Facebook’s Zuckerberg admits mistakes, outlines fixes

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted mistakes were made. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Facebook’s Zuckerberg admits mistakes, outlines fixes


LONDON: Breaking more than four days of silence, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted mistakes and outlined steps to protect user data in light of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm.
Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page Wednesday that Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data.
“If we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” he wrote.
Zuckerberg and Facebook’s No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, have been quiet since news broke Friday that Cambridge Analytica may have used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections.
Zuckerberg said the company has already taken the most important steps to prevent such a situation from happening again in previous years. For example, it reduced the access outside apps had to user data back in 2014, though some of the measures didn’t take effect until a year later, allowing Cambridge to access the data in the intervening months.
Earlier Wednesday, an academic who developed the app used by Cambridge Analytica to harvest data said that he had no idea his work would be used in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and that he’s being scapegoated in the fallout from the affair.
Alexandr Kogan, a psychology researcher at Cambridge University, told the BBC that both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have tried to place the blame on him for violating the social media platform’s terms of service, even though Cambridge Analytica ensured him that everything he did was legal.
“My view is that I’m being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica,” he said. “Honestly, we thought we were acting perfectly appropriately, we thought we were doing something that was really normal.”

Authorities in Britain and the United States are investigating the alleged improper use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based political research firm. Facebook shares have dropped some 9 percent, lopping more than $50 billion off the company’s market value, since the revelations were first published, raising questions about whether social media sites are violating users’ privacy.
The head of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, was suspended Tuesday after Britain’s Channel 4 News broadcast hidden camera footage of him suggesting the company could use young women to catch opposition politicians in compromising positions. Footage also showed Nix bragging about the firm’s pivotal role in the Trump campaign.
Nix said Cambridge Analytica handled “all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting” for the Trump campaign, and used emails with a “self-destruct timer” to make the firm’s role more difficult to trace.
“There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing,” he said.
In a statement, Cambridge Analytica’s board said Nix’s comments “do not represent the values or operations of the firm, and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.”
Facebook itself is drawing criticism from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic for its alleged failure to protect users’ privacy.
Sandy Parakilas, who worked in data protection for Facebook in 2011 and 2012, told a UK parliamentary committee Wednesday that the company was vigilant about its network security but lax when it came to protecting users’ data.
He said personal data including email addresses and in some cases private messages was allowed to leave Facebook servers with no real controls on how the data was used after that.
“The real challenge here is that Facebook was allowing developers to access the data of people who hadn’t explicitly authorized that,” he said, adding that the company had “lost sight” of what developers did with the data.
On Tuesday, the chairman of the UK parliament’s media committee, Damian Collins, said his group has repeatedly asked Facebook how it uses data, but company officials “have been misleading to the committee.”
The committee summoned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify. Facebook sidestepped questions on whether Zuckerberg would appear, saying instead that the company is currently focused on conducting its own reviews.
Meanwhile, Britain’s information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said she is pursuing a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s servers. She has also asked Facebook to cease its own audit of Cambridge Analytica’s data use.
Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorized way, adding that data protection laws require services like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.
Leading Democrats in the US Senate also called on Zuckerberg to testify. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Facebook’s latest privacy scandal a “danger signal.” She wants Zuckerberg’s assurances that Facebook is prepared to take the lead on measures to protect user privacy — or Congress may step in.
Kogan’s work involved modeling human behavior through social media. In collaboration with Cambridge Analytica, he developed a Facebook-based personality survey called “This Is Your Digital Life” and paid about 200,000 people to take part. As a result, participants unknowingly gave the researchers access to the profiles of their Facebook friends, allowing them to collect data from millions more users.
Kogan said Cambridge Analytica approached him to gather Facebook data and provided the legal advice that this was “appropriate.”
“One of the great mistakes I did here was I just didn’t ask enough questions,” he said. “I had never done a commercial project; I didn’t really have any reason to doubt their sincerity. That’s certainly something I strongly regret now.”
He said the firm paid some $800,000 for the work, but it went to participants in the survey.
“My motivation was to get a dataset I could do research on; I have never profited from this in any way personally,” he said.


YouTube, under pressure for problem content, takes down 58 mln videos in quarter

Updated 10 min 20 sec ago
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YouTube, under pressure for problem content, takes down 58 mln videos in quarter

  • Google added thousands of moderators this year, expanding to more than 10,000, in hopes of reviewing user reports faster

WASHINGTON: YouTube took down more than 58 million videos and 224 million comments during the third quarter based on violations of its policies, the unit of Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Thursday in an effort to demonstrate progress in suppressing problem content.
Government officials and interest groups in the United States, Europe and Asia have been pressuring YouTube, Facebook Inc. and other social media services to quickly identify and remove extremist and hateful content that critics have said incite violence.
The European Union has proposed online services should face steep fines unless they remove extremist material within one hour of a government order to do so.
An official at India’s Ministry of Home Affairs speaking on the condition of anonymity on Thursday said social media firms had agreed to tackle authorities’ requests to remove objectionable content within 36 hours.
This year, YouTube began issuing quarterly reports about its enforcement efforts.
As with past quarters, most of the removed content was spam, YouTube said.
Automated detection tools help YouTube quickly identify spam, extremist content and nudity. During September, 90 percent of the nearly 10,400 videos removed for violent extremism or 279,600 videos removed for child safety issues received fewer than 10 views, according to YouTube.
But YouTube faces a bigger challenge with material promoting hateful rhetoric and dangerous behavior.
Automated detection technologies for those policies are relatively new and less efficient, so YouTube relies on users to report potentially problematic videos or comments. This means that the content may be viewed widely before being removed.
Google added thousands of moderators this year, expanding to more than 10,000, in hopes of reviewing user reports faster. YouTube declined to comment on growth plans for 2019.
It has described pre-screening every video as unfeasible.
The third-quarter removal data for the first time revealed the number of YouTube accounts Google disabled for either having three policy violations in 90 days or committing what the company found to be an egregious violation, such as uploading child pornography.
YouTube removed about 1.67 million channels and all of the 50.2 million videos that were available from them.
Nearly 80 percent of the channel takedowns related to spam uploads, YouTube said. About 13 percent concerned nudity, and 4.5 percent child safety.
YouTube said users post billions of comments each quarter. It declined to disclose the overall number of accounts that have uploaded videos, but said removals were also a small fraction.
In addition, about 7.8 million videos were removed individually for policy violations, in line with the previous quarter.