Social Networks

Twitter Exploring Letting Everyone Get a Blue Tick For Verification, CEO Jack Dorsey Says ( 62

An anonymous reader shares a report: Twitter could one day allow everyone to be verified by one of the company's signature blue ticks, according to CEO Jack Dorsey. In a livestream on Periscope, Dorsey said Thursday that opening verification to more people could help to make sure people on the platform are who they say they are. "The intention is to open verification for everyone, and to do it in a way that is scalable where we (Twitter) are not in the way. And people can verify more facts about themselves and we don't have to be the judge or imply any bias on our part," Dorsey said. Twitter introduced the blue checkmark in 2009. It was initially available to public figures such as celebrities, but has since expanded to others like journalists and bloggers. Users need to apply for the blue tick, explaining why they need one.

Fake News Spreads Faster Than True News On Twitter -- Thanks To People, Not Bots ( 94

A new study shows that people are the prime culprits when it comes to the propagation of misinformation through social networks. Tweets containing falsehoods reach 1,500 people on Twitter six times faster than truthful tweets, the research reveals. Science Magazine reports: The lead author -- Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge -- and his colleagues collected 12 years of data from Twitter, starting from the social media platform's inception in 2006. Then they pulled out tweets related to news that had been investigated by six independent fact-checking organizations -- websites like PolitiFact, Snopes, and They ended up with a data set of 126,000 news items that were shared 4.5 million times by 3 million people, which they then used to compare the spread of news that had been verified as true with the spread of stories shown to be false. They found that whereas the truth rarely reached more than 1000 Twitter users, the most pernicious false news stories routinely reached well over 10,000 people. False news propagated faster and wider for all forms of news -- but the problem was particularly evident for political news, the team reports today in Science. At first the researchers thought that bots might be responsible, so they used sophisticated bot-detection technology to remove social media shares generated by bots. But the results didn't change: False news still spread at roughly the same rate and to the same number of people. By default, that meant that human beings were responsible for the virality of false news.

Scientists Prove That Truth is No Match For Fiction on Twitter ( 194

Researchers find fake news reaches users up to 20 times faster than factual content -- and real users are more likely to spread it than bots. From a report: "Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it," wrote Jonathan Swift in 1710. Now a group of scientists say they have found evidence Swift was right -- at least when it comes to Twitter. In the paper, published in the journal Science, three MIT researchers describe an analysis of a vast amount of Twitter data: more than 125,000 stories, tweeted more than 4.5 million times in total, all categorised as being true or false by at least one of six independent fact-checking organisations. The findings make for unhappy reading. "Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information," they write, "and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends or financial information."

How much further? "Whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1,000 people, the top 1% of false-news cascades routinely diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000 people," they write. In other words, true facts don't get retweeted, while too-good-to-be-true claims are viral gold. How much faster? "It took the truth about six times as long as falsehood to reach 1,500 people, and 20 times as long as falsehood to reach a cascade depth of 10" -- meaning that it was retweeted 10 times sequentially (so, for example, B reads A's feed and retweets a tweet, and C then reads B's feed and retweets the same tweet, all the way to J).


Snap Is Laying Off Around 100 Engineers 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Snap is laying off about 100 engineers -- nearly 10 percent of the team -- CNBC has learned. The company has seen smaller rounds of layoffs in recent months in its marketing, recruiting and content divisions. These layoffs would be Snap's largest yet and the first to hit the company's engineers. The company last month rolled out the redesign of its pioneering photo messaging app. The redesign separated publisher content from content posted by friends and connections. Snap reported roughly 3,000 employees as of the December quarter and said in its first annual filing that it expected "headcount growth to continue for the foreseeable future."

Facebook's VPN Service Onavo Protect Collects Personal Data -- Even When It's Switched Off ( 67

Security researcher Will Strafach took a look at Onavo Protect, a newly released VPN service from Facebook: I found that Onavo Protect uses a Packet Tunnel Provider app extension, which should consistently run for as long as the VPN is connected, in order to periodically send the following data to Facebook ( as the user goes about their day:
When user's mobile device screen is turned on and turned off.
Total daily Wi-Fi data usage in bytes (Even when VPN is turned off).
Total daily cellular data usage in bytes (Even when VPN is turned off).
Periodic beacon containing an "uptime" to indicate how long the VPN has been connected.


Sri Lanka Blocks Facebook, Instagram To Prevent Spread of Hate Speech ( 123

Sri Lanka has blocked social media websites Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to avoid the spread of hate speech in the country, local media reported on Wednesday. From the report: Even though there is no official confirmation from the authorities, the Cabinet Spokesman Minister Rajitha Senaratne on Wednesday said the government has decided to block access to certain social media. Telecom Regulatory Commission (TRC) has started to monitor all social media platforms to curb hate speech related to communal riots escalated in Kandy district. Telecommunication service providers (ISPs) have also restricted internet access in Kandy district on the instructions of the TRC.

Silicon Valley Is Over, Says Silicon Valley ( 304

An anonymous reader shares a New York Times report: In recent months, a growing number of tech leaders have been flirting with the idea of leaving Silicon Valley. Some cite the exorbitant cost of living in San Francisco and its suburbs, where even a million-dollar salary can feel middle class. Others complain about local criticism of the tech industry and a left-wing echo chamber that stifles opposing views. And yet others feel that better innovation is happening elsewhere. "I'm a little over San Francisco," said Patrick McKenna, the founder of High Ridge Venture Partners who was also on the bus tour. "It's so expensive, it's so congested, and frankly, you also see opportunities in other places." Mr. McKenna, who owns a house in Miami in addition to his home in San Francisco, told me that his travels outside the Bay Area had opened his eyes to a world beyond the tech bubble. "Every single person in San Francisco is talking about the same things, whether it's 'I hate Trump' or 'I'm going to do blockchain and Bitcoin,'" he said. "It's the worst part of the social network."

[...] Complaints about Silicon Valley insularity are as old as the Valley itself. Jim Clark, the co-founder of Netscape, famously decamped for Florida during the first dot-com era, complaining about high taxes and expensive real estate. Steve Case, the founder of AOL, has pledged to invest mostly in start-ups outside the Bay Area, saying that "we've probably hit peak Silicon Valley." But even among those who enjoy living in the Bay Area, and can afford to do so comfortably, there's a feeling that success has gone to the tech industry's head. "Some of the engineers in the Valley have the biggest egos known to humankind," Mr. Khanna, the Silicon Valley congressman, said during a round-table discussion with officials in Youngstown.


Facebook Asks Users: Should We Allow Men To Ask Children For Sexual Images? ( 386

Alex Hern, writing for The Guardian: Facebook has admitted it was a "mistake" to ask users whether paedophiles requesting sexual pictures from children should be allowed on its website. On Sunday, the social network ran a survey for some users asking how they thought the company should handle grooming behaviour. "There are a wide range of topics and behaviours that appear on Facebook," one question began. "In thinking about an ideal world where you could set Facebook's policies, how would you handle the following: a private message in which an adult man asks a 14-year-old girl for sexual pictures." The options available to respondents ranged from "this content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it" to "this content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it." A second question asked who should decide the rules around whether or not the adult man should be allowed to ask for such pictures on Facebook. Options available included "Facebook users decide the rules by voting and tell Facebook" and "Facebook decides the rules on its own."

Google's Slack Competitor 'Hangouts Chat' Comes Out of Beta ( 52

Frederic Lardinois reports via TechCrunch: Hangouts Chat, Google's take on modern workplace communication, is now generally available and is becoming a core part of G Suite. Hangouts Chat was first announced at Google Cloud Next 2017, together with Hangouts Meet. While Meet went right into public availability, though, Chat went into an invite-only preview. Now, Google is rolling Chat out to all G Suite users over the course of the next seven days (so if you don't see it yet, don't despair). For all intents and purposes, Hangouts Chat is Google's take on Slack, Microsoft Teams and similar projects. Since Google first announced this project, Atlassian also joined the fray with the launch of Stride. Like its competitors, Chat is available on iOS, Android and the web.

Chat currently supports 28 languages and each room can have up to 8,000 members. What's maybe just as important, though, is that Google has already built an ecosystem of partners that are integrating with Chat by offering their own bots. They include the likes of Xero, RingCentral, UberConference, Salesforce, Zenefits,, Jira, Trello, Wrike and Kayak. There's even a Giphy bot. Developers can also build their own bots and integrate their own services with Chat.


EU Warns Tech Giants To Remove Terror Content in 1 Hour -- or Else ( 153

The European Union issued internet giants an ultimatum to remove illegal online terrorist content within an hour, or risk facing new EU-wide laws. From a report: The European Commission on Thursday issued a set of recommendations for companies and EU nations that apply to all forms of illegal internet material, "from terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement. Considering that terrorist content is most harmful in the first hours of its appearance online, all companies should remove such content within one hour from its referral as a general rule.â The commission last year called upon social media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and Google owner Alphabet, to develop a common set of tools to detect, block and remove terrorist propaganda and hate speech. Thursday's recommendations aim to "further step up" the work already done by governments and push firms to "redouble their efforts to take illegal content off the web more quickly and efficiently."

Twitter Asks For Help Fixing Its Toxicity Problem ( 155

Engadget: Twitter has come under a lot of fire in recent years for issues ranging from not doing enough to stop harassment on its platform to allowing foreign actors to sow political discord. In the past, the company has tweaked its tools, giving individuals more options when it comes to controlling what they're exposed to online, as well as updated its guidelines a handful of times. But today, Twitter announced it's trying out another route -- asking people outside of the company to propose ways that it can promote healthy, open and civil conversations online. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted today that the company isn't proud of how some have taken advantage of its service, specifically calling out troll armies, misinformation campaigns and bots. And he added that Twitter has been accused of apathy, censorship and political bias as it has attempted to fix its problems.

Snap Said To Skip Bonuses, Combat Morale Slump After Rough Year ( 16

An anonymous reader shares a report: On Wednesday, Snap (parent company of messaging service Snapchat) sent employees a survey asking a broad set of questions to understand what they're happy about, what they want to improve, and what they want to say, anonymously, one year after the company's initial public offering. Grievances will be aired. Just last month, the company reported revenue that beat Wall Street's projections for the first time, causing the stock to surge 47 percent. Internally, the picture isn't as celebratory. The year involved a complete rethinking of the advertising business, an exodus of top executives, a broadly critiqued redesign of the Snapchat photo-sharing application and stiff competition from Facebook's Instagram, leaving the shares close to their IPO price. While Snap topped Wall Street's estimates last quarter, employees were told they didn't beat internal goals -- and wouldn't be getting cash bonuses, according to people familiar with the matter.

Snap's internal targets weren't defined for employees, but that wasn't a surprise at a company where Chief Executive Officer Evan Spiegel tightly controls aspects of the business he cares about -- especially the spread of information, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. There is a sense among employees that since going public, Snap has only become more beholden to the one shareholder who matters: Spiegel.


YouTube's New Moderators Mistakenly Pull Right-Wing Channels ( 277

In December, said it would assign more than 10,000 people to moderate content in an attempt to curb its child exploitation problem. Today, Bloomberg reports that those new moderators mistakenly removed several videos and some channels from right-wing, pro-gun video producers and outlets in the midst of a nationwide debate on gun control. From the report: Some YouTube channels recently complained about their accounts being pulled entirely. On Wednesday, the Outline highlighted accounts, including Titus Frost, that were banned from the video site. Frost tweeted on Wednesday that a survivor of the shooting, David Hogg, is an actor. Jerome Corsi of right-wing conspiracy website Infowars said on Tuesday that YouTube had taken down one of his videos and disabled his live stream. Shutting entire channels would have marked a sweeping policy change for YouTube, which typically only removes channels in extreme circumstances and focuses most disciplinary action on specific videos. But YouTube said some content was taken down by mistake. The site didn't address specific cases and it's unclear if it meant to take action on the accounts of Frost and Corsi. "As we work to hire rapidly and ramp up our policy enforcement teams throughout 2018, newer members may misapply some of our policies resulting in mistaken removals," a YouTube spokeswoman wrote in an email. "We're continuing to enforce our existing policies regarding harmful and dangerous content, they have not changed. We'll reinstate any videos that were removed in error."

China Bans Letter N From Internet as Xi Jinping Extends Grip on Power ( 196

Speaking of things the Chinese government has been censoring in the country, The Guardian reports: It is the 14th letter in the English alphabet and, in Scrabble, the springboard for more than 600 8-letter words. But for the Communist party of China it is also a subversive and intolerable character that was this week banished from the internet as Chinese censors battled to silence criticism of Xi Jinping's bid to set himself up as ruler for life. The contravening consonant was perhaps the most unusual victim of a crackdown targeting words, phrases and even solitary letters censors feared might be used to attack Beijing's controversial decision to abolish constitutional term limits for China's president. The Communist party has painted the move -- which experts say paves the way for Xi to become a dictator for life -- as an expression of overwhelming popular support for China's strongman leader. However, there has been widespread online push-back in China since it was announced on Sunday on the eve of an annual political congress in Beijing.

China Censors Social Media Responses To Proposal To Abolish Presidential Terms ( 163

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Negative social media reactions in China toward the government's interest in abolishing presidential term limits have sparked a crackdown on memes since Sunday evening. China's constitution currently restricts the president and vice-president to 10 years of leadership, meaning that President Xi Jinping would have been out of power by 2023. The Party's Central Committee proposed removing a phrase in the constitution that stated the two leaders would "serve no more than two consecutive terms," according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. Authorities will vote on the proposal in March. Many took to social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo with Winnie the Pooh memes, as the animated bear resembles President Xi Jinping to some degree. Winnie the Pooh has been associated with Xi for years and this week, he donned a crown and sat on a throne, enjoying his honey pot. These memes and social media posts were then taken down, hours after the Committee's announcement, signaling that the public's reaction was more unfavorable than authorities predicted. An assortment of phrases have been filtered out by new censors, including "constitution amendment," "re-elected," "proclaim oneself as emperor," and "two term limit." The lag time between the censorship and the initial proposal indicates authorities expected the public to react less critically.
The Internet

US House Passes Bill To Penalize Websites For Sex Trafficking ( 190

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Thomson Reuters Foundation News: The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation to make it easier to penalize operators of websites that facilitate online sex trafficking, chipping away at a bedrock legal shield for the technology industry. The bill's passage marks one of the most concrete actions in recent years from the U.S. Congress to tighten regulation of internet firms, which have drawn heavy scrutiny from lawmakers in both parties over the past year due to an array of concerns regarding the size and influence of their platforms. The House passed the measure 388-25. It still needs to pass the U.S. Senate, where similar legislation has already gained substantial support, and then be signed by President Donald Trump before it can become law.

Several major internet companies, including Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook Inc, had been reluctant to support any congressional effort to dent what is known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a decades-old law that protects them from liability for the activities of their users. But facing political pressure, the internet industry slowly warmed to a proposal that gained traction in the Senate last year, and eventually endorsed it after it gained sizable bipartisan support. The legislation is a result of years of law-enforcement lobbying for a crackdown on the online classified site, which is used for sex advertising. It would make it easier for states and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep exploitative material off their platforms.


Facebook Silently Enables Facial Recognition Abilities For Users Outside EU, Canada ( 70

Facebook is now informing users around the world that it's rolling out facial recognition features. Users in the European Union and Canada will not be notified because laws restrict this type of activity in those areas. Neowin reports: With the new tools, you'll be able to find photos that you're in but haven't been tagged in; they'll help you protect yourself against strangers using your photo; and Facebook will be able to tell people with visual impairments who's in their photos and videos. By default, Facebook warns that this feature is enabled but can be switched off at any time; additionally, the firm says it may add new capabilities at any time. In its initial statement, Facebook said the following about the impersonation protections it was introducing: "We want people to feel confident when they post pictures of themselves on Facebook so we'll soon begin using face recognition technology to let people know when someone else uploads a photo of them as their profile picture. We're doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook."

Google Releases Info On 2.4 Million 'Right To Be Forgotten' Requests ( 69

According to Google's latest transparency report, the company has received 2.4 million "right to be forgotten" requests since 2014, most of which came from private individuals. Engadget reports: Europe's biggest court passed the right to be forgotten law in 2014, compelling the tech titan to remove personal info from its search engine upon request. In the report, Google has revealed that it complied with 43.3 percent of all the requests it's gotten and has also detailed the nature of those takedown pleas. France, Germany and the UK apparently generated 51 percent of all the URL delisting appeals. Overall, 89 percent of the takedown pleas came from private individuals: Non-government figures such as celebrities submitted 41,213 of the URLs in Google's pile, while politicians and government officials submitted 33,937. As Gizmodo noted, though, there's a small group of law firms and reputation management services submitting numerous pleas, suggesting the rise of reputation-fixing business in the region.

Out of those 2.4 million requests, 19.1 percent are directory URLs, while news websites and social networks only make up 17.6 and 11.6 percent of them. Majority of the URLs submitted for removal are random online destinations that don't fall under any of the previous categories. As for the takedown's reasons, it looks 18.1 percent of the submissions want their professional info scrubbed, 7.7 percent want info they previously posted online themselves to be removed and 6.1 percent want their crimes hidden from search.


Facebook's Mandatory Anti-Malware Scan Is Invasive and Lacks Transparency ( 56

Louise Matsakis, writing for Wired: The internet is full of Facebook users frustrated with how the company handles malware threats. For nearly four years, people have complained about Facebook's anti-malware scan on forums, Twitter, Reddit, and on personal blogs. The problems appear to have gotten worse recently. While the service used to be optional, Facebook now requires it if it flags your device for malware. And according to screenshots reviewed by WIRED from people recently prompted to run the scan, Facebook also no longer allows every user to select what type of device they're on. The malware scans likely only impact a relatively small population of Facebook's billions of users, some of whose computers may genuinely be infected. But even a fraction of Facebook's users still potentially means millions of impacted people.

The mandatory scan has caused widespread confusion and frustration; WIRED spoke to people who had been locked out of their accounts by the scan, or simply baffled by it, on four different continents. The mandatory malware scan has downsides beyond losing account access. Facebook users also frequently report that the feature is poorly designed, and inconsistently implemented. In some cases, if a different user logs onto Facebook from the same device, they sometimes won't be greeted with the malware message. Similarly, if the "infected" user simply switches browsers, the message also appears to occasionally go away.


23 Attorneys General Refile Challenge To FCC Net Neutrality Repeal ( 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A coalition of 22 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia on Thursday refiled legal challenges intended to block the Trump administration's repeal of landmark rules designed to ensure a free and open internet from taking effect. The Federal Communications Commission officially published its order overturning the net neutrality rules in the Federal Register on Thursday, a procedural step that allows for the filing of legal challenges. The states, along with web browser developer Mozilla and video-sharing website Vimeo, had filed petitions preserving their right to sue in January, but agreed to withdraw them last Friday and wait for the FCC's publication. The attorneys general argue that the FCC cannot make "arbitrary and capricious" changes to existing policies and that it misinterpreted and disregarded "critical record evidence on industry practices and harm to consumers and businesses." The White House Office of Management and Budget still must sign off on some aspects of the FCC reversal before it takes legal effect. That could take months.

Slashdot Top Deals