A Facebook Issue

A Facebook Issue

As many readers will be aware, I do not have a Facebook account. I go so far as blocking its related urls on my computer. And I do also try to avoid spending time unnecessarily talking about Facebook. Regretfully it continues to be that overarching shadow that will take another decade or two to shake off my back. I’m currently helping a person evade ongoing abuse empowered by Facebook as well as other technology.

Today it’s hard to send something out without recognizing the hubbub Facebook has caused the past weeks and the better part of this year. I’ll just get this out of my system for now and sprinkle this issue with examples of the demons that appear to always be hanging on the tail of this beast.

Before I leave you to it, I do have some quick things to say about the senate subcomittee hearings that took place yesterday following recent Wall Street Journal reporting.

The witness for this hearing was Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety at Facebook for the past seven years. You can read her opening statement (PDF). The hearing was very much focused on Instagram and the wellbeing of youths and children.

Davis made point of pushing this point of action:

From June to August of this year, we removed over 600,000 accounts on Instagram alone that were unable to meet our minimum age requirement.

As expected, the responses to questions were evasive and indeterminate, over and over bringing attention to how Facebook do not allow children under 13 on any platform. And yet… 600,000 accounts were recently removed on Instagram alone. A key indicator of a significant number of underage accounts. The real follow-up questions I would have expected here are of course how often accounts are removed, what percentage of underage accounts this actually represents, and for how long each account exists before being removed.

There were also clear efforts from Davis to downplay the economic motivation behind recruiting more tweens and teens to their platforms, which the members clearly refused to buy into. These members were having none of it, and I have to say it’s fascinating to see this type of bipartisan consensus.

In general I think the questions from committee members are getting better over the years (previous hearings have had their cringeworthy moments). I especially appreciate the attention that is being brought to the symbiosis of mental health and controversial digital design choices that we know so much more about today than just five years ago. This OECD report, for example, outlines how mental health is often aligned with the abusive interaction with others – today enabled and exacerbated by online tools.

It is clear that there will be important regulatory steps taken in the United States over the next year or so to safeguard children on, and from, harmful online platforms. This is especially related to modernizing the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), with the addition of the Kids Internet Design and Safety Act (KIDS).

How the effects of these changes will propagate to other communities of burdened individuals, and to the rest of the world, remains to be seen.

On Tuesday, October 5, the hearings will continue with testimony from the most recent Facebook whistleblower.

Be good and take care,

Antigone Davis deflects a question on collecting children's information.

The Facebook Files
Stories are still being added to this series, where WSJ are reviewing internal Facebook documents such as research reports, online employee discussions and drafts of presentations to senior management. All acknowledging harms that have been identified time and time again by Facebook’s own researchers.

Facebook Employees Flag Drug Cartels and Human Traffickers. The Company’s Response Is Weak, Documents Show.
Employees raised alarms about how the site is used in developing countries, where its user base is already huge and expanding. In many instances Facebook’s response is inadequate or nothing at all.

Facebook could face hefty fine in Russia over banned content, says regulator
Russian authorities on Thursday warned social media giant Facebook it faces a fine of up to 10% of its annual turnover. Facebook’s violations include failing to remove posts containing child pornography, drug abuse and extremist content.

She exposed how Facebook enabled global political manipulation. Now she's telling her story.
Sophie Zhang, a former data scientist at Facebook, revealed that it enables global political manipulation and has done little to stop it.

Why Facebook is using Ray-Ban to stake a claim on our faces
To build the metaverse, Facebook needs us to get used to smart glasses. ow will we feel going about our lives in public, knowing that at any moment the people around us might be wearing stealth surveillance technology?

Facebook's WhatsApp Fined for Breaking E.U. Data Privacy Law
Regulators in Ireland, where many tech giants have their European headquarters, have been criticized for not enforcing Europe’s data-protection law, once heralded as a global standard.

Big Tech tops EU lobbying spending, study finds
Google, Facebook and Microsoft have contributed to “the largest ever effort to lobby the EU” in a battle against new laws aimed at curbing their powers.

The Silent Partner Cleaning Up Facebook for $500 Million a Year
The social network has constructed a vast infrastructure to keep toxic material off its platform. At the center of it is Accenture, the blue-chip consulting firm.

Understanding why people give so much away

Our evolved intuitions about privacy aren’t made for this era
If we really care about our privacy, why do we share so much? Great read on our lack of ability to feel uncomfortable about data sharing we can not readily see.

In recognition of Stanislav Petrov

Digital Compassion: A Human Act
This past sunday, September 26, it was 38 years ago since Stanislav Petrov prevented a nuclear war. He was working his second straight shift in the control room of the Soviet nuclear early-warning system Oko. Suddenly came what was the greatest fear of the cold war, warnings of a nuclear attack from the United States.


Deep Dive - Digital Governance — on the Surfacing Podcast
Lisa Welchman is one of the wisest people I have the good fortune of knowing and she played a significant role in my shift into digital ethics. In this episode her co-host Andy asks Lisa about digital governance, what it is and what it isn’t. An incredibly important topic for making better and more ethical products and services.

Mindful reading

Why are hyperlinks blue? | The Mozilla Blog
We took a deep dive into the history of interfaces and link designs over the years to track down the origin of the blue link we know today.

How a simple email address makes things complicated
Email is an awful online ID that we use for almost everything.

A word of advice

Eva (@evacide)
Good news! You can finally stop people from sharing files with you by blocking them in Google Drive. I bet you’re not even slightly surprised that this turned out to be something abusive ex-partners use to harass survivors.

Svenska / In Swedish

Nya utökningen av FRA-lagen möttes av gäspningar
Regeringen föreslår att utländsk säkerhetstjänst ska få direktåtkomst till personuppgifter som Försvarsmakten och Försvarets radioanstalt (FRA) hanterar, och ger FRA rätt att även signalspana mot verksamhet som inte riktas mot svenska intressen. Sverige blir “ännu en av dessa filialer som de stora nationerna har runt om i världen”.

Turerna kring Skolplattformen tar aldrig slut. Till dess att jag blir klar med del 2 av mina granskningar kring Stockholms stads hantering av it-projektet kan du ta del av dessa nyheter.

Stockholms stad tvärvänder – ska betala för alternativa appen - DN.SE
Efter att grundarna till den alternativa Skolplattformen polisanmälts av Stockholms stad tvärvänder nu kommunen och vill släppa in nya aktörer på

Slarv och slöseri kring Stockholms skolplattform | SvD Ledare
LEDARE. PODD | 20 september. Stockholms stads skolplattform har kostat en dryg miljard och sällan fungerat bra. Stora summor har lagts på verkningslösa åtgärder. Vad hade man kunnat göra bättre? Jesper Sandström intervjuar Öppna skolplattformens Christian Landgren.

Hur ligger vi till – en samlad analys av den offentliga förvaltningens digitalisering 2020 | DIGG
Hanteringen av data är avgörande för offentlig förvaltnings digitalisering. För att Sverige ska bli bäst i världen på att använda digitaliseringens möjligheter behöver också etableringen av den förvaltningsgemensamma digitala infrastrukturen prioriteras. Det är några av slutsatserna när DIGG gör en samlad analys och bedömning av offentlig förvaltning.

@axbom@social.xbm.se (@axbom)
Läser om kovändningen gällande @oppnaskolplatt (som inte alls är i hamn ännu, eftersom förvaltningen förvanskat koden igen för att störa ut den populära appen). Fastnar i citat av @IsabelSmedberg: ”Vi har lagt ner alldeles för mycket resurser i [Skolplattformen] redan.” Ja.

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