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Facebook Labels Russian Users as ‘Interested in Treason’

In its 747-page response to questions raised by a US committee, Facebook said it had already ended partnerships with 38 of them with seven more due to expire in July and one more in October this year

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Facebook, spam
Facebook plans sprawling office near Microsoft headquarters. IANS

Facebook has apologised for labelling 65,000 Russians as “interested in treason,” putting them at potential probe risk by the Russian law enforcement officials and the government, the media reported.

According to a report in The Guardian on Thursday, the advertising tools algorithmically labelled 65,000 Russians as “interested in treason”.

Facebook later said the label was intended to only identify historical treason.

“Treason was included as a category, given its historical significance. Given it’s an illegal activity, we’ve removed it as an interest category,” a spokesperson was quoted as saying.

The social media giant generally tags users based on their behaviour on its platform for advertisers to select and target people interested in specific topics.

“Treason was included as a category, given its historical significance. Given it’s an illegal activity, we’ve removed it as an interest category,” a Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian.

The labelling raises new concerns over data-driven profiling.

Facebook later said the label was intended to only identify historical treason.
Facebook later said the label was intended to only identify historical treason. Pixabay

and targeting of users on the website, which has already faced criticism for the same tool algorithmically inferring information about users’ race, sexuality and political views despite data protection legislation requiring explicit consent to hold such information.

The Danish Broadcasting Corporation first raised this problem with Facebook.

The issue at hand has “raised a number of important questions about the way Facebook’s advertising systems work. Our goal is to ensure people see ads that are relevant and useful. It’s better for the people using our service, as well as for advertisers,” Facebook said in a statement.

“When we identify misuse of our ads products, we take action. Depending on the violation, we may remove the ad, suspend the ad account or even report the advertiser to law enforcement,” it added.

Also Read: Facebook Fined in U.K. Over Cambridge Analytica Leak

In a latest admission, Facebook said it entered into data-sharing partnership with 52 technology companies, including Chinese companies like Alibaba, Huawei, Lenovo and Oppo.

In its 747-page response to questions raised by a US committee, Facebook said it had already ended partnerships with 38 of them with seven more due to expire in July and one more in October this year.

The UK’s data protection watchdog also plans to slap a fine of 500,000 pounds ($662,501) on Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal. This is the highest permitted fine under Britain’s data protection law. (IANS)

Next Story

Social Networking Giant Facebook Allows Ads to Promote Anti-vaccine Content

“We’re currently working on additional changes that we’ll be announcing soon.”

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Facebook, photos
This photograph taken on May 16, 2018, shows a figurine standing in front of the logo of social network Facebook on a cracked screen of a smartphone in Paris. VOA

Facebook has enabled advertisers to promote anti-vaccine content to nearly nine lakh people interested in “vaccine controversies”, the media reported.

The social networking giant is already facing pressure to stop promoting anti-vaccine propaganda to users amid global concern over vaccine hesitancy and a measles outbreak in the Pacific northwest.

Advertisers pay to reach groups of people on Facebook which include those interested in “Dr Tenpenny on Vaccines”, which refers to anti-vaccine activist Sherri Tenpenny, and “informed consent”, which is language that anti-vaccine propagandists have adopted to fight vaccination laws, The Guardian reported on Friday.

On Thursday, California congressman Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, in letters to Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, urged them to take more responsibility for health-related misinformation on their platforms.

“The algorithms which power these services are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information, and the consequences of that are particularly troubling for public health issues,” Schiff wrote.

“I am concerned by the report that Facebook accepts paid advertising that contains deliberate misinformation about vaccines,” he added.

Facebook
Facebook, social media. Pixabay

In 2017, ProPublica, a US-based non-profit organisation, revealed that the platform included targeting categories for people interested in a number of anti-Semitic phrases, such as “How to burn Jews” or “Jew hater”.

While the anti-Semitic categories found by ProPublica were automatically generated and were too small to run effective ad campaigns by themselves, the “vaccine controversies” category contains nearly nine lakh people, and “informed consent” from about 340,000. The Tenpenny category only includes 720 people, which is too few to run a campaign.

Facebook declined to comment on the ad targeting categories, but said it was looking into the issue, The Guardian reported.

Also Read- Samsung Competes Apple, Launches Stores and Expand Retail Footprints in US

“We’ve taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook, but we know we have more to do,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement responding to Schiff’s letter.

“We’re currently working on additional changes that we’ll be announcing soon.” (IANS)