Facebook whistleblower fears the metaverse

The metaverse is sort of the Internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. (File/AFP)
The metaverse is sort of the Internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. (File/AFP)
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Updated 09 November 2021

Facebook whistleblower fears the metaverse

The metaverse is sort of the Internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. (File/AFP)
  • Haugen’s documents have exposed an internal crisis at the social media giant, which provides free services to 3 billion people

BRUSSELS: Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen warned Tuesday that the “metaverse,” the all-encompassing virtual reality world promised by the social media giant, will be addictive and rob people of yet more personal information while giving the embattled company another monopoly online.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Haugen said her former employer rushed to trumpet the metaverse because of the intense pressure it is facing after she revealed deep-seated problems at the company and energized legislative and regulatory efforts around the world to crack down on big tech companies.
“If you don’t like the conversation, you try to change the conversation,” the former product-manager-turned whistleblower said. The documents she has turned over to authorities and her testimony to lawmakers have drawn global attention for providing insight into what Facebook may have known about the damage its social media platforms can cause. She is in the midst of a series of appearances before European lawmakers and experts drawing up rules for social media companies.
Meta, the new name for the parent company of Facebook, denied it was trying to divert from the troubles it faces by pushing the metaverse. “This is not true. We have been working on this for a long time internally,” the company said in a statement.
It stressed that it’s working to responsibly build the metaverse — sort of the Internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has described it as a “virtual environment” you can go inside of — instead of just looking at on a screen — and refocused Facebook’s business model on it, including renaming the company Meta.
Launching that new brand, in fact, draws attention to the company, it said in a statement, adding that if it didn’t want the scrutiny it would have delayed or scrapped the launch altogether.
But the new focus on metaverse creates a whole new set of dangers, Haugen said. In “Snow Crash,” the 1992 the sci-fi novel that coined the phrase, “it was a thing that people used to numb themselves when their lives were horrible,” she said.
“So beyond the fact that these immersive environments are extremely addictive and they encourage people to unplug from the reality we actually live,” she said, “I’m also worried about it on the level of — the metaverse will require us to put many, many more sensors in our homes and our workplaces,” forcing users to relinquish more of their data and their privacy.
She said employees of companies that use the metaverse would have little option but to participate in the system or leave their jobs.
“If your employer decides they’re now a metaverse company, you have to give out way more personal data to a company that’s demonstrated that it lies whenever it is in its best interests,” she said.
And she cautioned the public not to expect more transparency.
“They’ve demonstrated with regard to Facebook that they can hide behind a wall. They keep making unforced errors, they keep making things that prioritize their own profits over our safety,” she said.
Haugen has said Facebook’s systems amplify online hate and extremism, fail to protect young people from harmful content and that the company lacks any incentive to fix the problems, in revelations that shed light on an internal crisis at the company that provides free services to 3 billion people.
To back up her allegations, she made a series of disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission that were also provided to Congress in redacted form by her legal team. The redacted versions received by Congress were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including the AP.
In Tuesday’s interview, she expressed astonishment that the company would shift focus to a whole new realm while it is under such intense criticism about the areas where it is already working.
“They’re going to hire 10,000 engineers to work on video games when they haven’t actually gotten safety right on their main product,” Haugen said.
For that, she faulted Zuckerberg personally.
“So given that I see this pattern of choices where he prioritizes growth and expansion over making sure what he has is good, I think that is a failure of leadership,” she said.
The company denied that it’s putting profits over safety. “Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,” it said, adding that it plans to spend more than $5 billion in 2021 on safety and security and employs more than 40,000 people work on keeping users safe.
Zuckerberg has previously dismissed Haugen’s claims as a “coordinated effort” to paint a false picture of the company.
But officials in Washington and European capitals are taking her claims seriously. European Union lawmakers questioned her intensely Monday, before applauding her at the end of the 2 1/2 hour hearing.
The EU is drafting new digital rules for the 27-nation bloc that call for reining in big “digital gatekeepers,” requiring them to be more transparent about algorithms that determine what people see on their feeds and making them more accountable for the content on their platforms.
Facebook has said it largely supports regulations, with legislative efforts in the EU and United Kingdom much further along than those in the US
Haugen has made stops in London and Berlin to speak to officials and lawmakers and spoke at a tech conference in Lisbon. She also will address French lawmakers in Paris on Wednesday.


Meta pauses new users from joining analytics tool CrowdTangle

Meta pauses new users from joining analytics tool CrowdTangle
Updated 29 January 2022

Meta pauses new users from joining analytics tool CrowdTangle

Meta pauses new users from joining analytics tool CrowdTangle
  • The tool is used by organizations and individuals to follow, analyze and report on public content available on Facebook, Instagram and Reddit

Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms Inc. has paused new users from joining its social media tracking tool CrowdTangle due to staffing constraints.
Meta, which disbanded the CrowdTangle team last year, has been under pressure to provide greater transparency into its platforms.
CrowdTangle founder and CEO Brandon Silverman left Facebook last year.
The tool is used by organizations and individuals to follow, analyze and report on public content available on Facebook, Instagram and Reddit.
CrowdTangle was recently moved to a new data and transparency team, which is working through staffing transitions and considerations, a Meta spokesperson said.
“We are pausing the ability for people to join CrowdTangle while we work through some staffing constraints,” the spokesperson added.
New users can still get added to existing company accounts on the tracking tool, the spokesperson said. 

 

 


Palestine’s high society stirs controversy on social media

The elites of Palestine and stylish clothes and lavish cars paint an almost unrecognizable image of a country scarred by years of conflict. (Screenshots)
The elites of Palestine and stylish clothes and lavish cars paint an almost unrecognizable image of a country scarred by years of conflict. (Screenshots)
Updated 28 January 2022

Palestine’s high society stirs controversy on social media

The elites of Palestine and stylish clothes and lavish cars paint an almost unrecognizable image of a country scarred by years of conflict. (Screenshots)

LONDON: A quick search of Palestine on Google displays headlines and images of protests, war, human rights violations and the latest Israeli attacks against Palestinians. A similar search on social media tells a different tale.

Away from the destruction, forced displacement and politics lies a particular segment of society: The elites of Palestine. Their stylish clothes and lavish cars paint an almost unrecognizable image of a country scarred by years of conflict.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Aya Eid (@ayaeid8)

Such images draw a negative reaction from many social media users, who say that this is the side of Palestine the media does not want to portray. Some comments were accompanied by the hashtag Palestine is not my cause or #فلسيطن_ليست_قضيتي

The tweet reads: “Honestly I was expecting to see wars, famine and persecution but I saw these beautiful pictures, good cars, stylish clothes and safe cities. I am happy for you Palestine #فلسيطن_ليست_قضيتي” 

Another response to the tweet said: “The Palestinian is currently living a better life than the Iraq, Syrian or Lebanese whose countries were invaded under the pretext of liberating Quds, or the Quds road.”

Many disagreed, jumping to Palestine’s defence and reminding everyone that not too long ago Palestine was being bombed and raided by the Israeli forces.

A similar phenomenon is mirrored by many Lebanese influencers whose Instagram accounts showcase luxury, beauty, shopping and travel, all the while the country is battling its worst economic and political crises.

It is not uncommon for these Lebanese elites to share social media posts showing themselves wearing expensive clothes, partying away in luxurious venues and tucking into sumptuous meals. Looking at their posts, one can almost forget that they are in Lebanon — the same Lebanon that has been going through successive crises for the past two years.

We cannot ignore the presence of socialites in society, especially if their pictures are splattered all over social media, but we can wonder which reality their pictures depict.


INTERVIEW: ‘Our focus will always be on credible, authentic and factual reporting’

INTERVIEW: ‘Our focus will always be on credible, authentic and factual reporting’
Updated 28 January 2022

INTERVIEW: ‘Our focus will always be on credible, authentic and factual reporting’

INTERVIEW: ‘Our focus will always be on credible, authentic and factual reporting’
  • Caroline Faraj, vice-president of Arabic services at CNN, talks to Arab News about the network’s success and its evolution over the last 20 years

DUBAI: Social media is by far the most popular source of news for young Arabs with 61 percent getting their news from the medium in 2021, according to the annual Arab Youth Survey. In comparison, 43 percent got their news from TV and 9 percent from newspapers.

The quick, bite-sized, always-on nature of social media channels has challenged many traditional media brands.

One such brand is CNN. Its Arabic edition, CNN Arabic, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, ranked as the number one news provider against competitors such as Sky News, Al Arabiya and BBC Arabic, according to an independent study of news consumers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the US.

Speaking to Arab News, Caroline Faraj, vice-president of Arabic services at CNN, reflected on the network’s decision to branch into Arabic 20 years ago. “Back in 2002, CNN already had networks in English and Spanish, and the addition of CNN Arabic gave us the ability to reach, engage, better represent and understand those of us who speak one of the world’s most popular languages.”

“Since then, we have realized that vision by telling stories for Arab audiences all over the world in myriad ways via mobile-first video, interactive content, written news and more,” she said. 

The digital transformation of CNN has been at the forefront of its success. “As a digital news service from the very outset, it has always been in our DNA to evolve, experiment and be relevant as people’s news habits continue to change.”

For example, when CNN first launched, there were no smartphones. Today, however, 90 percent of the network’s traffic comes via mobiles because “long ago we started tailoring our content to engage with people on the devices they carry around with them 24/7,” she said.

Despite social media being the most popular news source, it is the least trusted. Only 26 percent of young Arabs consider it “very trustworthy” as a news source, according to the Arab Youth Survey. More than 50 percent of them don’t have much trust in any channel — be it TV and newspapers, or online portals and social media.

Yet, CNN Arabic emerged as highly trusted, scoring more than three times the average trust rating compared to other brands in the industry.

“This trust factor is crucial,” said Faraj, “especially at a time when research such as the Arab Youth Survey shows high levels of distrust in news, particularly on social media.

“Looking further ahead, the way that news is consumed will undoubtedly change, just as it has changed in the last 20 years.”

CNN Arabic witnessed its biggest year in 2021, with daily audience numbers growing by more than 150 percent in the past six years, according to Adobe Analytics.

Although “we are in a strong position right now due to our audience growth across various digital platforms,” said Faraj, “the platforms that people use for news will certainly evolve in line with new technology and ways of communicating.”

“Our focus will always be on credible, authentic and factual reporting. Our commitment to the Arabic-speaking world is that we will continue to innovate in the way that we provide people with news and information wherever they need it.”


Al Arabiya crew caught in a Daesh ambush in Al-Hasakah

Al Arabiya crew caught in a Daesh ambush in Al-Hasakah
Updated 27 January 2022

Al Arabiya crew caught in a Daesh ambush in Al-Hasakah

Al Arabiya crew caught in a Daesh ambush in Al-Hasakah
  • “We have been caught in crossfire, Al Arabiya crew has been caught in crossfire after Daesh fighters moved in the vicinity of the prison.”

LONDON: The dramatic moment when an Al Arabiya TV crew was caught in a Daesh ambush on Thursday in the northwestern Syrian city of Al-Hasakah was captured live on air.

The channel broadcast the video of Daesh fighters firing on the news team, Kurdish, and US forces with footage showing members of the film crew taking refuge behind a car.

The news presenter is heard saying, “we have been caught in crossfire, Al Arabiya crew has been caught in crossfire after Daesh fighters moved in the vicinity of the prison.”

The incident came after Kurdish forces, backed by US-led anti-Daesh coalition forces, recaptured Ghwayran prison in Al-Hasakah after six days of fighting sparked by a Daesh attempt to free jailed fighters.

Al Arabiya footage shows Kurdish forces engage in a fierce gun battle with Daesh fighters in Al-Hasakah. (Al Arabiya)

The jail held about 3,500 Daesh prisoners when the initial attack was launched on Jan. 20 using explosive-laden vehicles driven by suicide bombers.

The prison break bid and the fighting that ensued immediately after resulted in the death of more than 200 people, including 124 Daesh militants, 50 Kurdish fighters, and seven civilians. More casualties were expected to be found as Kurdish forces gained access to all parts of the jail.

The heavy fighting saw Daesh fighters seize control of a north wing in the prison, using child inmates as human shields. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 850 children and minors were caught in crossfire when Kurdish forces stormed the jail.

Ghwayran prison is one of the largest facilities where the Kurdish administration holds Daesh detainees.


Bloomberg announces 2022 Gender-Equality Index, names WPP for 4th consecutive year

Bloomberg announces 2022 Gender-Equality Index, names WPP for 4th consecutive year
Updated 27 January 2022

Bloomberg announces 2022 Gender-Equality Index, names WPP for 4th consecutive year

Bloomberg announces 2022 Gender-Equality Index, names WPP for 4th consecutive year
  • GEI tracks the performance of public companies committed to advancing gender equality in the workplace

DUBAI: Multinational advertising and communication group WPP has been named in the 2022 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI) for the fourth consecutive year.

WPP CEO Mark Read said that the company is a “people business” and its “client work directly benefits from having diversity in our teams.”

He added: “We’re proud of our recognition in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index, which reflects our continued investment in our people and culture, and our progress in driving greater gender balance throughout the company.”

Peter T. Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg, said: “We are proud to recognize WPP and the other 417 companies included in the 2022 GEI for their commitment to transparency and setting a new standard in gender-related data reporting.”

The Index tracks the performance of public companies committed to advancing gender equality in the workplace, and helps bring transparency to gender-related practices and policies at publicly-listed companies around the world, increasing the environmental, social, governance (ESG) data available to investors.

This year, Bloomberg lost a total of 418 companies representing a combined market capitalization of $16 trillion from across 45 territories.

A record number of companies disclosed their data for this year’s GEI by using the GEI Framework, marking a 20 percent increase year-over-year.

The GEI Framework scores companies across five pillars: Female leadership and talent pipeline, equal pay and gender pay parity, inclusive culture, anti-sexual harassment policies, and pro-women brand. Bloomberg also requests information from other expanded areas to support the broader goal of providing more robust ESG data to investors.

“Even though the threshold for inclusion in the GEI has risen, the member list continues to grow. This is a testament that more companies are working to improve upon their gender-related metrics, fostering more opportunity for diverse talent to succeed in their organizations,” said Grauer.