ALU

Twitter

Analysis shows impact of MTN pulling plug on free Twitter

The end of MTN’s free Twitter promotion may have led to a huge reduction in the volume of tweets by the users of that service, but it doesn’t seem to have had a significant effect on the volume of activity on the social network in South Africa. Original Link

Elon Musk to step down as Tesla chairman under SEC deal

Elon Musk will give up the role of Tesla chairman and pay a $20-million penalty to settle fraud charges brought by the US over his claims about taking the company private. Original Link

‘No longer feasible’: MTN pulls plug on free Twitter

MTN South Africa is pulling the plug on its popular zero-rated Twitter offering, saying it is no longer feasible to offer the service without charging for data use. Original Link

Push vs. Pull: Active vs. Passive Use of Technology

Once in a while, you’ll hear of someone doing a digital detox, which implies there’s something toxic about being digital. And there can be, but "digital" misdiagnoses the problem. The problem mostly isn’t digital technology, per se, but how we use it.

I think the important distinction isn’t digital vs. analog, but rather push vs. pull, or passive vs. active. When you’re online, companies are continually pushing things at you: ads, videos, songs, shopping recommendations, etc. You either passively accept whatever is pushed at you, and feel gross after a while, or you exert willpower to resist what is being pushed at you, and feel tired.

Original Link

Trump’s bogus claims stir up tech risk

It’s tempting to ignore the early morning tweets of a technology-challenged US president. Donald Trump is wrong on the facts, but his complaints underscore the business threats to tech companies from growing and largely disingenuous complaints. Original Link

Trump accuses Google of rigging search results against him

US President Donald Trump has accused Google of rigging its search results to give preference to negative stories about him, adding his voice to conservatives who accuse social media companies of favouring liberal viewpoints. Original Link

Twitter reluctant to censor political views

While lamenting abusive conduct on Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey said any move to block content based on political or social views would stoke already rising concern about the power of social media companies. Original Link

Alex Jones and social media’s neutrality delusion

Social media platforms now shape public discourse as powerfully as newspapers and magazines did a generation ago, perhaps more so. Original Link

Twitter plunges 17% on growth worries

Twitter said monthly users dropped by a million in the second quarter, and predicted that number will decline further as the company continues to fight against spam, fake accounts and malicious rhetoric on its social network. The shares plunged 17% in early trading.

Monthly active users were 335 million — a decline from 336 million in the first quarter, San Francisco-based Twitter said on Friday in a statement. Though that measure was up 2.8% from a year earlier, the company expects monthly visitors to fall again in the current period. Twitter blamed the projected drop on intensified efforts to clean up the platform, stricter privacy rules in Europe and changes to the way its service is used through SMS.

“We are confident that this is in the best long-term interest of the platform and will enable long-term growth as we improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter” and reallocate resources, including those used to prepare for the data privacy changes in Europe, Twitter said in a note to shareholders accompanying the earnings release.

Twitter reported net income for the third consecutive quarter, which has helped drive the shares 79% higher this year to $42.94 at Thursday’s close. But the company gave a forecast for third-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of as much as US$235-million, falling short of analysts’ average estimate of $268-million.

Twitter’s user woes are similar to those of Facebook, which also has been plagued by manipulation, robot accounts and unrest about the growing influence of social media in the culture. CEO Jack Dorsey has said his priority is to reduce abusive conversations on the platform and the company said its machine-learning algorithms are identifying more than nine million potential spam or automated accounts a week.

The huge number of deletions have raised concerns among investors that Twitter — the favourite communications tool of US President Donald Trump — can’t attract a more general audience to supplement the politicians, entertainers and journalists who are among its prime users. The company, however, said the vast majority of malicious accounts are inactive or caught before they become counted among active users.

While monthly visitors declined, Twitter highlighted daily active users as the best measure of success. The company said those daily participants on the site increased 11% from a year earlier, marking the seventh consecutive quarter of double-digit year-over-year increases. The company doesn’t disclose the total number of daily users.

No Trump effect

“Despite Trump being perhaps the most high-profile user possible, usage has not dramatically improved over the past couple of years,” Benjamin Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Securities, wrote in a note to investors before the earnings announcement. “We simply don’t see the product improvements having a dramatic impact on Twitter’s ability to attract new users.”

The service’s plethora of product updates and push into live video streaming have made Twitter less cumbersome to use, driving advertising revenue and profit in the second quarter.

Revenue increased 24% to $710.5-million in the period, topping the analyst average estimate of $697.3-million. Net income was $100.1-million, or $0.13/share, compared to a loss of $116.5-million, or $0.16. Adjusted earnings were $0.17/share. Analysts projected of $0.16.

Advertising sales have been bolstered by Twitter’s positioning as a destination for a wider range of live video content and as a place to find out “what’s happening now”. The company has tried to improve the site to personalise it more for users, including overhauling the explore section of the mobile app to show curated content for breaking news stories and major events such as the recent World Cup soccer tournament.

International revenue grew 44% in the quarter from a year earlier while sales in the US, the company’s largest market, increased 10%. Japan remains Twitter’s second largest market, growing 65% and generating $122-million.  — Reported by Selina Wang, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

Original Link

Politicised trolling is worse than fake news

Online disinformation and the spread of deceptive political messages are pernicious, but they aren’t necessarily the worst abuse of social networks by governments and political actors. Rational people are resistant to propaganda, and irrational ones only consume messages that stroke their confirmation biases. No one, however, can be impervious to personal attacks on a mass scale.

A report by the human rights lawyer Carly Nyst and Oxford University researcher Nick Monaco is an early attempt to study the phenomenon of state-sponsored trolling, or the digital harassment of critics. The case studies come from a diverse set of countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Ecuador, the Philippines, Turkey, the US and Venezuela. They complement what is already known about the practice in Russia, whose achievements in the field of digital abuse have generated the most interest to date.

The stories in the report, commissioned by the Palo Alto, California-based Institute for the Future, are all similar in some respects. Thousands of social network accounts, both operated by humans and by bots used to amplify the attack, gang up on a person who dares to criticise a regime or a political figure. Invariably, the person is accused of being a foreign agent and a traitor. Memes and cartoons are used to insult the target. The language of the comments, posts and tweets is often abusive; female targets, such as the Turkish journalist Ceyda Karan and her Filipina colleague Maria Ressa, are routinely threatened with rape. The general idea behind the campaigns is to give the target the impression of swelling public indignation about his or her work and views, but also to drown out the target’s voice with the howling of thousands of digital voices.

In more authoritarian countries, the campaigns are often conducted by pro-government organisations. That was the case in Russia in the early years of this decade. According to the Institute for the Future report, it’s the case in Azerbaijan today, where a group called Ireli (“Forward”) openly hunts the regime’s opponents on the Web. The tendency, though, is toward the professionalisation of trolling. Russia’s Internet Research Agency, featured in an indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is just one example of how trolling operations can be run by a corporation-like entity. In Ecuador, a firm called Ribeney Sociedad Anonima won a government contract for trolling services. The Bahraini government has hired Western “black PR” firms to attack critics.

In the less authoritarian states, where voting is still meaningful, trolling operations often grow out of election campaigns. In Ecuador, Rafael Correa created a troll army for the 2012 election and kept using it after he won. In the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte hired trolls to work for his 2016 presidential campaign and has since put some of the most prominent ones in government jobs. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party maintains an “information technology cell”, with thousands of members who receive daily instructions on what topics to promote and whom to gang up on.

Trump trolls

The Institute for the Future report also takes aim at the pro-Donald Trump trolls in the US who proliferated during the 2016 campaign and remain active now that he is president. In the US case, the report defines state-sponsored trolling “as the involvement of hyperpartisan news outlets and sources close to the president” that have evolved “from an electioneering trolling machine to an incumbent government’s apparatus”. Certain statements from high officials, the report says, are “tantamount to a coded condoning of vitriolic harassment online from high officials”. As an example, it cites the campaign of abuse against Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University professor, after she suggested in a column that military officers might disobey Trump’s orders.

But Trump fans’ targeted attacks aren’t state-sponsored in the same sense as the Russian, Azerbaijani or Philippine trolling efforts. They’d take place even if Trump had lost, just as the similarly abusive behaviour by trolls from the opposite camp, the anti-Trump “Resistance”, persists despite Hillary Clinton’s election defeat. These operations are instigated, if not necessarily run, by political machines rather than the US government. One could argue, though, that such political machines can be as powerful as the state when it comes to hounding and silencing critics.

The insults and threats can be unsettling on their own, and they can make it hard for the targeted person to get a coherent message to followers. And sometimes attacks have real-world consequences, as when trolls get hold of the target’s personal information. That is what happened to the Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro, who tried to investigate Russian troll factories and was subjected to online and then offline abuse.

It’s difficult to understand why social media platforms do little, if anything, to stop the trolling campaigns. Twitter and Facebook will remove posts and comments containing death and rape threats, but not insults, treason accusations or suggestions that a journalist is on a hostile spy agency’s payroll. They also don’t make it easy to complain about entire trolling campaigns rather than individual comments and messages, which are are difficult for a trolling target to flag: Ressa, the Filipina journalist, received up to 90 hate messages an hour at the height of the campaign against her.

The Institute for the Future makes some suggestions on how social networks can help, but they aren’t particularly useful. For example, it says a network could ask users who create bot accounts to identify them as such, which troll farms would be understandably reluctant to do. It also suggests that the social media companies should somehow detect and identify state-linked accounts, a game of whack-a-mole that is as hard to play as it is pointless.

The easier and more useful thing would be to empower the targets of abuse campaigns. For example, flagging a dozen similar abusive comments should result in special attention from the network. Users should also be able to turn off comments to specific posts and temporarily disable tagging, otherwise it’s too easy for trolls to take over a feed. And if bots are to be marked, it should be up to the networks to detect them: the technology is there, it’s just not being applied consistently enough.

The best answer would be for the networks to talk to the trolls’ targets and find out what tools they would have needed to fight back. The Institute for the Future’s report would be a good starting point: the authors have interviewed some of the targeted journalists and activists. Together, these people and the social networks could figure out ways to curb politicised online harassment without curbing freedom of speech.  — (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

Original Link

Politicised trolling is worse than fake news

Online disinformation and the spread of deceptive political messages are pernicious, but they aren’t necessarily the worst abuse of social networks by governments and political actors. Rational people are resistant to propaganda, and irrational ones only consume messages that stroke their confirmation biases. No one, however, can be impervious to personal attacks on a mass scale.

A report by the human rights lawyer Carly Nyst and Oxford University researcher Nick Monaco is an early attempt to study the phenomenon of state-sponsored trolling, or the digital harassment of critics. The case studies come from a diverse set of countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Ecuador, the Philippines, Turkey, the US and Venezuela. They complement what is already known about the practice in Russia, whose achievements in the field of digital abuse have generated the most interest to date.

The stories in the report, commissioned by the Palo Alto, California-based Institute for the Future, are all similar in some respects. Thousands of social network accounts, both operated by humans and by bots used to amplify the attack, gang up on a person who dares to criticise a regime or a political figure. Invariably, the person is accused of being a foreign agent and a traitor. Memes and cartoons are used to insult the target. The language of the comments, posts and tweets is often abusive; female targets, such as the Turkish journalist Ceyda Karan and her Filipina colleague Maria Ressa, are routinely threatened with rape. The general idea behind the campaigns is to give the target the impression of swelling public indignation about his or her work and views, but also to drown out the target’s voice with the howling of thousands of digital voices.

In more authoritarian countries, the campaigns are often conducted by pro-government organisations. That was the case in Russia in the early years of this decade. According to the Institute for the Future report, it’s the case in Azerbaijan today, where a group called Ireli (“Forward”) openly hunts the regime’s opponents on the Web. The tendency, though, is toward the professionalisation of trolling. Russia’s Internet Research Agency, featured in an indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is just one example of how trolling operations can be run by a corporation-like entity. In Ecuador, a firm called Ribeney Sociedad Anonima won a government contract for trolling services. The Bahraini government has hired Western “black PR” firms to attack critics.

In the less authoritarian states, where voting is still meaningful, trolling operations often grow out of election campaigns. In Ecuador, Rafael Correa created a troll army for the 2012 election and kept using it after he won. In the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte hired trolls to work for his 2016 presidential campaign and has since put some of the most prominent ones in government jobs. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party maintains an “information technology cell”, with thousands of members who receive daily instructions on what topics to promote and whom to gang up on.

Trump trolls

The Institute for the Future report also takes aim at the pro-Donald Trump trolls in the US who proliferated during the 2016 campaign and remain active now that he is president. In the US case, the report defines state-sponsored trolling “as the involvement of hyperpartisan news outlets and sources close to the president” that have evolved “from an electioneering trolling machine to an incumbent government’s apparatus”. Certain statements from high officials, the report says, are “tantamount to a coded condoning of vitriolic harassment online from high officials”. As an example, it cites the campaign of abuse against Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University professor, after she suggested in a column that military officers might disobey Trump’s orders.

But Trump fans’ targeted attacks aren’t state-sponsored in the same sense as the Russian, Azerbaijani or Philippine trolling efforts. They’d take place even if Trump had lost, just as the similarly abusive behaviour by trolls from the opposite camp, the anti-Trump “Resistance”, persists despite Hillary Clinton’s election defeat. These operations are instigated, if not necessarily run, by political machines rather than the US government. One could argue, though, that such political machines can be as powerful as the state when it comes to hounding and silencing critics.

The insults and threats can be unsettling on their own, and they can make it hard for the targeted person to get a coherent message to followers. And sometimes attacks have real-world consequences, as when trolls get hold of the target’s personal information. That is what happened to the Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro, who tried to investigate Russian troll factories and was subjected to online and then offline abuse.

It’s difficult to understand why social media platforms do little, if anything, to stop the trolling campaigns. Twitter and Facebook will remove posts and comments containing death and rape threats, but not insults, treason accusations or suggestions that a journalist is on a hostile spy agency’s payroll. They also don’t make it easy to complain about entire trolling campaigns rather than individual comments and messages, which are are difficult for a trolling target to flag: Ressa, the Filipina journalist, received up to 90 hate messages an hour at the height of the campaign against her.

The Institute for the Future makes some suggestions on how social networks can help, but they aren’t particularly useful. For example, it says a network could ask users who create bot accounts to identify them as such, which troll farms would be understandably reluctant to do. It also suggests that the social media companies should somehow detect and identify state-linked accounts, a game of whack-a-mole that is as hard to play as it is pointless.

The easier and more useful thing would be to empower the targets of abuse campaigns. For example, flagging a dozen similar abusive comments should result in special attention from the network. Users should also be able to turn off comments to specific posts and temporarily disable tagging, otherwise it’s too easy for trolls to take over a feed. And if bots are to be marked, it should be up to the networks to detect them: the technology is there, it’s just not being applied consistently enough.

The best answer would be for the networks to talk to the trolls’ targets and find out what tools they would have needed to fight back. The Institute for the Future’s report would be a good starting point: the authors have interviewed some of the targeted journalists and activists. Together, these people and the social networks could figure out ways to curb politicised online harassment without curbing freedom of speech.  — (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

Original Link

Politicised trolling is worse than fake news

Online disinformation and the spread of deceptive political messages are pernicious, but they aren’t necessarily the worst abuse of social networks by governments and political actors. Rational people are resistant to propaganda, and irrational ones only consume messages that stroke their confirmation biases. No one, however, can be impervious to personal attacks on a mass scale.

A report by the human rights lawyer Carly Nyst and Oxford University researcher Nick Monaco is an early attempt to study the phenomenon of state-sponsored trolling, or the digital harassment of critics. The case studies come from a diverse set of countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Ecuador, the Philippines, Turkey, the US and Venezuela. They complement what is already known about the practice in Russia, whose achievements in the field of digital abuse have generated the most interest to date.

The stories in the report, commissioned by the Palo Alto, California-based Institute for the Future, are all similar in some respects. Thousands of social network accounts, both operated by humans and by bots used to amplify the attack, gang up on a person who dares to criticise a regime or a political figure. Invariably, the person is accused of being a foreign agent and a traitor. Memes and cartoons are used to insult the target. The language of the comments, posts and tweets is often abusive; female targets, such as the Turkish journalist Ceyda Karan and her Filipina colleague Maria Ressa, are routinely threatened with rape. The general idea behind the campaigns is to give the target the impression of swelling public indignation about his or her work and views, but also to drown out the target’s voice with the howling of thousands of digital voices.

In more authoritarian countries, the campaigns are often conducted by pro-government organisations. That was the case in Russia in the early years of this decade. According to the Institute for the Future report, it’s the case in Azerbaijan today, where a group called Ireli (“Forward”) openly hunts the regime’s opponents on the Web. The tendency, though, is toward the professionalisation of trolling. Russia’s Internet Research Agency, featured in an indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is just one example of how trolling operations can be run by a corporation-like entity. In Ecuador, a firm called Ribeney Sociedad Anonima won a government contract for trolling services. The Bahraini government has hired Western “black PR” firms to attack critics.

In the less authoritarian states, where voting is still meaningful, trolling operations often grow out of election campaigns. In Ecuador, Rafael Correa created a troll army for the 2012 election and kept using it after he won. In the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte hired trolls to work for his 2016 presidential campaign and has since put some of the most prominent ones in government jobs. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party maintains an “information technology cell”, with thousands of members who receive daily instructions on what topics to promote and whom to gang up on.

Trump trolls

The Institute for the Future report also takes aim at the pro-Donald Trump trolls in the US who proliferated during the 2016 campaign and remain active now that he is president. In the US case, the report defines state-sponsored trolling “as the involvement of hyperpartisan news outlets and sources close to the president” that have evolved “from an electioneering trolling machine to an incumbent government’s apparatus”. Certain statements from high officials, the report says, are “tantamount to a coded condoning of vitriolic harassment online from high officials”. As an example, it cites the campaign of abuse against Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University professor, after she suggested in a column that military officers might disobey Trump’s orders.

But Trump fans’ targeted attacks aren’t state-sponsored in the same sense as the Russian, Azerbaijani or Philippine trolling efforts. They’d take place even if Trump had lost, just as the similarly abusive behaviour by trolls from the opposite camp, the anti-Trump “Resistance”, persists despite Hillary Clinton’s election defeat. These operations are instigated, if not necessarily run, by political machines rather than the US government. One could argue, though, that such political machines can be as powerful as the state when it comes to hounding and silencing critics.

The insults and threats can be unsettling on their own, and they can make it hard for the targeted person to get a coherent message to followers. And sometimes attacks have real-world consequences, as when trolls get hold of the target’s personal information. That is what happened to the Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro, who tried to investigate Russian troll factories and was subjected to online and then offline abuse.

It’s difficult to understand why social media platforms do little, if anything, to stop the trolling campaigns. Twitter and Facebook will remove posts and comments containing death and rape threats, but not insults, treason accusations or suggestions that a journalist is on a hostile spy agency’s payroll. They also don’t make it easy to complain about entire trolling campaigns rather than individual comments and messages, which are are difficult for a trolling target to flag: Ressa, the Filipina journalist, received up to 90 hate messages an hour at the height of the campaign against her.

The Institute for the Future makes some suggestions on how social networks can help, but they aren’t particularly useful. For example, it says a network could ask users who create bot accounts to identify them as such, which troll farms would be understandably reluctant to do. It also suggests that the social media companies should somehow detect and identify state-linked accounts, a game of whack-a-mole that is as hard to play as it is pointless.

The easier and more useful thing would be to empower the targets of abuse campaigns. For example, flagging a dozen similar abusive comments should result in special attention from the network. Users should also be able to turn off comments to specific posts and temporarily disable tagging, otherwise it’s too easy for trolls to take over a feed. And if bots are to be marked, it should be up to the networks to detect them: the technology is there, it’s just not being applied consistently enough.

The best answer would be for the networks to talk to the trolls’ targets and find out what tools they would have needed to fight back. The Institute for the Future’s report would be a good starting point: the authors have interviewed some of the targeted journalists and activists. Together, these people and the social networks could figure out ways to curb politicised online harassment without curbing freedom of speech.  — (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

Original Link

Politicised trolling is worse than fake news

Online disinformation and the spread of deceptive political messages are pernicious, but they aren’t necessarily the worst abuse of social networks by governments and political actors. Rational people are resistant to propaganda, and irrational ones only consume messages that stroke their confirmation biases. No one, however, can be impervious to personal attacks on a mass scale.

A report by the human rights lawyer Carly Nyst and Oxford University researcher Nick Monaco is an early attempt to study the phenomenon of state-sponsored trolling, or the digital harassment of critics. The case studies come from a diverse set of countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Ecuador, the Philippines, Turkey, the US and Venezuela. They complement what is already known about the practice in Russia, whose achievements in the field of digital abuse have generated the most interest to date.

The stories in the report, commissioned by the Palo Alto, California-based Institute for the Future, are all similar in some respects. Thousands of social network accounts, both operated by humans and by bots used to amplify the attack, gang up on a person who dares to criticise a regime or a political figure. Invariably, the person is accused of being a foreign agent and a traitor. Memes and cartoons are used to insult the target. The language of the comments, posts and tweets is often abusive; female targets, such as the Turkish journalist Ceyda Karan and her Filipina colleague Maria Ressa, are routinely threatened with rape. The general idea behind the campaigns is to give the target the impression of swelling public indignation about his or her work and views, but also to drown out the target’s voice with the howling of thousands of digital voices.

In more authoritarian countries, the campaigns are often conducted by pro-government organisations. That was the case in Russia in the early years of this decade. According to the Institute for the Future report, it’s the case in Azerbaijan today, where a group called Ireli (“Forward”) openly hunts the regime’s opponents on the Web. The tendency, though, is toward the professionalisation of trolling. Russia’s Internet Research Agency, featured in an indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is just one example of how trolling operations can be run by a corporation-like entity. In Ecuador, a firm called Ribeney Sociedad Anonima won a government contract for trolling services. The Bahraini government has hired Western “black PR” firms to attack critics.

In the less authoritarian states, where voting is still meaningful, trolling operations often grow out of election campaigns. In Ecuador, Rafael Correa created a troll army for the 2012 election and kept using it after he won. In the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte hired trolls to work for his 2016 presidential campaign and has since put some of the most prominent ones in government jobs. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party maintains an “information technology cell”, with thousands of members who receive daily instructions on what topics to promote and whom to gang up on.

Trump trolls

The Institute for the Future report also takes aim at the pro-Donald Trump trolls in the US who proliferated during the 2016 campaign and remain active now that he is president. In the US case, the report defines state-sponsored trolling “as the involvement of hyperpartisan news outlets and sources close to the president” that have evolved “from an electioneering trolling machine to an incumbent government’s apparatus”. Certain statements from high officials, the report says, are “tantamount to a coded condoning of vitriolic harassment online from high officials”. As an example, it cites the campaign of abuse against Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University professor, after she suggested in a column that military officers might disobey Trump’s orders.

But Trump fans’ targeted attacks aren’t state-sponsored in the same sense as the Russian, Azerbaijani or Philippine trolling efforts. They’d take place even if Trump had lost, just as the similarly abusive behaviour by trolls from the opposite camp, the anti-Trump “Resistance”, persists despite Hillary Clinton’s election defeat. These operations are instigated, if not necessarily run, by political machines rather than the US government. One could argue, though, that such political machines can be as powerful as the state when it comes to hounding and silencing critics.

The insults and threats can be unsettling on their own, and they can make it hard for the targeted person to get a coherent message to followers. And sometimes attacks have real-world consequences, as when trolls get hold of the target’s personal information. That is what happened to the Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro, who tried to investigate Russian troll factories and was subjected to online and then offline abuse.

It’s difficult to understand why social media platforms do little, if anything, to stop the trolling campaigns. Twitter and Facebook will remove posts and comments containing death and rape threats, but not insults, treason accusations or suggestions that a journalist is on a hostile spy agency’s payroll. They also don’t make it easy to complain about entire trolling campaigns rather than individual comments and messages, which are are difficult for a trolling target to flag: Ressa, the Filipina journalist, received up to 90 hate messages an hour at the height of the campaign against her.

The Institute for the Future makes some suggestions on how social networks can help, but they aren’t particularly useful. For example, it says a network could ask users who create bot accounts to identify them as such, which troll farms would be understandably reluctant to do. It also suggests that the social media companies should somehow detect and identify state-linked accounts, a game of whack-a-mole that is as hard to play as it is pointless.

The easier and more useful thing would be to empower the targets of abuse campaigns. For example, flagging a dozen similar abusive comments should result in special attention from the network. Users should also be able to turn off comments to specific posts and temporarily disable tagging, otherwise it’s too easy for trolls to take over a feed. And if bots are to be marked, it should be up to the networks to detect them: the technology is there, it’s just not being applied consistently enough.

The best answer would be for the networks to talk to the trolls’ targets and find out what tools they would have needed to fight back. The Institute for the Future’s report would be a good starting point: the authors have interviewed some of the targeted journalists and activists. Together, these people and the social networks could figure out ways to curb politicised online harassment without curbing freedom of speech.  — (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

Original Link

MTN hikes WhatsApp bundle price by 200%

Just three months after introducing a low-cost, 1GB WhatsApp data bundle costing only R10, MTN South Africa has hiked the price — for many users, at least — by 200%.

Introduced in April, MTN said the price increase had become necessary because of the strain the deal had put on the company’s network. The new pricing is R30/bundle, though some users will continue to enjoy the R10 deal.

“The public’s response has been exceptional. WhatsApp usage on the MTN network has increased by 300% in the past two months,” the company said in a statement on Monday. “Millions of South Africans are using WhatsApp on our network and millions more have been buying these bundles.”

However, MTN said the low-cost bundles had led to an “unintended consequence” — an “extraordinary increase in demand on MTN’s 3G network”. As a result, it said it will invest a further R200-million in its 3G infrastructure to accommodate the “huge spike in traffic being driven by demand for WhatsApp”.

“MTN’s WhatsApp bundle will be repriced from R10 to R30. However, the most vulnerable South Africans that are currently spending less than R10 on WhatsApp per month will be protected from the change in pricing and will still have access to this low-cost WhatsApp bundle.

“These customers, who are primarily using feature phones on our 3G network, will still pay just R10/month for their WhatsApp access, which will be offered to them via MTN’s *142# menu on MyMTNOffers,” the company said.

For all other customers, the price increase takes effect immediately.

MTN said it had to make what it called a “difficult decision” to hike the price to “protect the quality of our 3G network”.

Twitter cap

At the same time, MTN said it will continue to offer zero-rated access to Twitter to all customers, though a data cap has been introduced. Customers do not need to opt in and no minimum balance is required to access free Twitter on MTN, it said.

“A review of customer usage has revealed that 99.1% of all Twitter users on MTN are using substantially less than 500MB every day. Of all the users, 80% are using no more than 10MB of Twitter data per day.”

Users will, however, be capped once they exceed 500MB of Twitter data usage per day. “In the limited instances where we are seeing excessive use, it’s clear that the free Twitter IP (Internet protocol address) is being hacked to stream IPs that are not free, while we are also seeing huge files and videos being transferred, resulting in excessive usage,” MTN said.  — © 2018 NewsCentral Media

Original Link

Uganda defends controversial social media tax

Ugandan authorities have defended the introduction of a tax on users of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, saying the revenue is necessary to fund public services.

The daily levy equivalent to about US$0.05 is “a small contribution of citizens towards development of their country,” minister of state for finance David Bahati was quoted by the state-run Uganda Media Centre as saying on Tuesday.

East Africa’s third biggest economy on Sunday started charging users of platforms that also include WhatsApp and Viber in a step President Yoweri Museveni has said may bring in as much as 1.4-trillion shillings (about $360-million) per year and help bridge a budget deficit. Human rights groups have warned it will stifle free expression in a country where more than 20% of the population lives in poverty.

The Uganda Communications Commission, which regulates the industry, has been directed to block access to virtual private networks that some people have used to avoid paying the new tax, Bahati said. Uganda also introduced a 1% tax on all mobile money transactions on Sunday.

Many Ugandan social media users expressed discontent over the new tax on Twitter. The local Daily Monitor newspaper reported that five “concerned citizens” are among those petitioning the constitutional court to annul the levy.

The government on 14 June presented a 32.7-trillion shilling budget for the 12 months to June 2019, with a projected deficit of 6.2% of GDP.  — Reported by Fred Ojambo, (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media

Original Link

Uganda tightens its grip on the Internet

If Ugandan authorities have their way, checking Facebook or Twitter will cost you a few cents a day while a state-procured device scans your computer for pornography.

They’re just some of the measures the government has promised as it seeks extra revenue and tries to curb what it describes as gossip and immorality. Human-rights groups say the social-media tax is the latest attempt to stifle free expression in a country President Yoweri Museveni has ruled with a tight grip for three decades.

The plans for a levy are “nonsense and a thinly veiled effort to penalise social-media users”, Maria Burnett, an associate director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

In a nation where independent media often come under pressure — and where Twitter and other sites were shut down during the 2016 election that returned Museveni to power — there’s scepticism over the motives. Uganda has pushed for contentious legislation before, introducing a bill to impose tougher prison sentences for homosexuality. That was overturned in 2014 after a court ruled the law was irregularly approved and as foreign donors indicated they’d redirect funds away from the government.

The so-called “gossip” tax, passed by parliament and set to take effect on 1 July, will impose a daily 200-shilling levy on users of Facebook, Twitter, Skype, WhatsApp and Viber. Authorities say it will be collected by mobile operators, who will charge the Sim card used to access the facilities.

Uganda, which has East Africa’s third largest economy and is preparing for its first oil production, needs the revenue. Museveni has said the tax may bring in as much as 1.4-trillion shillings (about US$360-million) per year, helping bridge a budget deficit projected at 6.2% of GDP in the next financial year and that often relies on donor funding.

Cheap mobile Internet access and social media give an outlet for discussion and free expression in Uganda, where more than 20% of its 40 million population live in poverty. The median monthly wage is 168 000 shillings, or the equivalent of $43, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

‘Museveni isn’t happy’

Charging users could be a step to stifle growing opposition to Museveni, 73, that’s being expressed on social media, according to Haruna Kanaabi, executive director of the Independent Media Council, a local campaign group.

“The move in my view is suspicious and intended to make the service expensive so that it does not spread easily,” he said. “Phones have become a tool of discussion and easy dissemination of information, which Museveni isn’t very happy about.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in April that the proposed taxes “have the potential to curtail freedom of expression and access to information”.

And then there’s the porn detector.

A mysterious device described by local media as able “to detect deleted or current pornographic materials stored on people’s computers”, it was first promised by authorities in 2016. Ethics minister Simon Lokodo has said it will tackle “one of the deadliest moral diseases” in the country.

The “majority of office-going people spend much of their time downloading and watching pornographic material”, he was quoted by the Kampala-based Observer newspaper as saying in August as he vowed to tackle the phenomenon.

Authorities have never explained how the device — said by the Observer to cost $88 000 — would work. Lokodo said in a phone interview this month that the detector recently arrived, describing it only as a “server” that’s “able to suppress pornographic material”.

Local computer experts dismiss any suggestion a device would be capable of scanning everyone’s computers or phones. It’s possible, though, that the government could work with Internet service providers to block users from accessing online material, said Tonny Ayeni, a software developer at Kampala-based Tack Tech Technologies.

Victor Kakama, a director at Omnitech, said that while such filtering by ISPs is plausible, there would be workarounds and it could only limit access, not eliminate it.

The Uganda-based Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa, which promotes inclusive use of IT, has warned that the country’s anti-pornography, anti-terrorism and computer-misuse laws are also used to curtail Internet freedoms and justify Web surveillance.

Lokodo declined to comment on the device’s cost or say when it will start operations.  — Reported by Fred Ojambo, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

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Twitter’s Founder and CEO Jack Dorsey Attends Haiti Tech Summit

Haiti Tech Summit adds another successful event to the books. The event concluded this past weekend with keynote speeches from tech’s finest, including the founder of Twitter and Square, Jack Dorsey. A special appearance was also made by Haiti’s president, his Excellency, Jovenel Moise, who made his presence known last year during the first annual Haiti Tech Summit.

Additionally, the summit returned with 100 global speakers and 750 guests, topping its numbers and its equally impressive roster from last year, which included iconic tech investor, Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz.

Haiti Tech Summit, founded by Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur, mother, and wife Christine Souffrant Ntim, is a 13- year initiative of the Global Startup Ecosystem (GSE), which brings together hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors, digital marketers, and creatives to Haiti to accelerate tech, innovation, and economic development within the country. The aim is to turn Haiti into the world’s next major tech innovation hub by 2030.

Founder of Haiti Tech Summit, Christine Ntim (Image: Haiti Tech Summit)

Founder of Haiti Tech Summit, Christine Ntim (Image: Haiti Tech Summit)

“Hosting an event of this magnitude in Haiti not only aims to revitalize economic activity in the country but to also provide a new narrative for Haiti and emerging markets. Haiti is not open for business. Haiti is open for disruption,” said Ntim.

Companies represented included Silicon Valley giants such as Google, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, PayPal, MasterCard, LinkedIn, GitHub, Dropbox, Sendgrid, YouTube, Intuit, Adobe, and the list keeps growing year after year.

So what are the results from all of this? According to a press release, the summit generated tangible immediate impact-driven items for both the public and private sector. As highlighted in the 2017 Haiti Tech Summit Impact Report, Airbnb was able to close a 5-year agreement with the Ministry of Tourism, Facebook launched the country’s first internationally recognized developer community, and Google Launchpad launched an accelerator program to source and support the country’s leading startups. Furthermore, the president of Haiti announced the country’s first national incubator for entrepreneurs to be located in the nation’s capital, Port Au Prince. The incubator—Alpha Haiti—launched in the first week of June.

The summit continues to spark major initiatives within the country with the recent launch of Haiti’s first Space Agency. It sounds far-fetched but, in an effort to accelerate space tech industries in emerging markets, the GSE has announced plans to launch a space agency with government and private sector partners in Haiti, led by SpaceChain Foundation, a decentralized space agency that aims to harness the power of the blockchain to increase access to space and accelerate outer space development and settlement.

This is not the first time that this team has taken on the topic of space but, it’s a first for Haiti. The initiative is set to be a historic moment for the entire region. In short, the HSA is an independent agency of Haiti responsible for the civilian space programs, aeronautics, and aerospace research as well as the commercialized use of space technologies to accelerate industrial development.

As the team gears up for that it is important to note that the summit will return on June 20–22, 2019, to Royal Decameron so mark your calendars.

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Twitter Branding Summit debut in Beijing tries to balance politics and business

Twitter Branding Summit debut in Beijing tries to balance politics and business · TechNode

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Change your passwords, Twitter advises

Twitter has advised users to change their passwords after the company found a bug in its systems that exposed passwords in plain text internally.

The company said it removed the non-encrypted passwords from its system, and is working to avoid such an issue happening again. An internal investigation “shows no indication of breach or misuse by anyone” and there’s “no reason to believe password information ever left Twitter’s systems or was misused by anyone”, the social media firm said.

Still, the company advised users to change passwords for Twitter and other services with the same password.

Online privacy scares are common nowadays. However, Twitter’s misstep is disturbing because there’s no reason for companies to store user passwords in plain text, even in internal files, according to Phil Libin, a start-up founder and venture capitalist.

“This is not a breach. It’s significantly worse,” Libin wrote on Twitter. “This kind of bug seems grossly negligent at best. There’s no reason for a plaintext password to ever be written to a file. It’s not even the lazy way to code a password handler. It took effort to make this mistake.”

Twitter chief technology officer Parag Agrawal said the company didn’t have to disclose the bug but decided to share the information “to help people make an informed decision about their account security”.

After being criticised by Twitter users, Agrawal backtracked. “I should not have said we didn’t have to share. I have felt strongly that we should. My mistake,” he tweeted.

Twitter shares fell 1.2% in extended trading following the news. The stock closed at $30.67 earlier in New York.  — Reported by Mark Gurman, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

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How tech companies are getting privacy all wrong

Internet users throughout the European Union — and, in some cases, in the rest of the world as well — are starting to get gently pushed toward accepting various companies’ new service and privacy terms that comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which is going into effect on 25 May. Trying to deal with it has convinced me that the tech industry is still determined to get privacy wrong, and the GDPR as applied by them doesn’t prevent it.

The GDPR-related reminders are coming from stores, electronics manufacturers, social networks, even non-profits. One needs to be intensely privacy-minded to go through the legal documents updated by Facebook, Twitter, Fitbit, Sonos, an e-commerce site you may have visited a few years ago or a local theatre company and not get confused about which disclosures you saw in which statement. Though most firms have made an attempt to write the new terms in plain language, as the GDPR requires, these are still lengthy documents crafted for legal compliance first and understanding second.

The standard approach is to hit the user with thousands of words explaining what data is collected and how it is used and, within the text, provide links to settings pages where one can opt in and out of the data harvesting and processing. Here’s how Fitbit handles it:

We give you account settings and tools to control our data use. For example, through your privacy settings, you can limit how your information is visible to other users of the services; using your notification settings, you can limit the notifications you receive from us; and under your application settings, you can revoke the access of third-party applications that you previously connected to your Fitbit account.

Now, which link will you click? Perhaps all four? Will you do it and then go back to the text (there’s still plenty of it), or will you get lost in the first set of preferences, curse and look for the “I agree” button? This is what I’d call obfuscation through confusion.

Facebook, by the way, has a big blue button for consent, but a mere hyperlink for deleting your account if you disagree with the new rules — even though deletion is the more momentous decision. We all know the trick that sends us looking frantically for the “X” we need to click to close an ad. The way Facebook has laid out its new policy pages is a subtler version of that intentional annoyance, a form of mild psychological pressure to sign on the dotted line and be done with it. Most people will: there’s no way to reject specific parts of the rules except indirectly, through tweaking certain settings, and then not in every case — even though very little data collection is actually required to provide the basic Facebook service. That’s unfair to users whose data is coming to Facebook from a multitude of hard-to-track sources, some of which they’d surely like to cut off.

Verbosity

Twitter’s updated privacy policy runs to more than 8 800 words, and it’s distinct from its terms of service and Twitter rules. I know some people — lawyers and reporters — capable of getting through all three documents with a magnifying glass, but most users aren’t like that. There’s no reason for the multiple documents and the verbosity except to induce boredom.

The GDPR rules aren’t complicated. They mainly require organisations that collect and process data to ask Internet users in clear language whether they’re okay with it. But what users get is, as ever, a lengthy legal text — no, three of them and wait, there’s also this linked page and that one, and a separate privacy policy for children, and another one for pets (okay, I made that last one up).

There is a right way to do it. Among all the organisations whose updated policies I’ve seen in recent days, the unlikeliest one came the closest to it — London’s recently renamed Kiln Theatre, which sent a policy change notification to my London-based editor. Its new privacy policy is, of course, another morass of legal verbiage — but it contains a handy table that lists the purposes for which data are collected and matches them with specific data types used.

That’s what I want to see from each of the data harvesters who want my personal information. A simple three-column table. First column: Purpose of data collection (for example: “To personalise ads” or “To enable academic research.”) Second column: Types of data collected or processed (for example, “Web browsing history” or “information about previous purchases provided by advertisers”). Third column: Consent (two checkboxes opposite every data type: “I agree” and “I object.”) In cases where the company considers consent obligatory for the service it provides — and only in those rare cases — checking the “object” box should result in a pop-up explaining why the company can’t live without this and providing a link to the local privacy watchdog’s complaint form.

First step

This would be true GDPR compliance — with the regulation’s spirit, not just its letter. But dealing with the consent part in an honest way would only be the first step. Companies then would have to live up to other requirements such as data portability (Facebook, for example, only allows you to download your contacts in text format, so you can’t really move your online friendships to another service).

I hope the EU objects to how its regulation is being applied, but somehow I doubt it: the lawyers who wrote the new policies know their job. It has little to do with earning trust and everything with minimising litigation. So, whether users feel cheated or not (I do), the new policies tell them that by continuing to use the services past 25 May, they consent to the rules as the lawyers rewrote them.

This is a business opportunity waiting for a classic disruptor. Honest GDPR compliance can be marketed. Can anyone get up the courage to do it?  — (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

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Twitter takes flight as turnaround gathers steam

Twitter’s push into live video and more personalised content is finally starting to pay off, boosting revenue and profit more than projected in the first quarter by luring users and advertisers. The shares rose.

Sales jumped 21%, the most in two years, to US$664.9m, Twitter said on Wednesday in a statement. That surpassed the average analysts’ estimate of $605.9m, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The social media network, originally known for its 140-character posts, said monthly active users rose to 336m, up by six million from the prior period and slightly ahead of analysts’ predictions.

The numbers validate a growing view among analysts that the company has stabilised after a rocky few years, when it struggled to compete for ad dollars with the likes of Facebook and Google’s YouTube. Since Twitter reported a third-quarter earnings beat in October, its shares have rallied more than 50% and been upgraded by at least eight analysts. The strong revenue and user growth also indicates that escalating concerns about social media companies’ data collection practices so far haven’t eroded Twitter’s business.

“There’s just been a continued global interest in news and information that’s a good tailwind for Twitter, especially as their products improve,” said Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG, before the results. “They’re iterating the product more in the last two years than they have in the past seven.”

The stock jumped 14% before giving up some of those gains in early trading. The shares were up 4% to $31.76 at 7.33am premarket in New York.

CEO Jack Dorsey, who also runs Square, has focused on making Twitter more useful, including streaming programming such as National Football League highlights and recaps of series like Game of Thrones. The company is applying artificial intelligence to put the most relevant tweets at the top of people’s feeds, and has added features that curate tweets, photos and videos around events. Twitter said daily active users increased 10% in the recent period, marking the sixth consecutive quarter of double-digit increases. The company doesn’t give a total number for DAUs.

More of Twitter’s growth is coming from international markets as the US gets saturated. Monthly active users in the US increased by a million from the fourth quarter to 69m. Internationally, monthly active users grew to 267m users from 262m. Revenue in the US increased 2% year on year, while international revenue jumped 53%.

‘What’s happening now’

Dorsey has been honing the platform into a place to see “what’s happening now”, and positioning the site as the place to find out about live events from news to concerts.

Awareness of Twitter’s brand has also received a boost from frequent tweets by public figures like US President Donald Trump, who is among the platform’s most high-profile users. Global events like the Olympic Games and government elections also help to drive user growth.

And as Twitter has worked to root out terrorist content and abusive trolls, advertisers’ perceptions of the platform are also improving, according to a survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets and Ad Age.

“Twitter’s video ad product continues to perform well as advertisers continue to look for higher quality online video impressions,” wrote Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak, a long-time Twitter bear who upgraded the stock to equal-weight last week, citing improved personalisation that’s keeping users on Twitter for longer.

Jack Dorsey. Image: JD Lasica

Marking its second quarter of profit under generally accepted accounting principles, Twitter posted net income of $61m, or $0.08/share, in the first quarter. That compared with analyst projections for a net loss of $0.02 on average. Profit excluding some costs was $0.16/share, exceeding estimates for $0.12.

The company gave a second-quarter outlook for adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of $245m to $265m. Analysts estimated $218m.

While Twitter seems to have found a path for growth, Dorsey is being pressed to follow in the footsteps of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and testify before the US congress about data privacy. Twitter, Facebook and Google are all facing calls for potential regulation on Internet companies following revelations that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested private data from some 87m Facebook users. Twitter itself was found to be overrun by Russian bots during the 2016 US election cycle.

Twitter continues to address criticism that it hasn’t done enough to combat the spread of misinformation, harassment and manipulation from automated posts. Last month, Dorsey asked the public to propose solutions to make the social network a nicer place by measuring “collective health, openness and civility of public conversation”. Twitter is working on a “transparency centre” to show how much political campaigns spend on advertising, and the company endorsed the Honest Ads Act, a US senate bill that would subject online political ads to the same sort of disclosure rules that govern similar content on TV and radio.

Twitter said it’s limited the ability of users to perform coordinated actions across multiple accounts, which has resulted in roughly 90% fewer users creating fake or automated engagement through the social media dashboard TweetDeck. In the first quarter, the company said it removed more than 142 000 applications connected to Twitter that violated developer rules and were collectively responsible for more than 130m “low-quality” tweets during the same period.  — Reported by Selina Wang, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

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How to stop haemorrhaging your data on Facebook

If you are one of 2.2bn Facebook users worldwide, you have probably been alarmed by the recent coverage of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a story that began when The Guardian revealed 50m (now thought to be 87m) user profiles had been retrieved and shared without the consent of users.

Though the #deletefacebook campaign has gained momentum on Twitter, it is simply not practical for most of us to delete our accounts. It is technically difficult to do, and given that one quarter of the human population is on the platform, there is an undeniable social cost for being absent.

It is also not possible to use or even to have a Facebook profile without giving up at least some data: every time you open the app, click a link, like a post, hover over an ad or connect to someone, you are generating data. This type of data is not something you can control, because Facebook considers such data its property.

Every service has a price, and the price for being on Facebook is your data.

However, you can remain on Facebook (and other social media platforms) without haemorrhaging data. If you want to stay in touch with those old school friends — despite the fact you will probably never see them again — here’s what you can do, step by step. The following instructions are tailored to Facebook settings on mobile.

Your location

The first place to start is with the device you are holding in your hand.

Facebook requests access to your GPS location by default, and unless you were reading the fine print when you installed the application (if you are that one person please tell me where you find the time), it will currently have access.

This means that whenever you open the app it knows where you are, and unless you have changed your location sharing setting from “Always” to “Never” or “Only while using”, it can track your location when you’re not using the app as well.

To keep your daily movements to yourself, go into Settings on Apple iPhone or Android, go to Location Services, and turn off or select “Never” for Facebook.

While you’re there, check for other social media apps with location access (like Twitter and Instagram) and consider changing them to “Never”.

Remember that pictures from your phone are GPS tagged, too, so if you intend to share them on Facebook, revoke access to GPS for your camera as well.

Your content

The next thing to do is to control who can see what you post, who can see private information like your e-mail address and phone number, and then apply these settings in retrospect to everything you’ve already posted.

Facebook has a “Privacy Shortcuts” tab under Settings, but we are going to start in Account Settings & Privacy.
You control who sees what you post, and who sees the people and pages you follow, by limiting the audience here.

Change “Who can see your future posts” and “Who can see the people and pages you follow” to “Only Friends”.
In the same menu, if you scroll down, you will see a setting called “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?” Select No.

After you have made these changes, scroll down and limit the audience for past posts. Apply the new setting to all past posts, even though Facebook will try to alarm you. “The only way to undo this is to change the audience of each post one at a time! Oh my Goodness! You’ll need to change 1 700 posts over 10 years.” Ignore your fears and click Limit.

Next, go in to Privacy Shortcuts — this is on the navigation bar below Settings. Then select Privacy Checkup. Limit who can see your personal information (date of birth, e-mail address, phone number, place of birth if you provided it) to “Only Me”.

Third-party apps

Every time you use Facebook to “login” to a service or application, you are granting both Facebook and the third-party service access to your data.

Facebook has pledged to investigate and change this because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but in the meantime, it is best not to use Facebook to log into third-party services. That includes Bingo Bash unfortunately.

The third screen of Privacy Checkup shows you which apps have access to your data at present. Delete any that you don’t recognise or that are unnecessary.

In the final step, we will be turning off “Facebook integration” altogether. This is optional. If you choose to do this, it will revoke permission for all previous apps, plug-ins and websites that have access to your data. It will also prevent your friends from harvesting your data for their apps.

In this case, you don’t need to delete individual apps as they will all disappear.

Turning off Facebook integration

If you want to be as secure as it is possible to be on Facebook, you can revoke third-party access to your content completely. This means turning off all apps, plug-ins and websites.

If you take this step, Facebook won’t be able to receive information about your use of apps outside of Facebook and apps won’t be able to receive your Facebook data. If you’re a business this is not a good idea as you will need it to advertise and to test apps. This is for personal pages.

It may make life a little more difficult for you in that your next purchase from Farfetch will require you to set up your own account rather than just harvest your profile. Your Klout score may drop because it can’t see Facebook and that might feel terrible.

Remember this setting only applies to the data you post and provide yourself. The signals you generate using Facebook (what you like, click on, read) will still belong to Facebook and will be used to tailor advertising. To turn off Facebook integration, go into Settings, then Apps. Select Apps, websites and games.

Facebook will warn you about all the Farmville updates you will miss and how you will have a hard time logging into The Guardian without Facebook. Ignore this and select “Turn off”.

Well done. Your data is now as secure as it is possible to be on Facebook. Remember, though, that everything you do on the platform still generates data.The Conversation

  • Reported by Belinda Barnet, senior lecturer in media and communications, Swinburne University of Technology
  • This article was originally published on The Conversation

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Only a tech revolution will restore privacy

Timothy Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the World Wide Web, tweeted up a storm on Thursday, reassuring Internet users that they could reassert control over their data — and the Web’s future — after the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandals. He’s right, but not necessarily in the way he imagines.

“What can Web users do?” Berners-Lee wrote. “Get involved. Care about your data. It belongs to you. If we each take a little of the time we spend using the Web to fight for the Web, I think we’ll be okay. Tell companies and your government representatives that your data and the Web matter.”

I understand his agony about what has happened to his invention, and I envy his optimism about the efficiency of activism and regulation. Both are, of course, useful in rolling back the massive invasion of privacy we have all suffered, not quite knowingly, in recent years. But even if we get “woke” to the invasion, there’s not much we can do about it.

Sure, one can go into Facebook settings, shut off every possible kind of data-based ad targeting and kill, one by one, all the “interests” Facebook has ascribed to you on the basis of your online and offline behaviour. (If you don’t know how it’s done, don’t worry, most people are like you; click “Settings”, then “Ads”.) One can do the same on Twitter (it’s under “Your Twitter data”). One can delete all one’s previous activity from a Google account. But one can’t so easily disable the constant data sharing that occurs on every website that uses programmatic advertising (and lots of sites do). These sites get all sorts of information about a visitor — above all, the browsing and search history — and make it available to advertisers (or, rather, to algorithms that “represent” them) so that they can bid for your eyeballs. Nor is there any easy way to purge the detailed dossiers collected about each of us by data brokers, companies that collect information for resale; Cambridge Analytica, too, essentially served as a data broker, acquiring information from a Cambridge professor to package and resell it to election campaigns. Most apps that we use on mobile phones collect and share our data, too.

Is it really possible to reassert control? That’s easier said than done. Our data is no longer ours, and it’s used in ways we’d reject — if we had the chance to weigh in on the matter.

Berners-Lee’s invention has been subverted by a belief that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg exhibited in a recent New York Times interview. He said this:

Our mission is to build a community for everyone in the world and to bring the world closer together. And a really important part of that is making a service that people can afford. A lot of the people, once you get past the first billion people, can’t afford to pay a lot. Therefore, having it be free and have a business model that is ad-supported ends up being really important and aligned.

Since the Web’s early days, it’s been full of freebies, and entrepreneurs have learnt to offer them in a standard way. They misrepresent data collection to users as something that shouldn’t bother a sane person and sold advertisers on the idea that the data collection could translate into more precise ad targeting than that of traditional media. That’s not just the Facebook model — it’s that of Google, Twitter and even traditional publishers who have introduced programmatic advertising to their websites and apps.

One can argue whether it really works for advertisers or whether all the services it funds are equally useful to society. But regardless of one’s opinions on those counts, what we users need to understand is that this is not the only model.

Telegram

Right now, the world is watching the biggest initial coin offering in history — that of the messenger Telegram. It has already attracted US$850m and is in the process of doubling the amount. The idea behind it is to create a blockchain-based economy inside Telegram’s 170m-strong user community, using a cryptocurrency to transfer value and buy stuff. This planned ecosystem — which, one must admit, hasn’t been built yet — will have room for advertising, too, but it will be more akin to traditional media advertising than to the micro-targeting offered by the Googles and Facebooks. Telegram has public channels, whose owners can sell ads in them to advertisers interested in their audience. Neither Telegram nor the channel owners need to collect any personal data in order to monetise the community. Telegram can live off a percentage of transactions in its ecosystem. The “media” based on the platform just needs to attract large audiences for narrowly targeted content. Telegram says it doesn’t share users’ data with anyone at all.

My hope — perhaps as heedlessly optimistic as Berners-Lee’s — is that newer, privacy-respecting business models, like the one envisioned by Telegram, will naturally supersede the old model, at least in the social media arena. Messengers have a natural synergy with fintech and niche media, and pretty much any of it can be monetised without selling data to the highest bidder.

It’s harder, however, to imagine this happening to search or to the strongest traditional publishers, capable of collecting both subscription and advertising revenue. That’s where the Berners-Lee method — pressure and regulation — is probably the best. It would be fair to allow those users who don’t want to give up data or see ads, targeted or otherwise, to pay a subscription fee — the way they do on Spotify, for example — and to have others actually sell their data by giving them a percentage of the ad revenue they generate. If platforms refuse to offer these opportunities, regulators can force them.

We don’t have to be suckers or chattel in the Internet economy. Berners-Lee’s message is about clawing back our power is an important call to action in a world where true privacy is no longer possible.  — (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

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Twitter can’t engineer a healthy conversation

Facebook’s self-regulatory contortions in the wake of fake news and trolling scandals have gone on, with little visible effect, for months. Now Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey has announced his company is going to try a different tack — but Dorsey’s approach is arguably even more far-fetched than his Facebook peer Mark Zuckerberg’s: it’s an attempt to view Twitter’s social mess as an engineering problem.

In a Twitter thread on Thursday, Dorsey admitted that Twitter has been home to “abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human coordination, misinformation campaigns and increasingly divisive echo chambers” and that it’s not proud of how it has dealt with them. So, it would try to find a “holistic” solution through attempting to “measure the ‘health’ of conversation on Twitter”. The metrics, designed in collaboration with outside experts, would presumably help redesign the service so that all the bad stuff would be gone without the need for censorship.

That’s not how Facebook chose to handle a similar problem. For starters, it didn’t ask anyone for advice (Zuckerberg’s listening tour of the US doesn’t count because he didn’t specify as clearly as Dorsey what he was looking for). Facebook just devised some possible solutions such as working with fact-checkers to identify fake news and focusing on content from friends rather than publishers; it even experimented with putting publisher content in a separate newsfeed — a test it has just ended because users apparently didn’t want two feeds. It has also volunteered to reveal more information about who bought political ads.

It’s not clear whether these moves have done anything to fix the problems: I still have my tens of thousands of fake “subscribers” who showed up after I was active in the 2011 protests in Moscow and, as far as I’ve seen, questionable content from highly partisan sources is also still there. All that has happened is that, according to a recent analysis of Nielsen data by equity research company Pivotal Research Group, time spent by users on Facebook was down 4% year on year in November, 2017, and its share of user attention was down to 16.7% from 18.2% a year earlier.

Twitter, faced with a 14% decline in time spent and a decrease in attention share to 0.8% from 1.1% over the same period — and consequently described by Pivotal Research Group as a “niche platform” — needs to do something that will draw people to it, not repel them. So one can understand software developer Dorsey’s need for a bottom-up re-evaluation of how his software has been working.

The starting point has been provided by a nonprofit called Cortico, which grew out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. It’s working on a set of “health indicators” for the US public sphere based on four principles: shared attention (to what extent people are interested in the same subjects?), shared reality (are people using the same set of facts?), variety (are people exposed to different opinions?) and receptivity (are they willing to listen to those different opinions?).

If there’s a transparently developed, openly discussed set of measurements to determine the “health of the conversation” on Twitter or any other social network, the networks could, instead of grappling with macro-problems like “fake news” or “harassment,” break down their responses into micro-actions designed to move the metrics. Then they could report to the public (and to concerned regulators) that the conversation is growing healthier.

Biggest problem

The biggest problem with this approach is a bit like the one with the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking, routinely gamed by authoritarian regimes’ officials who want to hit their performance indicators. According to this ranking, it’s easier to do business in Vladimir Putin’s Russia than in some EU countries, despite the absence of real guarantees that the business won’t be expropriated by a greedy law enforcement officer who happens to like it. Metrics are useful to managers because they give them a specific goal — moving a gauge by any means at their disposal. For the same reason, they can be useless to consumers, who will get what they see, which is not necessarily the same thing as what’s measured.

A secondary problem is that conversation can’t really be engineered algorithmically. Not even the Oxford Union rules of debate can be 100% successful in ensuring a civil dialogue, especially if the entities engaged in it are often anonymous and not always human. Dorsey has chosen to ignore the obvious problems — his platform’s dedication to full anonymity, the permissibility of multiple accounts for the same individual, the openness to automation — and take the roundabout route of trying to create a scorecard on which Twitter can be seen improving. This dashboard can be impressively high-tech, but human (or half-human, as the case may be) conversation really isn’t. “Social engineering” is a term for the low-tech manipulation of people into doing something they didn’t plan to do — like revealing their personal data or perhaps blowing up publicly so they can be shamed. Trolls are good at social engineering.

Jack Dorsey. Image: JD Lasica

I banned several accounts with almost no followers today whose owners were trying to insult me. I do it every day. It’s unpleasant to deal with them, but under Twitter’s current rules it’s also unavoidable. A brief look at the responses to Dorsey’s thread (“You’re lying,” “‘This is not who we are’ translates to ‘This is EXACTLY who we are’,” “I’d tell you what I really think of you but you’d kick me off”) is enough to see what sort of conversational space Twitter is. Metrics? I’m sure they can be designed to show these comments are 77% “healthy” — and, for the next Dorsey thread, to show an improvement to 79%.

The point is worth repeating here: until it’s clear who’s talking on the social networks, just as it’s almost always clear with traditional media, and until there are real consequences to insults, harassment and intentional lies, the conversation cannot be healthy. It’s a bitter pill for the networks’ engineer founders, who tend to think technology and data can fix any problem, but a solution can only be found by putting people in the same environment that exists in face-to-face conversation or in the “legacy” news media — one that makes outbursts and lying legally and socially costly.  — (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

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New Study Shows Black Twitter Has the Media Landscape Shook

For one of the first times, a new study takes a deep dive into Black Twitter as well as other Twitter subcultures made up by people of color. Conducted by the Knight Foundation, the compelling study offers insight into how these Twitter communities have reshaped the world of media, journalism, and the very conversations we have day to day.

According to the report, marginalized communities flock to Twitter to take control of their community’s narrative. Those who counted themselves as part of Black Twitter and participated in the study said that there was a distrust of traditional media and journalists telling their stories and reporting their news in an accurate, culturally aware manner.

(Image: The Knight Foundation)

The data showed that in absolute numbers, Black Twitter was covered most often by news and media than Feminist Twitter or Asian American Twitter. The top five black community-generated hashtags reported most by media are: #blacklivesmatter, #oscarssowhitem, #blacktwitter, #betawards, and #blackgirlmagic.

The study also emphasized how often Black Twitter uses the online platform to discuss specific aspects of black culture. These hashtags tend to go viral throughout Black Twitter but are not widely reported by media and news. The top five most used of these types of hashtags are #vinehalloffame, #cnnbelike, #thanksgivingclapback, #growingupblack, and #obamaday.

Who Is Black Twitter?

The report also defines those who make up Black Twitter:

-Are concerned that reporters over-rely on Twitter for sourcing, and they raise ethical concerns about surveillance.

-Express a desire for news professionals to cultivate authenticity by showing up as a “real person” online.

-Want journalists to cover the plurality of black communities with diverse voices, stressing that “black people are not a monolith.”

(Image: The Knight Foundation)

Other takeaways from the study:

-Black Twitter coverage focused mostly on anti-black police violence (#blacklivesmatter, #sayhername) and black political and cultural issues.

-Black Twitter and Feminist Twitter are inter-sectional.

-In absolute terms, news organizations posted to Black Twitter hashtags more often (33,579 tweets), than Feminist Twitter (5,965 tweets).

“A strong future for journalism is dependent on accurate reporting that reflects the stories and concerns of all of our communities,” said LaSharah Bunting, Knight Foundation director for journalism, in a press release. “The report offers a window into how some of these communities interact with the news on their own terms, opening an opportunity for journalists to connect with their audiences in new and different ways.”

Join the Conversation

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How Kylie Jenner crashed Snapchat’s stock

Snap’s flagship platform has lost some lustre, at least according to one social media “influencer” in the Kardashian-Jenner clan.

Shares of the Snapchat parent company sank 6.1% on Thursday, wiping out US$1.3bn in market value, on the heels of a tweet on Wednesday from Kylie Jenner, who said she doesn’t open the app anymore.

Whether it’s the demands of her newfound motherhood, or the recent app redesign, the testament drew similar replies from her 24.5m followers. Wall Street analysts too have begun to notice, citing recent user engagement trends noticed since the platform’s redesign.

Jenner’s tweet was followed late on Thursday by one from Maybelline New York, asking its followers if it should stay on the Snapchat platform. The beauty product brand owned by Paris-based L’Oreal said its “Snapchat views have dropped dramatically”, but it still wanted to connect with its followers.

Citigroup analyst Mark May downgraded the stock to “sell” from “neutral” earlier this week after seeing a “significant jump” in negative reviews of the app’s redesign. He expects the reviews could cause user engagement to fall, hurting financial results.

Meanwhile, as the app takes criticism, CEO Evan Spiegel may become one of the highest paid executives in the US. After the company’s IPO last March, Spiegel got a $636.6m stock grant that will be payable through 2020.

“Still love you tho snap,” Jenner hedged in a later tweet.  — Reported by Justina Vasquez, with assistance from Luke Kawa and Courtney Dentch, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

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Twitter Installs Mural of 40 Black Faces to Celebrate Black History Month

To combat the stigma of fear, ignorance, and stereotypes associated with black people, Twitter turned a wall inside of its New York headquarters into a mural of African American faces. Dominique Duroseau, the Haitian-American photographer behind the 40 portraits, said the purpose of the installation is to humanize people with black and brown skin.

“The idea is to work on black visibility,” said Duroseau, who is dedicated to counteracting negative perceptions of black people through art. “This project jump-started years ago especially around Trayvon Martin’s death,” she told Black Enterprise.

(Photo Credit: Black Enterprise/Francisco Marc Lafontaine)

Duroseau said she was intentional about having subjects appear emotionless while showing no visible distinction of their cultural, socio-economic, sexual orientation, or educational status. “There is no expression of anger, hate, [or] love. It’s just a neutral look because I needed people to look at them for what they are,” she said. Rather than seeing a criminal, “thug,” or “welfare mother,” viewers are exposed to people who look like their friends, neighbors, and colleagues. “These are the people that can be your coworkers, they could be the ones educating your kids, they could be your neighbors—but they’re also the people who are in danger outside of these walls.”

The installation is part of Twitter’s #WallForACause series in New York, which spotlights different social causes brought to life by local artists. This month’s mural was created in partnership with @Blackbirds, a group of black Twitter employees, and ARTNOIR, a global collective of creatives and culturalists of color. Featured in the photos are the Twitter Blackbirds, themselves, as well as other influencers of color who are part of Black Twitter. Ariel Adkins, the Art & Culture liaison at Twitter, said it was important for the tech giant to celebrate their black employees while drawing attention to the lack of diversity in the tech industry at large during Black History Month.

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Twitter takes flight as it reports first real profit

Twitter has posted a surprise gain in revenue, the first growth in four quarters, driven by improvements to its app and added video content that are persuading advertisers to boost spending on the social network. The shares surged.

The company topped analysts’ average sales estimates in the fourth quarter and for the first time posted a real profit, a milestone in CEO Jack Dorsey’s turnaround effort. Monthly active users were little changed from the prior quarter at 330m, a lower-than-projected total that the company attributed in part to stepped-up efforts to reduce spam, malicious activity and fake accounts.

The report adds to positive momentum in recent months for Twitter, which spent the second half of 2017 explaining how Russian-linked accounts — including automated bots — influenced content on its platform around the 2016 US presidential election. Dorsey, who also runs Square, has been working to broaden Twitter from a micro-blogging site into a destination for users to see “what’s happening now” by striking live-streaming partnerships with news outlets and sports leagues.

The shares soared 23% in early trading in New York after closing at US$26.91 on Wednesday.

Twitter’s focus on video, as well as a new software algorithm that shows users the most relevant postings first, have led people to spend more time on the platform, said Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG.

“I think they’ve come a long way,” Greenfield said. “The product has dramatically improved. They’re doing a better job of showing the right tweets to the right people at the right time.”

Twitter has been upgraded by at least six analysts since late October, fuelling a stock rally of more than 47% in the past year. Shares jumped as much as 9.5% in one day last month amid renewed speculation that the company may be an acquisition target.

Revenue in the recent period rose 2% from a year earlier to $731.6m, buoyed by data-licensing sales and video advertising. Analysts on average had predicted $686.4m, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Net income was $91.1m, or $0.12/share, marking the first time the company reached profitability under generally accepted accounting principles. That compared with a loss of $167.1m, or $0.23, a year earlier. Profit excluding some costs was $0.19/share, exceeding projections for $0.14.

Daily active users

Analysts on average had estimated monthly users would rise to 333m. Twitter said daily active users increased 12% from a year earlier, marking its fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit increases. The company doesn’t disclose the specific number of daily active users, arguing that showing growth is more important.

“A main part of the turnaround premise is predicated on DAU gains,” said James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co, who estimates that Twitter has roughly 125m daily users. By contrast, Facebook has 1.4bn. “Without added transparency on that front, it provides more questions than answers.”

Twitter last month said it suspended 3 814 accounts linked to a Kremlin troll farm, and notified approximately 1.4m people that they interacted with Twitter accounts potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organisation. In preparation for the 2018 US mid-term elections, Twitter said it would verify major party candidates for all state-wide and federal offices, with open “lines of communication” to federal and state officials.

The company gave a first-quarter outlook for adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of $185m to $205m. Analysts estimated $188.3m.

The San Francisco-based company may stand to benefit from Facebook’s recent decision to shift its news feed toward content from family and friends and to focus less on posts from media outlets and businesses. The change is encouraging publishers and online advertisers to increase investment on Twitter, according to some analysts. Still, that may not be enough to move the needle for Twitter’s overall share of worldwide digital ad spending, which is expected to shrink slightly to 0.8%  this year, according to researcher EMarketer. That compares to Facebook’s 18.4% and Google’s 31.3%.  — Reported by Selina Wang, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

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Weibo brings back sanitized version of trending topics



Weibo brings back sanitized version of trending topics · TechNode























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Theresa May seeks allies in fight with big tech

Theresa May

On a break from Brexit, British Prime Minister Theresa May takes her crusade against technology giants to Davos.

“No one wants to be known as ‘the terrorists’ platform’ or the first choice app for paedophiles,” May is expected to say according to excerpts released by her office ahead of her speech on Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Technology companies still need to go further in stepping up their responsibilities for dealing with harmful and illegal online activity.”

Investors in social media businesses such as Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube will be asked “to consider the social impact of the tech companies they are investing in”.

In a recruitment drive among the global elite, May wants those with the biggest stakes in these companies to pile on pressure as well.

At stake is how to stop social media being used as platforms for extremist propaganda, hate speech, child sexual exploitation or human trafficking. The companies under fire have showcased efforts to use artificial intelligence to stop such content from appearing online.

After two years of repeatedly bashing social media companies, May will say that successfully harnessing the capabilities of AI — and responding to public concerns about AI’s impact on future generations — is “one of the greatest tests of leadership for our time”.

May will unveil a new government-funded Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation that will provide companies and policymakers guidance on the ethical use of artificial intelligence.

Facebook recently told UK lawmakers it now removes 83% of terrorist content within one hour. YouTube told the same parliamentary committee that it removes 50% of such content within two hours and 70% within eight hours. Twitter said it now identifies and removes 75% of accounts posting terrorist content before they issue a single tweet.

While May is expected to acknowledge “some progress” on the part of technology companies, she’ll stress the need to go further to have content removed automatically. They “must focus their brightest and best” toward that goal, she will say.

To be sure, the adoption of the most cutting-edge technology for this purpose raises a whole other can of worms — also around ethics and the extent to which government should or even can regulate AI.  — Reported by Jeremy Kahn, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

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Facebook admits social media has a dark side

Facebook acknowledged on Monday that social media can have a negative impact on democracies, and that the company has more work to do in order to ensure that the good outweighs the bad.

“From the Arab Spring to robust elections around the globe, social media seemed like a positive,” Katie Harbath, who runs the Facebook team that builds relationships with governments around the world, wrote in a blog post. “The last US presidential campaign changed that, with foreign interference that Facebook should have been quicker to identify, to the rise of ‘fake news’ and echo chambers.”

Following the November 2016 election, Menlo Park, California-based Facebook has frequently promised to work harder and devote more resources to fixing such issues. But it also usually emphasised that bad actors made up a small percentage of activity and that, overall, the company was doing something good for society. Facebook’s post today is the most self-critical assessment of the company’s impact to date, complete with an admission that its efforts may not be successful.

In the battle against fake news, for example, Facebook has tried several different strategies, such as working with third-party fact checkers to mark dubious articles as “disputed”, then deciding to offer up “related article” suggestions instead. The company will also start polling users about the trustworthiness of sources, with the goal of using that data to guide rankings in the news-feed algorithm.

“Even with all these countermeasures, the battle will never end,” Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement, wrote in a separate blog post. “Misinformation campaigns are not amateur operations. They are professionalised and constantly try to game the system. We will always have more work to do.”

Facebook also talked openly about the challenge of working with government leaders who harass their own citizens. Chakrabarti wrote about a citizen in one country who told Facebook that after he posted a video critical of the government, the police visited him to inspect his tax compliance.

‘Hateful posts’

There are also officials in “more open societies” who “write hateful posts that make enforcing our community standards challenging”, Chakrabarti said. “So far, we’ve kept such posts up on our platform since we view them as newsworthy information that citizens deserve to know.” That’s similar to the reasoning used by Twitter for keeping up tweets by US President Donald Trump that may violate its policies.

Facebook’s admission that social media may not be good for democracy comes about a month after another reflective report from the company, which said “passively” consuming social media can be bad for mental health.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been trying to evaluate the company’s blind spots with regard to its role in the world, adjusting Facebook’s goals to make sure the site has a positive impact. Earlier this year, for example, he said he would shift the news feed to focus more on posts from friends and family, as opposed to brands and news organisations.  — Reported by Sarah Frier, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP

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Streaming Data From Twitter for Analysis in Spark

Happy New Year! Our first blog entry of 2018 is a guest post from Josh Janzen, a data scientist based in Minnesota. Josh wanted to ingest tweets referencing NFL games into Spark, then run some analysis to look for a correlation between Twitter activity and game winners. Josh originally posted this entry on his personal blog and kindly allowed us to repost it. Over to you, Josh.

‘Tis the season of NFL football, and one way to capture excitement is Twitter data. I’ve tinkered around with Twitter’s Developer API before, but this time I wanted to use a streaming product I’ve heard good things about: StreamSets Data Collector.

After I received the Tweets’ semi-raw data, I wanted to analyze the tweet data using Spark. I chose Spark because the distributed nature of the RDD is great for using large amounts of data (and I’m not sure on how much I’ll be getting).

My idea was to do a count of tweets for a particular team/game and see if the volume of tweets would predict whether that team actually wins or loses the game.

Data Collection Process

I have done a little work with the Twitter Developer API in the past, which I had used from Python to parse the tweets as they arrived. I found this process very simple, but I was a little apprehensive bringing StreamSets into the mix. However, having the knowledge of a scalable ETL and streaming program like StreamSets is a good idea.

To use StreamSets, I did some google searches on streaming Twitter StreamSets. I found a very well put-together tutorial. It looked promising, so I felt confident enough to download the StreamSets application on my Mac and install it. I was a 145mb ZIP download extracted as a Java project.

After starting via the terminal, I was able to connect to it via localhost through my web browser, which I appreciate.

To connect to Twitter API via the StreamSets HTTP Client origin, I had to define the Resource URL. Instead of getting all the tweets available, I decided to filter only tweets with “nfl” located in the tweet or hashtag. Also note, the Twitter API is a randomly sampled real-time subset of tweets. I was planning on doing all other filtering and counting in Spark later, but I’m sure some more of that ETL could have also been done in StreamSets.

As for the credentials to connect to Twitter, I had to enter four values: Consumer Key, Consumer Secret, Token, and Token Secret. At this point, as a test, using the StreamSets UI, I connected the HTTP Client to save in Local FileSystem and ran the pipeline.

I reviewed a few lines of raw tweet output in a text editor and online JSON viewer. I decided that I didn’t need all the JSON fields, so I added a Field Remover processor to my pipeline between the HTTP Client and saving to the Local FileSystem. The fields I decided to keep were (I went with more rather than less, as I didn’t know exactly what I’d need in Spark): create date/time, userId, tweet text, username, user location, user timezone, hashtags, retweet status, retweet count, and location. After running, it looked good!

As I was in NFL week 13 (Thursday 11/30 – Sunday 12/03), I decided to run the Pipeline on the Thursday game as a test. I noticed plenty of data (around 5k tweets) relating to the NFL for those three hours of 7 PM to 10 PM. I thought this was a good proxy for plenty of data to capture for Sunday – when was my intended data to go for analysis of the project.

Final pipeline diagram:

On Sunday, 12/3, I started the Pipeline at 11:59 AM and ran it until about 7:15 PM that day. By running during that time, it would allow me to have the option of analysis for both the noon and 3 PM games.

After I stopped the Pipeline, I had nine folders of data (one folder for each hour, which was the default setting in the StreamSets local file system destination; the first hour was only one minute, and the last folder representing 7 PM was also very small). The size of all the Sunday tweets was about 52mb.

Before diving into Spark, I wanted to get an idea on the amount of tweets in my data for data validation purposes. Using the terminal, I did a wc -l filename for the 12 PM and 3 PM hours. The total lines were 3,145 and 4,110. Since I have about seven full hours, I would expect my data in Spark to have about 20k – 25k tweets.

Spark Processing and Validation

I had the data on my local drive on the Cluster, so now, I copied that data to HDFS for Spark to access. After starting the Spark shell, I went to read the data using the HDFS path and /*. However, after doing a count of the tweets, it seemed very low. It turns out, I needed an additional /* added to access all the subdirectories. I did a count on the RDD and came out to 20,202, which validated to the Linux command I ran on my local in which I estimated 20k – 25k Tweets.

Moving on to what I was looking for — which, at this point, was counting the number of tweets during a game for a particular team playing. I decided to break the dataset into two RDDs. The first would be mapping and getting just the “hour” of the tweet. The second would be mapping to get the “text” of the tweet.

The final data structure would need to combine the two RDDs so I could count across specific hours and tweets containing the team name. I decided on the tuple data structure. Then, I just filtered the tuple by hours of a game and team name. For example, for the Vikings/Rams game (which started at noon), would be an hour representing noon, 1 PM, 2 PM, and tweet text containing “vikings” or “rams.”

I had to repeat this process for each team in the noon games, where there were seven games. At this point, I decided to create a JAR and submit the job via Spark-Submit. The input the Shell script to run the JAR on the cluster was to enter Input Data Location, Output Data Location, and team name. By doing this, it sped up the process of gathering the count of tweets for each team as I just had to update the team name in the Shell-script and running it right from the Cluster.

I was making the assumption that the noon game would run from noon to 3 PM.

Other Programs

I used text editors for writing my code. On my Windows, it was Notepad++.

For creating the JAR file for Spark-Submit, I used the Cloudera VM and ran Eclipse IDE.

For moving JARs along with connecting to the Cluster and Cloudera VM, I used Putty and WinSCP.

For visualizing the results, I used Excel. If I were using more variables in the dataset and looking for more of a dynamic visualization, I most likely would have used Tableau.

Output

Of the seven games played at noon, four of the seven who were winners had more Tweets. I don’t think that is it significant to say the tweet activity predicted the outcome, but interesting nonetheless.

Conclusion

I have used a Hadoop cluster many times over the past three years. From a data science perspective, it’s really not the greatest tool due to the effort needed to move data and the lack of built-in statistical/visualization tools. Going forward, if I were to consult similar tools, I would look into something like Cloudera’s Data Science Workbench. However, I’m a firm believer in the knowledge to perform all functions through the command line, so this project further enhanced my skillset.

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Why Twitter won’t ban Donald Trump

Twitter has defended its decision to allow US President Donald Trump’s controversial tweets to remain on the service, saying that blocking a world leader or removing their tweets “would hide important information people should be able to see and debate”.

Selectively excluding certain tweets from such figures “would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions”, Twitter said in a blog post on Friday.

Earlier this week, Trump tweeted threats of nuclear action in response to North Korea’s taunts, leading to calls for Twitter to ban Trump, claiming that he violates the social media platform’s own terms of service regarding inciting abuse or promoting violence.

The exchange prompted a protest group in San Francisco, called Resistance SF, to gather outside of Twitter’s headquarters, calling on CEO Jack Dorsey to step down or remove Trump from Twitter.

Earlier last week, Brian Fallon, a political commentator and former spokesman for Hillary Clinton, tweeted to Dorsey: “Hey @Jack. It’s time to kick Trump off this website.”

Trump’s tweets that have insulted women and his retweet of an anti-Muslim post have caused repeated uproars among its users.

The company has maintained that Trump’s tweets are newsworthy.

In Friday’s blog post, Twitter said it reviews tweets by leaders within the “political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly.”

Twitter has also emphasised its use as a place to see what’s happening and that it’s easier for the social media company to deliver on its mission if influential people like Trump start discussions there. Last year, Twitter executive chairman Omid Kordestani said that “it’s good to have him talk on Twitter”.  — Reported by Selina Wang, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP

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Twitter doubles tweet limit for all users

Bye Twitter brevity. Twitter said on Tuesday that users can send tweets with as many as 280 characters, double the current limit, the latest attempt by the social media company to revive user growth.

The roll-out includes all languages except Japanese, Korean and Chinese. Twitter said those Asian languages can convey about double the amount of information in one character compared with many other languages.

The company started testing the longer tweet limit with a small group of users in September. Twitter found that people with the expanded character limit spent less time editing their tweets. Those people also got more followers, spent more time on the platform and interacted more with other users on the service, the company added.

“We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they tweeted more easily and more often,” Aliza Rosen, a company product manager, wrote in a blog. “More space makes it easier for people to fit thoughts in a tweet, so they could say what they want to say, and send tweets faster than before.”

The 140-character limit is a relic of a previous technological era. That was the maximum that could fit in mobile text messages when the service started in 2006, before the mass adoption of smartphones.

Now with more advanced devices, there’s no technical limit on the size of tweets. Some Twitterati think brevity is the soul of the service and worry the longer form will ruin what’s special about it. However, many of Twitter’s 330m monthly active users were already getting around the limit by linking to longer pieces, taking screenshots of full stories, and sending streams of tweets called tweetstorms to complete thoughts.

Twitter hopes the longer limit will make its service more approachable for more people. It’s a popular destination for journalists, politicians and celebrities, but the company has failed to reach a more general audience like Facebook. In its current form, Twitter has proved cumbersome for new users, yet each time the company tries to change an important feature, heavy users complain.  — Reported by Selina Wang, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP

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Twitter employee briefly pulls plug on Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account went down abruptly for about 11 minutes on Thursday evening, a brief deactivation the social media company blamed on an employee who was heading out the door.

Attempts to call up Trump’s personal page, @realDonaldTrump, turned up a message saying, “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”, prompting many Twitter users to send out screenshots. Within minutes, the account was once again available. The official feed for the US president, @POTUS, wasn’t affected.

“Through our investigation we have learned that this was done by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day. We are conducting a full internal review,” the company tweeted, after citing inadvertent “human error” in an earlier post.

Twitter has mistakenly frozen accounts in the past. In 2016, CEO Jack Dorsey was locked out of his own for a few minutes. Dorsey said in a tweet that the suspension was “an internal mistake”. Users can also deactivate their own accounts. Once someone chooses to do so, Twitter retains that data for 30 days, after which it begins the process of deleting the information. An account can be reactivated during that period simply by logging in.

Twitter has come under fire from critics who say the company should banish Trump for violating its terms of service. The US president often uses Twitter to disseminate his thinking, sometimes making disparaging remarks. Twitter’s rules let the company suspend accounts for violent threats, gender-based attacks and other forms of abuse and harassment.

Questionable tweets

In June, Trump tweeted remarks aimed at MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski: “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”

The next month, the US president posted a video in which he’s shown wrestling and punching a person whose head bears the CNN logo. Many said that tweet violated Twitter’s policies against violent threats and targeted abuse.

The fact that Twitter hasn’t closed Trump’s account appears to be “a violation of Twitter’s own rules”, Stephen Balkam, the founder of the Family Online Safety Institute, a nonprofit organisation that’s part of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, said in a recent interview. “If an ordinary citizen tweeted some of what he tweeted, I would think some of them would be taken down.”  — Reported by Selina Wang, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP

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Twitter Data Analysis: Optimizing Insertion Throughput With Batching

GRAKN.AI is the database for AI. It is a distributed knowledge base designed specifically to handle complex data in a knowledge-oriented system — a task for which traditional database technologies are not the best fit.

To ensure that their internal knowledge is the most up-to-date and relevant, AI systems are always hungry for newly updated data. Working seamlessly with streaming data is therefore useful for building knowledge-oriented systems. In this blog post, we will look at how to stream public tweets into Grakn’s distributed knowledge base.

Continuing Where We Left Off

This post is the last one of a three-part series covering how we can leverage GRAKN.AI for performing analysis on Twitter data.

Here, we will continue our work from Part 2 and look at how we can optimize the throughput even further with batching.

Before we delve into what batching is, let’s get a brief recap of what we previously covered in this Twitter data series. Here’s a rundown of the first two posts:

Part 1: Using GRAKN.AI to Stream Twitter Data. In this post, we mainly look at two things: how to model and define a schema and how to insert the actual data into the knowledge base.

Part 2: Performing Aggregate Query on Twitter Data. Here, we continue further by looking at how we can perform aggregate queries in order to obtain meaningful information from a dataset.

If you haven’t already, I recommend that you check out these posts. They cover basic concepts of working with GRAKN.AI and Twitter data and will serve as the basis for the remainder of this post.

So, What Is Batching?

Batching is a technique which improves the throughput of data processing. It works by organizing the execution unit in batches in order to minimise the amount of associated “plumbing works.”

In order to help us understand what batching is more clearly, let’s do a concrete example of performing HTTP calls…

Imagine we are trying to add new items into a database via HTTP calls. If we’re trying to add ten items, it makes sense to send them in a batch of 10 items through a single HTTP call rather than doing one call per item.

This is because the cost of the associated plumbing works — which is in initiating an HTTP connection — is so high that it would reduce the throughput by a significant margin.

That is how batching fundamentally works, and it is such an important technique which can be applied to many different things. In this post, we’re going to look at performing batch insertion in order to improve the throughput of Twitter data ingestion.

Enabling Batch Insertion

Fortunately, Grakn has batching support already built in.

Let’s update GraknTweetOntologyHelper::withGraknGraph() in order to expose GraknTxType parameters. This way, we can chose whether to use WRITE or BATCH depending on the circumstances.

public static void withGraknGraph(GraknSession session, GraknTxType type, Consumer<GraknGraph> fn) { GraknGraph graphWriter = session.open(type); fn.accept(graphWriter); graphWriter.commit();
}

Next, go to the main method to update our schema creation and data insertion to use the appropriate GraknTxType.

An important thing to note: BATCH can only be used for data insertion. Schema creation must always be done with WRITE.

public static void main(String[] args) { try (GraknSession session = Grakn.session(graphImplementation, keyspace)) { withGraknGraph(session, GraknTxType.WRITE, graknGraph -> initTweetOntology(graknGraph)); // initialize schema
listenToTwitterStreamAsync(consumerKey, consumerSecret, accessToken, accessTokenSecret, (screenName, tweet) -> { withGraknGraph(session, GraknTxType.BATCH, graknGraph -> { insertUserTweet(graknGraph, screenName, tweet); Stream<Map.Entry<String, Long>> result = calculateTweetCountPerUser(graknGraph); // query prettyPrintQueryResult(result); // display }); }); }
}
public static void main(String[] args) { try (GraknSession session = Grakn.session(graphImplementation, keyspace)) {

Running The Application

Let’s build and run the application with:

$ mvn package
$ java -jar target/twitterexample-1.0-SNAPSHOT.jar

You will see a list of users along with the number of times they have tweeted since we started the application:

------
-- user <user-1> tweeted 2 time(s).
-- user <user-2> tweeted 1 time(s).
-- user <user-3> tweeted 1 time(s).
-- user <user-n> tweeted 1 time(s).
------

But it’s exactly the same as what we had built earlier, in Part 2!

So What Has Changed?

Well, what we’ve done is an optimization step for achieving higher throughput. While the external behavior of our app doesn’t change, it is now able to receive data faster.

How much faster, exactly? Well, we’re curious, too! To be frank, we don’t yet have the number at hand. We’re still working on a benchmark, which will be published very soon.

In big data, batching is an extremely valuable technique which should be considered at various stages of the processing pipeline in order to boost performance.

Specifically for our app, introducing batching makes a lot of sense — we want to be able to receive as much data as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Conclusion

This post concludes the Twitter Data Analysis series! Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at how we can develop a very simple application with Grakn using the Java programming language.

We’ve chosen to work with Twitter data so that developers of any level can dive straight into Grakn.

In other words, working with Grakn is easy and we want you to know it!

We’ve looked at how to define a schema, how to insert data, and how to perform aggregate queries in order to get meaningful information out of it. We’ve also looked at batching, which is an essential technique for working with data at scale.

You should have enough knowledge for developing your first application with Grakn. But there’s more, and we encourage to check out our docs in order to find comprehensive information on working with the schema and query language AKA Graql.

Have a look at part one and part two on the Grakn blog, in case you missed them. Also, don’t forget, the sample project is always available for you to download and play with.

Original Link

Twitter in crackdown on abusive tweets

Twitter is introducing new policies to combat harassment and unwanted sexual advances on the social media site after a recent decision to disable the account of a famous actress sparked an uproar.

The company said it will immediately and permanently suspend any account that clearly harasses someone or posts nude images without the consent of the subject. The new policy also takes a tougher stance on unwanted sexual advances on the service by improving ways for bystanders to report inappropriate behaviour.

“A more aggressive policy and enforcement approach will result in the removal of more content from our service,” Twitter said on Tuesday in a statement. “We have to do a better job explaining our policies and setting expectations for acceptable behaviour on our service.”

Twitter came under fire last week for temporarily disabling the account of actress and director Rose McGowan. She had used the social media platform to name and shame alleged offenders in the entertainment industry following sexual assault allegations directed toward Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Twitter at the time said her account was temporarily locked for posting a private phone number.

Women boycotted the site for a day to protest, and some complained that Twitter’s swift action in suspending McGowan’s account contrasted with the company’s usual ambivalence in policing users who troll women with sexual and violent content. Some tweeted that silencing a sexual assault victim discourages other women from reporting their experiences.

Historically, the San Francisco-based company has erred on the side of free speech and unfiltered conversation. That attitude has started to shift as more incidences of abuse on the site turned some people away. In 2016, the company formed a Trust and Safety Council and made significant product updates to help curb abuse.

Twitter’s policies are being scrutinised more than ever because US President Donald Trump is such a heavy user. The company has not barred the president from tweeting, despite critics who say some of his tweets violate Twitter’s rules.

Responding to queries on a controversial tweet sent on 24 September by Trump about North Korea, Twitter said the company would “hold all accounts to the same rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether tweets violate our rules”.  — Reported by Selina Wang, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP

Original Link

Tech giants scramble to keep regulators at bay

Google summoned about 200 policy staff from around the world last month for a debate on whether the company’s size has made it too attractive as a target for government regulators.

The two-day retreat in Monterey, California, where employees from the US$682bn (R9.3 trillion) company plied Washington policy experts with questions about the pros and cons of its size, took place as Google confronts European antitrust claims and proposed US legislation that would increase online publishers’ liability for content produced by others.

This week, the Alphabet unit disclosed new information that could further roil the regulatory picture: revelations that Russian-linked accounts used its advertising network to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election. The news put Google in the company of Facebook and Twitter, both of which are embroiled in the controversy surrounding Russia’s involvement in last year’s US elections. Executives at all three companies are scrambling to respond.

Facebook has hired two crisis PR firms, and it plans to bring on as many as a thousand people to screen ads. Top executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, are phoning members of the US congress directly. The company reported spending more than $3.2m on lobbying in the first quarter of 2017, a company record. Google spent almost $6m in the second quarter for its own record. Both companies, with Twitter, are working together to deal with issues related to the Russian ads.

“There is a lot of pressure to intervene in this case because of the democratic implications,” said Laura DeNardis, director of the Internet Governance Lab at American University in Washington. “Because of the rising stakes for cyberspace, for the economy, for democracy, there is greater attention on the part of all actors.”

It’s a delicate balance for the companies, whose products reached massive scale because of their ability to transact advertising automatically, without much restriction. They must figure out how much responsibility to take and how much change to promise, without succumbing to costly regulation or setting a precedent that might be difficult to follow in other countries.

Political advertising

In the context of political advertising, some lawmakers are already proposing new limits. “We must update our laws to ensure that when political ads are sold online Americans know who paid for them,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said on Monday.

Two congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller are examining whether Russian operatives used social media platforms to influence US voters in 2016. Investigators are also examining possible collusion between Russian interests and associates of President Donald Trump. Facebook has turned over more than 3 000 ads purchased by Russian entities to both congressional investigations. Twitter has said it gave the panels a roundup of advertisements by RT, a TV network funded by the Russian government that was formerly known as Russia Today.

Donald Trump

Facebook for years has sought exemptions from political-ad disclosure rules — but the company recently said it’s working on ways to show who pays for ads. It also indicated it might be open to some regulation regarding transparency.

For Google, the new concerns around political advertising come as it responds to European antitrust charges and tries to preserve online platforms’ liability protections under a law known as Section 230. A US senate bill aimed at stopping online sex trafficking has drawn opposition from Google, Facebook and other Internet companies because it weakens those protections. Google executives expected congress to be more receptive to its arguments that penalising knowledge of trafficking might stop smaller Internet companies from looking for it at all. They were caught off-guard by negative responses to the company’s lobbying, according to one Washington operative who works for the company.

Meanwhile, a potential showdown on political advertising looms on 1 November, when executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter have been summoned to Washington to give public testimony before congressional committees.

Facebook’s two top executives — Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg — have joined others in making calls to members of congress and trying to smooth relationships, the company said. It has also hired two crisis communications firms to help it on both Republican and Democratic fronts. And a letter went out to advertisers, saying Facebook staff would manually review ads that target people based on their politics, religion, ethnicity or social issues.

Facebook’s vice president of public policy, Elliot Schrage, started a question-and-answer-style blog called “Hard Questions” in June. In consultation with Liz Spayd, the former New York Times public editor, Facebook updates the blog when news breaks on the company’s relationship with the Trump campaign and the Russian ads.

On Sunday, when US television news show 60 Minutes aired an interview with the Trump campaign’s digital director saying he had partisan Facebook employees work as “ embeds” in the campaign, the company added an explanation of how its services for Trump were standard for any advertiser during an important event.

Reassurance

The strategy is meant to reassure the public, and lawmakers, that Facebook is working diligently on solutions and therefore doesn’t need to be regulated more. But some critics say that by volunteering to be responsible, Facebook is opening itself up to more publicity and more blame.

Inside the company, leaders are dismayed by how the public is interpreting its involvement in the Russia investigation, according to a person familiar with their thinking. Executives fear that Facebook’s work for the presidential campaigns is being reframed as partisan, for example, even though it offers the same services to any major advertiser.

Mark Zuckerberg

Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, defended the company from media critics who say it should have found a technical solution to the problem of fake news. It’s not that simple — and any quick solution could end up being ideologically biased, he said in a series of recent posts on Twitter.

Facebook, Twitter and Google are cooperating on issues related to the Russian political ads. A person familiar with the effort said it was similar to how the three firms would work together on difficult industry-wide issues, such as child pornography or content from terrorist groups.

“We are taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries,” a Google spokeswoman said on Monday.

Twitter executives have been in frequent contact with congressional committees and investigators to try and answer their questions before 1 November, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company is addressing the issue from multiple angles, the person said, including asking engineers to examine spam-use on the platform and asking its advertising team to delve into ad purchases by RT, the Russian TV network.

Teaching Twitter’s algorithms to find malicious actors is challenging; Russian actors in particular are moving away from bots and networks to human beings that behave in coordinated ways, the person said. For instance, it can be difficult for Twitter’s algorithms to detect the difference between a group of paid tweets in Eastern Europe and a group of legitimate tweeters who are all posting at the same time at a convention.

Meanwhile, Google took a more creative approach to discussing its future last month. At the policy session in Monterey, one speaker played the opposition, voicing concerns about the power big corporations can wield over society. Another played defence. That was Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. His upcoming book, Big is Beautiful — co-authored by Michael Lind — argues larger firms create progress and prosperity.

“It was very open minded to have that kind of debate,” Atkinson said when reached by phone. “The threats against Google are certainly more severe now. Trying to portray yourself just as a good company is not adequate enough.”  — Reported by Mark Bergen, Sarah Frier and Selina Wang, with assistance from Ben Brody, Gerrit De Vynck and Selina Wang, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP

Original Link

Facebook chief warns of dangers to fake news solutions

Facebook’s chief security officer warned that the fake news problem is more complicated and dangerous to solve than the public thinks.

Alex Stamos, who’s handling the company’s investigation into Russia’s use of the social media platform ahead of the 2016 US presidential election, cautioned about hoping for technical solutions that he says could have unintended consequences of ideological bias.

It’s very difficult to spot fake news and propaganda using just computer programs, Stamos said in a series of Twitter posts on Saturday.

“Nobody of substance at the big companies thinks of algorithms as neutral,” Stamos wrote, adding that the media is simplifying the matter. “Nobody is not aware of the risks.”

The easy technical solutions would boil down to silencing topics that Facebook is aware are being spread by bots — which should only be done “if you don’t worry about becoming the ministry of truth” with machine learning systems “trained on your personal biases”, he said.

Stamos’s comments shed light on why Facebook added a thousand more people to review its advertising, rather than attempting an automated solution.

Fake accounts

The company sent a note to advertisers telling them it would start manually to review ads targeted to people based on politics, religion, ethnicity or social issues. The company is trying to figure out how to monitor use of its system without censoring ideas, after the Russian government used fake accounts to spread political discord in the US ahead of the election.

“A lot of people aren’t thinking hard about the world they are asking Silicon Valley to build,” Stamos wrote. “When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.”

Facebook has turned over more than 3 000 ads purchased by Russian entities to congressional investigators looking into Russian influence on the election. Twitter has said it gave the panels a round-up of advertisements by RT, formerly known as Russia Today, a TV network funded by the Russian government.

Officials from Facebook, Twitter and Google are set to testify to the US congress on the matter on 1 November.  — Reported by Sarah Frier, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP

Original Link

Caching Tweets Using Node.js, Redis, and Socket.io

In this article, we will build a streaming list of tweets based on a search query entered by the user. The tweets will be fetched using Twitter’s Streaming API, stored in a Redis list, and updated in the front-end using Socket.io. We will primarily be using Redis as a caching layer for fetching tweets.

Here is a brief description of the technologies we will be using.

  • Redis: Redis is an open-source (BSD licensed), in-memory data structure store used as a database, cache, and message broker. It supports data structures such as strings, hashes, lists, sets, sorted sets with range queries, bitmaps, hyperloglogs, and geospatial indexes with radius queries.
  • Node.js: Node.js is a platform built on Chrome’s JavaScript runtime for easily building fast and scalable network applications. Node.js uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient, and thus perfect for data-intensive real-time applications that run across distributed devices.
  • Express.js: Express.js is a Node.js framework. You can create the server and server-side code for an application like most of the other web languages, but using JavaScript.
  • Socket.IO: Socket.IO is a JavaScript library for real-time web applications. It enables real-time, bi-directional communication between web clients and servers. It has two parts: a client-side library that runs on the browser and a server-side library for Node.js. Both the components have nearly identical APIs.
  • Heroku: Heroku is a cloud platform that lets companies build, deliver, monitor, and scale apps. It is the fastest way to go from idea to URL, bypassing all those infrastructure headaches.

This article assumes that you already have Redis, Node.js, and the Heroku Toolbelt installed on your machine.

Setup

  • Download the code from this repository.
  • Run npm install to install the necessary components,
  • Finally, you can start the node server by doing node index.js. You can also run nodemon, which watches for file changes as well.

You can also access a hosted version of this app here.

The Process

Here is a brief description of the process that we will be using to build the demo application:

  1. We will start by accepting a search query from the user. The query can be Twitter mentions, hashtags or any random search text.
  2. Once we have the search query, we will send it to Twitter’s Streaming API to fetch tweets. Since it is a stream, we will be listening when tweets are sent by the API.
  3. As soon as a tweet is retrieved, we will store it in a Redis list and broadcast it to the front-end.

What Are Redis Lists?

Redis lists are implemented via Linked Lists. This means that even if you have millions of elements inside a list, the operation of adding a new element at the head or at the tail of the list is performed in constant time. The speed of adding a new element with the LPUSH command to the head of a list with ten elements is the same as adding an element to the head of a list with ten million elements.

In our application, we will be storing the tweets received via the API in a list called “tweets.” We will use LPUSH to push the newly received tweet to the list, trim it using LTRIM (which restricts the amount of disk space used, as writing a stream may take a lot of space), fetch the latest tweet using LRANGE, and broadcast it to the front-end where it will be appended to the streaming list.

What Are LPUSH, LTRIM, and LRANGE?

These are a set of Redis commands that are used to add data to a list. Here is a brief description.

LPUSH

Insert all the specified values at the head of the list stored at key. If the key does not exist, it is created as an empty list before performing the push operations. When key holds a value that is not a list, an error is returned.

redis> LPUSH mylist "world"
(integer) 1 redis> LPUSH mylist "hello"
(integer) 2 redis> LRANGE mylist 0 -1
1) "hello"
2) "world"

LTRIM

Trim an existing list so that it will contain only the range of elements specified. Both start and stop are zero-based indexes, where 0 is the first element of the list (the head), 1 the next one element, and so on.

redis> RPUSH mylist "one"
(integer) 1 redis> RPUSH mylist "two"
(integer) 2 redis> RPUSH mylist "three"
(integer) 3 redis> LTRIM mylist 1 -1 "OK" redis> LRANGE mylist 0 -1
1) "two"
2) "three"

LRANGE

This returns the specified elements of the list stored at key. The offset’s start and stop are zero-based indexes, with 0 being the first element of the list (the head of the list), 1 being the next, and so on.

These offsets can also be negative numbers indicating positions from the end of the list. For example, -1 is the last element of the list, -2 is the penultimate, and so on.

redis> RPUSH mylist "one"
(integer) 1 redis> RPUSH mylist "two"
(integer) 2 redis> RPUSH mylist "three"
(integer) 3 redis> LRANGE mylist 0 0
1) "one" redis> LRANGE mylist -3 2
1) "one"
2) "two"
3) "three"

Building the Application

Our demo requires both a front-end and a back-end. Our front-end is a pretty simple text box with a button that will be used to start the stream.

$('body').on('click', '.btn-search', function() { $('#tweets_area').empty(); $(this).text('Streaming...').attr('disabled', true); $.ajax({ url: '/search', type: 'POST', data: { val: $.trim($('.search-txt').val()) } });
});

We need a helper function to build a tweet box once we receive the tweet from our back-end:

var _buildTweetBox = function(status) { var html = ''; html += '<div class="media tweet-single">'; html += ' <div class="media-left">'; html += ' <a href="https://twitter.com/' + status.user.screen_name + '" target="_blank" title="' + status.user.name + '">'; html += ' <img class="media-object" src="' + status.user.profile_image_url_https + '" alt="' + status.user.name + '" />'; html += ' </a>'; html += ' </div>'; html += ' <div class="media-body">'; html += ' <h5 class="media-heading"><a href="https://twitter.com/' + status.user.screen_name + '" target="_blank">' + status.user.screen_name + '</a></h5>'; html += '<p class="tweet-body" title="View full tweet" data-link="https://twitter.com/' + status.user.screen_name + '/status/' + status.id_str + '">' + status.text + '</p>'; html += ' </div>'; html += '</div>'; $('#tweets_area').prepend(html); $('#tweets_area').find('.tweet-single').first().fadeIn('slow');
};

We also need a listener to stop the stream and prevent adding any more tweets to the streaming list:

socket.on('stream:destroy', function(status) { $('.btn-search').text('Start streaming').removeAttr('disabled'); $('.alert-warning').fadeIn('slow'); setTimeout(function() { $('.alert-warning').fadeOut('slow'); }, STREAM_END_TIMEOUT * 1000);
});

Let’s switch over to the back-end side of things and start writing our /search API.

/** * API - Search */
app.post('/search', function(req, res, next) { _searchTwitter(req.body.val); res.send({ status: 'OK' });
}); /** * Stream data from Twitter for input text * * 1. Use the Twitter streaming API to track a specific value entered by the user * 2. Once we have the data from Twitter, add it to a Redis list using LPUSH * 3. After adding to list, limit the list using LTRIM so the stream doesn't overflow the disk * 4. Use LRANGE to fetch the latest tweet and emit it to the front-end using Socket.io * * @param {String} val Query String * @return */
var _searchTwitter = function(val) { twit.stream('statuses/filter', {track: val}, function(stream) { stream.on('data', function(data) { client.lpush('tweets', JSON.stringify(data), function() { client.ltrim('tweets', 0, TWEETS_TO_KEEP, function() { client.lrange('tweets', 0, 1, function(err, tweetListStr) { io.emit('savedTweetToRedis', JSON.parse(tweetListStr[0])); }); }); }); }); stream.on('destroy', function(response) { io.emit('stream:destroy'); }); stream.on('end', function(response) { io.emit('stream:destroy'); }); setTimeout(stream.destroy, STREAM_TIMEOUT * 1000); });
}

The above code contains the core of our back-end. Once a request has been received at /search, we start the stream using Twitter’s streaming API that returns a stream object.

twit.stream('statuses/filter', {track: val}, function(stream) {});

We can listen to the stream object for a key called data that will send us a new tweet when available.

stream.on('data', function(data) {});

The data object contains the tweet JSON, which may look something like this (part of the response has been omitted):

{ "created_at": "Wed Jul 26 08:01:56 +0000 2017", "id": 890119982641803300, "id_str": "890119982641803264", "text": "RT @FoxNews: Jim DeMint: \"There is no better man than Jeff Sessions, and no greater supporter...of [President #Trump's] agenda.\"... ", "source": "<a href=\"http://twitter.com/download/android\" rel=\"nofollow\">Twitter for Android</a>", "truncated": false, "in_reply_to_status_id": null, "in_reply_to_status_id_str": null, "in_reply_to_user_id": null, "in_reply_to_user_id_str": null, "in_reply_to_screen_name": null, "user": { "id": 4833141138, "id_str": "4833141138", "name": "randy joe davis", "screen_name": "randyjoedavis1", "location": null, "url": null, "description": "Conservative Patriot, retired military, retired DOD civilian. cattle farmer, horseman, adventurer. Lovin Life ! GO HOGS !!", "protected": false, "verified": false, "followers_count": 226, "friends_count": 346, "listed_count": 0, "favourites_count": 3751, "statuses_count": 1339, "created_at": "Sat Jan 30 03:39:16 +0000 2016", "utc_offset": null, "time_zone": null, "geo_enabled": false, "lang": "en", "contributors_enabled": false, "is_translator": false, "profile_background_color": "F5F8FA", "profile_background_image_url": "", "profile_background_image_url_https": "", "profile_background_tile": false, "profile_link_color": "1DA1F2", "profile_sidebar_border_color": "C0DEED", "profile_sidebar_fill_color": "DDEEF6", "profile_text_color": "333333", "profile_use_background_image": true, "profile_image_url": "http://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/883522005210943488/rqyyXlEX_normal.jpg", "profile_image_url_https": "https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/883522005210943488/rqyyXlEX_normal.jpg", "default_profile": true, "default_profile_image": false, "following": null, "follow_request_sent": null, "notifications": null }
}

We store this response in a Redis list called tweets using LPUSH:

client.lpush('tweets', JSON.stringify(data), function() {});

Once the tweet has been saved, we trim the list using LTRIM to keep a max number of tweets (so our disk space doesn’t get full):

client.ltrim('tweets', 0, TWEETS_TO_KEEP, function() {});

After trimming the list, we fetch the latest tweet using LRANGE and emit it to the front-end:

client.lrange('tweets', 0, 1, function(err, tweetListStr) { io.emit('savedTweetToRedis', JSON.parse(tweetListStr[0]));
});

Since this is a demo application, we also need to manually destroy the stream after a specific time so it doesn’t keep writing to disk:

stream.on('end', function(response) { io.emit('stream:destroy');
});
setTimeout(stream.destroy, STREAM_TIMEOUT * 1000);

And you’re done! Fire up the server using npm start and enjoy the streaming experience.

A demo of the application is available here. For deploying this application on Heroku, check out their docs. The entire source code is also available on GitHub for you to fork and work on.

Original Link

Twitter may scrap 140-character limit

Twitter, struggling to attract new users, will lift its 140-character limit on tweets in an experiment with a small group that may expand to the entire social media platform.

The test announced on Tuesday will let users send tweets with as many as 280 characters. Lengthening the character limit may result in more engaging conversation on the platform, helping its bid to turn itself into a destination for live events and discussion. It includes all languages except Japanese, Korean and Chinese. Twitter said those Asian languages can convey about double the amount of information in one character compared with many other languages.

“We want every person around the world to easily express themselves on Twitter,” Aliza Rosen, company product manager, and Ikuhiro Ihara, senior software engineer, said in a blog post. “When people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some time to spare, we see more people tweeting.”

Character limit is a source of frustration for people tweeting in English, but not, for example, in Japanese, Twitter said. The company said its research shows that 9% of all tweets in English hit 140 characters, while only 0.4% in Japanese reach the maximum.

Twitter has been struggling to invigorate user growth and advertising revenue while investors are questioning whether the San Francisco-based company can find a long-term growth path. Twitter reported 328m active monthly users in the second quarter, unchanged from the previous period. Shares have declined 15% in the two months since then, closing at US$16.59 Tuesday in New York.

The change may help drive engagement for the social media company, said Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG.

“One hundred and forty characters was created when we had flip phones and small displays — displays have got bigger, and it does seem like an increasingly arbitrary limit,” Greenfield said. “Being able to tell a more detailed story makes it more accessible to a wider range of people.”

Product changes

The company has made product changes over the past several years to make the platform easier to use, and from time to time has floated the idea of removing the 140-character limit, even proposing increasing to a maximum of 10 000.

A popular place for journalists, athletes and politicians, Twitter has had difficulty expanding to a general audience. Each time the company raises the prospect of changes, it has been criticised by regular users. For instance, early last year, after reports surfaced that Twitter was planning to make its timeline algorithmic, ranking popular tweets first instead of listing them in chronological order, there was an outcry of users who pledged to abandon the service.

“Since many of you have been tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters — we felt it, too,” Rosen and Ihara wrote in the blog. “But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do.”

Twitter has already started to relax its 140-character limit. The company said a year ago that additions like photos or videos no longer counted toward the limit. The company originally created the restriction to encourage speed and brevity — something that has differentiated it from rival platforms.  — Reported by Selina Wang, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP

Original Link

Trump Sparks 4 Million #TakeAKnee-Related Social Media Posts

President Donald Trump ignited a firestorm of protest that exploded on social media over the weekend following his fiery remarks about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who have peacefully protested against social injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem.

(Image: Instagram/kaepernick7)

During a campaign rally in Alabama on Friday, the president called for the NFL to fire athletes who refused to stand while the anthem is being performed before football games. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b—h off the field right now, out, he’s fired!” he said. Trump then doubled down on his disparaging comments in 17 different tweets over the weekend. He even went as far as to encourage fans to boycott the NFL. In turn, Twitter users on both sides of the debate tweeted about the controversy.

According to social data intelligence company Talkwalker, the hashtag #TakeAKnee was mentioned 22,500 times while #TakeTheKnee received 6,800 mentions as of 7:15 p.m. ET on Sunday. Altogether, there were more than 4 million social posts related to the NFL and the national anthem over the weekend.

On Sunday, both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens became trending topics on Twitter after the two teams stood in solidarity with Kaepernick and knelt during the anthem. Each team received over 15,000 mentions as of 6 p.m. EDT on Sunday, reports Talkwalker. CNN political commentator Keith Boykin shared a video of the Jaguars and Ravens taking a knee received 4,100 likes and 2,000 Retweets. Meanwhile, the hashtag #NFL spiked by 377% and BoycottNFL had a jump of 256%.

According to Talkwalker, the top social post was a tweet from military widow Katie Hubbard in support of the NFL players’ right to protest. It has received more than 350,000 likes and 87,000 retweets.

On the other hand, a tweet from actor James Woods criticizing NFL players also went viral with 16,000 likes and 7,800 retweets.

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Ex-BET Exec Kay Madati Appointed as Twitter’s Head of Content Partnerships

Former BET executive Kay Madati tweeted Tuesday that he is leaving the TV network and joining Twitter as the company’s new head of Content Partnerships.

In his new role, Madati will be responsible for leading outreach efforts to media companies to increase sales and marketing opportunities, reports Variety. He will also run Twitter Amplify, a video advertising product that allows broadcasters to tweet real-time video clips accompanied by advertisements. Twitter, which has struggled in recent years to recruit investors, implemented Amplify in 2013 as an advertising tool to generate revenue.

Madati will be taking over for Ross Hoffman, who left the social network company in May after seven years. His role, however, will be much broader than the position held by Hoffman.

Kay Madati (Image: Twitter/Kay Madati)

Back in 2014, then-President Barack Obama appointed Madati to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. That same year, he was hired as the executive vice president and chief digital officer at BET Networks. While there, he was responsible for overseeing BET Digital, the interactive arm of BET Networks that includes BET.com and BET Mobile. He also managed teams responsible for all aspects of digital, social, and mobile strategy.

Prior to his stint at BET, Madati served as the head of Entertainment & Media at Facebook, where he was charged with facilitating ad-sales and monetization strategies.

Earlier in his career, the business leader worked as the VP of audience experience at CNN Worldwide and helped CNN integrate social media into its daily programming. Madati also has held marketing and operations roles at Octagon Worldwide and BMW of North America.

Madati received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and serves on the advisory board of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

According to his Twitter profile, he currently resides in Los Angeles.

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Meet Twitter’s New VP of Diversity and Inclusion, Candi Castleberry Singleton

Twitter has hired Candi Castleberry Singleton as its new vice president of diversity and inclusion, reports TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey.

Image: Twitter

Castleberry Singleton is the former chief inclusion officer at UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center)—a 60,000 employee global healthcare enterprise. According to this post from Pittsburgh Business Times, during her tenure, she launched the UPMC Center for Engagement and Inclusion in 2008 as well as a Dignity & Respect campaign.

TechCrunch reports that she was also a diversity and inclusion executive at Motorola. Additionally, Castleberry Singleton founded Dignity & Respect Campaign an organization with the stated mission “to teach individuals in organizations, communities, schools, and on sports teams to have respectful interactions, to build cultural awareness, and to find common ground with individuals who are different from themselves.”

Twitter faced criticism two years after hiring Jeffrey Siminoff, a white man, as its vice president of diversity and inclusion. The New York Times quoted a former Twitter manager about Siminoff’s hire:

“There was such a strong reaction to the changing of the guard because the person who was hired reflects the existing employee base, which is especially controversial for someone leading diversity,” said Mark Luckie, a former manager at Twitter who oversaw journalism and news at the company.”

In a statement to TechCrunch, Castleberry Singleton said, “I’m so excited to join the team at Twitter to lead inclusion and diversity efforts for employees and the Twitter community.”

Black Women Making Moves in Tech, But Diversity Still An Issue

“I’ve spent much of my career leading organizational change and building I&D into core business practices, and I look forward to bringing what I’ve learned to Twitter and building on the company’s great progress!” said Castleberry Singleton to TechCrunch.

Just recently, Apple named another African American woman, Denise Young Smith, as its VP of diversity and inclusion. And just this month Ghanian-born Bozoma Saint John was appointed Uber’s chief brand officer.

Despite these black women in high-profile, executive roles in Silicon Valley, the tech industry’s diversity rates remain abysmally low. A report from earlier this year shed a sobering light on how homogeneous the tech industry still is culturally and ethnically:

-Over the past 15 years, minorities have secured only 1%-2% of available tech jobs.

– Only 2% of tech executives are black; 3% are Latino.

-Black, Latino, and Native American people are underrepresented in technology by 16%-18% more, than compared with their presence in other sectors of the labor force.

-People of color leave tech at a rate 3.5% higher than that of white males citing “isolation, discrimination, and toxic work environments.”

-Companies are more prone to address gender diversity than racial diversity. From a quote within the study: “While 78% of companies report gender diversity is a top priority, only 55% report that racial diversity is.”

-Fewer than 1% of Silicon Valley executives and managers are black.

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Twitter: Oh You Fancy, Huh?

Twitter recently updated its user interface (UI) before our very eyes, with a new sleek yet subtle look. The simplicity of the new design is so understated that, at first glance, I couldn’t tell you exactly what it looked like before. I only was able to catch the nuanced differences upon further observation.

Here Are Some of the Changes

New Twitter Interface New Twitter Interface (Image Screenshot: Twitter/@SequoiaB)

The icon that enables you to write a new tweet in the far upper right-hand corner no longer features the feathered pen in a box symbol. Instead, the icon is simply an oval button with the word “Tweet” written inside. Another button that has been revamped is the ‘Home’ icon in the top-left corner. Now, this button features an outline of a birdhouse with only one hole.

Remember all of the icons at the bottom of the screen, such as  ‘Like,’ ‘Retweet,’ or ‘Reply’? Well, these icons have been updated with chic and understated outlines of their former symbols, which appear in the form of buttons. The former button for ‘Reply’ now features a cute little speech bubble icon. Also, each of these buttons can now update your likes, retweets, and replies in real-time.

Additionally, all of the avatars are now round,  as opposed to their former square look, which seems to make each of these images appear more clearly.

Although I can’t speak on how the redesign has impacted Twitter’s look on all mobile devices, I did notice that on my iPhone, all of the settings have been relocated to a new, left-side navigation menu.

But Did Twitter Forget Anything?

Um, yes.

For one thing, where is the ‘Edit’ button? Come on Twitter! We need that badly. Hopefully, this will be included in the next iteration.

Honestly, that’s really my biggest complaint. Other than that, I’m feelin’ this new UI.

At least the social media platform kept the ‘Pinned Tweet’ feature—thanks for keeping that Twitter!

By the way, happy #AllEyezOnMe Day and Happy Birthday Tupac!

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