Tag Archives: Hate

Facebook Moves to Limit Hate Speech as ‘Times’ Scandal Swirls
November 16, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Mark Zuckerberg would like you to know that despite a scathing report in The New York Times, which depicts Facebook as a ruthless, self-concerned corporate behemoth, things are getting better—at least, the way he sees it.

In a lengthy call with reporters Thursday, and an equally lengthy “note” published on Facebook, the company’s CEO laid out a litany of changes Facebook is making, designed to curb toxic content on the platform and provide more transparency into the decisions Facebook makes on content. But perhaps the most consequential update is that the Facebook News Feed algorithm will now try to limit the spread of sensationalist content on the platform, which represents a major change from how the company has traditionally approached moderation. All of it is in service of restoring trust in a company whose public reputation—and the reputation of its leaders—have taken near constant body blows over the past two years.

“When you have setbacks like we’ve had this year that’s a big issue, and it does erode trust, and it takes time to build that back,” Zuckerberg said on the call. “Certainly our job is not only to have this stuff at a good level and to continually improve, but to be ahead of new issues. I think over the last couple of years that’s been one of the areas where we’ve been most behind, especially around the election issues.”

Zuckerberg’s words come a day after the Times published a damning report that portrays Facebook as not merely behind on issues of election interference, as Zuckerberg suggests, but actively working to downplay what it knew about that interference. It suggests that Facebook’s executives, wary of picking sides in a partisan battle over Russian interference in the 2016 election, aimed to minimize Russia’s role in spreading propaganda on the platform. The story states that Facebook’s former head of cybersecurity, Alex Stamos, was chastised by the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, for investigating Russian actions without the company’s approval and berated again for divulging too much information about it to members of Facebook’s board.

In his remarks, Zuckerberg flatly denied this allegation. “We’ve certainly stumbled along the way, but to suggest that we weren’t interested in knowing the truth or that we wanted to hide what we knew or that we tried to prevent investigations is simply untrue,” he said. (Stamos, for his part, tweeted earlier on Thursday that he was “never told by Mark, Sheryl or any other executives not to investigate.”)

The Times story also alleges that Facebook waged a smear campaign against its competitors through an opposition research firm called Definers Public Relations. The firm repeatedly worked to tie Facebook’s detractors, including groups like the Open Markets Institute and Freedom from Facebook, to billionaire George Soros. Critics say that in doing so, Facebook engaged with the same anti-Semitic tropes that have been used by white nationalists and other hate groups that regularly villainize Soros.

Zuckerberg denied having any personal knowledge of Definers’ work with Facebook, and said he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, only heard about the relationship yesterday. That’s despite the fact that Definers often coordinated large-scale calls with the press on behalf of Facebook and its employees and, in at least one case, sat in on meetings between Facebook and the media.

After Zuckerberg read the story in the Times, he says Facebook promptly ended its relationship with the firm. “This type of firm might be normal in Washington, but it’s not the type of thing I want Facebook associated with, which is why we’re no longer going to be working with them.”

But while Zuckerberg said he had no knowledge of Definers’ work or its messaging, he defended Facebook’s criticism of activist groups like Freedom from Facebook. He said the intention was not to attack Soros, for whom Zuckerberg said he has “tremendous respect,” but show that Freedom from Facebook “was not a spontaneous grassroots effort.”

Zuckerberg declined to assign blame for the tactics allegedly employed by Definers, or to comment on broader personnel issues within Facebook itself. He said only that Sandberg, who has been overseeing Facebook’s lobbying efforts and who is portrayed unfavorably throughout the Times story, is “doing great work for the company.” “She’s been an important partner to me and continues to be and will continue to be,” Zuckerberg said. (Sandberg was not on the call.)

For the umpteenth time this year, Zuckerberg found himself working overtime to clean up Facebook’s mess, even as he wanted desperately to tout the progress the company’s been making. And it has made important progress. In Myanmar, where fake news on Facebook has animated a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya people, the company has hired 100 Burmese speakers to moderate content there and is now automatically identifying 63 percent of the hate speech it takes down, up from just 13 percent at the end of last year. Facebook has expanded its safety and security team to 30,000 people globally, more than the 20,000 people the company initially set out to hire this year. It’s also changed its content takedown process, allowing people to appeal the company’s decisions about content they post or report. On Thursday, Facebook announced that within the next year, it will create an independent oversight body to handle content appeals.

But by far the biggest news to come out of Thursday’s announcements is the change coming to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm. Zuckerberg acknowledged what most observers already know to be one of Facebook’s most fundamental problems: That sensationalist, provocative content, even content that doesn’t explicitly violate Facebook’s policies, tends to get the most engagement on the platform. “As content gets closer to the line of what is prohibited by our community standards, we see people tend to engage with it more,” he said. “This seems to be true regardless of where we set our policy lines.”

This issue is arguably what undergirds most of Facebook’s problems the past few years. It’s why divisive political propaganda was so successful during the 2016 campaign and why fake news has been able to flourish. Until now, Facebook has operated in a black-and-white environment, where content either violates the rules or it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, it’s free to amass millions of clicks, even if the poster’s intention is to mislead and stoke outrage. Now Facebook is saying that even content that doesn’t explicitly violate Facebook’s rules might see its reach reduced. According to Zuckerberg’s post, that includes, among other things, “photos close to the line of nudity” and “posts that don’t come within our definition of hate speech but are still offensive.”

Zuckerberg called the shift “a big part of the solution for making sure polarizing or sensational content isn’t spreading in the system, and we’re having a positive effect on the world.”

With this move, Facebook is taking a risk. Curbing engagement on the most popular content will likely cost the company money. And such a dramatic change no doubt opens Facebook up to even more accusations of censorship, at a time when the company is fending off constant criticism from all angles.

But Facebook is betting big on the upside. If outrage is no longer rewarded with ever more clicks, the thinking goes, maybe people will be better behaved. That Facebook is prepared to take such a chance says a lot about the public pressure that’s been placed on the company these last two years. After all of that, what does Facebook have to lose?


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Science Says This is the Best Way to Persuade Someone Who's Wrong (Jeff Bezos Will Hate It)
June 17, 2018 6:11 pm|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

In today’s America, we tend to feel gray areas are a touch passé.

You’re either right or you’re wrong. And if you can’t see which you are, then you’re two slices short of a sandwich.

How, though, can you even begin to persuade someone who’s mistaken — or even worse, vehemently disagrees with you?

A new study makes a curious suggestion, one that won’t please everyone.

The study, conducted by Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College and Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter, is entitled The roles of information deficits and identity threat in the prevalence of misperceptions.

They’re very polite about the fountains of knowledge pouring into today’s humans.

“Why do so many Americans hold misperceptions?” the researchers ask. 

To which I reply: “Why do many Americans now put mis in front of pleasant words, instead of calling them that they really are? Lying has become misspeaking? Oh, I don’t think it has.”

Anyway.

Nyhan and Reifler come to a startling, even painful conclusion: “In three experiments, we find that providing information in graphical form reduces misperceptions. A third study shows that this effect is greater than for equivalent textual information.”

Yes, if you want to persuade your half-cut, halfwitted neighbor or colleague about the parlous state of the world and the dangers of fascism/socialism/democracy/self-help books, your best bet is to show them a chart.

Worse, it seems that a chart is better than even text. Goodness, is that where I’ve been going wrong all my life?

I can, though, already see Jeff Bezos’s eyes rolling into the back of his head and emerging with a very red hue.

As the Amazon CEO explained in his latest letter to shareowners: “We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of ‘study hall.'”

So no slides or charts and graphics for Bezos. All he wants is a short story. Could he, perhaps, misperceive the benefits of charts? 

Still, charts surely can’t be so effective, otherwise everyone would have tried them. 

Moreover, it’s not as if you can create a chart to describe every false belief. How, for example, do you create a chart for a CEO who simply thinks his touch and feel is always right?

Nyhan and Reifler explain that a considerable reason why people hold on to false information is purely psychological. It confirms their world view.

“On high-profile issues, many of the misinformed are likely to have already encountered and rejected correct information that was discomforting to their self-concept or worldview,” they say.

Yes, but it’s not as if that nice man on CNN with his Election Night charts has ever persuaded many people, is it?

Expect, though, the rising stars in many companies now rushing to create charts in order to show that they’re right and their brain-manacled bosses are wrong. 

Expect, too, that American politics will now be revolutionized with the presentation of definitive charts of right and wrong.

You think I’m wrong about that? 

Send me a chart to show me why.

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Hate Pages Banned as Reddit Tightens Rules on Violent Content
October 29, 2017 12:00 am|Comments (0)

But broadened rules might be hard for the small company to enforce.

Reddit, a large internet community that has sometimes been accused of incubating hate groups, announced on Wednesday that its content policy would become more restrictive. Several pages dedicated to hateful speech or ideologies were quickly banned.

Reddit’s new policy was outlined in statements on the site’s Help page and on a message board for the volunteer moderators of the site’s thousands of community pages, known as subreddits. The change expands a prior ban on “inciting” violence to include “any content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people” or against animals.

The broadened restrictions seem intended, in part, to tamp down on hate groups and racist ideology on the site. The New York Times reported that at least three subreddits were swiftly banned after the announced changes: r/NationalSocialism, r/Nazi, and r/Far_Right.

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Reddit has previously banned a number of subreddits, particularly those glorifying or enabling sexual crimes or targeted harassment. But the latest wave of shutdowns comes amid a broader move away from free-speech absolutism on platforms including Twitter and Facebook, both of which have announced plans to further restrict content considered hateful.

Those efforts have shown mixed results, and Reddit’s new approach is likely to be even more constrained, simply because of the company’s size. Reddit was recently valued at $ 1.8 billion, compared to around $ 16 billion for Twitter and $ 516 billion for Facebook. Facebook employs thousands of content screeners, while Reddit’s entire staff numbers fewer than 300.

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Watchmaker: Don't hate, appreciate Cloud Computing's Preakness win
June 11, 2017 7:05 am|Comments (0)

BALTIMORE – It will take no time for folks to belabor the point that Cloud Computing got an absolutely perfect trip in his upset victory in Saturday’s …


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There’s a new reason to hate Coachella
March 13, 2017 9:40 am|Comments (0)

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You know the drill by now: A website was hacked, personal information may have been stolen, and now a company will have to make promises about the future of its cybersecurity. The target this time? Folks who have accounts on the website of music festival Coachella. 

On Feb. 22, Motherboard reported someone was selling data—including hashed passwords, usernames and email addresses—on 950,000 Coachella.com accounts. Nearly a week later, concert-promoter Goldenvoice sent an email to account holders to let them know.  Read more…

More about Passwords, Usernames, Email, Hack, and Coachella


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Haters Gonna Hate, But Apple’s AirPods Are A Huge Hit
January 13, 2017 10:40 pm|Comments (0)

Most people laughed, but it turns out Apple’s wireless earphones are a massive hit


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