Doctor and activist


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Tag: Facebook

Fake Facebook Pages Allow Dictators to Rule

1 May 2021

A Facebook whistleblower, Sophie Zhang, says that in many countries fake pages are distorting perceptions of politicians and trolling opposition leaders.  She says that while there is some interest in this in the Western Democracies there is not much interest in countries like Honduras, Azerbaijan, Mexico and the Philippines.  Clearly if action is delayed in these areas politicians may win elections, distorting whole nations’ futures. 

Sophie Zhang was a low-level data analyst who found this and tried to get Facebook management interest, but was continually rebuffed and finally sacked. 

Marx said that ‘Power is control of the means of production’ in that it gave access to money, but now it would seem that power is control of the means of information.  This is why Murdoch and Fox are so powerful.  With 70% of Australia’s print media a drip-feed of negative stories can get rid of governments. 

My personal view is that the fact that Rudd would not change the media ownership laws in Murdoch’s favour was why Rudd fell, though of course his two other key policies, a carbon tax, and royalties on mining offended the mining lobby.  Offending both Murdoch and the miners was terminal.

Apart from the mainstream media (MSM) the other significant media player, which the population think that they control, is the social media, particularly Facebook.  We might ask whether it determined the 2016 US election that elected Trump, or the 2016 Brexit vote.  My more recent view is that my own personal lack of awareness of the power of social media probably cost me my seat in NSW Parliament.

Be all this as it may, Sophie Zhang has raised a very important issue in the power of Facebook and the clash between its commercial interests and its social function. Like many whistle-blowers, she is a hero who has suffered for her efforts.

www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/apr/12/facebook-fake-engagement-whistleblower-sophie-zhang

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Facebook will not carry Australian News

18 February 2021

Here is the ABC story about this. Note that Facebook sees itself as giving clients and coverage to other media, not using them to get customers. In support of this, the interesting figure is that only 4% of its users are looking for media news sites. Readers of my posts will definitely be in the 4%, presumably the other 96% is items of interest other than news. People have a right to family and social contacts, and a zillion other interests.

But Facebook is like google in that it is paid per click, so it does not seem unreasonable that it should pay the news outlets per click. It is a worry that deals are being done with the major (i.e. Big) media with no guarantee that the smaller media that give diversity of opinion will get any money. The question then become as to who sets the rate? Presumably google and Facebook charge per click and this is ‘commercial in confidence’.

The other question that is never addressed is whether we the users should ever be paid from the data harvested from us. As someone said, ‘if you are not paying for the product you are the product’.

Our personal information is hoovered up in our normal activities. whatever we buy, the words of our emails, our click preferences, and if we have voice-activated phones or devices, every word we say. This is on-sold, and what we get is the convenience of having email software, chatting on apps, or having a computer bot serve us. But what is the profit margin on the data?  Could and should we get a cut of what we generate?

ABC News:

Facebook news ban stops Australians from sharing or viewing Australian and international news coverage

Australians are being blocked from accessing news in their Facebook feeds, in a dramatic escalation of the social media giant’s stand-off with the federal government.

Australians waking up this morning found they were blocked from viewing or sharing news content from publishers’ pages, including news organisations like the ABC.

The social media giant said it made the move in response to the government’s proposed media bargaining laws, which would force major tech giants to pay Australian news outlets for their content.

The move also prevents people overseas from sharing Australian content on the social media site.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tweeted that he had held “constructive” talks with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg this morning, while Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Facebook should “think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing”.

Facebook said the proposed Australian law fundamentally misunderstood the relationship between their platform and publishers who use it to share news content.

It said it faced the stark choice between attempting to comply with a law, or banning news content on its services in Australia — and “with a heavy heart” it was choosing the latter.

The move came a day after Nine and Seven West Media reportedly made multi-million-dollar deals with Google for use of content.

“We understand many will ask why the platforms may respond differently,” the Facebook statement said.

“The answer is because our platforms have fundamentally different relationships with news.

“Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content.”

A Google spokesperson took issue with this claim, highlighting growing division in the technology sector.

“All publishers, along with everyone else, always have a choice about whether their site shows up in Google Search,” they said.

The social media giant said it had explained for months that “the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favour of the publishers — which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume”.

“Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million.”

The company said what it gained from news content was “minimal”, and made up about 4 per cent of what people saw in their newsfeed.

Google deals continue

The legislation implementing the proposed new media code passed the House of Representatives last night. The Senate is likely to pass it next week.

The code is designed to ensure media companies are paid fairly for the use of their content on search engines and social media platforms.

Major media companies Seven West Media, Nine, and News Corp have all reportedly struck content deals with Google this week.

News Corp and Google will develop a subscription platform, share advertising revenue through Google’s ad technology services, build out audio journalism and develop video journalism by YouTube.

The deal comes after years of public feuding between Mr Murdoch and Google, most recently in Australia, where Google has threatened to shut down its search engine to avoid “unworkable” content laws.

News declined to comment on financial details of the deal, which it said involved “significant payments” by Google.

The Nine and Seven West Media deals are collectively worth $60 million a year, according to media reports.

ABC/Reuters

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