Summary of “Facebook Block: I Cut Facebook Out of My Life. I Missed It”

Originally, I just planned to block myself from using Facebook the same way I’d blocked myself from using Amazon, by routing all my internet traffic through a virtual private network controlled by the technologist Dhruv Mehrotra, who is prohibiting my devices from communicating with the 122,880 IP addresses controlled by Facebook.
The Amazon block took out whole websites and services for me, but that’s not the case with Facebook, because it doesn’t control the building blocks of the internet.
The vast majority of Facebook’s requests are likely its attempts to track my movements around the web, via Like and Share buttons, Facebook Analytics, Facebook Ads, and Facebook Pixel.
Facebook Pixel, if you haven’t heard of it, is a little piece of code that a company can put on its website-say, on a particular sneaker page that you look at while signed into Facebook on your work computer.
Cutting Facebook out of my life is easy technically; Dhruv’s IP address block works well.
The first day of the Facebook block is Halloween, which is particularly hard because I can’t post cute photos of my 1-year-old, Ellev, dressed up as Boo from Monsters Inc. And I can’t find out what my friends are dressed as unless I individually text or email them, which is weird.
If you give up Facebook and all the companies it owns, you’re cut off from participating in your community, whatever your community may be.
Freedom From Facebook has been pushing the Federal Trade Commission to treat Facebook like a monopoly and break it up.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Went From Superwoman To Supervillain”

Between Sandberg’s arrival in 2008 and Facebook achieving “Mega-unicorn” status in 2013, Sandberg developed an almost mystical reputation within Silicon Valley.
While the public perception of Sandberg has shifted dramatically – even Michelle Obama recently ragged on Lean In – as far as we know, little about Sandberg or her business strategy has changed.
At Google, Sandberg helped the company figure out how to make money from search and advertising, growing its advertising team from four people to 4,000.
Now, in the wake of Facebook’s recent scandals, the Lean In organization built on Sandberg’s blueprint “Is trying to figure out how independent it can actually become from the Sheryl Sandberg brand,” as Nellie Bowles recently wrote in the Times.
Since 2013, the cracks in that blueprint itself have become increasingly apparent: Sandberg herself has admitted how hard it is for single and/or working-class women to lean in.
In the 2013 annual shareholders meeting, a stockholder pushed Sandberg on how, given the amount of promotion and traveling she’d done for the book over the last year, she could assure him that “You’ll be just as committed to Facebook over the next 12 months as you were the previous four or five years.”
“And unlike many other second bananas, in Silicon Valley or elsewhere in corporate America, it’s Sandberg who has the chops and stature to lead Facebook out of the mess it’s in.” But Sandberg had remained largely out of view.
Externally, Swisher and others have interpreted the critical pile-on against Sandberg as sexist, or ammunition for those retrograde few arguing that this is what happens when women attempt to “Have it all.” Others have pointed to the ways in which her fate exemplifies the hollowness at the heart of leaning in: Sandberg’s advice has always centered on getting a seat at the table, Molly Roberts argues, and then keeping “Everything exactly the same,” from how Silicon Valley conceives of women to how Facebook considers its responsibility to society at large.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Decline and Fall of the Zuckerberg Empire”

Demands for the CEO to abdicate, or to at least step down from his role as chairman of the board, have increased, but Zuckerberg – who controls 60 percent of Facebook’s voting shares – is no more likely to resign than Augustus would have been.
Its own internal surveys bear this out: Facebook was once legendary for the cultish dedication of its employees – reporting on the company was nearly impossible because workers refused to leak – but employee confidence in Facebook’s future, as judged by internal surveys reported on by the Journal, is down 32 percentage points over the past year, to 52 percent.
Around the same number of Facebook employees think the company is making the world a better place, down 19 points from this time last year, and employees report that they plan to leave Facebook for new jobs earlier than they had in the past.
The company might be able to reassure itself that Instagram – which it wholly owns – is still expanding impressively, but the success of Instagram hasn’t stopped Facebook from getting punished on the stock market.
Facebook blames its attenuating European-user figures not on its faltering public image but on the European Union’s aggressive new privacy law, GDPR. But this raises a more troubling possibility for Facebook: that its continued success is dependent on a soft regulatory touch it can no longer expect from governments.
The fall of Facebook may not come after a long decline but through outside action – slapped with major fines and expensive investigations, chastened and disempowered by a new regulatory regime.
“I’m not looking to regulate [Zuckerberg] half to death,” Republican senator John Kennedy said earlier this year, “But I can tell you this: The issue isn’t going away.” It’s true that some Republican critics seem less concerned about Facebook’s overwhelming power than about the spurious claims of conservatives that their views are being suppressed on the platform, but there is genuine Republican interest in reining in Facebook.
Trump’s Department of Justice might represent Facebook’s biggest threat.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Facebook and the Age of Manipulation”

In early interviews with David Kirkpatrick, the author of “The Facebook Effect,” Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s co-founder and C.E.O., envisioned a challenge to the tools of corporate and political camouflage.
A Times investigation by a team of reporters found that Facebook has engaged in a multi-pronged campaign to “Delay, deny and deflect” efforts to hold the company accountable.
To blunt critics in Congress, Facebook relied on Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, whose daughter works at the company; it also hired Warner’s former chief of staff to lobby against a Senate bill introduced by Warner and Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat, which would expand federal regulation over online political advertising.
The most disturbing revelation is that Facebook employed Definers Public Affairs, a conservative Washington-based consultant, to promote negative stories about Facebook’s competitors by pushing them on the NTK Network, which calls itself “a unique news website that brings together data points from all platforms to tell the whole story.” NTK is not a news Web site; it shares offices and staff with Definers.
As the Times reported, “Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. While the NTK Network does not have a large audience of its own, its content is frequently picked up by popular conservative outlets, including Breitbart.” In other words, Facebook employed a political P.R. firm that circulated exactly the kind of pseudo-news that Facebook has, in its announcements, sought to prevent from eroding Americans’ confidence in fact versus fiction.
On Thursday, Sarah Miller, a spokesperson for Freedom from Facebook, told me, “Congress and the Federal Trade Commission should come to terms with the fact that Facebook will never change, unless they force it to-and they should, without delay, to protect our democracy.”
The portrait of Facebook presented in the Times, as in other reports over the past two years, is no longer that of a hacker but, rather, that of a practiced participant in this golden age of manipulation, in which influential organizations-companies, candidates, murky political actors-use their power to shape political outcomes in ways they don’t disclose and that the public rarely fully understands.
Nobody involved with Facebook thinks they are at obvious risk of losing their jobs, because they maintain the support of a board of directors that some observers believe has been far too passive in the face of Facebook’s stumbles.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Quitting Instagram: She’s one of the millions disillusioned with social media. But she also helped create it.”

Richardson isn’t a bystander reckoning with the ills of technology: She was one of the 13 original employees working at Instagram in 2012 when Facebook bought the viral photo-sharing app for $1 billion.
With their exit, Richardson and other former Instagram employees worried Facebook would squash whatever independent identity the company had managed to retain.
Three of the early Instagram employees, including Richardson, have deleted it – permanently or periodically, comparing it to a drug that produces a diminishing high.
Ian Spalter, Instagram’s head of design, said in an interview that experiences on Instagram are subjective – one person’s frustration may be another person’s pleasure – and that the app was not designed to be a time-suck.
Three of the original 13 employees are still at Instagram or Facebook, according to Facebook.
Spalter, the Instagram design chief, pointed out that Instagram’s rapid growth has required the company to build tools that will assist people in finding posts and users.
Instagram is aware that its software was offering up too much celebrity content and content from people with large followings at the expense of posts from people who users know personally, according to Spalter, who joined Instagram in 2015.
She called up a friend from her Instagram days, and they concluded that Instagram no longer had value in their lives.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Big tech must not reframe digital ethics in its image – TechCrunch”

Ethics are needed to fill the gaps where new uses of data keep pushing in.
So the Facebook founder seized on the conference’s discussion topic of big data ethics and tried to zoom right back out again.
The ‘we’re not perfect and have lots more to learn’ line that also came from both CEOs seems mostly intended to manage regulatory expectation vis-a-vis data protection – and indeed on the wider ethics front.
The growing public and political alarm over how big data platforms stoke addiction and exploit people’s trust and information – and the idea that an overarching framework of not just laws but digital ethics might be needed to control this stuff – dovetails neatly with the alternative track that Apple has been pounding for years.
Though only a handful of tech giants have built unchallengeably massive tracking empires via the systematic exploitation of other people’s data.
“You have to do your homework as a company to think about fairness,” said Elizabeth Denham, when asked ‘who decides what’s fair’ in a data ethics context.
The closed session of the conference produced a declaration on ethics and data in artificial intelligence – setting out a list of guiding principles to act as “Core values to preserve human rights” in the developing AI era – which included concepts like fairness and responsible design.
The consensus from the event is it’s not only possible but vital to engineer ethics into system design from the start whenever you’re doing things with other people’s data.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Meet the 23-year-old engineering detective behind the biggest leaks in tech”

Jane Wong is a 23-year-old studying software engineering at UMass Dartmouth, currently taking a gap year in Hong Kong.
Scroll through Wong’s Twitter, and you’ll see feature after feature, leak after leak – Gboard’s new Material Design for search cards, Facebook’s notification page is getting a redesign, Messenger is getting a dark mode.
There are many reverse engineer hobbyists out there, but Wong works independently, and for no money.
Wong reverse engineers apps to find out what features tech giants have been testing recently Most famously, she was the first to leak Facebook’s dating feature – publications such as Engadget, TechCrunch, and Verge were all fast to pick up the story behind her.
While Wong remains relatively low-key in the tech community – her Twitter followers are around 6k – this can open her up to others trying to steal her work: “There were a few incidents where I caught individuals plagiarizing/freebooting my scoops freebooting as in downloading the screenshots and reposting it, with little to no citations, and without adding any additional contribution on top of it.”
Wong doesn’t let it dissuade her from continuing her work: “I think there are better things to focus on than those individuals, but I called some out on Twitter. Some would add only the minimum amount of citation possible, and then tell people to follow their profiles or join their Facebook Groups for scoops they did not find.”
Wong is currently still a student, but when she graduates she hopes to find a job at one of the platforms she reverse-engineers.
It may be just a hobby, but reverse engineers like Wong are changing the tech industry.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Here’s How A Handful Of American Tech Companies Radicalized The World”

Why is an American company like Facebook placing ads in newspapers in countries like India, Italy, Mexico, and Brazil, explaining to local internet users how to look out for abuse and misinformation? Because our lives, societies, and governments have been tied into invisible feedback loops, online and off.
The election is seen as the country’s first Facebook election.
Two months prior, the company declares the gun-toting former mayor the “Undisputed king of Facebook conversations.” A cast of far-right internet celebrities begin creating an ad hoc propaganda network around him.
It’s June 2018 and British far-right influencer named Tommy Robinson is in jail after going live on Facebook outside Leeds Crown Court, violating British contempt of court laws.
Inside, López Obrador says, “The transformation we will carry out will basically consist on kicking out corruption from our country.” Online, thousands of bots are pusing pro-AMLO trending topics on Twitter and flooding Facebook newsfeeds with fake news about the new president.
In a Facebook video several days later, that if he becomes president, he aims to change a rule created by WhatsApp that limits the number of simultaneous messages a user can send at once.
Your trolls will probably have been radicalized online via some kind of community for young men like #GamerGate, jeuxvideo.com in France, ForoCoches in Spain, Ilbe Storehouse in South Korea, 2chan in Japan, or banter Facebook pages in the UK. Then far-right influencers start appearing, aided by algorithms recommending content that increases user watch-time.
Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former chief security officer, published a piece in August saying that it was already too late for Facebook to protect the 2018 US midterm elections from misinformation campaigns from Russia and Iran.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Facebook Is Full of Emotional-Support Groups”

It’s not surprising that Facebook has turned into a gathering place for strangers sharing their deepest secrets.
Emotional-support groups have sprung up around topics broad and narrow: diabetes, addiction, egg donation, a specific birth-control device now pulled from the U.S. market, parenting children who might grow up to be psychopaths, rare diseases that affect only a few dozen patients in the whole world.
The internet has always promised to connect people by common interest rather than geography, and with its 2-billion-user base, Facebook is where those connections are often being made.
“For people searching for support, [Facebook] is a one-stop shop,” says Andrea Downing, a moderator for BRCA Sisterhood, a support group for women who have tested positive for breast-cancer mutations.
Might is a member of multiple Facebook groups for NGLY1 and related diseases, where members support one another through health crises and share hard-won medical information about the rare disease.
Since Facebook has pivoted to groups, it has added several tools for group admins, including ways to filter membership requests and delete content from banned members.
Most important, perhaps, it made the membership of closed groups private.
Last year, Catherine St Clair decided to start a support group for people whose DNA tests revealed unexpected biological parents, after meeting another woman in the same situation on Facebook.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Problem with Facebook and Virtual Reality – Stratechery by Ben Thompson”

No one plans to visit Facebook: who among us has “Facebook Time” set on our calendar? And yet the vast majority of people who are able – over 2 billion worldwide – visit Facebook every single day, for minutes at a time.
More striking is Zuckerberg’s evaluation that Facebook was now in a position to focus elsewhere: after the revelations of state-sponsored interference and legitimate questions about Facebook’s impact on society broadly it seems rather misguided.
The problem for Facebook is that the fundamental nature of the company – not to mention Zuckerberg’s platform ambitions – rely on serving as many customers as possible.
What is inevitable though – what was always inevitable, from the day Facebook bought Oculus – is that this will be one acquisition Facebook made that was a mistake.
If Facebook wanted a presence in virtual reality the best possible route was the same it took in mobile: to be an app-exposed service, available on all devices, funded by advertising.
Make no mistake, Zuckerberg gave an impressive demo of what can happen when Facebook controls your eyes in virtual reality; what concerns me is the real world results of Facebook controlling everyone’s attention with the sole goal of telling each of us what we want to hear.
Again Facebook aside, virtual reality is more compelling than you might think.
To that end, you can be sure that any Facebook executive would be happy to explain why virtual reality and Oculus is a step in that direction.

The orginal article.