Happy MLK Day!
“Facebook has filed thousands of patent applications since it went public in 2012. One of them describes using forward-facing cameras to analyze your expressions and detect whether you’re bored or surprised by what you see in your feed. Another contemplates using your phone’s microphone to determine which TV show you’re watching. Others imagine systems to guess whether you’re getting married soon, predict you socioeconomic status and track how much you are sleeping.”
But with more than two billion monthly active users, most of whom share their thoughts and feelings on the platform, Facebook is amassing our personal details on an unprecedented scale. That isn’t likely to change. “There is no indication that Facebook has changed its commitment to watch everything we do, record everything we do and exploit everything we do.” (NY Times, 6/24/18)
The social network has considered tracking almost every aspect of users’ lives. #ISTE2018
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Well, those were the “good old days,” when conversations were basically two-way and people didn’t typically search for alternative facts to support their point of view. Now thanks to our vast array of technological tools we can express any or all “viewpoints” and not worry about fact-checking or verification of information. “I saw it online, baby!” And, of course, there are those who put anything online that will advance an alternative “reality.”
Let’s take, for example, our international political activists (antagonists?) from across the sea, Cambridge Analytica. At a recent hearing where British authorities had the first chance to question Mr. Nix, ex-Chief of Analytica, about harvesting personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent. Mr. Nix said Wednesday that he had misspoken in February when he told lawmakers in London that his company has not used information collected from the social network.
So where are we? Is it really about the technology or their masters who manipulate it?
Facebook used to be a fun place. As we all well know, that is not necessarily the case today. Unfortunately it has also provided a means for terrorist networking. I know this is not the happy “talk” that I like to post on this site, but we can not afford to be naive in how social networking is being used. But do you really think artificial intelligence will save us from this blight of hatred and terrorism in which Facebook seems to play a large part? I am not very reassured from what I read on both sides of the equation.
Let’s start somewhere. This is a needed form of network censorship.
Facebook is now launching a “Journalism Project.” It will be continuing its efforts to change the way media organizations work with the social network. Or maybe you can also say Facebook is changing the way it is working with the news media. You might even call it trying to help its users improve their media literacy. Now that’s a social media project I can really get behind, to put a “good face” on :).
Now part of this new initiative certainly relates to Facebook’s vow last year to crack down on fake news. Facebook has struggled with defining its place in the media world over the past several months, coming to a head just after the election. Many raised concerns about whether fake news articles passed around on the site could have influenced the outcome. Mark Zuckerberg has dismissed this possibility as “extremely unlikely.” But continued questions about Facebook and other tech firms responsibility to vet news or curtail misinformation led to Facebook announcing that it would begin submitting stories reported as false to third-party fact-checking sites and then labeling stories found to be “disputed.”
This maybe too little too late in terms of this past Presidential election, but let’a just say we have all, hopedully,learned something “the hard way.”
Who really wants to read a factual news story any more? I guess we have come to a time when Americans would rather read fiction over fact, but we are talking about news reporters, not novelists. Just make it up and see who buys it? The “reporters” at the Liberty Writers News are doing exactly that, and being paid handsomely for it. They are making the average American’s yearly salary in one month. Why not fake it. Is the truth really that important? Well after the recent Presidential election here in the States, I am starting to wonder myself.
Don’t trust the mainstream media. Just read what you like or want to hear. It’s more entertaining and you can make up your own stories, and make money doing it while print newspapers keep losing readership and revenue. The news media now encompasses the digital news that doesn’t seem to need facts as much as a vivid imagination. This explosion of fake news has further eroded the media landscape.
Even Mark Zuckerberg is perplexed. Facebook is trying to find the “right place” between censorship and propagating dangerous untruths. My advice is to work hard on finding those dangerous untruths. I wouldn’t call it censorship. Let’s say “fact checking.”
Remember that old Michael Jackson and company song, “We are the World.” Well, it just might have been the inspiration for Mark Zuckerberg’s latest initiative he likes to call TIP, Telecom Infra Project. Just mix in a lot of open source resources, including an urban wireless network that checks its performance at 125,000 times a second, and a long-range wireless system that can send a gigabit of data a second, about ten times the rate of today’s good-performing networks and enough for virtual reality. Ultimately, Zuckerberg wants to triple the size of his social network over the next ten years which now has 1.6 billion. Let’s see, that would make 4.8 billion Facebook followers out of a current world population of 7.125 billion, and growing. And cheaper open source technology might help make this all possible in the future.
I can hardly wait. But how am I going to keep up with all my friends and followers? I really don’t have that many right now, but I spend a lot of time reading newspapers, a few books, and put in some travel time to visit with friends and family in different parts of the country. I guess I just have to get more with the Facebook program, and save myself all that time and costs of travel.
Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend at a nearby restaurant and really enjoyed catching up with him in person. Neither one of us had a smartphone in his hand, but at some other tables, lunch-goers were multi-tasking, eating and presumably keeping up with their social networks. Conversation with each other at their tables was non-existent. They obviously enjoyed being more in touch virtually (with people or other activities?) than in reality with those at their table?
Some may remember that I wrote about Facebook’s efforts in India at the end of December, and was not overly optimistic about their chances of success since the Indian government was just then instituting a “review” of Facebook’s practices. Please belief me that I am not posting this follow-up blog with any sense of joy or vindictiveness. India is a country with 1.2 billion inhabitants in a country approximately a third the size of the U.S. While it may have 130 million Facebook users, second only to the U.S., telecommunications experts there note that more than ten percent of the country does not have mobile phone coverage, and that India’s progress in extending fiber-optic cable to village centers is proceeding at a glacial pace.
The current Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi has set a goal of linking 250,000 village centers with fiber-optic cable and extending mobile coverage under his “Digital India” plan by 2016. Well 2016 has arrived, and reaching that goal by the end of this year, appears to be an impossibility. According to a recent Indian government report, only 25,000 village centers have cable so far, and it is ready for use in only 3,200. But maybe Facebook (Zuckerberg) is actually being used as a scapegoat for the failure of the Indian government to provide the basic technological infrastructure that is sorely needed. Government broadband access often sputters, wages are low, and hours are long. Girls and women have disproportionately been excluded from the educational and employment opportunities that technology offers.
Facebook has certainly captured the imagination of younger generations around the world. It clearly provides students with individual access and connectivity on a global scale whenever they want and wherever they are. As one young Indian villager noted: the first thing he would do when the Internet finally arrived is to sign up for Facebook.
Last week I posted some commentary on Facebook being shut down in India because the government is planning to require additional information from the Facebook provider there. I didn’t actually talk so much about the shut down itself as much as I reacted to the overwhelming challenges in that country to making mobile connectivity available to the vast majority of the Indian population. Good luck again, Mark Zuckerberg. Now the Egyptian government is shutting down Facebook access for its citizens just prior to the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising on January 25th. Another challenge for Facebook in a different kind of economy and cultural system.
The Free Basics Facebook program in Egypt is similar to that being offered in India. More than three million Egyptians have signed up for the service. It offers cell phone users free access to limited services including Facebook’s social network and messaging, news, health and job information. As was similarly expressed by Facebook in India, they also hoped to “resolve the situation soon.”
I remember being told early in my life that nothing is ever free. In this case it seems that this may be especially true when hearing offers of free Internet and free elections!