France Fines Google, Facebook $237 Million

This file illustration taken on October 1, 2019 shows the logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google displayed on a tablet in Lille, France. DENIS CHARLET / AFP
This file illustration taken on October 1, 2019 shows the logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google displayed on a tablet in Lille, France. DENIS CHARLET / AFP

 

French regulators have hit Google and Facebook with 210 million euros ($237 million) in fines over their use of “cookies”, the data used to track users online, authorities said Thursday.

US tech giants, including the likes of Apple and Amazon, have come under growing pressure over their businesses practices across Europe, where they have faced massive fines and plans to impose far-reaching EU rules on how they operate.

The 150-million-euro fine imposed on Google was a record by France’s National Commission for Information Technology and Freedom (CNIL), beating a previous cookie-related fine of 100 million euros against the company in December 2020.

Facebook was handed a 60-million-euro fine.

READ ALSO: Italian Mafia Boss Caught With Aid Of Google Maps

“CNIL has determined that the sites facebook.com, google.fr and (Google-owned) youtube.com do not allow users to refuse the use of cookies as simply as to accept them,” the regulatory body said.

The two platforms have three months to adapt their practices, after which France will impose fines of 100,000 euros per day, CNIL added.

Google told AFP it would change its practices following the ruling.

“In accordance with the expectations of internet users… we are committed to implementing new changes, as well as to working actively with CNIL in response to its decision,” the US firm said in a statement.

Cookies are little packets of data that are set up on a user’s computer when they visit a website, allowing web browsers to save information about their session.

They are highly valuable for Google and Facebook as ways to personalise advertising — their primary source of revenue.

But privacy advocates have long pushed back.

Since the European Union passed a 2018 law on personal data, internet companies face stricter rules that oblige them to seek the direct consent of users before installing cookies on their computers.

– 90 notices issued –
CNIL argued that Google, Facebook and YouTube make it very easy to consent to cookies via a single button, whereas rejecting the request requires several clicks.

It had given internet companies until April 2021 to adapt to the tighter privacy rules, warning that they would start facing sanctions after that date.

French newspaper Le Figaro was the first to be sanctioned, receiving a fine of 50,000 euros in July for allowing cookies to be installed by advertising partners without the direct approval of users, or even after they had rejected them.

CNIL said recently that it had sent 90 formal notices to websites since April.

In 2020, it inflicted fines of 100 million and 35 million euros respectively on Google and Amazon for their use of cookies.

The fines were based on an earlier EU law, the General Data Protection Regulation, with CNIL arguing that the companies had failed to give “sufficiently clear” information to users about cookies.

Lukaku Changes Facebook Bio Amid Row With Tuchel

File photo: Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel (R) shakes hands with Chelsea’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (L) after the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on December 26, 2021. Chelsea won the game 3-1. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Belgian forward, Romelu Lukaku, has changed his Facebook bio as the row between him and Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel deepens. 

Tuchel dropped the former Everton hitman for the game against Liverpool days after an outburst in which he claimed that he was unhappy at the Stamford Bridge.

It, however, appears that the tussle between the duo will linger on as a visit to Lukaku’s official Facebook page on Sunday evening showed that his bio now reads, “Inter Milan,” his former Italian side.

 

But the 28-year-old’s Instagram bio still reads, “@chelseafc,” and “@belgianreddevils” and it is unclear if his Facebook account was hacked.

lukaku-Instagram

READ ALSO: Unsettled Chelsea Star Lukaku Dropped For Liverpool Clash – Reports

Lukaku’s latest move comes days after his outburst was made public.

In the interview with Sky Italy, recorded several weeks ago but only aired days before the Liverpool match, the unsettled Belgian also admitted he would like to return to Inter Milan in the near future.

“Physically I am fine. But I’m not happy with the situation at Chelsea,” he said.

“Tuchel has chosen to play with another system. I won’t give up, I’ll be professional.

“I really hope in the depths of my heart to return to Inter, not at the end of my career, but at a still good level to hopefully win more.”

On Friday, Tuchel admitted he was surprised by Lukaku’s comments, describing them as “noise we don’t need” and “not helpful”.

Even so, his decision to axe Lukaku for the Liverpool showdown is a major gamble at a vital point in Chelsea’s season.

After winning only one of their last four league games, Chelsea trail 11 points behind leaders Manchester City and are only one point ahead of third-placed Liverpool.

Lukaku was expected to be the final piece in the jigsaw for Chelsea when he joined the Champions League winners in a blockbuster transfer.

But the 28-year-old has endured a troubled second spell with Chelsea since signing from Inter in a club record £98 million ($132 million) deal in August.

Lukaku scored on his debut against Arsenal in August and has seven goals in 18 appearances this term.

He went six games without a goal before suffering an ankle injury against Malmo in the Champions League in October.

Facebook Takes Down Anti-Vaccine Posts Harassing Doctors, Journalists

This illustration photo taken in Los Angeles on October 28, 2021, shows a person using Facebook on a smartphone in front of a computer screen showing the META logo. PHOTO: Chris DELMAS / AFP)

 

Facebook’s parent company Meta said Wednesday it had derailed an anti-vaccine campaign that harassed medical workers, journalists, and elected officials, in a signal of the ongoing pressure from coronavirus pandemic-tied misinformation. 

The social media giant took down accounts in France and Italy that were linked to a conspiracy movement called “V_V”, which inundated pro-vaccine posts with potentially tens of thousands of comments.

“V-V” supporters also “mass-harassed” people on YouTube, Twitter, VKontakte and other online platforms, using swastikas or other images as well as calling doctors and media workers “Nazi supporters” for backing vaccines, Meta said.

READ ALSO: Iranian Forces, Taliban Exchange Fire At Border

The company’s update regarding efforts to counter misinformation and harassment on its platform comes as the tech giant battles accusations that it puts profit over user safety.

The firm changed its parent company name to “Meta” in October as it tries to move past the reputation of Facebook as a scandal-plagued social network to the company’s virtual reality vision for the future.

A report by social network analysis firm Graphika offered additional information on “V_V,” which it says touts itself as engaged in guerilla “psychological warfare” that targets vaccine supporters.

Graphika estimates that “V_V” has about 20,000 followers and said the group has been linked to vandalism of hospitals and efforts to disrupt vaccination programs by repeatedly booking and canceling medical appointments.

The group’s campaign used messaging service Telegram to train recruits and spread word of who to target, according to Meta head of emerging harms investigations Mike Dvilyanski.

 

– Using media to spread misinformation –

“While we aren’t banning all V_V content, we’re continuing to monitor the situation and will take action if we find additional violations,” Meta said.

Since the start of the pandemic, misinformation has taken many forms, from false and dangerous health advice to so-called miracle cures, conspiracy theories, racist rhetoric and online scams.

The United States in March denounced what it called a Russian disinformation campaign against US-made Covid-19 vaccines, saying Moscow was putting lives at risk.

Meta also reported taking down a “sprawling and unsuccessful” network out of China that used fake accounts to promote a bogus claim that a Swiss biologist contended the United States was putting pressure on World Health Organization scientists to blame China for the pandemic.

Investigators on the Meta security team equated the campaign to a “hall of mirrors, endlessly reflecting a single fake persona” with even Chinese state media citing the fabricated claim.

“Clusters of fake accounts attempted post-amplification, which only took root when media picked up the stories,” Meta head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in the briefing.

“But, that was quickly debunked and fizzled out quickly,” he added.

The tactic reflected a trend of trying to get legitimate news outlets to spread misinformation promoted by networks of fake accounts, Gleicher noted.

“Operations like these will also target media, marketers and influencers, who need defenses against these kinds of campaigns,” he said.

Meta found links to employees of people associated with Chinese state infrastructure companies based around the world.

“This is the first time we have observed an operation that included a coordinated cluster of state employees to amplify itself in this way,” Meta said.

“Our investigation also found that a number of Chinese government officials began interacting with the operation’s content less than an hour after it first posted.”

AFP

Why Facebook Changed To Meta And Why It Matters?

This illustration photo taken in Los Angeles on October 28, 2021, shows a person using Facebook on a smartphone in front of a computer screen showing the META logo. (Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP)

 

Facebook’s name change offers a convenient diversion as scandal plagues the platform, but the new handle is also key to the firm’s costly effort to save itself from very real threats, experts said.

Jokes and vitriol poured in after CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the new corporate handle “Meta,” with critics blasting it as a transparent effort to distract from its whistleblower crisis.

But Zuckerberg argued the name demonstrates the company’s commitment to building its “metaverse,” a virtual reality version of the internet that would make online experiences — like chatting with a friend or attending a concert — feel face-to-face.

Making a success of the aspirational ambition though would help address real, long-term threats like an eroding youth user base, regulatory scrutiny and even the sway fellow giants like Apple hold over Facebook.

READ ALSO: Twitter Records $537m Net Loss Over Lawsuit Payout

“With this announcement Mark Zuckerberg revealed his end game: He’s making a play to control the future of the internet,” said Evan Greer, director of digital advocacy group Fight for the Future.

Zuckerberg said the firm’s metaverse investment will take a $10 billion bite out of the company’s profit this year, and earlier this month Facebook announced plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union over the next five years for the project.

Zuckerberg’s pitch of an immersive, virtual world of real-looking concerts, sports and meetings that can be attended via a headset are, even he admits, a ways off.

Since the launch a year ago of the Quest 2 virtual reality headset, from the Facebook-owned brand Oculus, about 1.87 million devices have been sold worldwide, according to researchers at Statista.

At this point, they’re mainly used to play immersive games, with controllers for a game of tennis, for example.

Facebook has also begun building more informal spaces, such as “workrooms,” where participants appear around a round table as personalized avatars that look like cartoon characters.

Tangible change

Building up the metaverse will happen as the company undertakes what Zuckerberg called a “retooling” to focus on young adults — people aged 18-29.

Facebook has been losing young people for years to other platforms — the rise of TikTok has been a particular threat — but it has continued to grow.

However, as Zuckerberg’s comments show, concern is building about keeping those people and the aim is that the metaverse will help.

“We hope that by the end of the decade that we can help a billion people use the metaverse and support hundreds of billions of dollars of digital commerce,” he told an earnings call this week.

Regulators are circling the platform after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked reams of internal company documents showing executives know of the harm its products may cause to teens, public discourse and democracy.

Though US lawmakers have failed serially to keep up with social media’s evolution and thus its regulation, the latest crisis has given new impetus to those efforts.

The metaverse Zuckerberg strolled through in Thursday’s promotional pitch was a friendly place of connection and did not evoke the angry political fights or anti-vaccine misinformation that discolors social media.

Getting control of what Facebook sees as the future of online life would also position the company to slip past the power of Apple and Google.

Apple’s iPhone privacy changes, which allow users to block tracking, have significantly affected its advertising revenues because less data could be collected.

A worker picks up trash in front of a new logo and the name 'Meta' on the sign in front of Facebook headquarters on October 28, 2021 in Menlo Park, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP
A worker picks up trash in front of a new logo and the name ‘Meta’ on the sign in front of Facebook headquarters on October 28, 2021 in Menlo Park, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

 

The move by Apple earlier this year has sparked a rift with Facebook and other tech rivals and could have major implications for data privacy and the mobile ecosystem.

“We… see this rebrand as a marker of the company’s desire to build and own the rails of what it believes to be the next major computing platform,” said analyst Audrey Schomer from eMarketer.

On top of the risks and costs of betting huge on what is essentially a vision for the future, analysts noted Facebook has chosen a turbulent moment to change its name.

Manfredi Ricca, global chief strategy officer at Interbrand consultancy, said the aspirations were clear but action is also required.

“Rebranding is not just changing a name, rebranding is also embracing a completely different operating model,” he told AFP.

“Where it will fail or succeed is going to be about what they are tangibly going to change,” he added.

AFP

Embattled Facebook Changes Name To ‘Meta’ In Major Rebrand

This illustration photo taken in Los Angeles on October 28, 2021, shows a person using Facebook on a smartphone in front of a computer screen showing the META logo.  (Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP)

 

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday announced the parent company’s name is being changed to “Meta” to represent a future beyond just its troubled social network.

The new handle comes as the social media giant tries to fend off one its worst crises yet and pivot to its ambitions for the “metaverse” virtual reality version of the internet that the tech giant sees as the future.

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will keep their names under the rebranding.

“We’ve learned a lot from struggling with social issues and living under closed platforms, and now it is time to take everything that we’ve learned and help build the next chapter,” Zuckerberg said during an annual developers conference.

READ ALSO: New Whistleblower Accuses Facebook Of Wrongdoing

“I am proud to announce that starting today, our company is now Meta. Our mission remains the same, still about bringing people together, our apps and their brands, they’re not changing,” he added.

Facebook critics pounced last week on a report that leaked the rebranding plans, arguing the company was aiming to distract from recent scandals and controversy.

A worker picks up trash in front of a new logo and the name 'Meta' on the sign in front of Facebook headquarters on October 28, 2021 in Menlo Park, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP
A worker picks up trash in front of a new logo and the name ‘Meta’ on the sign in front of Facebook headquarters on October 28, 2021 in Menlo Park, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

 

An activist group calling itself The Real Facebook Oversight Board has warned that major industries like oil and tobacco had rebranded to “deflect attention” from their problems.

“Facebook thinks that a rebrand can help them change the subject,” the group said last week, adding the “real issue” was the need for oversight and regulation.

Facebook has just announced plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to build the “metaverse,” with Zuckerberg emerging as a leading promoter of the concept.

Crisis mode

The social media giant has been battling a fresh crisis since former employee Frances Haugen leaked reams of internal studies showing executives knew of their sites’ potential for harm, prompting a renewed US push for regulation.

Facebook has been hit by major crises previously, but the current view behind the curtain of the insular company has fueled a frenzy of scathing reports and scrutiny from US regulators.

“Good faith criticism helps us get better, but my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company,” Zuckerberg said in an earnings call on Monday.

The Washington Post last month suggested that Facebook’s interest in the metaverse is “part of a broader push to rehabilitate the company’s reputation with policymakers and reposition Facebook to shape the regulation of next-wave Internet technologies.”

Google rebranded itself as Alphabet in a corporate reconfiguration in 2015, but the online search and ad powerhouse remains its defining unit despite other operations such as Waymo self-driving cars and Verily life sciences.

New Whistleblower Accuses Facebook Of Wrongdoing

This handout image obtained November 4, 2019 courtesy of Facebook, shows the new company logo for Facebook. PHOTO: Eric BARADAT / FACEBOOK / AFP

 

A former Facebook worker reportedly told US authorities Friday the platform has put profits before stopping problematic content, weeks after another whistleblower helped stoke the firm’s latest crisis with similar claims.

The unnamed new whistleblower filed a complaint with US financial regulator Securities and Exchange Commission that could add to the company’s woes, said a Washington Post report.

Facebook has faced a storm of criticism over the past month after former employee Frances Haugen leaked internal studies showing the company knew of potential harm stoked by its sites, prompting US lawmakers’ to renew a push for regulation.

READ ALSO: Britain Set For £7bn Transport Investment

In the SEC complaint, the new whistleblower recounts alleged statements from 2017, when the company was deciding how to handle the controversy related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

“It will be a flash in the pan. Some legislators will get pissy. And then in a few weeks they will move onto something else. Meanwhile we are printing money in the basement, and we are fine,” Tucker Bounds, a member of Facebook’s communications team, was quoted in the complaint as saying, The Washington Post reported.

The second whistleblower signed the complaint on October 13, a week after Haugen’s scathing testimony before a Senate panel, according to the report.

Haugen told lawmakers that Facebook put profits over safety, which led her to leak reams of internal company studies that underpinned a damning Wall Street Journal series.

The Washington Post reported the new whistleblowers SEC filing claims the social media giant’s managers routinely undermined efforts to combat misinformation and other problematic content for fear of angering then US president Donald Trump or for turning off the users who are key to profits.

Erin McPike, a Facebook spokeswoman, said the article was “beneath the Washington Post, which during the last five years would only report stories after deep reporting with corroborating sources.”

Facebook has faced previous firestorms of controversy, but that has not translated into substantial new US legislation to regulate social media.

AFP

Facebook Grapples With Another Global Outage

(FILES) this file photo taken on October 05, 2020, in Toulouse, southwestern France, shows logos of US social networks Facebook and Instagram on the screens of a tablet and a mobile phone. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook on Friday said users around the world again had problems accessing its services for hours due to a tweak of its system, just days after a massive outage caused in a similar fashion.

“Sincere apologies to anyone who wasn’t able to access our products in the last couple of hours,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP about 21:30 GMT.

“We fixed the issue, and everything should be back to normal now.”

Website trouble tracker DownDetector showed spikes in reports of problems accessing or using Facebook and its photo-centric Instagram network as well as Messenger and WhatsApp starting about three hours earlier.

READ ALSO: 51 Dead, Scores Missing As Makeshift Vessel Sinks In DR Congo

Facebook attributed the trouble to a configuration change at its computing platform and said that it affected users of the social network and  Instagram, Messenger and Workplace globally.

People flocked to Twitter to voice frustration.

“What’s up with Instagram?” read a tweet that included a picture of cartoon character Bart Simpson sitting in a corner in apparent punishment.

“It’s not even 4 days and it’s already down again.”

“Problems with Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp AGAIN!” read a lament in a DownDetector chat forum.

Hundreds of millions of people were unable to access Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp for more than six hours on Monday, underscoring the world’s reliance on platforms owned by the Silicon Valley giant.

In an apologetic blog post, Santosh Janardhan, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, said that day’s outage was caused by “configuration changes” on routers that coordinate network traffic between data centers.

Cyber experts think that problem boiled down to something called BGP, or Border Gateway Protocol — the system the internet uses to pick the quickest route to move packets of information around.

Sami Slim of data center company Telehouse compared BGP to “the internet equivalent of air traffic control.”

In the same way that air traffic controllers sometimes make changes to flight schedules, “Facebook did an update of these routes,” Slim said.

But this update contained a crucial error.

It’s not yet clear how or why, but Facebook’s routers essentially sent a message to the internet announcing that the company’s servers no longer existed.

The outage on Friday was not related to the one earlier in the week, according to Facebook.

Experts say Facebook’s technical infrastructure is unusually reliant on its own systems.

Social media outages are not uncommon: Instagram alone has experienced more than 80 in the past year in the United States, according to website builder ToolTester.

Facebook’s services are crucial for many businesses around the world, and Facebook accounts are also commonly used to log in to other websites.

Facebook’s apps are used by billions of people monthly, meaning outages can touch a large portion of the world’s population.

Why Did Facebook, Instagram And WhatsApp Shut Down?

This file photo taken on October 5, 2020, shows logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP
This file photo taken on October 5, 2020, shows logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Hundreds of millions of people were unable to access Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp for more than six hours on Monday, underscoring the world’s reliance on platforms owned by the Silicon Valley giant.

But what actually caused the outage?

What does Facebook say happened? 

In an apologetic blog post, Santosh Janardhan, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, said that “configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centres caused issues that interrupted this communication”.

Facebook explained Tuesday the outage was “caused not by malicious activity, but an error of our own making.”

Can you explain that in plain English? –

Cyber experts think the problem boils down to something called BGP, or Border Gateway Protocol — the system the internet uses to pick the quickest route to move packets of information around.

Sami Slim of data centre company Telehouse compared BGP to “the internet equivalent of air traffic control”.

In the same way that air traffic controllers sometimes make changes to flight schedules, “Facebook did an update of these routes,” Slim said.

But this update contained a crucial error.

It’s not yet clear how or why, but Facebook’s routers essentially sent a message to the internet announcing that the company’s servers no longer existed.

Why did it take so long to fix the problem? 

Experts say Facebook’s technical infrastructure is unusually reliant on its own systems — and that proved disastrous on Monday.

After Facebook sent the fateful routing update, its engineers got locked out of the system that would allow them to communicate that the update had, in fact, been an error. So they couldn’t fix the problem.

“Normally it’s good not to put all your eggs in one basket,” said Pierre Bonis of AFNIC, the association that manages domain names in France.

“For security reasons, Facebook has had to very strongly concentrate its infrastructure,” he said.

“That streamlines things on a daily basis — but because everything is in the same place, when that place has a problem, nothing works.”

The knock-on effects of the shutdown included some Facebook employees being unable to even enter their buildings because their security badges no longer worked, further slowing the response.

 Is this unprecedented? 

Social media outages are not uncommon: Instagram alone has experienced more than 80 in the past year in the United States, according to website builder ToolTester.

This week’s Facebook outage was rare in its length and scale, however.

There is also a precedent for BGP meddling being at the root of a social media shutdown.

In 2008, when a Pakistani internet service provider was attempting to block YouTube for domestic users, it inadvertently shut down the global website for several hours.

– And the outage’s impact? –
Between Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, “billions of users have been impacted by the services being entirely offline”, the Downdetector tracking service said.

Facebook, whose shares fell nearly five percent over the outage, has stressed there is “no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime”.

But even though it lasted just a few hours, the impact of the shutdown ran deep.

Facebook’s services are crucial for many businesses around the world, and users complained of being cut off from their livelihoods.

Facebook accounts are also commonly used to log in to other websites, which faced additional problems due to the company’s technical meltdown.

Rival instant messaging services, meanwhile, reported that they had benefited from the fact that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger were down.

Telegram went from the 56th-most downloaded free app in the United States to the fifth, according to monitoring firm SensorTower, while Signal tweeted that “millions” of new users had joined.

And among the more curious side-effects, several domain name registration companies listed Facebook.com as available for purchase.

“There was never any reason to believe Facebook.com would actually be sold as a result, but it’s fun to consider how many billions of dollars it could fetch on the open market,” said cyber security expert Brian Krebs.

AFP

Facebook Whistleblower To Push For Regulation

(FILES) This file photo taken on October 05, 2020, in Toulouse, southwestern France, shows logos of US social networks Facebook and Instagram on the screens of a tablet and a mobile phone. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

A Facebook whistleblower goes before US lawmakers Tuesday to urge regulation of the social media giant after an outage impacted potentially billions of users and highlighted global dependence on its services.

Ex-employee Frances Haugen is set to testify on Capitol Hill after she leaked reams of internal research to authorities and the Wall Street Journal, which detailed how Facebook knew its sites were potentially harmful to young people’s mental health.

She will speak before senators less than a day after Facebook, its photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp went offline for roughly seven hours, with “billions of users” impacted, according to tracker Downdetector.

In excerpts of Haugen’s testimony leaked to US media, she argues for regulation of the closely scrutinized company that is woven into the daily lives of so many people.

“When we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harms it caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seatbelts, the government took action,” the excerpts said. “I implore you to do the same here.”

Facebook has pushed back hard against the outrage regarding its practices and their impact, but this is just the latest crisis to hit the Silicon Valley giant.

US lawmakers for years have threatened to regulate Facebook and other social media platforms to address criticisms that the tech giants trample on privacy, provide a megaphone for dangerous misinformation and damage young people’s well-being.

After years of fierce criticism directed at social media, without major legislative overhauls, some experts were skeptical that change was coming.

“It’s going to have to come down to the platforms, feeling pressure from their users feeling pressure from their employees,” Mark Hass, an Arizona State University professor told AFP.

 

‘I Love Instagram’

Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa, has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest — but said in an interview Sunday with CBS news show “60 Minutes” that Facebook was “substantially worse” than anything she had seen before.

Facebook’s vice president of policy and global affairs Nick Clegg vehemently pushed back at the assertion its platforms are “toxic” for teens, days after a tense, hours-long congressional hearing in which US lawmakers grilled the company over its impact on the mental health of young users.

Facebook has not commented on the possible cause of Monday’s outage, but cyber security experts noted they had found signs that online routes that lead people to the social giant were disrupted.

“Sometime this morning Facebook took away the map telling the world’s computers how to find its various online properties,” according to a post-Monday from cyber security expert Brian Krebs.

In addition to the disruption to people, businesses, and others that rely on the company’s tools, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a financial hit.

Fortune’s billionaire tracking website late Monday said Zuckerberg’s personal fortune plunged by nearly $6 billion from the prior day to land at just under $117 billion.

Some people rejoiced at Facebook’s tools being offline, but some complained to AFP that the outage had caused trouble for them both professionally and personally.

“I love Instagram. It’s the app I use the most, especially for my job,” said Millie Donnelly, community manager for a nonprofit.

“So professionally, it’s definitely a step back and then personally, I just am always on the app,” she added.

Facebook Fights Global Outage, Whistleblower Revelations

(FILES) this file photo taken on October 05, 2020 in Toulouse, southwestern France, shows logos of US social networks Facebook and Instagram on the screens of a tablet and a mobile phone. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook battled dueling crises Monday as potentially billions of users were impacted when its dominant social network went offline for seven hours, and the company fought against a whistleblower’s damning revelations.

Many long-held fears and criticisms about the platform seem to have been backed up by Facebook’s own research, which ex-worker Frances Haugen has turned over to authorities and the Wall Street Journal.

But as US senators prepared for her highly anticipated Tuesday testimony on the documents, Facebook went offline in an outage that hit users across its platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp.

“Billions of users have been impacted by the services being entirely offline today,” tracker Downdetector wrote on its website.

Facebook apologized in a tweet later Monday Silicon Valley time, just as the apps started to go back online.

“We’ve been working hard to restore access to our apps and services and are happy to report they are coming back online now,” the company added.

Facebook late Monday blamed the outage on configuration changes it made to routers that coordinate network traffic between its data centers.

“This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt,” Facebook vice president of infrastructure Santosh Janardhan said in a post.

Cyber security expert Brian Krebs described what happened as Facebook taking away “the map telling the world’s computers how to find its various online properties.”

In addition to the disruption to people, businesses and others that rely on the company’s tools, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a financial hit.

Fortune’s billionaire tracking website late Monday said Zuckerberg’s personal fortune plunged by nearly $6 billion from the prior day to land at just under $117 billion.

For Facebook’s rivals, it was a good day, however.

The messaging service Telegram went from the 56th most downloaded free app in the US to the fifth, according to specialist firm SensorTower.

The encrypted messaging app Signal tweeted that “millions” of new users had joined, and added that it was “Signal and ready to mignal.”

It was not the only Twitter user to crack jokes over the outage, though others complained about being cut off from contacts, their sources of income, or business tools.

Some were philosophical, however — such as Cindy Bennett, a baker in New York City, who told AFP: “I think the world would probably be a better place if everybody didn’t know what everybody else was doing every second of every minute of every day.”

 

‘Make Body Dissatisfaction Worse’

Facebook has pushed back hard against the outrage regarding its practices and impact, but this is just the latest crisis to hit the business.

US lawmakers for years have threatened to regulate Facebook and other social media giants to address criticisms that the platforms trample on privacy, provide a megaphone for dangerous misinformation and damage young people’s well-being.

After years of criticism directed at social media, without major legislative overhauls, some experts were skeptical that change was coming.

“This is a situation where there’s going to be a lot of smoke, and a lot of fury, but not a lot of action,” said Mark Hass, an Arizona State University professor

“It’s going to have to come down to the platforms, feeling pressure from their users feeling pressure from their employees,” he added, noting authorities won’t effectively be able to regulate content.

Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa, has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest — but said in an interview with CBS news show “60 Minutes” that Facebook was “substantially worse” than anything she had seen before.

Facebook’s vice president of policy and global affairs Nick Clegg vehemently pushed back at the assertion its platforms are “toxic” for teens, days after a tense, hours-long congressional hearing in which US lawmakers grilled the company over its impact on the mental health of young users.

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp Hit By Massive Outage

This file photo taken on October 5, 2020, shows logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP
This file photo taken on October 5, 2020, shows logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Major social media services including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were hit by a massive outage on Monday, tracking sites showed, impacting potentially tens of millions of users.

Outage tracker Downdetector was showing outages in heavily populated areas like Washington and Paris, with problems being reported from around 1545 GMT.

Users trying to access Facebook in affected areas were greeted with the message: “Something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said on Twitter.

The outage comes a day after a whistleblower went on US television to reveal her identity after she leaked a trove of documents to authorities alleging the social media giant knew its products were fueling hate and harming children’s mental health.

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Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa, has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest — but said in an interview with CBS news show “60 Minutes” that Facebook was “substantially worse” than anything she had seen before.

The world’s largest social media platform has been embroiled in a firestorm brought about by Haugen, with US lawmakers and The Wall Street Journal detailing how Facebook knew its products, including Instagram, were harming young girls, especially around body image.

Facebook did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the outage.

AFP

Facebook Seeks To Defend Itself After Scathing Reports

 

Facebook on Tuesday fired back after a series of withering Wall Street Journal reports that the company failed to keep users safe, with the social media giant noting an increase in staff and spending on battling abuses.

The company has been under relentless pressure to guard against being a platform where misinformation and hate can spread, while at the same time remain a forum for people to speak freely. It has struggled to respond.

A series of recent Wall Street Journal reports said the company knew its Instagram photo-sharing tool was hurting teenage girls’ mental health, and that its moderation system had a double standard allowing VIPs to skirt rules.

One of the articles, citing Facebook’s own research, said a 2018 change to its software ended up promoting political outrage and division.

But Facebook said Tuesday it has spent more than $13 billion in the past five years on teams and technology devoted to fighting abuses.

Some 40,000 people now work on safety and security for the California-based tech giant, quadruple the number in the year 2016, according to Facebook.

“How technology companies grapple with complex issues is being heavily scrutinized, and often, without important context,” Facebook contended in a blog post.

The social network launched an about.facebook.com/progress website to showcase work done to counter abuses.

Facebook’s Nick Clegg also attacked the reporting in a blog post on Saturday, saying the articles were unfair.

“At the heart of this series is an allegation that is just plain false: that Facebook conducts research and then systematically and willfully ignores it if the findings are inconvenient for the company,” he wrote.

The Journal stories cited, in part, studies commissioned by the company and which contained disturbing revelations like: “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”

Clegg said the stories selectively employed quotes in a way that offered a deliberately lop-sided view of the company’s work.

“We will continue to ask ourselves the hard questions. And we will continue to improve our products and services as a result,” he said in the closing lines of his post.

Facebook recently launched an effort targeting users working together on the platform to promote real-world violence or conspiracy theories, beginning by taking down a German network spreading Covid misinformation.

The new tool is meant to detect organized, malicious efforts that are a threat but fall short of the social media giant’s existing rules against hate groups, said Facebook’s head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher.