Tagged: Facebook

Our government opposes request to reveal spying demands

The U.S. Justice Department has told a secret surveillance court that it opposes a request from technology companies to reveal more about the demands they receive for user information, according to court papers released on Wednesday.

Negotiations between the federal government and companies such as Google have gone on for months, and while U.S. spy agencies said they plan to be more transparent, they have opposed company requests to disclose more detailed data…

Microsoft, Yahoo!, LinkedIn and Facebook are among the companies seeking permission to publish statistics about the extent of the demands placed on them.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post, using former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as a source, reported beginning in June the companies’ deep involvement with U.S. surveillance efforts.

The companies said some of the reporting was erroneous, so they want to reveal, for example, how many of their users are encompassed in surveillance demands and the total number of compulsory requests under specific laws.

The Justice Department said in its response: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

The surveillance court has not yet ruled publicly on the companies’ request.

RTFA if you honestly feel you need to read the crap the DOJ released as an answer to the questions raised in this confrontation.

Frankly, I think the average 6th grader has heard sufficient phony-baloney press releases read on the evening news by TV talking heads to be capable of coming pretty close to reproducing the excuses offered by any group of American politicians.

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Dumb crook of the day

johnniegooden

Texas police said they were holding a suspect who allegedly tried to withdraw money from a bank in Bryan while claiming to be Michelle Obama’s adopted son.

Johnnie Gooden, 29, College Station, told a bank teller he had been adopted recently by the first lady, whom he claimed he had met on Facebook and had asked him to take some money out of her account at the Chase Bank branch.

Bank employees said Gooden refused to leave after being told the first lady did not have an account at the bank, so they contacted the authorities.

The Houston Chronicle said police found a bag of marijuana in Gooden’s pocket and learned he had a rap sheet and outstanding warrants for resisting arrest and assaulting a public servant. He was taken away on the warrants and a new arrest for pot possession.

Dude has got to quit smoking the seeds.

Saudi Arabia court jails Facebook cyber-activists


Press TV file photo

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced seven cyber activists to between five to 10 years in prison for inciting protests, mainly by using Facebook…The men were arrested in September last year, according to Human Rights Watch and their trial began in April.

They were charged with posting online messages to encourage protests, although they were not accused of directly taking part in demonstrations.

It is seen as the country’s latest move against online political dissent…

The longest sentence of 10 years was reportedly given to an activist who set up two Facebook groups allegedly explaining the best protest techniques.

The rights group said the men had all admitted contributing to Facebook pages supporting the leading Shia cleric Tawfiq al-Amer, who was held in February 2011 after calling for a constitutional monarchy.

His arrest provoked anti-government rallies inspired by a wave of popular revolt in the country’s Eastern Region, where much of its crude oil is sourced.

The seven men were sentenced on 24 June for “allegedly inciting protests and harming public order, largely by using Facebook“…

Several of the defendants said they had been tortured into signing confessions, according to HRW.

The case contained two elements that the Saudi authorities are particularly sensitive about, the BBC World Service’s Middle East editor Sebastian Usher reports – political criticism expressed online and protests staged by the Shia minority in the east of the country.

Life in a world full of peace. How peace is achieved – or is it controlled – is another matter. From here, it looks like the peaceable kingdom is working harder than ever to shut down dissent.

“‘People you may know” Facebook feature leads to bigamy charge

Alan L. O’Neill discovered another reason to keep your private life off Facebook.

A Tacoma, Wash., resident was slapped with a bigamy charge when Facebook suggested that his wife friend a woman who turned out to be his other wife, the Oakland Press reported Tuesday.

Court documents say that O’Neill changed his name after separating from his original wife in 2009. He then married another woman without divorcing his first wife

“I’ve never done anything intentionally wrong in my life,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill, due in court later this month, faces up to a year in jail.

Some of things folks do to save money – end up costing more than you ever can expect.

Facebook isn’t a platform for you to use — you are a platform for Facebook to use

Facebook has come under fire from those who say the network is turning down the volume on their posts, but the bottom line is that the network can — and will — do whatever it wants with the algorithms controlling its news feed.

Facebook seems to be making users upset and/or confused again with the way it handles its news feed. A few months ago, it was actor George Takei and billionaire Mark Cuban who were upset with what they saw as changes to the Facebook algorithm that made their content less visible, and this time around it’s New York Times writer Nick Bilton, who complained that his posts haven’t been getting as many likes or shares as they used to. The assumption is that Facebook wants you to pay to get this kind of reach, but regardless of whether that’s what is happening, it still sends a valuable message: you are not in control — Facebook is.

Bilton described in a piece for the Bits section of the Times how his posts used to get as many as 50 or even a hundred likes and shares, from users of Facebook who had signed up to get his feed using the network’s relatively new Subscribe feature. But even though the number of users who subscribe has soared from just 25,000 after the feature was launched to almost half a million now, Bilton said that he gets far fewer responses to his posts — sometimes as little as 10 or 15 likes and shares. After paying Facebook to promote his posts, however, that number increased by almost 1,000 percent..

The conclusion that everyone seems to be jumping to is the same one that Mark Cuban arrived at when he complained in November about the increasing difficulty of reaching his fans on the network: namely, that Facebook is deliberately tuning out (or at least turning down) the signal coming from some users so that it can convince them to use promotional tools like ads and “sponsored stories.” Cuban said he was so irritated by the move that he was diverting almost all of the marketing budget from his various brands away from Facebook to Twitter and other platforms.

…An official post on the Facebook site entitled “Fact Check” says:

“Our goal with News Feed is always to show each individual the most relevant blend of stories that maximizes engagement and interest. There have been recent claims suggesting that our News Feed algorithm suppresses organic distribution of posts in favor of paid posts in order to increase our revenue. This is not true…”

The bottom line, of course, is that there is no real way for anyone to know why Facebook’s algorithm behaves the way it does, any more than it’s possible for us to know why certain pages rank high in Google. They are both a black box, and the way they function is a mystery. As I tried to point out to Cuban, Facebook is entitled to do whatever it wants with your news feed, including using it to convince you to pay for promotional tools, because it owns your news feed — not you. It’s good to be reminded of that sometimes.

Being a political animal, first, I’m glad to catch any page views I do. We live in society that has always discouraged dissent. The penalties can run from ignoring you – to prison. And don’t kid yourselves, I’ve had friends who experienced the latter.

But, my experience online has continued to be one of growth and concurrent acceptance. Yes, my experience was much the same when I was a performing artist. But, then, I had to put up with all the crap that comes with the territory. I finally quit the circuit – because I wasn’t satisfied with what I was able to do. Online, it’s all pretty much my own responsibility, my choices.

That’s good enough for me whether posting here at my personal site or at one of the Big Sites where I’m one of several contributing editors.

Apple, Morgan Stanley, corporations unite to support gay marriage

Gay-marriage advocates, aiming to show broad support as the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue for the first time, have enlisted Apple, Morgan Stanley and dozens of Republicans who once held top government positions…

The justices will hear arguments March 26 on California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that halted gay marriage in the state after it was allowed for five months.

The corporate group, which also includes Facebook and Intel will argue in its brief that gay-marriage bans in 41 states harm workplace morale and undermine recruiting.

“No matter how welcoming the corporate culture, it cannot overcome the societal stigma institutionalized by Proposition 8 and similar laws,” the companies will argue.

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Guardian kills its Facebook social reader

After a year-long experiment that saw its Facebook “social reading” app gain more than six million monthly users — and then lose more than half of those after the network changed the way those apps work — the Guardian has decided to take back control of its content.

A little over a year ago, a big topic of discussion in the newspaper business — apart from the ongoing cataclysmic decline in print advertising revenue, of course — was how to leverage Facebook as a platform for content, and specifically the rise of what were called “social reading” apps, which were like mini-newspapers housed within a Facebook page.

The Washington Post and The Guardian were among those who launched these applications, and for a time they drove a substantial amount of traffic, until Facebook changed the way they worked. Now the Guardian has said it is effectively shutting down its app and will be pushing readers from the social network to its website instead, so that it can retain more control over what happens to its content.

The Guardian‘s app now has a large banner ad that says “The Guardian app is changing” and links to a blog post on the newspaper’s website by product manager Anthony Sullivan. In that post, Sullivan notes that the paper launched the social-reading app in November of last year as an experiment in how to use social platforms like Facebook to increase the readership of the Guardian’s content and allow people to share it more easily. Those goals have been achieved, he said, with millions of people — more than six million a month, at the peak usage of the app — engaging with the paper’s stories, many of them outside the Guardian‘s typical demographic:

“The Facebook app has given us access to a hard to reach audience and has helped us learn much more about our new and existing readership which, as a digital first organisation, is crucial [but] we have decided to switch our focus to creating more social participation for our users on our own core properties…”

It seems clear that the Guardian has decided the benefits of controlling the way that readers come into contact with its content — and how they interact with it once they have done so — outweigh the benefits of the social reader app. In particular, the paper no longer has to worry about whether Facebook is going to hide more of its links from users because they are not “liking” or sharing them enough…

Facebook’s behavior continually reinforces the fact that it is in the driver’s seat when it comes to how the content is seen (or not seen), and under what conditions users can interact with it. The Guardian‘s latest move means that it can still get most of the positive impact from a relationship with Facebook — since it allows users to login to its site with their Facebook ID and can use that to customize content or make it easily shareable — without giving up as much control. Whether that makes the process more lucrative for the paper as well remains to be seen.

While I haven’t a detailed opinion or approach to the questions raised by Mathew Ingram – mostly because Facebook is only an incidental part of my online life. My personal blog offers little more than a link to my latest posts. Class Warfare Exists has utilized involvement with Facebook to grow rapidly into o significant point of expression for progressive politics in North America. Dvorak Uncensored hardly notices the existence of Facebook.

So, I offer the opinion of one of the better writers and analysts from GigaOm – mostly because it feels like respecting and supporting the Guardian is what he’s about. And after decades of involvement with that newspaper, I feel the same.

Deputy sheriff takes firing over a Facebook “like” to court

A Virginia sheriff’s deputy has been fired for liking his boss’s political opponent — on Facebook.

Now Daniel Ray Carter Jr. is fighting back in court, arguing that a “like” should be protected by his First Amendment right to free speech. It’s a case that could settle a significant question at a time when hundreds of millions of people express themselves on Facebook, sometimes merging their personal, professional and political lives in the process.

According to court documents, the case began when Sheriff B.J. Roberts of Hampton, Virginia, fired Carter and five other employees for supporting his rival in a 2009 election.

Carter’s offense? Clicking the omnipresent Facebook thumbs-up to follow the page “Jim Adams For Hampton Sheriff.” Roberts, of course, won re-election, leading to the firings…

“Liking a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection,” Judge Judge Raymond A. Jackson wrote in his May ruling, because it doesn’t “involve actual statements.”

Carter is appealing that ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals…Carter’s advocates argue the judge’s definition of free speech doesn’t match existing law.

“The judge is wrong in the sense that the Facebook button actually says the word ‘like,’ so there are actually words being used,” said Aden Fine, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a brief supporting Carter’s appeal. “And there’s a thumbs-up symbol, which most people understand means they, literally, like something.”

Facebook itself also has weighed in with a brief to the court, saying that a “like” for a political candidate is “the 21st-century equivalent of a front-yard campaign sign.”

Blogging daily at a few sites, I admit to sometimes being frustrated by a slow news day. However, there are a couple of qualities of life among our species I can always count on to show up somewhere, somehow. One is the dumb crook of the day, another is the picture of the day – we are a delightfully creative species and that has been enhanced by the Web and digital imaging.

This post fits into the category of pea-brained, egregious bureaucrat who thinks the world revolves around him and his pitiful little career.

I hope Daniel Ray Carter Jr wins his appeal. I hope he then sues his former boss for everything but his house, his wife and his dog.

Web giants join to form powerful lobby

Web giants Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook will form a lobbying organisation with other online companies to shape political and regulatory issues in Washington DC…

The organisation, to be called the Internet Association, will open its doors in September and will act as a unified voice for major Internet companies, Michael Beckerman, the association’s president, said on Wednesday…

Internet companies have been lobbying recently on issues as disparate as easing visa restrictions to hire overseas engineers, revenue repatriation, privacy, cybersecurity and sales taxes for Internet companies.

“We want to educate [legislators] about the impact of the Internet in their congressional districts,” said Beckerman. “In September, we’ll do a full rollout and announce companies and announce policy positions…”

RTFA for a taste of opinion about each of the major companies already lined up. I have to wonder how much of a commitment to the needs of Internet users will be considered as part and parcel of the needs of these firms.

It might be nice – one of these days – if we had a group of lobbyists that represented the needs of ordinary American citizens before the demands of the economy and politics, ideology and other distractions.

Oh! That’s right. That’s what Congress is supposed to be isn’t it?