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What's new at the crossroads of culture, technology and science
Curated by Artur Alves
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The Data That Turned the World Upside Down

Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method to analyze people in minute detail based on their Facebook activity. Did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory?
Artur Alves's insight:
The trivial assertion that correlation does not equate causation breaks down when it becomes possible to establish hundreds, or even thousands, of correlations pertaining to a single subject or group. The political consequences are yet to be fully seen.

«The approach that Kosinski and his colleagues developed over the next few years was actually quite simple. First, they provided test subjects with a questionnaire in the form of an online quiz. From their responses, the psychologists calculated the personal Big Five values of respondents. Kosinski’s team then compared the results with all sorts of other online data from the subjects: what they “liked," shared or posted on Facebook, or what gender, age, place of residence they specified, for example. This enabled the researchers to connect the dots and make correlations. Remarkably reliable deductions could be drawn from simple online actions. For example, men who “liked” the cosmetics brand MAC were slightly more likely to be gay; one of the best indicators for heterosexuality was “liking” Wu-Tang Clan. Followers of Lady Gaga were most probably extroverts, while those who “liked” philosophy tended to be introverts. While each piece of such information is too weak to produce a reliable prediction, when tens, hundreds, or thousands of individual data points are combined, the resulting predictions become really accurate. «
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Facebook Deleted A Parody Account To Avoid Being Blocked In Brazil

Facebook Deleted A Parody Account To Avoid Being Blocked In Brazil | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The decision to take down a satirical page and hand over the owner's IP address came after a court threatened to temporarily block th
Artur Alves's insight:
"Facebook has complied with a demand by a judge in Brazil to take down a satirical page or face being blocked throughout the country for 24 hours. The case centered on an account that parodied Udo Döhler, a candidate for mayor in the city of Joinville. On Monday, the Electoral Court of Joinville issued a decision that demanded that Facebook take down the page or be blocked throughout the country for 24 hours. Facebook later on Monday obtained a court certificate that recognized that the company took down the page that originally generated the complaint, a spokesperson for the company told BuzzFeed News. The company also agreed to turn over the IP address of the user who was running the Döhler parody page, the spokesperson said."
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After controversy, Facebook promises stricter scrutiny over research

After controversy, Facebook promises stricter scrutiny over research | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Facebook is planning stricter scrutiny when conducting research. Facebook came under fire for a 2012 study that manipulated users' newsfeeds without their knowledge.
Artur Alves's insight:

«

There will be a stricter review of requests for research, for internal work or academic purposes, that deals with personal content or specific groups of people, Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer wrote.

He did not elaborate on the new guidelines.

«

 

To be continued, then...

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Is Facebook moving away from "social"? - GeekWire

Is Facebook moving away from "social"? - GeekWire | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
I'm giving up on Facebook, because it no longer delivers on its core value proposition: to let me quickly and easily see status updates from my friends.
Artur Alves's insight:

The drive for profitability and mobile advertising is edging away the social features that captivated users. What does that mean for the future of social networking?

 

«Facebook has deliberately moved away from that original value for its consumers by automatically presenting its News Feed in a “top stories” order and, if one remembers to select “most recent stories” (which will automatically default back to “top stories” at some mysterious Facebook-specified point), displays them in not the promised “most recent stories” sequence, but in a bizarre and unstated most-recent-activity-on-stories order. Meaning comments on friends’ status updates by people I don’t know override more recent status updates by people I do know.«

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Facebook, Zynga beat wiretap lawsuits - but allegations were reinstated

Court, however, revives allegations Facebook breached its terms of service.
Artur Alves's insight:

«Facebook and Zynga have defeated class-action lawsuits accusing the companies of civil wiretapping allegations connected to advertising practices.

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, in a joint opinion filed last week on the two lawsuits [PDF], ruled the advertising practices at issue did not involve wiretapping. The San Francisco-based appeals court, however, reinstated allegations that Facebook violated its terms of service for its users, which now number about 1.2 billion.«

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danah boyd - "The era of Facebook is an anomaly"

danah boyd - "The era of Facebook is an anomaly" | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
danah boyd’s SXSW keynote is sold out. When it’s over, a dozen fans rush the stage.

These fans aren’t young groupies hoping to get a closer glimpse at their favorite rock star, but...
Artur Alves's insight:

danah boyd's interview with The Verge's Ellis Hamburger

 

"The era of Facebook is an anomaly. The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird. Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space. Fragmentation is a more natural state of being. Is your social dynamic interest-driven or is it friendship-driven? Are you going there because there’s this place where other folks are really into anime, or is this the place you’re going because it’s where your pals from school are hanging out? That first [question] is a driving function."

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Facebook's Graph Search tool causes increasing privacy concerns

Facebook's Graph Search tool causes increasing privacy concerns | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
New blog aims to show how those who share photos, personal information and 'likes' on Facebook could see privacy invaded
Artur Alves's insight:

Mounting concerns on how changes in privacy policy and search algorithms can compromise private information or, to put it more realistically, information that people thought it would be ok to share in FB.

Snip:

"When asked for comment, Facebook said that Graph Search does not change members' existing privacy settings, and only shows what can be seen elsewhere on the site according to what people have chosen to share."

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Facebook Is About To Stop Being a Democracy

Facebook Is About To Stop Being a Democracy | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

"In the spring of 2009, the company came up with a fairly radical scheme in response to a user backlash over changes to its terms of service earlier that year. From that point on, Facebook pledged that every future proposed change to its governing documents would go through a user comment period. If 7,000 or more users commented on the proposal, it would trigger a site-wide vote. And if 30 percent of all Facebook users voted either "yea" or "nay" on the changes, the company would submit to their will. The catch is that this applied only to changes to the company's terms of service. Changes to actual features, like facial recognition or couples pages, were never up for referendum.

(...)That system will include a new "Ask the Chief Privacy Offer" feature and regular webcasts by chief privacy officer Erin Egan to address users' questions and concerns, according to Shrage's announcement. The company also hopes it will also result in more substantive comments on proposed changes in the future, now that there's no incentive to flood Facebook with form-letter comments in a bid to meet the vote threshold."

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What is Facebook’s mission? It’s time to decide.

What is Facebook’s mission? It’s time to decide. | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
At this point, it's more than a social network.
Artur Alves's insight:
In all fairness, the real question seems to be: how much of its vision of itself as a clearing-house for targeted advertising and its strategy of centralization of media content would Facebook be willing to forgo in order to reinforce its useful image as a company that focuses on human networking?

«In the current kerfuffle over whether the fake news and misinformation that proliferated on the site might have influenced the outcome of the 2016 election, Facebook’s difficulty in acknowledging whether it’s simply a provider of pleasant connections or a public utility with real obligations has come to the fore. The criticisms have illuminated Facebook’s crisis of mission: profitable lifestyle platform or force for common good? More than a decade after its launch, its creator is still trying to figure out what it’s supposed to be — but it’s frankly irresponsible to remain undecided for much longer.«
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Facebook study suggests online users reinforce their views by creating echo chambers

Facebook study suggests online users reinforce their views by creating echo chambers | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
(Phys.org)—A team of researchers from several institutions in Italy and one in the U.S. has found evidence that suggests Internet users follow a pattern similar to that found in other media regarding how they look for and ...
Artur Alves's insight:

«

In examining their results the researchers report that they found evidence that Facebook users do indeed tend to engage in creating echo chambers, encasing themselves in environments that mesh with their own personal beliefs while rejecting other viewpoints, thereby reinforcing their own views. The researchers suggest such practices help explain such odd phenomenon as the widespread rejection of scientific evidence of global warming, or Jade Helm 15, where alarmists set off online panic by suggesting that military training exercises occurring in various parts of the U.S. last summer were a sure sign of an impending civil war. The researchers suggest that those seeking to break into echo chambers with what they believe is truthful information, find a way to reach a larger audience, rather than by knocking their way into small subgroups. They note that some have achieved some success by resorting to buying advertising space to get their message through.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-01-facebook-online-users-views-echo.html#jCp

«

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I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me | Gadget Lab | WIRED

I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me | Gadget Lab | WIRED | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
I like everything. Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked---even if I hated it.
Artur Alves's insight:

"I’d added more than a thousand things to my Likes page—most of which were loathsome or at best banal. By liking everything, I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked. To be honest, I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I had done."

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Facebook’s Unethical Experiment Manipulated Users’ Emotions

Facebook’s Unethical Experiment Manipulated Users’ Emotions | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

Facebook has been experimenting on us. A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that Facebook intentionally manipulated the news feeds of almost 700,000 users in order to study “emotional contagion through social networks.”  The study raises a number of ethics and privacy issues, since no authorization or warning was issued for the experiment.

Artur Alves's insight:

Social scientists team up with Facebook, manipulate data feeds, and ignore ethical good practices in experiments with human subjects.

 

 

«Facebook has been experimenting on us. A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that Facebook intentionally manipulated the news feeds of almost 700,000 users in order to study “emotional contagion through social networks.”

The researchers, who are affiliated with Facebook, Cornell, and the University of California–San Francisco, tested whether reducing the number of positive messages people saw made those people less likely to post positive content themselves. The same went for negative messages: Would scrubbing posts with sad or angry words from someone’s Facebook feed make that person write fewer gloomy updates?

(...)

Here is the only mention of “informed consent” in the paper: The research “was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.”

That is not how most social scientists define informed consent.

 

(...)

Over the course of the study, it appears, the social network made some of us happier or sadder than we would otherwise have been. Now it’s made all of us more mistrustful. «

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Facebook and Oculus Rift: game developers react

Facebook and Oculus Rift: game developers react | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Mark Zuckerberg is excited, but Facebook's $2bn purchase of Oculus VR has drawn mixed reactions from gamers and game developers. By Keith Stuart
Artur Alves's insight:

«Yes, reactions to Facebook's $2bn purchase of Oculus VR, creator of the Oculus Rift headset, have been... varied. On Tuesday night, while business analysts were carefully sifting through Mark Zuckerberg's announcement, attempting to understand his intentions, hundreds of game developers were registering their concerns on Twitter. This is bad, was a familiar refrain, bad for Oculus, bad for games and bad for virtual reality. Leading the charge was Markus Persson, the creator of the hugely successful block-building game, Minecraft. "We were in talks about maybe bringing a version to Oculus," he wrote . "I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out." 

Go on to the Reddit post where Oculus founder Palmer Luckey gave his side of the story, or visit the announcement on the Oculus VR home page, and the reactions are very similar. "I have unsubscribed," wrote one developer. "I will be cancelling my preorder, I will not make games with the Rift, and I am not associating myself with a Facebook affiliated company." And from another, "I am really upset by this. I had nothing but grief as a developer of Facebook titles, and the direction and actions of the Facebook company are not ones I can support."«

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Why Facebook Is Teaching Its Machines to Think Like Humans | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com

Why Facebook Is Teaching Its Machines to Think Like Humans | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Photo: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED Facebook needs machines that can understand the way we humans behave and write and even feel. In January -- after the co
Artur Alves's insight:

"Deep learning involves building neural networks — multi-layered software systems inspired by the way the human brain is built — or at least what we know about the way the human brain is built. Much like the human brain, these artificial neural nets can gather information and react to it. They can build up an understanding of what objects look or sound like or what words mean without the need for as much human labeling as traditional machine learning methods.

Deep learning is especially useful for complex problems like computer vision, voice recognition, language translation, and natural language processing, and in order to make it work, you need massive amounts of data. “Deep learning depends less on human engineering and flourishes on having more and more training data,” said Richard Socher, a Stanford University computer scientist studying natural language processing. “If you ask the algorithm to learn from examples and not an expert, now it also needs more data to be able to make inferences. As soon as you have more and more training data, that’s when you really gain with deep learning.”

Already, companies like Baidu, Google and Microsoft have used deep-learning algorithms to supercharge image and voice search. The next big challenge will be deciphering the written musings of individuals — and there’s an overabundance of that to keep companies busy for a long time. Just look at your Facebook page — or your Twitter feed."

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How to Protect Your Privacy from Facebook's Graph Search

How to Protect Your Privacy from Facebook's Graph Search | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Artur Alves's insight:

The deeper the search, the more you need to tweak your privacy settings if you want to limit the scope of your audience. Or cyber stalkers.

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Using Facebook out of habit

"The ‘Wasting Time’ factor and the growth of ‘Using Applications’ factor indicate that Facebook has already become an integral part of daily computing routine, alongside with the rest of the entertainment desktop and web applications."

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