A News Blog Complains about Facebook Content Policies

January 20, 2022

Did you know that the BMJ (in 1840 known as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal and then after some organizational and administrative cartwheels emerged in 1857 as the British Medical Journal? Now the $64 question, “Did you know that Facebook appears to consider the BMJ as a Web log or blog?” Quite a surprise to me and probably to quite a few others who have worked in the snooty world of professional publishing.

The most recent summary of the dust up between the Meta Zuck outfit and the “news blog” BMJ appears in “Facebook Versus The BMJ: When Fact Checking Goes Wrong.” The write up contains a number of Meta gems, and a read of the “news blog” item is a good use of time.

I want to highlight one items from the write up:

Cochrane, the international provider of high quality systematic reviews of medical evidence, has experienced similar treatment by Instagram, which, like Facebook, is owned by the parent company Meta. A Cochrane spokesperson said that in October its Instagram account was “shadow banned” for two weeks, meaning that “when other users tried to tag Cochrane, a message popped up saying @cochraneorg had posted material that goes against ‘false content’ guidelines” (fig 1). Shadow banning may lead to posts, comments, or activities being hidden or obscured and stop appearing in searches. After Cochrane posted on Instagram and Twitter about the ban, its usual service was eventually restored, although it has not received an explanation for why it fell foul of the guidelines in the first place.

I like this shadow banning thing.

How did the Meta Zuck respond? According to the “news blog”:

Meta directed The BMJ to its advice page, which said that publishers can appeal a rating directly with the relevant fact checking organization within a week of being notified of it. “Fact checkers are responsible for reviewing content and applying ratings, and this process is independent from Meta,” it said. This means that, as in The BMJ’s case, if the fact checking organization declines to change a rating after an appeal from a publisher, the publisher has little recourse. The lack of an independent appeals process raises concerns, given that fact checking organizations have been accused of bias.

There are other interesting factoids in the “news blog’s” write up.

Quickly, several observations:

  1. Opaque actions plague the “news blog”, the British Medical Journal and other luminaries; for example, the plight of the esteemed performer Amouranth of the Inflate-a-Pool on Amazon Twitch. Double talking and fancy dancing from Meta- and Amazon-type outfits just call attention to the sophomoric and Ted Mack Amateur Hour approach to an important function of a publicly-traded organization with global influence.
  2. A failure of “self regulation” can cause airplanes to crash and financial disruption to occur. Now knowledge is the likely casualty of a lack of a backbone and an ethical compass. Right now I am thinking of a ethics free, shape shifting octopus like character with zero interest in other creatures except their function as money generators.
  3. A combination of “act now, apologize if necessary” has fundamentally altered the social contract among corporations, governments, and individuals.

So now the BMJ (founded in 1840) has been morphed into a “news blog” pitching cow doody?

Imposed change is warranted perhaps? Adulting is long overdue at a certain high-tech outfit and a number of others of this ilk.

Stephen E Arnold, January 20, 2022

Open Source How To: Hook Teams to Social Media

January 19, 2022

I read “Internal Facebook Note: Here Is A “Psychological Trick” To Target Teens.” Interesting stuff. One of the insightful items in the write up is that Facebook shut down the TBH operation. Well, that’s an assertion which a prudent person may want to verify. The write up also contains one of the Cambridge Analytica-type insights, a mini step by step guide to hooking a target sector.

Here’s the how to:

TBH noticed that teens often list their high school in their Instagram bio. So, using a private Instagram account of its own, the company would visit a school’s location page and follow all accounts that included the school’s name. TBH made sure its private account featured a mysterious call to action — something like “You’ve been invited to the new RHS app — stay tuned!” The startup would make one private account for each high school it wanted to target. The company found teens were naturally curious and would follow the private account back.

Helpful, particularly to bad actors without access to a pool of psychological tricks.

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2022

Mobile: Unexpected Consequences or Fuel for Social Media?

December 29, 2021

Study Finds Problematic Smartphone Use during Pandemic” could raise some fruitful avenues for researchers to explore. Frances Haugen’s document dump and her comments during her “Facebook is evil” road show. The article reports:

Statistical analysis of the survey results found that low sense of control, fear of missing out, and repetitive negative thinking were, indeed, all associated with greater severity of problematic smartphone use.

How does one fuel craziness? My hunch is that one tosses in content display which sparks a user’s clicking or doom scrolling.

If so, the impact of digital information via an addictive chunk of hardware might be the lever needed to topple the world the way it was in the years before the Big Tech revolution and a handy dandy pocket phone, computer, and content dispensing device.

Managing a Facebook-type of problem might not work if the corrosive impacts require a smartphone dance partner. The same might be slapped against mobile devices. Thus, meaningful dampening of the current digital craziness would require unplugging both the Facebook-like outfits and the mobile gizmo folks.

Unlikely? You bet. Forecast? Yep, more craziness ahead for 2022.

Stephen E Arnold, December 29, 2021

Reading Is Fundamental for Some

December 21, 2021

Reading is not a dead habit as the media would have you believe. It has only changed, but not necessary for the best. Ben Wajdi discussed how reading habits have changed in, “Is Internet Addiction Eradicating The Habit Of Reading?” He does not approach the world’s current reading situation as a condescending elitist that believes any new technology is subpar to the old. He instead focuses on how reading habits have changed and how they could improve.

Wadji discusses how famous writers view technology, reading, and writing. Some love it, while others hate it, but Wadji remains neutral to a point. The writers he examines are privileged because they live in developed countries, but Wadji did not have the same advantages as them and explains why the Internet is a great tool:

“On the one hand, I resonate with Franzen’s take on the internet, and on corporations, yet on the other hand, I can’t deny that for someone like me, a marginalized North African kid whose first interaction with any part of the internet dates back to circa 2005, the internet was the only way I could’ve accessed the body of knowledge that could fulfill my curiosity, and my eternal search for a way out of the “sh%thole”. Without the internet, I would have been a very different man. Without it, I would have succumbed to all the currents of local nationalism, religious fanaticism, and the currents of elite leftists running the “shithole” and confining everyone with them in eternal misery.”

People do spend way too much time attached to their screens. It has become a addiction. Depending on the individual, it could be as mentally consuming as alcoholism or as limiting as biting one’s nails. Wadji encourages people to become consciousness of their habits, relearn how to absorb what they read, and think think critically about it. Was the same argument made when young Egyptians spent too much time staring at hieroglyphics?

Whitney Grace, December 21, 2021

Red Kangaroos? Maybe a Nuisance. Online Trolls? Very Similar

December 16, 2021

It is arguable that trolls are the worst bullies in history, because online anonymity means they do not face repercussions. Trolls’ behavior caused innumerable harm, including suicides, psychological problems, and real life bullying. Local and international governments have taken measures to prevent cyber bullying, but ABC Australia says the country continent is taking a stand: “Social Media Companies Could Be Forced To Give Out Names And Contact Details, Under New Anti-Troll Laws.”

Australia’s federal government is drafting laws that could force social media companies to reveal trolls’ identities. The new legislation aims to hold trolls accountable for their poor behavior by having social media companies collect user information and share it with courts in defamation cases. The new laws would also hold social media companies liable for hosted content instead of users and management companies. Australia’s prime minister stated:

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted to close the gap between real life and discourse online. ‘The rules that exist in the real world must exist in the digital and online world,’ he said. ‘The online world shouldn’t be a wild west, where bots and bigots and trolls and others can anonymously go around and harm people and hurt people.’”

The new law would require social media companies to have a complaints process for people who feel like they have been defamed. The process would ask users to delete defamatory material. If they do not, the complaint could be escalated to where users details are shared to issue court orders so people can pursue defamation action.

One of the biggest issues facing the legislation is who is responsible for trolls’ content. The new law wants social media companies to be held culpable. The complaints system would allow the social media companies to use it as a defense in defamation cases.

The article does not discuss what is deemed “defamatory” content. Anything and everything is offensive to someone, so the complaints system will be abused. What rules will be instituted to prevent abuse of the complaints system? Who will monitor it and who will pay for it? An analogous example is YouTube system of what constitutes as “appropriate” children’s videos and how they determine flagged videos for intellectual theft as well as inappropriate content. In short, YouTube’s system is not doing well.

The social media companies should be culpable in some way, such as sharing user information when there is dangerous behavior, i.e.e suicide, any kind of abuse, child pornography, planned shooting attacks and other crimes. Sexist and abusive comments that are not an opinion, i.e., saying someone should die or is stupid for being a woman, should be monitored and users held accountable. It is a fine line, though, determining the dangers in many cases.

Whitney Grace, December 16, 2021

New Management Method: High School Science Club Wants to Run the School District

December 8, 2021

I love those confident, ever youthful, and oh-so enthusiastic high school science club members. Many of these individuals maintain their youthful insights into adulthood. In the after life, maybe these imbibers of the fountain of youth-type thinking are in charge. Milton, bless his poetic soul, learned that blind poets are best left to menial duties. Are there Augean stables in heaven? Nope, just techno-wizards.

I read “CTO to CEO: The Case for Putting the Tech Expert in Charge.” After an incident of Dorseying, Twitter has a new captain at the helm. The article is interesting because the author uses the Twitter appointment of Parag Agrawal as the start of a new management trend.

Here’s an example:

CTOs are increasingly being groomed by corporate boards as part of their CEO succession planning, according to Ash Athawale, senior managing director for Robert Half’s executive search division. Athawale told Protocol that he’s witnessed an increase in attention towards technology leaders as potential future chief executives. The reason? Tech is now central to core business functions across all industries…

Logical, no? A technology centric CEO at Twitter is just the ticket.

And what have technology capable adults with a history in their secondary schools’ science clubs wrought?

Here are a handful of examples:

  • Twitter and its unique ability to provide left and right coasters with a platform to direct their thoughts at those who kick back and enjoy a filter bubble equipped with a one click response mechanism.
  • Facebook and its remarkable impact on social constructs, including vulnerable people who have their self worth inflated or crushed in a mouse click
  • The wonderful world of online advertising which introduced the concept of zero privacy to the world
  • Amazon and its race with Walmart to reduce small businesses to delivery drop off points

There are other examples of what happens when tech-savvy folks run giant companies with money generating feedback mechanisms.

My hunch is that the ideal manager is not likely to be as well received as individuals with a slightly different profile.

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2021

Who Says Teachers Do Not Understand Social Media? Not TikTok

December 8, 2021

It can be difficult to keep up with what the kids are doing on video-sharing app TikTok, and much of it is just playful fun. However, here is an unnerving shift in direction—weaponized short videos being deployed against teachers and staff at schools in the UK. BBC News tells us about “TikTok School abuse: Teachers Quitting Over Pedophile Slurs.” Reporter Nicola Bryan writes:

“Some teachers are leaving the profession after being labeled pedophiles on TikTok, a union says. A craze on the social media app has seen children share videos of staff with inappropriate hashtags and comments and, sometimes, superimposing their faces onto pornography.”

See the write-up for a few examples. The situation is difficult because, while the children may be too young to fully understand the consequences of their actions, it is naturally causing staff and their families considerable angst. Neither of the schools have suspended any students—maybe because the content was posted anonymously. They are focusing instead on educating the children and, perhaps especially, their parents. But what is TikTok doing about the trend? A union representative states the company has been all talk and no action, and one school’s staff member reports it took a long time for videos to be taken down. However, another school’s head teacher says TikTok responded promptly to her school’s complaint. That is an odd inconsistency. The write-up quotes the company’s spokesperson:

“‘We are crystal clear that hateful behavior, bullying and harassment have no place on TikTok. We regret the distress caused to some teachers as a result of abusive content posted to our platform.’ She said the company had deployed additional technical measures and guidance and continued to ‘proactively detect and remove violative content and accounts’. She said the partner had partnered with the Professional Online Safety Helpline (POSH) to provide teachers with an additional way to report content and written to every school in the UK to ensure all staff had access to the resources they need.”

The Welsh government, for one, is not convinced TikTok is doing enough. Recognizing the seriousness of the issue, it demands TikTok remove this content immediately as it is reported. Will the company comply?

Cynthia Murrell December 8, 2021

A New Word Dorseying: Leaving Before the Fried Turkey Explodes

December 3, 2021

Full disclosure. We post Beyond Search tweets to Twitter. We use a script, and we use an account set up years ago. I don’t recall who on my team did this work, and I am not sure I know the password. We did this as a test for one of my lectures to a group of law enforcement and intelligence professionals to illustrate how a content stream could be implemented with zero fuss and muss. The mechanism is similar to the ones used by certain foreign entities to inject content into the Twitter users’ content pool.

Why’s this important?

Twitter is a coterie service; that is, the principal users are concentrated on the left and right coasts of the US. The service meets the needs of this group because tips, facts, and observations about technology and its world are essential to the personas of the most enthusiastic tweet generators. There are secondary and tertiary uses as well. Spectrum pretends to care when its customers point out yet another service outage. Political big sparklers generate outputs for their constituents. Vendors of diet supplements find the service helpful as well.

But Twitter, like other social media services, is in the spotlight. The trucks carting these high intensity beams are driven by wild eyed and often over enthusiastic elected officials and laborers in the gray and beige government cubicles.

Write ups like “Twitter Has a New CEO; What About a New Business Model?” and “Twitter Bans Sharing Private Images and Videos without Consent” provide purported insight into the machinations of the new Twitter. But the main point is that Twitter allows humans and smart software to create personas and push content to others in the tweetiverse.

Dorseying means that one individual is getting out of Dodge before the law arrives. This exit is less elegant than the proactive departure of Messrs. Brin and Page from the Google. From my vantage point, the former big dog of the Tweeter wants to be undisturbed and work in less well illuminated locations. Is Dorseying an action similar to running away from trouble? Interesting question.

Can Twitter be enhanced, fixed, or remediated?

My view is that anonymous and easily created “accounts” required some thought. The magic of censorship is likely to be less impactful than short lived special effects in the early Disney films. (Does anyone remember the cinegraphic breakthrough of “sparkles”?) The amping up of advertising is likely to lead to a destination that many have previously visited; that is, one with carefully crafted paths, exhibits, attractions, and inducements to buy, buy, buy.

Net net: Twitter, like other social media, will be difficult to control. My hunch is that the service will continue to snip through social fabrics. Because Twitter is a publicly traded company, management has to respond to the financial context in which it operates. Fancy talk, recommendations, and half hearted editorial measures may have unintended consequences. That’s what concerns me about the tweeter thing.

Dorseying was a good move.

Stephen E Arnold, December 3, 2021

The Most Potent American Export: The Social Media Violence System

November 29, 2021

The United States is not the country affected by social media. The Interpreter shares how religious minorities in Bangladesh are harmed when misinformation spreads via social media: “Minorities Under Attack In Bangladesh.” Bangladesh’s major religion is Islam with various minorities, including Buddhism and Hindu. The country is described as religiously tolerant compared to its neighbors.

Unfortunately rumors spread over Facebook that the Quran was desecrated during the Hindu Durga Puja festival. Buddhist and Hindu temples and holy sites were attacked, while seven people were killed. Bangladesh authorities arrested a man who claimed to have left a copy of the Quran at the festival. This is not the first time violence prompted by social media occurred:

“However, almost every year since 2012 religious minorities have been attacked somewhere in Bangladesh after online posts promulgating false allegations. The pattern runs like this: rumors begin within a local community that people from a minority background have defamed Islam, and such orchestrated “fake news” quickly spreads online to incite violence against minorities.”

Violence in Bangladesh stems from three factors: growing fear in the Islamic majority of atheism and blasphemy, growing supranational Muslin and Hindu identities, religious minority attacks are actually attempts to stem Hindu land.

Social media in Bangladesh is used as a propaganda tool to fuel prejudice and fear amongst its people. It is unfortunate that all religions in Bangladesh are victims of social media misinformation. Mob mentally runs rampant on social media and it is not any different from other violence that stems from newspapers, TVs, or radios. Social media just spreads it faster.

Whitney Grace, November 29, 2021

Apple Podcast Ratings: A Different Angle

November 24, 2021

I read “Apple Podcasts App Ratings Flip after the Company Starts Prompting Users.” The write up explains that Apple’s podcast application was receiving the rough equivalent of a D or D- from its users. How did Apple fix this? Some big monopolies wou8ld have just had an intern enter the desired number. This works with search results pages on some Web and enterprise search systems. Not Apple. The write up reports:

The iPhone maker told The Verge that iOS 15.1 started prompting users for ratings and reviews “just like most third-party apps.” However, many people thought they were rating the show they were listening to, not the app — and that led to a flood of scores and reviews for podcasts.

Two points:

  1. Users were confused
  2. Prompts sparked ratings.

I interpreted this information to mean that users are not too swift even thought Apple’s high priced products are supposed to appeal to the swift and sure. Second, the prompts caused an immediate user reaction at least for some of the app’s users.

My takeaway: Online services can cause behaviors. Power in the hands of the just and true or evidence of the impact of digital nudges? Do higher ratings improve the app? Probably not.

Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2021

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