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How’d you find me, Whitney Port? The mystery of Facebook’s algorithm finally getting me right | Facebook

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Whitney Port and her husband Tim Rosenman were surprised when I said I first found their video series on Facebook. Or rather, that it found me.

I wasn’t expecting it myself. Though I mainly use Facebook to keep in touch with family all over the world, I occasionally find myself scrolling through an increasingly chaotic feed. It was there, in the abyss of poorly-produced, off-kilter videos that Port and Rosenman’s reaction series – where they watch and comment on episodes of the MTV hit reality show and my high school-favorite, The Hills – somehow found me.

Episodes of Port and Rosenman’s Facebook show, which are usually 25 minutes, were mysteriously mixed in with the peculiar collection of videos now typical of my feed. The mystery was I don’t follow Port’s Facebook page and have never liked or engaged with The Hills content. And videos suggested to me usually have nothing to do with my interests. Suffice to say, I didn’t expect the Facebook algorithm to surface a years-old era of reality TV I once obsessed over.

With little transparency into how Facebook makes decisions about what to suggest to me, every new episode of Reacting to the Hills pushed to the top of my Facebook feed left me wondering: How’d you find me, Whitney Port? Was it a fluke, or is the algorithm getting better?

Whitney Port and Tim Rosenman filming their YouTube and Facebook series.
‘I probably wouldn’t have sought out a show I’ve already watched unless Facebook suggested it.’ Photograph: Anne Marie Cartwright

The mystery of Facebook’s ad targeting

Facebook doesn’t get me: My feed is overwhelmingly a confusing array of scripted videos of “pranks” and scenarios such as “she POISONS him on their wedding night”. It’s mostly a nuisance.

While I spend most of my reporting unveiling the nefarious ways ad and data tracking can harm you, I loathe to admit it ended up being a nice surprise to be targeted by the algorithm with something I genuinely liked.

For those of you who weren’t avid consumers of the early-aughts MTV reality show universe, the show’s name (or Port’s) might not ring a bell. Its perhaps better-known predecessor, Laguna Beach, followed rich high schoolers in Orange county until one of the protagonists, Lauren Conrad, moved to Los Angeles for an internship. Thus began the multi-season spin-off, The Hills, where we eventually met Port. Now an author and fashion designer, Port was introduced as Conrad’s level-headed and hard-working co-intern. As fans of The Hills might remember, she is the girl who famously did go to Paris. (Kind of.) Rosenman, for his part, is a TV producer, who met Port while working on The City, her Hills-spin-off set in New York, and whose resume also includes work on The X Factor.

It was a simpler time: reality stars were beautiful but not perfect. Some of their lifestyles were enviable but, I thought, attainable. Their drama was juicy but not stressful. Even the Kardashians had day jobs back then.

But I probably wouldn’t have sought out a show I’ve already watched unless Facebook suggested it. Facebook offered little insight into how the reaction show landed on my feed except to say it suggests pages, groups and events based on content I’ve expressed interest in. Taking a look through what Facebook has gleaned as “ad topics” I might be interested in provided some potential hints: mixed in with generic topics like “modern art” and “cosmetics and fashion” – which, sure, that tracks – Facebook wrongly assumed I like reality dating shows Love Island and Bachelors in Paradise.

There’s little transparency around how or why Facebook thought I was interested in those topics. The pages or groups I’ve “liked” offered fewer answers and were largely a mix of former employers, city-specific halal food directories and wedding vendors I’ve worked with.

List of ad topics Facebook thinks I’d be interested in. I have no idea what Monsta X is.
List of ad topics Facebook thinks I’d be interested in. I have no idea what Monsta X is. Photograph: Facebook

It’s certainly possible that Facebook’s algorithm has been trained to assume that some combination of interests assigned to me would mean I’d likely enjoy Port and Rosenman’s take on a reality series I watched more than 14 years ago. It’s also possible that the many opaque ways Facebook tracks me across its own apps, like Instagram, and other non-Meta owned websites has revealed my obsession with reality TV.

In the absence of answers, I turned to the only people I thought could explain why I was being visited by this particular ghost of pop culture’s past.


‘We don’t really use Facebook’

The short answer is Port and Rosenman don’t really know.

“We don’t really use Facebook at all,” they said at the end of 2022. Their series started in earnest in the early days of the pandemic and lives on YouTube. They’ve since moved on to rewatch other shows in their universe like The City, Laguna Beach and Siesta Key.

In many ways, Facebook was an afterthought. It wasn’t until Studio 71, a production company that helps creators monetize their online content, suggested they leverage Port’s existing presence “from back when people were doing Facebook” that the couple even considered sharing it there, Rosenman said.

“And they handled most of that,” he said. Studio 71 declined requests for interviews.

Port’s Facebook page is like a time capsule: as far as her 457,000 Facebook followers are concerned, the couple is still in the middle of rewatching The Hills.

Port and Rosenman have never heard from Facebook and say only about a quarter of their ad revenue comes from the Meta-owned platform, so they’re a bit less engaged. “I haven’t gone into the comments section and talked [to followers],” Rosenman said. “It’s just a bandwidth thing.”

They admit their show has niche appeal – folks who weren’t in high school or college when The Hills was airing might not immediately recognize it, much less their names. Still, YouTube took an immediate interest and reached out to help them promote and improve the show soon after they started.

It’s on YouTube that Rosenman, who handles a lot of the promotion and audience engagement, has built up what they describe as a deeply involved community.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but everyone feels really connected and the community has started to really know each other,” Port told me. “In the chat they’ll be like: ‘Oh, Stevie, how was your first date?’ And they’ve never met before.”

After video chatting with them for nearly an hour, it was easy to see why fans might feel particularly drawn to the couple. The couple came to the video call as they were. Rosenman briefly answered the phone from their bed in their Los Angeles home before he got up to get Port, who had on a clay face mask and wore a tan hoodie. They immediately apologized as Port ran off-screen because their son’s play date wasn’t going as well as expected.

It’s hard for me to explain to people who didn’t care about The Hills when they were soft-brained and easily influenced teenagers – like I was – why I’ve been so drawn to their series. But there’s something healing about revisiting a show I watched at that age through the eyes of a cast member who lived through it and her now-husband.

In the videos, Rosenman cracks jokes and asks Port about how certain moments may have been influenced by producers. He plays the role of the viewer, getting answers to some of the burning questions teenage me might have had. And Port continues to be the voice of reason, offering thoughts on the actual motivations of her cast mates and friends or the ways they could’ve handled situations better.

It’s been healing for Port too, she said.

Whitney Port and Tim Rosenman filming their YouTube and Facebook series.
‘My ideal relaxing, end-of-the-night scenario is sitting on the couch together watching TV … We get to then have it once or twice a week by filming this show.’ Photograph: Anne Marie Cartwright

Rewatching the show eased the imposter syndrome she once felt and made her “really grateful for it and took away a little bit of the resentment”, she explained.

“I got on the show when I was 20 years old … and I thought that since I caught this success very young, everything that I got afterwards was a result of being on a TV show and not actually for my talent.”

The couple has two things many co-hosts work years to cultivate: a built-in rapport and the ability to share at times juicy but mostly context-providing behind-the-scenes information about their chosen subject. But most of all, they’re just sitting on their couch in their sweats and musing about the life Port once lived.

“It’s the easiest part of my job,” Port said. “My ideal relaxing, end-of-the-night scenario is sitting on the couch together watching TV. … We get to then have it once or twice a week by filming this show.”

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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again

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Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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