How YouTube Radicalized Brazil – The New York Times

“NITERÓI, Brazil — When Matheus Dominguez was 16, YouTube recommended a video that changed his life.

He was in a band in Niterói, a beach-ringed city in Brazil, and practiced guitar by watching tutorials online.

YouTube had recently installed a powerful new artificial intelligence system that learned from user behavior and paired videos with recommendations for others. One day, it directed him to an amateur guitar teacher named Nando Moura, who had gained a wide following by posting videos about heavy metal, video games and, most of all, politics.

In colorful and paranoid far-right rants, Mr. Moura accused feminists, teachers and mainstream politicians of waging vast conspiracies. Mr. Dominguez was hooked.

As his time on the site grew, YouTube recommended videos from other far-right figures. One was a lawmaker named Jair Bolsonaro, then a marginal figure in national politics — but a star in YouTube’s far-right community in Brazil, where the platform has become more widely watched than all but one TV channel.”

David Lindsay:  When Elizabeth Warren included Google in her list of major Social Media and Tech companies that should be broken up and heavily regulated, I thought she had gone overboard. It turns out, she was right, and I was clueless as to what a nightmarish monster parts of Google, such as Youtube, have become, aiding and abetting the rise of facists and extreme right wingers around the world. I now join Elizabeth Warren, that Google is on the list of oversized and dangerous monoliths that have to be broken up and carefully regulated to protect democratic and open market values.

Opinion | It’s Time to Break Up Facebook – by Chris Hughes – The New York Times

“Over a decade later, Facebook has earned the prize of domination. It is worth half a trillion dollars and commands, by my estimate,more than 80 percent of the world’s social networking revenue. It is a powerful monopoly, eclipsing all of its rivals and erasing competition from the social networking category. This explains why, even during the annus horribilis of 2018, Facebook’s earnings per share increased by an astounding 40 percent compared with the year before. (I liquidated my Facebook shares in 2012, and I don’t invest directly in any social media companies.)”

The Weekly | Facebook Love Scams: Who’s Really Behind That Friend Request? – The New York Times

Producer/Director Rolake Bamgbose

“A lonely Florida woman established a Facebook romance with a man she thought was an American soldier in Iraq. It wasn’t until she had sent him tens of thousands of dollars from her and her husband’s life savings that she learned her buff, blue-eyed friend was a fake.

Online scams may be as old as the internet, but Facebook has made it easier for scammers to victimize users longing for connection, and to draft unwitting U.S. service members into their schemes. Neither the world’s largest social network nor the world’s most powerful military seem to be able to stop it.

In a special one-hour episode of “The Weekly,” our technology reporter Jack Nicas tries to track down some of these digital con artists.”

Opinion | The Fake Nancy Pelosi Video Hijacked Our Attention. Just as Intended. – The New York Times

Charlie Warzel

By Charlie Warzel

Mr. Warzel is an Opinion writer at large.

CreditJoel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Last week, a series of manipulated videos — subtly slowed down and then pitch-corrected to make it appear as if the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was drunk or incapacitated — were published across Facebook and other social networks, including YouTube and Twitter.

The swift spread of agitation propaganda and the creep of hyperpartisanship across social media isn’t a bug, it is a feature.

The videos were viewed millions of times. They were shared by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani (the tweet was later deleted) as well as dozens of supporters in the pro-Trump media. The president didn’t share the agitprop, but he did bang out a tweetquestioning the speaker’s well-being.

Mainstream media outlets, in an effort to debunk the viral clips, linked to the video or reposted portions of it themselves, side-by-side with the un-doctored footage of the House speaker. YouTube removed the video, but only after it amassed thousands of views. Twitter and Facebook did not remove the video (Facebook eventually added “fact check” links to the clips). Journalists and pundits debated the social networks’ decisions to leave the video up, while others lamented the rise of political misinformation, filter bubbles, the future of “deepfake” videos and the internet’s penchant to warp reality.”

Opinion | It’s Time to Break Up Facebook – By Chris Hughes – co-founder of Facebook – The New York Times

By Chris Hughes
Mr. Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, is a co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and a senior adviser at the Roosevelt Institute.
May 9, 2019, 14
“The last time I saw Mark Zuckerberg was in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. We met at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., office and drove to his house, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent an hour or two together while his toddler daughter cruised around. We talked politics mostly, a little about Facebook, a bit about our families. When the shadows grew long, I had to head out. I hugged his wife, Priscilla, and said goodbye to Mark.

Since then, Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.

Mark is still the same person I watched hug his parents as they left our dorm’s common room at the beginning of our sophomore year. He is the same person who procrastinated studying for tests, fell in love with his future wife while in line for the bathroom at a party and slept on a mattress on the floor in a small apartment years after he could have afforded much more. In other words, he’s human. But it’s his very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic.

Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Bravo Chris Hughes, I feel enlightened. So, Elizabeth Warren knew about this stuff when she called for the breakup of Facebook. After reading this and the top comments, I want to second this idea, and also, insist that we also breakup Amazon. Amazon went around blackmailing companies like Diapers.com. Sell out to us or be destroyed, was the way Amazon treated such new upstarts and success stories in the online market place, and they got away with it.

Some commentators insist we should all quit Facebook, but I don’t agree. I enjoy and use it way to much to share or push ideas, causes, and humor, and to follow (less often) my friends and family.

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David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs about the environment at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com.

Opinion | A Citizens’ Guide to Regulating Big Tech – The New York Times

By Kartik Hosanagar
Mr. Hosanagar is a professor at The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania.

March 28, 2019
Image
CreditCreditSaul Gravy/Ikon Images, via Getty Images

“This election season, Americans are going to hear a lot about regulating big tech. Senator Elizabeth Warren has already kicked off that debate, and it would be the tone-deaf candidate who wasn’t alert to the increasing anxiety among the public over the power Silicon Valley giants wield. According to a 2018 survey by Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans feel that big tech companies should be regulated more than they are now.

A candidate who fails to address these issues in a meaningful way is not taking these concerns seriously. But how should we, as citizens, evaluate these proposals?

Any effort to regulate big tech will have to address two main issues. The first is consumer protection. When the private sector controls so much of our data, Americans should be able to know who has access to this data and how they use it. The second issue relates to “platform companies,” services that connect two or more sides of a transaction: Google Search connects people with websites, Amazon connects buyers with sellers, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android connect consumers with apps, and so on. The concern is that platforms can build services that compete with third-party services running on their platforms, and can easily give themselves an unfair advantage.

The more visible concern is consumer protection, particularly protections for privacy. Any regulation addressing consumer protection should, first, specify whether consumers have the right to access data that companies store about them and whether firms are allowed to share confidential data with a third party.”

Opinion | The Case for Investigating Facebook – By David N. Cicilline- The New York Times

By David N. Cicilline
Mr. Cicilline, a member of the House of Representatives from Rhode Island, is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.

March 19, 2019, 173
Credit Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

“A year ago, the world learned that Facebook allowed a political consulting company called Cambridge Analytica to exploit the personal information of up to 87 million users, to obtain data that would help the company’s clients “fight a culture war” in America.

Since then, a torrent of reports has revealed that the Cambridge Analytica scandal was part of a much broader pattern of misconduct by Facebook.

It has paid teenagers to spy on their behavior, even asking users “to screenshot their Amazon order history page,” according to the website TechCrunch. The company has secretly collected highly sensitive data through the back doors of other apps, such as ovulation trackers, to target ads at users “even if no Facebook account is used to log in and if the end user isn’t a Facebook member,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

And in its pursuit of dominance, Facebook gave at least 60 device makers direct access to its users’ data. Those actions are under criminal investigation, The Times reported last week. Facebook has also engaged in campaigns to obstruct congressional oversight and to smear and discredit critics — tactics reminiscent of the big tobacco playbook.”

Opinion | Why the Latest Layoffs Are Devastating to Democracy – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

Fifteen percent of BuzzFeed’s employees, including dozens of journalists, are losing their jobs.
Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images

By Farhad Manjoo
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 30, 2019, 375

Image
Fifteen percent of BuzzFeed’s employees, including dozens of journalists, are losing their jobs.CreditCreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images
Working in digital media is like trying to build a fort out of marshmallows on a foundation made of marbles in a country ruled by capricious and tyrannical warring robots. I’ve toiled in this business for nearly 20 years, and even in the best of times it has been a squeamish and skittering ride, the sort of career you’d counsel your kids to avoid in favor of something less volatile and more enduring — bitcoin mining, perhaps.

It might be tempting, then, to dismiss the recent spate of media-biz layoffs as unfortunate but otherwise not concerning. Two hundred workers, including dozens of journalists, were given the slip last week at BuzzFeed. About 800 people are losing their jobs in the media division of Verizon, the telephone company that owns Yahoo, HuffPost, TechCrunch and many other “content brands.” And Gannett, the once-mighty newspaper empire that owns USA Today and hundreds of smaller outlets — from The Bergen County Record to The Zanesville Times Recorder — is letting go of 400.

But it would be a mistake to regard these cuts as the ordinary chop of a long-roiling digital media sea. Instead, they are a devastation.”

David Lindsay: This is so complicated. I agree with many commenters who do not accept Manjoo’s thesis as to how important Buzz Feed is. I am very concerned about local independent news organizations though, and Facebook and Google might be major reasons for their demise. Amazon is guilty of using its monopolistic power to force companies like Diapers.com to sell to them, when they didn’t want to. Amazon should be broken up. Facebook has been guilty of letting some of their advertizers hijack our democracy. Facebook should be forced to let go of Instagram and WhatsApp. Google is guilty of putting their interests at the top of their searchs. Perhaps that problem can be fixed with Federal and international regulations.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com. His duo performs a folk music and readings concert and sing-a-long about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction.

Facebook’s Data Sharing: 5 Takeaways From Our Investigation – The New York Times

By Nicholas Confessore, Michael LaForgia and Gabriel J.X. Dance
Dec. 18, 2018, 66c
“You are the product: That is the deal many Silicon Valley companies offer to consumers. The users get free search engines, social media accounts and smartphone apps, and the companies use the personal data they collect — your searches, “likes,” phone numbers and friends — to target and sell advertising.

But an investigation by The New York Times, based on hundreds of pages of internal Facebook documents and interviews with about 50 former employees of Facebook and its partners, reveals that the marketplace for that data is even bigger than many consumers suspected. And Facebook, which collects more information on more people than almost any other private corporation in history, is a central player.

Here are five takeaways from our investigation.”

Opinion | Can You Like the Person You Love to Hate? – By Bari Weiss and Eve Peyser – The New York Times

By Bari Weiss and Eve Peyser
Ms. Weiss is a writer and editor for the Opinion section. Ms. Peyser writes about politics and culture for Vice.

Dec. 3, 2018, 32
Image
CreditCreditJooHee Yoon

“BARI WEISS: Everything sucks. That’s the overwhelming feeling I get when I spend too much time on Twitter. It makes me feel anxious and angry and amped up. And that’s on a day when I’m not even trending as a Very Bad Person.

This fall I read Jaron Lanier’s book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.” He helped me see that these feelings were the inevitable result of being manipulated by this behavioral modification machine.

I didn’t delete my account — yet! I know! I am full of shame! — but I did change the way I use it (no looking at my mentions; far less tweeting; aiming to highlight the work of people I like rather than criticize the work of those I don’t). It also made me think about how I saw other Twitter users, like Vice’s Eve Peyser. She was clever and often funny — and I disagreed with her about just about everything. Sometimes she jabbed at me. I watched her posts with a suspicious side-eye.

But I wondered: If we had met at a dinner party rather than on Twitter, would we have liked each other? Was social media, as Mr. Lanier’s book suggested, creating a sense of intense conflict where there might be intense conversation? Did we actually dislike each other, or was Twitter just making us think we did?

“. . . EVE: The odd thing about social media is that it’s made me emotionally immune to the worst abuse — an anti-Semitic misogynist threat doesn’t get to me in the same way someone who agrees with me 90 percent of the time insulting me does. I always go back to what Freud called “the narcissism of minor differences,” a theory that asserts that closely related groups of people engage “in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other” to satisfy aggressive impulses and strengthen the bonds within the opposing factions.”