Summary of “Facebook and the Cost of Monopoly – Stratechery by Ben Thompson”

Microsoft, of course, was found to be a monopoly, and, as I wrote a couple of months ago in Manifestos and Monopolies, it is increasingly difficult to not think the same about Facebook.
Facebook may have a monopoly in social networking, and while that may be a problem for Snap or any other would be networks, Facebook would surely argue that the lack of deadweight loss means that society as a whole shouldn’t be too bothered.
Facebook does, at least indirectly, make money from that content: the more users find said content engaging, the more time they will spend on Facebook, which means the more ads they will see.
On the other side, Facebook’s proposal to help publishers monetize – publishers could sell their own ads or, enticingly, Facebook could sell them for a 30% commission – would not only support the content providers that are one side of Facebook’s three-sided market, but also lock them into Facebook with revenue they couldn’t get elsewhere.
Keep in mind this approach isn’t possible in competitive markets: were there truly competitors for Facebook when it came to placing content, Facebook would have to share more revenue to ensure said content was on its platform.
Prices will not rise, which would be a bad sign for Facebook: it would mean that despite all of Facebook’s data, their ads are not differentiated, and that money that would have been spent on Facebook will simply be spent elsewhere.
Still, even if Facebook does have monopoly power when it comes to content discovery and distribution and in digital advertising, is that really a problem for users? Might it even be a good thing?
Last year, before Facebook realized it could just leverage its network to squash Snap, Mark Zuckerberg spent most of his presentation laying out a long-term vision for all the areas in which Facebook wanted to innovate.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to escape the online spies”

The internet giants are building up ever more detailed user profiles – and finding new ways to exploit that information.
You’ve probably handed plenty of personal information to Facebook yourself – but the social network also tracks your visits to other websites to build up a scarily detailed profile of your lifestyle and interests.
Facebook is quite open about the information it collects.
Your best bet is to turn to the measures described in “The internet”, below, such as enabling “Do Not Track” in your browser, specifically opting out or installing an anti-tracking browser extension.
Your data is all set out in an impressively forthright way; the only problem is, there’s so much information to work through that it can be bewildering to navigate.
The recent “Creators Update” to Windows 10 prompts you to review your privacy settings as part of the update process, but you can check and change your settings at any time: simply open the Windows 10 Settings app and click on “Privacy”.
Under “Feedback & diagnostics” you can choose how much diagnostic information gets periodically sent back to Microsoft.
It’s a pain that this should be necessary, but if you don’t want your personal information to be shared around online, it’s a precaution worth taking.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Report: Facebook helped advertisers target teens who feel “worthless” [Updated]”

This 23-page document discovered by The Australian, details in particular how Facebook executives promote advertising campaigns that exploit Facebook users’ emotional states-and how these are aimed at users as young as 14 years old.
According to the report, the selling point of this 2017 document is that Facebook’s algorithms can determine, and allow advertisers to pinpoint, “Moments when young people need a confidence boost.” If that phrase isn’t clear enough, Facebook’s document offers a litany of teen emotional states that the company claims it can estimate based on how teens use the service, including “Worthless,” “Insecure,” “Defeated,” “Anxious,” “Silly,” “Useless,” “Stupid,” “Overwhelmed,” “Stressed,” and “a failure.”
Facebook Australia did not answer The Australian’s questions about whether these youth-targeted advertising practices were the same or similar to those at other international Facebook offices.
Two Facebook Australia executives, Andy Sinn and David Fernandez, are named as the document’s authors.
Facebook’s ability to predict and possibly exploit users’ personal data probably isn’t news to anybody who has followed the company over the past decade, but this leak may be the first tacit admission by any Facebook organization that younger users’ data is sorted and exploited in a unique way.
Update, 5/1 12:12 p.m.: Facebook has issued a statement disputing The Australian’s report.
“Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state. The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated.”
Just like the company said in its original apology, it repeated this vague explanation: “Facebook has an established process to review the research we perform. This research did not follow that process, and we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight.” However, the statement didn’t acknowledge why Facebook did not make any distinction clear to The Australian.

The orginal article.

Summary of “deadspin-quote-carrot-aligned-w-bgr-2”

Take the most computational part of the body, the brain.
Our brains do not “Store” memories as computers do, simply calling up a desired piece of information from a memory bank.
Research into some of these things is underway, but so far much of what it has uncovered is that the body and brain are incredibly complex.
Scientists do hope, for example, that one day brain computer interfaces might help alleviate severe cases of mental illnesses like depression, and DARPA is currently funding a $65 million research effort aimed at using implanted electrodes to tackle some of the trickiest mental illnesses.
After decades of research, it’s still unclear which areas of the brain even make the most sense to target for each illness.
Within a mere two years, Facebook thinks it’ll know whether its plan to send 100-word-per-minute status updates from our brains to our screens is possible.
The technology available today can only measure a fraction of the neural activity necessary to link someone’s entire brain to a computer, or allow them to communicate with another person without speaking.
In his 1958 book The Computer and the Brain, the mathematician John von Neumann stated explicitly that the human nervous system is ‘prima facie digital.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Facebook’s Role in European Elections Under Scrutiny”

Facebook provides little information on how political parties use ads to reach undecided voters on the site.
The political ads shown to Mr. Dodd are being tallied by WhoTargetsMe?, a nonpolitical group that designed a digital tool to monitor Facebook’s role ahead of the British election.
Questions over the social network’s role in politics are particularly raw in Britain, where outside groups were accused of spending lavishly on Facebook during a heated campaign before a referendum on the country’s membership the European Union.
“Political advertising is fundamentally different; there’s a lot of concern about what’s being seen on Facebook,” said Sam Jeffers, the group’s co-founder and a former digital media strategist.
In the buildup to the election the data showed that the Liberal Democrats – who are likely to remain a minority presence in Parliament – posted the largest number of political ads on Facebook.
The number of ads seen by WhoTargetsMe? volunteers has also roughly doubled in the last month, though political messages still represented 2 percent of overall ads displayed in Facebook feeds, according to the group’s analysis.
The social networking giant also sponsored get-out-the-vote campaigns, and encouraged political groups to create Facebook pages to promote their messages.
The role of companies like Facebook in spreading online falsehoods is limited in Germany, Mr. Scott said, because social media does not play as significant a role in everyday politics as it does in the United States.

The orginal article.

Key Points of “Is It Time to Break Up Google?”

Today:

  • Google: 88% market share in search advertising
  • Facebook (+ Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger): 77% of mobile social traffic
  • Amazon: 74% e-book market
  • Revenues of other media businesses (newspapers, music) are down by 70% since 2001
  • it has become increasingly advantageous to be an incumbent, and less advantageous to be a new entrant

History:

  • AT&T (= Bell System) had its rates regulated, and was required to spend a fixed percentage of its profits on research and development
  • AT&T set up Bell Labs which developed all the basics of the digital age: transistor, microchip, solar cell, microwave, laser, cellular telephony (+ along with eight Nobel Prizes)

Possible next steps:

  • Monopolies should not be allowed to acquire other major firms
  • Regulate monopolies as public utility = requiring it to license out patents for its key innovations
  • Remove the “safe harbor” clause in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act = have them pay for content and hold them accountable for it

The original article by Jonathan Taplin.