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Facebook’s self-styled ‘oversight’ board selects first cases, most dealing with hate speech

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A Facebook -funded body that the tech giant set up to distance itself from tricky and potentially reputation-damaging content moderation decisions has announced the first bundle of cases it will consider.

In a press release on its website the Facebook Oversight Board (FOB) says it sifted through more than 20,000 submissions before settling on six cases — one of which was referred to it directly by Facebook.

The six cases it’s chosen to start with are:

Facebook submission: 2020-006-FB-FBR

A case from France where a user posted a video and accompanying text to a COVID-19 Facebook group — which relates to claims about the French agency that regulates health products “purportedly refusing authorisation for use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin against COVID-19, but authorising promotional mail for remdesivir”; with the user criticizing the lack of a health strategy in France and stating “[Didier] Raoult’s cure” is being used elsewhere to save lives”. Facebook says it removed the content for violating its policy on violence and incitement. The video in questioned garnered at least 50,000 views and 1,000 shares.

The FOB says Facebook indicated in its referral that this case “presents an example of the challenges faced when addressing the risk of offline harm that can be caused by misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic”.

User submissions:

Out of the five user submissions that the FOB selected, the majority (three cases) are related to hate speech takedowns.

One case apiece is related to Facebook’s nudity and adult content policy; and to its policy around dangerous individuals and organizations.

See below for the Board’s descriptions of the five user submitted cases:

  • 2020-001-FB-UA: A user posted a screenshot of two tweets by former Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in which the former Prime Minister stated that “Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past” and “[b]ut by and large the Muslims have not applied the ‘eye for an eye’ law. Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t. Instead the French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings.” The user did not add a caption alongside the screenshots. Facebook removed the post for violating its policy on hate speech. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that they wanted to raise awareness of the former Prime Minister’s “horrible words”.
  • 2020-002-FB-UA: A user posted two well-known photos of a deceased child lying fully clothed on a beach at the water’s edge. The accompanying text (in Burmese) asks why there is no retaliation against China for its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, in contrast to the recent killings in France relating to cartoons. The post also refers to the Syrian refugee crisis. Facebook removed the content for violating its hate speech policy. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that the post was meant to disagree with people who think that the killer is right and to emphasise that human lives matter more than religious ideologies.

  • 2020-003-FB-UA: A user posted alleged historical photos showing churches in Baku, Azerbaijan, with accompanying text stating that Baku was built by Armenians and asking where the churches have gone. The user stated that Armenians are restoring mosques on their land because it is part of their history. The user said that the “т.а.з.и.к.и” are destroying churches and have no history. The user stated that they are against “Azerbaijani aggression” and “vandalism”. The content was removed for violating Facebook’s hate speech policy. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that their intention was to demonstrate the destruction of cultural and religious monuments.

  • 2020-004-IG-UA: A user in Brazil posted a picture on Instagram with a title in Portuguese indicating that it was to raise awareness of signs of breast cancer. Eight photographs within the picture showed breast cancer symptoms with corresponding explanations of the symptoms underneath. Five of the photographs included visible and uncovered female nipples. The remaining three photographs included female breasts, with the nipples either out of shot or covered by a hand. Facebook removed the post for violating its policy on adult nudity and sexual activity. The post has a pink background, and the user indicated in a statement to the Oversight Board that it was shared as part of the national “Pink October” campaign for the prevention of breast cancer.

  • 2020-005-FB-UA: A user in the US was prompted by Facebook’s “On This Day” function to reshare a “memory” in the form of a post that the user made two years ago. The user reshared the content. The post (in English) is an alleged quote from Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, on the need to appeal to emotions and instincts, instead of intellect, and on the unimportance of truth. Facebook removed the content for violating its policy on dangerous individuals and organisations. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that the quote is important as the user considers the current US presidency to be following a fascist model

Public comments on the cases can be submitted via the FOB’s website — but only for seven days (closing at 8:00 Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, December 8, 2020).

The FOB says it “expects” to decide on each case — and “for Facebook to have acted on this decision” — within 90 days. So the first ‘results’ from the FOB, which only began reviewing cases in October, are almost certainly not going to land before 2021.

Panels comprised of five FOB members — including at least one from the region “implicated in the content” — will be responsible for deciding whether the specific pieces of content in question should stay down or be put back up.

Facebook’s outsourcing of a fantastically tiny subset of content moderation considerations to a subset of its so-called ‘Oversight Board’ has attracted plenty of criticism (including inspiring a mirrored unofficial entity that dubs itself the Real Oversight Board) — and no little cynicism.

Not least because it’s entirely funded by Facebook; structured as Facebook intended it to be structured; and with members chosen via a system devised by Facebook.

If it’s radical change you’re looking for, the FOB is not it.

Nor does the entity have any power to change Facebook policy — it can only issue recommendations (which Facebook can choose to entirely ignore).

Its remit does not extend to being able to investigate how Facebook’s attention-seeking business model influences the types of content being amplified or depressed by its algorithms, either.

And the narrow focus on content taken downs — rather than content that’s already allowed on the social network — skews its purview, as we’ve pointed out before.

So you won’t find the board asking tough questions about why hate groups continue to flourish and recruit on Facebook, for example, or robustly interrogating how much succour its algorithmic amplification has gifted to the antivaxx movement.  By design, the FOB is focused on symptoms, not the nation-sized platform ill of Facebook itself. Outsourcing a fantastically tiny subset of content moderations decisions can’t signify anything else.  

With this Facebook-commissioned pantomime of accountability the tech giant will be hoping to generate a helpful pipeline of distracting publicity — focused around specific and ‘nuanced’ content decisions — deflecting plainer but harder-hitting questions about the exploitative and abusive nature of Facebook’s business itself, and the lawfulness of its mass surveillance of Internet users, as lawmakers around the world grapple with how to rein in tech giants.  

The company wants the FOB to reframe discussion about the culture wars (and worse) that Facebook’s business model fuels as a societal problem — pushing a self-serving ‘fix’ for algorithmically fuelled societal division in the form of a few hand-picked professionals opining on individual pieces of content, leaving it free to continue defining the shape of the attention economy on a global scale. 

TechCrunch

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Where Will Meta Stock Be in 1 Year?

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Meta Platforms (META -3.08%) had an awful 2022. Revenue growth stalled at just the wrong time for the social media business, leading to collapsing earnings in the nine months that ended in late September. The company will close out 2022 with its Q4 earnings announcement in early February that’s expected to show a 3% sales drop.

Wall Street isn’t optimistic about the year ahead, either. Most Wall Street pros forecast that revenue will rise in the low-single-digit-percentage range as annual earnings decline for a second straight year.

Let’s look behind those headline projections for clues to where the stock might be headed as management works to turn the Facebook owner around.

Meta is growing faster

The immediate challenge for CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team is to get the business back on a growth footing. The good news is that this goal is more achievable than you might think after a glance at the company’s 4% year-over-year sales decline in Q3. Strip out currency exchange rate shifts and that figure becomes a 2% increase, after all.

Meta is still gaining users, too, even on its most mature platform, Facebook. It’s not hard to see how a sustained focus on engaging videos in the Reels service can contribute to improving sales trends in 2023. “The fundamentals are there for a return to stronger revenue growth,” Zuckerberg told investors in late October. Ideally, executives will back up those words with more concrete signs of a rebound in the early February update.

Meta has been slashing costs

Meta entered the 2022 year with some of the best finances in the tech industry. But the scale of its negative turn here has been hard to watch.

META Operating Margin (TTM) Chart

META Operating Margin (TTM) data by YCharts

Operating income through the first three quarters of the year dropped to $22.5 billion from $34.2 billion. Net income in that period fell by more than $10 billion to $18.5 billion.

Watch for Meta to be brutal in slashing costs this year so it can end this profitability slide. The company already got the ball rolling here as it closed offices and announced layoffs in some areas. Yet these moves likely won’t start affecting the bottom line in a big way until future years, perhaps when sales growth is accelerating again.

The big questions Meta needs to answer

Meta isn’t skimping on the investments that management thinks will drive growth over the next several years. The Reality Labs division, home to the Quest VR brand, is projecting accelerating losses in 2023 as spending ramps up in areas like hardware and the metaverse. The company should add more context about these projects when it closes out fiscal 2022 and issues its first detailed projection for the new year ahead.

The stock’s path in 2023 will depend in part on things that are outside Meta’s control, including the pace of advertising spending and consumers’ discretionary tech budgets.

Yet there’s still plenty the company can do to improve sales and profitability trends over the next several quarters. And if both metrics have started rebounding, Meta shares have a good chance at outperforming the market in 2023 after posting their worst year yet last year.

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Demitri Kalogeropoulos has positions in Meta Platforms. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Meta Platforms. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Facebook Could Be Messing With Your Phone. Here’s What We Know

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Facebook Could Be Messing With Your Phone. Here's What We Know

Battery life is one of the most important aspects of smartphone usage — without solid battery life, a phone becomes far less useful. Even worse are instances when a phone’s battery drains faster than expected for no apparent reason, which may result in the user being caught off guard with a dead battery while away from a charger.

That’s the issue that prompted Hayward’s complaint, according to The New York Post, which quotes the data scientist as saying, “I said to the manager, ‘This can harm somebody,’ and she said by harming a few we can help the greater masses.” Hayward was allegedly fired in November 2022 after refusing to engage in the negative testing practices, leading to the lawsuit soon after. The big question is whether this practice — assuming the allegations are accurate — is widespread at Meta. 

If so, what other kinds of negative testing may be taking place without a user’s knowledge, and how might those tests impact their experiences with the company’s products? Hayward claimed that during his time working for the company, Meta gave him a training document that allegedly described types of negative tests that may be conducted — the document was reportedly titled, “How to run thoughtful negative tests.” Unfortunately, specific examples of those tests weren’t provided, and Meta hasn’t commented on the allegations to clarify how its testing practices may impact users, if at all.

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Meta awarded researcher a $27,200 bug bounty for glitch that bypassed Facebook 2FA

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Meta awarded researcher a $27,200 bug bounty for glitch that bypassed Facebook 2FA

Facepalm: Meta recently implemented a centralized login system to make it easier for Instagram, Facebook, and Meta (VR) users to manage their accounts. Unfortunately, in setting up the 2FA system, engineers overlooked a glaring failure regarding attempt limitation.

A freshman security researcher named Gtm Mänôz noticed the bug in July 2022. While looking for his first bug bounty to present at BountyCon 2022, Mänôz started playing around with the Meta Accounts Center interface, which manages all Meta accounts, adding similar functionality as Google’s one-stop login for its various services (YouTube, Gmail, Docs, etc).

He noted that the page allowed users to associate a phone number with their accounts when linking them. Users simply enter their phone number and then the six-digit 2FA code the system sends them. However, Mänôz discovered that if the wrong code is entered, the Account Center just asks the user to reinput it instead of sending a new code.

Furthermore, there was no limit on how many failed attempts one could enter into the verification box. This oversight allowed Mänôz to brute force the 2FA on his own account to associate his phone number with another Facebook profile. The only warning comes after the phone number is stolen in an email from Meta to the victim informing them that it has been linked to another user’s account.

While the harmfulness of this exploit is mainly limited to a bothersome re-establishing of the owner’s phone number, it effectively disables 2FA on the victim’s account, albeit temporarily. Until the target takes action, they are open to password phishing attacks.

“Basically, the highest impact here was revoking anyone’s SMS-based 2FA just knowing the phone number,” Mänôz told TechCrunch.

Mänôz notified Meta of the bug in September, and it patched the vulnerability immediately. A spokesperson said that when Mänôz found the problem, the Meta Accounts Center was still in beta and only available to a small number of users. The representative also noted that Meta’s investigation revealed no spikes in the usage of that feature, indicating that hackers hadn’t exploited it.

Despite the relatively low-treat of the glitch, Meta awarded Mänôz a $27,200 bug bounty. Not too shabby for his first bug hunt.

Meta has stumbled a few times in the last couple of years regarding the login features of its various accounts. In 2021, it caused a mild panic when it logged everyone out of Facebook when reconfiguring the website. Last year, it purposefully locked many users out of their accounts for not enabling “Facebook Protect” by a deadline set by an official Meta email that looked suspiciously like a phishing scam.

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