Wednesday ResearchBuzz, Facebook Edition, November 10, 2021

There’s no regular schedule for the Facebook editions. When I gather a dozen or so new Facebook stories, I’ll share them here. Please note that these articles are about Facebook’s transparency/business practices, and not about new features or updates.

Wired: Facebook Failed the People Who Tried to Improve It. “‘HI, ALL,’ READS a note on Facebook’s internal Workplace system that was posted on December 9, 2020. ‘Friday is going to be my last day at Facebook. It makes me sad to leave. I don’t think I’ll ever have a job as good as this one … Unfortunately, I don’t feel I can stay on in good conscience. (1) I think Facebook is probably having a net negative influence on politics in Western countries … (2) I don’t think that leadership is involved in a good-faith effort to fix this … (3) I don’t think I can substantially improve things by staying.’ This is a Facebook ‘badge post.'”

CNN: Facebook whistleblower: Mark Zuckerberg should step down as CEO. “Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen said Monday she believes the company would be ‘stronger’ if founder Mark Zuckerberg stepped down as chief executive.”

BBC: Nicaragua accused of running internet troll farm. “The company behind Facebook and Instagram has removed more than 1,000 fake accounts in Nicaragua which it says were part of a disinformation campaign by the government. Meta said those who ran the accounts included staff at the telecoms regulator and the Supreme Court.”

CNN: Meta denies Kazakh claim of exclusive access to Facebook’s content reporting system. “Facebook-owner Meta Platforms on Tuesday denied a claim by the Kazakh government that it had been granted exclusive access to the social network’s content reporting system. In what it called a joint statement with Facebook (FB), the Kazakh government on Monday touted the purported exclusive access as a compromise solution after the Central Asian nation threatened to block Facebook for millions of local users.”

The Conversation: Facebook will drop its facial recognition system – but here’s why we should be sceptical. “It’s important to understand that when a person engages in a virtual reality environment in the metaverse, they will generate a range of biometric data, well beyond facial scans. For example, depending on the system, it may be possible to detect and collect eye movements, body movements, blood pressure, heart rate, and details about the users’ environment. Ultimately, the artificial intelligence accompanying the metaverse will be much more sophisticated and likely bring with it a new set of data privacy issues.”

BBC: Climate change: Facebook fails to flag denial, study finds. “Climate change denial is spreading unchecked on Facebook, two studies by disinformation researchers have found. The Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue said less than 10% of misleading posts were marked as misinformation. And the CCDH researchers linked the majority of these to just 10 publishers. Facebook said this represented a small proportion of climate change content.”

Business Insider: Former Google CEO says Facebook’s metaverse is ‘not necessarily the best thing for human society’ and expresses concerns about safety of artificial intelligence. “Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has joined the many voices weighing in on Facebook’s metaverse and expressing concern about the future of artificial intelligence. Schmidt, who served as Google’s top executive from 2001 to 2011 and as executive chairman until his departure in May 2020, told The New York Times that while he believes the technology will soon ‘be everywhere,’ he warned that it is ‘not necessarily the best thing for human society.'”

Mother Jones: Facebook’s Metaverse Is for Rich People. “I have…a lot of thoughts about this metaverse pivot, and they mirror a lot of what’s been said in the tech and business press already: that this may be a lot less about building the all-encompassing virtual world that Zuckerberg is pitching, and a lot more about rolling out a shiny distraction from all the controversy swirling around the company. But one question I’m still sitting with days later is: What exactly is it that led Zuckerberg and his fellow executives to think that the way to renew enthusiasm for their beleaguered company is to give people *more* virtual interaction?”

BBC: Facebook deletes Ethiopia PM’s post that urged citizens to ‘bury’ rebels. “Facebook has removed a post from Ethiopia’s prime minister for violating its policies against inciting violence. On Sunday, Abiy Ahmed called on citizens take up arms to block the advance of the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF has fought a year-long campaign against government forces, capturing key towns in recent days.”

Harvard Gazette: Exploring the dark, puzzling inner workings of Facebook. “Republicans think Facebook is silencing conservative voices because Silicon Valley is full of Democrats. Democrats think Facebook is promoting right-wing hate speech and dangerous conspiracy theories because it’s profitable. ‘The answer is that Facebook is deeply partisan in favor of Facebook,’ said Jeff Horwitz, a technology reporter for The Wall Street Journal who led the paper’s investigation into the company’s abandoned effort to tamp down political polarization on the platform after the 2020 election. The inquiry offered an unprecedented look into the inner workings of the enormously popular and influential social media service.”

TechCrunch: New antitrust suit from Phhhoto alleges Facebook copied and killed the competition. “The app, Phhhoto, launched in 2014, inviting users to create and share short GIF-like videos. If that sounds familiar, that’s because the same functionality was popularized in Boomerang, an app made by Instagram. That feature is now integrated into Instagram’s core app experience. The newly filed lawsuit, embedded below, alleges that Facebook’s behavior violated antitrust laws by cutting off the app’s access to its social graph, slow-walking a proposed relationship and then eventually releasing its own copy of Phhhoto’s core feature: the seconds-long looping video.”

The Verge: Facebook reportedly is aware of the level of ‘problematic use’ among its users. “Facebook’s own internal research found 1 in 8 of its users reported compulsive social media use that interfered with their sleep, work, and relationships— what the social media platform calls ‘problematic use’ but is more commonly known as ‘internet addiction,’ the Wall Street Journal reported. The social media platform had a team focused on user well-being, which suggested ways to curb problematic use, some of which were put into place. But the company shut down the team in 2019, according to the WSJ.”

Art Newspaper: Facebook profits by aiding scammers as they mimic and rip off artists’ work. “You might have seen the adverts on your Facebook feed: an eye-catching sculpture made by an independent artist, offered in a run of repetitive sponsored ads, for a cut-rate price. But if you actually clicked on the link and bought the piece, you would likely either receive nothing or a cheap knockoff with only a passing resemblance to the work pictured in the post. That is because it was just one of thousands of fake ads proliferating on the social media platform in recent months, likely posted by criminal organisations in China, Vietnam, Russia and other countries, according to groups who track such scams, using images of actual works stolen from artists’ websites or media coverage.”

Associated Press: The AP Interview: Facebook whistleblower fears the metaverse. ” Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen warned Tuesday that the ‘metaverse,’ the all-encompassing virtual reality world at the heart of the social media giant’s growth strategy, will be addictive and rob people of yet more personal information while giving the embattled company another monopoly online. In an interview with The Associated Press, Haugen said her former employer rushed to trumpet the metaverse recently because of the intense pressure it is facing after she revealed deep-seated problems at the company, in disclosures that have energized legislative and regulatory efforts around the world to crack down on Big Tech.” Good morning, Internet…

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