Summary of “Against an Increasingly User-Hostile Web”

Now, we the architects of the modern web – web designers, UX designers, developers, creative directors, social media managers, data scientists, product managers, start-up people, strategists – are destroying it.
In the guise of user-centered design, we’re building an increasingly user-hostile web.
If you’re a regular web user, consider this an appeal to demand a better web, one that respects you instead of abusing and exploiting you.
The Web was Born Open: a very brief history of the web The Modern Web: the disturbing state of the web today Track the Trackers, an Experiment: with whom websites are sharing your information Gated Communities: recentralization and closed platforms The Way Forward: open tools, technologies and services for a better web The Web was Born Open.
The web as we know it was born of a vision to create an open system that brought people and ideas together, with documents that “May reside on any computer supported by that web”.
Advances in the hyper-text transfer protocol, network infrastructure, web browsers and standards, consumer Internet access, accessible hosting and blogging platforms led to a massive democratization and adoption of the web.
Since so many websites report to the same third parties, these companies can essentially have your web history on file as you go from link-to-link, website to website.
If you want to protect yourself from predatory web marketing companies and defend the open web, there a few things you can do today at an individual level.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Against an Increasingly User-Hostile Web”

Now, we the architects of the modern web – web designers, UX designers, developers, creative directors, social media managers, data scientists, product managers, start-up people, strategists – are destroying it.
In the guise of user-centered design, we’re building an increasingly user-hostile web.
If you’re a regular web user, consider this an appeal to demand a better web, one that respects you instead of abusing and exploiting you.
The Web was Born Open: a very brief history of the web The Modern Web: the disturbing state of the web today Track the Trackers, an Experiment: with whom websites are sharing your information Gated Communities: recentralization and closed platforms The Way Forward: open tools, technologies and services for a better web The Web was Born Open.
The web as we know it was born of a vision to create an open system that brought people and ideas together, with documents that “May reside on any computer supported by that web”.
Advances in the hyper-text transfer protocol, network infrastructure, web browsers and standards, consumer Internet access, accessible hosting and blogging platforms led to a massive democratization and adoption of the web.
Since so many websites report to the same third parties, these companies can essentially have your web history on file as you go from link-to-link, website to website.
If you want to protect yourself from predatory web marketing companies and defend the open web, there a few things you can do today at an individual level.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Tech Goes to Washington – Stratechery by Ben Thompson”

Did you catch Feinstein in the background asking “Did he say 330 million?” with surprise in her voice? What might she have thought had it been noted that Facebook has 2 billion users! At that moment it was hard to see this hearing amounting to anything; the next Senator, Dick Durbin of Illinois, asked why Facebook didn’t, and I quote, “Hold the phone” when a Russian intelligence agency took out the ads.
A few Senators later Richard Blumenthal demanded Twitter determine how many people declined to vote after seeing tweets suggesting voters could text their choice, and that Facebook reveal whom may have taught the Russian intelligence agency how to do targeting; both requests are, quite obviously, unknowable by the companies in question.
“We do believe these tools are powerful, and yet we have a responsibility to make sure they’re not used to inflame division,” said Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel.
What Kennedy surely realized – and what Stretch, apparently, did not – is that Facebook had already effectively answered Kennedy’s question: the very act of investigating the accounts used by Russian intelligence entailed doing the sort of sleuthing that Kennedy wanted Stretch to say was possible.
To be clear, Stretch made clear that Facebook did this because the accounts in question had been deemed inauthenetic; that removed all of the external legal, internal policy, and business model limitations that would prevent Facebook from doing such forensic work to an individual account.
To endeavor to stamp out inflammatory and divisive statements is, by definition, to exercise a degree of power that is clearly latent in Facebook et al, and clearly corrosive to the democratic process.
Befitting his background as a comedian, Franken has a knack for framing the question at hand in a way that is easy for laypeople to understand, and all but impossible for Facebook to answer.
The fact of the matter is that Facebook is more powerful than any entity we have seen before.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Can Germany Fix Facebook?”

Despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s win in the recent general election, experts’ assessments that fake news did not significantly affect its results, and Facebook’s chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg’s assurance that his company worked with federal authorities to safeguard the vote’s integrity, it nevertheless appeared that Facebook played a role in delivering to the far-right Alternative for Germany party the best performance of a far-right nationalist party since the Third Reich.
On October 1, a new law went into force in Germany, compelling Facebook and other social-media companies to conform to federal law governing the freedom of speech.
“We have to decide whether we want to accept that Facebook can basically do whatever it wants,” Jun said after they lost, “Or whether German law, and above all the removal of illegal contents in Germany, will be enforced. If we want that, we need new laws.”
Jun has emerged as one of Germany’s foremost advocates of user rights on social media, and one of Facebook’s primary foes in Germany.
Despite the fact that “The sentiment [in Germany] is that we don’t get it right,” as Eva-Maria Kirschsieper, Facebook’s head of public policy in Germany, put it, the company claims that it abides by German law, and that it has improved efforts to take down illegal posts in a timely manner.
According to Kirschsieper, Facebook does take down content that is deemed illegal in Germany, even if it does not violate its own internal standards.
In July, Facebook relaunched a goodwill campaign, dubbed “Make Facebook Your Facebook,” to salvage its image across Germany.
In August, Facebook announced that it would hire 500 more people in Germany to monitor hate speech online.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Forget Washington. Facebook’s Problems Abroad Are Far More Disturbing.”

Free Basics includes a limited suite of internet services, including Facebook, that can be used without counting toward a cellphone data plan.
As a result, the number of Facebook users in Myanmar has skyrocketed to more than 30 million today from 2 million in 2014.Photo.
“We work hard to educate people about our services, highlight tools to help them protect their accounts and promote digital literacy,” said Debbie Frost, a Facebook spokeswoman.
The speed of Facebook’s growth in the developing world has made it an especially potent force among first-time internet users, who may not be appropriately skeptical of what they see online.
Facebook’s community standards prohibit hate speech and threats, but many harmful viral posts – such as a WhatsApp thread in Southern India that spread false rumors about a government immunization campaign – are neither hateful nor directly threatening, and they wouldn’t be prohibited under Facebook’s community standards as long as they came from authentic accounts.
Facebook has argued that the benefits of providing internet access to international users will ultimately outweigh the costs.
People are dying, and communities are tearing themselves apart with the tools Facebook has built.
An article on Monday about abuses of Facebook’s services in various countries rendered incorrectly the name of a government-run telecom company in Myanmar.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Big Tech’s Rivals Pounce at Chances to Win in Washington”

Lawmakers are pushing for regulations for technology companies for the first time in years, encouraged along by big tech’s broad assortment of rivals.
For several weeks, a group of companies including smaller tech companies and entertainment and retail businesses has informally begun regular meetings and conference calls to compare notes about Google, Facebook and Amazon and to find a way to join in a stronger opposition force.
The proposals set off huge online protests, aided by the big technology companies, that helped stop the legislation.
“Over the years, I’ve watched as the major tech companies not only sought to protect the unlevel playing field they already had, but have used their political influence to expand it to disadvantage businesses with which they compete,” said Jim Cicconi, who recently retired after years overseeing lobbying at AT&T. “Now I think policymakers are seeing the consequences.”
Even as they sense an opportunity today, the rivals say that challenging the internet companies remains a daunting task.
House and Senate staffs say lobbyists for the big technology companies have swarmed their offices in recent weeks.
The bill would take away some legal protections for sites that knowingly host content that promotes sex trafficking, a move that the internet companies warn could stifle free speech, even though it would largely exempt the big tech companies from liability.
In July, the News Media Alliance, which represents 2,000 news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, began advocating for antitrust exemptions that would allow the companies to collectively bargain with Facebook and Google for ad revenue.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Facebook Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Buy tbh – Stratechery by Ben Thompson”

Facebook announced it’s acquiring positivity-focused polling startup tbh and will allow it to operate somewhat independently with its own brand.
Facebook accounted for 77% of revenue growth in digital advertising in the United States in 2016; add in Google and the duopoly’s share of growth was 99%. Even Snapchat, which after rightly rebuffing Facebook’s acquisition offers, IPO’d earlier this year for $24 billion,3 has seen revenue declines, all while Facebook ever more blatantly rips off the product.
While Facebook generates revenue from advertising and users purchasing virtual and digital goods via Facebook, Instagram does not generate any revenue.
It’s easy to see how it could be super-charged by Facebook: the social graph is probably even more powerful than the address book in terms of building a network, and provides multiple outlets for connections established on tbh.
Just as importantly, Facebook can in the short term fund tbh and, in the long run, simply graft the service onto its cross-app sales engine.
Facebook should not be allowed to buy another network-based app; I would go further and make it prima facie anticompetitive for one social network to buy another.
Requiring Facebook to offer its social graph to any would-be competitor as a condition of acquiring tbh would be a good outcome; unfortunately, it is perhaps the most unlikely, given the FTC’s commitment to unfettered privacy.
What shouldn’t be allowed is what Facebook clearly hopes – and suggests – will happen: no regulatory review at all.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How People Inside Facebook Are Reacting To The Company’s Election Crisis”

To truly understand how Facebook is responding to its role in the election and the ensuing morass, numerous sources inside and close to the company pointed to its unemotional engineering-driven culture, which they argue is largely guided by a quantitative approach to problems.
Five sources familiar with the thinking inside the company told BuzzFeed News that many employees feel Facebook is being used as a scapegoat for the myriad complex factors that led to 2016’s unexpected election result.
In the past month alone, Facebook has disclosed to Congress 3,000 ads linked to Kremlin election manipulation, its CEO has publicly apologized for dismissing Facebook’s role in swinging the election as “a crazy idea,” and it has been attacked by President Trump on Twitter.
“And they have a point – ultimately it’s because the election didn’t go the way they wanted. It’s worth pointing out that 12 months ago people said, ‘I hate Facebook because they don’t let all voices on the platform,’ and they’re upset and asking for Facebook to restrict what’s shown.”
“The view at Facebook is that ‘we show people what they want to see and we do that based on what they tell us they want to see, and we judge that with data like time on the platform, how they click on links, what they like,'” a former senior employee told BuzzFeed News.
Sources familiar with recent discussions inside Facebook told BuzzFeed News there’s some concern that the strong reaction to 2016 election meddling and the desire for fast reform could push the company to assume a greater role in determining what is or isn’t legitimate news.
Facebook, too, has long been concerned about assuming any sort of media watchdog role and the company’s objection usually takes the form – as it did last week in an interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg – of its well-worn argument that Facebook is a technology company, not a media company.
Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former Facebook employee who helped lead the company’s early ad platform, worries that the momentum to correct for what happened during the 2016 election will push Facebook a step too far.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What Facebook Did to American Democracy”

In June 2014, Harvard Law scholar Jonathan Zittrain wrote an essay in New Republic called, “Facebook Could Decide an Election Without Anyone Ever Finding Out,” in which he called attention to the possibility of Facebook selectively depressing voter turnout.
“If you’d come to me in 2012, when the last presidential election was raging and we were cooking up ever more complicated ways to monetize Facebook data, and told me that Russian agents in the Kremlin’s employ would be buying Facebook ads to subvert American democracy, I’d have asked where your tin-foil hat was,” wrote Antonio García Martínez, who managed ad targeting for Facebook back then.
The way Facebook determines the ranking of the News Feed is the probability that you’ll like, comment on, or share a story.
In the key metric for Facebook’s News Feed, its posts got 886,000 interactions from Facebook users in January.
His best-known analysis happened after the election, when he showed that “In the final three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election-news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, NBC News, and others.”
Already in January 2015, Robinson Meyer reported about how Facebook was “Cracking down on the fake news stories that plague News Feeds everywhere.”
In the aftermath of these discoveries, three Facebook security researchers, Jen Weedon, William Nuland, and Alex Stamos, released a white paper called Information Operations and Facebook.
The truth is that while many reporters knew some things that were going on on Facebook, no one knew everything that was going on on Facebook, not even Facebook.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Tech Giants, Once Seen as Saviors, Are Now Viewed as Threats”

News is dripping out of Facebook, Twitter and now Google about how their ad and publishing systems were harnessed by the Russians.
In a Newsweek jeremiad in 1995 titled “Why the Web Won’t Be Nirvana,” the astronomer Clifford Stoll pointed out that “Every voice can be heard cheaply and instantly” on the Usenet bulletin boards, that era’s Twitter and Facebook.
Justin Rosenstein, a former Facebook engineer, was portrayed in a recent Guardian story as an apostate: Noting that sometimes inventors have regrets, he said he had programmed his new phone to not let him use the social network.
“Facebook is a very powerful tool that I continue to use every day, just with more mindfulness.”
Mr. Galloway, whose new book, “The Four,” analyzes the power of Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple, said the social media network was still fumbling its response.
Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy, said the network was doing its best.
“Facebook is an important part of many people’s lives,” he said.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain said the government was looking “Carefully at the roles, responsibility and legal status” of Google and Facebook, with an eye to regulating them as news publishers rather than platforms.

The orginal article.