In 2015, feminist writer Clementine Ford was subjected to a surge of online abuse, dubbed a "whore" and a "bitch who should kill herself." Trolls said she needed to die, to be "shot in the face" and gang-raped. What was her crime? She had reported a comment from an employee of Meriton Apartments calling her a "slut" on Facebook, and as a consequence he was fired.

 

That same year, Germany took a stand on anti-refugee Facebook hate speech, and top publications began to silence the haters by removing the comments sections beneath their articles. The BBC concluded that 2015 was "the year angry won the internet." As online hate speech spirals out of control, in contrast, 2016 could well be the year the internet fought back.

The biggest names in tech — Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft — have vowed to clean up community hate speech in less than 24 hours of it appearing in accordance with a new EU code of conduct. Some say this is censorship, but there is real danger attached to the facilitation of online trolling, and recent terrorist activities have shone a spotlight on this. So, what exactly does Facebook have on its hands, and how can it begin the mammoth task of cleaning this up?

The supposed demise of the comments section
A 2014 survey conducted by the Associated Press revealed that 70 percent of online publishers valued the comments sections that follow articles online. These tools ignite conversion; they allow for an exchange of ideas and deeper engagement, and they drive increased traffic to media sites.

Continued abuse of this privilege from those acting under the guise of anonymity has been seen in the torrent of racist or xenophobic language and personal attacks. This hate speech may be directed at writers, subjects or other members of the community.

 

U.K. news publication The Guardian analyzed more than 70 million comments from the last decade. It highlighted the positives online comments can provide: Providing instant feedback, "asking questions, pointing out errors, giving new leads," a tool that serves to "enrich the Guardian’s journalism." However, the "dark side of comments" revealed a huge amount of abuse, with 1.4 million comments blocked. Further exploration of this hate speech revealed that eight of the 10 most-abused writers were women, and the other two were black, despite these writers forming a minority of the editorial staff.

Chicago Sun Times managing editor Craig Newman described the issue as "a morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content," explaining his decision to temporarily remove the comments section from the publication.

Many others have followed suit, choosing to kill the comments in order to avoid moderating the growing mass of hate speech. Top publications that have rejected comments include Reuters, Recode, The Week, Bloomberg, The Verge, The Daily Dot, The Daily Beast and Vice’s Motherboard, to name just a few.

Reuters’ executive editor told readers that the news company was moving the discussion to social media: "Those communities offer vibrant conversation and, importantly, are self-policed by participants to keep on the fringes those who would abuse the privilege of commenting."

Social media giants battle hate speech
Unfortunately, any dreams of a self-moderated social media community free of online trolls, were not to be. On the contrary, these forums have become a breeding ground for racial slurs, misogynistic language and personal attacks.

Twitter sees an average of 480,000 racist tweets a month (compared to 10,000 only three years ago). "We suck at dealing with abuse," said Twitter’s former CEO Dick Costolo. Once again, however, Facebook leads the race, with a whopping 1 million user violation reports every day. So what type of threatening behavior are we seeing, and how is this connected to the news?

 

My company, BrandBastion, conducted a study measuring the amount and type of social media threats in 40,000 comments, from 10 of the most engaged news publishers on Facebook: ABC News, CBS News, Sky News, NBC News, CNN, Time, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

We found that one in 14 comments contained a social media threat. Some 31 percent of these threats were identified as extremely aggressive "defamatory language, profanity and online bullying." A further 20 percent were classified as "hate speech," attacking a person or group based on specific attributes.

When exploring the topics that generated the largest proportion of hate speech, we found articles around the elections incited the most anger. Highly offensive attacks on Melania Trump, calling her "ugly," "fake" and "nasty" rapidly escalated to graphically lewd comments and racial battles between commenters. Overall, the hate speech we discovered focused on nationality (33 percent), religion (31 percent), race (18 percent), sexual orientation (9 percent), gender (6 percent) and political views (4 percent).

As the elections heat up, sites like Facebook are going to have their hands full monitoring and controlling this spread of offensive commenting. With his latest pledge to quash the hatred, all eyes are on Mark Zuckerberg to manage this torrent of abusive behavior.

Community solutions to counter the offensive
Where status updates and selfies once dominated, Facebook today has become a portal for the news. According to traffic-analytics service Parse.ly, social media drives 43 percent of traffic to media sites. Facebook is unquestionably the largest source and has overtaken Google referral traffic, which accounts for just 38 percent.

What’s more, with advanced tools such as Facebook’s Instant Articles — now officially rolled out to all publishers — article consumption is likely to stay within the Facebook domain. This means Facebook has a huge power over how we consume the news and its connected comments, making its next steps all the more crucial.

Gigaom writer Mathew Ingram claims the move of news discussion onto sites like Facebook knowingly hands off the responsibility of moderating content to social media platforms. But it also means digital publications pass up on the "value of engagement" that comments bring.

 

So how does the social networking Goliath intend to remove all hate speech within 24 hours, in line with the latest EU code of conduct? The IT companies have all agreed to put in place notification processes, reviewing these against community guidelines removing or disabling content within 24 hours. They have pledged to educate users, training staff and sharing procedural information with authorities and intensifying cooperation between the giants of tech.

This year Facebook has been involved with a number of initiatives, backing a campaign against misogyny and launching the Online Civil Courage Initiative in January to empower users to fight extremist abuse.

Some media platforms rely wholly on user moderation, self-censorship or a members-only commenting model. After feminist site Jezebel suffered an epidemic of rape GIFs filling the comments section, it brought back the "pending comment system," meaning only comments from approved commenters are visible; all others go into a pending queue, which only shows up if readers choose to allow it.

Former Reddit product executive Dan McComas cofounded Imzy, a social platform set on eliminating hate speech by only allowing registered members to comment in the forums. SolidOpinion.com has another strategy, limiting commenting ability only to paying members. This approach has attracted customers such as Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, controversially putting a price on freedom of speech. Another startup, Civil Comments, works on the basis that users rate randomly chosen comments to classify acceptable material and flag offensive content.

Artificial intelligence to aid moderation
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has called on the tech community to create "spell-checkers, but for hate and harassment," to counter online terrorism. Applying this intelligence to article comments would be a natural progression of this. The Guardian recently reported tactics to "weed out the trolls," concluding that moderation is necessary, through human decisions backed by "smart tools." However, this all requires an internationally agreed-upon definition of hate speech and a system that is able to decipher context and also links to external sites.

 

Facebook has already turned to the use of AI to report offensive visual content. Currently this technology reports more offensive photos than humans on the network pick-up. Last year, Twitter followed this example, investing in visual intelligence startup MadBits to identify and flag harmful images.

The Huffington Post uses a machine learning algorithm called JuLiA — "Just a Linguistic Algorithm" — to sort through comments, identifying abusive language to aid moderators in providing a healthy interaction. Others have turned to third-party technologies that can customize tools based on media sites’ preferences and needs, their target audiences and geographical locations and laws. These steps are an alternative to censorship by removing comments entirely, instead protecting the facilities that enable others to speak more freely.

Will more news sites bring back the comments? This all depends on how successfully Facebook and co. rid them of hatred. As the trolls become the internet norm, the media world is pulling out the big guns to overthrow them, arming AI with contextual understanding and advanced intelligence and empowering communities to fight back.

Sources:  http://www.recode.net/2016/7/11/12123318/facebook-media-trolls-hate-speech-online-abuse-comments

 

 

 

 

 

Categorized in Others

 

Two years ago, Messenger, a photo and text messaging service, appeared to be almost an afterthought at Facebook, the social networking giant.

Messenger often took a back seat to the limelight enjoyed by WhatsApp, the messaging app that Facebook had bought for $US19 billion. And Messenger's capabilities were so limited that you could not send friends an animated GIF, as you could with many other messaging services.

But since mid-2014, Facebook has been playing a furious game of catch-up with Messenger. That June, Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, hired a PayPal executive, David Marcus, to take over Messenger and build it into a world-class competitor. The company has added a string of features to the service, including letting people send money to friends through the app, pull up a voice or video call, or order a private car from inside the app.

Over the weekend, Facebook said it will also begin testing "secret conversations" inside Messenger, a feature that offers end-to-end encryption on some messages to be read only on the two mobile devices that users are communicating with. While it stops short of the full encryption that other messaging services like WhatsApp have adopted, it gives Messenger a heightened mode of security that Facebook hopes will attract global audiences to download the app.

 

"The fact that we have 1.65 billion people on Facebook already makes Messenger the best live, self-updating address book in the world," Marcus said in an interview. "Because of the scale of our network, I feel like we really have a shot at this."

The new security feature highlights Facebook's ambitions for Messenger, which now sees more than 900 million regular monthly users, up from 200 million in early 2014. Roughly half of all American smartphone owners use the Messenger app, according to industry estimates, and Facebook is aiming to capture greater numbers in international markets. Most of Messenger's success has been in English-speaking areas like North America and much of Europe, the company said, as well as Australia and large parts of Southeast Asia.

The moves put Facebook Messenger increasingly into competition with messaging apps that have risen to prominence in their particular regions or countries. WeChat, the mobile messaging app owned by the Chinese internet giant Tencent, dominates China. Kakao, another app, is widely used throughout South Korea, while the Line smartphone app is popular in Japan.

"Just look at how successful WeChat has become for Tencent," said Debra Aho Williamson, an internet analyst with eMarketer. "That's the kind of ubiquity Facebook wants to achieve with Messenger."

And when combined with WhatsApp, which has more than 1 billion users, Facebook has now become a juggernaut in messaging worldwide. While WhatsApp and Messenger are run separately, both provide a window into how people communicate and their habits in payments, digital entertainment and more.

Facebook started Messenger in 2011. The app emulated some of the capabilities that could be done within Facebook's social network, where people could press a message button to exchange communications with one another. That message feature within the main social networking app was disabled in April 2014, pushing people to turn to Messenger. Two months later, Zuckerberg hired Marcus to run Messenger.

Marcus soon quickened the pace of product releases at Messenger, adding peer-to-peer money transfers, the ability to hire an Uber car through the app and support for GIFs. By late 2015, Messenger had more than 700 million monthly regular users.

Adding more encryption with secret conversations, which Facebook plans to roll out widely by the end of the summer, is aimed at coaxing people to use the service for more communication. Someone could set a message to disappear after a period of time, which may make them more willing to exchange personal information with a company's customer service representative on Messenger. People have to opt in to use secret conversations, the company said.

To keep Messenger's momentum going, Marcus said he expected the fast pace of product releases for the app to continue.

"To make Messenger your preferred and primary communication platform, we have to build capabilities different from anyone else," he said.

Source:  http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/facebook-to-add-encrypted-secret-conversations-to-messenger-app-20160711-gq2ybk.html

 

 

Categorized in Others

Facebook Messenger is launching new security features to better protect user messages from prying eyes (like those of, say, the FBI).

The company announced Friday that it built a new feature inside Messenger called “secret” messages, or private conversations that are end-to-end encrypted. These messages will be stored only on the sender’s and recipient’s devices, not on Facebook’s servers like regular Messenger messages.

Facebook is also rolling out what amounts to a self-destruct timer for these messages, which means you can set them to disappear automatically after a set period of time (from five seconds to 24 hours).

Messenger is the latest in a string of private messaging services to bust out some kind of end-to-end encryption in the last six months. Others include Viber, which launched end-to-end encryption in April, and Facebook’s other messaging app, WhatsApp.

The timing of all this doesn’t feel coincidental. The move comes just a few months after government agencies and tech companies battled over user privacy. Government agencies like the FBI don’t like end-to-end encryption because it provides a security risk when it’s used by criminals. Users (and tech companies), on the other hand, seem to love the idea, as they like to know their private messages are actually private.

Facebook says that you’ll have to turn on a secret chat manually for it to work, because Messenger is cross-device (meaning people can carry their conversations from their phones to their laptops to their tablets). Since messages that are end-to-end encrypted only live on the devices they are delivered to, a secret chat on your smartphone won’t be accessible via Messenger on your tablet, for example.

Secret messages will roll out to a limited test group to start, but Facebook “fully expects this to be available to everyone by end of the summer,” a spokesperson said.

Source:  http://www.recode.net/2016/7/8/12126764/facebook-messenger-encryption-disappearing-messages-security-update

Categorized in Others

 

Private messages that can disappear are being trialled by Facebook as it experiments with a new option for those using its Messenger app.

They become hidden after a certain period of time chosen by the author, the firm said.
It is part of a new "secret message" service having a limited trial, Facebook announced.
Senders must choose one device to use it on, as messages sent this way are stored on the device itself.
Those flagged to "disappear" will be deleted from the device as well.

"Starting a secret conversation with someone is optional," it said.
"Secret conversations can only be read on one device and we recognise that experience may not be right for everyone."

Facebook secret message screenshots

 

Facebook listed health and financial issues as examples of messages that people may wish to keep more private - while others have mentioned love affairs.The idea is being trialled on a "limited basis", Facebook said, but added that it would be more widely available over the summer.Video and GIFs cannot be shared secretly at the moment.

The service will also have extra features for reporting abuse - and once this is introduced, there will be a delay in the deletion of messages to enable flagging.

"Facebook will never have access to plain text messages unless one participant in a secret conversation voluntarily reports the conversation," it explained in a technical document.

Tech spec

The service is built on the Signal protocol by Open Whisper Systems, which is widely used by messaging apps, said cybersecurity expert Professor Alan Woodward from Surrey University.

"Signal is well tested and those who developed it are well regarded in the cryptography community," he said.

"But the problem with something effectively becoming an open standard in this way is that if ever a problem were found it could have widespread impact."

Prof Woodward added that the technical report released by Facebook was "not as complete as many would like" in terms of assessing the service's security.

"If I were to choose any messaging system I would look for it to be based on Signal at present.
"However, I'd like to know more about exactly how it is implemented, or at least know that those who can analyse such systems have scrutinised the code."

Source:  http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36744470

 

 

Categorized in Others

Venture capitalist Jim Breyer knows a bit about the next big tech revolution. He backed Facebook when it was just a baby in 2005. The social network is now worth over $326 billion.

So where should you be putting your money next? Into artificial intelligence, according to Breyer, an area which will create more wealth than that made for internet and social network investors.

Breyer expects artificial intelligence to transform content and the film entertainment business."

"Ten years from now, it will have even more significant wealth creation, stockholder appreciation opportunities, than what I believe we saw in social networks in 2005 and internet investing in 1995," Breyer told an audience at the Viva Technology conference in Paris on Thursday.

Breyer was a former board member of Facebook and is still a significant shareholder. Through his firm Breyer Capital, he has also invested in a number of other companies including music streaming service Spotify and movie production start-up Legendary Entertainment, which was recently acquired by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda for $3.5 billion.

At Legendary Entertainment, Breyer said he saw the use of artificial intelligence which has the potential to revolutionize the industry. Legendary Entertainment was behind the blockbuster movie "Interstellar" and Breyer explained how artificial intelligence was used to get the trailer right.

"We applied statistics, machine learning, and a small group of data developers to analyze how that first trailer of Interstellar was received on Facebook, Instagram and other social networks. We then used that data to inform us on how that second trailer should look and the final trailer," Breyer said.

"What really mattered for us, how many theaters should we open in, where should we open, how should we market, and where a 150 million (dollars) might be used typically for a marketing budget for a film, narrowing that down to perhaps 100 million (dollars), and using advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, human-assisted learning, with the data...it's far less costly, fare more effective."

The technology will also be used to inform casting decisions, budgets, and other aspects of making a movie Breyer said, who predicted that the movie industry will be "revolutionized by artificial intelligence".

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/01/ai-will-be-a-bigger-than-social-networks-internet-early-facebook-backer.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

By the end of 2017, Facebook’s messaging app will look a whole lot different. Apart from a better messaging experience, this may also mean the end of phone numbers as we know it.Facebook messaging products’ vice president David Marcus believes phone numbers will eventually become obsolete as a form of communication

In an interview with Time magazine, Marcus said he believes chat apps will become so popular that they will replace phone numbers.

“The real question is, in a couple of years if you will need a phone number on a business card? Or if you’ll need a business card at all for people to find you,” the Facebook executive said.

“It’s a profound change actually, and I believe it’s really happening. People used to call your house, they didn’t call you. And so we went from calling your house, to calling your number, to calling you for real. It’s an interesting evolution,” he added.Revealing Facebook’s ambitious plans for this year, Marcus said by the end of 2017, Facebook’s messaging app “will look a whole lot different.”

Apple introducing new iMessage features to take on competitors

Speaking about the new Facebook Messenger inbox layout, which will show information like your friends’ birthdays as well as which of your friends are active on Messenger at a given moment, he said, “We believe birthdays are actually a really important thing, especially for your close friends. Birthdays, for [most] of your friends, you’re probably more inclined to write on their Facebook page.”

However, in some cases, you might want to message your friends on their birthdays but may not want to disturb them by calling. That’s where Marcus believes Messenger’s ‘Active Now’ feature will come in handy. As opposed to phone calls and texting, which are involved processes, ‘Active Now’ feature ensures that the friend you want to talk is available to chat, he explained.

Responding to a query regarding introduction of a reaction tool in Messenger, like tapping on a piece of dialogue to like it similar to the one announced by Apple recently, Marcus said it is on their long wish list to make group messaging better.

There’s a football game hidden inside Facebook messenger

The Facebook executive also hinted at the possibility of rationalising notifications to differentiate between those from humans versus chat bots. However, Marcus held that most of the notifications that we receive are from friends and further, one can preview the notification to know what it is. But, “If there are lots of interactions that actually notify people a lot, we can mute these notifications, or we can group them. Right now it’s not a problem, it’s a hypothetical future problem,” he said.

With reference to his blog post from January, in which Marcus revealed that there are innovations coming to Messenger this year, he said voice and video calling feature to Messenger was the first step in that direction.

“We’re really intrigued by, what are the next forms of real time communication? So we’re thinking about how do we actually reinvent a little bit those real-time communications,” said Marcus. However, he refused to give any hint about what’s coming next.

There’s a football game hidden inside Facebook messenger

Further, he said, Facebook is also considering investing in making photo sharing inside Messenger better.

Apart from that, Facebook is also looking to make groups a lot better. “We just want to make sure groups are really easy to create, that everybody can be included in them, and that they’re easy to find. I think it’s a really good group product, but I think it can become an awesome group product,” he added.

Explaining why companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft are making efforts to improve their chat apps, Marcus said one of the biggest factor is that people now spend more time on messaging apps than ever. Currently, over 900 million are on Messenger, while over a billion on WhatsApp. Marcus also said there was a time when SMS was a big thing. While it was instant and easy, he argued that in terms of capabilities SMS was very narrow.

Now, the prevalence of broadband connectivity on devices is allowing devices and operating systems to expand exponentially. “And as a result you can build compelling experiences inside messaging apps that solve a lot of the real problems, like the friction involved in downloading, installing and signing up for an app all the way to the shortfalls of the mobile web,” he added.

Source:  http://tribune.com.pk/story/1125313/facebook-going-kill-phone-number/

Categorized in Social

People are spending less time on social media apps, in some cases substantially less, a new study from marketing intelligence firm SimilarWeb found.

The company compared Android users' daily time spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat from January to March 2016 with the same period in 2015. The firm looked at data from the U.S, UK, Germany, Spain, Australia, India, South Africa, Brazil and Spain.

Facebook's Instagram saw the biggest year-over-year drop — usage was down 23.7 percent this year, closely followed by Twitter (down 23.4 percent), Snapchat (down 15.7 percent) and Facebook (down 8 percent), the study found.

Twitter's stock is trading down around 34 percent, and Facebook's stock is up almost 14 percent so far this year.

In the U.S. — typically social media's most lucrative market — Instagram use was down 36.2 percent, Twitter was down 27.9 percent, Snapchat was down 19.2 percent and Facebook fell 6.7 percent. Despite this drop, Facebook users in the U.S. continued to spend the most time using the app: 45 minutes and 29 seconds every day on average. Facebook users in India used the app the least, spending 22 minutes and 59 seconds daily, on average.

Americans are also the biggest Snapchatters, spending 18 minutes and 43 seconds using the app daily, followed by the French (16 minutes and 7 seconds), and then the British (15 minutes and 27 seconds).

Across all four apps, users spent the least time using Twitter. Spanish users spent the most time using the app (13 minutes and 31 seconds daily), closely followed by Americans (13 minutes and 30 seconds) and the French (13 minutes and 7 seconds). This was despite overall declines in usage across these geographies.

Current installs — the number of apps installed on devices — for the big four social media apps among Android users in the countries studied were down nine percent year over year. Meanwhile, Facebook's messaging apps — WhatsApp and Messenger — increased installs, up 15 percent and two percent respectively. Both Snapchat and Instagram saw a rise in installs in certain countries. Snapchat installs increased in Germany, Spain, India and Brazil, where the increase was most pronounced at 22 percent year over year. Instagram installs rose in France, Germany and the U.S.

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/06/people-are-spending-much-less-time-on-social-media-apps-said-report.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

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