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Facebook Announces Civil Rights Task Force Ahead of 2020 US Polls

To protect elections, said Sandberg, the company has a team across product, engineering, data science, policy, legal and operations dedicated full time to these efforts

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FILE - The logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square, March 29, 2018. VOA

Facebook has announced a civil rights task force that would help the social networking giant fight political interference in the 2020 presidential campaign and census.

The task force will have onboard civil rights expertise to ensure it is effective in addressing areas like content policy, fairness in artificial intelligence, privacy, and elections.

“We will work with voting rights experts to make sure key members of our election team are trained on trends in voter intimidation and suppression so they can remove this content from Facebook more effectively,” Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, said in a blog post on Sunday.

Facebook witnessed heavy political interference from nation-state actors during the 2016 US presidential election on its platform.

“With both the US Census and the US presidential elections, 2020 will be big year. An accurate census count is crucial to governments for functions like distributing federal funds and to businesses and researchers.

“That’s why we’re going to treat next year’s census like an election — with people, policies and technology in place to protect against census interference,” said Sandberg.

The announcement came in the wake of a leading civil rights expert Laura Murphy releasing her second interim report in a multi-year audit of Facebook.

Murphy began leading an audit more than a year ago with support from the noted civil rights law firm Relman, Dane and Colfax. She spoke to more than 90 civil rights organizations and people from Facebook’s policy, product and enforcement teams.

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FILE – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at a Facebook developer conference in San Jose, California, May 1, 2018. VOA

“We’re also introducing civil rights training for all senior leaders on the task force and key employees who work in the early stages of developing relevant products and policies,” informed Sandberg.

Facbook said it now bans praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism.

“The report recommends we go further to include content that supports white nationalist ideology even if the terms ‘white nationalism’ and ‘white separatism’ aren’t explicitly used. We’re addressing this by identifying hate slogans and symbols connected to white nationalism and white separatism to better enforce our policy,” Sandberg announced.

In March this year, Facebook announced settlement agreements with leading civil rights organizations to change how US housing, employment and credit ads are run on Facebook.

Also Read: Tech Giant Google Gets Nod to License Android for Huawei: Report

“As a result of the settlement, we’re rolling out updates so anyone who wants to run US housing, employment and credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code and will have a much smaller set of targeting categories overall,” the Facebook COO added.

To protect elections, said Sandberg, the company has a team across product, engineering, data science, policy, legal and operations dedicated full time to these efforts.

“We expect to finalize a new policy and its enforcement before the 2019 gubernatorial elections. This is a direct response to the types of ads we saw on Facebook in 2016,” she added. (IANS)

Next Story

Google, Facebook Secretly Tracking Your Porn-viewing Habits

“While the findings of this study are far from encouraging, we do believe regulatory intervention may have positive outcomes,” said the researchers

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The Google name is displayed outside the company's office in London, Britain. VOA

If you think watching pornographic material in the “incognito” mode will not let anyone know, you are mistaken. Google, Facebook and even Oracle cloud are secretly tracking the porn you watch even when you switch on the “incognito” mode on your laptop or smartphone.

A new joint study from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pennsylvania that investigated 22,484 sex websites using a tool called “webXray” revealed that 93 per cent of pages track and leak users’ data to third-party organisations.

“Tracking on these sites is highly concentrated by a handful of major companies,” said the researchers who identified 230 different companies and services tracking users in their sample.

Of non-pornography-specific services, Google tracks 74 per cent of sites, Oracle 24 per cent and Facebook 10 per cent.

Porn-specific trackers in the top 10 are exoClick (40 per cent), JuicyAds (11 per cent), and EroAdvertising (9 per cent).

“The majority of non-pornography companies in the top 10 are based in the US, while the majority of pornography-specific companies are based in Europe,” said the study.

The researchers – Elena Maris, Microsoft Research; Timothy Libert, Carnegie Mellon University; and Jennifer Henrichsen, University of Pennsylvania – said they successfully extracted privacy policies for 3,856 sites, 17 per cent of the total.

“The policies were written such that one might need a two-year college education to understand them. The content analysis indicated 44.97 per cent of them expose or suggest a specific gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user,” said the study to be published in the journal New Media & Society.

The team created a hypothetical profile named “Jack” who decides to view porn on his laptop.

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FILE – In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, Calif. The Boston-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy announced in May that Facebook is building a… VOA

Jack enables “incognito” mode in his browser, assuming his actions are now private. He pulls up a site and scrolls past a small link to a privacy policy. Assuming a site with a privacy policy will protect his personal information, Jack clicks on a video.

“What Jack does not know is that incognito mode only ensures his browsing history is not stored on his computer. The sites he visits, as well as any third-party trackers, may observe and record his online actions,” the researchers noted.

These third-parties may even infer Jack’s sexual interests from the URLs of the sites he accesses. They might also use what they have decided about these interests for marketing or building a consumer profile. They may even sell the data.

Jack has no idea these third-party data transfers are occurring as he browses videos.

“His assumption that porn websites will protect his information, along with the reassurance of the ‘incognito’ mode icon on his screen, provide Jack a fundamentally misleading sense of privacy as he consumes porn online,” wrote the researchers.

The above hypothetical scenario occurs frequently in reality and is indicative of the widespread data leakage and tracking that can occur on porn sites, they added.

Also Read: Instagram to Now Alert Violators Before Deleting Accounts

In 2017, Pornhub, one of the largest porn websites, received 28.5 billion visits, with users performing 50,000 searches per second on the site.

Statistics vary as to the amount of overall porn activity on the internet, but a 2017 report indicated porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined, and that “30 per cent of all the data transferred across the Internet is porn”, with site YouPorn using six times more bandwidth than Hulu.

“While the findings of this study are far from encouraging, we do believe regulatory intervention may have positive outcomes,” said the researchers. (IANS)