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Well-intentioned bipartisan social media bill could be a slippery slope regarding privacy

(SOCIAL MEDIA) A new anti-sex trafficking bill may put social media companies at risk for content that they don’t control.

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A new form of slavery

An estimated 20-45.8 million people are trapped in sex trafficking, the world’s newest form of slavery. One out of every five victims is a child under the age of 18. This form of slavery is happening in 167 countries, or roughly, 87 percent of the world and the United States is not exempt.

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A new bill geared toward ending sex trafficking on social media may end up jeopardizing the immunity from user-created content that social sites have, simply because it is too broadly written.

Good Concept, Poor Execution

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 aims to target instances of sex trafficking—more specifically, child sex trafficking—in online venues, including social media sites. Sounds like a worthwhile cause, right? Unfortunately, the proposed execution of this act leaves a lot to be desired.

According to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, social media sites are not directly responsible for the content their users upload.

This prevents them from being held accountable for controversial content that they can’t see or moderate quickly enough.

For example, if a murder or similar crime is recorded and uploaded to YouTube, YouTube isn’t liable for the content itself.

The ambiguity in the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 could potentially change that by amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to exclude cases of sex trafficking, in which case the platforms on which the content was uploaded could—and, some fear, would—be prosecuted for that content.

This presents a huge problem because, as we all know, the Internet is often a moral-free zone where nothing is off-limits.

With Section 230 amended, some of the pitch-black humor and careless conversation one expects to find in the average comment section could turn into actual cases levied against social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, to say nothing of the actual instances that these companies can’t react to in time.

Wrong Way to Go About It

Obviously, we’re all in favor of ending sex trafficking, especially in a realm so untamed as the Internet. However, anyone who has spent literally any time in a comment section knows how volatile, controversial, and straight-up weird people can be when they feel anonymous. To hold a company accountable for the (admittedly reprehensible) actions of a few people who agreed to terms of use contracts prohibiting those actions seems like the wrong way to go about a serious problem that very much needs to be addressed.

As it sits, the result of passing the bill as-is would more than likely culminate in nothing more than wave after wave of minor, time-wasting lawsuits for individual “infractions” and suspected leads. Sex trafficking is a horrendous act that deserves full and immediate attention—it just needs a little more focus than this bill currently entails.

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove’s Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Social Media

Facebook wants your nudes now to protect you from revenge porn later

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook, attempting to get in front of revenge porn, is requesting that users send in all of their nudes.

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In a heroic and totally innovative attempt to combat revenge porn, Facebook has come up with the following solution: “PM US UR NUDEZ.”

No seriously. They want your nudes.

But don’t worry, they’re only going to be viewed by a small group of people for manual confirmation of said nudes, and then stored temporarily… for reasons.

That part gets a little fuzzy. Some sources report that Facebook isn’t actually storing the images, just the links. This is meant to convert the image to a digital footprint, known as a hash, which is supposed to prevent the content from being upload to Facebook again.

Others say Facebook only stores the images for a short period of time and then deletes them.

What we do know, is this is a new program being tested in Australia where Facebook has partnered with a small government agency known as e-Safety and is requesting intimate or nude photos that could potentially be used for revenge porn in an effort to pre-emptively prevent such an incident.

Revenge porn is basically when someone uploads your personal and private photos online without your consent. Rather than address the issue of whether or not it’s such a good idea to take photos on a mobile, hackable device, it’s better to just send a large corporation all your nudes… through their Messenger app. /sarcasm

For your protection.

According to the commissioner of the e-Safety office, Julie Inman Grant, however, they’re using artificial intelligence and photo-matching technologies… and storing the links!

If this isn’t convincing enough, British law firm Mishcon de Reya LLP wrote in a statement to Newsweek, “We would expect that Facebook has absolutely watertight systems to guard the privacy of victims. It is quite counter-intuitive to send such intimate images to an unknown recipient.”

Oh, she wasn’t joking.

I’m not sure how many people still hold onto old intimate photos of themselves, but I am doubtful that it’s enough for this to really be effective as it only prevents intimate photos from being shared on Facebook. At least that’s the plan.

Reactions to this announcement have largely been met with amusement and criticism ranging from commentary on Mark Zuckerberg and Co. being total pervs, and theories of shared Facebook memories: “”Happy Memories: It’s been 1 Year since you uploaded 47 pictures of you in your birthday suit”!

Either way, I can only imagine someone’s inbox is flooded with crotch shots right now, and Zuckerberg has a potential new industry in the works.

Just sayin’.

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Social Media

Twitter might make a profit for the first time… ever

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter seems to be very popular but it may surprise you to know that this is the very first time they might make a profit.

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Twitter reports that after a year of slashing expenses and putting itself in a position to sell data to other companies, it’s expected to be profitable. What’s surprising (considering how #huge Twitter is) is that this the first time that it will be profitable based on “generally accepted accounting principles” – #GAAP!.

In the 11 years since Twitter took to the field, it has never once met this standard, operating at a loss of nearly 2.5 billion dollars since its inception.

Twitter has struggled of a number of reasons, but particularly after going public in 2013 it suffered declining user growth, the rise of the #twittertrolls (coincidentally, Troll’s are discussed in my favorite TIME piece about the internet – located here), and competition from Facebook for the tough realm of advertising.

Since 2013, shares fell steadily, but things have increased thanks to some optimistic changes – the promise to crack down on harassment and abuse, a feed arranged by algorithm instead of time, and Twitter’s most vocal fan of late, President Donald Trump.

For the numbers fans, Reuters provides some input: Twitter’s loss narrowed to about 21 million down from 103 million this year. They have worked to cut a great deal of expenses -16 percent across the board broadly impacting sales, marketing, and R&D.

This kind of focused core improvement (can) help tip the balance sheet on the expenses side – but generating revenues remains a challenge due to slow growth. Twitter hopes to relieve this by working out some deals to sell data – the currency of the 21st century.

Several months ago, TechCrunch made perhaps the most important observation – that despite the fact Twitter has changed the world, changed our marketing, and empowered us to connect with other people, it has remained unprofitable. Many small and large businesses profit from Twitter, but in these 11 years the company hasn’t #sharedinthewealth.

Twitter is touching every realm of business and for American’s, is touching every aspect of their lives given its new form as the preferred medium of the political sphere. Given that, they have much to do to change.

Facebook commands an audience five times the size of Twitter – and their ability to reach success for the future seems #questionable. And how Twitter’s success changes the scape of influence, outreach, and entrepreneurship is something else to be seen.

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Social Media

Is Facebook a potential Slack killer?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook’s steady ascent from social networking into the business world is giving Slack a run for their money.

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When it comes to the business realm, Facebook has steadily been increasing their reputation. Though Facebook is pinned as the social network, they are now proving to everyone that they can dominate in the professional sector as well.

Last year, Facebook launched an ad-free version of the site meant for the office called Workplace. Initially, 1,000 companies were signed on to try out this “Facebook for the office” in its starter phase.

As of last week, Facebook announced that 30,000 organizations currently use Workplace. These aren’t just small time companies. Some of Workplace’s users include Starbucks, Lyft, Spotify, Heineken, Delta and most recently Walmart.

It seems that overnight it grew from another side project to a valid rival for other professional communication tools like Slack.

Slack is the go-to site for business professionals. With over 6 million users and acquiring more every day, Slack is the place for teams to collaborate in real-time. It has virtually replaced email and external software when it comes to internal communication.

Slack has been successful at acquiring small corporations to use their service.

The problem is that Slack has yet to join forces with larger clients that have now turned to other applications. Just last year, Uber left Slack because they could not handle their large-scale communication needs.

In addition to being able to handle the needs of large companies, Facebook also offers cheaper services than Slack. A premium account with Workplace costs $3 per user each month while Slack charges double at $6.67 per user each month.

With the rapid growth and major reputation of Facebook behind it, many predict that Workplace will replace Slack, and other sites like it, in the not so distant future.

Recently, Facebook also launched the Workplace desktop app and plan to include group video chat. The biggest obstacle Workplace faces is the association with Facebook. It is ironic, since it is also their greatest strength.

The truth remains that many people think of Facebook solely as a social media network. Many companies forbid the use of it at work so the transition from the personal to the professional realm is still an uphill battle.

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