Tuesday November 12, 2019
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Facebook Restricts External Campaigners From Accessing Political Ads

"Anyone who wants to run an ad in India related to politics will need to first confirm their identity and location, and give more details about who placed the ad," said the social networking giant

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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

At a time when over a third of the world’s population is set to vote in coming months including in India, Facebook has restricted external transparency campaigners from accessing and scrutinising political ads on its platform.

According to a Guardian report late Sunday, the social media giant has changed its codes that restrict external groups’ ability to collect data on why users are being targeted by political campaigners.

The third-party monitoring tools have helped expose several advertising tactics used by politicians in the past, the report added.

Two such external agencies are the British group WhoTargetsMe and the US investigative journalism website ProPublica.

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Zuckerberg gears up for debates on public forums. VOA

“Ten days ago, our software stopped working, and efforts to fix it have proved much harder than before,” WhoTargetsMe Co-founder Sam Jeffers was quoted as saying.

According to Facebook, the changes were part of a crackdown on third party plug-ins.

“We regularly improve the ways we prevent unauthorised access by third parties like web browser plug-ins to keep people’s information safe,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Data collected by WhoTargetsMe has helped show how the Conservatives were focusing on personal criticism of shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott during the end of the 2017 campaign.

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

Facebook’s move comes in a year “when over a third of the world’s population has the opportunity to vote, with elections across the EU, India, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Israel and Ukraine to name a few,” said Jeffers.

A similar ad monitoring tool by ProPublica in the past highlighted “negative stories for the social network such as exposing how oil companies are sidestepping Facebook’s new ad transparency tools among other issues”.

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Facing intense scrutiny over the misuse of its platform globally during elections, Facebook in December announced fresh steps to increase ad transparency and defend against foreign interference ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in India.

“Anyone who wants to run an ad in India related to politics will need to first confirm their identity and location, and give more details about who placed the ad,” said the social networking giant. (IANS)

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Quit Facebook Now to Secure Good Grades in Exams

However, even when students used Facebook primarily for educational purposes, it was still a problem for lower performing students

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An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

Parents, take note. If you want your children to score good grades in exams, tell them to quit social media as researchers have found that students whose grades were below average could boost their results if they devoted less time on social networking sites, especially Facebook.

The study, published in the journal Computers & Education, looked at the amount of time first-year university students spent on Facebook, and the impact it had on their grades.

More than 500 students enrolled in the first year subject ‘Introductory Accounting’ at an Australian university took part in the study, with an average age of 19.

The research from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) showed that while high Facachieving students were not affected by the amount of time on Facebook, below average students had significantly lower grades with greater Facebook use.

“Our research shows time spent on social networking platforms puts lower academic achievers at higher risk of failing their course,” said study researcher James Wakefield from the UTS.

Students taking part in the study spent on average nearly two hours a day on Facebook, however some were on the social networking site in excess of eight hours a day.

“Lower achieving students may already be grappling with self-regulation and focus, so it seems time spent on Facebook provides a further distraction from studies,” Wakefield said.

Researchers found that if the students used Facebook for three hours a day – not substantially higher than the average of just under two hours – the difference was around six marks in a 60 mark exam or 10 per cent.

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The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

While the research applies to university students studying STEM and business degrees, it is likely to also be relevant to high school students who use social media.

For the findings, researchers assessed the students’ general academic achievement using their weighted average mark (WAM) across all of their studies, and surveyed them about their Facebook use.

They also controlled for other factors that might influence their achievement, such as whether they were planning to major in accounting, as well as their age and gender.

“It appears that for students with lower academic achievement, the use of social networking sites replaces study time, whereas high achieving students are able to juggle both,” he said.

Also Read: Tech Giant Google Secretly Gathering Health Information of Millions of US Citizens

According to the researchers, students with below average grades would benefit from switching off notifications on their phones, and either quitting or reducing time spent on Facebook.

The research also looked at why students were using Facebook – whether to keep in touch with family and friends, for entertainment or for study purposes.

However, even when students used Facebook primarily for educational purposes, it was still a problem for lower performing students. (IANS)