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What Facebook’s ‘Is this hate speech?’ bug says about their insane plans

(TECH NEWS) After a strange “Is this hate speech?” question popped up on every status update briefly today, the world laughed. But there’s something deeper at play here that we must consider.

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For less than half an hour today, Facebook users panicked, mocked, and critiqued a new “hate speech” report feature that asked “Is this hate speech?” on every single post.

Selecting “no” makes the prompt go away on a single post, and opting for “yes” led to a pop up that asked users to clarify what type of hate speech it was, but the questions were incomplete, making it clear it was a feature they’re working on that was accidentally made live to all users.

hate speech

Facebook has since confirmed the mistake, saying it was, in fact, supposed to be an internal test and called it a “bug.” It is possible it will be rolled out in some form this week as the F8 developer conference is under way.

Most people are reacting today by sharing silly posts and memes that are clearly not hate, and challenging even being asked.

But what people are not saying is that not only is this annoying (to be asked on every single post so Facebook can have even more data points on your personal opinions), but that it is a threat to free speech.

Facebook already has a report function, and has finally pledged to offer an appeals process after endless peoples’ accounts have been censored and shut down without warning. Why, then would they need an un-triggered feature such as this?

Imagine you post a link to a fundraiser to a local Democrat running for City Council. A Republican feels bullied by it and reports it as hate speech. Theoretically, the post is hidden until a human at Facebook can review it manually, just as reported posts. That’s a pretty easy way to silence people that disagree with you.

So why get bent out of shape by this feature when we already have reporting options? The current reporting options are not top of mind, they are more than one click away, and there is no subtle indication that someone’s post could be violating my personal feelings in the form of hate speech.

The point of contention I offer is not that Facebook is collecting more data, that’s actually a great way to train their AI tools to intervene when hate speech is present. Rather, I believe putting a bold, unavoidable notification on every single status update makes a statement that your primary function as a Facebook user is to police, which we all know means flag someone you disagree with and silence them, even if temporarily.

Facebook is doing everything incorrectly, especially as they try to control behavior and act as the arbiters of morality. It’s a joke – if you’ve been to a town hall debate, you know it gets rowdy. Social communities were originally created so we can listen to each other, not to task us all with policing the web. During Zuckerberg’s testimony, it was striking that he is willing for Facebook to be used as a political weapon in nations across the world.

If this is Zuckerberg’s vision for Facebook, investors will be forced to reconsider what they’ve invested in – a social technology, or a political weapon. And those displeased with that vision should sell.

The ultimate outcome of putting this “feature” front and center will be for users to flag political speech as hate speech, and as behavior changes for the worst, it could ultimately create echo chambers that resemble infinity mirrors. And Facebook will fail.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Tech News

Facebook starts handing out merit badges like we’re Girl Scouts

(TECH NEWS) Facebook offers merit badges to users, and it’s pretty neat, but we’re also rolling our eyes.

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According to some Facebook Group administrators, Facebook has today rolled out merit badges. So far in the wild, we’ve spotted “Conversation Starter” which praises the admin (or user) for starting engaging posts that got the conversation going.

We have asked numerous users if they’ve seen these badges, and so far it appears that only one badge has been rolled out, potentially with more on the way. Upon logging into the group where you have earned a badge, you’ll see a notification at the top of the feed informing you of your new badge (get out your vest, it’s time to start collecting them all)!

The merit badge that you’ve earned shows up in your profile when other group members (where you’ve earned the merit badge) click on your face:

Currently, when an Admin posts in the group, it still only has their Admin badge next to their name, not the “Conversation Starter” or other badges lined up next to it, but if a regular group member has posted something engaging, the badge appears next to their name (it may be a one-badge-limit so far, maybe hold off on buying a Girl Scout vest for your badge collection):

Lastly, users apparently do have control over the display of whichever neato merit badges we eventually earn or collect:

There is no word on what the ultimate plan is or what merit badges will be awarded, and it appears to be limited to Facebook Groups at the present.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update the story as we learn more. For now, if you want a badge, you can at least get a “Conversation Starter” badge in Facebook Groups, so go get ’em – we’ll soon know which other badges we can earn slash collect slash compete for slash game.

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Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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Tech News

This phishing simulator tests your company’s (lack of) readiness

(TECHNOLOGY) Phishero is a tool which tests your organization’s resistance to phishing attacks. Pro tip: Most companies aren’t ready.

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In the wake of any round of cyberattacks, many organizations question whether they’re prepared to defend themselves against things like hacking or other forms of information theft. In reality, the bulk of workplace data thievery comes from a classic trick: phishing.

Phishing is a catch-all phrase for a specific type of information theft which involves emailing. Typically, a phishing email will include a request for sensitive data, such as a password, a copy of a W-4, or an account’s details (e.g., security questions); the email itself will often appear to come from someone within the organization.

Similar approaches include emailing a link which acts as a login page for a familiar site (e.g., Facebook) but actually stores your account information when you sign in.

Luckily, there’s a way for you to test your business’ phishing readiness.

Phishero, a tool designed to test employee resistance to phishing attacks, is a simple solution for any business looking to find any weak links in their cybersecurity.

The tool itself is designed to do four main things: identify potential targets, find a way to design a convincing phishing scheme, implement the phishing attack, and analyze the results.

Once Phishero has a list of your employees, it is able to create an email based on the same web design used for your company’s internal communications. This email is then sent to your selected recipient pool, from which point you’ll be able to monitor who opens the email.

Once you’ve concluded the test, you can use Phishero’s built-in analytics to give you an at-a-glance overview of your organization’s security.

The test results also include specific information such as which employees gave information, what information was given, and pain points in your current cybersecurity setup.

Phishing attacks are incredibly common, and employees – especially those who may not be as generationally skeptical of emails – are the only things standing between your company and catastrophic losses if they occur in your business. While training your employees on proper email protocol out of the gate is a must, Phishero provides an easy way to see how effective your policies actually are.

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