Facebook bug unblocks unwanted connections for a bit

In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. (AP)
Updated 03 July 2018

Facebook bug unblocks unwanted connections for a bit

  • While someone who was unblocked could not see content shared with friends, they could have seen things posted to a wider audience
  • People affected by the bug will get notifications encouraging them to check their blocked lists

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook on Monday said it is notifying more than 800,000 users that a software bug temporarily unblocked people at the social network and its Messenger service.
The glitch active between May 29 and June 5 has been fixed, according to Facebook, which has been striving to regain trust in the aftermath of a Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal.
“We know that the ability to block someone is important,” Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan said in a blog post.
“We’d like to apologize and explain what happened.”
Blocking someone on Facebook prevents them from seeing posts in a blocker’s profile; connecting as a friend, or starting Messenger conversations.
Blocking someone also automatically “unfriends” the person.
“There are many reasons why people block another person on Facebook,” Egan said.
“Their relationship may have changed or they may want to take a break from someone posting content they find annoying.”
People are blocked for harsher reasons, such as harassment or bullying, Egan added.
The software bug did not restore any severed friend connections at the social network, but someone who was blocked could have been able to reach out to a blocker on Messenger, according to Facebook.
“While someone who was unblocked could not see content shared with friends, they could have seen things posted to a wider audience,” Egan said of the glitch.
The vast majority of the more than 800,000 people affected by the bug had only one person they had blocked be temporarily unblocked, according to Facebook.
People affected by the bug will get notifications encouraging them to check their blocked lists.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year was grilled by the European Parliament and the US Congress about a massive breach of users’ personal data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Facebook admitted that up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked by British consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked for US President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign.


“Punch in the gut” as scientists find micro plastic in Arctic ice

Chief Scientist for the Northwest Passage Project Dr. Brice Loose drills an ice core in the Arctic as part of an 18-day icebreaker expedition that took place in July and August 2019 in the Northwest Passage, in a still image taken from a handout video obtained by REUTERS on August 14, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 August 2019

“Punch in the gut” as scientists find micro plastic in Arctic ice

  • The researchers said the ice they sampled appeared to be at least a year old and had probably drifted into Lancaster Sound from more central regions of the Arctic

LONDON: Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in ice cores drilled in the Arctic by a US-led team of scientists, underscoring the threat the growing form of pollution now poses to marine life in even the remotest waters on the planet.
The researchers used a helicopter to land on ice floes and retrieve the samples during an 18-day icebreaker expedition through the Northwest Passage, the hazardous route linking the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
“We had spent weeks looking out at what looks so much like pristine white sea ice floating out on the ocean,” said Jacob Strock, a graduate student researcher at the University of Rhode Island, who conducted an initial onboard analysis of the cores.
“When we look at it up close and we see that it’s all very, very visibly contaminated when you look at it with the right tools — it felt a little bit like a punch in the gut,” Strock told Reuters by telephone.
Strock and his colleagues found the material trapped in ice taken from Lancaster Sound, an isolated stretch of water in the Canadian Arctic, which they had assumed might be relatively sheltered from drifting plastic pollution
The team drew 18 ice cores of up to two meters in length from four locations, and saw visible plastic beads and filaments of various shapes and sizes. The scientists said the findings reinforce the observation that micro plastic pollution appears to concentrate in ice relative to seawater.
“The plastic just jumped out in both its abundance and its scale,” said Brice Loose, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island and chief scientist of the expedition, known as the Northwest Passage Project.
The scientists’ dismay is reminiscent of the consternation felt by explorers who found plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean’s Marianas Trench, the deepest place on Earth, during submarine dives earlier this year.
The Northwest Passage Project is primarily focused on investigating the impact of manmade climate change on the Arctic, whose role as the planet’s cooling system is being compromised by the rapid vanishing of summer sea ice.
But the plastic fragments — known as micro plastic — also served to highlight how the waste problem has reached epidemic proportions. The United Nations estimates that 100 million tons of plastic have been dumped in the oceans to date.
The researchers said the ice they sampled appeared to be at least a year old and had probably drifted into Lancaster Sound from more central regions of the Arctic.
The team plans to subject the plastic they retrieved to further analysis to support a broader research effort to understand the damage plastic is doing to fish, seabirds and large ocean mammals such as whales.
Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation in the United States, the expedition in the Swedish icebreaker The Oden ran from July 18 to Aug. 4 and covered some 2,000 nautical miles.