What Was Said: More news about Facebook BS
The toughest time I have writing this newsletter every week is finding a new negative image for Facebook. It’s a constant challenge.
In my book BadMen, I showed how Facebook underhandedly manipulates ads to look like real content and creates phony endorsements to promote its clients. This week, Facebook used its disreputable techniques to promote itself.
Facebook provided a wonderful example of how slimy and untrustworthy they are. It all started on January 8th when a glowing article about Facebook entitled “How Facebook Is Helping Ensure the Integrity of the 2020 Election” appeared in Teen Vogue.
Anyone with a brain who read the “article” could tell in a second it was not journalism, it was horseshit. When people started questioning the “article,” an editor’s note suddenly appeared stating, “This is sponsored editorial content.” Sponsored editorial content is the bullshit phrase used to hide the fact that it’s a paid ad disguised as journalism.
Then the editor’s note suddenly disappeared from the article.
Then a byline by a freelance writer suddenly appeared.
Then the freelance writer said she didn’t write the article.
Then the byline disappeared.
Then someone on Teen Vogue’s Twitter account asked whether it was a real article or an ad. Teen Vogue replied “Literally, idk” (I don’t know.) Then that tweet suddenly disappeared.
Then Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg posted the “article” on her Facebook page saying “Great Teen Vogue piece about five incredible women protecting elections on Facebook.”
Then Teen Vogue suddenly removed the whole article.
Then The New York Times reported that the “article” was an ad.
As of this writing, journalists trying to get a comment from Sandberg about whether she knew the Teen Vogue “story” was bullshit have gone unanswered.
No, you can’t make this shit up. — Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian
I went on a very long walkabout at an event called Pepcom, looking for interesting new products — watch the result, below.
Washington Post: Coolest and weirdest CES 2020 gadgets
An advertising campaign that is taking issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is getting a lot of attention on social media and promoting a new political party that wants independence from Canada for the Wild Rose Country. — CTV News
The Supreme Court of Canada has blown the whistle on a CRTC decision that allowed Canadian viewers to watch American commercials during the Super Bowl broadcast.
In its ruling, the high court said the Commission strayed beyond the scope of its authority under the Broadcasting Act when it took action to ensure the U.S. ads could be seen. — CP
The pubcaster is asking the CRTC to allow the network to decrease the number of hours certain programming must be broadcast on television, and permit more of that content to be shown on digital services.
As part of the licence renewal, the network is proposing that it would increase its overall hours of mandated programming, but be allowed to broadcast less of that on television and more through digital devices.
For example, CBC Toronto has an obligation to air up to 14 hours a week of local programming on television. CBC is proposing 12 hours a week on television, but would commit to 14.5 hours a week overall. — CBC News
The broadcasting company said Friday that its first-quarter profit rose as revenue ticked up, though combined profit for its television, radio and corporate segments fell.
Revenue rose to $467.9M from $467.5M in the year-ago period.
Television revenue rose to $43M from $426.2M, while radio revenue declined to $37.9M from $41.3M. — Dave Sebastian, MarketWatch
The influencer marketing has expanded into an $8B business, but it comes with a risk if the cohorts lose their enthusiasm for a brand. — Financial Times
Everyone knows Donald Trump is rich. But how about the 25 people jockeying to replace him as president? Forbes dug into the details—examining financial disclosure statements, scouring local real estate records and calculating pension benefits—to figure out the finances of the 2020 candidates. — Dan Alexander, Chase Peterson-Withorn and Michela Tindera, Forbes
Western News – Expert insights: Why social media companies need to be reined in – Western News
In September, the Wall Street Journal released the Facebook Files. Drawing on thousands of documents leaked by whistle blower and former employee Frances Haugen, the Facebook Files show that the company knows their practices harm young people, but fails to act, choosing corporate profit over public good.
The Facebook Files are damning for the company, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp. However, it isn’t the only social media company that compromises young people’s internationally protected rights and well-being by prioritizing profits.
Harvested personal data
Harvesting and commodifying personal data (including children’s data) underpins the internet financial model — a model that social psychologist and philosopher Shoshana Zuboff has dubbed surveillance capitalism .
Social media companies make money under this model by collecting, analyzing and selling the personal information of users. To increase the flow of this valuable data they work to engage more people, for more time, through more interactions.
Ultimately, the value in harvested personal data lies in the detailed personal profiles the data supports — profiles that are used to feed the algorithms that shape our newsfeeds, personalize our search results, help us get a job (or hinder) and determine the advertisements we receive.
In a self-reinforcing turn, these same data are used to shape our online environments to encourage disclosure of even more data — and the process repeats.
Recent research confirms that the deliberate design, algorithmic and policy choices made by social media companies (that lie at the heart of surveillance capitalism) directly expose young people to harmful content. However, the harms of surveillance capitalism extend well beyond this.
Our research in both Canada and the United Kingdom has repeatedly uncovered young people’s concern with how social media companies and policy-makers are failing them. Rather than respecting young people’s rights to expression, to be free from discrimination and to participate in decisions affecting themselves, social media companies monitor young people to bombard them with unsolicited content in service of corporate profits.
As a result, young people have often reported to us that they feel pressured to conform to stereotypical profiles used to steer their behaviour and shape their environment for profit.
For example, teen girls have told us that even though using Instagram and Snapchat created anxiety and insecurity about their bodies, they found it almost impossible to “switch off” the platforms. They also told us how the limited protection provided by default privacy settings leaves them vulnerable to unwanted “dick pics” and requests to send intimate images to men they don’t know.
The surveillance capitalism financial model that underlies social media ensures that companies do everything they can to keep young people engaged.
Young people have told us that they want more freedom and control when using these spaces — so they are as public or private as they like, without fear of being monitored or profiled, or that their data are being farmed out to corporations.
Teenagers also told us how they rarely bother to report harmful content to the platforms. This isn’t because they don’t know how, but instead because they have learned from experience that it doesn’t help. Some platforms were too slow to respond, others didn’t respond at all and some said that what was reported didn’t breach community standards, so they weren’t willing to help.
Removing toxic content hurts the bottom line
These responses aren’t surprising. For years, we have known about the lack of resources to moderate content and deal with online harassment.
Haugen’s recent testimony at a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing and earlier reports about other social media platforms highlight an even deeper profit motivation. Profit depends on meaningful social engagement, and harmful, toxic and divisive content drives engagement.
Basically, removing toxic content would hurt the corporate bottom line.
Guiding principles that centre children’s rights
So, what should be done in light of the recent, though not unprecedented, revelations in the Facebook Files? The issues are undoubtedly complex, but we have come up with a list of guiding principles that centre children’s rights and prioritize what young people have told us about what they need:
- Young people must be directly engaged in the development of relevant policy.
- All related policy initiatives should be evaluated on an ongoing basis using a children’s rights assessment framework.
- Social media companies should be stopped from launching products for children and from collecting their data for profiling purposes.
- Governments should invest more resources into providing fast, free, easy-to-access informal responses and support for those targeted by online harms (learning from existing models like Australia’s eSafety Commissioner and Nova Scotia’s CyberScan unit).
- We need laws that ensure that social media companies are both transparent and accountable, especially when it comes to content moderation.
- Government agencies (including police) should enforce existing laws against hateful, sexually violent and harassing content. Thought should be given to expanding platform liability for provoking and perpetuating these kinds of content.
- Educational initiatives should prioritize familiarizing young people, the adults who support them and corporations with children’s rights, rather than focusing on a “safety” discourse that makes young people responsible for their own protection. This way, we can work together to disrupt the surveillance capitalism model that endangers them in the first place.
Kaitlynn Mendes, Professor of Gender, Media and Sociology, Western University; Jacquelyn Burkell, Associate Professor, Information and Media Studies, Western University; Jane Bailey, Professor of Law and Co-Leader of The eQuality Project, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa, and Valerie Steeves, Full Professor, Department of Criminology, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa
Trump Plans to Regain Social Media Presence With New Company – Bloomberg
The former president’s new enterprise will be in operation by the first quarter of 2022, according to a press release from the Trump Media and Technology Group. It says it plans to start a social media company called Truth Social. The moves, if all goes according to plan, would occur well ahead of the 2022 mid-term elections.
Protesters denounce Netflix over Chappelle transgender comments
About 100 people protested near Netflix Inc’s headquarters on Wednesday against the streaming pioneer’s decision to release comedian Dave Chappelle’s new special, which they say ridicules transgender people.
Netflix staff members, transgender rights advocates and public officials gathered on a sidewalk outside a Netflix office blocks away from the company’s main 13-story Sunset Boulevard building in Los Angeles.
Demonstrators held signs proclaiming, “Trans Lives Matter” and “Team Trans” and chanted slogans like “What do we want? Accountability,” “When do we want it? Now.”
Netflix staff were outnumbered by members of the public, but the precise number was not clear. Netflix employees had called for a walkout.
Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos acknowledged in interviews before the walkout, “I screwed up” in how he spoke to Netflix’s staff about Chappelle’s special, “The Closer.”
Sarandos previously defended the decision to air the show, saying Chappelle’s language did not cross the line into inciting violence. Netflix posted record subscriber numbers on Tuesday,
“While we appreciate the acknowledgement of the screw-up, in his own words, we want to actually talk about what that repair looks like,” said Ashlee Marie Preston, a transgender activist who came out in support of the Netflix employees.
Joey Soloway, creator of “Transparent,” a now-ended streaming series on rival Amazon that had a transgender character, talked about the line that separates edgy jokes and harmful speech.
“People say to me, as a comedian, where’s the line?” said Soloway. “The line is anything that makes it worse.”
Not everyone supported that message. “…The idea that a small, angry mob can shape entertainment and silence people’s speech is terrifying,” said counterprotester Dick Masterson.
While employee protests against corporate policies have become common in Silicon Valley, this is believed to be the first such action at the pioneer streaming video company.
The controversy over “The Closer” is playing out against the backdrop of a company-wide diversity effort that began in 2018, after Netflix’s former head of communications was fired for using a racial epithet in company meetings.
“It doesn’t feel good to have been working at the company that put that out there,” Netflix software engineer Terra Field wrote in a Medium post, referring to “The Closer.” “Especially when we’ve spent years building out the company’s policies and benefits so that it would be a great place for trans people to work.”
(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; editing by Kenneth Li and Cynthia Osterman)
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