Nine US states launch probe into whether Facebook broke antitrust rules

Several state attorneys general united forces to investigate if the social media giant Facebook violated antitrust laws, hurting its users in the process.

The prosecutors will check whether Facebook “stifled competition and put users at risk,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James who is leading the probe.

Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers.

The attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia are also taking part in the probe.

In recent years Facebook has greatly expanded its business ventures, acquiring Instagram and WhatsApp Messenger which unlike their parent company are growing fast.

Also on rt.com Facebook allows massive data leaks with no rules in US to prevent it – expert to Boom Bust...

Meanwhile the social media behemoth is facing a litany of accusations for violating users’ privacy and misusing their data. In July, the Justice Department (DoJ) launched a probe into whether the big tech firms are complying with antitrust laws. The officials did not explicitly call out Mark Zuckerberg’s company but hinted that they will be going after the major players.

Congress also started an investigation into Facebook and other IT giants. The House Judiciary Committee head, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), voiced concern that “a handful” of companies have taken control over the vast sectors of online commerce and communications. The issue even came up in the 2020 presidential race with Democratic nomination hopefuls, like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, arguing that Facebook is too powerful and needs to be “broken up.”

Facebook, of course, denies it violated any antitrust rules, and said it is eager to work with lawmakers to come up with regulations to “protect” users.

  • Published in World

Social Networks and the New World of Lies

Last Tuesday, Kristinn Hrafnsson —Wikileaks’ editor in chief— stated before a group of foreign press correspondents that the case of Julian Assange, incarcerated in UK and claimed by the U.S., is part of a conspiracy against press freedom.

It is not an isolated case —pointed out the Icelander journalist before adding that the recent attacks on media in California, U.S., the searches carried out by the Federal Police at the headquarters of ABC network in Sydney, Australia, and the incarceration of Swedish journalist Olin Bin, in Ecuador, are also part of a global strategy to stamp out investigative journalism.

Even more disturbing, nonetheless, is the fact that more important than press “freedom” or investigative journalism, the truth itself seems really in danger of vanishing. While the truth is incarcerated in the role of Julian Assange, lies are unleashed and multiplied like never before in the media and social networks.

At the same time Hrafnsson offered his statement in London, an international survey carried out that day and released in Canada showed that 86% of people have taken for granted at least one fake news they have read in social networks.

According to the 82% of people consulted in the Ipsos survey for the Canadian analysis group Center for International Governance Innovation, the platforms of social networks were regarded as the main responsible for the dissemination of fake news. The 77% of users had pointed at Facebook as the main source of fake news while 62% chose Twitter.

The problem is truly alarming if we take into account that there is an increasingly high number of people using social networks as information source. In the words of communication connoisseurs, beyond the technological progresses, the rising number of users in social networks has to do with the discredit of traditional media in recent years. However, is there any credibility in social networks after the results of this survey went public?

To make things worse, it was released a fake video in Instagram with the one and only Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. In the video, manipulated by artificial intelligence, Zuckerberg stands there saying, while describing his own personality: “Imagine this for a second: a man, with a total control of data stolen from millions and millions of people, all their secrets, their lives, their futures.”

The fake video shows Zuckerberg bragging about his dominance. The video was created by Israel’s emerging company Canny AI, and artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe, allegedly for an artistic project called Spectrum, which was screened at the British International Documentary Festival Sheffield Doc/Fest.

It is shocking that Instagram —which belongs to Facebook— will not blocked the video. Therefore, it will be added to a series of other manipulated videos, known as “deepfake” due to the use of artificial intelligence with extremely realistic results.

The most popular of this sort of “masterpieces” falsifying reality, which Facebook denies to block by the way, is the ridiculously false video released one month ago where the Speaker of the House of Representative of the U.S., Nancy Pelosi, was talking as if she were drunk.

The video involving Pelosi was released to the world in a tweet posted by the U.S. President Donald Trump. And now that we are referring to lies and Trump, the president of the nation of “press freedom,” the first champion against fake news, recently called for a mass boycott from Americans against AT&T, one of the greatest telecom giants of the country, to force them to make “huge changes” within CNN network, owned by that company. According to Trump, CNN is so unfair with such bad, fake news! When the world watches CNN, it gets a false picture of USA.”

And it was not a fake tweet, as it was Pelosi’s video. This tweet came out of the brain of the U.S. President who has turned the foreign policy of his nation into an anthology of lies and vulgar threats against those countries resilient to the Empire dominance. The same Trump who attacked the media for what he called “a fraudulent and highly inaccurate coverage of Iran,” stated immediately thereafter in another tweet that such reports had a positive impact since “Iran does not know what to do now, which is a good thing after all.”

In this new world, those who dare to denounce a crime, as in Assange’s case, are condemned by those who committed such crime. The goal will be always to achieve nobody knows what to think, not to mention when the information is true or false; and that is the only truth.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz/CubaSí Translation Staff

CRITICAL ZONE: Cultural journalism and social networking

Social networks can be platforms for journalism… but their usefulness depends on the knowledge of their logic…

A digital media outlet is one thing and social networks are another. That must be clear, because many people (Internet users and even operators) sometimes mix up the logic of these spaces. A digital press outlet (let’s use terms that I know are going to upset some theorists) is a newspaper, a magazine or an audiovisual news program on the internet. May it be understood: digital journalism has its distinctive features, it is not about reproducing a newspaper on the web, but social authority and responsibility are and should be the same as those of the most conventional media (although digital media are, in fact, conventional).

Social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, etc, etc…) are confluence spaces of dissimilar content and intentions. They are not a space conceived for journalism, although they can be (in fact, they are) perfectly functional platforms for the promotion of journalistic products. And even to do, propose journalism. The quality of that journalism, obviously, is not defined by the characteristics of their format. It has to do with the quality of the staff, clarity in the approaches, command of the logic of every space, and, once again on this topic, clear classification of the contents. Because you can find anything on the networks, without seemingly honoring a thematic and conceptual coherence…, what we propose should ideally be convincing.

Let’s go over our context: the cultural journalism we do in our digital media. There is a lot of cultural journalism in Cuba (we must recognize it, quality is unequal) but the presence on the social networking is not always the most adequate. And the fact that the said presence on the main networks be effective is not a minor issue, because internet users in Cuba access cultural information not mainly on the sites of those media, but on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube profiles… We won’t talk about connection difficulties, but precisely because of those difficulties it is necessary to make better use of the potential of those networks, which are very popular and offer possibilities that haven’t fully been explored yet.

There’s a lack of trained staff (networks must be managed by network professionals), it’s necessary to create collaborative networks among the different media, it’s necessary to boost contents better and stimulate interaction. Because the number of followers and “I like” is important, but not the principal thing: the main thing is that the message be conveyed, capitalized and enables a rich debate that coexists and hopefully sets the pace for other discussions that abound on the networks. Platform, showcase, display… but also spearhead, public service.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

Record-breaking Facebook & Instagram outage sparks Twitter meme frenzy

Netizens from all parts of the world have taken to Twitter to complain about their inability to log on to Instagram or Facebook, as both social media networks have been down with an unknown technical glitch for more than 10 hours.

In what is believed to be the longest outage ever suffered by Facebook and Instagram, which is also owned by the social media giant, users either have been unable to access the platforms, or use certain essential functions such as leaving comments or uploading photos.

When both Facebook and Instagram are down but Twitter is working.

According to the Down Detector, Facebook has been plagued by unknown problems since 12:01pm Wednesday (ET). While Facebook acknowledged on Twitter that it was aware of the issue and was scrambling to resolve it "as soon as possible," full access to the platform has not been restored even after 10 hours of work.

"I can't comment, even on my own thread, or post. I'm getting no new notifications after 20hrs. In North West Montana," a frustrated user wrote.

READ MORE: Facebook briefly takes down Elizabeth Warren's ads on breaking up Facebook

"Is facebook game over? Down for 8 hours already. What is the stock price of facebook today? XD," another quipped.

"I've logged in IG but all my stories and pics are gone :(" a user wrote on the Down Detector.

The outages have impacted different parts of the world, from the US, parts of Latin America, the Philippines to the UK, India, Canada, Turkey, and others.

While the outage has left many unnerved to the point of almost converting to Snapchat, chaos and panic caused by Instagram and Facebook withdrawal saw Twitter, the last social media bastion standing, awash with memes.

MySpace getting ready to relaunch:

Deprived Instagram and Facebook followers served to bump up Twitter user numbers.

All joking aside, the outage apparently trigged withdrawal symptoms, with social media addicts frantically refreshing their pages.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think today has been the longest/worst outage in the history of Facebook/Instagram! It’s driving me crazy!!! Really affecting my work!!

Some pointed out an ironic coincidence – the woes that befell Facebook and Instagram mark exactly 30 years since the internet was created.

Others used the outage as a case in point against monopolies, of which Facebook is a prime example.

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp all down at the same time. Is anyone talking about the weakness of monopolies? How on earth are all these things on the same backbone?

  • Published in World

Cuban Media Denounces New Fake News about President Diaz-Canel

Havana, Feb 22 (Prensa Latina) Media and Cuban Internet users denounced Friday a new fake news attributed to President Miguel Diaz-Canel and an alleged Facebook page of the President.

The lie attributes to the Head of State a call to Cuban artists to the concert for Peace in Venezuela.

We are in front of a new fake news (...) for some time now, a Facebook page has appeared, which supposedly belongs to President Diaz-Canel. This page is fake and among copies of the real account content of our President in Twitter, at any moment public statements that are not real', warns Cubadebate website.

In this regard, it denounces the new maneuver, says: 'we already know what is hidden behind this lie' and reminds social media users that the Head of State 'does not have any official Facebook page yet'.

For its part, the Juventud Rebelde newspaper posts on Twitter that 'the enemy never stops mounting lies and fake news against Cuba, like this supposed call to artists'.

In six decades of Revolution, Cuba has faced armed aggressions, terrorist actions, biological warfare and a sustained media attack with manipulation and misrepresentation as spearheads, a crusade which has increased with the arrival of new information and communication technologies.

Diaz-Canel does have an account on Twitter, in which since Oct. 10, the date on which he issued his first tweet, he has almost 98,000 followers.

The support for Venezuela, the Bolivarian Revolution and its president, Nicolas Maduro, the call to vote Yes for the new Cuban Constitution and his travels around the country, where he talks with ordinary Cubans, stand out among the issues tweeted daily by the president.

  • Published in Cuba

Older people more likely to share fake news on Facebook, study finds

Older people are almost four times more likely to have shared fake news on Facebook than the younger generation, according to research published in the journal Science.

On average, American Facebook users over 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as those aged between 18 and 29, researchers from NYU and Princeton found in the study, which also concluded sharing such false content was “a relatively rare activity”.

The researchers analysed the Facebook history of about 1,750 American adults, cross-referencing links they had posted with lists of fake news publishers. In doing so, they found the vast majority of users did not share any articles from fake news domains in 2016 – 8.5% of those in the study as a whole shared at least one link to a domain such as denverguardian.com, truepundit.com, or donaldtrumpnews.co.

These sites, and 18 others like them, made up the list of “intentionally or systematically factually inaccurate” stories the researchers defined as fake news. Sites that are “partisan or hyperpartisan”, such as the far-right Breitbart.com, were excluded from the list of fake news purveyors.

But of those who shared links from the 21 “mostly pro-Donald Trump” domains the researchers looked at, there were clear demographic differences.

Eighteen per cent of Republican users shared at least one link to a fake news site, compared with less than 4% of Democrats. The more conservative a user was, the more articles they shared – a finding attributed to the fact that fake news in 2016 was mostly pro-Trump, and “the tendency of respondents to share articles they agree with”.

Those who shared the most content in general were less likely to share fake news, suggesting the problem is not that some people “will share anything”, the paper said. Instead, people who share a large number of links are more media-savvy, and able to distinguish real from fake online.

That findings are backed up by the demographic data: over-65s, who came to the internet later in life, shared more than twice as many fake news articles as those in the second-oldest age group, even when controlling for ideology, education and the total number of links shared.

The authors wrote: “As the largest generation in America enters retirement at a time of sweeping demographic and technological change, it is possible that an entire cohort of Americans, now in their 60s and beyond, lacks the level of digital media literacy necessary to reliably determine the trustworthiness of news encountered online.

“Within this cohort, lower levels of digital literacy could be compounded by the tendency to use social endorsements as credibility cues. If true, this would imply a growing impact, as more Americans from older age groups join online social communities.”

A second possibility, they noted, is that the findings are a specific case of the general effect of ageing on memory. “Memory deteriorates with age in a way that particularly undermines resistance to ‘illusions of truth’,” the authors wrote.

Private Messages Of 81,000 Facebook Users Leaked Online: Report

London: Hackers have gained access to private messages of nearly 120 million Facebook accounts and already published such messages from 81,000 accounts for generating money, the BBC reported.

Several users whose details have been compromised were based in Ukraine and Russia but some were also from the UK, US, Brazil and elsewhere, the report said on Friday.

"The hackers offered to sell access for 10 cents per account. However, their advert has since been taken offline," it added.

The breach was first discovered in September and the messages were reportedly obtained through unnamed rogue browser extensions.

Facebook, however, said its systems were not breached as part of the hack.

"We have contacted browser-makers to ensure that known malicious extensions are no longer available to download in their stores," Guy Rose, Vice President of Product Management at Facebook, was quoted as saying.

"We have also contacted law enforcement and have worked with local authorities to remove the website that displayed information from Facebook accounts."

The BBC Russian Service contacted five Russian Facebook users whose private messages had been uploaded and confirmed the posts were theirs.

"One example included photographs of a recent holiday, another was a chat about a recent Depeche Mode (British rock band) concert and a third included complaints about a son-in-law," the report said.

In the biggest-ever security breach after Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook in October admitted that hackers broke into nearly 50 million users' accounts by stealing their "access tokens" or digital keys.

Rosen had said that Facebook fixed the vulnerability and reset the access tokens for a total of 90 million accounts -- 50 million that had access tokens stolen and 40 million that were subject to a "View As" look-up in 2017.

Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC), which is Facebook's lead privacy regulator in Europe, has opened a formal investigation into this data breach that could result in a fine of $1.63 billion.

According to Digital Trends, the latest hack involves the use of browser extensions.

"It is always best to check which source an extension is coming from, and which permissions it is being granted access to," it said.

  • Published in World

Donald Trump Weighs Order To Investigate Google, Facebook: Report

Washington: President Donald Trump is weighing an executive order that would open federal antitrust and criminal probes into Google, Facebook and other social media firms, US media said Saturday, though the White House promptly distanced itself from the reports.

Last month, Trump stepped up his attacks on big tech companies, warning them to be "careful," and slamming what he called "rigged" internet search results.

The US president had complained that Google searches for "Trump news" brought up mostly negative stories about him.

Google strongly rejected any bias claims.

The White House's draft executive order focuses on alleged "bias" at the companies.

"Executive departments and agencies with authorities that could be used to enhance competition among online platforms (agencies) shall... use those authorities to promote competition and ensure that no online platform exercises market power in a way that harms consumers, including through the exercise of bias," read a draft of the report circulated by US media.

"Not later than 30 days from the date of this order, agencies shall submit to the Director of the National Economic Council an initial list of (1) actions each agency can potentially take to protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias."

The text also demands that federal agencies investigation any potential "violation of the antitrust laws" by an online platform.

However, The Washington Post cited three White House aides as saying they did not write the draft order and did not know its origins, while a senior official said the document existed but had yet to go through the formal process controlled by the staff secretary.

"Although the White House is concerned about the conduct of online platforms and their impact on society, this document is not the result of an official White House policymaking process," deputy White House spokeswoman Lindsey Waters was quoted as saying.

Google and other internet firms have long faced complaints about search results, which are based on algorithms that can take into account user browsing history, location and other factors.

But technology and media analysts say there is little evidence to suggest Google skews results for political reasons. And if they did, the president would have little recourse under the constitution's free speech protections.

  • Published in World
Subscribe to this RSS feed