Google and Facebook Have Failed Us – The Atlantic

Source: Google and Facebook Have Failed Us – The Atlantic

It’s no longer good enough to shrug off the problems in the system simply because it has computers in the decision loop.

As news consumers, we can say this: It does not have to be like this. Imagine a newspaper posting unverified rumors about a shooter from a bunch of readers who had been known to perpetuate hoaxes. There would be hell to pay—and for good reason.

Why cyber warfare isn’t – Mike’s blog

Source: Why cyber warfare isn’t – Mike’s blog

The big problem is that cyber warfare is totally different to normal warfare, in fact it’s so different that calling it warfare at all is meaningless. In regular warfare you can build up your own defences without improving your opponent’s defences, and you can develop new weapons that your opponents will not have. This basic asymmetry is key to the very concept of war: the side with the better weapons, defences and tactics should normally win.

But cyber warfare doesn’t work like that. Because everyone uses the same software infrastructure, and the “weapons” are nothing more than weaknesses in that global infrastructure, building up your own defences by fixing problems inherently builds up your opponents defences too. And developing new “weapons” is only possible if your opponents are able to develop the very same weapons for themselves, by exploiting the very same vulnerabilities in your country that you are exploiting in theirs.

Successful spying is invisible and undetected. The infiltration of critical national infrastructure by enemies of the state happens quietly and without anyone realising until it’s too late. A successful penetration of someone else’s infrastructure yields an unforgettable intelligence report that makes the government feel successful and in control. A successful penetration of your infrastructure yields nothing visible at all.

You Are the Product, by John Lanchester · LRB 17 August 2017

Source: John Lanchester reviews ‘The Attention Merchants’ by Tim Wu, ‘Chaos Monkeys’ by Antonio García Martínez and ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ by Jonathan Taplin · LRB 17 August 2017

I am scared of Facebook. The company’s ambition, its ruthlessness, and its lack of a moral compass scare me.

It’s worth saying ‘Don’t be evil,’ because lots of businesses are. This is especially an issue in the world of the internet. Internet companies are working in a field that is poorly understood (if understood at all) by customers and regulators. The stuff they’re doing, if they’re any good at all, is by definition new. In that overlapping area of novelty and ignorance and unregulation, it’s well worth reminding employees not to be evil, because if the company succeeds and grows, plenty of chances to be evil are going to come along.

In the open air, fake news can be debated and exposed; on Facebook, if you aren’t a member of the community being served the lies, you’re quite likely never to know that they are in circulation. It’s crucial to this that Facebook has no financial interest in telling the truth.

misinformation is in fact spread in a variety of ways:

Information (or Influence) Operations – Actions taken by governments or organised non-state actors to distort domestic or foreign political sentiment.

False News – News articles that purport to be factual, but which contain intentional misstatements of fact with the intention to arouse passions, attract viewership, or deceive.

False Amplifiers – Co-ordinated activity by inauthentic accounts with the intent of manipulating political discussion (e.g. by discouraging specific parties from participating in discussion, or amplifying sensationalistic voices over others).

Disinformation – Inaccurate or manipulated information/content that is spread intentionally. This can include false news, or it can involve more subtle methods, such as false flag operations, feeding inaccurate quotes or stories to innocent intermediaries, or knowingly amplifying biased or misleading information.

For all the talk about connecting people, building community, and believing in people, Facebook is an advertising company. … Facebook is in the surveillance business. … What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads.

Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.

It’s sort of funny, and also sort of grotesque, that an unprecedentedly huge apparatus of consumer surveillance is fine, apparently, but an unprecedentedly huge apparatus of consumer surveillance which results in some people paying higher prices may well be illegal.

In developed countries where Facebook has been present for years, use of the site peaks at about 75 per cent of the population (that’s in the US). That would imply a total potential audience for Facebook of 1.95 billion. At two billion monthly active users, Facebook has already gone past that number, and is running out of connected humans.

Whatever comes next will take us back to those two pillars of the company, growth and monetisation. Growth can only come from connecting new areas of the planet. … Here in the rich world, the focus is more on monetisation

Automation and artificial intelligence are going to have a big impact in all kinds of worlds. These technologies are new and real and they are coming soon. Facebook is deeply interested in these trends. We don’t know where this is going, we don’t know what the social costs and consequences will be, we don’t know what will be the next area of life to be hollowed out, the next business model to be destroyed, the next company to go the way of Polaroid or the next business to go the way of journalism or the next set of tools and techniques to become available to the people who used Facebook to manipulate the elections of 2016. We just don’t know what’s next, but we know it’s likely to be consequential, and that a big part will be played by the world’s biggest social network. On the evidence of Facebook’s actions so far, it’s impossible to face this prospect without unease.

Oath isn’t just a terrible name — it’s going to be a nightmare ad-tracking machine – The Verge

Source: Oath isn’t just a terrible name — it’s going to be a nightmare ad-tracking machine – The Verge

with the new privacy not-rules, Verizon is free to take the data generated from the tracking supercookies it imposes on its network customers, mash it up with AOL’s ad stack, and promise advertisers hyper-targeted marketing information that can’t be blocked or stopped because Verizon will own both the pipes and an enormous amount of the content flowing through it

Oath might fail the same way Go90 has failed; it’s not like AOL and Verizon are terrific at executing these content-based ideas. But this is Verizon’s next big plan to generate revenue and growth — it’s a lot cheaper and simpler to extract revenue from hyper-targeted ads on the world’s biggest content farm than it is to compete against AT&T and Comcast in broadband deployment.

Be Careful Celebrating Google’s New Ad Blocker. Here’s What’s Really Going On.

Google’s ad blocker, far from a benign offering, is another step toward dominating the internet itself.

Source: Be Careful Celebrating Google’s New Ad Blocker. Here’s What’s Really Going On.

What ads would get blocked? The ones not sold by Google, for the most part. … So this is a way for Google to crush its few remaining competitors by pre-installing an ad zapper that it controls to the most common web browser. That’s a great way for a monopoly to remain a monopoly.

It’s hard to build a coalition in favor of annoying ads. And publishers would be guaranteed a revenue stream, either through charging consumers for an ad-free experience, or from the ads themselves. So the policy aligns the interests of virtually everyone on the web content side.

Improving Google’s bottom line and crushing anyone who tries to compete is just a nice side benefit.

In a New York Times op-ed in April, author Jonathan Taplin laid out the path forward for regulators: It’s time to break up the Alphabet

Daring Fireball: Fuck Facebook

Dave Winer won’t link to Facebook posts from his blog. I don’t either.

Source: Daring Fireball: Fuck Facebook, by John Gruber

You might think it’s hyperbole for Winer to say that Facebook is trying to kill the open web. But they are. … It is not accessible to search engines. … The only way to find Facebook posts is through Facebook.

Facebook going out of business seems unlikely. But Facebook pulling a Vader and altering the deal, blocking public access in the future to a post that today is publicly visible? It wouldn’t surprise me if it happened tomorrow. … Treat Facebook as the private walled garden that it is. If you want something to be publicly accessible, post it to a real blog on any platform that embraces the real web, the open one.


RE: Why I Can’t/Won’t Point to Facebook Blog Posts | Scripting News, by Dave Winer

It’s supporting their downgrading and killing the web. Your post sucks because it doesn’t contain links, styling, and you can’t enclose a podcast if you want. The more people post there, the more the web dies.

‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It –

“I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,” Evan Williams says. “I was wrong about that.”

The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.

Mr. Williams’s mistake was expecting the internet to resemble the person he saw in the mirror: serious, high-minded. … It was just another Utopian dream, Mr. Williams says. “The problem is that not everyone is going to be cool, because humans are humans,” he says. “There’s a lock on our office door and our homes at night. The internet was started without the expectation that we’d have to do that online.”

“I think we will fix these things,” Mr. Williams says. Just don’t hold your breath. The work has barely begun, he says. “Twenty years isn’t very long to change how society works.”

Source: ‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It –, by @DavidStreitfeld

Internet freedom may not be the safest future: Instead, nations could consider “the splinternet” to protect their digital borders — Quartz

The solution to a safer internet—and world—might be more digital borders, not less.

The internet freedom agenda presumed the benefits of the free flow of information only cut one way: in favor of open societies, values, and ideals. But we’re now seeing that its destabilizing effects cut both ways. And that doesn’t bode well for the borderless internet we enjoy today.

The open internet provides a vast canvas for states to undertake information warfare, manipulate each other’s citizens, and project their interests past national borders

China’s internet policy may be a forerunner of a federated, loosely connected set of national internets called “the splinternet.” This future potential state of affairs would be characterized by digital borders that are meant to protect both real and cognitive sovereignty while keeping out unwanted foreign competition or influence.

This system would not likely appear suddenly or dramatically: It would emerge over decades as a sea change of small technical and legal changes slowly add up.

the underlying values of the internet freedom agenda are still the right ones: freedom of expression, freedom of exchange, and a more open world. Will we still cherish these values, even as we learn of new threats to sovereignty and security?

Source: Internet freedom may not be the safest future: Instead, nations could consider “the splinternet” to protect their digital borders — Quartz

The Internet Is Mostly Bots – The Atlantic

the latest survey, which is based on an analysis of nearly 17 billion website visits from across 100,000 domains, shows bots are back on top. Not only that, but harmful bots have the edge over helper bots, which were responsible for 29 percent and 23 percent of all web traffic, respectively.

More than 94 percent of the 100,000 domains included in the report experienced at least one bot attack over the 90-day period in Imperva’s study.

Facebook’s feed fetcher, by itself, accounted for 4.4 percent of all website traffic, according to the report

Source: The Internet Is Mostly Bots – The Atlantic