Was Fake News About ‘Attacks’ on Migrant Labourers an Attempt to Malign Tamil Nadu?

On March 1, several non-BJP leaders – including Congress president Mallikarjuna Kharge, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejaswi Yadav – descended in Tamil Nadu. The occasion was Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin’s 70th birth anniversary and the meeting turned out to be a massive show of opposition unity. The leaders were keen on setting up a strong national-level front to counter the BJP and promised to fight against “divisive forces”.

The next day, when journalists asked Stalin if he was eying national politics, he said he was “already there”. Hours later, rumours and fake narratives about “attacks on migrant labourers” from North India in Tamil Nadu began doing rounds on social media.

While several fact-checkers have debunked the claims about these videos, observers see a political motive behind the narrative.

— source thewire.in | 07/Mar/2023

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Social Media Giants ‘Directly Aided’ Fascist Insurrection in Brazil

The fascist attack on Brazil’s main government complex was “directly aided” by major social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, and Telegram, the global watchdog group SumOfUs said Monday as the country’s authorities continued their cleanup efforts, investigation, and arrests of suspects involved in the anti-democratic assault.

The insurrection, carried out by supporters of far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro, “can come as no surprise to social media executives, who were warned time and again that their platforms, tools, and algorithms were directly aiding a violent uprising in Brazil,” said Flora Rebello Arduini, campaign director at SumOfUs, a nonprofit that has been monitoring the proliferation of election lies on social media in the South American country.

Referencing the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol, which was also abetted by social media giants, Arduini added that “we’ve now seen this happen in two of the world’s

— source commondreams.org | Jake Johnson | Jan 09, 2023

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Facebook disables accounts tied to NYU’s research into political ads

Facebook said Tuesday that it disabled accounts tied to a project from New York University that analyzed political ads on the social network. The company said researchers collected data from Facebook users without their consent. [joke of this century]

Researchers launched the project, known as the NYU Ad Observatory, ahead of the 2020 US presidential election to make it easier for journalists, policy makers and the public to spot trends about Facebook political ad targeting. As part of the project, NYU created a plug-in Facebook users could add to their web browser that copied the ads they saw on the social network and stored that data in a public database. The browser extension also collected usernames, links to user profiles and information about why users see a particular ad, information that isn’t publicly available.

But Facebook said researchers violated the social network’s rules by scraping data from users through “unauthorized means.” The company said the browser extension collected

— source cnet.com | Queenie Wong | Aug. 3, 2021

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Stewardship of global collective behavior

Collective behavior provides a framework for understanding how the actions and properties of groups emerge from the way individuals generate and share information. In humans, information flows were initially shaped by natural selection yet are increasingly structured by emerging communication technologies. Our larger, more complex social networks now transfer high-fidelity information over vast distances at low cost. The digital age and the rise of social media have accelerated changes to our social systems, with poorly understood functional consequences. This gap in our knowledge represents a principal challenge to scientific progress, democracy, and actions to address global crises. We argue that the study of collective behavior must rise to a “crisis discipline” just as medicine, conservation, and climate science have, with a focus on providing actionable insight to policymakers and regulators for the stewardship of social systems.

Collective behavior historically referred to instances in which groups of humans or animals exhibited coordinated action in the absence of an obvious leader (1–4): from billions of locusts, extending over hundreds of kilometers, devouring vegetation as they move onward; to schools of fish convulsing like some animate fluid while under attack from predators; to our own societies, characterized by cities, with buildings and streets full of color and sound, alive with activity. The characteristic feature of all of these systems is that social interactions among the individual organisms give rise to patterns and structure at higher levels of organization, from the formation of vast mobile groups

— source pnas.org | Joseph B. Bak-Coleman, Mark Alfano, Wolfram Barfuss, Elke U. Weber | Jun 21, 2021

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Facebook Just Suspended the Accounts of Some of Its Biggest Critics

Facebook has made good on its threat to kick out a group of researchers who’ve been among the platform’s biggest critics.

The Cybersecurity for Democracy project at New York University has revealed major flaws in Facebook political ad transparency tools and highlighted how Facebook’s algorithms were amplifying misinformation. Most recently, it helped track vaccine disinformation in coordination with the Virality Project, a group that tries to neutralize false narratives spreading on social media.

Despite the obvious benefits of the work being done by these researchers, on Tuesday evening, the company cut the cord.

“This evening, Facebook suspended my Facebook account and the accounts of several people associated with Cybersecurity for Democracy, our team at NYU,” Laura Edelson, one of the

— source vice.com | David Gilbert | 04 Aug 2021

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Facebook shuts down major left wing group in Britain

Facebook has shut down the accounts of one of the biggest left wing organisations in Britain, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The Socialist Workers Party Facebook page – as well as account of local pages – have been removed from Facebook with no explanation given. Those targeted say it amounts to a silencing of political activists.

The SWP Facebook page regularly posts in support of Palestine, Black Lives Matter and against Boris Johnson’s Covid policies. It also hosts dozens of online events every week that activists across the country take part in.

— source socialistworker.co.uk | 22 Jan 2021

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New Apps Aim to Douse the Social Media Dumpster Fire

After Elon Musk’s recent acquisition of Twitter, many habitual tweeters announced their intentions of switching to other social platforms. Some blamed their defection on fears of an increase in hate speech and misinformation on the site. But even before the takeover, social media platforms such as Twitter already had a major problem that was driving users away: they make people miserable.

So some companies are developing new social apps that aim to foster a positive online environment—and they have gained a significant number of users. But despite their good intentions, these new platforms may be interpreted simply as marshmallows toasting over the metaphorical “dumpster fires” of social media: They can make the experience taste a little sweeter, but without a shift in people’s behavior, these alternatives might just melt into the unavoidable flames.

On most social platforms, users can browse through a seemingly endless series of posts, which are ordered by algorithms. The software prioritizes content that will keep people scrolling, so it promotes posts that draw “engagement” in the form of likes, shares or comments. This gives an edge to divisive or outrageous content that grabs attention, whether or not that attention is negative. As a result, many people feel compelled to keep scrolling through their feed, even as it serves up posts that inspire disgust, fatigue and depression. But giving up a platform altogether can cut people off from their friends and even induce anxiety. In an attempt to foster a more positive online atmosphere, apps

— source scientificamerican.com | Kenna Hughes-Castleberry | Jan 30, 2023

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On social media false news travels faster than true stories

A new study by three MIT scholars has found that false news spreads more rapidly on the social network Twitter than real news does — and by a substantial margin. false news stories are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories are. It also takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number of people. When it comes to Twitter’s “cascades,” or unbroken retweet chains, falsehoods reach a cascade depth of 10 about 20 times faster than facts. And falsehoods are retweeted by unique users more broadly than true statements at every depth of cascade. The paper, “The Spread of True and False News Online,” is published today in Science.

The bottom-line findings produce a basic question: Why do falsehoods spread more quickly than the truth, on Twitter? the answer may reside in human psychology: We like new things. False news is more novel, and people are more likely to share novel information. And on social networks, people can gain attention by being the first to share previously unknown (but possibly false) information.

People respond to false news more with surprise and disgust, whereas true stories produced replies more generally characterized by sadness, anticipation, and trust. So while the researchers “cannot claim that novelty causes retweets” by itself, as they state in the paper, the surprise people register when they see false news fits with the idea that the novelty of falsehoods may be an important part of their propagation.

The MIT scholars say it is possible that the same phenomenon occurs on other social media platforms, including Facebook, but they emphasize that careful studies are needed on that and other related questions.

— source MIT News Office | Mar 8, 2018

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Facebook in India Has Backed Modi and BJP

Facebook, the biggest online social media group in the world, is under unprecedented attack following the publication on 14 November of a 5,000-word investigation by the New York Times alleging a host of questionable practices by the digital conglomerate, that includes WhatsApp and Instagram. The company’s share prices have come down and particular investors have called for the resignation of Mark Zuckerberg, the 34-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Facebook and his 49-year-old deputy, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. While the two have sought to refute certain specific allegations levelled against them, their leadership abilities and integrity are being questioned like never before. This is arguably the biggest crisis faced by Facebook which has 2.27 billion users across the world, including over 220 million in India – the largest in any country.

Even as allegations against the digital monopoly for allowing its platforms to be misused have intensified globally and calls have been made to break it up, we present an investigation into Facebook’s activities in India. This series of five long reports is based on interviews (quite a few of them off-the-record) with nearly 50 individuals that were conducted over a period of five months starting June 2018 as well as information that is available in the public domain.

While the international digital giant claims it provides an agnostic platform for all to use, there is evidence – some of it circumstantial – to indicate that senior employees of

— source newsclick.in | Cyril Sam, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta | 22 Nov 2018

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Social media equivalent of razor blades in candy

If they aren’t careful—or potentially even if they are—TikTok’s youngest users could find themselves bombarded with dangerous video content within minutes of joining the platform, a new study claims.

The report, released Wednesday evening by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), aims to decrypt TikTok’s algorithm by using accounts that posed as 13-year-old girls, among the platform’s most at-risk users. Every 39 seconds, TikTok served the harmful content to the “standard” fake accounts created as controls. But the group also created “vulnerable” fake accounts—ones that indicated a desire to lose weight. CCDH says this group was exposed to harmful content every 27 seconds.

Researchers set up a duo of standard and vulnerable accounts in four English-speaking countries: the United States, the U.K., Canada, and Australia. They scrolled each account’s For You feed, which provides an inexhaustible supply of videos when a user opens the app. According to TikTok, For You is “central to the TikTok experience” because it’s “where most of our users spend their time.” Every time a video relating to body image, mental health, eating disorders, or self-harm played, CCDH’s team liked it, then paused for 10 seconds. Everything else got skipped.

TikTok’s algorithm has made the app immensely popular and its owner, ByteDance, extremely valuable ($300 billion currently). But speaking to press, CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed called TikTok’s recommendations “the social media equivalent of razor blades in candy—a beautiful package, but absolutely lethal content presented within minutes to users.”

— source fastcompany.com | Clint Rainey | 12-15-22

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