Last week, the Verge published an explosive look inside the facilities of Cognizant, a Facebook contractor that currently oversees some of the platform’s content moderation efforts.
Facebook moderators in developing countries like India are even worse off, according to a recent Reuters report.
In the meantime the human moderators at Facebook or YouTube spend their days getting high to numb themselves so they can keep scrubbing suicides from our News Feeds.
There are only so many comments, posts, and videos that a human being can watch in a day.
Sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have failed to support clear and repeatable moderation guidelines for years, while their platforms have absorbed more and more of our basic social functions.
Content moderators, audience development editors – they’re all shades of the same extremely important role that has existed since the birth of the internet.
For about nine months, I worked as BuzzFeed’s comment moderator.
In 2009, one of 4chan’s janitors wrote about the job in a Reddit AMA. In response to a question about whether 4chan is really that bad of a community, the janitor wrote something that will sound familiar to anyone who has spent any time on Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter since 2015.
The orginal article.
All had signed non-disclosure agreements with Cognizant in which they pledged not to discuss their work for Facebook – or even acknowledge that Facebook is Cognizant’s client.
The moderators include some full-time employees, but Facebook relies heavily on contract labor to do the job.
Ellen Silver, Facebook’s vice president of operations, said in a blog post last year that the use of contract labor allowed Facebook to “Scale globally” – to have content moderators working around the clock, evaluating posts in more than 50 languages, at more than 20 sites around the world.
Facebook also worked to build what Davidson calls “State-of-the-art facilities, so they replicated a Facebook office and had that Facebook look and feel to them. That was important because there’s also a perception out there in the market sometimes that our people sit in very dark, dingy basements, lit only by a green screen. That’s really not the case.”
Security personnel keep watch over the entrance, on the lookout for disgruntled ex-employees and Facebook users who might confront moderators over removed posts.
In January, Facebook distributes a policy update stating that moderators should take into account recent romantic upheaval when evaluating posts that express hatred toward a gender.
Last year, a former Facebook moderator in California sued the company, saying her job as a contractor with the firm Pro Unlimited had left her with PTSD. In the complaint, her lawyers said she “Seeks to protect herself from the dangers of psychological trauma resulting from Facebook’s failure to provide a safe workplace for the thousands of contractors who are entrusted to provide the safest possible environment for Facebook users.”
Last week, Davidson told me, Facebook began surveying a test group of moderators to measure what the company calls their “Resiliency” – their ability to bounce back from seeing traumatic content and continue doing their jobs.
The orginal article.
Schiff’s search results were indeed alarming: autofill suggestions for phrases such as “Vaccination re-education discussion forum”, a group called “Parents Against Vaccination”, and the page for the National Vaccine Information Center, an official-sounding organization that promotes anti-vaccine propaganda.
If the congressman had tried to search “Vaccines” on the rival social media site Pinterest he would have had little more to screenshot than a blank white screen.
Recognizing that search results for a number terms related to vaccines were broken, Pinterest responded by “Breaking” its own search tool.
The policy change cleared the way for Pinterest to deploy a number of technological approaches to combating anti-vaxx propaganda.
In the case of vaccines, the fact that scientists and doctors are not producing a steady stream of new digital content about settled science has left a void for conspiracy theorists and fraudsters to fill with fear-mongering propaganda and misinformation.
Pinterest has responded by building a “blacklist” of “polluted” search terms.
“We are doing our best to remove bad content, but we know that there is bad content that we haven’t gotten to yet,” explained Ifeoma Ozoma, a public policy and social impact manager at Pinterest.
The Guardian was able to find anti-vaccine propaganda on the site by searching various terms that had not been blacklisted, such as “MMR”, the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella.
The orginal article.
Facebook’s communications around privacy have historically been opportunistic and protectionist, deployed to cover up for the last transgression from its “Move fast and break things” ideology – from the 2007 Beacon program, which allowed companies to track purchases by Facebook users without their consent, to the 2010 loophole that allowed advertisers to access people’s personal Facebook information without permission.
In its 2018 annual report, the company outlined not only the risks associated with changing privacy laws including GDPR and the recently passed California Consumer Privacy Act, which the company lobbied against, but also the danger of becoming the media’s punching bag if news outlets dug into Facebook’s practices around data use and sharing.
“It is evident that Facebook intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws,” the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee wrote in what is perhaps the strongest rebuke of the company by a governing body to date.
Three former employees who spoke to BuzzFeed News said that there are people at Facebook who do want to put the the social network’s users first.
They said some insiders among leadership and the rank and file could not understand how Facebook had become the focus of so much public ire and floated the idea that news publications, who had seen their business models decimated by Facebook and Google, had been directed to cover the company in a harsher light.
“After the privacy beating Facebook’s taken over the last year, I was skeptical too,” Cardozo, who once called the company’s business model “Creepy,” wrote in a Facebook post announcing his new position.
Former insiders were also concerned about how much Facebook would emphasize or promote Clear History after launch, noting that past privacy features have sometimes been introduced with minimum functionality and high amounts of friction to possibly discourage users.
The company’s track record speaks for itself, said Gennie Gebhart, a consumer privacy researcher at EFF. Gebhart, who’s been in discussions with Facebook about Clear History, noted that she maintains a certain skepticism that the company is capable of deeper change, and compared its past privacy promises to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
The orginal article.
Facebook has always struggled to comprehend the scale of its fake news and propaganda problem.
We tried to make it easier by showing where disinformation would originate, but there were just too many stories.
Trying to stem the tsunami of hoaxes, scams, and outright fake stories was like playing the world’s most doomed game of whack-a-mole, or like battling the Hydra of Greek myth.
In case you’re curious, here’s what it was like to be an official Facebook fact-checker.
We were given access to a tool that hooked into our personal Facebook accounts and was accessed that way and it spat out a long list of stories that had been flagged for checks.
We would often get the same story over and over again from different sites, which is to be expected to a certain degree because many of the most lingering stories have been recycled again and again.
No matter how many times we marked them “False,” stories would keep resurfacing with nothing more than a word or two changed.
We’d be asked to check if a story about a woman who was arrested for leaving her children in the car for hours while she ate at a buffet was true; meanwhile a flood of anti-semitic false George Soros stories never showed up on the list.
The orginal article.
Notably, the Research app seemed to be a repackaging of the Onavo Protect app, a different Facebook program that Apple banned last year for violating its rules on data collection by developers.
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted, “Wait a minute. Facebook PAID teenagers to install a surveillance device on their phones without telling them it gave Facebook power to spy on them? Some kids as young as 13. Are you serious?” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal sent TechCrunch a statement noting, “Wiretapping teens is not research, and it should never be permissible.”
Many seemed perfectly aware of all the digital activity they would be giving up, and that Facebook would be benefiting from it.
In a statement to CNBC, a Facebook spokesperson claimed that “Less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens,” though it’s not clear how many underage individuals that might represent, or if it was possible that some lied about their age.
Facebook also isn’t the only tech giant in the game: Google had, until Wednesday, been running a data-hoovering program similar to Facebook Research called Screenwise Meter, which offered participants the opportunity to earn gift cards in exchange for allowing the company track various forms of their digital activity via an app or Google-provided router.
The dollar sign that programs like Facebook Research put in front of its exchange made it easier to see the kinds of bad deals users are being offered.
As security expert Will Strafach, speaking about the Facebook Research VPN, told TechCrunch, “[M]ost users are going to be unable to reasonably consent to this regardless of any agreement they sign, because there is no good way to articulate just how much power is handed to Facebook when you do this.
To me, this is the most startling thing about the Facebook Research VPN and many of the other digital privacy trade-offs we make.
The orginal article.
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.
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.
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.
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.