Facebook announces latest step in censorship campaign, prioritizing “local news”

by Will Morrow (WSWS repost)
Tuesday Feb 6th, 2018 9:09 AM

Facebook’s latest step aimed at censoring online information.

6 February 2018

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced January 29 that the social media platform will prioritize news from “local sources” in the News Feed displayed to users. The announcement is the third in a creeping roll-out of updates announced by Facebook since the start of the year aimed at censoring online information.

On January 12, Facebook reported that it would deprioritize news and political content—that is, display them less often…

—in favor of “personal moments.” One week later, Zuckerberg announced that of the news articles that are shown to users, the News Feed will prioritize those published by what it called “trustworthy” sources, meaning pro-establishment outlets such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Zuckerberg’s post announcing the most recent change made little effort to conceal its political motivation. It would serve to “turn down the temperature on the more divisive issues and instead focus on concrete local issues,” he wrote, so that the population can “all make progress together.”

Presumably this means more information about school bake sales and sporting events, and less about the Trump administration, the global crisis of capitalism, and the growing danger of world war.

Zuckerberg apparently regrets the great technological advance that created the “World Wide Web” and made it possible for people on every continent to communicate with each other rapidly and without corporate and government censors controlling what they say. He prefers the posture of the ostrich with its head stuck firmly in the ground.

The post is filled with the Orwellian newspeak used to describe all of Facebook’s censorship measures. Walling users off from being able to read about events outside their immediate vicinity will help “build community—both on and offline,” and ensure that Facebook “isn’t just fun but also good for your well-being and for society.”

The Facebook billionaire does not want people to have access to unfiltered information on such questions as the United States government preparation to wage nuclear war against North Korea, Russia and China, government censorship of the Internet and spying on the population, mass demonstrations against immigration raids, police violence, workers strikes, or details about growing levels of social inequality, including the fact that five multi-billionaires (Zuckerberg is one) own as much wealth as half the world’s population.

While the change will initially apply to US Facebook accounts, Zuckerberg states that the “goal is to expand to more countries this year.” Pointing to further censorship announcements still to come, Zuckerberg concludes with the note that he is “looking forward to sharing more updates soon.”

There are more than 2 billion Facebook users around the world, the majority of whom access news via the social media platform. Approximately 45 percent of the American population, or 145 million people, access the news on Facebook—the highest news readership rate of any social media platform—according to a Pew Research Center study from November 2017.

Millions of people turned to independent and alternative news publications via social media precisely because it provided a means to circumvent the establishment media, which have become popularly and correctly identified as pro-government propaganda outlets. According to a 2016 Pew Research poll, the American population’s trust in the media had fallen to 32 percent in that year, the lowest level on record.

By confining users to “local news,” the social media giants are seeking to wind back the clock to the days when the population had access to the news mainly through local newspapers, and could find about world events only through the officially sanctioned corporate press.

Zuckerberg’s announcement explains that publishers will be promoted according to how many users in a “tight geographical area” click on links to their articles. This means of surfacing content explicitly demotes web sites which by their nature are oriented to a national or international readership, such as the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), which is directed to the world working class.

It also enforces the monopoly of giant media conglomerates, which own the vast majority of smaller, localised publications. The concentration of newspaper ownership has developed enormously over the past two decades, via an ongoing process of mergers and acquisitions. According to newspaperownership.com, a handful of top private media corporations collectively owned 1,449 newspapers in 2014, up from 1,128 just 10 years earlier. Many more local newspapers have simply closed their doors.

Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it was testing a new section of its mobile phone app called “Today in,” which will include only local news, events and announcements. The test is being conducted in only six US cities so far. All news publishers who appear there must first be approved and vetted by Facebook’s News Partnerships team.

Facebook’s latest announcement also coincided with Google’s January 26 restricted release of a new smartphone app, Bulletin, to promote what Google calls “hyperlocal” news, which it defines as news “about your community, for your community.”

The application will allow users to publish stories directly to the web through Google, without the need to create their own blog, web page, or use social media. What this will mean in practise is that Google will have even more direct control over the hosting of independent news content not vetted by the state-sanctioned, corporate-controlled media outlets.

Google is already engaged in systematically blacklisting socialist and left-wing news publications, particularly the WSWS, by rigging results from its search engine to block links to specified web domains. This change was initiated by Google in April 2017 under the banner of combating “fake news” and promoting what it called “authoritative” content.

The purpose of the ongoing changes was made clear in a post by Zuckerberg on Wednesday accompanying the company’s latest earnings report. The report showed that Facebook use actually declined for the first time over the past year, a fact that Zuckerberg welcomes in his post. Zuckerberg states that Facebook is taking action to demote “viral videos,” because such material—which includes videos of police violence and war crimes—is not “good for people’s well-being and society.” This argument complements the McCarthyite campaign being waged by the Democratic Party, intelligence agencies and technology companies, labelling all political opposition in the United States as the outcome of Russian influence and “fake news” promoted by the Kremlin.

The post further notes that Facebook is using artificial intelligence to closely monitor every photo, video, message and post on the platform, to “understand all the content on Facebook,” in what amounts to surveillance on billions of people. (See: “From Facebook to Policebook”)

The avalanche of new measures for mass political censorship and surveillance, now being released on a weekly and even daily basis, testifies to the correctness and urgency of the World Socialist Web Site ’s open letter to socialist, left-wing and anti-war organizations, individuals and web sites, “For an International Coalition against Internet Censorship.” We urge our readers to read and widely share the letter and to take up this fight.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/06…

CONTINUE READING…

Sen. Cory Booker was LIVE!

cory booker live

Cory Booker was live.


I’m excited to join Representatives Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna right now for a live press call announcing the House introduction of the #MarijuanaJusticeAct—a bill that I introduced in the Senate late last year.

The Marijuana Justice Act aims to end the federal prohibition on of marijuana in the United States by legalizing marijuana at the federal level, and incentivizing states to legalize it at the state level if they disproportionately arrest or incarcerate poor people or people of color. For decades, the failed War on Drugs has locked up millions of nonviolent drug offenders—especially for marijuana-related offenses—at an incredible cost of lost human potential, torn apart families and communities, and taxpayer dollars. The effects of the drug war have had a disproportionately devastating impact on Americans of color and the poor. Our bill aims to right some of the wrongs of our failed War on Drugs—particularly especially for those communities most hardest-hit by these failed policies—and do the right thing for public safety while reducing our overflowing prison population.

SOURCE LINK

VIEW THE LIVE VIDEO!

https://www.facebook.com/corybooker/videos/10157597581027228/

LIVE! Medicare for All National Town Hall–with Sen. Bernie Sanders!

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text

Medicare for All National Town Hall

Public

· Hosted by The Young Turks and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders



Details

With the introduction of the Medicare for All Act last year, Sen. Bernie Sanders and 137 of his colleagues in Congress began the long struggle to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country not to guarantee health care to all its people.

Already, 60 percent of the American people want to expand Medicare to provide health insurance to every one, but many Americans still do not know how a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system would work in the United States.

To answer that question and more, Sen. Sanders and leading digital outlets NowThis, ATTN: and The Young Turks are partnering on a groundbreaking Medicare for All Town Hall event January 23 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

For the first time, leading digital outlets will come together to do what cable channels and network news will not– engage in an in-depth conversation about one of the issues that matter most to Americans, their health care. Streamed live across multiple social media channels, Sen. Sanders and leading health care experts will take questions about Medicare for All from people around the country and discuss how universal health care would change the American system.

Location: Capitol Visitors’ Center Congressional Auditorium (CVC-200)

Seating is first-come, first-served. Please arrive early to ensure a seat. No posters or signs will be permitted. ASL interpreters will be present at the event.

SOURCE LINK

https://www.facebook.com/events/923471961163492/

https://www.sanders.senate.gov/download/medicare-for-all-act?id=6CA2351C-6EAE-4A11-BBE4-CE07984813C8&download=1&inline=file

“Your ad wasn’t approved because the body/title text used in the ad promotes the use or sale of illegal drugs,”

Why Did Facebook Block Our Reporting On Hemp?

By Jeff Young 18 hours ago

 

 

Hey, Mark Zuckerberg, can we talk about hemp? No, really, I’m asking: can we? Because a recent experience with Facebook left the impression that reporting on the plant used in products from soap to rope is taboo. Verboten. The leaf that dare not speak its name.

This bit of anti-social media behavior came after ReSource reporter Nicole Erwin profiled Kentucky farmers participating in a state-run research program on hemp, once a commodity in Kentucky. Growers hope to revive the crop but face frustrating limitations because hemp is still lumped in — unfairly, proponents argue — with drugs such as marijuana.

A bill pending in Congress would ease these restrictions but for now the farmers are stuck in legal limbo, unable to adequately grow or process hemp in the U.S. while a multimillion dollar market goes to imports.

When ReSource partner station WKMS in Murray, Kentucky, sought to promote Erwin’s story on Facebook we discovered yet another obstacle: Even talking about the issue can trigger a ban. WKMS News Director Matt Markgraf tried to “boost” a Facebook post on the story and learned that his ad was not allowed.

“Your ad wasn’t approved because the body/title text used in the ad promotes the use or sale of illegal drugs,” read a message from Facebook.

Puzzled, Markgraf wrote a patient appeal, explaining that the ad did not promote anything other than a piece of journalism “about the misconception of illegality regarding hemp v. marijuana.”  

But Facebook was having none of it.

“Such ads violate local laws,” came the reply. “We have zero tolerance towards such ads…This decision is final.”

Markgraf noted the irony at work here: A story questioning hemp’s uncertain legal status was blocked because of…hemp’s uncertain legal status. He also found instant empathy with the hemp grower’s dilemma.

“This clearly underscores the challenges that the emerging industry faces in overcoming the plant’s stigma,” Markgraf said.

It’s hard to see how Erwin’s story could be construed as a sales pitch for a drug. Hemp products include cooking oils, cosmetics, and clothing but lack any significant amount of the intoxicating substance found in marijuana. Proponents say a smoker would need a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole to catch a buzz.

We wondered if anyone at Facebook even reads the appeals. Was Markgraf actually communicating with a person or just arguing with an algorithm?

“If they had actually read the first couple of sentences in the story, I think they would have reconsidered the decision,” Markgraf said.

The company did not respond to requests for comment (beyond the comments included in response to Markgraf’s appeal).

In the past few months Facebook has come under fire for alleged political bias, prompting a meeting with conservative lawmakers this spring. And the platform has become such an important means of connecting with an audience that any barrier to sharing stories can cause heartburn for news outlets. A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that about 60 percent of Facebook users get their news there. A recent company announcement of changes in the algorithm that determines what content users see was enough to send shudders through the publishing industry.  

That’s why our little experience with the hemp story seems like the seed of something that could grow problematic. If Facebook is blithely blocking attempts to distribute news stories on topics it deems off-limits, this could have implications far beyond the farm.

CONTINUE READING…

On Good Friday, Presidential Election 2016 Commentaries are open for discussion in the USMJPARTY GROUP…

iORIGINAL 239x211

 

March 24, 2016

 

The U.S. Marijuana Party has a Public Group on Facebook which will host a COMMENT SESSION concerning the 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION on GOOD FRIDAY, March 25th.

 

Beginning at 8:00 AM CST tomorrow, March 25th, 2016, the FACEBOOK GROUP of the USMjParty will host a Comment Session on the upcoming Presidential Race for the Whitehouse.

It is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, however you must approved as a MEMBER in the GROUP in order to SUBMIT a POST or WRITE a COMMENT.

IF YOU would like to join us in this very important discussion tomorrow, you still have time to join Our 17,000+ Members at the GROUP LINK below.

We look forward to seeing all of our MEMBERS ideas and commentaries on this most very important ELECTION of the 21st Century!

HISTORY is about to be made this year in the United States!

YOU have a voice in the outcome of this ELECTION!

Above all else PLEASE make sure that you are REGISTERED TO VOTE and UTILIZE that Vote in this ELECTION!

We are looking forward to seeing you all there!

 

U.S. MARIJUANA PARTY FACEBOOK GROUP LINK – JOIN THE FACEBOOK GROUP HERE

 

Home 

 REGISTER TO VOTE AT THIS LINK.

 

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NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIPTION FOR THE USMJPARTY IS HERE.

 

WEBSITE REGISTRATION FOR THE USMJPARTY IS HERE.

 

MAKE A DONATION HERE TO SUPPORT THE COSTS OF WEBSITES AND OTHER EXPENSES ASSOCIATED WITH THE USMJPARTY.  PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS DONATION IS NOT TAX DEDUCTIBLE AND DOES NOT GO TO SUPPORT ANY CANDIDATE FOR OFFICE.

 

U.S. MARIJUANA PARTY ON CAFEPRESS IS HERE. MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS AVAILABLE INCLUDING T-SHIRTS AND CAPS.

 

STATE CHAPTER DIRECTORY HERE

 

 

May     Bill 9

  Sheree Krider                  “Wayward” Bill Chengelis

  Organizer                           Head Chairperson

Casper Leitch: FaceBook is censoring activists

 

 

https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net/hprofile-ak-prn2/v/t1.0-1/c30.30.369.369/s50x50/47043_511083858956206_398116326_n.jpg?oh=f896645c351f283b2527e68a676eab71&oe=54F5E0FD&__gda__=1424027838_418020e8d77dffc03b7386621cc9aabd  FaceBook is censoring activists – PLEASE visit my profile often and share my links!

April 25, 2013 at 5:11pm

At first, I thought it was just ME.  But, over time I have encountered SEVERAL activists on FaceBook who SUDDENLY get the same WARNING messages from FaceBook that I have been receiving.  It would seem, to those of us who attempt to reach a LARGE number of our friends, that FaceBook is doing EVERYTHING it can to prohibit the  sharing of REAL information.
When FaceBook forced us all to use it’s new TIMELINE FEATURE – it became impossible, at that point, to control who would have access to any thing and EVERY thing that is posted on the profiles of this social site.  If NOTHING ELSE, advertisers get access to our information – and we know that the government (ie. the DEA, FBI, CIA and HomeLand Security) have free access to our profiles and often times are reading our posts.
At that time, I removed ALL personal information from my profile…every bit of it – my private e-addy, my ph numbers, my real age, who my real family members are, date and place of birth information, current address, likes and dislikes, personal photos…every single bit of it and rebuilt my FaceBook personal profile into an electronic magazine focused on ending marijuana prohibition and preserving Freedom.
Members of the FaceBook community embraced my hard work and the number of friends I have quickly swelled to the 5,000 limit allowed by FaceBook.  Even tho I am the host of a global radio program with a listening audience of over 2-million people, I am still allowed to interact with ONLY 5,000 members of my audience on the worlds biggest SOCIAL MEDIA website.
To overcome THAT obstacle I started the ‘TIME 4 HEMP – LIVE’ page that people have liked and now visit for news in the world of hemp/marijuana that is found at: https://www.facebook.com/Time4HempLIVE
On this page, I post information that is MOSTLY about marijuana with a few posts about our loss of Freedoms.  On my profile page I have gone CRAZY and put up posts about marijuana AND A GOOD NUMBER about our loss of Freedoms along with some links to great music.
I have many well informed friends who post fantastic information that I feel needs to be shared with ALL of my other friends….it seems that FaceBook does NOT agree.
When FaceBook first went to TimeLine – several of my friends requested that I tag them in my posts – and I did.  FaceBook blocked me one day from tagging any of my photos because I was “tagging too many people” in them.  I had about 50 friends that liked being tagged in my images because the images would appear on their profiles and the information attached that I was wanting to share could also reach their friends.  As of now, I am allowed to tag only 4 people per image – if I attempt to do more than that, I can then not tag anyone in an image for 30-days.
To overcome THAT obstacle, I began posting images and URL’s onto my profile and then would re-post them onto the profiles of my friends.  FaceBook won’t allow me to re-post the same image or URL now more than 8 times before they start blocking that option.
To overcome THAT obstacle, I attached my Twitter feed to my FaceBook account and began visiting the profile pages of my friends and sharing THEIR information onto my Profile so my friends could review it and….well, wouldn’t you know it….now FaceBook tells me that I am ”over using the SHARE button and need to slow down other wise be blocked from using this feature for 30-days” and if I should attempt to share more than 25 URL’s or images in about an hours time – I am blocked form using the share button – FIRST for 4-hours and if I keep OVER USING THE SHARE BUTTON that day – then I’m am blocked from using it for 30-days.
Now, I just post EVERY THING onto Twitter (and nearly 9,000 people follow the head-lines that I post at: https://twitter.com/time4hemp – check it out!) and have begun using the marijuana social site established by Todd McCormick more and more to interact with my friends.  The link to that is http://www.HEMP.xxx and is free to join AND does NOT limit how you interact with other members.
I have to say – FaceBook is very successful in censoring activists.  In order for any one to discover the information posted on this profile page – it is now COMPLETELY up to my friends to actually come to my profile page each day and review the new links that I have been able to successfully post to find the information and SHARE IT WITH THEIR FRIENDS.
Instead of being able to get a message out to the 5,000 friends that I have like I could when TimeLine FIRST began…..instead of being able to get a message out to the approximate 2,000 friends that I use to reach when TimeLine was just a few months old….instead of being able to get a message out to the approximate 300 friends that I use to reach when TimeLine was just a year old….instead of being able to get a message out to the approximate 150 friends that I use to reach up until this week – I can now reach about 30 people a day.  For every one else interested in the material I post – they MUST take time to visit my profile and then SHARE any information they discover to be of importance.
THIS IS WHY I AM ASKING that my friends visit my profile OFTEN and make it a point to share and re-post the material that you consider to be important. 
PLEASE READ:
The IRS is spying on you through Facebook, Twitter
http://www.bizpacreview.com/2013/04/08/irs-spying-on-you-through-facebook-twitter-60352
Does Facebook spy on you, even after you’re logged out?
http://www.spywarewarrior.org/newsflash/does-facebook-spy-on-you-even-after-youre-logged-out.html
The Government is Spying On You Through Facebook Right…Now
http://singularityhub.com/2011/05/18/the-government-is-spying-on-you-through-facebook-right-now/
Facebook’s Spying On You For a Good Cause
http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/facebook-s-reading-your-messages-but-it-s-for-a-good-cause#ixzz2RVe1aNki
The FBI Is Spying On You: On Facebook, Twitter & Myspace
http://www.thisis50.com/profiles/blogs/the-fbi-is-spying-on-you-on
Many people watch you every move on Facebook
http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/whos-watching-facebook-213557740.html

CASPER LEITCH ON FACEBOOK

Casper Leitch: FaceBook is censoring activists

https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net/hprofile-ak-prn2/v/t1.0-1/c30.30.369.369/s50x50/47043_511083858956206_398116326_n.jpg?oh=f896645c351f283b2527e68a676eab71&oe=54F5E0FD&__gda__=1424027838_418020e8d77dffc03b7386621cc9aabd  FaceBook is censoring activists – PLEASE visit my profile often and share my links!

April 25, 2013 at 5:11pm

At first, I thought it was just ME.  But, over time I have encountered SEVERAL activists on FaceBook who SUDDENLY get the same WARNING messages from FaceBook that I have been receiving.  It would seem, to those of us who attempt to reach a LARGE number of our friends, that FaceBook is doing EVERYTHING it can to prohibit the  sharing of REAL information.
When FaceBook forced us all to use it’s new TIMELINE FEATURE – it became impossible, at that point, to control who would have access to any thing and EVERY thing that is posted on the profiles of this social site.  If NOTHING ELSE, advertisers get access to our information – and we know that the government (ie. the DEA, FBI, CIA and HomeLand Security) have free access to our profiles and often times are reading our posts.
At that time, I removed ALL personal information from my profile…every bit of it – my private e-addy, my ph numbers, my real age, who my real family members are, date and place of birth information, current address, likes and dislikes, personal photos…every single bit of it and rebuilt my FaceBook personal profile into an electronic magazine focused on ending marijuana prohibition and preserving Freedom.
Members of the FaceBook community embraced my hard work and the number of friends I have quickly swelled to the 5,000 limit allowed by FaceBook.  Even tho I am the host of a global radio program with a listening audience of over 2-million people, I am still allowed to interact with ONLY 5,000 members of my audience on the worlds biggest SOCIAL MEDIA website.
To overcome THAT obstacle I started the ‘TIME 4 HEMP – LIVE’ page that people have liked and now visit for news in the world of hemp/marijuana that is found at: https://www.facebook.com/Time4HempLIVE
On this page, I post information that is MOSTLY about marijuana with a few posts about our loss of Freedoms.  On my profile page I have gone CRAZY and put up posts about marijuana AND A GOOD NUMBER about our loss of Freedoms along with some links to great music.
I have many well informed friends who post fantastic information that I feel needs to be shared with ALL of my other friends….it seems that FaceBook does NOT agree.
When FaceBook first went to TimeLine – several of my friends requested that I tag them in my posts – and I did.  FaceBook blocked me one day from tagging any of my photos because I was "tagging too many people" in them.  I had about 50 friends that liked being tagged in my images because the images would appear on their profiles and the information attached that I was wanting to share could also reach their friends.  As of now, I am allowed to tag only 4 people per image – if I attempt to do more than that, I can then not tag anyone in an image for 30-days.
To overcome THAT obstacle, I began posting images and URL’s onto my profile and then would re-post them onto the profiles of my friends.  FaceBook won’t allow me to re-post the same image or URL now more than 8 times before they start blocking that option.
To overcome THAT obstacle, I attached my Twitter feed to my FaceBook account and began visiting the profile pages of my friends and sharing THEIR information onto my Profile so my friends could review it and….well, wouldn’t you know it….now FaceBook tells me that I am ”over using the SHARE button and need to slow down other wise be blocked from using this feature for 30-days" and if I should attempt to share more than 25 URL’s or images in about an hours time – I am blocked form using the share button – FIRST for 4-hours and if I keep OVER USING THE SHARE BUTTON that day – then I’m am blocked from using it for 30-days.
Now, I just post EVERY THING onto Twitter (and nearly 9,000 people follow the head-lines that I post at: https://twitter.com/time4hemp – check it out!) and have begun using the marijuana social site established by Todd McCormick more and more to interact with my friends.  The link to that is http://www.HEMP.xxx and is free to join AND does NOT limit how you interact with other members.
I have to say – FaceBook is very successful in censoring activists.  In order for any one to discover the information posted on this profile page – it is now COMPLETELY up to my friends to actually come to my profile page each day and review the new links that I have been able to successfully post to find the information and SHARE IT WITH THEIR FRIENDS.
Instead of being able to get a message out to the 5,000 friends that I have like I could when TimeLine FIRST began…..instead of being able to get a message out to the approximate 2,000 friends that I use to reach when TimeLine was just a few months old….instead of being able to get a message out to the approximate 300 friends that I use to reach when TimeLine was just a year old….instead of being able to get a message out to the approximate 150 friends that I use to reach up until this week – I can now reach about 30 people a day.  For every one else interested in the material I post – they MUST take time to visit my profile and then SHARE any information they discover to be of importance.
THIS IS WHY I AM ASKING that my friends visit my profile OFTEN and make it a point to share and re-post the material that you consider to be important. 
PLEASE READ:
The IRS is spying on you through Facebook, Twitter
http://www.bizpacreview.com/2013/04/08/irs-spying-on-you-through-facebook-twitter-60352
Does Facebook spy on you, even after you’re logged out?
http://www.spywarewarrior.org/newsflash/does-facebook-spy-on-you-even-after-youre-logged-out.html
The Government is Spying On You Through Facebook Right…Now
http://singularityhub.co
m/2011/05/18/the-government-is-spying-on-you-through-facebook-right-now/

Facebook’s Spying On You For a Good Cause
http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/facebook-s-reading-your-messages-but-it-s-for-a-good-cause#ixzz2RVe1aNki
The FBI Is Spying On You: On Facebook, Twitter & Myspace
http://www.thisis50.com/profiles/blogs/the-fbi-is-spying-on-you-on
Many people watch you every move on Facebook
http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/whos-watching-facebook-213557740.html

CASPER LEITCH ON FACEBOOK

How Facebook Could End Up Controlling Everything You Watch and Read Online

 

How many of you are reading this because of a link you clicked on Facebook? In the online publishing industry (which WIRED obviously is part of), Facebook’s influence on site traffic—and therefore ad revenue—is difficult to overstate. Over the past year especially, “the homepage is dead” has become a standard line among media pundits. And more than anything else, it’s Facebook that killed it.

Given that links appear to be more clickable when shared on Facebook, online publishers have scrambled to become savvy gamers of Facebook’s News Feed, seeking to divine the secret rules that push some stories higher than others. But all this genuflection at the altar of Facebook’s algorithms may be but a prelude to a more fundamental shift in how content is produced, shared, and consumed online. Instead of going to all this trouble to get people to click a link on Facebook that takes them somewhere else, the future of Internet content may be a world in which no video, article, or cat GIF gallery lives outside of Facebook at all.

The prospect of Facebook becoming the Internet’s ultimate content cannibal got a big push earlier this week by New York Times media columnist David Carr. In his column Monday, Carr said Facebook is talking to some publishers about simply hosting their pages itself. Facebook’s apparent pitch is it’s already got a mobile experience users love, so why not cut out the extra click and deliver content more directly in a way audiences prefer? Oh, and Facebook will share the ad revenue.

Publishers likely will balk at ceding so much control to Facebook. But in the end, they may not have much choice. The arrangement might sound like a partnership at first, but it could end up like Amazon and the book industry. Book publishers may hate dealing with Amazon and resent its influence over their sales. But the last thing they would do is pull their books from Amazon. Thanks to its outsized leverage, Facebook’s ability to dictate terms to online publishers could wind up much the same.

Mobile Money

As other media companies struggle to make mobile advertising pay, Facebook has become the master of the medium. In third-quarter earnings results reported Tuesday, the company posted a record $3.2 billion in revenue. Of that, nearly $2 billion came from mobile advertising. Facebook’s soaring growth to more than 1.3 billion monthly active users closely parallels its growth in mobile users. What’s more, mobile-only users account for one-third of Facebook’s user base.

For struggling publishers, going all-in with Facebook and getting even a tiny piece of that mobile ad money might seem much more appealing than limping along alone—and not just because Facebook has a proven ability to monetize mobile traffic. A publisher willing to place all of its content within Facebook’s walls could theoretically see that loyalty rewarded with better, more frequent placement in more News Feeds. Meanwhile, publishers that stubbornly stay on the outside might see their links get less of a boost. As a result, their traffic could suffer.

To be sure, Facebook has a strong interest in ensuring good stuff appears in users’ feeds, regardless of where that content calls home. If crappy content creators alone opt into a Facebook-only platform, and Facebook only promotes that crappy content, users might flee to where the good stuff lives. But Facebook probably wouldn’t be so blatant anyway. Its efforts at control will be more subtle.

Feed Frenzy

In Facebook’s earnings call Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned the prominent role he sees for content in Facebook’s future:

Video is a very big priority. News is a very big priority, because a lot of people want to share that on Facebook already. And enabling public figures, whether they are celebrities, they are athletes, they are actors, or politicians or leaders in different kind of communities to get on Facebook and use the platform to distribute the content that they want.

So those are the three areas that you’ll probably see us investing the most in over the next year or so.

If Zuckerberg calls something a “big priority,” relevant companies best take notice. This is the same CEO who also said products don’t really get interesting until they have about 1 billion people using them. Facebook is now well past that threshold, which shareholders will be thankful to know means Zuckerberg finds it an interesting business. Which from a business standpoint means he’s unlikely to compromise.

What might an uncompromising approach to content look like? Imagine a publisher posts a YouTube link to Facebook and gets a few “likes” and clicks. Then imagine that same publisher uploads a video to Facebook, and gets a lot more views and “likes.” Maybe it’s a fluke. But over time, a pattern emerges. The videos posted straight to Facebook get watched more. Soon enough, all their videos are going straight to Facebook. Perhaps over time, the process repeats itself for other kinds of content.

Content With Facebook

For Zuckerberg, the business rationale behind encouraging such a transition isn’t sticking it to publishers but to YouTube’s parent company Google, which has as much interest in seeing content continuing living on the web as Facebook does in encouraging that content to migrate off it. For that matter, any company that commands outsize audience attention online probably is within Facebook’s sights. For instance, the company no doubt would love to monetize the hours you spend binge-watching on Netflix.

Enter Facebook’s deal with Hollywood studio Lionsgate, which is set to release five short films based on the blockbuster Twilight franchise exclusively on Facebook next year. Facebook may have built its empire on content generated by users. But that empire has become so effective at commanding attention online that Facebook has no reason not to try its hand at original and exclusive professional-grade content. Time spent on Facebook is money for Facebook. If an online shopping site can start making TV shows people will watch, Facebook could, too.

As for owning the future of content, Facebook already does. The company’s $2 billion purchase of virtual-reality headset maker Oculus might seem to be an extravagance in the context of Facebook as it looks and functions today. No one needs to friend you in 3-D. But as Facebook catches up to the web as a content platform, a mature, consumer-ready version of Oculus could catapult the company ahead. Not that Zuckerberg is in a hurry. He said he pictures somewhere between 50 million and 100 million Oculus headsets sold over the next 10 years.

By then, Zuckerberg will be just 40 years old. It’s only natural that he take the long view of his company’s future. “We’re going to be here for decades,” Zuckerberg told Wall Street analysts Tuesday. But when it comes to content, the more important question might be: will anyone else?

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DEA agent sued over Facebook decoy page

DEA agent sued over Facebook decoy page

This image obtained by The Associated Press shows a Facebook page for “Sondra Prince.” The Justice Department said Tuesday it is reviewing a woman’s complaint that a Drug Enforcement Administration agent set up a fake Facebook account using her identity. AP

 

WASHINGTON – The Drug Enforcement Administration set up a fake Facebook account using photographs and other personal information it took from the cellphone of a New York woman arrested in a cocaine case, to trick her friends and associates into revealing incriminating drug secrets.

The Justice Department initially defended the practice in court filings but now says it is reviewing whether the Facebook guise went too far.

Sondra Arquiett’s Facebook account looked as real as any other. It included photos of her posing on the hood of a sleek BMW and a close-up with her young son and niece. She even appeared to write that she missed her boyfriend, who was identified by his nickname.

But it wasn’t her. The account was the work of DEA Agent Timothy Sinnigen, Arquiett said in a federal lawsuit. The case is scheduled for trial next week in Albany, New York.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement Tuesday that officials are reviewing both the incident and the practice, although in court papers filed earlier in the case, the federal government defended it. Fallon declined to comment further because the case is pending.

Details of the case were first reported by the online news site Buzzfeed.

Arquiett was arrested in July 2010 on charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. She was accused of being part of a drug distribution ring run by her boyfriend, who had been previously indicted.

In a court filing in August, the Justice Department contended that while Arquiett didn’t directly authorize Sinnigen to create the fake account, she “implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in … ongoing criminal investigations.”

The government also contended that the Facebook account was not public. A reporter was able to access it early Tuesday, though it was later disabled.

A spokesman for Facebook declined Tuesday to comment on the legal dispute. Facebook’s own policies appear to prohibit the practice, telling users that “You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.”

Lawyers for Arquiett did not immediately respond to email and telephone messages from The Associated Press. Arquiett did not immediately respond to an email asking to discuss the case.

Arquiett said in her filing that she suffered “fear and great emotional distress” and was endangered because the fake page gave the impression that she was cooperating with Sinnigen’s investigation as he interacted online with “dangerous individuals he was investigating.”

The fate of Arquiett’s fight against the government’s use of her identity online is unclear.

A staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation – a civil liberties organization – Nate Cardozo, said the government’s rationale was “laughable.”

“If I’m cooperating with law enforcement, and law enforcement says, ‘Can I search your phone?’ and I hand it over to them, my expectation is that they will search the phone for evidence of a crime – not that they will take things that are not evidence off my phone and use it in another context,” Cardozo said,

Lawrence Friedman, a privacy and constitutional law professor at New England Law-Boston, a law school, said the Arquiett’s “privacy claim rises and falls on the extent to which she consented to what it is the government says she consented to.”

If Arquiett agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation and allow her phone to be used as part of that probe – as the government alleged in its court filing – then it would be harder for her to prove that her privacy rights were violated, Friedman said. If her phone were seized without consent, then she would have an easier claim.

“Basically, when you strike that kind of deal, you kind of have to play by the government’s rules,” Friedman said. “This is not the ordinary situation in which the person walking down the street can have their identity stolen by the government,” he said. “She was involved in a criminal investigation.”

AP

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The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post. We can’t let them make up the rules

 

Innocent people’s lives are being ruined. Why isn’t anyone watching the watchlist?

Arjun Sethi

theguardian.com, Saturday 30 August 2014 09.00 EDT

 

facebook surveillance illustration

Reasonable suspicion is based on a circular logic – people can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being suspected terrorists – that is ultimately backwards, and must be changed. Illustration: Joelle L / Flickr via Creative Commons Illustration: Joelle L / Flickr via Creative Commons

The US government’s web of surveillance is vast and interconnected. Now we know just how opaque, inefficient and discriminatory it can be.

As we were reminded again just this week, you can be pulled into the National Security Agency’s database quietly and quickly, and the consequences can be long and enduring. Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information.

This kind of data sharing, however, isn’t limited to the latest from Edward Snowden’s NSA files. It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors.

The watchlist tracks “known” and “suspected” terrorists and includes both foreigners and Americans. It’s also based on loose standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the US government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information – including a Facebook or Twitter post – to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist.

Of the 680,000 individuals on that FBI master list, roughly 40% have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation”, according to the Intercept. These individuals don’t even have a connection – as the government loosely defines it – to a designated terrorist group, but they are still branded as suspected terrorists.

The absurdities don’t end there. Take Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a population under 100,000 that is known for its large Arab American community – and has more watchlisted residents than any other city in America except New York.

These eye-popping numbers are largely the result of the US government’s use of a loose standard – so-called “reasonable suspicion” – in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted.

Reasonable suspicion is such a low standard because it requires neither “concrete evidence” nor “irrefutable evidence”. Instead, an official is permitted to consider “reasonable inferences” and “to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience”.

Consider a real world context – actual criminal justice – where an officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop a person in the street and ask him or her a few questions. Courts have controversially held that avoiding eye contact with an officer, traveling alone, and traveling late at night, for example, all amount to reasonable suspicion.

This vague criteria is now being used to label innocent people as terrorism suspects.

Moreover, because the watchlist isn’t limited to known, actual terrorists, an official can watchlist a person if he has reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is a suspected terrorist. It’s a circular logic – individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being suspected terrorists – that is ultimately backwards, and must be changed.

The government’s self-mandated surveillance guidance also includes loopholes that permit watchlisting without even showing reasonable suspicion. For example, non-citizens can be watchlisted for being associated with a watchlisted person – even if their relationship with that person is entirely innocuous. Another catch-all exception allows non-citizens to be watchlisted, so long as a source or tipster describes the person as an “extremist”, a “militant”, or in similar terms, and the “context suggests a nexus to terrorism”. The FBI’s definition of “nexus”, in turn, is far more nebulous than they’re letting on.

Because the watchlist designation process is secret, there’s no way of knowing just how many innocent people are added to the list due to these absurdities and loopholes. And yet, history shows that innocent people are inevitably added to the list and suffer life-altering consequences. Life on the master watchlist can trigger enhanced screening at borders and airports; being on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the larger terrorist watchlist, can prevent airline travel altogether. The watchlist can separate family members for months or years, isolate individuals from friends and associates, and ruin employment prospects.

Being branded a terrorism suspect also has far-reaching privacy implications. The watchlist is widely accessible, and government officials routinely collect the biometric data of watchlisted individuals, including their fingerprints and DNA strands. Law enforcement has likewise been directed to gather any and all available evidence when encountering watchlisted individuals, including receipts, business cards, health information and bank statements.

Watchlisting is an awesome power, and if used, must be exercised prudently and transparently.

The standards for inclusion should be appropriately narrow, the evidence relied upon credible and genuine, and the redress and review procedures consistent with basic constitutional requirements of fairness and due process. Instead, watchlisting is being used arbitrarily under a cloud of secrecy.

A watchlist saturated with innocent people diverts attention from real, genuine threats. A watchlist that disproportionately targets Arab and Muslim Americans or other minorities stigmatizes innocent people and alienates them from law enforcement. A watchlist based on poor standards and secret processes raises major constitutional concerns, including the right to travel freely and not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.

Indeed, you can’t help but wonder: are you already on the watchlist?

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