Twitter Says No, Hundreds Of Twitter Employees Are Not Reading Your DMs

Twitter Says No, Hundreds Of Twitter Employees Are Not Reading Your DMs

Via YouTube screenshot

On Monday, conservative activist and filmmaker James O'Keefe published undercover footage of Twitter engineers alleging the social network has hundreds of employees reading “everything you post online” — including direct messages.

But according to Twitter, these claims are factually incorrect and misleadingly portrayed by O'Keefe's media organization Project Veritas.

The undercover video shows Twitter engineer Clay Haynes telling a Project Veritas activist that hundreds of employees have seemingly unrestricted access to Twitter users' private data. “There’s teams dedicated to it.. at least, three or four hundred people,” Haynes is heard saying on camera. “They’re paid to look at d**k pics.”

Twitter disputes these claims. “We do not proactively review DMs. Period,” a company spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “A limited number of employees have access to such information, for legitimate work purposes, and we enforce strict access protocols for those employees.”

Twitter did not answer questions about the number of employees who have such access or the specifics of precautions it takes to protect sensitive user data.

“… technically accurate to a degree, but exaggerated for effect by drunk idiots.”

A former senior Twitter employee echoed the company's comment, observing that the claims in Monday's Project Veritas video were “technically accurate to a degree, but exaggerated for effect by drunk idiots.” The former employee noted that the group of engineers able to view such sensitive data is “pretty small” and that it is only permitted access to it “in response to a report (i.e. 'so and such is harassing me via DM').”

Two former senior Twitter employees also noted that the bulk of moderation work is conducted algorithmically — in part due to the number of reports Twitter processes daily. In the Project Veritas video, a Twitter engineer seems to confirm this.

Monday's undercover video was the latest in a series of Project Veritas sting videos aimed at investigating Twitter. Last week, O'Keefe released footage of Twitter engineers alleging the company is “more than happy to help the Department of Justice in their little investigation” by handing over Trump tweets and direct messages. Twitter pushed back hard on the claims last week, noting in a statement that it “only responds to valid legal requests, and does not share any user information with law enforcement without such a request.” In the same statement, a Twitter spokesperson condemned Project Veritas' videos for tricking employees into talking under false pretenses.

“We deplore the deceptive and underhanded tactics by which this footage was obtained and selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative,” Twitter said last week. “Twitter is committed to enforcing our rules without bias and empowering every voice on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.”

This isn't the first time Twitter has come under scrutiny for how it manages employee access to user data. Last November, the company faced criticism after a contract employee temporarily suspended president Trump's account. The suspension prompted questions as to whether employees could access user information and take action to suspend or ban users at will. Since the November incident Twitter has apparently taken steps to better secure the employee permissions, according to an individual familiar with the decision making process.

Quelle: <a href="Twitter Says No, Hundreds Of Twitter Employees Are Not Reading Your DMs“>BuzzFeed

Facebook Couldn't Handle News. Maybe It Never Wanted To.

Getty Images / John Paczkowski, BuzzFeed News

When news broke on Thursday evening of Facebook's dramatic overhaul of its News Feed, the worlds of media and publishing erupted. But inside Facebook, the reaction was markedly different — indifference. “No one cares about feed changes,” a current Facebook employee told BuzzFeed News.

Though the changes have trimmed $25 billion from FB's market cap and have likely given publishers night sweat–inducing anxiety, they don't appear to be generating much discussion within Facebook’s rank and file. As of late Thursday evening, it hadn't even really registered on the company's internal Q&A board, which was preoccupied with other things, like questions hoping for a Facebook foray into cryptocurrency, and queries about exit interviews and AI chatbots.

But for most everyone else using the world’s largest social network to draw attention to their content, the change is potentially seismic. While Facebook is notorious for its endless piddling product tweaks, this one seems a substantive shift in strategic vision. It’s an unprecedented acknowledgment that Facebook’s core feature — News Feed — has not worked out at all the way it was intended. It was abused by peddlers of misinformation. It was used by foreign governments to attempt to interfere in elections. It made people feel bad.

In many ways, Facebook’s planned changes to News Feed are a retreat from the online public square the company helped create. They’re a tacit admission that the company’s great news experiment — which made it one of the most successful publishers in the world — failed. And now Facebook wants to go back to an idealized safe space, free of hyperpartisan pages, misinformation, and fake news. But when you’re home to nearly 2 billion humans, no change is ever simple; Facebook moved fast, broke things, and changed the way that the world produces, consumes, and shares information. And changing course more than a decade into one of the most disruptive social experiments ever might prove more than just a little difficult.

Facebook has framed the upcoming changes to its News Feed as ones that will make the platform a better, safer place where users can “build relationships” instead of whiling away hours consuming “passive” content. It’s not about time spent, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the New York Times, but “that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.” For Zuckerberg well spent means not just more rewarding interactions with friends and family, but less misinformation and fake news — and presumably less congressional scrutiny as well. For a company that’s always prioritized engagement and attention above all else (Zuckerberg told the New York Times Thursday that the change could “cost the company in the short term”), the selfless frame — we are willing to sacrifice attention for the good of our users — feels like a departure. And it’s one that some former senior employees aren’t exactly buying.

“They're getting way too much credit for being altruistic here,” a former senior Facebook employee told BuzzFeed News. “This strikes me less as focused on fake news as much as a last-gasp effort to get people to view Facebook as place to share intimate updates with friends and family.”

For the last five years, according to multiple sources, Facebook has lost “friend and family sharing” to other social platforms including Snapchat, Instagram, iMessage, and others. “Time spent in Facebook has been declining for the past couple years for the first time ever,” the former senior employee said. “Facebook has research showing that if the percentage of friend/family content gets too low then people don't find Facebook valuable anymore.” It’s worth noting that this former employee is dubious of Facebook’s spin. “I don't think it will work,” the former senior employee said. “And I think it's a ‘kill two birds with one stone’ attempt, in that they get good press for trying to address sensationalist news.”

Some outside observers agree. “I think it makes sense to understand this more as 'we need more things for people to engage with' than 'we’re trying to make the world a better place,'” former White House chief digital officer and Silicon Valley veteran Jason Goldman told BuzzFeed News.

For publishers, the change is a reckoning of sorts — a potentially massive shift in the way that media and news organizations have been building or courting audience, and, in many cases, the way they create and present their content. And it’s been broadly met with everything from grave concern and outrage to reluctant optimism.

That the shift will cause upheaval for publishers is a given, but there’s no guarantee that Facebook’s goal to increase meaningful interactions with people you know will solve the company’s fake news problem. While it may cut down incidental exposure to misinformation, the changes could, in some cases, only harden filter bubbles with a steady stream of content from people with similar ideologies. Meanwhile, a retrenchment from News Feed into more walled-off Groups and communities could exacerbate exposure to misinformation. As one platform executive told BuzzFeed News, “the people who end up being chemtrailers or anti-vaxxers do so because of friend and community groups.”

Given that research suggests 45% of all American adults say they get at least some news from Facebook, the shift is a potentially risky change of course that’s likely to have unintended consequences for news consumers. As the fallout from its election interference crisis demonstrated late last year, Facebook hasn’t just reshaped the media, but rewired our lives in unknowable ways. It’s altered our political landscape with its ability to influence voters and upend traditional advertising, and — in the case of Donald Trump — even decreased a candidate’s need to rely on major political parties.

“It is concerning, though, that at a time of immense turbulence in the world, content from media organizations is being deprioritized,” another former senior employee told BuzzFeed News. “Facebook has become an essential piece of infrastructure for public content, and we should be wary of anything that undermines the platform's utility here. The media is on the frontlines of helping our society navigate the present challenges, and Facebook has an obligation to help its community connect with information as readily as with friends.”

And so, with Facebook’s centrality in our lives and the greater culture, the company’s retreat feels less like a selfless act than an abdication of a civic responsibility that Facebook perhaps never truly wanted.

Facebook’s relationship to news has always been rocky. The company tried for years to make it work for the platform. It hired trending news curators. It worked with publishers, paying them to create live content (BuzzFeed is a partner) and it hosted their articles. But Facebook’s commitment to news has always been hampered by an algorithmic approach that prioritizes likes and engagement. In this sense, news, which can be unpleasant and upsetting and controversial, has always been at odds with Facebook’s goal. People don’t “like” bad news and sharing controversial opinions can result in negative user experiences or, worse, unfriending: the ultimate negative outcome in Facebook’s eyes. In many ways, the changes Facebook announced yesterday are the logical conclusion to an increasingly anxious — and ultimately doomed — years-long courtship with news. “News on Facebook has actually hurt, not helped, them,” another former senior Facebook employee told BuzzFeed.

News, which can be unpleasant and upsetting and controversial, has always been at odds with Facebook’s goal.

To hear Facebook insiders tell it, it’s unclear how much the company truly wanted to be in the media game. “Public content was all about defeating Twitter originally,” said one. Facebook referral data bears this out. In late 2013 — starting just weeks before Twitter’s IPO — BuzzFeed News reported that traffic from Facebook referrals to more than 200 publisher sites went up 69% from August to October 2013. As the former employee explained, this show of strength ultimately didn’t do much to kill Twitter, and perhaps drew Facebook’s attention away from its original mission.

A chart of Facebook referrals to BuzzFeed Partner Network sites from October 2011 to October 2013 illustrates the sharp increase in late 2013.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that the Great News Feed Shift of 2018 has made fewer waves inside Facebook HQ. Multiple former employees told BuzzFeed News they believe the move will be popular among Facebook employees. “Jamming more news and celebrity content in everywhere was always seen as being at the expense of Facebook's main focus on connecting people,” a former senior employee told BuzzFeed News. “There were a million other things to do, like improving performance, fixing the broken desktop site, or trying to improve mediocre core features.”

A current employee echoed that sentiment, noting that inside the company the changes are being viewed as a positive step.“Facebook will become more local,” they told BuzzFeed News. “I think it’s good for humanity, overall.”

Still, after years of grand claims from Facebook and its top executives, it’s hard not to view the changes the company is making to its News Feed as an admission that the company overreached and ultimately failed to deliver a new way forward for news. More than that, it feels like a scaling back of Zuckerberg and Facebook’s ambition as a whole. The news game has been responsible for many of Facebook’s crises and a good deal of its bad press, but it’s also played a fundamental role in making the platform central to the lives of hundreds of millions. Even with news deprioritized, Facebook is still among the best ad tech companies on the planet and home to many vibrant online forums. The question is, for the company that wants to fundamentally reshape the world, is that enough?

Quelle: <a href="Facebook Couldn't Handle News. Maybe It Never Wanted To.“>BuzzFeed

Exclusive Networks Of Teens Are Making Thousands Of Dollars By Selling Retweets

It’s called “tweetdecking.”

BuzzFeed News

Teens and twentysomethings with large Twitter followings are making thousands each month by selling retweets, multiple users who engage in the practice told BuzzFeed News.

The practice is known as “tweetdecking,” so named because those involved form secret Tweetdeck groups, which they call “decks.” Scoring an invite to join a deck usually requires a follower count in the tens of thousands.

Within these decks, a highly organized system of mass-retweeting exists in order to launch deck members' tweets — and paying customers' tweets — into meticulously manufactured virality.

Customers, which can include both individuals and brands, pay deck owners to retweet one or more of their tweets a specified number of times across deck member accounts. Some decks even allow customers temporary access to the deck, almost like a short-term subscription to unlimited deck retweets. Single retweets tend to cost around $5 or $10. Week- or monthlong subscriptions can cost several hundreds of dollars, depending on the deck's popularity.

People who run their own decks frequently make several thousands of dollars each month, multiple deck owners said.

“It’s the simplest thing ever, all you do is have your friends join and you have fun and tweet and make money,” Kendrik, aka @Simpnmild, an 18-year-old from Chicago who runs two of his own decks, said. “It’s the easiest thing ever. No hard work at all.”

As the owner of two decks with about 15 people in each, Kendrik works with all sorts of people and brands who want their tweets seen by the deck’s massive collection of followers. These customers pay a few hundred dollars to gain temporary access to the Tweetdeck so they can retweet themselves across several of the powerful deck accounts, pretty much ensuring it goes viral.

Kendrik said he makes between $3,000 and $5,000 a month doing this, and he pays members of his deck “based on who has the most page activity for the month” via PayPal.

And a 19-year-old named Lewie, aka @lxwie, who said he both runs a deck and is a member of another deck, said he makes between $2,000 and $3,000 each month.

“And here we are going viral daily,” said Lewie.

Deck members make less — but not insignificant — amounts of money. Several members of decks said they earn hundreds of dollars each month just for retweeting tweets onto their account.

Tweetdecking violates Twitter's spam policy, which does not allow users to “sell, purchase, or attempt to artificially inflate account interactions,” and many deckers get suspended as a result. Still, they often return with new accounts and get right back in the game.

So, who are these people forking over all this cash for a couple thousand retweets? They range from “small apps, a lot of grown people who want to make a presence on social media, and some teens who just want to go viral,” said Kendrik.

And go viral they do. If you've spent some much time on Twitter in the past year, you've probably seen a number of tweets that bizarrely have retweets into the tens or even hundreds of thousands. Many of these massively viral tweets come from decks — and most are plagiarized.

A tweet first posted in August 2017 that was “decked” by Kendrik the following December

Twitter: @NicholasPeters_ / Twitter: @SimpnMild

Plagiarized tweets have been a part of Twitter pretty much since people started making jokes on the site, particularly through popular “parody accounts” like @Dory and @GirlPosts, many of which are now run as full-fledged ad sales businesses.

But the rise of decks has changed the game, allowing pretty much anyone to break into the biz of stealing tweets for cash. Deck owners, members, and customers are all getting into it in order to increase their own following, and in turn, strengthen the deck's success and profitability.

Naturally, not everyone's so happy to see tweets getting stolen. Members of the self-proclaimed group “Trash Twitter,” a small collective of late-teens and early-twenties guys with popular accounts, have had their joke tweets stolen several times. Unlike the tweetdeckers, they haven't seen a dime from it, they said.

“Honestly, it sucks how they can just take full credit for our tweets, and get paid,” said Danyal, aka @TrashQuavo, an 18-year-old from the UK in the group. “Sometimes we would plan a tweet for days just for it to get stolen.”

“I tweet to have fun and give people a laugh,” one of the members, who goes by @TrashYeWest, said. “They just care about followers.”

@hotlinekream / Via Twitter: @hotlinekream

In December, 22-year-old Kareem Rose from Virginia, aka @hotlinekream, went viral when he tweeted a thread in which he called out dozens of deck accounts and urged people to block them.

“I was basically tired of seeing the same tweet go viral once a week by a different account,” Rose told BuzzFeed News. “Our timelines were basically getting overflowed with tweets we’ve seen before and it honestly made Twitter less enjoyable. Not only that, but we were tired of having our tweets stolen from the deck accounts and them getting the credit for it.”

As his thread gained traction (and, after he tweeted that he was doing an interview about it with BuzzFeed News), Rose said several of the tweetdeckers and their fellow deck members began harassing him.

They also began mass-reporting his account, a revenge tactic that trolls frequently use to try and get people's accounts locked or suspended. (A spokesperson for Twitter said that Twitter “does not automatically suspend accounts based on a large number of reports.”)

“I was told by multiple accounts that I was being mass-reported by nearly every tweetdecker,” said Rose. “I was also threatened to have my private information (address, social security, etc.) leaked, my Twitter account hacked, my family’s information leaked, and I was also threatened to have my name be put on pedophile forums.” (Fortunately, those threats were not acted upon, Rose said.)

Rose wound up deleting his thread due to the harassment — but his message persisted, because he and a bunch of his friends started the hashtags #TweetDeckIsOverParty, #TweetDeckWars2017, and #TakeBackOurTimelines2018.

And Rose isn't the only person who says he faced harassment when he spoke out against the tweetdeckers. Several “Trash Twitter” members said they've experienced it, too.

“If they don’t like you it’s an instant mass-report really,” Danyal said.

A tweet first posted by Danyal in May that was decked — by an account literally named @JackedYoTweets — just two hours later. The decked version got more than four times as many retweets.


A few tweetdeckers acknowledged that they steal tweets, and even agreed it's a problem. Most excused it by saying everyone does it, so what's the big deal?

“A lot of the content that deckers tweet are stolen like 90% of the time,” said one 20-year-old deck member, who goes by @broebong. “It's almost a plague now and I understand why people complain, because it really does get annoying to see the same tweets recycled over and over and never get new content or some type of originality.”

And of course, in the end, money is money.

“I'm just doing it because it's easy money and it makes people happy in the end,” said @broebong. “People will pay to have their stuff promoted to my audience and it's just extra money that I can put to savings.”

In spite of criticisms, many tweetdeckers remain staunchly defensive of the practice.

“Anyone that tries to explain what tweetdecking is always gets it wrong… When people say it's 'fake fame/clout' it's also false,” said Kendrik.

“Anything negative towards decks is always false.”

Quelle: <a href="Exclusive Networks Of Teens Are Making Thousands Of Dollars By Selling Retweets“>BuzzFeed

How The Alt Right — And Paul Ryan's Challenger — Coordinate To Fight The "Jewish Media"

When Steve Bannon, Breitbart and other conservatives cut ties with far right activist and congressional candidate Paul Nehlen, he turned to his private Twitter direct message group, CityRevoltVoteNehlen. Nehlen was facing criticism for a handful of alt right provocations, among them a string of incendiary tweets with the white nationalist hashtag “#ItsOkayToBeWhite” and his touting of “The Culture of Critique,” a book written by the director of a white supremacist political party and denounced by the ADL as anti-Semitic.

“There are a list of goys attacking me, and a separate list of Jews,” Nehlen messaged the group, according to screenshots viewed by BuzzFeed News.

According to two individuals with knowledge of the group, such requests were common from Nehlen, who frequented the group to solicit its help with trolling his critics and political opponents.

“It’s pretty obviously coordinated,” Nehlen continued, referring to remarks from conservative and pro-Trump personalities like Town Hall’s Kurt Schlichter and The Rebel’s John Cardillo who’d denounced his tweets. “Cardillo and others like him are working for Jewish media then there are the fake conservatives who happen to be jewish,” he wrote to the group telling members to add Schlichter to his list. “Im going to decimate them all and y’[all are gonna help me.”

Group members responded to his rallying cry, offering support with a volley of fist, thumbs up, and American flag emojis. “Yes we will,” one replied.

Nehlen, a Wisconsin businessman who unsuccessfully challenged House Speaker Paul Ryan for his congressional seat in 2016 (and is running again in 2018), has faced criticism in recent months for his anti-immigrant views and controversial conduct. Even Nehlen’s most ardent media backers were forced to sever ties. On December 27th, Steve Bannon and Breitbart, who had championed Nehlen’s 2016 primary campaign against Ryan, disavowed him, purging his articles from its site. “Nehlen is dead to us,” Bannon advisor Arthur Schwartz told CNN.

Nehlen, for his part, has largely ignored questions about his anti-semitic views and white nationalism, dismissing any inquiries as attempts to derail his commitment to an “America First” agenda. But screenshots reviewed by BuzzFeed News show Nehlen associating with and soliciting help from people who appear to be prominent members of the alt-right to wage trolling and harassment campaigns.

Nehlen and other members of these groups declined to speak with Buzzfeed News.

“There were all kinds of troll accounts in the group making memes for Paul to use,” one person with knowledge of the group told BuzzFeed News, noting that many of the accounts that made memes for Nehlen quickly left the group after posting them. “Paul had a backup account and he'd put smear info on the backup account and ask random people in the group to tweet it out and they'd tweet it out from there,” the individual claimed.

Among the members of the group appear to be the pseudonymous Jazzhands McFeels, one of the hosts of an alt-right podcast called Fash The Nation (on which Nehlen has appeared multiple times) and Eli Mosley, a leader of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa and a leading voice of the alt right. A Richard Spencer acolyte, Mosley is perhaps best known for helping fellow white nationalist Jason Kessler organize the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last August that resulted in the death of a counterprotestor.

Screenshots show that shortly after joining the group an account with Mosley's name and avatar enlisted its members to harass Nehlen’s enemies on Twitter, including former Red Sox pitcher and Breitbart Radio host Curt Schilling. On the 29th of December Schilling invited Nehlen on his radio show to discuss his controversial remarks, but withdrew the invitation a day later, telling his followers he did not want to give Nehlen a platform for his views.

“Let’s get really offensive against Curt shilling and anyone who attacks Paul,” Mosley wrote to the group on the December 30th. “Make sure they understand that people don’t like when they attack their own.” Mosley did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Around the time of Mosley’s call to action, Schilling was bombarded on Twitter by Nehlen supporters attacking him for the reversal. Echoing Nehlen’s combative attitude toward “Jewish media,” Nehlen supporters accused Schilling of being a “paid Jewish shill.”

Other Nehlen supporters photoshopped crude images using derogatory cartoons of Jews including one cartoon of a figure with the Breitbart logo for a face fellating a man whose face was replaced by the Israeli flag. Many of Nehlen’s trolls adopted the moniker “Schilling for Sheckles” — an insult first tweeted by Nehlen himself.

The screenshots reviewed by BuzzFeed News offer a glimpse into the world of coordinated harassment campaigns on Twitter by troll armies. According to one former member of the group, CityRevoltVoteNehlen was one of numerous DM groups Nehlen used to coordinate messaging campaigns with supporters.

“Everyone uses these private DM groups, it seems,” one former Nehlen DM group member said. Indeed, screenshots appear to show some users claiming participation in dozens of direct message groups. “A lot of the time it’s how the #MAGA sausage gets made,” another pro-Trump media personality told BuzzFeed News referring to the use of DM groups.

One pro-Trump Twitter personality who told BuzzFeed News they’d been invited to a number of similar groups said that the groups are mostly used by unknown accounts looking to grow their followings. “Most of these the groups are just people who’re thirsty for retweets. But they’re not worth the trouble in my opinion — in these big open chats all it takes is one person to bring it all down. In some of them the things people say are really stupid,” they said.

Whether its harmless gossip, sharing articles, retweet schemes, or coordinated harassment campaigns, the groups suggest that underneath Twitter's chaotic political discourse a second, equally important conversation is taking place.

Quelle: <a href="How The Alt Right — And Paul Ryan's Challenger — Coordinate To Fight The "Jewish Media"“>BuzzFeed

Comments Are The New Shares In Facebook’s Rethought News Feed

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Facebook on Thursday announced sweeping changes to its News Feed, the river of content people see when they first log into the social network. The changes are intended to prioritize posts that inspire “meaningful interactions” between friends and family, while de-emphasizing passive posts from publishers and brands.

These changes are being implemented as Facebook struggles to recover from a series of controversies — fake news, hate speech, Russian election meddling — brought about, in large part, by the company’s efforts to get people to spend more time inside its platform.

The changes are big, and they have the potential to reshape the discourse and the economy that have developed around Facebook — not to mention the $545 billion company’s bottom line. We won’t know their full effect until they roll out to Facebook’s 2.07 billion users, but here’s a glimpse at what they mean to start:

The comment is the new share

Shares have long been viewed as the thing that made posts go viral on Facebook, but now comments appear poised take their place. With this update, Facebook is prioritizing posts in the News Feed that get people talking to each other in the comments. That puts comments, or more specifically comment threads, in position to become the new share. Facebook is making this shift after recognizing that when people browsed the News Feed without interacting with content, it was making them feel bad. As the company noted in a Dec. 2017 blog post, “In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward.”

More interactions doesn't necessarily mean better interactions

By prioritizing back and forth interactions in the comments, Facebook could also be increasing the frequency of arguments on its platform. Facebook’s challenge here will be to find a way to facilitate constructive conversations while deprioritizing flame wars.

Facebook News Feed head Adam Mosseri told BuzzFeed News he believes the company is up to the task. “We try and understand which interactions people find meaningful and value different actions according to how meaningful people tend to find them,” he said. “We won’t always get it right, but overall we believe this will be healthy for the ecosystem. On problematic interactions, like hateful or uncivil comments, [we] do actively work to identify and disincentivize, down-rank and, in certain cases, remove those.”

Advertisers will likely be upset

At Facebook's urging, big brands spent millions of dollars building easy-to-reach audiences on its platform. Then Facebook convinced these advertisers to spend millions more on sponsored posts to better reach those audiences. Now it's telling them that, as a matter of policy, it plans to de-prioritze their relationships with those audiences.

Painful For Publishers

Similarly, at Facebook's urging, publishers spent lots of money building audiences inside its platform. Then Facebook convinced them publish content directly to its platform (remember instant articles?) and, if they so choose, to pay to promote that content to their audiences.. Many publishers directed dedicated readers to follow them on their Facebook pages and some even paid to grow them further. And now, Facebook is cutting their reach.

Ironically, some of these publishers are likely responsible for quite a few of “meaningful interactions” that have occurred on Facebook since the 2016 presidential campaign kicked off. And, ironically, many have produced reporting that revealed catastrophic flaws in Facebook’s platform.

A Predictable Outcome

Facebook put a lot of effort into wooing publishers and brands to its platform. And publishers and brands put a lot of effort into being there. But in the end, Facebook didn't get all that it wanted out of them. Sensationalized, partisan or flat out bogus news stories mislead people. Branded content made people reticent to post their dirty-mirror bathroom selfie when for fear it would end up adjacent to a professionally shot video with a $3 million budget. Meanwhile, passive consumption of articles and videos made them just feel bad.

Give Facebook credit and get ready for the pain

When Facebook is determined to do something big, it goes all in (just ask Snapchat). And that’s what it’s doing here. Minor fixes to Facebook’s problems with fake news, election meddling and violent content simply aren’t going to cut it. This year, Zuckerberg’s made it his personal challenge to fix these problems, and just ten days into it he clearly trying to deliver on it..

These changes won’t be painless. They’re going to hurt Facebook, which Zuckerberg said anticipates a reduction in time spent on its platform and “some measures of engagement.” And it’s going to hurt publishers and brands, too.

Zuckerberg said it’s going to take months for these changes to roll out fully, but when they do, he said he hopes “the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”

Quelle: <a href="Comments Are The New Shares In Facebook’s Rethought News Feed“>BuzzFeed

Facebook Is Making Big Changes To Your News Feed

Paul Marotta / Getty Images

Facebook on Thursday introduced major changes to its News Feed that will prioritize content it hopes will spark meaningful conversations between friends while deprioritizing content from businesses, brands, and media. The move is widely expected to hurt publishers that rely on traffic from Facebook.

The changes are aimed at ensuring that time spent on Facebook is good for people's well-being, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg said in a post Thursday afternoon. “I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions,” he explained.

The changes come in the aftermath of a 2016 US election season that highlighted Facebook's problems with fake news and divisive content. The company came under harsh criticism for its inability to stop this type of content from spreading on its platform, which reached a fever pitch when it admitted that Kremlin-linked trolls had used its platform in a bid to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Zuckerberg conceded that such changes could hurt Facebook's core metrics in some ways, but indicated he felt the business pain would be worth it. “By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”

Decreasing brand and publisher exposure in the News Feed is likely to deliver significant pain to these entities, which rely on Facebook to reach their customers and readers.

Here's Zuckerberg's full post:

View Video ›

Facebook: zuck

Quelle: <a href="Facebook Is Making Big Changes To Your News Feed“>BuzzFeed

Logan Paul Loses Business Deals With YouTube Amid Outcry Over His "Suicide Forest" Video

Logan Paul arrives at Jingle Ball on Dec. 1, 2017.

Richard Shotwell / AP

YouTube has cut business ties with Logan Paul amid unrelenting backlash over his recent video showing the hanging body of a dead man in what's known as the “suicide forest” in Japan over the holidays.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, said in a statement on Wednesday, first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, that “we have decided to remove Logan Paul’s channels from Google Preferred,” referring to a program that allows companies to sell ads on the top 5% of the platform's most popular content creators.

YouTube added that the company will also not feature Paul in the fourth season of Foursome and his new originals “are on hold.”

The video, titled “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…”, was posted on Dec. 31 and showed a man's body hanging from a tree. Paul promoted the day before on Twitter, telling followers: “tomorrow’s vlog will be the craziest and most real video I’ve ever uploaded.”

Logan Paul

Paul, not YouTube, removed the video — shot in Aokigahara, a forest located at the base of Mt. Fuji — after it received more than 6 million views one day after publishing. He also followed up with two apologies before announcing that he was going to “take time to reflect.”

YouTube initially said that the video appeared to have violated its standards and that Paul's account had been issued a strike. (Getting three strikes for violating a YouTube policy within a three-month period will lead to a channel's termination.)

“Our hearts go out to the family of the person featured in the video. YouTube prohibits violent or gory content posted in a shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner. If a video is graphic, it can only remain on the site when supported by appropriate educational or documentary information and in some cases it will be age-gated,” a YouTube spokesperson said at the time. “We partner with safety groups such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to provide educational resources that are incorporated in our YouTube Safety Center.”

But that didn't quell public outcry, as more people called for YouTube to ban Paul, who boasts more than 15 million subscribers.

The controversy, meanwhile, appeared to only fuel Paul's popularity. His “So Sorry” video posted on Jan. 2 got 38 million views. And even though he has not posted since then, Paul has gained more than 400,000 new subscribers.

Paul had not commented publicly on the controversy beyond his statements on YouTube and Twitter, where he acknowledged his mistake.

“I've never faced criticism like this before, because I've never made a mistake like this before,” he wrote.

Representatives for Paul did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

YouTube’s action comes as even some of the platform's vanguard started to question whether a double standard was being applied to Paul.

PewDiePie, one of the biggest YouTubers with almost 60 million subscribers, posted a video three days ago titled “Everyone Needs a Hero” pointing out other offensive videos by Paul, including ones in which he fakes his own murder in front of little kids, plugs his merchandise when his distraught friend reveals his dog had died, and makes out with his brother’s ex-girlfriend.

YouTube and Maker Studios, owned by Disney, pulled away from the popular gamer after it emerged that he had posted several videos featuring anti-Semitic imagery and comments.

“It seemed like I got in a lot more shit for a lot less,” said PewDiePie in his video, before asking YouTube to bring back his never-released YouTube Red series, which was canceled in response to the controversy. “If nothing else, bring back Scare PewDiePie Season 2. We shot the whole thing.”

LINK: People Are Demanding YouTube Terminate Logan Paul’s Channel After The Platform’s Latest Response

LINK: The Logan Paul Suicide Video Shows YouTube Is Facing A Crucial Turning Point

Quelle: <a href="Logan Paul Loses Business Deals With YouTube Amid Outcry Over His "Suicide Forest" Video“>BuzzFeed

The Guy Who Helped Create India’s Controversial National ID Program Leaked His Own Data, And It’s Still Online

Nandan Nilekani

Manjunath Kiran / AFP / Getty Images

Three years after Nandan Nilekani, the high-profile tech entrepreneur who helped create India’s controversial biometric identity program called Aadhaar, publicly tweeted his own confidential Aadhaar ID, his personal information is still readily available online, BuzzFeed News has learned.

An Aadhaar ID, which is associated with personal information like your address and birthdate, and is linked to services such as your bank account, tax records, cellphone number, and insurance, is like an extreme form of a social security number in the US, which is also connected to your biometric data.

From 2009 to 2014, Nilekani served as the head of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the government agency responsible for administering Aadhaar. The program aims to create a digital national identity system by collecting the personal details and biometrics — all 10 fingerprints and iris scans — of 1.3 billion Indian residents into a government-owned database. Critics have slammed Aadhaar, saying it violates privacy, enables state surveillance, and exposes citizens to identity theft.

Nilekani exposed himself to identity theft by tweeting a picture of his own Aadhaar card on April 12, 2014. He blacked out the first eight digits of his 12-digit Aadhaar number, but did not obscure the QR code containing his personal demographic details that could be read by any freely available iOS or Android app used for scanning QR codes.

And as with just about anything that’s publicly tweeted, Nilekani’s private information remains online. Members of an internet forum popular with computer programmers scanned his QR code and posted his demographic details and Aadhaar number, and this data eventually ended up on at least half a dozen other web pages that BuzzFeed News reviewed. Images of Nilekani’s tweet with his Aadhaar card exist on at least one popular website.

Despite several people on Twitter pointing out a potential breach of privacy, Nilekani’s tweet remained on Twitter at least through September 2016, when he finally deleted it.

“I guess Nandan didn’t realize what he had done at first,” said Prasanto K Roy, a former technology journalist who was one of the people who alerted Nilekani. “And I don’t think he paid much attention to it even when it was flagged, probably thinking that it wasn’t a big deal since, as a well-known person and the head of the Aadhaar program, most of his demographic details were publicly available anyway. I think he must have realized the seriousness of it later — that his tweet might suggest to others that it was OK to post a picture of your Aadhaar card simply by redacting the Aadhaar number itself.”

In September 2016, India’s government passed the Aadhaar Act to govern the program, which made publishing an Aadhaar number publicly a criminal offence.

Nilekani did not respond to BuzzFeed News’ requests for comment. But a source close to him said under the condition of anonymity that they advised him to take down his tweet for almost six months — starting a few months before the Aadhaar Act was introduced — before it was finally deleted.

A screenshot of Nilekani's tweet. (BuzzFeed News redacted the identifying QR code.)

Experts said that Nilekani’s leaked Aadhaar number leaves him vulnerable to identity fraud because the Indian government requires citizens to link their Aadhaar numbers to essential services like food subsidies, utilities, bank accounts, cellphone numbers, and insurance services.

“Personal data such as full names, birthdates, and residential addresses should always be afforded a high level of protection,” cybersecurity expert Troy Hunt told BuzzFeed News. “For many people, this is information they won’t want to share beyond authorized parties because it can be used to locate them or aid in identity theft.”

BuzzFeed News, for instance, was able to find out where Nilekani does his banking by using a publicly available, UIDAI-provided service that lets anyone simply punch in an Aadhaar number on a mobile phone to see the bank accounts it is linked to.

Indeed, despite the UIDAI’s repeated denials, Aadhaar numbers leaked online have been used to commit identity theft in India. In October 2017, for instance, Indian police arrested a group that used the leaked Aadhaar numbers of nearly 300 pensioners to open bank accounts in their names and swindled over four million Indian rupees worth of pension money over two years, according to reports.

Making things murkier is the UIDAI’s conflicting messaging about whether an Aadhar ID is actually private information or not. After The Tribune published an investigation revealing how it was able to buy unauthorized access to the demographic details of nearly 1.2 billion Indians in the Aadhaar database earlier this week, the UIDAI said having someone’s Aadhaar number and demographic information was “not a security threat” without also having their biometric information. But a day later, the agency sent out a tweet cautioning the general public about the importance of keeping Aadhaar numbers confidential.

“Their claim about demographic information being useless without biometrics is simply not true,” said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre for Internet and Society, a Bangalore-based think tank. “Having this kind of information available publicly allows anyone to gain enough knowledge about you to impersonate you, because there are certain details like your date of birth, for instance, that are often used today by places like banks to make sure you are who you say you are.”

More importantly, the Aadhaar Act itself allows for three types of authentication to verify a person’s identity: matching an Aadhaar number with a linked fingerprint or iris, with a one-time code sent to a linked mobile number, or with a linked piece of demographic information like a residential address.

“The third type of authentication assumes that a person’s Aadhaar number is private,” said Prakash. “Having an Aadhaar number available on the public internet makes this kind of authentication unviable.”

In addition to this week’s breach, Aadhaar numbers have been made public at various times in the past. In November 2017, for instance, more than 200 government websites accidentally exposed thousands of people’s Aadhaar numbers. In May, 2017, researchers estimated that leaky government websites have exposed the data of 130 million people. And in March 2017, a government agency accidentally included the Aadhaar details of M. S. Dhoni, the captain of the Indian cricket team, in a tweet that was pulled down only when Dhoni’s wife tweeted angrily at India’s information and technology minister.

Nilekani’s critics say that he should have exercised more caution before tweeting a picture of his Aadhaar card. “He was no doubt aware that this was sensitive information that he was putting out, and it was bad precedent for him to be doing this as the most visible evangelist for Aadhaar,” said Kiran Jonnalagadda, a member of the volunteer-led Internet Freedom Foundation, which works on privacy, freedom of expression, and net neutrality issues in India.

Nikhil Pahwa, another member of the Foundation and a staunch Aadhaar critic, said that Nilekani’s “mistake shows that sometimes, even apparently tech savvy people make mistakes.” Pahwa thinks that the Aadhaar program needs a way to revoke or change an Aadhaar number — something that’s currently impossible. “While Mr. Nilekani may not personally face issues because of this foolishness,” he said, “spare a thought for common people whose Aadhaar details have been leaked.”

Quelle: <a href="The Guy Who Helped Create India’s Controversial National ID Program Leaked His Own Data, And It’s Still Online“>BuzzFeed

The Power Went Out At The Massive CES Tech Conference And Everyone Had Jokes

People look through Samsung Gear VR virtual reality goggles during CES International on Jan. 9, 2018.

John Locher / AP

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is one of the largest annual technology conferences in the world. But on Wednesday, the power went out in the main hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. And when a lot of tech needs to be powered, that is…a bad thing.

According to the convention center, 3,900 companies are exhibiting this year and will launch some 20,000 new products. CES' website says that 180,000 people attended the convention in 2017. Companies also pay thousands of dollars to exhibit, and the lowest ticket price for admittance is $300.

Power was restored within hours, but given that CES attendees are among the most technology-obsessed people in the world, they took to Twitter to express their frustrations and, of course, make jokes.

There was some minor drama over charging smartphones, which were locked in an electronic tower.

Companies piled on.

Intel had a violin player at its booth who continued playing during the blackout.

But Intel's tweet didn't go over well with everyone.

The company is facing scrutiny after cybersecurity researchers discovered two vulnerabilities, nicknamed Meltdown and Spectre, in the company's chips that may affect all personal computers manufactured since 1995.

All told, the power outage lasted about two hours, according to tweets from the official CES account, which even joined in with the jokes.

CES did not immediately respond to request for comment. But the Las Vegas Convention Center said in a statement that a preliminary assessment indicated that condensation from heavy rainfall caused a “flashover” on one of the facility’s transformers.

Quelle: <a href="The Power Went Out At The Massive CES Tech Conference And Everyone Had Jokes“>BuzzFeed

This Is Why Experts Are Calling Kodak's New Bitcoin Scheme A Scam

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) can be a showcase of invention. Each year, giant corporations from around the world flock to Las Vegas to breathlessly debut their latest technologies: a huggable robot, a passenger drone, an Internet-connected toilet.

The exhibition can also be one of reinvention, where a company taking its final breaths makes a last ditch attempt to save its business by hitching itself to the latest tech trend.

On Tuesday, the Eastman Kodak Company, established in 1888, did just that, unveiling a series of partnerships to associate its venerable brand with the wild new world of cryptocurrency. Kodak announced that it would be launching its own digital money, Kodak Coin, while one of its licensees was showing off a bitcoin mining device called the Kodak KashMiner, a specialized computer that’s used to earn bitcoin.

For a company that emerged from bankruptcy in 2013 and had a market capitalization of around $135 million on Monday, it was a last gasp at being relevant — and it worked. Kodak’s stock price has nearly tripled since those announcements.

Critics, however, are already calling it a scam, taking advantage of a period when investor FOMO clouds the cryptocurrency industry. It’s a time when an iced tea company can add “blockchain” to its name and more than double its market valuation, or an online file storage startup can raise $257 million by issuing its own virtual tokens.

“It’s an economy of easy money and people with fancy buzzword salads can more or less find a way to earn that money,” said Saifedean Ammous a economics professor and author of The Bitcoin Standard. “There is a massive speculation bubble.”

Ammous and others took specific issue with the Kodak-branded bitcoin miner that suggests potential investors could obtain a certain rate of return if bitcoin’s price remained steady. CES brochures of the Kodak KashMiner said that customers who paid $3,400 upfront to rent the devices, would receive a payout of about $375 per month for the next two years if bitcoin averaged a price of $14,000 in that time frame. The brochure noted that the licensing company would take in 50% of the cryptocurrency mined, while paying for insurance, maintenance, and electricity (bitcoin mining is extremely power hungry) while they are reportedly stored at Kodak’s Rochester, New York headquarters.

“Kodak has multiple plans in the blockchain industry,” said Halston Mikail, an executive at Spotlite America, whose company licensed Kodak’s name for the bitcoin mining device. “We have a team that’s well experienced,” he added, before noting that Spotlite does not make the device and buys them from an unnamed Chinese manufacturer.

“It’s mind-bogglingly stupid.”

Ammous disputed that experience, saying that the project “would be laughed out the door by anyone who is serious in bitcoin” and that it “betrayed a serious lack of knowledge about bitcoin.”

The problem, he noted, was that the KashMiner proposal doesn’t take into account basic principles of the cryptocurrency. The bitcoin protocol will only release a fixed amount of cryptocurrency per day. As more miners — computer programs that run complex calculations to earn bitcoin — are added and compete with each other, these computations become harder and require more power. To expect computing speeds, known in the cryptocurrency world as “hash rates,” to remain steady “is ridiculous,” said Nicholas Weaver, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Over the last 6 months as more people have started to mine bitcoin, the hash rate has more than doubled, meaning you receive half as many bitcoins for the same amount of computing power,” Weaver said.

Nicholas Rangel, a Kodak spokesperson, refused to answer questions about the calculations that went into the marketing brochure, which featured an all-caps tagline “IN MATH WE TRUST.” He said that the company would make an official announcement about the program in two to three weeks and also declined to say what company actually made the machines.

Ammous pointed to very similar looking bitcoin mining machines, like the Chinese-made Antminer S9, that can be bought on Amazon for around $6,000, and then physically hosted at special mining facilities that charge for space and electricity. (Given the noise and energy consumed by the devices, it’s typically impractical to store them at home.) He said the notion that the company was keeping 50% of mining proceeds “absurd” given current industry rates, and calculated that bitcoin would have to maintain an average price of $28,000 to offset the expected increase in computing difficulty and deliver the brochure’s suggested returns of $375 a month or $9000 over two years.

“Kodak as a company is a shell that has nothing to do with what it used to be,” said Weaver, noting that the company had moved away from the photography products that had made it an iconic American brand through most of the 20th century. In licensing its brand, for example, Kodak’s name can now be found on Spotlite America-sold solar panels, energy systems, and inverters.

It’s also on a new cryptocurency, Kodak Coin, which will be the basis of payment on a new image rights management platform called KodakOne. According to its announcement, KodakOne, which is being developed in a partnership with WENN Digital, will use blockchain technology to “create an encrypted, digital ledger of rights ownership for photographers to register both new and archive work that they can then license.”

“It’s mind-bogglingly stupid,” said Weaver. “Why would you need a dedicated cryptocurrency to pay for stock photos? I’m pretty sure most photographers want actual cold, hard money.”

“Companies in the real world don’t issue their own currencies for a reason,” said Ammous. “If you want to sell a good, you use real money. Imagine if you had a separate currency for Kodak, Microsoft, Apple and your super market.”

The concept may not even be a new one. On Wednesday, Ars Technica found documents that suggest the KodakOne platform and associated digital money is just a rebranding of a failed earlier project from WENN that licensed paparazzi photos.

Kodak’s shareholders did not seem to care. Following a monster rally on Tuesday, the company’s stock ended trading on Wednesday up more than 56% to $10.65 per share. In addition, shares in a Canadian company known as Global Blockchain Technologies Corp. experienced a similar jump of 51% on Wednesday, after it said it would invest $2 million into KodakCoin.

When asked if he thinks real people would invest in the Kodak-branded mining scheme of its initial coin offering, Weaver seemed resigned to the notion.

“I think they might find some suckers,” he said. “It’s just a global investor delusion right now and a lot of people are going to get really hurt.”

Quelle: <a href="This Is Why Experts Are Calling Kodak's New Bitcoin Scheme A Scam“>BuzzFeed