Showing posts with label Facebook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Facebook. Show all posts

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Things you should know if you are logging on to a website using your Facebook account


Facebook for developers

The Daily Telegraph, 5 January 2018:

Ian Cox of Supremo.tv said: “If you’ve ever pressed ‘Login with Facebook’ on a website, you’re giving Facebook permission to share sensitive data with the site you are visiting.

“This includes, for example, your personal email address, where you live, where you work, details about your relationship, places you have recently been and who you’re friends with.

“In today’s digital age, people are sharing just about everything on social media sites like Facebook. But most are unaware of just how much can be seen by brands, businesses and, in some cases, criminals.

“The best way to stay protected online is to only share what you would be happy with the whole world seeing.

“As tempting as it may be to rejoice about the fact that the whole family is going on a weekend away, keep in mind that you may be inadvertently letting criminals know that your house is empty during this time.”

WHAT INFORMATION CAN FACEBOOK SHARE ABOUT YOU?

* Your public profile (name, age, gender, location, profile picture, timezone)
* All your likes
* Your friends
* Where you are now
* Your email address
* Your photos
* Your “about me” section
* All your posts
* Your birthday
* Your relationship details
* Your education history
* Your religion/politics
* Events you’ve been to
* Your work history
* Where you are from
* Your phone number

Sunday, 14 January 2018

As more national governments veer towards fascism the level of danger Facebook presents rises


The Trump Regime is busy dismantling democratic checks and balances in the United States, the May Government in Britain is handing powers of arrest to certain multinational corporations and in Australia federal and state right-wing politicians slavishly ape Republican and Conservative policies.

Rabid nationalism, religious extremism, contrived xenophobia, authoritarianism, contempt for human rights and disdain for democratic processes appear to be the order of the day for too many political leaders in too many 'western' countries around the world.

Smack bang in the middle of this political miasma is a vast and powerful IT multinational which wouldn’t recognise an ethic if it fell over it.

How long before the aims of modern day fascism and Facebook Inc merge?

Public Integrity, 31 July 2017:

When Chicago resident Carlo Licata joined Facebook in 2009, he did what the 390 million other users of the world’s largest social network had already done: He posted photos of himself and friends, tagging the images with names.

But what Licata, now 34, didn’t know was that every time he was tagged, Facebook stored his digitized face in its growing database.

Angered this was done without his knowledge, Licata sued Facebook in 2015 as part of a class action lawsuit filed in Illinois state court accusing the company of violating a one-of-a-kind Illinois law that prohibits collection of biometric data without permission. The suit is ongoing.

Facebook denied the charges, arguing the law doesn’t apply to them. But behind the scenes, the social network giant is working feverishly to prevent other states from enacting a law like the one in Illinois.

Since the suit was filed, Facebook has stepped up its state lobbying, according to records and interviews with lawmakers. But rather than wading into policy fights itself, Facebook has turned to lower-profile trade groups such as the Internet Association, based in Washington, D.C., and the Illinois-based trade association CompTIA to head off bills that would give users more control over how their likenesses are used or whom they can be sold to. 

That effort is part of a wider agenda. Tech companies, whose business model is based on collecting data about its users and using it to sell ads, frequently oppose consumer privacy legislation. But privacy advocates say Facebook is uniquely aggressive in opposing all forms of regulation on its technology.

And the strategy has been working. Bills that would have created new consumer data protections for facial recognition were proposed in at least five states this year — Washington, Montana, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Alaska — but all failed, except the Washington bill, which passed only after its scope was limited.

No federal law regulates how companies use biometric privacy or facial recognition, and no lawmaker has ever introduced a bill to do so. That prompted the Government Accountability Office to conclude in 2015 that the “privacy issues that have been raised by facial recognition technology serve as yet another example of the need to adapt federal privacy law to reflect new technologies.” Congress did, however, roll back privacy protections in March by allowing Internet providers to sell browser data without the consumer’s permission.

Facebook says on its website it won’t ever sell users’ data, but the company is poised to cash in on facial recognition in other ways. The market for facial recognition is forecast to grow to $9.6 billion by 2022, according to analysts at Allied Market Research, as companies look for ways to authenticate and recognize repeat customers in stores, or offer specific ads based on a customer’s gender or age.

Facebook is working on advanced recognition technology that would put names to faces even if they are obscured and identify people by their clothing and posture. Facebook has filed patents for technology allowing Facebook to tailor ads based on users’ facial expressions……

Facial recognition’s use is increasing. Retailers employ it to identify shoplifters, and bankers want to use it to secure bank accounts at ATMs. The Internet of things — connecting thousands of everyday personal objects from light bulbs to cars — may use an individual’s face to allow access to household devices. Churches already use facial recognition to track attendance at services.

Government is relying on it as well. President Donald Trump staffed the U.S. Homeland Security Department transition team with at least four executives tied to facial recognition firms. Law enforcement agencies run facial recognition programs using mug shots and driver’s license photos to identify suspects. About half of adult Americans are included in a facial recognition database maintained by law enforcement, estimates the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University Law School.

To tap into this booming business, companies need something only Facebook has — a massive database of faces.

Facebook now has 2 billion monthly users who upload about 350 million photos every day — a “practically infinite” amount of data that Facebook can use to train its facial recognition software, according to a 2014 presentation by an engineer working on DeepFace, Facebook’s in-house facial-recognition project.

Monday, 1 January 2018

A NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION FOR 2018


I resolve to never vote for a political party, sitting politician or political candidate who creates a Facebook page, posts on any Facebook page, links to a fake news site hosted by Facebook or pays for advertising on Facebook in the lead-up to and/or during an election campaign.

This resolution includes members of all political party executives and associated entities/groups.

Signed
Clarencegirl

Friday, 17 November 2017

Oh dear, is the Turnbull Government asking chickens to visit the digital fox's den?


“The Turnbull Government has welcomed the eSafety Commissioner’s announcement today about the delivery of the pilot for a new national portal for reporting instances of non-consensual sharing of intimate images (colloquially known as image-based abuse or revenge pornography).”  [Senator Mitch Fifield, media release,15 October 2017]

Given the dubious reputation Facebook Inc has managed to garner in relation to business ethics, transparency, consumer privacy, e-safety, data mining and data breach history, one wonders what the Minister for Communications and Liberal Senator for Victoria Mitch Fifield was thinking.

Facebook Newsroom, 9 November 2017:

Image Pilot
By Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety

We don’t want Facebook to be a place where people fear their intimate images will be shared without their consent. We’re constantly working to prevent this kind of abuse and keep this content out of our community. We recently announced a test that’s a little different from things we’ve tried in the past. Even though this is a small pilot, we want to be clear about how it works.

This past week, in partnership with the Australian eSafety Commissioner’s Office and an international working group of survivors, victim advocates and other experts, Facebook launched a limited pilot in Australia that will help prevent non-consensual intimate images from being posted and shared anywhere on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Specifically, Australians who fear their intimate image may be shared without their consent can work with the eSafety Commissioner to provide that image in a safe and secure way to Facebook so that we can help prevent it from being shared on our platforms.

To be clear, people can already report if their intimate images have been shared on our platform without their consent, and we will remove and hash them to help prevent further sharing on our platform. With this new small pilot, we want to test an emergency option for people to provide a photo proactively to Facebook, so it never gets shared in the first place. This program is completely voluntary. It’s a protective measure that can help prevent a much worse scenario where an image is shared more widely. We look forward to getting feedback and learning.

Here’s how it works:

* Australians can complete an online form on the eSafety Commissioner’s official website.

* To establish which image is of concern, people will be asked to send the image to themselves on Messenger.

* The eSafety Commissioner’s office notifies us of the submission (via their form). However, they do not have access to the actual image.

* Once we receive this notification, a specially trained representative from our Community Operations team reviews and hashes the image, which creates a human-unreadable, numerical fingerprint of it.

* We store the photo hash—not the photo—to prevent someone from uploading the photo in the future. If someone tries to upload the image to our platform, like all photos on Facebook, it is run through a database of these hashes and if it matches we do not allow it to be posted or shared.

* Once we hash the photo, we notify the person who submitted the report via the secure email they provided to the eSafety Commissioner’s office and ask them to delete the photo from the Messenger thread on their device. Once they delete the image from the thread, we will delete the image from our servers……..

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Facebook Inc continues to test the world's patience when it comes to privacy issues and US patience in relation to taxation matters


Worldwide Facebook Inc is estimated to have 2.01 billion monthly active users, with est. 1.7 billion of these users living outside of the USA and Canada.

Australian users comprised 17 million of these account holders in August 2017 - 12 million logging in daily.

In pursuit of profit this social media company is a ruthless data miner – collecting and collating information about every available aspect of the lives of all holders of Facebook accounts.

A fact that makes this company’s users a target of US federal government mass surveillance.

Given that Facebook Inc created a holding company Facebook Ireland Ltd in the low-taxing Republic of Ireland and it is this company which appears to legally possess the data of those est.1.7 billion users, it now finds itself before European Union courts.

Privacy activist @maxschrems, 3 October 2017:

Facebook operates its international business outside of the United States and Canada via a separate company in Ireland called “Facebook Ireland Ltd”. 85.9% of all worldwide Facebook users (everyone except USA and Canada) are managed in Dublin (Link), which is understood to be part of Facebook’s tax avoidance scheme.

Facebook currently sends all user data to its parent company, “Facebook Inc.” in the United States for processing. European law (Articles 25 and 26 of Directive 95/46/EC) requires that data can only be transferred outside of the EU if the personal data is “adequately protected”. This is in conflict with US mass surveillance laws, which “Facebook Inc.” in the USA is subject to.

Max Schrems: “In simple terms, US law requires Facebook to help the NSA with mass surveillance and EU law prohibits just that. As Facebook is subject to both jurisdictions, they got themselves in a legal dilemma that they cannot possibly solve in the long run.”

The Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland is investigating a complaint made by Max Schrems, an Austrian student with a Facebook account. This complaint relates to the transfer of his data by Facebook Ireland to Facebook Inc. in the United States for processing - an act which is alleged to violate European fundamental rights under Articles 7, 8 and 47 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.


The subsequent investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner has given rise to a High Court case in Ireland (3 October 2017 judgement). The Court has now referred the issue of the validity of the European Commission’s Standard Contractual Clause decisions to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling.

History of the Case according to Max Schrems:
The case is based on a complaint, filed by Mr Schrems against Facebook in 2013:

* The case is based on a complaint [PDF] brought by Mr Schrems against Facebook Ireland Ltd. before the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (“DPC”) in 2013 (4 years ago).
* The DPC first refused to investigate the complaint, calling it “frivolous”, but Mr Schrems subsequently succeeded before the CJEU, which overturned the “Safe Harbor” (a EU-US data sharing system) in 2015 [case C-362/14] and ruled that the DPC must investigate the complaint.
* After the invalidation of “Safe Harbor”, Facebook used another legal tool to transfer data outside of the EU, called “Standard Contractual Clauses” (SCCs) [Facebook’s SCCs - PDF].
* SCCs are a contract between Facebook Ireland and Facebook USA, where Facebook USA pledges to follow EU privacy principles [official EU Info Page].
* The case subsequently continued with an updated complaint [PDF] in 2015. The Irish DPC joined Mr Schrems view that the SCCs cannot overcome fundamental problems under US surveillance laws, and specifically agreed that there is no proper legal redress in the United States in such cases. Other issues raised in Mr Schrems complaint have not been investigated yet.
* The DPC refused to use its power to suspend data flows of Facebook as asked by Mr Schrems.
* Instead of only prohibiting Facebook’s EU-US data transfers under Article 4 of the SCCs, the DPC took the unusual move of issuing proceedings against Facebook Ireland Ltd. and Mr Schrems before the Irish High Court. In the procedure the DPC aims to invalidate the SCCs entirely by referring the case to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) in Luxembourg.
*The case was heard for five Weeks in February 2017. The United States Government was joined as an “amicus” to the case, along two industry lobby groups and the US privacy non-profit “EPIC”.

Facebook Inc’s "Double Irish" tax avoidance scheme and other matters also saw it before a US court in 2016, having refused to comply with a number of IRS tax summons. The court case continues to date.

The IRS 2008-2010 audit of Facbook Inc resulted in an assessment of the intangible assets transferred in those years having a value of US $13.8 billion, increasing Facebook's 2010 income by US $84.9 million and causing an income tax deficiency for the parent company.

Excerpt from United States Securities And Exchange Commission filing by Facebook Inc for the quarterly period ended June 30, 2016:

We are subject to taxation in the United States and various other state and foreign jurisdictions. The material jurisdictions in which we are subject to potential examination include the United States and Ireland. We are under examination by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for our 2008 through 2013 tax years. Our 2014 and subsequent years remain open to examination by the IRS. Our 2011 and subsequent years remain open to examination in Ireland. We do not anticipate a significant impact to our gross unrecognized tax benefits within the next 12 months related to these years. On July 27, 2016, we received a Statutory Notice of Deficiency (Notice) from the IRS relating to transfer pricing with our foreign subsidiaries in conjunction with the examination of the 2010 tax year. While the Notice applies only to the 2010 tax year, the IRS states that it will also apply its position for tax years subsequent to 2010, which, if the IRS prevails in its position, could result in an additional federal tax liability of an estimated aggregate amount of approximately $3.0 - $5.0 billion, plus interest and any penalties asserted. We do not agree with the position of the IRS and will file a petition in the United States Tax Court challenging the Notice. If the IRS prevails in the assessment of additional tax due based on its position, the assessed tax, interest and penalties, if any, could have a material adverse impact on our financial position, results of operations or cash flows. [my yellow bolding]

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Trump administration seeking information on thousands of people who interacted with anti-Trump Facebook page


CNN Politics, 29 September 2017:

Washington (CNN)Trump administration lawyers are demanding the private account information of potentially thousands of Facebook users in three separate search warrants served on the social media giant, according to court documents obtained by CNN.

The warrants specifically target the accounts of three Facebook users who are described by their attorneys as "anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration's policies."….

These warrants were first reported by LawNewz.com.

Facebook has not responded to a request for comment about whether it has, or plans to, comply with the search warrants.

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the three Facebook users, filed a motion to quash the warrants Thursday.

"What is particularly chilling about these warrants is that anti-administration political activists are going to have their political associations and views scrutinized by the very administration they are protesting," said ACLU attorney Scott Michelman.

Facebook was initially served the warrants in February 2017 along with a gag order which barred the social media company from alerting the three users that the government was seeking their private information, Michelman said. However, Michelman says that government attorneys dropped the gag order in mid-September and agreed that Facebook could expose the existence of these warrants, which has prompted the latest court filings. Michelman, however, says all court filings associated with the search warrant, and any response from Facebook, remain under seal.

The Justice Department is not commenting on these search warrants, but government attorneys have issued a similar search warrant to the web provider DreamHost seeking wide-ranging information about visitors to the website disruptj20.org, which provided a forum for anti-Trump protestors. In that case, DOJ modified its initial search warrant seeking millions of IP address for the visitors who merely clicked on the disruptj20.org website. But DC Superior Court Judge Robert Morin largely granted prosecutors' request to collect a vast set of records from the company, which will include emails of the users who signed up for an account associated with the website, and membership lists……

American Civil Liberties Union DC, media release, 28 September 2017:

Overbroad Search Warrant Implicates Private Pages of Two Local Activists and First Amendment Rights of Thousands of Facebook Users

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia (ACLU-DC) went to court today to block the enforcement of search warrants targeting three Facebook accounts as part of the government’s investigation and prosecution of activists arrested on Inauguration Day 2017 in Washington D.C.

Two of the warrants would require Facebook to disclose to the government all information from the personal Facebook profiles of local DisruptJ20 activists Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour from November 1, 2016 through February 9, 2017. Although the warrants claim to seek only evidence in support of the government’s prosecutions of January 20 demonstrations, they demand—among other things—all private messages, friend lists, status updates, comments, photos, video, and other private information solely intended for the users’ Facebook friends and family, even if they have nothing to do with Inauguration Day. The warrants also seek information about actions taken on Facebook, including all searches performed by the users, groups or networks joined, and all “data and information that has been deleted by the user.”

The third search warrant was issued for the “DisruptJ20” Facebook page (now called “Resist This”), administered and moderated by Emmelia Talarico. Although the page is public, the warrant would require the disclosure of non-public lists of people who planned to attend political organizing events and even the names of people who simply liked, followed, reacted to, commented on, or otherwise engaged with the content on the Facebook page. During the three-month span the search warrant covers, approximately 6,000 Facebook users liked the page.
The ACLU-DC filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the Facebook users whose accounts are targeted, and a motion to quash or modify the search warrants, arguing that the warrants are overbroad under the Fourth Amendment (which protects personal privacy) and are particularly problematic because the lawful political associations and activities of the users and thousands of third parties will be revealed. The ACLU filing asks the court either to void the warrants outright or to appoint a “special master” who is not part of the prosecutor’s office, to review the Facebook information before providing to the prosecutor only the material—if there is any—relevant to their criminal prosecutions.

“Opening up the entire contents of a personal Facebook page for review by the government is a gross invasion of privacy,” said Scott Michelman, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU-DC.  “The primary purpose of the Fourth Amendment was to prevent this type of exploratory rummaging through a person’s private information. Moreover, when law enforcement officers can comb through records concerning political organizing in opposition to the very administration for which those officers work, the result is the chilling of First Amendment-protected political activity.”

None of the ACLU-DC’s clients in today’s filing has been charged by the U.S. Attorney with any Inauguration Day-related crimes.

The public first learned of this case when Facebook revealed it had received the warrants and challenged a gag order attached to the warrants that prevented the company from notifying its customers that their information was sought by federal law enforcement. Public interest groups including the ACLU, ACLU-DC, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Public Citizen, as well as internet companies including Google, Apple, and Microsoft, filed friend-of-the-court briefs arguing that the gag order should be lifted so the Facebook users could challenge the constitutionality of the search warrants under the First and Fourth Amendments. On the eve of the hearing on the gag order before the D.C. Court of Appeals, the government abruptly withdrew the order. Facebook then notified MacAuley, Carrefour, and Talarico of the warrants and the threats to their privacy.

“My Facebook page contains the most private aspects of my life—and also a frightening amount of information on the people in my life. There are intimate details of my love life, family, and things the federal government just doesn’t need to see,” said MacAuley, one of the ACLU-DC clients challenging the enforcement of the warrants. “Jeff Sessions doesn’t need to see my family photos.”

"This is part of a pattern of prosecutorial overreach in the repression of Inauguration Day protestors," said Carrefour. "This warrant is more than just a violation of privacy. It is a direct attack on D.C.’s grassroots organizing community," said Talarico. "In a city rife with inequities and injustices, the deck is already stacked against us. This overreaching warrant would strike a devastating blow to organizers working every day to make this city a better place."

This is second known attempt by the government to conduct unlawful dragnet searches of the internet and social media in search of evidence against activists arrested on Inauguration Day. In a similar case of government overreach, the government had issued a warrant to website hosting provider Dreamhost for the IP addresses of the 1.3 million people who ever visited the DisruptJ20.org website. Dreamhost, supported by several amici and intervenors, challenged the scope of the warrant and went public with the government’s overbroad request. Amidst public outcry, the government asked the D.C. Superior Court to narrow the time frame of the warrant and eliminate the request for IP addresses. The court agreed and went further by demanding strict safeguards for privacy before the warrant may be executed. The government is now litigating the scope of these additional protections. 

Today’s motions to intervene and to quash were filed in D.C. Superior Court. The case is formally titled In the Matter of the Search of Information Associated with Facebook Accounts disruptj20, lacymacauley, and legba.carrefour That Is Stored at Premises Controlled by Facebook, Inc.


BACKGROUND

The New Yorker, 21 June 2017:

On the morning of January 20th, the day Donald Trump was inaugurated, in Washington, D.C., a large group of anti-Trump protesters, dressed in black, roamed through the city for close to an hour. Some chanted, some dragged newspaper boxes into the street, and some smashed the windows of various stores. In response, the police arrested more than two hundred people, setting in motion a complex legal saga that, months later, is far from over.

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia filed a federal lawsuit accusing the police of violating the rights of several people by using pepper spray and explosive devices without warning or justification; by making a mass arrest without differentiating between those who had broken laws and those who hadn’t; and by holding detainees for hours without food, water, or access to toilets, and subjecting some to “humiliating and unjustified” invasive searches.

The four plaintiffs in the A.C.L.U.’s lawsuit include Shay Horse, a twenty-three-year-old whose Twitter account identifies him as a photojournalist and “scrumptious/rambunctious anarchist.” According to the lawsuit, Horse broke no laws on the day of the protest but was doused with pepper spray, trapped between police lines for several hours, and then arrested and subjected to a rectal probe. In February, prosecutors dropped all charges against him. The other plaintiffs are Milo Gonzalez, a protester who, the lawsuit says, was also subjected to a rectal search after his arrest and was denied access to a bathroom for nine or ten hours; Elizabeth Lagesse, who, according to the suit, did not break any laws before being arrested but was handcuffed so tightly her wrists bled; and a lawyer named Judah Ariel, who said that he was among a group of people on a sidewalk who were pepper-sprayed without cause but not taken into custody…………

While it seemed clear on the day of the protest that the vandalism and property damage were committed by a small number of people, a superseding indictment handed down in late April charged two hundred and twelve people with rioting, inciting a riot, and engaging in a conspiracy to “damage, destroy, or deface property.” Because participants in a conspiracy can be held responsible for an offense committed by a co-conspirator, the defendants were all charged with breaking the windows of a Bank of America branch, a McDonald’s restaurant, a café, and two separate Starbucks stores. All of them faced the possibility of lengthy prison sentences.

According to defense lawyers, there appears to be no modern-day precedent for charging everyone arrested during a particular protest with conspiracy, and, in May, thirty of the accused filed a motion saying that those charges lacked merit and asking that the superseding indictment be dismissed. Lawyers from the Georgetown Criminal Justice Clinic, white-shoe firms like Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, and D.C.’s Public Defender Service joined in the motion, which argued that the indictment had attributed crimes “collectively and indiscriminately” to defendants without offering evidence of individual culpability.

Some of the defendants have said that they believe they are being targeted for their perceived political identity. Calls for an “anti-capitalist anti-fascist bloc” on Inauguration Day had begun circulating soon after the election in November. Social-media messages included a photograph of a group of black-clad figures brandishing flags and what appear to be flares along with the hashtag #disruptJ20 and the words “wear black.” A communiqué on the Web site CrimethInc read, “If Trump is to be inaugurated at all, let it happen behind closed doors, showing the true face of the security state Trump will preside over. It must be made clear to the whole world that the vast majority of people in the United States do not support his presidency or consent to his rule. . . . We must take to the streets and protest, blockade, disrupt, intervene, sit in, walk out, rise up, and make more noise and good trouble than the establishment can bear.”

The authorities seemed aware of the political leanings associated with the protest. Charging documents said that police officers had been “monitoring a planned assembly of individuals that were known to be associated with an anarchist group” and that intelligence-division officers knew that they would be gathering “with the express intent to disrupt Inauguration-related activities.”

Prosecutors in D.C. now face a potentially daunting number of cases, and whether they will be able to come up with individual evidence for each defendant’s case remains to be seen. So far, according to court documents, they have looked at photographs taken by police officers, reviewed video footage, and obtained a judge’s permission to search more than a hundred cell phones seized from those who were arrested. In March, they obtained a warrant to search the home of a man described as a protest organizer and to take computers, cell phones, tablets, and any material documenting the planning of a “riot or ‘Black Bloc’ march” or the planned destruction of property.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Study finds Trump, right-wing extremism and fake news won the media battle during the 2016 US presidential election campaign


In which Facebook Inc is identified as a major commercial player in the media landscape and a significant purveyor of fake news, as well as giving page space to highly partisan and clickbait news sites.

Excerpts from Harvard University, Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society, Rob Faris et al, Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, 16 August 2017:

Both winners and losers of the 2016 presidential election describe it as a political earthquake. Donald Trump was the most explicitly populist candidate in modern history. He ran an overtly anti-elite and anti-media campaign and embraced positions on trade, immigration, and international alliances, among many other topics, that were outside elite consensus. Trump expressed these positions in starkly aggressive terms. His detractors perceived Trump’s views and the manner in which he communicated them as alarming, and his supporters perceived them as refreshing and candid. He was outraised and outspent by his opponents in both the primary and the general election, and yet he prevailed—contrary to the conventional wisdom of the past several elections that winning, or at least staying close, in the money race is a precondition to winning both the nomination and the election.

In this report we explore the dynamics of the election by analyzing over two million stories related to the election, published online by approximately 70,000 media sources between May 1, 2015, and Election Day in 2016. We measure how often sources were linked to by other online sources and how often they were shared on Facebook or Twitter. Through these sharing patterns and analysis of the content of the stories, we identify both what was highly salient according to these different measures and the relationships among different media, stories, and Twitter users.

Our clearest and most significant observation is that the American political system has seen not a symmetrical polarization of the two sides of the political map, but rather the emergence of a discrete and relatively insular right-wing media ecosystem whose shape and communications practices differ sharply from the rest of the media ecosystem, ranging from the center-right to the left. Right-wing media were centered on Breitbart and Fox News, and they presented partisan-disciplined messaging, which was not the case for the traditional professional media that were the center of attention across the rest of the media sphere. The right-wing media ecosystem partly insulated its readers from nonconforming news reported elsewhere and moderated the effects of bad news for Donald Trump’s candidacy. While we observe highly partisan and clickbait news sites on both sides of the partisan divide, especially on Facebook, on the right these sites received amplification and legitimation through an attention backbone that tied the most extreme conspiracy sites like Truthfeed, Infowars, through the likes of Gateway Pundit and Conservative Treehouse, to bridging sites like Daily Caller and Breitbart that legitimated and normalized the paranoid style that came to typify the right-wing ecosystem in the 2016 election. This attention backbone relied heavily on social media.

For the past 20 years there has been substantial literature decrying the polarization of American politics. The core claim has been that the right and the left are drawing farther apart, becoming more insular, and adopting more extreme versions of their own arguments. It is well established that political elites have become polarized over the past several decades, while other research has shown that the electorate has also grown apart. Other versions of the argument have focused on the internet specifically, arguing that echo chambers or filter bubbles have caused people of like political views to read only one another and to reinforce each other’s views, leading to the adoption of more extreme views. These various arguments have focused on general features of either the communications system or political psychology—homophily, confirmation bias, in-group/out-group dynamics, and so forth. Many commentators and scholars predicted and measured roughly symmetric polarization on the two sides of the political divide.

Our observations of the 2016 election are inconsistent with a symmetric polarization hypothesis. Instead, we see a distinctly asymmetric pattern with an inflection point in the center-right—the least populated and least influential portion of the media spectrum. In effect, we have seen a radicalization of the right wing of American politics: a hollowing out of the center-right and its displacement by a new, more extreme form of right-wing politics. During this election cycle, media sources that attracted attention on the center-right, center, center-left, and left followed a more or less normal distribution of attention from the center-right to the left, when attention is measured by either links or tweets, and a somewhat more left-tilted distribution when measured by Facebook shares. By contrast, the distribution of attention on the right was skewed to the far right. The number of media outlets that appeared in the center-right was relatively small; their influence was generally low, whether measured by inlinks or social media shares; and they tended to link out to the traditional media—such as the New York Times and the Washington Post—to the same extent as did outlets in the center, center-left, and left, and significantly more than did outlets on the right. The number of farther-right media outlets is very large, and the preponderance of attention to these sources, which include Fox News and Breitbart, came from media outlets and readers within the right. This asymmetry between the left and the right appears in the link ecosystem, and is even more pronounced when measured by social media sharing…..

Our data suggest that the “fake news” framing of what happened in the 2016 campaign, which received much post-election attention, is a distraction. Moreover, it appears to reinforce and buy into a major theme of the Trump campaign: that news cannot be trusted. The wave of attention to fake news is grounded in a real phenomenon, but at least in the 2016 election it seems to have played a relatively small role in the overall scheme of things. We do indeed find stories in our data set that come from sites, like Ending the Fed, intended as political clickbait to make a profit from Facebook, often with no real interest in the political outcome…..

Our observations suggest that fixing the American public sphere may be much harder than we would like. One feature of the more widely circulated explanations of our “post-truth” moment—fake news sites seeking Facebook advertising, Russia engaging in a propaganda war, or information overload leading confused voters to fail to distinguish facts from false or misleading reporting—is that these are clearly inconsistent with democratic values, and the need for interventions to respond to them is more or less indisputable. If profit-driven fake news is the problem, solutions like urging Facebook or Google to use technical mechanisms to identify fake news sites and silence them by denying them advertising revenue or downgrading the visibility of their sites seem, on their face, not to conflict with any democratic values. Similarly, if a foreign power is seeking to influence our democratic process by propagandistic means, then having the intelligence community determine how this is being done and stop it is normatively unproblematic. If readers are simply confused, then developing tools that will feed them fact-checking metrics while they select and read stories might help. These approaches may contribute to solving the disorientation in the public sphere, but our observations suggest that they will be working on the margins of the core challenge……  

In this study, we analyze both mainstream and social media coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. We document that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Donald Trump’s agenda: when reporting on Hillary Clinton, coverage primarily focused on the various scandals related to the Clinton Foundation and emails. When focused on Trump, major substantive issues, primarily immigration, were prominent. Indeed, immigration emerged as a central issue in the campaign and served as a defining issue for the Trump campaign.

We find that the structure and composition of media on the right and left are quite different. The leading media on the right and left are rooted in different traditions and journalistic practices. On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism.

Our data supports lines of research on polarization in American politics that focus on the asymmetric patterns between the left and the right, rather than studies that see polarization as a general historical phenomenon, driven by technology or other mechanisms that apply across the partisan divide.

The analysis includes the evaluation and mapping of the media landscape from several perspectives and is based on large-scale data collection of media stories published on the web and shared on Twitter……

Immigration emerged as the leading substantive issue of the campaign. Initially, the Trump campaign used a hard-line anti-immigration stance to distinguish Trump from the field of GOP contenders. Later, immigration was a wedge issue between the left and the right. Pro-Trump media sources supported this with sensationalistic, race-centric coverage of immigration focused on crime, terrorism, fear of Muslims, and disease.

While coverage of his candidacy was largely critical, Trump dominated media coverage…..

Conservative media disrupted.
Breitbart emerges as the nexus of conservative media. The Wall Street Journal is treated by social media users as centrist and less influential. The rising prominence of Breitbart along with relatively new outlets such as the Daily Caller marks a significant reshaping of the conservative media landscape over the past several years…..  

Donald Trump succeeded in shaping the election agenda. Coverage of Trump overwhelmingly outperformed coverage of Clinton. Clinton’s coverage was focused on scandals, while Trump’s coverage focused on his core issues.
Figure 1: Number of sentences by topic and candidate from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

On the partisan left and right, the popularity of media sources varies significantly across the different platforms. On the left, the Huffington Post, MSNBC, and Vox are prominent on all platforms. On the right, Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Caller, and the New York Post are popular across platforms.

Table 1: Most popular media on the right from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

Table 2: Most popular media on the left from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

Disinformation and propaganda are rooted in partisanship and are more prevalent on social media.

The most obvious forms of disinformation are most prevalent on social media and in the most partisan fringes of the media landscape. Greater popularity on social media than attention from media peers is a strong indicator of reporting that is partisan and, in some cases, dubious.

Among the set of top 100 media sources by inlinks or social media shares, seven sources, all from the partisan right or partisan left, receive substantially more attention on social media than links from other media outlets.


These sites do not necessarily all engage in misleading or false reporting, but they are clearly highly partisan. In this group, Gateway Pundit is in a class of its own, known for “publishing falsehoods and spreading hoaxes.”

Disproportionate popularity on Facebook is a strong indicator of highly partisan and unreliable media.

A distinct set of websites receive a disproportionate amount of attention from Facebook compared with Twitter and media inlinks. From the list of the most prominent media, 13 sites fall into this category. Many of these sites are cited by independent sources and media reporting as progenitors of inaccurate if not blatantly false reporting. Both in form and substance, the majority of these sites are aptly described as political clickbait. Again, this does not imply equivalency across these sites. Ending the Fed is often cited as the prototypical example of a media source that published false stories. The Onion is an outlier in this group, in that it is explicitly satirical and ironic, rather than, as is the case with the others, engaging in highly partisan and dubious reporting without explicit irony.


Asymmetric vulnerabilities: The right and left were subject to media manipulation in different ways.

The more insulated right-wing media ecosystem was susceptible to sustained network propaganda and disinformation, particularly misleading negative claims about Hillary Clinton. Traditional media accountability mechanisms—for example, fact-checking sites, media watchdog groups, and cross-media criticism—appear to have wielded little influence on the insular conservative media sphere. Claims aimed for “internal” consumption within the right-wing media ecosystem were more extreme, less internally coherent, and appealed more to the “paranoid style” of American politics than claims intended to affect mainstream media reporting.

The institutional commitment to impartiality of media sources at the core of attention on the left meant that hyperpartisan, unreliable sources on the left did not receive the same amplification that equivalent sites on the right did.

These same standard journalistic practices were successfully manipulated by media and activists on the right to inject anti-Clinton narratives into the mainstream media narrative. A key example is the use of the leaked Democratic National Committee’s emails and her campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, released through Wikileaks, and the sustained series of stories written around email-based accusations of influence peddling. Another example is the book and movie release of Clinton Cash together with the sustained campaign that followed, making the Clinton Foundation the major post-convention story. By developing plausible narratives and documentation susceptible to negative coverage, parallel to the more paranoid narrative lines intended for internal consumption within the right-wing media ecosystem, and by “working the refs,” demanding mainstream coverage of anti-Clinton stories, right-wing media played a key role in setting the agenda of mainstream, center-left media. We document these dynamics in the Clinton Foundation case study section of this report.

The New York Times, 6 September 2017:

Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads

Providing new evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Facebook disclosed on Wednesday that it had identified more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on hot-button issues purchased by a shadowy Russian company linked to the Kremlin.

Most of the 3,000 ads did not refer to particular candidates but instead focused on divisive social issues such as race, gay rights, gun control and immigration, according to a post on Facebook by Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer. The ads, which ran between June 2015 and May 2017, were linked to some 470 fake accounts and pages the company said it had shut down.

Facebook officials said the fake accounts were created by a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency, which is known for using “troll” accounts to post on social media and comment on news websites.

The disclosure adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign, which American intelligence agencies concluded was designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election. Multiple investigations of the Russian meddling, and the possibility that the Trump campaign somehow colluded with Russia, have cast a shadow over the first eight months of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Facebook staff members on Wednesday briefed the Senate and House intelligence committees, which are investigating the Russian intervention in the American election. Mr. Stamos indicated that Facebook is also cooperating with investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, writing that “we have shared our findings with U.S. authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary.”….

In its review of election-related advertising, Facebook said it had also found an additional 2,200 ads, costing $50,000, that had less certain indications of a Russian connection. Some of those ads, for instance, were purchased by Facebook accounts with internet protocol addresses that appeared to be in the United States but with the language set to Russian.

Friday, 12 May 2017

You're not on Facebook? Why not?!


One of the many reasons some people are closing their Facebook accounts and walking away – excessive, obsessive data collection and the uses to which it is put.

News.com.au, 1 May 2017:

FACEBOOK has come under fire over revelations it is targeting potentially vulnerable youths who “need a confidence boost” to facilitate predatory advertising practices.

The allegation was revealed this morning by The Australian which obtained internal documents from the social media giant which reportedly show how Facebook can exploit the moods and insecurities of teenagers using the platform for the potential benefit of advertisers.

The confidential document dated this year detailed how by monitoring posts, comments and interactions on the site, Facebook can figure out when people as young as 14 feel “defeated”, “overwhelmed”, “stressed”, “anxious”, “nervous”, “stupid”, “silly”, “useless”, and a “failure”.

Such information gathered through a system dubbed sentiment analysis could be used by advertisers to target young Facebook users when they are potentially more vulnerable.

While Google is the king of the online advertising world, Facebook is the other major player which dominates the industry worth about $80 billion last year.

But Facebook is not one to rest on its laurels. The leaked document shows it has been honing the covert tools its uses to gain useful psychological insights on young Australian and New Zealanders in high school and tertiary education.

The social media services we use can derive immense insight and personal information about us and our moods from the way we use them, and arguably none is more fastidious in that regard than Facebook which harvests immense data on its users.

The secret document was put together by two Australian Facebook execs and includes information about when young people are likely to feel excited, reflective, as well as other emotions related to overcoming fears.

The Guardian, 3 May 2017:

For two years I was charged with turning Facebook data into money, by any legal means. If you browse the internet or buy items in physical stores, and then see ads related to those purchases on Facebook, blame me. I helped create the first versions of that, way back in 2012.

The ethics of Facebook’s micro-targeted advertising was thrust into the spotlight this week by a report out of Australia. The article, based on a leaked presentation, said that Facebook was able to identify teenagers at their most vulnerable, including when they feel “insecure”, “worthless”, “defeated” and “stressed”.

Facebook claimed the report was misleading, assuring the public that the company does not “offer tools to target people based on their emotional state”. If the intention of Facebook’s public relations spin is to give the impression that such targeting is not even possible on their platform, I’m here to tell you I believe they’re lying through their teeth.

Just as Mark Zuckerberg was being disingenuous (to put it mildly) when, in the wake of Donald Trump’s unexpected victory, he expressed doubt that Facebook could have flipped the presidential election.

Facebook deploys a political advertising sales team, specialized by political party, and charged with convincing deep-pocketed politicians that they do have the kind of influence needed to alter the outcome of elections. 

I was at Facebook in 2012, during the previous presidential race. The fact that Facebook could easily throw the election by selectively showing a Get Out the Vote reminder in certain counties of a swing state, for example, was a running joke.

Express online, 6 January 2017:

FACEBOOK siphons an enormous amount of data from its users – whether it's monitoring your mouse movements, tracking the amount of time you spend on any given post, or the subject of your photographs……

The US social network is constantly tracking information about its users – however, most users will not be aware of just how much data it can siphon from a single photograph.

Facebook hints at how much data it is able to detect when it suggests people who might be in the photograph, prompting you to tag their faces.

But in reality, the California-based social network is tracking much more than just faces.

When you upload a photo on Facebook, the social network scans the image and detects how many people are in the photograph, and whether it was taken indoors or outside.

Facebook is also able to identify humans, animals and inanimate objects.

It is not always accurate, but the social network is able to differentiate between people who are standing, or sitting down.

To find out exactly what Facebook is reading into your photos, software developer Adam Geitgey has created a useful Chrome browser extension that reveals the data Facebook is collecting from your images.

Show Facebook Computer Vision Tags reveals data that Facebook usually keeps hidden from its users.

The free Google Chrome extension can be downloaded from the Chrome extension store.

Facebook has implemented object recognition technology since April 2016, a spokesperson for the company told Metro.co.uk.

The Verge, 27 May 2016:

Facebook will now display ads to web users who are not members of its social network, the company announced Thursday, in a bid to significantly expand its online ad network. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Facebook will use cookies, "like" buttons, and other plug-ins embedded on third-party sites to track members and non-members alike. The company says it will be able to better target non-Facebook users and serve relevant ads to them…

Some of the data Facebook collects to facilitate ad placements, according to The Washington Post on  19 August 2016:

1. Location
2. Age
3. Generation
4. Gender
5. Language
6. Education level
7. Field of study
8. School
9. Ethnic affinity
10. Income and net worth
11. Home ownership and type
12. Home value
13. Property size
14. Square footage of home
15. Year home was built
16. Household composition

As explained on that shiny new portal, Facebook keeps ads “useful and relevant” in four distinct ways. It tracks your on-site activity, such as the pages you like and the ads you click, and your device and location settings, such as the brand of phone you use and your type of Internet connection. Most users recognize these things impact ad targeting: Facebook has repeatedly said as much. But slightly more surprising is the extent of Facebook’s web-tracking efforts and its collaborations with major data brokers.

While you’re logged onto Facebook, for instance, the network can see virtually every other website you visit. Even when you’re logged off, Facebook knows much of your browsing: It’s alerted every time you load a page with a “Like” or “share” button, or an advertisement sourced from its Atlas network. Facebook also provides publishers with a piece of code, called Facebook Pixel, that they (and by extension, Facebook) can use to log their Facebook-using visitors.

While you’re logged onto Facebook, for instance, the network can see virtually every other website you visit. Even when you’re logged off, Facebook knows much of your browsing: It’s alerted every time you load a page with a “Like” or “share” button, or an advertisement sourced from its Atlas network. Facebook also provides publishers with a piece of code, called Facebook Pixel, that they (and by extension, Facebook) can use to log their Facebook-using visitors.

17. Users who have an anniversary within 30 days
18. Users who are away from family or hometown
19. Users who are friends with someone who has an anniversary, is newly married or engaged, recently moved, or has an upcoming birthday
20. Users in long-distance relationships
21. Users in new relationships
22. Users who have new jobs
23. Users who are newly engaged
24. Users who are newly married
25. Users who have recently moved
26. Users who have birthdays soon
27. Parents
28. Expectant parents
29. Mothers, divided by “type” (soccer, trendy, etc.)
30. Users who are likely to engage in politics
31. Conservatives and liberals
32. Relationship status

On top of that, Facebook offers marketers the option to target ads according to data compiled by firms like Experian, Acxiom and Epsilon, which have historically fueled mailing lists and other sorts of offline efforts. These firms build their profiles over a period of years, gathering data from government and public records, consumer contests, warranties and surveys, and private commercial sources — like loyalty card purchase histories or magazine subscription lists. Whatever they gather from those searches can also be fed into a model to draw further conclusions, like whether you’re likely to be an investor or buy organic for your kids.

Wired, 28 December 2012:

In 2010, while researching his thesis, he asked Facebook if it could send him all of the user data the company had relating to his own account. Amazingly, he got a response.

Facebook was, in Schrems' words, "dumb enough" to send him all his data in a 1,200-page PDF. It showed that Facebook kept records of every person who had ever poked him, all the IP addresses of machines he had used to access the site (as well as which other Facebook users had logged in on that machine), a full history of messages and chats and even his "last location", which appeared to use a combination of check-ins, data gathered from apps, IP addresses and geo-tagged uploads to work out where he was.

As Schrems went through the document, he found items he thought he had deleted, such as messages, status updates and wall posts. He also found personal information he says he never supplied, including email addresses that had been culled from his friends' address books. European law is worded vaguely, but says that personal data must be processed "fairly"; people should be given comprehensive information on how it will be used; the data processed should not be "excessive" in relation to the purpose for which it was collected; it should be held securely and deleted when no longer needed. And each person should have the right to access all of their personal data.