Renowned computer security companies, the European Union and Apple are in conflict over plans to scan users’ devices for child pornography and other sensitive material.
In August, Apple came up with plans to do just that. A piece of software would have to search all iPhones for photos that are on a list of child porn photos known to the authorities. If these are found, authorities can view the files and intervene if necessary.
European circles are also considering the use of such technology. Moreover, this would also make it possible to detect other forms of illegal material, such as terrorist content. Sources confirm to the NOS that this discussion is still ongoing, although much is still unclear about the introduction.
The advantage of this technology, called client side scanning, is that no one can access users’ private information until the software determines that information is being blacklisted. This means that the privacy breach is less serious than if, for example, the police could access the data of all users, advocates argue.
In an extensive argumentation, the fourteen scientists, including a number of highly renowned cryptographers, write why, in their view, this is not the case. They call the technology ‘extremely dangerous’ and they also believe that the security and privacy of citizens is being violated without malicious intent.
Among the fourteen authors are two world-renowned cryptographers: Ron Rivest and Whitfield Diffie. Both cryptographers have contributed to important encryption mechanisms used in, for example, internet banking and WhatsApp. For example, Rivest was one of the creators of the encryption algorithm RSA, which enables secure exchange of information; the ‘R’ in ‘RSA’ therefore refers to him.
Whitfield Diffie was one of the cryptographers who solved an important chicken-and-egg problem: how do you set up a secure communication channel? After all, you have to agree on an encryption key for this, but if you send that encryption key without a secure connection, everyone can still read the traffic. Diffie and two other scientists came up with an ingenious way to do this, which is also called Diffie-Hellman.
The proposed technology works with a blacklist containing known, problematic material. But technically there is no impediment to the type of material on that list, the scientists emphasize. In countries with less or no press freedom,
Facebook wants to recruit 10,000 new workers in the EU over the next five years. The social media company thinks it needs those people to grow further. The company wants to invest in the metaverse.
The term has been around for years, but is still relatively unknown outside the tech world. You could describe it as a set of digital worlds where people can virtually do all kinds of things. Think, for example, of meeting people who are actually on the other side of the world.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg already shared his vision of the ‘new’ Facebook this summer. The idea behind it is that no one owns metaverse. “Like the Internet, the most important property will be openness and interoperability.”
In the search for new staff, Facebook is paying extra attention to the Dutch market, says a spokesperson. This is because the Netherlands is known for its good tech and IT sectors and its well-educated workforce. According to the company, the government is also paying attention to the development of new technology. Specific numbers per country are not yet known, but the company is also looking for staff in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Poland.
Expressing confidence in the tech sector
In a blog post, Facebook writes that it expresses confidence in the European tech sector with the jobs. “We look forward to working with European governments to find the right people and the right markets.”
Facebook’s announcement comes at a time when the company is under a lot of pressure. At the beginning of this month, a former employee leaked tens of thousands of documents to various American media. The whistleblower claimed that Facebook thinks profit is more important than user safety.
Tech editor Nando Kasteleijn:
“The fact that the company is now also focusing so specifically on Europe will not be without reason. Facebook has been on the grain of the EU for some time. The company is critically monitored when it comes to themes such as privacy and moderation. legislative packages that should, among other things, limit the power of the group, which is why this is also possible, although it will not be so
Facebook takes measures to protect teenagers, critics not convinced
In response to accusations against Facebook that its platforms are harmful to children, the company is taking measures. A range of new features are aimed at teen wellness, according to the company. But details about the plans are lacking and experts believe the measures will make little difference.
One of those new features is that Instagram encourages teens to take breaks. Children would also soon be warned if they repeatedly watch content that is not conducive to their well-being. In addition, Facebook has plans to optionally give parents more control over what their children are doing online.
This has been announced by the high-ranking Nick Clegg of Facebook in American media. He was a guest on a number of news programs, where strong criticism was leveled at the tech company.
Last week, a former Facebook employee stated before the Senate that the company believes making a profit is more important than user safety. She says she backs that claim with tens of thousands of pages of evidence.
The tech giant’s own research would show that 13 percent of teenage girls say using Instagram exacerbates suicidal thoughts. And 17 percent of them say the platform makes eating disorders worse, the whistleblower said. But the company has concealed this knowledge from investors, according to the ex-employee.
Are you thinking about suicide or worried about someone? Talking about suicide helps and can
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied the allegations. Clegg also rejected the criticism. “We can’t magically make everyone’s life perfect, but we can improve our product to make it as safe and enjoyable as possible for users.”
The American watchdog for children and media use Fairplay fears that the new measures will fall short. Facebook must show exactly how they implement the new features and substantiate that they are effective, the Fairplay director told AP news agency.
Facebook under fire: the whistleblower, the allegations and the meaning
For the first time, documents appear to support allegations that Facebook and Instagram are deeply flawed in tackling misinformation and hate speech. A former employee of the company has stood up as a whistleblower and claims that Facebook believes profit is more important than safety.
It’s an explosive story for a company that has been under fire for years. Facebook emphasizes in a response that it is constantly committed to combating unwanted content.
The 37-year-old American Frances Haugen collected tens of thousands of pages to support her accusations. Last night she first told her story on the TV show 60 Minutes and in The Wall Street Journal. Who is she, what are her accusations and what is the meaning of this?
The whistleblower: Frances Haugen
Haugen has been working for American tech companies for years. Before joining Facebook in 2019, she worked for Google and Pinterest, among others. She is originally a data scientist. In her own words, she wanted to work at the tech giant to tackle political misinformation. She was motivated in part because someone dear to her broke off contact through conspiracy theories.
Whistleblower Frances Haugen is a data scientist from Iowa with a computer engineering degree and a Harvard MBA. She told us the only job she wanted at Facebook was to work against misinformation because she had lost a friend to online conspiracy theories. https://t.co/csgaRe6k5h
24 days ago
Within Facebook, she worked in a team that focused on issues surrounding elections worldwide. She, in her own words, saw “time and again” conflicts of interest between “what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook”. In her eyes, the company opted for more and more money. She calls the situation at Facebook “substantially worse” than what she’s seen elsewhere.
She also points out that Facebook had put in place emergency measures designed to dampen misinformation surrounding the US presidential election after the election. Then in early January, two months after the election, the Capitol in Washington was stormed, even though the measures were intended to prevent such a thing. She was stunned when, according to her, Facebook downplayed its own role.
The allegations: Facebook is misleading investors and the public
The documents that Haugen submitted to the US stock market watchdog SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) were accompanied by at least eight complaints. She has also applied to the SEC for whistleblower protection.
Members of Congress also received the documents, as did a reporter from The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper has already published about it recently. Tomorrow she will testify before the United States Congress.
According to 60 Minutes, the charges state, among other things, that Facebook’s own investigation shows that the platform strengthens hate speech, misinformation and political unrest and that the company is silent about this. One of the complaints relates to the story that Facebook daughter Instagram has negative effects on teenage girls.
In this excerpt, Haugen takes a closer look at the negative effects of Instagram:
Facebook whistleblower: ‘Instagram is harmful to young women’
One of her lawyers told the TV program that Facebook, as a publicly traded company, is obliged to speak the truth to investors and that it cannot withhold material. That has not happened here, according to Haugen and her lawyers.
The meaning: more trouble for Facebook
This potentially represents another scandal for Facebook. The company now has extensive experience with this. Until now, Facebook has always been in the dust – saying sorry as often as it could – and promising improvement. Despite everything, the company remained a money machine. Take last year, for example: the profit amounted to 25 billion euros.
The question is whether and how it will be different this time. The first signs that the social media company is taking a different approach are already there. For example, the top people Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are skillfully shielded. Zuckerberg was sailing yesterday.
A New York Times reporter also notices that Zuckerberg hasn’t said anything yet:
It’s incredible that Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t addressed the Whistleblower’s damning reveals. When there is a crisis – plane crash, product defect – a CEO always addresses employees and the public. Where’s Zuckerberg?
In addition, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s top lobbyist, sent a memo to the entire company last Friday. He warns the employees of what is to come and motivates them to continue. Everything indicates that the company is planning to bite the bullet.
The eyes are now on the US stock watchdog SEC and the US Congress: what do they do with all the information?
Haugen himself hopes for two things. First of all, more transparency, so that outside experts have a better idea of how things work at Facebook. She also believes that Facebook’s system, which favors things like misinformation and hate speech, should be limited.
Commenting on Facebook, Facebook says that “every day our teams are trying to balance the need for billions of people to express themselves, but also the need to keep our platform safe.” The platform, in its own words, continues to “make improvements to combat the spread of misinformation and harmful content”.
The company also says that user safety is more important than “maximizing our profits”. It rejects suggestions that the platform played a major role in the Capitol storming.
Instagram will stop developing children’s version for the time being
Instagram is temporarily suspending the development of a special children’s version of the platform. The company announced in March that it was working on a version for children under 13, who are now not welcome on Instagram. Its announcement soon sparked a lot of criticism.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri now writes in a statement that the company still has confidence in the project, but that the delay will give the company time to talk to parents, experts, policymakers and governments about their concerns.
According to Mosseri, those conversations are necessary to clarify “the value and importance” of the project for young teens. “The reality is that children are already active online,” he writes.
The criticism of Instagram’s new youth platform came from, among others, the legal top of 44 American states. They called on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to stop developing the children’s version of the platform, in the interest of “children’s mental and physical well-being”.
They also highlighted the dangers of online groomers and cyberbullying, as well as the efforts Facebook is already making to protect children on their platforms.
Control for parents
According to Instagram head Mosseri, it is better for children under 13 to have their own version. “We pretty much think it’s better for parents to give their kids access to an Instagram version that’s really made for them,” he writes. “A place where parents can keep control.”
Mosseri says the children’s version is intended for children between the ages of 10 and 12. Parents should give permission to access it. In addition, the idea is that parents can see everything the kids are doing, such as the time spent on the app and who is messaging.
‘Drug cartels and human traffickers get space on Facebook’
Facebook does little to counter activities of drug cartels and human traffickers on the platform. That concludes The Wall Street Journal based on internal documents from the social media company. Although employees are sounding the alarm internally, there is not enough response.
The social network is active worldwide and most of the growth is now in countries outside the US and Europe. But, the newspaper writes, in those countries, what happens on the platform is not always properly monitored. In some countries there are few or no employees who speak specific dialects.
Organ sales, pornography and dissidents
Reports are made internally to Facebook of human traffickers in the Middle East operating on the platform and warning employees about armed Ethiopian groups inciting violence against ethnic minorities. Reports about organ sales, pornography and governments tackling dissidents are also not sufficiently heard.
According to a former executive at Facebook, responsible for partnerships with Internet service providers in Africa and Asia, the company sees this “just as the cost of doing business”. The company focuses on the more prosperous markets. In the documents, tech company employees write about their shame and frustration, the newspaper writes, pointing to decisions that mean that users can simply post videos of, for example, murders and videos inciting violence.
A spokesperson for Facebook told The Wall Street Journal that the company has “a comprehensive strategy in countries where there is a risk of conflict and violence” that includes global teams that speak more than 50 languages. There is also contact with local experts and fact checkers.
It is the business newspaper’s fourth story this week based on the internal documents. Where these come from is unknown. It started last Monday with the news that the platform is holding a double standard for public figures – from politicians to footballers.
The other pieces were about the impact of Instagram on teenage girls and what Facebook knows about it and the negative consequences of changes in the News Feed.
Facebook uses double standard for VIPs who break rules’
There is a double standard within Facebook, which means that at least 5.8 million users do not have to follow the same rules as the rest of Facebook. The Wall Street Journal writes this on the basis of internal documents and conversations with those involved. The number of 5.8 million is a fraction of the total number of users: that is 2.89 billion.
According to the paper, the documents prove that the system, known internally as cross check or XCheck, has at times protected famous people whose posts contain defamation or calls for violence. That is content that would normally be punishable under Facebook rules.
The system was originally devised to deal with errors in moderation, but due to understaffing, the rules were no longer applied to people on a particular VIP list, the newspaper said. The VIP status applies to, for example, politicians, football players, TV celebrities and people with many online followers.
Internally, there also seems to be discomfort about the system. “We’re not actually doing what we publicly say we’re doing,” a confidential internal statement said. The course of action is called a “breach of trust”. “Unlike the rest of our community, these people can break our rules with no consequences.”
In response, Facebook said many of the papers it relies on are dated and that the content “has been brought together to create a story that obscures the main point: Facebook discovered and addressed the issues itself.” The newspaper, on the other hand, argues that Facebook would have seen “years ago” that the exceptions were unacceptable, but that the system still existed and even continued to grow.
As an example, The Wall Street Journal highlights the Brazilian footballer Neymar. In 2019, he was charged with a rape; he defended himself in a video on Facebook and Instagram. In it he showed, among other things, the name of the woman and nude photos of her. According to Neymar, he was extorted.
Normally, the newspaper writes, the message would be deleted immediately. But it stayed for more than a day due to a blockage in the system. In addition, according to Facebook’s rules, Neymar’s account itself should also be deleted. That didn’t happen either. Neymar continued to deny the allegations and no charges were filed.
What the newspaper also points out is that Facebook is misleading its own supervisory board with this system. The Facebook Oversight Board, set up by the company itself, wanted to track how often mistakes are made when moderating known users. According to Facebook, it is not possible to keep track of this and everyone is treated the same.
In a response, Facebook’s supervisory board says it has often been concerned about “the lack of transparency in Facebook’s moderation process”:
Facebook will soon change parent company name
Facebook will shortly introduce a new name for the parent company. That reports a source “first hand” to tech site The Verge. It would mean that Facebook, just like its daughters Instagram and WhatsApp now, would become part of a larger whole as a brand name. Facebook has also included VR company Oculus for years.
The need for a name change would stem from the company’s need to present itself as more than a collection of social media. It wants to emphatically focus on so-called metaverse, a concept in which users can experience a virtual world through, for example, VR glasses. Facebook does not want to respond to the reports to NOS for the time being.
The Facebook name has been damaged by various scandals in recent years. New services, coupled with the new name, could be attractive to the tech giant, especially if in the future it will offer services that may have an even deeper impact on people’s lives.
At the same time, the question is to what extent a different name with new services really leads to a different reputation. First of all, there is a good chance that everyone will continue to associate it with Facebook. In addition, CEO Mark Zuckerberg will almost certainly remain associated with the new company and will also stick to that name.
Not commonly used
The company’s new name is still a closely guarded secret, according to The Verge. Even in the top few people would know about it. It is not yet clear when the name will be presented.
That may happen at a conference next week, it could also come out earlier. The Verge suggests it may have something to do with “Horizon,” a new product Facebook is working on.
Facebook would not be the first group to make a name change. Google has been under parent company Alphabet since 2015. At the same time, that very example shows that such a change does not mean that the name is in general use. ‘Google’ is still many times more famous than Alphabet.
Facebook receives millions of fines from British competition watchdog
Facebook has been fined 59 million euros by the British regulator CMA for failing to cooperate sufficiently in an investigation into the takeover of video service Giphy.
Gifs are short, repetitive movies with scenes from, for example, movies and TV series. The videos are used on social media as a joke and to express emotions.
Immediately after the takeover in 2020, Facebook promised that Giphy’s gifs would also remain available for other social media than Facebook and Instagram, but the British Competition and Markets Authority was not reassured. According to the regulator, despite warnings, Facebook has not cooperated sufficiently in an investigation into competition in the online advertising market.
‘Above the Law’
The British watchdog reports that it has never happened before that a company had to be fined for not complying with the rules surrounding an investigation into a takeover. The fine is, according to Joel Bamford, who is responsible for reviewing mergers and acquisitions at the CMA, “a warning to any company that thinks it is above the law.”
Facebook does not agree with the British fine and is considering next steps.
Major concerns among advertisers after revelations from Facebook whistleblower
Dutch advertisers are watching with great concern the revelations of a Facebook whistleblower at the beginning of this week. That is what interest organization Bond van Adverteerders (BvA) says to the NOS. Measures, such as the withdrawal of advertisements, have not yet been taken.
Whistleblower Frances Haugen is a former employee of the tech giant. She says, among other things, that the social network considers profit more important than the safety of its users. As proof, she copied tens of thousands of pages of internal documents just before she left.
Haugen spoke about this extensively on the TV show 60 Minutes and before the US Senate. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has firmly distanced himself from Haugen’s allegations; according to him, the allegations are incorrect.
BvA director Henriette van Swinderen says the latest revelations “underline the concerns that have existed for some time”. She adds that there is a risk for advertisers that their ads will end up next to messages that are “not beneficial to the brand”.
No data about the Netherlands
At the same time, she emphasizes that positive steps have also been taken. There is a partnership in the advertising world, called the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, that is trying to tackle the problems surrounding harmful messages and advertisements. Here, Facebook, like other platforms, provides quarterly information on how it is tackling things like misinformation and hate speech.
Of course we want to know: what is happening in the Dutch language area? What type of messages are deleted?
Henriette van Swinderen, Association of Advertisers
“These reports show an upward trend,” says Van Swinderen. “What we miss very much is what the situation is at a local level. Of course we want to know: what is happening in the Dutch language area? What type of messages are being deleted?” If that information does not come, she takes into account that there will be too much uncertainty for advertisers. “This is a concern for a large part of our members.”
According to the BvA director, this has been discussed with Facebook for some time. “Initially we heard that nothing was possible. It is now being looked at more seriously, but the question is how this will turn out.”
Hundreds of millions of euros are spent annually in the Netherlands on advertising on Facebook and Instagram, says Van Swinderen. The total advertising budget is about 4 billion euros, half of that goes to online. Another important part goes to advertising on Google. Facebook’s turnover consists of more than 98 percent from advertising income.
Last year there was already a massive boycott of Facebook by advertisers, under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit. Companies then said to temporarily withdraw because the company is doing too little against racism and hate speech. Financially, Facebook has had little or no trouble with this. This is because in addition to large advertisers, the platform can also count on many SMEs, who cannot just go elsewhere.
The importance of Facebook is too great for advertisers as long as there is no equally powerful alternative.
Youssef Eddini, partner at communication agency Van Luyken
Youssef Eddini, partner at communication agency Van Luyken, thinks that it is too important for advertisers to stay with Facebook as long as there is no good alternative.
“Facebook is a powerful channel and advertisers can target very audiences on it,” he says. “In short, the importance of Facebook is too great for advertisers as long as there is no equally powerful alternative.” What is possible, he thinks, is that advertisers, just like last year, stop with the message that they expect the platform to make improvements. Although he does not expect that the enthusiasm for this will be great.
Responding to advertisers’ concerns, the tech company reiterated that “every day teams are trying to balance billions of people with the opportunity to express themselves, but also the need to keep our platform safe”. Facebook also reiterates that it continues to make “major improvements” in the fight against misinformation and harmful content.
The tech giant does not want to respond to the call from the Association of Advertisers to receive more information about tackling unwanted content in the Netherlands.
The NOS yesterday asked a number of major Dutch brands – Albert Heijn, bol.com, Coolblue, De Bijenkorf and Unilever – how they view the current situation. Only bol.com reacted to this: “We do not want to get ahead of things yet, but of course we are keeping a close eye on the situation”.
Could Facebook’s image be further damaged? A new wave of news coverage of everything going wrong within the company issued a temporary sojourn.
No fewer than fifteen media – mostly American – United States dozens of articles in one day. The source of all this is whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former employee of the tech giant. performed, she collected tens of thousands of pages of documents.
The stories paint a picture of a company that has lost control of its own platforms and is ignoring warnings from its employees. That is a familiar picture, but the amount of stories in a short time is unprecedented. Facebook itself says that the message of all these stories is incorrect and that the suggestion that profit has begun is then user safety incorrect.
Message flow no coincidence
It is no coincidence that these media campaigns. Since mid-September, The Wall Street Journal has been publishing a series of articles. Then came a broadcast of the TV program 60 Minutes, in which Haugen made himself known.
This earlier month, a larger group of media outlets also had the opportunity to create stories based on the documents, much to the Journal’s disappointment. This concerns media such as The New York Times, CNN, AP, but also newspapers such as the Financial Times and Le Monde.
A small selection of the stories that have come out so far (a more complete list can be found here):
Facebook employees warned the company before and after the US presidential election about the material nothing information and conspiracy theories circulating, the company did little about this (The New York Times).
Facebook is doing far too little to combat disinformation and hate speech in India. The country is an important growth market for Facebook, but the local branch is underfunded (Associated Press).
Facebook is struggling to retain young users through its well-known ‘blue app’. This is seen as a long-term “existential danger”. Whether the plans to win back users will succeed remains to be seen (The Verge).
CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to be known as a great champion of free speech. But in Vietnam, he decided otherwise, sources say, and was more censored before the election at the request of the government. (The Washington Post).
Criticisms among Facebook employees themselves also surface, which they express on internal forums. For example, an anonymous employee says, “We really need to get over our reticence and stand on the side of truth and reality” (Politico).
The question is what this ultimately does to the company. Financially it still seems for all the stories that have appeared in recent years.
Smeared and clean at the same time
Facebook has two faces. Since 2016 – five years ago – one face of the company has been under fire. It started with fake news, followed by Russian trolls and then the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that looted the data of millions of Facebook users.
The other face has been spotless for years. When it comes to annual accounts, the company has been doing well for years. It shows how dominant Facebook, along with Google, is in the online advertising market.
Despite all the negative reports, Facebook’s profits have grown in recent years