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Facebook Lets Advertisers Target Users Based on Sensitive Interests

Among the interests found in users' profiles were communism, social democrats, Hinduism and Christianity, it stated

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Facebook Unveils Three-pronged Strategy to Fight Fake News
Facebook Unveils Three-pronged Strategy to Fight Fake News. Pixabay
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Just a few days ahead of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect, a Guardian investigation has found that Facebook lets advertisers to target users it thinks are interested in sensitive subjects such as homosexuality, Islam or liberalism.

Religion, sexuality and political beliefs are explicitly marked out as sensitive information under new data protection laws, said the report on Wednesday.

Facebook, according to the report, collects information about users based on their browsing habit and activities on the social network, and uses that information to predict on their interests and then categorise them based on inferred interests such as Islam or homosexuality.

Also Read: Facebook Reports Increased Posts of Graphic Violence in Q1 2018

Facebook is able to infer extremely personal information about users, which it allows advertisers to use for targeting purposes, found the Guardian investigation conducted in conjunction with the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

Among the interests found in users’ profiles were communism, social democrats, Hinduism and Christianity, it stated.

Facebook.
Facebook. Pixabay

The GDPR which comes into effect on May 25 labels such categories of information as sensitive and mandates special conditions around how they can be collected and processed.

While Facebook, as part of its GDPR-focused updates, asked every user to confirm whether or not “political, religious, and relationship information” they had entered on the site should continue to be stored or displayed, it gathered no such consent for information it had inferred about users.

Facebook, however, said that classifying a user’s interests was not the same as classifying their personal traits.

Also Read: Facebook Plans to Launch its Own Cryptocurrency

“Like other Internet companies, Facebook shows ads based on topics we think people might be interested in, but without using sensitive personal data,” Facebook was quoted as saying

“Our advertising complies with relevant EU law and, like other companies, we are preparing for the GDPR to ensure we are compliant when it comes into force,” it added. (IANS)

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Facebook Unveils Three-pronged Strategy to Fight Fake News

Apart from this, Facebook is also using machine learning to help its teams detect fraud and enforce its policies against spam

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Facebook Unveils Three-pronged Strategy to Fight Fake News
Facebook Unveils Three-pronged Strategy to Fight Fake News. Pixabay

To stop false news from spreading on its platform, Facebook has said it put in place a three-pronged strategy that constitutes removing accounts and content that violate its policies, reducing distribution of inauthentic content and informing people by giving them more context on the posts they see.

Another part of its strategy in some countries is partnering with third-party fact-checkers to review and rate the accuracy of articles and posts on Facebook, Tessa Lyons, a Facebook product manager on News Feed focused on false news, said in a statement on Thursday.

The social media giant is facing criticism for its role in enabling political manipulation in several countries around the world. It has also come under the scanner for allegedly fuelling ethnic conflicts owing to its failure stop the deluge of hate-filled posts against the disenfranchised Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

“False news is bad for people and bad for Facebook. We’re making significant investments to stop it from spreading and to promote high-quality journalism and news literacy,” Lyons said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday told the European Parliament leaders that the social networking giant is trying to plug loopholes across its services, including curbing fake news and political interference on its platform in the wake of upcoming elections globally, including in India.

Lyons said Facebook’s three-pronged strategy roots out the bad actors that frequently spread fake stories.

Also Read: Facebook Planning to Increase Their Capability Through Smartphones

“It dramatically decreases the reach of those stories. And it helps people stay informed without stifling public discourse,” Lyons added.

Although false news does not violate Facebook’s Community Standards, it often violates the social network’s polices in other categories, such as spam, hate speech or fake accounts, which it removes remove.

“For example, if we find a Facebook Page pretending to be run by Americans that’s actually operating out of Macedonia, that violates our requirement that people use their real identities and not impersonate others. So we’ll take down that whole Page, immediately eliminating any posts they made that might have been false,” Lyons explained.

Lyons said Facebook's three-pronged strategy roots out the bad actors that frequently spread fake stories.
Lyons said Facebook’s three-pronged strategy roots out the bad actors that frequently spread fake stories. Pixabay

Apart from this, Facebook is also using machine learning to help its teams detect fraud and enforce its policies against spam.

“We now block millions of fake accounts every day when they try to register,” Lyons added.

A lot of the misinformation that spreads on Facebook is financially motivated, much like email spam in the 90s, the social network said.

If spammers can get enough people to click on fake stories and visit their sites, they will make money off the ads they show.

Also Read: Facebook Lets Advertisers Target Users Based on Sensitive Interests

“We’re figuring out spammers’ common tactics and reducing the distribution of those kinds of stories in News Feed. We’ve started penalizing clickbait, links shared more frequently by spammers, and links to low-quality web pages, also known as ‘ad farms’,” Lyons said.

“We also take action against entire Pages and websites that repeatedly share false news, reducing their overall News Feed distribution,” Lyons said.

Facebook said it does not want to make money off of misinformation or help those who create it profit, and so such publishers are not allowed to run ads or use its monetisation features like Instant Articles. (IANS)