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Facebook is failing to prevent another human rights tragedy playing out on its platform, report warns

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A report by campaign group Avaaz examining how Facebook’s platform is being used to spread hate speech in the Assam region of North East India suggests the company is once again failing to prevent its platform from being turned into a weapon to fuel ethnic violence.

Assam has a long-standing Muslim minority population but ethnic minorities in the state look increasingly vulnerable after India’s Hindu nationalist government pushed forward with a National Register of Citizens (NRC), which has resulted in the exclusion from that list of nearly 1.9 million people — mostly Muslims — putting them at risk of statelessness.

In July the United Nations expressed grave concern over the NRC process, saying there’s a risk of arbitrary expulsion and detention, with those those excluded being referred to Foreigners’ Tribunals where they have to prove they are not “irregular”.

At the same time, the UN warned of the rise of hate speech in Assam being spread via social media — saying this is contributing to increasing instability and uncertainty for millions in the region. “This process may exacerbate the xenophobic climate while fuelling religious intolerance and discrimination in the country,” it wrote.

There’s an awful sense of deja-vu about these warnings. In March 2018 the UN criticized Facebook for failing to prevent its platform being used to fuel ethnic violence against the Rohingya people in the neighboring country of Myanmar — saying the service had played a “determining role” in that crisis.

Facebook’s response to devastating criticism from the UN looks like wafer-thin crisis PR to paper over the ethical cracks in its ad business, given the same sorts of alarm bells are being sounded again, just over a year later. (If we measure the company by the lofty goals it attached to a director of human rights policy job last year — when Facebook wrote that the responsibilities included “conflict prevention” and “peace-building” — it’s surely been an abject failure.)

Avaaz’s report on hate speech in Assam takes direct aim at Facebook’s platform, saying it’s being used as a conduit for whipping up anti-Muslim hatred.

In the report, entitled Megaphone for Hate: Disinformation and Hate Speech on Facebook During Assam’s Citizenship Count, the group says it analysed 800 Facebook posts and comments relating to Assam and the NRC, using keywords from the immigration discourse in Assamese, assessing them against the three tiers of prohibited hate speech set out in Facebook’s Community Standards.

Avaaz found that at least 26.5% of the posts and comments constituted hate speech. These posts had been shared on Facebook more than 99,650 times — adding up to at least 5.4 million views for violent hate speech targeting religious and ethnic minorities, according to its analysis.

Bengali Muslims are a particular target on Facebook in Assam, per the report, which found comments referring to them as “criminals,” “rapists,” “terrorists,” “pigs,” and “dogs”, among other dehumanizing terms.

In further disturbing comments there were calls for people to “poison” daughters, and legalise female foeticide, as well as several posts urging “Indian” women to be protected from “rape-obsessed foreigners”.

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Avaaz suggests its findings are just a drop in the ocean of hate speech that it says is drowning Assam via Facebook and other social media. But it accuses Facebook directly of failing to provide adequate human resource to police hate speech spread on its dominant platform.

Commenting in a statement, Alaphia Zoyab, senior campaigner, said: “Facebook is being used as a megaphone for hate, pointed directly at vulnerable minorities in Assam, many of whom could be made stateless within months. Despite the clear and present danger faced by these people, Facebook is refusing to dedicate the resources required to keep them safe. Through its inaction, Facebook is complicit in the persecution of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Its key complaint is that Facebook continues to rely on AI to detect hate speech which has not been reported to it by human users — using its limited pool of (human) content moderator staff to review pre-flagged content, rather than proactively detect it.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has previously said AI has a very long way to go to reliably detect hate speech. Indeed, he’s suggested it may never be able to do that.

In April 2018 he told US lawmakers it might take five to ten years to develop “AI tools that can get into some of the linguistic nuances of different types of content to be more accurate, to be flagging things to our systems”, while admitting: “Today we’re just not there on that.”

That sums to an admission that in regions such as Assam — where inter-ethnic tensions are being whipped up in a politically charged atmosphere that’s also encouraging violence — Facebook is essentially asleep on the job. The job of enforcing its own ‘Community Standards’ and preventing its platform being weaponized to amplify hate and harass the vulnerable, to be clear.

Avaaz says it flagged 213 of “the clearest examples” of hate speech which it found directly to Facebook — including posts from an elected official and pages of a member of an Assamese rebel group banned by the Indian Government. The company removed 96 of these posts following its report.

It argues there are similarities in the type of hate speech being directed at ethnic minorities in Assam via Facebook and that which targeted at Rohingya people in Myanmar, also on Facebook, while noting that the context is different. But it did also find hateful content on Facebook targeting Rohingya people in India.

It is calling on Facebook to do more to protect vulnerable minorities in Assam, arguing it should not rely solely on automated tools for detecting hate speech — and should instead apply a “human-led ‘zero tolerance’ policy” against hate speech, starting by beefing up moderators’ expertise in local languages.

It also recommends Facebook launch an early warning system within its Strategic Response team, again based on human content moderation — and do so for all regions where the UN has warned of the rise of hate speech on social media.

“This system should act preventatively to avert human rights crises, not just reactively to respond to offline harm that has already occurred,” it writes.

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Other recommendations include that Facebook should correct the record on false news and disinformation by notifying and providing corrections from fact-checkers to each and every user who has seen content deemed to have been false or purposefully misleading, including if the disinformation came from a politician; that it should be transparent about all page and post takedowns by publishing its rational on the Facebook Newsroom so the issue of hate speech is given proportionate prominence and publicity to the size of the problem on Facebook; and it should agree to an independent audit of hate speech and human rights on its platform in India.

“Facebook has signed up to comply with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” Avaaz notes. “Which require it to conduct human rights due diligence such as identifying its impact on vulnerable groups like women, children, linguistic, ethnic and religious minorities and others, particularly when deploying AI tools to identify hate speech, and take steps to subsequently avoid or mitigate such harm.”

We reached out to Facebook with a series of questions about Avaaz’s report and also how it has progressed its approach to policing inter-ethnic hate speech since the Myanmar crisis — including asking for details of the number of people it employs to monitor content in the region.

Facebook did not provide responses to our specific questions. It just said it does have content reviewers who are Assamese and who review content in the language, as well as reviewers who have knowledge of the majority of official languages in India, including Assamese, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Marathi.

In 2017 India overtook the US as the country with the largest “potential audience” for Facebook ads, with 241M active users, per figures it reports the advertisers.

Facebook also sent us this statement, attributed to a spokesperson:

We want Facebook to be a safe place for all people to connect and express themselves, and we seek to protect the rights of minorities and marginalized communities around the world, including in India. We have clear rules against hate speech, which we define as attacks against people on the basis of things like caste, nationality, ethnicity and religion, and which reflect input we received from experts in India. We take this extremely seriously and remove content that violates these policies as soon as we become aware of it. To do this we have invested in dedicated content reviewers, who have local language expertise and an understanding of the India’s longstanding historical and social tensions. We’ve also made significant progress in proactively detecting hate speech on our services, which helps us get to potentially harmful content faster.

But these tools aren’t perfect yet, and reports from our community are still extremely important. That’s why we’re so grateful to Avaaz for sharing their findings with us. We have carefully reviewed the content they’ve flagged, and removed everything that violated our policies. We will continue to work to prevent the spread of hate speech on our services, both in India and around the world.

Facebook did not tell us exactly how many people it employs to police content for an Indian state with a population of more than 30 million people.

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Globally the company maintains it has around 35,000 people working on trust and safety, less than half of whom (~15,000) are dedicated content reviewers. But with such a tiny content reviewer workforce for a global platform with 2.2BN+ users posting night and day all around the world there’s no plausible no way for it to stay on top of its hate speech problem.

Certainly not in every market it operates in. Which is why Facebook leans so heavily on AI — shrinking the cost to its business but piling content-related risk onto everyone else.

Facebook claims its automated tools for detecting hate speech have got better, saying that in Q1 this year it increased the proactive detection rate for hate speech to 65.4% — up from 58.8% in Q4 2017 and 38% in Q2 2017.

However it also says it only removed 4 million pieces of hate speech globally in Q1. Which sounds incredibly tiny vs the size of Facebook’s platform and the volume of content that will be generated daily by its millions and millions of active users.

Without tools for independent researchers to query the substance and spread of content on Facebook’s platform it’s simply not possible to know how many pieces of hate speech are going undetected. But — to be clear — this unregulated company still gets to mark its own homework.

In just one example of how Facebook is able to shrink perception of the volume of problematic content it’s fencing, of the 213 pieces of content related to Assam and the NCR that Avaaz judged to be hate speech and reported to Facebook it removed less than half (96).

Yet Facebook also told us it takes down all content that violates its community standards — suggesting it is applying a far more dilute definition of hate speech than Avaaz. Unsurprising for a US company whose nascent crisis PR content review board‘s charter includes the phrase “free expression is paramount”. But for a company that also claims to want to prevent conflict and peace-build it’s rather conflicted, to say the least.

As things stand, Facebook’s self-reported hate speech performance metrics are meaningless. It’s impossible for anyone outside the company to quantify or benchmark platform data. Because no one except Facebook has the full picture — and it’s not opening its platform for ethnical audit. Even as the impacts of harmful, hateful stuff spread on Facebook continue to bleed out and damage lives around the world.

APPS

Best ASO Tips To Boost Your App Search In 2022

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You need your application to be really effective in the overpopulated application market. Then, at that point, you will have to drive downloads to endure. So when it’s all said and done, you must account for yourself. Get your application the consideration it merits.

The uplifting news, however, is that customers love to download applications – last year, we downloaded in excess of 200 billion applications around the world, and that figure is set to increment to 258 billion every year by 2022 as cell phone reception increments.

Assuming you need to be seen and have your application downloaded by however many clients as could reasonably be expected, then, at that point, you should begin by taking a gander at the application store.

Underneath, we’ve assembled probably the best application store improvement methods to assist you with creating more downloads in 2021 and then some…

Start with Your Application Name 

The odds are you as of now have an extraordinary name for your application, yet an appropriately advanced application is about significantly more than marking.

Assuming you need to amplify transparency and guarantee you’re showing up when clients look for applications like yours, you ought to remember the primary keywords for your application name or title, comparable to how you’d make a title label while improving a site page.

You could begin with your application name so it tends to be plainly recognized, thus it appears on the home screen of gadgets.

Then, at that point, you can add a scramble or vertical bar prior to adding a few pertinent watchwords to your speciality, or even put your application name in quotes as we did with FORE Business Golf Networking.

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Urge Users to Leave Reviews 

You could ask for reviews by clients through the means of your site, or through an in-application notice toward the finish of their meeting, yet make sure to restrict the number of pop-ups you execute with the goal that you don’t disturb or disappoint your clients, as this could urge them to erase your application.

We’d support all application engineers and entrepreneurs to react to criticism on their applications, as this can further develop client relations and resolve issues in an open arena.

Zero in on Your Application Depiction 

Your application depiction is your principle assemblage of text your landing page content, in a manner of speaking. Utilize a site like KeywordTool.io to discover information on your picked catchphrases to expand your openness. As portrayals are shortened, ensure you remember the main data for the initial three lines of your depiction, and afterwards add things like social confirmation, emoticon, and suggestions to take action to build commitment and downloads.

Incorporate Appealings Screen Captures 

Pictures and recordings won’t help your application rank, yet they will expand changes and assist clients with working out whether it’s an application they truly need.

There’s a little guide in empowering clients toward downloading your application if in any case, they’re not going to interface with it, or download and leave a negative survey when they understand it wasn’t what was promoted.

Assuming you need to ‘tart up’ your item page, then, at that point, you can add marking and extra text and data and designs to your recordings and screen capture, yet they ought not to diminish your item.

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Pay for App Store or Play Store 

As we have SEO and pay-per-click, you need to work one next to the other (one is a gradual methodology with long haul benefits – the other is a speedy success yet requires an endless spending plan), application store promotions can be utilized to get the message out with regards to your new programming and assist you with positioning at the highest point of query items pages – in front of your opposition and enormous names in the application world.

Keep in mind, you’ll need to focus on the right crowd and art an advertisement that will assist you with changing over and that since you’re paying for situations, that doesn’t mean clients will download or cooperate with your application.

Wrapping Up!

You can employ a group of  App  Store Optimization Services suppliers to benefit a scope of application store improvement administrations, including watchword advancement, resource enhancement, and restriction to guarantee your application is seen by individuals that matter.

We have long periods of involvement in creating and showcasing applications and have assisted different customers with expanding their downloads by infiltrating rewarding and regularly undiscovered business sectors.

Author:
Prachi Gupta likes to write information about Digital Marketing Trends that can help audience to grow their business.

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WhatsApp will finally let users encrypt their chat backups in the cloud

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WhatsApp said on Friday it will give its two billion users the option to encrypt their chat backups to the cloud, taking a significant step to put a lid on one of the tricky ways private communication between individuals on the app can be compromised.

The Facebook-owned service has end-to-end encrypted chats between users for more than a decade. But users have had no option but to store their chat backup to their cloud — iCloud on iPhones and Google Drive on Android — in an unencrypted format.

Tapping these unencrypted WhatsApp chat backups on Google and Apple servers is one of the widely known ways law enforcement agencies across the globe have for years been able to access WhatsApp chats of suspect individuals.

Now WhatsApp says it is patching this weak link in the system.

“WhatsApp is the first global messaging service at this scale to offer end-to-end encrypted messaging and backups, and getting there was a really hard technical challenge that required an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage across operating systems,” said Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in a post announcing the new feature.

Store your own encryption keys

The company said it has devised a system to enable WhatsApp users on Android and iOS to lock their chat backups with encryption keys. WhatsApp says it will offer users two ways to encrypt their cloud backups, and the feature is optional.

In the “coming weeks,” users on WhatsApp will see an option to generate a 64-digit encryption key to lock their chat backups in the cloud. Users can store the encryption key offline or in a password manager of their choice, or they can create a password that backs up their encryption key in a cloud-based “backup key vault” that WhatsApp has developed. The cloud-stored encryption key can’t be used without the user’s password, which isn’t known by WhatsApp.

Image Credits: WhatsApp/supplied

“We know that some will prefer the 64-digit encryption key whereas others want something they can easily remember, so we will be including both options. Once a user sets their backup password, it is not known to us. They can reset it on their original device if they forget it,” WhatsApp said.

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“For the 64-digit key, we will notify users multiple times when they sign up for end-to-end encrypted backups that if they lose their 64-digit key, we will not be able to restore their backup and that they should write it down. Before the setup is complete, we’ll ask users to affirm that they’ve saved their password or 64-digit encryption key.”

A WhatsApp spokesperson told TechCrunch that once an encrypted backup is created, previous copies of the backup will be deleted. “This will happen automatically and there is no action that a user will need to take,” the spokesperson added.

Potential regulatory pushback?

The move to introduce this added layer of privacy is significant and one that could have far-reaching implications.

End-to-end encryption remains a thorny topic of discussion as governments continue to lobby for backdoors. Apple was reportedly pressured to not add encryption to iCloud Backups after the FBI complained, and while Google has offered users the ability to encrypt their data stored in Google Drive, the company allegedly didn’t tell governments before it rolled out the feature.

When asked by TechCrunch whether WhatsApp, or its parent firm Facebook, had consulted with government bodies — or if it had received their support — during the development process of this feature, the company declined to discuss any such conversations.

“People’s messages are deeply personal and as we live more of our lives online, we believe companies should enhance the security they provide their users. By releasing this feature, we are providing our users with the option to add this additional layer of security for their backups if they’d like to, and we’re excited to give our users a meaningful advancement in the safety of their personal messages,” the company told TechCrunch.

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WhatsApp also confirmed that it will be rolling out this optional feature in every market where its app is operational. It’s not uncommon for companies to withhold privacy features for legal and regulatory reasons. Apple’s upcoming encrypted browsing feature, for instance, won’t be made available to users in certain authoritarian regimes, such as China, Belarus, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.

At any rate, Friday’s announcement comes days after ProPublica reported that private end-to-end encrypted conversations between two users can be read by human contractors when messages are reported by users.

“Making backups fully encrypted is really hard and it’s particularly hard to make it reliable and simple enough for people to use. No other messaging service at this scale has done this and provided this level of security for people’s messages,” Uzma Barlaskar, product lead for privacy at WhatsApp, told TechCrunch.

“We’ve been working on this problem for many years, and to build this, we had to develop an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage that can be used across the world’s largest operating systems and that took time.”

TechCrunch

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Dispo launches a test to gauge user interest in selling their photos as NFTs

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Dispo, the photo-sharing app that emulates disposable cameras, started rolling out a test yesterday that will record user interest in selling photos as NFTs. Some users will now see a sell button on their photos, and when they tap it, they can sign up to be notified when the ability to sell Dispo photos launches.

CEO and co-founder Daniel Liss told TechCrunch that Dispo is still deciding how it will incorporate NFT sales into the app, which is why the platform is piloting a test with its users. Dispo doesn’t know yet what blockchain it would use, if it would partner with an NFT marketplace or what cut of sales Dispo would take.

“I think it’s safe to say from the test that there will be an experience native to the Dispo app,” Liss said. “There are a number of ways it could look — there could be a native experience within Dispo that then connects through an API to another platform, and in turn, they’re our partner, but to the community, it would look native to the Dispo app.”

Image Credits: Dispo

This marks a new direction for the social media app, which seeks to redefine the photo-sharing experience by only letting users see the photos they took at 9 AM the next morning. From Dispo’s perspective, this gimmick helps users share more authentically, since you take one photo and then you’re done — the app isn’t conducive to taking dozens of selfies and posting the “best” image of yourself. But though it only launched in December 2019, Dispo has already faced both buzzy hype and devastating controversy.

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Until about a year ago, the app was called David’s Disposables, named after co-founder and YouTuber David Dobrik. The app was downloaded over a million times in the first week after its release and hit No. 1 on the App Store charts. In March 2021, the app dropped its waitlist and relaunched with social network features, but just weeks later, Insider reported sexual assault allegations against a member of Vlog Squad, Dobrik’s YouTube prank ensemble. In response, Spark Capital severed ties with the company, leading to Dobrik’s departure. Other investors like Seven Seven Six and Unshackled Ventures, which contributed to the company’s $20 million Series A round, announced that they would donate any profits from their investments in Dispo to organizations working with survivors of sexual assault.

Liss told TechCrunch in June, when the company confirmed its Series A, that Dobrik’s role with the company was as a marketing partner — Liss has been CEO since the beginning. In light of the controversy, Liss said the app focused on improving the product itself and took a step back from promotion.

According to data from the app analytics firm SensorTower, Dispo has reached an estimated 4.7 million global installs to date since launch. Though the app saw the most downloads in January 2020, when it was installed over 1 million times, the app’s next best month came in March 2021, when it removed its waitlist — that month, about 616,000 people downloaded Dispo. Between March and the end of August, the app was downloaded around 1.4 million times, which is up 118% year over year compared to the same time frame in 2020 — but it should be expected that this year’s numbers would be higher, since last year, the app’s membership was exclusive.

Image Credits: Dispo

Now, with the announcement that Dispo is pursuing NFTs, Liss hopes that his company won’t just change how people post photos, but what the relationship will be between platforms and the content that users create.

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“Why NFTs? The most powerful memories of our lives have value. And they have economic value, because we created them, and the past of social media fails to recognize that,” Liss told TechCrunch. “As a result, the only way that a creator with a big following is compensated is by selling directly to a brand, as opposed to profiting from the content itself.”

Adding NFT sales to the app offers Dispo a way to profit from a cut of user sales, but it stands to question how adding NFT sales could impact the community-focused feel of Dispo.

“I think there is tremendous curiosity and interest,” Liss said. “But these problems and questions are why we need more data.”

TechCrunch

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