Facebook: Backlash Threatens World’s Biggest Platform

Facebook: Backlash Threatens World's Biggest Platform

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, faces a growing backlash over privacy and data protection, with revelations this week about sharing data with business partners adding to pressure.

Here is a summary of the main issues in the Facebook controversy:

What are the latest revelations?
A New York Times report said some 150 business partners had access to personal data from Facebook users and in some cases, their friends, including private messages. Facebook said these were well-known and previously disclosed partnerships allowing “integration” of Facebook with other services, but some analysts said people were not fully aware of the arrangements.

“It wasn’t clear to the public that these relationships were embedded within Facebook,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University professor specialising in social media.

What are the other issues for Facebook?
Facebook has been hammered for failing to stop information manipulation and misinformation, including from Russian organisations in the 2016 US election. The company has acknowledged that Cambridge Analytica – working on the Donald Trump campaign – obtained profile data on tens of millions of Facebook users, but claimed that the political consultancy violated Facebook’s terms of service.

Facebook and other social media networks have struggled to deal with hate speech, bullying and foreign influence campaigns. These issues have sparked investigations in Washington and worldwide.

“It has become problematic to society and democratic institutions,” Grygiel said. “We need to look at these platforms in a very broad sense to make sure all of their business practices are not a harm to society.”

What is Facebook doing?
Facebook leaders have promised more transparency in hearings in the US Congress and elsewhere, and has stepped up efforts to find and root out fake accounts and foreign influence campaigns. But critics complain the wave of revelations suggest a disturbing pattern of disregard for data protection and privacy.

“It seems every few months there is a different revelation about how Facebook mismanaged something that deals with our data and privacy,” said Adam Chiara, a professor of communication at the University of Hartford.

“We’re all just waiting to find out which straw it is that will eventually break the camel’s back.”

What are the consequences for Facebook?
Facebook’s shares skidded more than seven percent Wednesday following the Times report and a lawsuit by the District of Columbia alleging violations of user privacy. The stock has lost more than 35 percent from its 2018 highs, wiping out tens of billion in market value.

So far, however its user base and revenues have seen little impact despite a number of high-profile calls to quit or delete Facebook. The number of active users rose to more than 2.2 billion in the third quarter and revenues rose 33 percent year-over-year for the company, which also operates Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and sells Oculus virtual reality hardware.

What can Facebook do to restore trust?
Facebook critics say the company’s problems have been exacerbated by a governance structure that gives co-founder Mark Zuckerberg virtual control through super-voting shares.

“Facebook is becoming a classic example of how poor corporate governance ensures that when things go wrong, they go wrong for longer and things get much worse than if shareholders could oust the management,” Richard Windsor, a technology analyst who authors the Radio Free Mobile blog, wrote earlier this month.

Carolina Milanesi, analyst at the Creative Strategies consultancy, said “A normal company would have got rid of somebody, they would have sacrificed somebody to try and show a change.”

Grygiel said Facebook needs to do more than public relations, with more substantive changes.

“Mark Zuckerberg needs to relinquish some power,” Grygiel said. “Facebook  needs oversight from its own board.”

What about regulation?
Lawmakers have stepped up calls for tighter regulation of privacy and data use, and the calls became louder this week.

US Senator Ron Wyden said he is calling for “a tough new consumer privacy bill to punish companies — and even put CEOs in jail — if they lie about protecting your privacy.”

Some US activists want to follow the European model for data protection that requires better notice and consent for how personal data is used.

“Americans deserve a clear law that protects their personal data and privacy. We don’t have that right now, and until we do, we’ll continue to see examples of companies using personal data in ways that surprise users,” said Michelle Richardson of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a digital rights group which has drafted a template legislation.

But Grygiel said she sees little “political will” in Congress tighten data protection rules.

“I was quite shocked nothing moved forward in the wake of the tech hearings (earlier this year),” she said.

“Maybe it’s because these are American companies and they don’t want to push them out of the country.”

[“source=ndtv”]

Zuckerberg Barely Talked About Facebook’s Biggest Global Problem

Zuckerberg Barely Talked About Facebook's Biggest Global Problem

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Problem is misuse of the site outside North America or Western Europe
  • Lives are literally on the line in these places
  • This went almost unmentioned on Capitol Hill

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg cut an awkward figure this week as he appeared at much-anticipated congressional hearings, looking visibly uncomfortable in a navy suit rather than his normal hoodie. His demeanour earned plenty of laughs on social media, but the real attention was focused on two things: the data firm Cambridge Analytica and alleged Russian trolls.

According to a transcript of Zuckerberg’s appearance before the Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees, Russia was mentioned 38 times and Cambridge Analytica 72 times on Tuesday. The next day, as the House Energy and Commerce Committee took its turn, Russia was mentioned 34 times, Cambridge Analytica 50 times.

But Facebook’s most vexing global problem is the misuse and abuse of the site in countries outside North America or Western Europe. Facebook is not just a privacy issue in these countries – in some cases, lives are literally on the line. Those problems, however, went almost unmentioned on Capitol Hill.

Think about it this way: Many Americans believe it took only 90 bored social media consultants in St. Petersburg to help sway voters toward Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Now imagine what could happen if something similar happened in one of the many countries where Facebook is synonymous with the Internet itself.

In such countries, people and groups – even the state itself – can have an interest in spreading misinformation to inflame domestic tensions. And because many are smaller, poorer countries, they are almost insignificant to Facebook’s business model and receive scant attention from its Menlo Park, California, headquarters.

There are plenty of real-world examples already. The obvious one is Myanmar (also called Burma), a Southeast Asian nation of just under 53 million people and a gross domestic product per capita just one-fiftieth of America’s. Burma emerged in 2011 from decades of military dictatorship, but it has been racked by ethnic tensions ever since. In 2017, a violent military crackdown caused more than 600,000 mostly Muslim members of the Rohingya minority group to flee to Bangladesh, leaving an unknown number of people dead.

zeynep tufekci tweeted “This one gets me the maddest. Facebook had no excuse being so negligent about Myanmar. Here’s me tweeting about it IN 2013. PEOPLE HAVE BEGGED FACEBOOK FOR YEARS TO BE PRO-ACTIVE IN BURMA/MYANMAR. Now he’s hiring ‘dozens’. This is a historic wrong.”

Civil-society and human rights organisations say that Facebook inadvertently played a key role in spreading hate speech, which fueled tensions between the Rohingya and Myanmar’s Buddhist majority. Those groups shared a presentation with key senators this week, aiming to show how Facebook was slow to deal with hate speech and misinformation on its platform even after repeated attempts to flag the dangerous content.

Zuckerberg did not mention Myanmar in his prepared remarks this week, but he was was asked about it. On Tuesday, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vt., the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, highlighted a recent comment by U.N. investigators that Facebook played a role “in inciting possible genocide” and asked why the company took so long to remove death threats toward one Muslim journalist there.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., also invoked the plight of the Rohingya in another question on Tuesday. The following day, there was only one passing mention of Myanmar.

Zuckerberg’s responses to questions about Myanmar suggested that he had sincere concerns about Facebook’s role in the country. “What’s happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy, and we need to do more,” Zuckerberg admitted to Leahy, using another name for Burma. But, as the Daily Beast’s Andrew Kirell noted, there was more discussion of pro-Trump YouTube stars Diamond and Silk than there was of a potential genocide half the world away.

Meanwhile, other countries facing similar Facebook problems weren’t mentioned at all. On Monday, a number of activists and independent media professionals in Vietnam had released their own open letter to Zuckerberg, complaining about account suspensions in the country. “Without a nuanced approach, Facebook risks enabling and being complicit in government censorship,” the Vietnamese groups said.

In some ways, the problems with Facebook highlighted in Vietnam and Myanmar may seem distinct – one is about content being taken down too easily, and the other is about content staying up too long. But at the core of the problem is the same criticism: Facebook doesn’t pay attention to smaller countries.

In Sri Lanka, alleged inaction by Facebook in the face of the spread of anti-Muslim hate speech even led the government to temporarily block the website in March. “[Facebook] would go three or four months before making a response,” Harin Fernando, Sri Lanka’s minister of telecommunications and digital infrastructure, told BuzzFeed News. “We were upset. In this incident, we had no alternative – we had to stop Facebook.”

BuzzFeed News tweeted “Ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka predate the social network.

“But we spoke to Muslims who say once Facebook became overwhelmingly popular in the country, particularly with the younger generation, they saw anti-Muslim stories being amplified in a way they hadn’t been before.”

Such drastic measures are clearly not ideal – indeed, they raise their own questions about censorship and free speech. But Facebook’s inability to stop real-world problems, either because of language barriers or a lack of knowledge about local contexts, is a common criticism around the world.

To his credit, Zuckerberg acknowledged the need to hire more people with local language skills and work with civic organisations to identify potential problems quickly. “The definition of hate speech or things that can be racially coded to incite violence are very language-specific, and we can’t do that with just English speakers for people around the world,” he said this week.

The Facebook CEO even seemed to suggest on Wednesday that his company was working on being able to take down hate speech like that identified in Myanmar within 24 hours – a passing comment that many organisations noted with hope.

But the big question is how to do that on Facebook’s gargantuan scale. The company has about 25,000 employees but an estimated 2 billion or more daily users. Facebook may need to hire thousands more people to truly deal with global issues. Small wonder that Zuckerberg emphasised the role artificial intelligence could play in helping solve these problems in five or 10 years’ time.

While many will want Facebook to work faster than that, such proposals are probably welcome news for many Facebook users and advocacy groups. But for corrupt governments and other groups who worked with them – including consulting groups such as Cambridge Analytica – it could mean their ability to spread hate and division will no longer be a feature of Facebook, but a bug.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Google Pixel 2 and iPhone 7 at Rs. 39,999, ‘Biggest Ever’ iPhone X Sale, and More Mobile Deals in Flipkart Sale

Google Pixel 2 and iPhone 7 at Rs. 39,999, 'Biggest Ever' iPhone X Sale, and More Mobile Deals in Flipkart Sale

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Pixel 2 offer includes a flat discount, apart from a card-based discount
  • Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days sale will be held from Thursday
  • There will also be discounts on iPhone 7 and Xiaomi Mi A1

The Google Pixel 2 is the company’s latest offering in the premium smartphone segment but the steep pricing has been putting off a lot of prospective buyers, especially in India. To woo back the pure Android lovers, Google and Flipkart are offering a major discount on the Pixel 2 during the latter’s Big Shopping Days sale, which starts on Thursday, December 7 and extends to Saturday, December 9. The Flipkart Big Shopping Days sale has a Mobile segment, and offers include discounts on the Xiaomi Mi A1, Redmi Note 4, popular iPhone models, as well as a limited stock sale of the iPhone X.

The Google Pixel 2’s base model will be available at Rs. 39,999 in Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days sale. This offer price will include a flat discount of Rs. 11,001 as well as a Rs. 10,000 discount that will be subject to card partners during the sale. Exchange offers with up to Rs. 18,000 discount will also be made available, and a BuyBack Guarantee of Rs. 36,500 has been announced.

 

Launched in India earlier this month, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are the latest flagship smartphones by Google. The smartphones have high-end hardware that includes high-resolution 18:9 OLED display panels, Snapdragon 835 SoCs, 4GB RAM, 64GB and 128GB onboard storage.

Apart from the Pixel 2, the iPhone 7 will be available at Rs. 39,999 as well in the upcoming sale in limited stocks. The Xiaomi Mi A1 will come at a discount of Rs. 2,000 and cost Rs. 12,999 on Flipkart during the Big Shopping Days sale. As we mentioned, Flipkart’s sale next week will also see the iPhone X coming back in stock, in what the e-commerce platform is promoting as the “biggest-ever” sale of the handset in the country so far.

The Flipkart sale will also see the first release of Redmi 5A (Rs. 5,999), Micromax Canvas Infinity Pro (Rs. 13,999) and Infinix Zero5 (Rs. 19,999) in the Indian market.

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[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Line, the Biggest Tech IPO of the Year, Struggles to Show Its Growth Plan Can Work

Line, the Biggest Tech IPO of the Year, Struggles to Show Its Growth Plan Can Work

In delaying its IPO by two years, Japanese messaging app company Line Corp bought time to correct weak financial reporting controls, work on its business plan, bolster staffing – and left billions of dollars on the table as its valuation shrivelled.

Line’s initial public offering in the next three weeks is set to raise about $1 billion, which given a global drought of such deals could make it the biggest tech listing this year, but sceptical fund managers point to tepid growth in Line’s home market and doubts about its prospects for regional expansion. They also question whether its advertising revenue strategy will work.

In seeking to earn more from its major Asian markets of Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan, Linewill try to generate more revenue from services such as advertising and offer more localized products, its IPO filing said.

The bulk of Line’s revenue comes from games and sales of emojis and electronic stickers, including Brown the bear and Cony, his flatulent rabbit girlfriend.

“Localisation of the service, of the marketing, of the stickers that we provide – this is very important,” CEO Takeshi Idezawa told Reuters in April.

Fund managers who have watched Line’s growth slow in a crowded global messaging app market assess the plan with caution.

“I’m not interested,” said Yasuo Sakuma, portfolio manager at Bayview Asset Management, which manages JPY 270 billion ($2.64 billion). “Its growth outlook is very poor.”

“Among the four countries that it’s focusing on, only Indonesia has big room for growth in use,” he added. “Even there, the business outlook is not that easy.”

Growth in Line’s monthly active users has tailed off after tripling across the world over the past three years. Last year, user numbers rose just 13 million to 218 million at the end of March, the IPO filing showed. The company isn’t providing much visibility about the future either – it says in its filing that limited operating history makes it “difficult” to forecast future results.

Globally, Line is the seventh-most used messenger app, data from researcher Statista shows, behind the likes of Facebook’s WhatsApp and Tencent’s WeChat.

Earthquake aftermath
The company will fix its IPO price range on Monday. There is no change to the listing’s schedule following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, a Line spokeswoman said on Friday.

The dual New York and Tokyo listing, set for July 14-15, would value Line at about JPY 588 billion ($5.75 billion) and make it the country’s largest listing since Japan Post’s $12 billion offering last year.

Line’s likely valuation is far less than the $10 billion-$20 billion that was expected by investors when South Korean parent Naver Corp previously talked of a Line listing in 2013-2014, although Line may not have had much choice but to wait.

Line declined to comment, citing a media blackout period ahead of the IPO.

Line’s messaging app was launched as NHN Japan in the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami to overcome downed communications, growing unexpectedly to become the country’s dominant mobile messaging platform over the next few years.

However, in that period, it identified what it described in its IPO filing as “material weaknesses” in controls over financial reporting.

Line has now tightened board and management approval for major transactions, it said in its prospectus, and crafted a strategy focusing on Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan, which account for more than half its users.

Line has also bolstered staff numbers by recruiting over 750 workers between December 2014 and March, its IPO filing shows, with designers and engineers among the recruits. It has around 2,540 full-time employees.

Pushed as value play
Idezawa, who became Line’s chief executive in March last year, has been key to tightened procedures, a person familiar with the matter said. Idezawa is known for his strictness on compliance-related matters, the person added.

Idezawa was previously chief executive of internet company Livedoor, joining that company a year after it was hit by a high-profile 2006 accounting scandal.

“When Line was first seriously considering an IPO around 2013, the overall company was pretty disorganised,” said a person involved in the IPO. “It was very much still a venture in terms of mindset. So a lot of people were hired to strengthen the company.”

Line has pitched its IPO to investors in terms of value and steady returns instead of explosive growth potential.

While that story has been met favourably by Japan’s risk-averse retail investors – Tokyo brokerages including Daiwa Securities say retail investors have shown strong interest in Line shares – fund managers are wary of Line’s ad-driven growth push.

“I went to the company’s meeting with investors… but nothing moved me,” said a fund manager at a major Japanese asset management firm who declined to be named because of company rules against discussing individual shares. “It’s not clear how it can make money out of its advertisement business.”

© Thomson Reuters 2016

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