many smartphone apps, including the ability to read all text messages, download files without permission, and access our precise location.

Individually, these are powerful tools; combined they amount to a data collection engine that, Mr Joler argues, is ripe for exploitation.

"If you think just about cookies, just about mobile phone permissions, or just about the retention of metadata - each of those things, from the perspective of data analysis, are really intrusive."

Facebook has for years asserted that data privacy and the security of its operations are paramount. Facebook data, for example, cannot be used by developers to create surveillance tools and the firm says it complies with privacy protection laws in all countries. Thousands of new staff have been recruited to police its content.

Mr Joler, though, while admitting that his research made him a little paranoid about the information that was being harvested, is more worried about the longer term.

The data will remain in the hands of one company. Even if its current leaders are responsible and trustworthy, what about those in charge in 20 years?

Analysts say Share Lab's work is valuable and impressive. "It's probably the most comprehensive work mapping Facebook that I've ever seen," says Dr Julia Powles, an expert in technology law and policy at Cornell Tech.

"[The research] shows in cold and calculated terms how much we are giving away for the value of being able to communicate with your mates," she says.

The scale of Facebook's reach can be stated in raw numbers - but Share Lab's maps make it visceral, in a way that drawing parallels cannot.

"We haven't really got appropriate historical analogies for the tech giants," explains Dr Powles. Their powers, she continues, extend "far beyond" the likes of the East India Company and monopolies of old, such as Standard Oil.

And while many may consider the objectives of Mark Zuckerberg's empire to be rather benign, its outcomes are not always so.

Facebook, argues Dr Powles, "plays to our base psychological impulses" by valuing popularity above all else.

Experts say there are no historical analogies for the power that today's tech giants hold

Not that she expects Share Lab's research to lead to a mass Facebook exodus, or a dramatic increase in the scrutiny of tech titans.

"What is most striking is the sense of resignation, the impotence of regulation, the lack of options, the public apathy," says Dr Powles. "What an extraordinary situation for an entity that has power over information - there is no greater power really."

It is this extraordinary dominance that the Share Lab team set out to illustrate. But Mr Joler is quick to point out that even their grand maps cannot provide an accurate picture of the social media giant's capabilities.

There is no guarantee, for example, that there are not many other algorithms at work that are still heavily guarded trade secrets.

However, Mr Joler argues, "it is still the one and only map that exists" of one of the greatest forces shaping our world today.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.