EU: Up to 2.7 million Europeans affected by Facebook data scandal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, appears on stage during a town hall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. (Reuters)
Updated 06 April 2018

EU: Up to 2.7 million Europeans affected by Facebook data scandal

  • Facebook has admitted it may have “improperly shared” the personal data of up to 2.7 million people in the European Union
  • Facebook also slammed by Myanmar civil society groups who took issue with Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of the platform’s record on curbing hate speech roiling the country

BRUSSELS: Facebook has admitted it may have “improperly shared” the personal data of up to 2.7 million people in the European Union, the bloc announced Friday, saying it would demand further answers from the social media giant.
The EU wrote to Facebook last week to ask how many Europeans were affected by the growing scandal over the harvesting of personal data which was then shared with British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
“Facebook confirmed to us that the data of overall up to 2.7 million people in the EU may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica,” spokesman Christian Wigand told reporters.
The EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova will speak to Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg early next week to discuss what steps the company is taking to address the breach.
“We will study the letter (from Facebook) in more detail but it is already clear that this will need further follow-up discussions with Facebook,” Wigand said.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that around the world as many as 87 million people could be affected by the breach, which has sent the company into turmoil and raised questions about data protection for the entire tech sector.
The EU is preparing to launch tough new data protection rules next month, under which companies could be fined up to four percent of their global turnover for breaches.

Facebook apologises after Myanmar groups blast Zuckerberg

Facebook apologized on Friday to Myanmar civil society groups who took issue with Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of the platform’s record on curbing hate speech roiling the country.
Facebook has been battered by allegations that its platform has helped fuel communal bloodshed in Myanmar, a mainly Buddhist country accused of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims.
On Thursday six Myanmar organizations published an open letter criticizing an interview Zuckerberg gave with news site Vox this week. In it he cited examples of both Myanmar Buddhists and Muslims spreading “sensational” messages on Facebook Messenger that warned of imminent violence from the other community.
“That’s the kind of thing where I think it is clear that people were trying to use our tools in order to incite real harm. Now, in that case, our systems detect that that’s going on. We stop those messages from going through,” Zuckerberg was quoted as saying.
In their letter the six local tech and human rights organizations said they were “surprised” to hear Zuckerberg “praise the effectiveness” of Facebook’s systems in Myanmar.
“It took over four days from when the messages started circulating for the escalation to reach you,” said the groups, who had flagged the content to Facebook.
“Far from being stopped, they spread in an unprecedented way, reaching country-wide and causing widespread fear and at least three violent incidents in the process.”
When reached for a comment on Friday, a Facebook spokesperson conceded the company was too slow in responding to reports about the incendiary messages.
“We should have been faster and are working hard to improve our technology and tools to detect and prevent abusive, hateful or false content,” the spokesperson told AFP by email.
“We are sorry that Mark did not make clearer that it was the civil society groups in Myanmar who first reported these messages.”
Facebook has also added more Myanmar-language reviewers and is rolling out the ability to report content in the Messenger service, the spokesperson added.
In late January Facebook removed the page of popular anti-Rohingya monk Wirathu. Last year it regulated the use of the word “kalar” which is considered derogatory against Muslims.
In their joint letter the local groups said Facebook’s response to hate speech and vicious rumors in Myanmar has been “inadequate” for years, adding that their offers to help craft broader solutions have gone unanswered.
They urged the social media giant to add reporting mechanisms to the Messenger app, increase transparency, engage more with local stakeholders and draw on data and engineering teams to identify repeat offenders.
Facebook dwarfs all other social media platforms in Myanmar, where it has become the chief channel for communication among both the public and government ministries.
But it has come under fire for allegedly helping broadcast ethnic hatred in a fledgling democracy still emerging from decades of repressive junta rule.
Scrutiny has intensified in the wake of a bloody military campaign against the Rohingya that erupted last August, expelling some 700,000 of the minority to Bangladesh.
In March the UN’s special rapporteur to Myanmar Yanghee Lee said Facebook had morphed into a “beast” and had incited “a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities.”


Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

Updated 12 December 2019

Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

  • The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, says Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
  • He said Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it

Twitter Inc. plans to set up an independent research group to create an “open and decentralized” system for social networks, CEO Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday, which could relieve pressure on the company to appease critics of its content policies but also give rise to a new crop of competitors.
The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, Dorsey said, and would enable individuals to use a variety of services to access the same network, just like they choose different email providers to see the same messages.
Policing speech on social media sites has required hefty investments while still failing to stem criticism from users who find the policies either too aggressive or too lax.
“Centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people,” Dorsey tweeted.
He said the new approach would also allow Twitter to “focus our efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation, and will force us to be far more innovative than in the past.”

The idea, as outlined in articles Dorsey shared, is that developers could use their own algorithms to offer like-minded individuals targeted access to the same social media networks.
For instance, an individual could sign up with a provider that would aggressively filter out racist material, or another that would promote conversations over other types of content.
The open standard, however, could upend Twitter’s business model in the process, giving rise to competitor services that offer filters, content suggestions or other tools that prove more popular with consumers.
In an article that Dorsey shared called “Protocols, Not Platforms,” tech news site Techdirt founder Mike Masnick outlined how an open standard could give rise to a “competition for business models” among developers.
Some providers might collect less user data for ads, while others might abandon advertising altogether, instead charging users for access to premium services like filters or data storage, Masnick wrote.
Dorsey said Twitter’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, will be in charge of hiring a lead for the research team, called BlueSky. Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it, he said.
He went on to suggest that blockchain technology might provide a model for decentralizing content hosting, oversight and even monetization of social media, without elaborating on possible alternatives to Twitter’s ads-driven business.