Zuckbook: Getting Tagged As a Digital King Lear

June 13, 2022

The Zuckbook (now officially known as Meta as in I never “meta” drop out who wanted to be king) may be facing some headwinds. Sure, there is the Jeeves-like British spokesperson to make everything seem so good. But the idea that the company is investigating the nominal number two leader at Zuckbook for inappropriate something is interesting. I believe this individual hails from the Google which had to deal with a baby in the legal department. Wow. Those Googlers. That Metazuck. Governance is these outfits’ core competency not.

A few other issues are identified in “Meta Is in Serious Trouble. Here’s Why.” The write up states:

It would appear that the biggest hurdle that Meta faces is slowing revenue growth, something that has already started to show its effects on Meta’s plans.

Ah, ha, money.

But is this the only ripple in the king’s toga? Nope. Consider:

  • Virtual reality, a money pit
  • The metaverse, a money pit
  • The Zuck watch, a money pit
  • The Google, an ad damper.

In sum, the Zuckbook faces innovation woes, money woes, and big plan woes.

As the semi-interesting observation of the character Albany spouted:

You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face.

There you go. King Lear had an outcrop of stone. The Zuck has a chunk of an island. Good places.

Stephen E Arnold, June 13, 2022

Could the Zuck Vision for Meta Be a Web 3 Game Engine?

June 8, 2022

Could this be a sign of some common sense at Zuckbook? Anything is possible. Input reports, “Meta Won’t Build a Dedicated Metaverse After All, Exec Says.” Writer Matt Wille examined a recent, extensive blog post from Meta’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg. He reports that some early assumptions about the company’s metaverse plans were apparently off the mark. We learn:

“After months of teasing the expansion of a world filled with legless avatars and virtual boardrooms where nothing gets done, Clegg is telling a different story of what we can expect from Meta’s metaverse. Instead, he posits, the metaverse will be more of an umbrella beneath which Meta can launch a thousand or so new products. ‘All of us have a stake in the metaverse,’ Clegg writes. ‘It isn’t an idea Meta has cooked up. There won’t be a Meta-run metaverse, just as there isn’t a ‘Microsoft internet’ or ‘Google internet’ today.’ Meta’s vision, as Clegg explains it, is for the ‘metaverse’ to be a ‘universal, virtual layer that everyone can experience on top of today’s physical world — one where you can have a consistent identity (or even set of identities) that people can recognize wherever they see you.’ This idea raises many questions for Meta’s business, perhaps most importantly: If the metaverse isn’t owned, how can Meta possibly maximize its profits off of it?”

Likely the same way it makes money off Facebook—its users are its product. That won’t change when those products sport 3D avatars. And Meta has no need to create a stand-alone meta reality to continue raking in the cash.

The write-up challenges Clegg’s vision of a decentralized metaverse. Wille points out that, though it is true there is no “Microsoft internet” or “Google internet,” both those companies wield great power over how the internet is structured. He observes:

“That control is how Big Tech makes its big bucks. If Meta isn’t owning the metaverse space — owning at least its share of the market — then it loses what’s kept it so valuable. It’s unlikely the company will purposefully give up the control it’s wielded for so long to stick to this decentralized ideal.”

Clegg’s 8,000 word blog post as full of high-minded theories on how the metaverse can improve the world. But will such dissertations translate to outside enthusiasm? The market has already shown impatience with Meta’s direction. It might want to focus on producing something more concrete than lofty ideals. Or at least reassure stockholders that, whatever visions its executives espouse, it will continue to maintain its grip on Big Tech power and profits.

Cynthia Murrell, June 8, 2022

American Edge: A Covert Facebook-Funded Propaganda Machine?

June 1, 2022

Do not be fooled by that local opinion piece arguing against regulations on big tech. It just might be sponsored by Facebook-funded advocacy group American Edge. Catchy name. The Washington Post reveals, “Facebook Quietly Bankrolled Small, Grassroots Groups to Fight Its Battles in Washington.” Reporters Cat Zakrzewski and Elizabeth Dwoskin write:

“Backed by millions from Facebook-parent company Meta, American Edge has launched a full-throated campaign to combat antitrust legislation in Washington, placing op-eds in regional papers throughout the country, commissioning studies, and collaborating with a surprising array of partners, including minority business associations, conservative think tanks, and former national security officials. It’s a political playbook more common to other industries, including pharmaceuticals, tobacco and telecommunications. But tech companies, under heightened scrutiny from federal regulators, are seizing on these methods.”

The article notes Facebook (aka Meta) also recently paid a proxy to malign competitor TikTok in the media. Multi-million-dollar lobbying efforts from Facebook (and other tech giants) are nothing new, but how long has the company been bankrolling from the shadows? Such practices go back to at least 2011, we are reminded, when the company hired a firm to disparage Google’s privacy practices. Then there was the paid third-party criticism of George Soros in 2018 after the billionaire (openly) funded several groups critical of Facebook.

The article observes the company has had more reason employ underhanded PR in the wake of its shaky reputation over the last few years. In a show of chutzpah, Meta’s branded propaganda insists the company is eager to work closely with policymakers on solutions that are best for us all. Contrast that to the messaging from its covert mouthpiece. The writers tell us:

“In advertisements and op-eds, American Edge plays on fears about the tech prowess of China, a talking point of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The group also argues, in ominous tones, that new antitrust laws will weaken the American tech sector, hurting the tools used by minority-owned small businesses and dismantling companies that could provide a line of defense against cyber attacks from an increasingly aggressive Russia. National TV spots, staring local entrepreneurs from Arizona and Mississippi, portray such issues as vital to America’s heartland. The group’s messages pop up in the local TV news in Utah, defense-focused trade publications, conservative websites and on social media — absent Facebook’s name, an omission that serves a broader purpose.”

The article discusses the trail of funding that links Meta with American Edge and details several examples of the shill’s handiwork that appear all over print media and the internet. In fact, legislators crafting antitrust legislation find themselves hounded by targeted ads from the organization. Do such “fundings” demonstrate that Facebook-type companies follow a consistent pattern as part of the firm’s business strategy?

Cynthia Murrell, June 1, 2022

Facebook: Maybe Thinking about Superapps?

May 23, 2022

The idea of popping up a level is a good one. Examples range from companies offering ways to manage multiple APIs to services hooking consumers with individual providers, regardless of where the providers call home.

Wikipedia Over WhatsApp” explains:

If the wifi is letting WhatsApp messages through, what if we used WhatsApp as a vehicle for the information we really care about? Much like we encapsulate the rest of our networking objects in higher-level objects, we could encapsulate web pages inside of WhatsApp messages.

Okay, who is really excited about reading Wikimedia’s entry about my relative Vladimir Igorevich Arnold, a mathematician, which is an exciting profession to be sure? Not too many people.

The idea of using WhatsApp as a mechanism for other services is a good one. Is it Facebook’s attempt to become a superapp or allow others to use WhatsApp as a superapp.

Some encrypted end to end messaging services include a number of useful functions now. But what if almost any traditional browser based function could be supported within a messaging app on one’s mobile phone. Apple uses a “up a level” method with its requirement that browser developers honor and respect the wonderful WebKit thing.

Interesting if true.

Stephen E Arnold, May 23, 2022

TikTok: Will It Chew Through a Zuck Tendon?

May 19, 2022

We had to know this day was approaching—TikTok seems set to surpass the competition. According to India’s DaijiWorld, “Facebook Worried as TikTok Set to Eclipse Twitter, Snapchat Ad Share.” The article cites a report from The Guardian as it shares some statistics:

“[TikTok] is likely to triple its global worldwide ad revenues $11.6 billion this year — more than the $10.44 billion for Snapchat and Twitter combined. A TikTok user spent 19.6 hours on average per month on the app last year, according to data.ai, which is equal to Facebook which is seeing its user growth stalled, and dwindling among the Gen Z and millennials. While Facebook still has 2.9 billion monthly active users and Instagram nearly 2 billion and Meta registered $118 billion in revenue last year, the Mark Zuckerberg-run company is worried at TikTok’s rise. Facebook has been losing users for quite some time while TikTok’s usage is rising in the US. Meta’s recent earnings report said that Facebook’s active users dropped by almost 5 lakh [5 hundred thousand] at the end of last year. Meanwhile, TikTok emerged as the top grossing non-game app in Q1 2022, generating $821 million in consumer spending in the quarter. … A latest teen survey claimed that TikTok and Snapchat are the two most popular social platforms among teens, with Instagram at the third spot. Just 3 per cent of teens said they preferred Facebook.”

As evidence that Meta (formerly known as Facebook) is concerned about TikTok’s growing success, the write-up points to a report from the Washington Post. Its article alleges the company paid consulting firm Targeted Victory to disparage its rival. The firm is said to have strewn opinion pieces and letters to the editor slamming TikTok in newspapers nationwide. We’d bet that effort cost Meta a pretty penny. Allegedly. TikTok might bite Zuck’s ankle and then the Achilles’ thing.

Cynthia Murrell, May 19, 2022

More Facebook Documents

May 17, 2022

Facebook apparently generates quite a few documents. In a time of abundance, some of the excess finds its way into places unexpected. “We’re Publishing the Facebook Papers. Here’s How Facebook Killed News Feed Fixes Over Fear of Conservative Backlash” provides those who want to study the Way of the Zuck with some “new” information. The write up has a reason to report a Silicon Valley-type news organization’s interest in chewing on the ankles of Mr. Zuckerberg. The article states:

Facebook said it did not “build and withhold any News Feed changes based on potential impact on any one political party.” Internal documents say otherwise.

You can read allegedly original, once confidential documents from the cited article with additional information at  this link.

The main idea seems to be that Facebook mostly does what it wants and says what is necessary to continue on its business trajectory.

What’s the main point?

From my redoubt in rural Kentucky, I have perceived the Zuck operation as an interesting example of information weaponization. I assume that a few other people share my view of the company. The once-confidential documents are interesting, particularly to those rushing to understand how information flows have an impact in the real world and in real time.

Is it possible that Gizmodo is walking a path which may lead to legal questions? Of course not! Freedom of speech and the stuff taught in high school civics. (Ooops. Research is surfacing that suggests online learning is not as zippy as some assumed.) Disclosing content which an enterprise developed for use by authorized individuals strikes me as a variation on the “move fast and break things” approach to some activities.

Gizmodo, it seems to me, is putting the pedal to the metal. Will the buggy break down as it speeds down the information highway trying to catch up with an outfit with a head start?

Stephen E Arnold, May 17, 2022

Meta Logo Mimic?

May 16, 2022

Suing the Big Tech company Meta is like tilting windmills. Most of these lawsuits are dismissed, but sometimes the little guy has a decent chance at beating the giant. Fast Company details one of Meta’s latest fiascos: “Meta Faces Lawsuit Over Logo.” The Swiss blockchain nonprofit organization Dfinity filed a trademark infringement against Meta in a Northern California court. Dfinity’s lawsuit alleges that Meta’s new logo, shaped like an M infinity sign, bears a striking resemblance to their infinity logo.

Dfinity claims that Meta’s logo puts their reputation at stake, because Meta has a horrible record of violating people’s privacy and the association would prevent them from attracting users. The infinity symbol is in the public domain. Only original variations on it, such as the Meta and Dfinity logo, can be trademarked. Dfinity probably does not have a leg to stand on or curve to rest on with their lawsuit, but they might win. The infinity symbol is not unique to Dfinity, so if Meta had purloined the “Dfinity” name there would be a better case.

While Dfinity’s case could be dismissed, it could mean something worse:

“But even if Dfinity fails to prove its case, the lawsuit could jeopardize Meta’s attempts to earn trademark protection for its logo. That’s because it could highlight how unremarkable the logo really is. (Meta filed for trademark protection in March.) Says Lee: ‘The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office might find that [Meta’s logo] is not inherently distinctive on its own and require more evidence that consumers associate the symbol with a single company.’”

Lately, Meta is not getting a decent press. The little guy will not likely win, especially if Meta has a good legal team. Meta could ultimately lose control of their logo and it could be a fiasco as bad as Disney losing the copyright on Mickey Mouse.

Whitney Grace, May 16, 2022

The Zuckbook Enlists Third Parties to Disseminate Interesting Information: Hey, Why Not?

May 11, 2022

The company formerly known as Facebook is not happy that its new Meta branding is not doing well. According to Protocol, formerly Facebook paid a Republican consulting firm to say mean things about TikTok: “Meta Paid A GOP Consulting Film To Drag TikTok Through The Mud.” Facebook is now the social media platform for grandparents and senior citizens. It has not been a cool thing in years, The cool social media platform is TikTok and it keeps pulling in younger crowds.

Meta decided to take a conservative route by hiring a Republican consulting firm to make the short video platform look bad. The selected firm is Targeted Victory and it was founded by the digital director of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Meta wants Targeted Victory to run a campaign of op-eds and letters to the editor stating that TikTok is dangerous for kids. Targeted Victory employees promoted stories to regional news outlets about harmful TikTok trends that originated on Facebook.

“The emails show how Meta wants the public to see TikTok even as Meta itself tries to re-create some of the magic that led TikTok to become the top app for young people. Mark Zuckerberg has cited TikTok as a hurdle to getting young people back on his platforms. Both Facebook and Instagram have followed TikTok’s lead by pouring money into their own short-form video clones. ‘We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success,’ Meta spokesperson Andy Stone told the Post in defense of the campaign.”

These op-eds and letters to the editor criticized TikTok. They were from concerned parents and even a Democratic Party chair. Targeted Victory also highlighted Meta in a good light, such as how the platform assists Black-owned businesses.

Meta refers to when something breaks the fourth wall or is so “out there” that it cannot be real. It is used in place of “stranger than fiction” and “you can’t make this stuff up.” The company formerly known as Facebook is making everything Meta buy making the world a self-referential self-congratulatory echo chamber.

Whitney Grace, May 11, 2022

Issues with the Zuckbook Smart Software: Imagine That

May 10, 2022

I was neither surprised by nor interested in “Facebook’s New AI System Has a ‘High Propensity’ for Racism and Bias.” The marketing hype encapsulated in PowerPoint decks and weaponized PDF files on Arxiv paint fantastical pictures of today’s marvel-making machine learning systems. Those who have been around smart software and really stupid software for a number of years understand two things: PR and marketing are easier than delivering high-value, high-utility systems and smart software works best when tailored and tuned to quite specific tasks. Generalized systems are not yet without a few flaws. Addressing these will take time, innovation, and money. Innovation is scarce in many high-technology companies. The time and money factors dictate that “good enough” and “close enough for horseshoes” systems and methods are pushed into products and services. “Good enough” works for search because no one knows what is in the index. Comparative evaluations of search and retrieval is tough when users (addicts) operate within a cloud of unknowing. The “close enough for horseshoes” produces applications which are sort of correct. Perfect for ad matching and suggesting what Facebook pages or Tweets would engage a person interested in tattoos or fad diets.

The cited article explains:

Facebook and its parent company, Meta, recently released a new tool that can be used to quickly develop state-of-the-art AI. But according to the company’s researchers, the system has the same problem as its predecessors: It’s extremely bad at avoiding results that reinforce racist and sexist stereotypes.

My recollection is that the Google has terminated some of its wizards and transformed these professionals into Xooglers in the blink of an eye. Why? Exposing some of the issues that continue to plague smart software.

Those interns, former college professors, and start up engineers rely on techniques used for decades. These are connected together, fed synthetic data, and bolted to an application. The outputs reflect the inherent oddities of the methods; for example, feed the system images spidered from Web sites and the system “learns” what is on the Web sites. Then generalize from the Web site images and produce synthetic data. The who process zooms along and costs less. The outputs, however, have minimal information about that which is not on a Web site; for example, positive images of a family in a township outside of Cape Town.

The write up states:

Meta researchers write that the model “has a high propensity to generate toxic language and reinforce harmful stereotypes, even when provided with a relatively innocuous prompt.” This means it’s easy to get biased and harmful results even when you’re not trying. The system is also vulnerable to “adversarial prompts,” where small, trivial changes in phrasing can be used to evade the system’s safeguards and produce toxic content.

What’s new? These issues surfaced in the automated content processing in the early versions of the Autonomy Neuro Linguistic Programming approach. The fix was to retrain the system and tune the outputs. Few licensees had the appetite to spend the money needed to perform the retraining and reindexing of the processed content when the search results drifted into weirdness.

Since the mid 1990s, have developers solved this problem?

Nope.

Has the email with this information reached the PR professionals and the art history majors with a minor in graphic design who produce PowerPoints? What about the former college professors and a bunch of interns and recent graduates?

Nope.

What’s this mean? Here’s my view:

  1. Narrow applications of smart software can work and be quite useful; for example, the Preligens system for aircraft identification. Broad applications have to be viewed as demonstrations or works in progress.
  2. The MBA craziness which wants to create world-dominating methods to control markets must be recognized and managed. I know that running wild for 25 years creates some habits which are going to be difficult to break. But change is needed. Craziness is not a viable business model in my opinion.
  3. The over-the-top hyperbole must be identified. This means that PowerPoint presentations should carry a warning label: Science fiction inside. The quasi-scientific papers with loads of authors who work at one firm should carry a disclaimer: Results are going to be difficult to verify.

Without some common sense, the flood of semi-functional smart software will increase. Not good. Why? The impact of erroneous outputs will cause more harm than users of the systems expect. Screwing up content filtering for a political rally is one thing; outputting an incorrect medical action is another.

Stephen E Arnold, May 10, 2022

Facebook: Getting Softer, More Lovable?

May 9, 2022

Is the Zuckbook going soft? Sure, the company allegedly dorked around with Facebook pages in Australia. Sure, a former employee revealed the high school science club thought framework? Sure, the Zuck is getting heat for his semi-exciting vision of ZuckZoom and ZuckGraphics.

The article with the clicky title “Meta’s Challenge to OpenAI—Give Away a Massive Language Model. At 175 Billion Parameters, It’s As Powerful As OpenAI’s GPT-3, and It’s Open to All Researchers” shows that El Zucko is into freebies. The idea is that Zuck’s smart software is not going to allow the Google to dominate in this super-hyped sector. Think of it as the battle of the high school science clubs.

The ZuckVerse anyone who sells gets special treatment. Meta will charge about 48 percent commission.

Selling in Horizon Worlds will be limited to a few creators located in the US and Canada who must be eighteen years old. The 50% commission is a huge chunk of a creator’s profit, even if the item is an NFT:

“Meta spokesperson Sinead Purcell confirmed the figure to The Post, adding that Horizon Worlds will eventually become available on hardware made by other companies. In those cases, Meta will keep charging its 25% Horizon Worlds fee but the other companies will set their own store transaction fees. Vivek Sharma, Meta’s vice president of Horizon, told The Verge that the commission is ‘a pretty competitive rate in the market.’”

Zuckerberg criticized Google and Apple for taking 30% commission fees to digital creators. He claims that when the Metaverse adds a revenue share the commission rate will be less than 30%.

Zuckerberg claims he wants to support creators and help them make a living wage, but his statements are probably hot air. Talk is cheap, especially for tech giants. Zuckerberg wants to recoup the lost ad revenue through NFTs.

See. Kinder. Gentler. Maybe a Zuckbork?

Stephen E Arnold, May 9, 2022

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