Tag: facebook

Facebook vs Ebert

by on Jun.21, 2011, under general

On the heels of the J30Strike fiasco, Facebook has turned its auto-censor cannon at…Ebert?

For movie critic Roger Ebert, it took only hours to criticize the late Jackass star Ryan Dunn for drinking and driving. Facebook just as swiftly took the film critic’s page down.

Dunn had died in a car crash that also took his friend’s life. After Ebert’s post about the late Jackass star, Facebook pulled the page and put up a placeholder disclaimer saying that the site doesn’t allow pages with hateful, threatening or obscene content.

Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes told us via email, “The page was was removed in error. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

My guess is something similar happened to J30Strike here. Lots of people flagged the post as abusive and the page was taken down.

I don’t support speaking ill of the dead. But I don’t think you need to in order to think this is also a dumb and bad decision. And Noyes’ response is exactly the same as yesterday, leading me to believe this happens fairly often.

The problem, of course, is that Ebert has a lot of clout, and J30Strike censorship ended after an investigative reporter called.

What about the folks who don’t have that much power? Are their rights restored as rapidly? I doubt it. And that still troubles me.

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Facebook Censors Citizen Activism Website

by on Jun.20, 2011, under general

Facebook strives to be the center of our social world – but is it also becoming its censor?

Via a friend, it appears that Facebook blocks links to the site http://www.j30strike.org/, a worker’s strike in London protesting austerity measures by the government.

See for yourself. Go to your Facebook profile and try to post the URL to your wall, or to share a link on that domain. Facebook refuses to let you post it, and has for the last few days.

It’s worth noting that J30Strike isn’t child porn. It isn’t incitement to terrorist attacks. It isn’t a ticking time bomb. It’s none of the sort of clear and present dangers usually cited as cause for censorship. It’s a website advocating for and educating about peaceful democratic activism.

The catchphrase of the critical legal studies movement is “all law is politics.” It’s important to realize that Facebook is politics too. With this move, Facebook is taking an active stand against democratic activism, and an active stand in favor of austerity. Facebook is Janus-faced; humbly accepting praise for facilitating democratic activism in the Middle East while, at the same time, blocking it in the West.

e: I should note that Facebook is now returning a message that says “this link could not be posted because it has been flagged as abusive or spam.” Let’s assume, for the moment, that this message is in earnest (and not the darker, more conspiratorial conclusion that that this is mere pretext). It doesn’t change my concern. If Facebook structures its technological architecture such that activist websites can be removed by a few folks reporting it as abusive, then it has the same abhorrent, centralized, censoring effect. You don’t need to have Peter Thiel pulling the strings for it to be a bad thing, as long as the effect is the same. Especially if such censorship can’t be remedied despite many people (over the last few days) notifying Facebook, through the appropriate channels, that the site is legitimate.

e2: it appears that the bit.ly link to j30strike is also blocked from being posted; the tinyurl.com link was just blocked as well within the last few hours.

e3: while again there is no hard evidence that Facebook’s leadership ordered this particular link blocked, this chummy video chat between Zuckerberg and Cameron about spending cuts doesn’t look so great in context.

e4: a friend sent a screenshot showing that if you try to share this post on my blog Facebook blocks it because the auto-imported metagraf includes the censored link. Now, obviously this is an effective tactic from a spam-blocking standpoint (again, assuming best intentions from Facebook here). What’s amazing is the way that, in cases like this, it shuts down metaconversations as well. Not only can you not share J30Strike; you can’t even share sites that link prominently to J30Strike in order to discuss it!

e5: I want to emphasize again that it this is troubling no matter why it is happening. If Facebook officials specifically sought out and blocked J30Strike, that’s troubling in a very obvious sort of way. But even if this censorship occured bottom-up (where enough people voted it as spam to be deleted, and where the avenues of redress and recategorization have been obviously insufficient for a few days) it’s still problematic, because the technology is self-executing. As a friend wrote, “[if that is the case] then it’s a fully automated system which can both censor something and then censor any and all discussion of the censorship itself.”

e6: scattered reports coming in that the J30Strike site can now be posted; will try to confirm, though my point in e5 still stands.

e7: Mother Jones has a story up about this, and I have some additional reactions as well.

e8: MorningStar picks up this post but doesn’t offer link? Pshaw.

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So Facebook Failed At Groups

by on Oct.08, 2010, under general

A few days ago I posted about the new Facebook privacy “features”.

One of them – “Groups” – Facebook had described as such:

With Groups, users can essentially partition their interactions (passive or active) with Facebook and create multiple, customized Facebook experiences. For example, a user who participates in a “neighborhood” group can – with one click – view a newsfeed that is visible only to members of that group, post status messages that only members of the group can see, and peruse a list of profiles that includes only group members. This new functionality will make it much easier for groups (lowercase “g”) of friends to keep in touch and will likely accelerate the use of Facebook as a platform for organizing everything from bake sales to protests.

And I said this seemed “inoffensive enough.”

Well –

Facebook is being battered by critics who say the popular social network made a big mistake in failing to let people opt-in by default to its new feature that lets people form private groups around a particular interest.

The controversy reached a head on Thursday when a person created a group called NAMBLA, the name for a nefarious pro-pedophile organization, and started adding friends.

One of the person’s added to the group was well-known tech blogger Michael Arrington, who in turn added Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, Chester Wisniewski, a senior security adviser for security firm Sophos, reported on the company’s blog.

While not actually from NAMBLA, the group was formed to make the point that Facebook was wrong in choosing to let people automatically add their “friends,” and leaving it up to the added person to opt-out of the group.

via InformationWeek.

So Facebook can’t even let users click “yes, please let my friend add me to this group” before doing it.

How can one company fail at variations on the same thing so many times?

(cynic: because it is their intent to fail)

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EFF on New Facebook Privacy Policies

by on Oct.07, 2010, under general

Grimmelmann passed along the EFF’s take on the Facebook privacy changed I blogged about yesterday. The EFF had a much better breakdown, critique, and set of recommendations – it’s a good read.

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Facebook Privacy Changes

by on Oct.06, 2010, under general

It’s been a month or so, so Facebook has announced some new privacy changes. CDT has the breakdown:
(continue reading…)

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Mark Zuckerberg: Beyond Chutzpah

by on Sep.17, 2010, under general

Must admit that my blood boiled a bit on the very first page of the CQR white paper at this:

“The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly” because of the dominance of social network sites — where people use their real names — and the extent to which information is now shared online, said Zuckerberg. That’s good, he said, because “having two identities for your- self is an example of a lack of integrity.”

(emphasis mine)

When I was in high school, I once gave a presentation on the Watergate scandal, in which I referred to Nixon as “for lack of a better word, a scumbag.” A few conservative teachers on the panel mildly reprimanded me, arguing that, whatever shortcomings Nixon may have had as a human being and political leader, surely there must be better, more precise, and more meaningful words than scumbag.

But sometimes, you have to call a spade a spade, and a scumbag a scumbag. And Mark Zuckerberg, for lack of a better word, is a scumbag. There are perhaps better, more precise, more meaningful ways to describe someone who, after citing as justification the evisceration of privacy of which he is the prime butcher, has the nerve to say that those who wish to keep their contexts intact have a “lack of integrity.”

I could go on, for some time, for how conceptually incorrect this is (but I think I’ve written enough about that in Losing Face), and for how absolutely richly pathetic it is for someone whose fame and fortune derives from a stolen business (itself founded in order to take petty potshots at a girl with the good sense to turn him down for a date) to accuse others of a “lack of integrity.”

But brevity is the key to writing as well as wit, and so I’ll happily settle to call him a scumbag.

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CQ Researcher

by on Sep.17, 2010, under general

I was (fairly extensively) interviewed for the CQ Researcher’s newly-published white paper on privacy and social network sites, authored by the inestimable Marcia Clemmitt. Unfortunately, it’s behind a serious paywall, so I can’t post it here – but there’s good stuff in there from the usual crowd, and hopefully it will serve as a useful guide to the sorts of folks who subscribe to CQR.

Which leads me to…

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orkut adds groups.

by on Aug.31, 2010, under general

Google’s orkut gets the right idea:

Imagine Sarah, a 21 year old girl who just created an orkut profile. To get started, she adds her college friends to her friend list. They share photos, join communities, exchange scraps, discuss everything that’s hot on campus. A few days later Sarah finds out that some friends from high school are also on orkut and adds them: what’s better than keeping in touch with old friends?

Then Sarah gets her first job and adds her office colleagues to orkut: you can’t decline a friend request from your boss, can you? Sarah’s social network keeps growing. Even her parents, aunts, uncles and cousins are on orkut, and she adds them to her friend list.

The college gang, old friends from high school, office colleagues, family, everyone is in Sarah’s friend list now. Soon enough she will not be able to share anything with anyone anymore – after all, jokes and photos from the office party should be shared only with her work colleagues. Scraps and photos of her baby nephew at the family reunion should only be seen by members of her family. The plans for Saturday night and the photos of the parties she went to should be seen only by her party friends – Sarah does not want her boss or her young cousin to see those.

Just like Sarah, we all maintain different groups of friends, and the Internet was not able to reflect that. Until now, social networks treated people from different groups like they were all the same: they were all “friends”.

So we asked ourselves: does it need to work this way on the Internet? Can we reproduce our groups of friends from real life on the Internet? The answer is “yes!” Starting today, we will change the core function of orkut so we can share and interact with different groups of friends on the Internet just like we do in real life.

At least someone has the right idea.

Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately – the admissions cycle is starting, which means my blogging will probably become somewhat infrequent over the coming months.

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Facebook Places Privacy Settings

by on Aug.19, 2010, under general

When Facebook announced its places feature, you may have wondered “hrm, how long will it be before this undermines my privacy?”

Nick O’Neill at AllFacebook has some observations:

One feature that has attracted a fair amount of buzz is the ability for your friends to tag you in different places. That means you may not actually be somewhere, yet your friends will tag you as a joke and now you’re showing up at a random strip club.

While you may be fine with Facebook’s existing Places privacy settings, I know there are plenty of friends on Facebook who I don’t want to track my location.

One strange thing about Facebook Places is that despite controlling who can view your location information from within your profile with the previous setting, anybody who visits a location will potentially be able to view that you’ve been there before.

Nick runs through the ways to change your privacy settings. It’s worth the read, but here’s the short version:

  • Go to the Privacy Tab and click “Customize Settings”
  • Change your settings. For example, I disabled allowing my friends to check me in elsewhere, and noone can see where I check in.

I’m not big on the whole locations movement. Maybe you are, and that’s fine. But if you aren’t, Facebook just pitched you a curveball by opting users into the Places feature, so here’s how you opt out.

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Facebook’s ‘Google Killer’ – The Right Stuff?

by on Jul.07, 2010, under general

From AllFacebook, on a presentation by Google on a rumored new social utility:

The overall theme of the presentation was consistent: we have multiple groups and within those groups there are individuals who we have strong ties with and many more who we have weak ties with. There are also even temporary ties, like the person at the restaurant who served you food last night. While getting the system right on this is extremely difficult, the strong vs. weak ties is something that Facebook has yet to enable users to control.

If Paul Adams’ presentation is accepted as one of the primary perspectives of Google on social, perhaps the argument for Google’s new “Facebook killer” would be that there needs to be a more effective user-interface (UI) which helps users to control these various groups. Rather than dismissing it as a service for “advanced” users, perhaps the interface has simply not evolved far enough to give users the actual control that they want.

That would support the argument presented by Paul Adams in the slide below which states “If your privacy practices aren’t transparent, then you introduce doubt. Doubt leads to lower usage.” Only Facebook knows how great of an impact the latest privacy fiasco had on the company but it’s clear that Google sees this as a weakness.

If this is true, then Google has precisely the right privacy perspective to outflank Facebook on this issue. And they’re about the only company with the muscle to do it.

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