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Social media behemoth Facebook is facing public and regulatory scrutiny after the disclosure of thousands of pages of internal documents by a whistleblower who used to work for the company.
What are the Facebook papers?
After compiling the documents while working as a Facebook product manager, Frances Haugen distributed them to a group of 17 U.S. news organizations that collaborated on a project to individually publish stories on their findings.
The stories, released on a coordinated day in late October, portray Facebook as pursuing audience growth and profits while ignoring how people were using the platform to spread hate and misinformation.
The documents showed Facebook particularly struggled with monitoring for hate speech, inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation by users posting in certain countries, including some that Facebook had determined were at the most risk for real-world consequences of such abuses.
The failures included both inadequate artificial intelligence systems and not enough human moderators who speak the many languages spoken by Facebook users.
Who else received them?
In addition to providing the documents to journalists, Haugen has also made them available to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Congress. Haugen has also appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee and testified before the British Parliament.
Haugen used her smartphone camera to capture the documents.
Why are they important?
The company has massive global reach. Facebook had 2.74 billion active users as of the end of September, according to company statistics. That is about 1 out of every 3 people on the planet, and the company also operates other popular services such as WhatsApp and Instagram.
How has Facebook responded?
Facebook spokesperson Mavis Jones said in a statement that the company is working to stop abuse on its platform in places where there is a higher risk of conflict, and that it has native speakers to review content in 70 languages.
Founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke during a quarterly earnings conference call Monday and said Facebook is facing "a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Meta, Documents, Social Media
E-commerce giant Amazon aims to launch its first Project Kuiper internet satellites in the fourth quarter of 2022, the company has announced.
With Project Kuiper, Amazon aims to build a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide high-speed internet to anywhere in the world.
The company filed a request with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch and operate its first two prototype satellites, called KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2. Amazon said the satellites will launch with ABL Space on its RS1 rocket, CNBC reported.
"We'll soon be ready to see how (the satellites) perform in space," Rajeev Badya, Vice President of technology at Amazon said in a statement. "There is no substitute for on-orbit testing, and we expect to learn a lot given the complexity and risk of operating in such a challenging environment."
The FCC had, last year, authorised Amazon's system, which the company says it plans to "invest more than $10 billion" in Kuiper. Early service from Kuiper is set to begin once Amazon has 578 satellites in orbit.
Amazon last week announced a partnership with Verizon, to collaborate with the telecom giant in the increasingly competitive field of high-speed satellite internet, the report said.
Kuiper is poised to go toe-to-toe with SpaceX's Starlink network, which is the furthest along in the latest generation of broadband satellite systems, the report said.
A variety of other networks are in various stages of development, including those of British-owned OneWeb, BlackRock-backed Astranis, satellite-to-smartphone specialist AST SpaceMobile, Lockheed Martin's partnership with start-up Omnispace and Canadian satellite operator Telesat's Lightspeed.
The Project Kuiper team has grown steadily at Amazon, which now has more than 750 people and "hundreds more" expected to be hired in the next year. Amazon built a 219,000 square feet facility in Redmond, Washington to test and manufacture the satellites, and plans to add another 20,000 square feet facility.
Keywords: Amazon, Space, Satellite, E-Commerce, Internet.
Facebook says it is shutting down its facial recognition system.
Citing "growing societal concerns" about the technology that can automatically identify people in photos and videos, the company says it will continue to work on the technology to try to address issues.
"Regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use," Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence at Facebook, said in a blog post. "Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate."
The move will delete the "facial recognition templates" of more than 1 billion people, Reuters reported. Facebook said that one-third of its daily active users opted into the technology.
The deletions should be done by December, the company said.
The company also said that a tool that creates audible descriptions of photos for the visually impaired will function normally, but will no longer include the names of people in photos.
Facebook, which rebranded itself as Meta last week, doesn't appear to be shutting the door permanently on facial recognition.
"Looking ahead, we still see facial recognition technology as a powerful tool, for example, for people needing to verify their identity or to prevent fraud and impersonation," the company wrote, adding it will "continue working on these technologies and engaging outside experts." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Facial Recognition, Science and Technology,
In what is seen as largely a symbolic move, Yahoo said Tuesday it stopped providing services in mainland China because of what it described as a difficult operating environment.
The U.S. web services provider said in a statement on its website the move took effect on November 1 "in recognition of the increasingly challenging business and legal environment."
November 1 is the date on which China's Personal Information Protection Law took effect. The law limits what information companies can compile and standardizes how it must be archived. Other content restrictions on internet companies were also recently imposed.
Many of the Yahoo's services were largely blocked in China, where Yahoo has operated since 1999. Since 2005, following a partnership deal with Alibaba Group Holding, Yahoo's services have slowly been phased out, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The company provided an early, stark example of the challenges U.S. internet firms faced operating in foreign countries, particularly China.
In 2004, Yahoo's China unit gave the Chinese authorities data that led to the imprisonment of at least two dissidents. Lawmakers and activists criticized the firm. Yahoo apologized for its role and settled a lawsuit brought by families of several Chinese activists.
China previously blocked Facebook, Google and most other global social media sites and search engines. Users in China can still access these services by using a virtual private network (VPN).
The news of departure of Yahoo, which is now owned by the private-equity firm Apollo Global Management, comes as other U.S. internet firms have left China.
In October, Microsoft stopped providing its LinkedIn business and employment service in China, citing a "more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Yahoo, Mainland China, Internet firms