Tag: Twitter

Reporter uses bots to tackle racists

Dancing Racists-2The Washington Post’s Kevin Munger used Twitter bots, one “white” and one “black” to tackle racism and appears to have worked out a strategy which reduces racist slurs.

Munger used Twitter accounts to send messages designed to remind harassers of the humanity of their victims and to reconsider the norms of online behaviour.

He sent every harasser the same message:

@[subject] Hey man, just remember that there are real people who are hurt when you harass them with that kind of language

He then used a racial slur as the search term because it was the strongest evidence that a tweet might contain racist harassment. He restricted the sample to users who had a history of using offensive language, and only included white subjects or anonymous people.

He bought followers for half of the bots — 500 followers, to be specific — and gave the remaining bots only two followers each (see screenshot above). This represents a large status difference: a Twitter user with two followers is unlikely to be taken seriously, while 500 followers is a substantial number.

Only one of the four types of bots caused a significant reduction in the subjects’ rate of tweeting slurs – the white bots with 500 followers.

Generally, though he found it is possible to cause people to use less harassing language and it is more most likely when both individuals share a social identity. Unsurprisingly, high status people are also more likely to cause a change.

Munger thinks that many are already engaged in sanctioning bad behaviour online, but they are doing it in a way that can backfire. If people call out bad behaviour in a way that emphasises the social distance between themselves and the person they’re calling out then telling people off is less likely to be effective.

 

CIA-backed monitoring group fires half its staff

spyA CIA-backed internet monitoring group has been forced to fire half its staff after it lost rights to monitor Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Geofeedia came under the spotlight when it was discovered that it enabled law enforcement surveillance. In mid-October, Twitter followed Facebook and Instagram in cut Geofeedia off from its valuable data stream.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report said police had used the platform to track protests and other large gatherings.

Now without the detail provided from social notworking,  the company has fired 31 of its approximately 60 employees, mostly in its sales office..

CEO Phil Harris said Geofeedia wasn’t “created to impact civil liberties,” but in the wake of the public debate over their product, they’re changing the company’s direction.

“Following these suspensions, we have decided to scale back our business and focus on a variety of innovations that will allow us to serve our customers and continue our rapid growth trajectory as a leading real-time analytics and alerting platform,” the statement said.

He claimed that Geofeedia’s software was useful for schools, sports leagues, customer service, marketing and event planning, per the statement. He also referred to the company’s $17 million funding round in February — which brought its total funding to nearly $24 million — and “strong sales and growth” as strengthening the company.

Geofeedia would not say if it lost clients following the ACLU report, and declined to specify what it was going to do next.

Twitter’s money man moves on

adam bane twitter The bloke credited with making Twitter survive by finding ways of making money from it has quit.

Chief Operating Officer , and top Twit,  Adam Bain, built a decent advertising business around Twitter even as its user numbers started to slow.

When Bain joined Twitter in 2010 when it had almost no revenue and built an advertising sales machine that generated some $2.2 billion last year. A popular executive who was once considered a possible chief executive for the company, Bain was named COO in October last year.

Apparently, he is going to “explore other opportunities” which is a bit like “wants to spend more time with his family.” There does not appear to be any bad blood spilt, Bain is remaining at Twitter in the coming weeks to assist with the transition of the chief operating officer role.

The move is not that great for Twitter which has been trying to sell itself off and has trimmed nine percent of its global workforce to keep costs down.

Bain will be replaced by Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto, the company said, adding it would begin a search for a new CFO.

Noto, became the finance chief in 2014, will continue to manage the live content business as well as Twitter’s global advertising sales, data and mobile ad exchange MoPub.

In announcing his exit on Twitter, Bain heaped praise on CEO Jack Dorsey and added: “I’m excited to take w me everything I’ve experienced at Twitter & do something totally different and new outside the company. Stay tuned!”

 

US elections see the rise of the Twitter bots

Alice_Micro_Robot_SwarmResearchers have shown that the lead candidates in both the US elections are relying on Twitter bots to get out their message.

Researchers demonstrated in their analysis of Twitter traffic during the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and found huge numbers of active bots which were being used to amplify support on Twitter.

Samuel Woolley, director of research at Political Bots, said automated accounts were tweeting messages with hashtags associated with the candidates. For example, #makeamericagreatagain or #draintheswamp for Trump; #imwithher for Clinton. The numbers were huge  –  one third of all tweets using pro-Trump hashtags were created by bots and one fifth of all Clinton hashtags were generated by automated accounts.

Woolley said that the bots were acting as a prosthesis for small groups of people to affect conversation on social media. This bot activity was often picked up by the “real media” to show who had a lot of support online.

“But what we found was that a lot of traffic surrounding Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is actually manufactured,” he said.

This has been seen in the past. Such bots were used in the 2008 special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Massachuetts Senate seat in 2008.

A conservative group in Iowa, the American Future Fund, set up nine Twitter accounts that sent 929 tweets and reached more than 60,000 people with messages accusing the Democratic candidate in the race, Martha Coakley, of being anti-Catholic, the researchers found.

“Political actors and governments worldwide have begun using bots to manipulate public opinion, choke off debate, and muddy political issues. Political bots tend to be developed and deployed in sensitive political moments when public opinion is polarized,” Woolley and his colleagues wrote in their report.

“The problem is that a lot of people don’t know bots exist, and that trends on social media or even online polls can be gamed by bots very easily.

It has been estimated that the proportion of bots to humans on the Internet is about 50-50.

Big Tech reacts in horror to Yahoo’s spying story

A shocked Baby (2)_fullAfter the news got out that Yahoo has been scanning its mail systems for the US spooks, the bigger US ISPs have reacted in horror and said they would never dream of such a thing.

Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter have all said they would never do such a thing.

According to Reuters, Yahoo built in 2015, at the US  government’s request, software that scans literally all emails for certain information provided by either the National Security Agency or the FBI. The software was never mentioned in Yahoo’s biannual transparency report. In the latter half of 2015, the company received 4,460 total government data requests, for 9,373 accounts, that it would classify as “Government Data Requests,” a category that includes National Security Letters from the FBI and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requests.

According to the Reuters report, the Yahoo programme was known to only a handful of employees.

A Facebook representative said “Facebook has never received a request like the one described in these news reports from any government, and if we did we would fight it.”

Google said the same: “We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘no way.’”

A Microsoft spokesperson added: “We have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo.”

A representative for Twitter replied that: “We’ve never received a request like this, and were we to receive it we’d challenge it in a court. Separately, while federal law prohibits companies from being able to share information about certain types of national security related requests, we are currently suing the Justice Department for the ability to disclose more information about government requests.”

While Apple declined to give a statement on the record it has previously said it would never do anything like that.

Yahoo is coming out looking like the bad guy. It is in talks to be acquired by Verizon, but also facing another scandal for suffering the largest known user data leak in history, with 500 million users’ information exposed. However it failed to mention it to its users.

Snowden ain’t dead yet

snowden_2912545bA bizzare conspiracy theory started over the weekend claiming that the spooks had finally offed Edward Snowden.

It all started when Snowden posted a tweat saying: “its time” and then followed by another one which had a long hex string.  The two tweets were mysteriously deleted and conspiracy nuts thought that it was a deadman’s switch. An automatic code releasing more secret documents in the advent he was bumped off.

Snowden had not been heard of since and the posts were deleted.  However his made and co-conspirator in the whole leaking game Glenn Greenwald  tweeted the Snowden was fine.  However he didn’t provide any details either, although it is hard to prove a negative.

For some reason people have not thought “oh, he must have sat on his mobile” or tweeted by mistake.  Happens to me all the time and no one thinks I have been offed by the CIA or a desperate Apple fanboy.

 

Twitter results disappoint Wall Street

Wall Street is very disappointed with TwTwitteritter and is talking about the outfit being sold or at very least its CEO Jack Dorsey being forced to walk the plank.

Twitter announced second quarter earnings that missed estimates and the company provided a  lower than expected outlook.

Its share price fell almost 15 percent and Twitter shares are down 50 percent since Dorsey returned last summer to the helm of the social media company he co-founded.

In fact Twitter continues to show almost no growth in its user base of a little over 300 million and its  advertising revenues are softer than a baby’s bottom.

The company cut its forward revenue estimate for the next quarter to $590 million- $610 million, while analysts had been expecting $681 million.

At a market cap of about $11 billon, compared with more than $40 billion at its peak, Twitter could now be a more attractive takeover target.

Verizon, which owns AOL, this week said it would buy Yahoo for $4.8 billion. Google, Disney and Apple have also been mentioned as possible acquirers of Twitter.

Twitter surged briefly earlier this month after Microsoft announced its acquisition of LinkedIn, as investors hoped for a similar deal for Twitter, but it seemed that Vole was not going to be that silly.

 

Top three net companies sued over Paris deaths

parisThe dad of one of the 130 people killed in the Paris shootings is suing Google, Facebook and Twitter claiming that they knowingly helped the terrorists.

Reynaldo Gonzalez’s daughter, Nohemi, was among the 130 killed when religious extremists attacked Paris last year.  He claims that Twitter, Facebook and Google for facilitating the spread of “extremist propaganda” after alleging the trio “knowingly permitted” ISIS to recruit, raise money and spread its message across each of the respective platforms.

The court documents say that for years, the companies have knowingly permitted the terrorist group ISIS to use their social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits.

“This material support has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS, and has enabled it to carry out numerous terrorist attacks, including the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris, where more than 125 were killed, including Nohemi Gonzalez.”

Without Twitter, Facebook and Google-owned YouTube, religious extremists would not have the infrastructure to get their message to the masses, he claimed.

While we are sympathetic for his loss, the court does appear a bit unfair. Each company goes to great lengths to police its ranks and remove offending content. It is a game of “wack-a-rat”, which companies often lose because of it being the internet. The danger is that he might actually win which would leave internet companies open to massive lawsuits every time there is a terrorist act.

Blaming the Internet for the sins of humanity is not the best way to move forward on anything.  The big three are developing AI in an attempt to clamp down on extremist posts.  If they pull it off then there will be fewer extremist sites and posts. It is taking a while to get the tech right.

We have reached peak Facebook

FacebookSocial notworking sites have reached their peak and might start to fade from view from now on, according to the latest figures.

London-based data collection company SimilarWeb studied the habits of Android users across the world, to monitor the changing popularity of social media apps and discovered that the social media frenzy is dying down and people are starting to spend less time on social media apps.

In almost all countries, time spent on the four leading social media apps, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter had fallen.

In some cases, the drop in usage was minimal, with Snapchat usage in Brazil dropping from 11.23 minutes to 11.10 minutes.

Other cases saw a more substantial drop, like time spent on Twitter in France. Over Q1 2015, the average in France was 19.80 minutes and in Q1 2016, that number dropped to 13.12, a drop of 34 per cent.

In a few cases, such as Facebook’s usage in Spain, time spent within an app did rise but that was bucking the trend.

SimilarWeb marketing analyst Pavel Tuchinsky said that across the board, people are spending less time on their Social Media apps.

Most countries spent less time on Facebook compared to last year, with the exception of Germany where the time was roughly the same last year compared to this.

Instagram also saw a rise in installs in several countries including France, Germany, and the US. Instagram’s biggest loss, however, came in India where the app dropped from being installed on 32 per cent  of Android devices to 19 per cent.

Social notworking giants sign hate speech pact

Chamberlain_MunichFacebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube and Microsoft have signed a pact agreeing with an EU code of conduct to tackle online hate speech within 24 hours in Europe.

You will still be allowed hate speech in the US so the central platform of the Trump campaign is still safe but those who try to copy his strategy in the EU might become a little unstuck.

EU governments have been trying in recent months to get social platforms to crack down on rising online racism following the refugee crisis and terror attacks, with some even threatening action against the companies.

As part of the pledge agreed with the European Commission, the web giants will review the majority of valid requests for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to the content if necessary.

They will also strengthen their cooperation with civil society organizations who help flag hateful content when it goes online and promote “counter-narratives” to hate speech.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said: “The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people.”

Germany got Google, Facebook and Twitter to agree to delete hate speech from their websites within 24 hours last year and even launched an investigation into the European head of Facebook over its alleged failure to remove racist hate speech.

The code of conduct is largely a continuation of efforts that the companies already take to counter hate speech on their websites, such as developing tools for people to report hateful content and training staff to handle such requests.
Twitter has suspended over 125,000 accounts since the middle of 2015 for threatening or promoting terror acts, primarily related to Islamic State.
EU ministers had called for cooperation with tech companies to be stepped up after the Brussels attacks in March.