Monthly Archives: February 2019

Home / 2019 / February

Twitter “Toxic” to Advertisers and Investors: Amnesty International Report

Late last year, Twitter shares fell over 11% after a blistering report from Amnesty International stated that it found over 7.1% of 228,000 tweets sent to 778 female journalists and politicians in the US and UK were problematic or abusive. Further, the report called the social network toxic to investors and advertisers.

 

Toxic and “Uninvestible”

The findings were part of Troll Patrol project, which was a joint effort by technical experts, human rights researchers and thousands of online volunteers to build the largest crowd-sourced dataset of online abuse against women worldwide.

After the report was published, Citron Research, which is led by investor Andrew Left, announced that Twitter is “uninvestible.” Further, the report predicted that advertisers would be compelled to examine their sponsorships with the company. The findings discovered that women are being send abusive messages on the network every 30 seconds.  Citron warned that people are willing to leave brands when issues of racism and sexism are on the line.

In March, Left had said that he was shorting Twitter, which means he was betting on a fall in the stock price.  Of course, this in itself raises questions about his objectivity, considering that his own announcement, with its blistering critique, caused Twitter shares to fall so sharply, to his own benefit.

Their findings reinforce the previous research of Amnesty International into online violence and abuse against women. They found that women of color were 34% more likely to face problematic or abusive tweets as compared to white women. Further, the findings noted that black women were targeted disproportionately – they were 84% more likely to be mentioned in problematic or abusive tweets compared to white women.

Shares drop almost 12% after warning

After the Citron Research group made its announcement, Twitter shares declined by about 12%. The Citron report also called the company the “Harvey Weinstein of social media” and censured the social network for not being to tackle abuse and violence on its platform. The firm said it was having a “chilling effect on freedom of expression online”.

Citron noted that the hate on the platform is real and the social network is not taking proper steps to stop this problem. The group further said that advertisers will be compelled to make more “morality-based brand building decisions.”

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter Chief Legal Officer, said in response to the Amnesty report that the company has committed to publicly improving the collective openness, civility and health of public conversation on its service. Gadde said that the health of the platform is measured by how it aids in encouraging more healthy conversations, critical thinking and debate. Further, Gadded added that Twitter is committed to holding itself publicly accountable towards progress in this regard.

Facebook Suspended Accounts Tied to Alabama Senate Elections

 

Facebook announced last December that it suspended five accounts that wrongly used its platform during the 2017 Alabama Senate election. The suspended accounts were removed for “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

Facebook suspended account of research firm CEO

The tech giant also shut down the account of social media research firm New Knowledge’s CEO, Jonathon Morgan, who was allegedly behind the fake news campaign against an Alabama Republican candidate who lost a Senate race. Morgan had published a report on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections.

The CEO was accused by the New York Times of damaging the reputation of Trump-endorsed Roy Moore in order to benefit Republican candidate. The Times reported that Morgan and his team tried to portray Moore as a Kremlin candidate by linking many alleged Russian Twitter bots to his account and notifying the media about it.

Morgan confirmed to reporters that his Facebook account was suspended. Facebook said in its statement that it is investigating the five accounts that it had deleted. The company said that it has eliminated over thousands of accounts, pages and groups on the platform for coordinated inauthentic behavior. Further, it added that it had deleted many accounts that were violating its policies on inauthentic behavior and spam during the “Alabama special election last year.” In the past, the company had been accused of permitting Russia-linked pages to “sow discord among Americans.”

Morgan claims no malicious intent

Morgan told reporters that he made a misleading Facebook page for conservatives and purchased Twitter retweets to ascertain the potential effect of political messages as part of an experiment with fake online tactics during the election. He noted that his aim was not to influence the results of the election, but just to understand online disinformation in a better way.

However, the efforts were made in cooperation with another campaign that tried to use social media to destabilize Moore’s campaign. Among other tactics, the group used Twitter accounts that looked like they were from Russia to make it seem like Russian accounts were following Mr. Moore.

 

Data Breach: Is Social Media Data Ever Safe?

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) opened a fresh investigation late last year into Facebook after the company admitted the existence of another privacy data breach in which private pictures of over 6.8 million users were compromised and made available to third-party apps.

Privacy data breaches: Facebook’s ongoing problem

Facebook has been associated with data scandals like Cambridge Analytica, as well as with fake news issues. Yet in spite of the unflattering attention, the company has found no strong way to prevent these data breaches.

The DPC said it launched its investigation to find out whether the social network had abided by the new, strict EU privacy rules while dealing with several breaches.

Facebook said that it is in close contact with the lead regulator and will answer all questions.

The DPC is also probing a September privacy leak in which over 50 million users were affected. Facebook could reportedly face a penalty of over 4% of its annual turnover, the highest fine yet under Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The data breach, by the numbers

A spokesperson for the Irish regulator said that it has received many breach notifications from the social network since the new GDPR regulations came into existence in May 2018. The GDPR requires companies to report all data breaches to authorities within 72 hours.

The breach Facebook revealed involved the enabling of over 1,500 software applications to access private pictures of users for 12 days in September 2018. The company reported that over 1,500 third-party apps built by 876 developers could be affected by the bug as well.

Facebook apologized for the breach and said that it has now fixed the problem and will be rolling out tools for app developers soon. Facebook said these tools “will allow them to determine which people using their app might be impacted by this bug.”

 

Facebook Executive Denies Allegations of Company Paying To Create Fake News

The past several months have been difficult for Facebook: It has been criticized for not preventing fake news and misinformation and been blamed for interfering in the 2016 Presidential elections. Additionally, Facebook’s COO has recently had to deal with an allegation that in 2017, the company paid to create fake news.

Facebook claims it didn’t pay to create fake news

A New York Times report with the headline ‘Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s leaders fought through crisis,’ has made a sensational claim that in 2017, Facebook had hired Definers Public Affairs, a Republican opposition research firm, for a campaign to divert public attention away from its difficulties.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg responded with a strong denial. She added that Facebook has been doing a thorough check into what exactly happened and has been assured that Facebook did not pay anyone to either write or promote anything that was fake. Sandberg said that Facebook’s communications team hired the Definers Public Affairs firm, and that she learned about it only after reading the report.

The New York Times report said that the research firm attempted to tie critics of the social media platform to George Soros, a philanthropist and billionaire investor.

Facebook COO is furious

The report said that Alex Stamos, Facebook’s security chief, informed the company’s board members in late 2017 that the tech giant had not yet fully curbed Russian undue influence on the platform. The briefing by Stamos made many company executives angry, especially CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. The report added that according to people who were present during the briefing, Sandberg yelled at Mr. Stamos, “You threw us under the bus!”

To combat critics and ward off regulation, Sandberg has organized an aggressive lobbying campaign. Zuckerberg, on the other hand, conducted a public apology tour to fight off critics and regain the trust of the public. In addition to this, the tech giant employed a Republican opposition-research firm to harm the credibility of activist protesters.

Both Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Zuckerberg declined to comment on the matter. However, in a statement, a Facebook spokesman acknowledged that the company has been a little slow to address the challenges, but it has made progress in fixing the issue. The statement reads, “This has been a tough time at Facebook and our entire management team has been focused on tackling the issues we face. While these are hard problems we are working hard to ensure that people find our products useful and that we protect our community from bad actors.”