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Following Facebook Privacy Crisis, Cambridge Analytica to Shut Down

The UK's Financial Times newspaper said it has spoken to another ex-employee of Cambridge Analytica, on condition of anonymity, who said they were sure the company would emerge "in some other incarnation or guise".

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Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy firm at the centre of the Facebook data-sharing scandal, is shutting down, media reported.

The firm was accused of improperly obtaining personal information on behalf of political clients.

According to Facebook, data of up to 87 million of its users was harvested by a quiz app and then passed on to the political consultancy.

The social network said its own probe into the matter would continue, the BBC reported.

“This doesn’t change our commitment and determination to understand exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said a spokesman.

“We are continuing with our investigation in cooperation with the relevant authorities.”

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for Cambridge Analytica, referred the BBC to a statement on the firm’s website.

“Over the past several months, Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of numerous unfounded accusations and, despite the company’s efforts to correct the record, has been vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas,” it said.

“Despite Cambridge Analytica’s unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully… the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers.

"Despite Cambridge Analytica's unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully... the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company's customers and suppliers.
Cambridge Analytica, IANS

“As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business.”

The statement added that its parent company SCL Elections was also commencing bankruptcy proceedings.

The UK’s Financial Times newspaper said it has spoken to another ex-employee of Cambridge Analytica, on condition of anonymity, who said they were sure the company would emerge “in some other incarnation or guise”.

The Observer journalist whose investigation first exposed the data privacy scandal has suggested that the public remain sceptical.

The chair of a UK parliament committee investigating the firm’s activities also raised concerns about Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections’ move.

“They are party to very serious investigations and those investigations cannot be impeded by the closure of these companies,” said parliamentarian Damian Collins.

“I think it’s absolutely vital that the closure of these companies is not used as an excuse to try and limit or restrict the ability of the authorities to investigate what they were doing,” the BBC quoted Collins as saying.

In March, Channel 4 aired undercover footage of Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, giving examples of how the firm could swing elections around the world with underhand tactics such as smear campaigns and honey traps.

Also Read: Facebook Can Help Older People Feel Less Lonely 

The UK-based company, which denies any wrongdoing, has an extensive record of working abroad on many election campaigns, including in Italy, Kenya and Nigeria.

Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended in March after the Channel 4 News footage was aired.

In April, Cambridge Analytica said it had only licensed 30 million records belonging to US citizens from the quiz app’s creator Aleksandr Kogan, and that they had not been used in the US presidential election.

The firm added that it had since deleted all the information despite claims to the contrary by others. (IANS)

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How To Deal With Online Hate Speech: A Detailed Guide By Facebook

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn't gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

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Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

Facebook says it is getting better at proactively removing hate speech and changing the incentives that result in the most sensational and provocative content becoming the most popular on the site.

The company has done so, it says, by ramping up its operations so that computers can review and make quick decisions on large amounts of content with thousands of reviewers making more nuanced decisions.

In the future, if a person disagrees with Facebook’s decision, he or she will be able to appeal to an independent review board.

Facebook “shouldn’t be making so many important decisions about free expression and safety on our own,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a call with reporters Thursday.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at a Facebook developers conference in San Jose, California. VOA

But as Zuckerberg detailed what the company has accomplished in recent months to crack down on spam, hate speech and violent content, he also acknowledged that Facebook has far to go.

“There are issues you never fix,” he said. “There’s going to be ongoing content issues.”

Company’s actions

In the call, Zuckerberg addressed a recent story in The New York Times that detailed how the company fought back during some of its biggest controversies over the past two years, such as the revelation of how the network was used by Russian operatives in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Times story suggested that company executives first dismissed early concerns about foreign operatives, then tried to deflect public attention away from Facebook once the news came out.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA

Zuckerberg said the firm made mistakes and was slow to understand the enormity of the issues it faced. “But to suggest that we didn’t want to know is simply untrue,” he said.

Zuckerberg also said he didn’t know the firm had hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm that spread negative information about Facebook competitors as the social networking firm was in the midst of one scandal after another. Facebook severed its relationship with the firm.

“It may be normal in Washington, but it’s not the kind of thing I want Facebook associated with, which is why we won’t be doing it,” Zuckerberg said.

The firm posted a rebuttal to the Times story.

Content removed

Facebook said it is getting better at proactively finding and removing contentsuch as spam, violent posts and hate speech. The company said it removed or took other action on 15.4 million pieces of violent content between June and September of this year, about double what it removed in the prior three months.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

But Zuckerberg and other executives said Facebook still has more work to do in places such as Myanmar. In the third quarter, the firm said it proactively identified 63 percent of the hate speech it removed, up from 13 percent in the last quarter of 2017. At least 100 Burmese language experts are reviewing content, the firm said.

One issue that continues to dog Facebook is that some of the most popular content is also the most sensational and provocative. Facebook said it now penalizes what it calls “borderline content” so it gets less distribution and engagement.

“By fixing this incentive problem in our services, we believe it’ll create a virtuous cycle: by reducing sensationalism of all forms, we’ll create a healthier, less-polarized discourse where more people feel safe participating,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post.

Also Read: Facebook to Establish an Independent Body to Moderate Content

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn’t gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

“We have a man-made, for-profit, simultaneous communication space, marketplace and battle space and that it is, as a result, designed not to reward veracity or morality but virality,” said Peter W. Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America, a nonpartisan think tank, at an event Thursday in Washington, D.C. (VOA)