Connect with us

Social Media

Fallout from Facebook’s shady program spying on children

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is barely even trying to be sneaky anymore, paying children to allow them to spy. Shameless.

Published

on

facebook

Facebook recently landed in hot (boiling) water when it was uncovered that Facebook has been paying teens to install a “research” VPN on their devices that would allow the tech giant to see all of the teen’s cellular and web usage, for about $20 worth of gift cards each month.

The participants were largely recruited into the program as a result of targeted Snapchat and Instragram ads, and offered participants additional incentives to refer friends into the program too.

The purpose of this Big Brother program was not to empower young minds with technological innovation, but to use all of this data to track Facebook’s competitors, keep track of emerging trends, and otherwise be creepin’ on the kids. The program reportedly went so far as to ask users to share screenshots of their Amazon order history pages.  

According to the report: “Facebook sidesteps the App Store and rewards teenagers and adults to download the Research app and give it root access to network traffic in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity.”

Oh, and if the privacy concerns of this whole program weren’t terrifying enough; it has been going on since 2016.

Almost immediately after the news broke, Apple banned Facebook’s Research VPN and shut down the iOs version of the Research app, before Facebook could suspend the program voluntarily. Apple also released a statement condemning the program and Facebook’s shady choice to hide it in the iOs Developer certificate rather than the App Store (where apps that collect personal data have been banned since last summer).

This entire debacle highlights the murky borders of online consent when children and teens are involved. Not only are teens less likely to be aware of the risks of sharing their data, but also often parental “consent” is not real. There’s no verification of parental consent; if a teen checks a box in an online form saying that they are their parent—the website is none the wiser. The same is true for many age verification processes.

If you are a real parent reading this and want to check to make sure that your teen’s not selling their personal data for pennies, you LifeHacker has instructions to help you identify whether or not they are in the program (and get them out of it!).

This entire debacle is a nice reminder that large tech companies may offer innovative services, high salaries to employees, and strange new ways of keeping in touch with people we’d probably forgotten by now, but the product is not the social networks they build.

The product that Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other giants are really interested in is data – we’ve been reporting that for over a decade now. Their treatment of people that may not even be able to consent to sharing their data highlights this narrow goal. If you a not a person, but rather a collection of market insights, what does your age matter? It’s just another variable for the algorithms (robots).

The upside of this entire debacle is that many parents previously unaware of this type of program are now talking to their children about this topic.

Further, this gives politicians more tangible evidence of why media companies like Facebook should never get a free pass for bad behavior.

AprilJo Murphy is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. She is a writer, editor, and sometimes teacher based in Austin, TX who enjoys getting outdoors with her handsome dog, Roan.

Social Media

Facebook pays $52M to content mods with PTSD, proving major flaw in their business

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook will pay out up to millions to former content moderators suffering PTSD to settle the 2018 class action lawsuit.

Published

on

content moderators

Facebook’s traumatized former content moderators are finally receiving their settlement for the psychological damage caused by having to view extremely disturbing content to keep it off of Facebook.

The settlement is costing the company $52 million, distributed as a one time payment of $1,000 to each of the 10,000+ content moderators in four states. If any of these workers seek psychological help and are diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their jobs, Facebook also has to pay for that medical treatment. They pay up to $50,000 per moderator in additional damages (on a case-by-case basis).

Facebook also will offer psychological counseling going forward, and will attempt to create a type of screening for future candidates to determine a candidate’s emotional resiliency, and will make one-on-one mental health counseling available to content moderators going forward. They will also give moderators the ability to stop seeing specific types of reported content.

According to NPR, Steve Williams, a lawyer for the content moderators, said, “We are so pleased that Facebook worked with us to create an unprecedented program to help people performing work that was unimaginable even a few years ago. The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe.”

Honestly, this job is not for the faint of heart, to say the least. Like the hard-working, yet not unfazeable police officers on Law & Order SVU, seeing the worst of humanity takes a toll on one’s psyche. Facebook’s content moderators are only human, after all. These workers moderated every conceivable–and inconceivable–type of disturbing content people posted on the 2 billion-users-strong social media platform for a living. Some for $28,800 a year.

I wouldn’t last five minutes in this role. It is painful to even read about what these content moderators witnessed for eight hours a day, five days a week. While Facebook refuses to admit any wrongdoing, as part of the agreement, come on, man. Graphic and disturbing content that upset someone enough to report to Facebook is what these people viewed all day every day. It sounds almost like a blueprint for creating trauma.

This settlement surely sets the precedent for more class action lawsuits to come from traumatized content moderators on other social media platforms. The settlement also shows this business model for what it is: flawed. This isn’t sustainable. It’s disgusting to think there are people out there posting heinous acts, and I am grateful the platform removes them.

However, they have to come up with a better way. Facebook employs thousands upon thousands of really smart people who are brilliant at computer technology. Twitter and YouTube and similar platforms do, too. They need to come up with a better plan going forward, instead of traumatizing these unfortunate souls. I don’t know what that will look like. But with Facebook’s sky-high piles of money and access to so many brilliant minds, they can figure it out. Something’s got to give. Please figure it out.

Continue Reading

Social Media

Twitter will give users a warning before a harmful tweet is sent

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter is rolling out a new warning giving users a chance to edit their tweet before they post “harmful” language, and we aren’t sure how to feel about it.

Published

on

twitter warning

Twitter is testing out a new warning system for potentially offensive tweets. If a tweet contains language Twitter deems “harmful,” Twitter will pop up with a warning and opportunity to revise the potentially offensive tweet before posting. The warning mentions that language in the tweet is similar to previously reported tweets.

If internal alarms are going off in your head, congratulations, you are wary of any censorship! However, if you read a tweet spewing with bile, racism, or threatening violence against a person or institution, do you report it? Do you want Twitter to take it down? If you said yes, then congratulations, you want to protect the vulnerable and fight hatred.

If you are wary of censorship, yet want to fight hatred and protect the vulnerable, welcome to the interwebs! It’s a crazy and precarious place where almost anything can happen. Despite decades of use, we’re still navigating our way through the gauntlet of tough decisions the proliferation of platforms and ease of use have given us.

First, how does Twitter gauge a potentially harmful tweet? According to Twitter, the app responds to language similar to prior tweets that people have reported. Twitter, like Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms, already has hateful conduct rules in place. In fact, Twitter has a host of rules and policies intended to protect users from fraud, graphic violence, or explicitly sexual images.

Their rationale is detailed, but explains, “Our role is to serve the public conversation, which requires representation of a diverse range of perspectives.” However, they “recognise that if people experience abuse on Twitter, it can jeopardize their ability to express themselves.”

We’ve heard stories of teenagers–or even younger children–killing themselves after relentless bullying online. The feeling of anonymity when insulting a living, breathing being from behind a computer screen often causes a nasty pile-on effect. We’ve seen people use social media to bully, sexually harass, and threaten others.

Twitter cites research showing women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and other vulnerable populations are more likely to stop expressing themselves freely when someone abuses them on social media. Even Kelly Marie Tran, who played Resistance fighter Rose Tico in Star Wars, took down her Instagram photos before taking a stand against haters. And she had Jedis in her corner. Imagine your average person’s response to such cruel tactics?

We’ve seen hate groups and terrorist organizations use social media to recruit supporters and plan evil acts. We see false information springing up like weeds. Sometimes this information can be dangerous, especially when Joe Blow is out there sharing unresearched and inaccurate medical advice. Go to sleep, Blow, you’re drunk.

As an English major, and an open-minded person, I have a problem with censorship. Banned books are some of my favorites of all time. However, Twitter is a privately owned platform. Twitter has no obligation to amplify messages of hate. They feel, and I personally agree, that they have some responsibility to keep hateful words inciting violence off of their platform. This is a warning, not a ban, and one they’re only rolling out to iOS users for now.

I mean, in the history of angry rants, when was the last time a “Hey, calm down, you shouldn’t say that” ever made the person less angry or less ranty? Almost never. In which case, the person will make their post anyway, leaving it up to masses to report it. At that time, Twitter can make the decision to suspend the account and tell the user to delete it, add a warning, or otherwise take action.

Every once in a while, though, someone may appreciate the note. If you’ve ever had a colleague read an email for “tone” in a thorny work situation, you know heeding a yellow flag is often the wisest decision. This warning notice gives users a chance to edit themselves. As a writer, I always appreciate a chance to edit myself. If they flag every damn curse word, though, that will get real annoying real fast. You’re not my mom, Twitter. You’re not the boss of me.

This isn’t your great granddaddies’ book burning. This is 2020. The internet giveth; the internet taketh away. It’s a crying shame that evil creeps in when we’re not looking. Speech has consequences. Users can’t edit tweets, so once it’s out there, it’s out there. Even if they delete a tweet within moments of posting, anyone can screenshot that baby and share it with the world. Part of me says, “Good, let the haters out themselves.”

Twitter has shown itself to be open to differences in opinion, encouraging freedom of expression, and has opened up a whole new line of communication for traditionally underrepresented populations. They are a private company, and their rules and policies are posted. What, you didn’t read the terms of use? Gasp!

It’s Twitter’s rodeo, after all. This warning gives users a quick, added heads up to posting something that will likely be reported/removed anyway. For better or worse, Twitter’s still leaving it up to users to post what they want and deal with the potential fallout. Hey, I have a great idea! How about we all be respectful of each other on the internet, and Twitter won’t have to come up with this kind of thing.

Continue Reading

Social Media

Yelp adds virtual services classification to help during COVID

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Yelp constantly adds new classifications for how to find a business to meet your needs, now because of COVID they have added virtual services.

Published

on

Yelp virtual services

Yelp is making efforts to accommodate businesses whose operations are adapting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Several new features will help businesses display updated services.

The company has added an information category titled virtual service offerings. Business can display service option such as classes, virtual consultations, performances, and tours. Yelpers can search for businesses based upon those offerings.

Yelp has already noticed trends where users are incorporating virtual services into their business profiles. In an report by TechCrunch, Yelp’s head of consumer product Akhil Kuduvalli said “With these new product updates, businesses of all types that are adapting and changing the way they operate will be able to better connect with their customers and potentially find new ones.”

Virtual services in categories like fitness, gyms, home services, real estate, and health are already increasing in popularity. Yelp intends to showcase businesses that are providing those services by creating new Collections.

Once business owners update their virtual service offerings on their Yelp for Business profiles, we will surface those updates to consumers through new call-to-action buttons, by updating the home screen and search results with links to groups of businesses offering these new virtual services, as well as surfacing them in other formats like Collections,” said Kudvalli.

Also in the works is a curbside pickup category for restaurants. Additionally, Yelp introduced a free customized banner for businesses to post updates on their profiles. About 224,000 businesses have used the banner so far.

Yelp hasn’t stopped there. It’s made its Connect feature (which allows businesses to share important updates to all Yelpers on their profile and their email subscribers) free to eligible local businesses as part of the Yelp’s commitment to waive $25 million in fees to support businesses in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

During COVID-19 businesses and consumers need all the help they can get, and thankfully Yelp is there to – help.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Our Great Partners

The
American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!