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Facebook’s Push to Become China’s WeChat May Kill it

As people become increasingly aware of social media’s harm, social media will lose its lustre

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FILE - The Facebook logo is seen on a shop window in Malaga, Spain, June 4, 2018. (VOA)

Facebook which accounts for 75 per cent of global ad spend that is likely to hit $110 billion by 2020 is nowhere near an immediate demise and government regulations would only strengthen the social networking giant in the short term, a new Forrester research has forecast.

However, Facebook’s push to become China’s WeChat — more than a messaging app and is full of capabilities to make life easier for its one billion users — would be its undoing.

Facebook‘s no-good-very-bad 2018 may have meant an overworked PR team but the social media behemoth is doing just fine.

It continues to report steady user and revenue growth: a 9 per cent year over year increase in users in Q4 2018 and a 30 per cent increase in revenue in the same time-frame.

“The three parties that could impact Facebook the most — users, brands and regulators — will move too slowly for it to feel any instant impact,” said Jessica Liu, Senior Analyst, Forrester.

The coming years won’t be easier, but the social media behemoth won’t suddenly collapse either, as many predict.

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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

“But while Facebook’s short-term outlook might be fine, its long-term outlook is bleak,” Liu added

Despite constant negative news last year, Facebook continued to report strong quarter-

over-quarter user and revenue growth. Brands that mishandle their own users’ data and fail to inform them typically falter.

While these users and advertisers could affect change at the social media giant immediately, they won’t, thus allowing it to continue to defy the odds.

“Enacting and enforcing regulation takes so long that Facebook will be able to shore up its assets and unique advantages in the short term and eliminate any vulnerabilities before serious user, advertiser, or regulatory changes materialize,” Liu emphasised.

The social networking giant with over two billion users globally, is facing regulatory challenges as the Cambridge Analytica scandal has exposed its lapses of data privacy and security.

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FILE – A man poses for a photo in front of a computer showing Facebook ad preferences in San Francisco, California, March 26, 2018. VOA

The downfall for Facebook, said Liu, would come with its desire to build an all-inclusive social media experience, as its CEO mark Zuckerberg is planning to merge all apps like Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram into one.

“Facebook’s hope to recreate WeChat, China’s largest messaging app turned all-in-one portal

to the Internet, presents long-term challenges,” Liu added.

WeChat primarily operates in a single country’s political and regulatory environment.

Also Read: South Korean Tech Giant Samsung Launches 2 New Tablets in India

“Facebook will need to tack on products and services to fulfill its one-app vision while global regulators threaten antitrust. It will also grapple with protecting user privacy globally while appeasing advertiser appetite for hypertargeting,” Liu noted.

As people become increasingly aware of social media’s harm, social media will lose its lustre.

“History has taught us that existing apps max out and then decline as users tire of the services or the company (like AOL, MySpace, Friendster). The Facebook app is already experiencing this; Instagram and WhatsApp will follow in a natural peak and then eventually decelerate, too,” Liu commented. (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)