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Teenage Girls Being Urged To Befriend ‘Middle-Aged Men’ On Facebook: Report

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity

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Fake News, Facebook, dating
Intel, Facebook working on cheaper AI chip. VOA

Facebook is encouraging grooming by offering teenage girls middle-aged men as ‘friend suggestions’, the media reported.

Teenage girls, as young as 13-year-olds, who join the social network are given up to 300 suggestions for who they can add as friends, some of which include middle-aged men who are topless in their profile photos, The Telegraph reported late on Saturday.

Facebook has said that was not a typical experience for teenagers for signing up for the service and that it has safeguards built into its recommendation system.

Following the findings, UK-based charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has called for friend recommendations to be suspended for children on the social networking giant’s platform.

Facebook, myanmar
A cellphone user looks at a Facebook page at a shop in Latha street, Yangon, Myanmar. VOA

‘Groomers are seeking to infiltrate children’s friendship groups on social networks, often with the intention to move children to live streaming or encrypted sites where it is easier for them to commit sexual abuse,” Andy Burrows, NSPCC Associate Head of Child Safety Online, was quoted as saying.

“Social media algorithms risk making it easier for groomers to find and contact children and ‘friend of friend’ or ‘new follower’ recommendations can add legitimacy to their requests, which is why we are calling for these features to be blocked for children.

“For too long social networks have failed to make their platforms safe for children, and that is why the Home Secretary must commit to strong and effective regulation to finally ensure that children’s safety is non-negotiable,” she said.

According to Facebook, the company has safeguards to protect children. However, the campaigners warn that the networking giant must do more to stop groomers who use the site to become friendly with children.

facebook, U.S. Politicals ads, dating
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“Grooming is incredibly serious, and we have teams specifically focused on keeping children safe, informed by extensive research and outside experts,” said a spokesman for Facebook, the Daily Mail reported on Saturday.

“We use artificial intelligence to proactively identify cases of inappropriate interactions with minors and we refer potential abuse to law enforcement.

“We limit how children can be found in search, we remind them to only accept friend requests from people they know and we caution them before making public posts.”

Also Read: Twitter Giving Its Users More Freedom To Report Fake, Suspicious Accounts

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity with the help of previously undisclosed machine learning software that automatically flagged such photos during the last quarter.

The company has said that it is also considering rolling out systems for spotting child nudity and grooming to Instagram. (IANS)

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Theme of Annual Conference is Privacy, Reflecting Users’ Growing Ambivalence about Social Media

Now as the conference kicks off its 10th anniversary in Toronto, Canada on July 19, the theme is privacy

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Conference, Privacy, Social Media
FILE - Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to logos of social media apps Signal, Whatsapp and Telegram projected on a screen in this picture illustration. VOA

When the first International Conference on Social Media and Society was held in 2010, social media firms like Facebook, Twitter and others were seen in mostly a positive light, as a novel way of empowering and connecting people.

Now as the conference kicks off its 10th anniversary in Toronto, Canada on July 19, the theme is privacy and trust, reflecting users’ growing ambivalence about social media, said Anatoliy Gruzd, an associate professor at Ryerson University and the event’s organizer.

“People are realizing the importance of the platforms and the potential negative impact on their lives and their communities,” he said. The effects can be societal, personal and political, he said.

The conference comes as governments, nonprofits and consumers grapple with the negative effects of social media. President Donald Trump recently held a summit on social media at the White House, claiming that Twitter, Facebook and others are biased against him and conservative voices.

Conference, Privacy, Social Media
FILE – Laptops sit on a table in the empty offices of Cambridge Analytica in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 2, 2018. VOA

Now social media research, a field that didn’t exist before the mid-2000s, touches on almost every aspect of life. “We feel our work has a direct relationship to what is happening now rather than historical events,” Gruzd said.

Teens’ ambivalence about social media

Valerie Steeves, a professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the conference’s keynote speakers, said teens and young adults are more careful now about how they present themselves online compared to 10 years ago. The event’s keynote talks will be livestreamed on YouTube.

“In 2000, teens were going online because it was the cool place to be,” she said. “Now they have to be on, it’s infrastructure they have to use.”

Also Read- Dangerously High Temperatures in United States could Quickly Cause Heat Stress

And teens are ambivalent about being there. “They are very careful about how they post,” she said. Among their concerns — their data being “grabbed by a corporation,” she said. In a recent study of 5,500 children ages 11 to 17 in Canada, 95 percent said they didn’t think marketers should be able see the content they post online.

Trust in social media firms has eroded in recent years. That could be in part from publicized incidents, such as Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook allowed an outside researcher to have access to user data that was then used in political campaigns.

As a result of that scandal, the Federal Trade Commission this past week reportedly voted to approve a $5 billion settlement with Facebook that could end an investigation into its privacy practices.

Still, the power and reach of social media can bring people together around a shared interest like no other form of communication. One paper at the conference looks at how women discussing sexual abuse and harassment in China use code words on social media to circumvent censors.

Conference, Privacy, Social Media
When the first International Conference on Social Media and Society was held in 2010, social media firms like Facebook, Twitter and others were seen in mostly a positive light. VOA

Fake news and social media

In another paper, researchers examine the dynamics of polarization in the 2018 Brazilian presidential campaign. They found that fake news and misinformation didn’t really spread widely but stayed within polarized online communities, being passed around whether it was true or not, Gruzd said.

“We think fake news affects the whole society, but it may stay in pockets,” he said. “That doesn’t make it any less dangerous. It can make views more extreme and then turn into offline actions.”

Also Read- YouTube Fined in Millions Over Kids’ Data Privacy Breach

Trust, privacy, ambivalence and the promise of connection — social media will continue to be fodder for researchers as society grapples with its power. (VOA)