Wednesday July 17, 2019
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The Year When Social Media Fell From Grace: 2018

Under pressure, social media companies tightened restrictions on the kinds of speech they tolerate on their sites.

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Facebook kills over 300 Russia-linked fake accounts, Pages, (VOA)

In 2018, technology firms such as Facebook and Google faced more scrutiny and negative press over their handling of data breaches and online speech. The issue may mean new rules and more regulations in the future.

The question of who can access personal user data through technology caused many people to rethink how much they trust these companies with their private information. At a recent hearing, House Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy grilled Google over accusations it uses algorithms to suppress conservative voices.

“Are America’s technology companies serving as instruments of freedom? Or instruments of control? Are they fulfilling the promise of the digital age? Are they advancing the cause of self-government? Or are they serving as instruments of manipulation used by powerful interests and foreign governments to rob the people of their power, agency, and dignity?,” he said.


Sundar Pichai, social media
Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies at a House Judiciary Committee hearing “examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices” on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA


At the hearing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he runs the U.S. technology giant without political preference.

In October, Google acknowledged that several months earlier, it had discovered a data breach involving its Google Plus service, which the company said would be shut down.

Pantas Sutardja, chief executive of data storage company LatticeWork Inc., says such scandals are forcing the companies to take a closer look at how they manage and protect user content.

“2018 has been a challenging year for tech companies and consumers alike. Company CEOs being called to Congress for hearings and promising profusely to fix the problems of data breach but still cannot do it,” said Sutardja.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. VOA

Also this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced tough questions from U.S. lawmakers over a breach that allowed a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, to exploit the data of millions of Facebook users. Zuckerberg apologized to lawmakers, but some legislators say the giant social network cannot be trusted to regulate itself.

Separately, the attorney-general for Washington, Karl Racine, said the U.S. capital had sued Facebook over reports involving Cambridge Analytica’s use of data from the social media giant.

The year saw new revelations that foreign operatives were using social media to secretly spread divisive and often bogus messages in the United States and worldwide. Walt Mossberg, a former tech journalist, says consumers are frustrated.

“It doesn’t matter to whose benefit they were operating. What bothers people here is that a foreign country, using our social networks, digital products and services that we have come to feel comfortable in, a foreign government has come in and used that against us,” he said.

Social Media, digital, Encryption, drink, whatsapp
This photo taken March 22, 2018, shows apps for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks on a smartphone. VOA

The Facebook data breach has prompted companies like Latticework to create new ways for users to protect their information and themselves, Sutardja says.

“Despite apologizing profusely about leaking customer data, they can’t do anything about it because their real master, their boss is Wall Street,” he said.

User data was just one area in which tech firms came under criticism. Under pressure, social media companies tightened restrictions on the kinds of speech they tolerate on their sites.

And workers pressed managers about their companies’ government contracts and treatment of female colleagues.

Also Read: Social Media Laws Should Be Tightened: Germany

Mossberg says he wants federal law to limit U.S. internet firms’ collection and use of personal data.

“These are giant companies now. There really are four or five of them that control everything. And governments and citizens of countries around the world need the right to regulate them without closing down free speech. And that’s tricky,” he said.

Mossberg says he has given up Facebook. (VOA)

Next Story

Google Maps Now Adding Support for Bike-sharing Stations

Besides, the search engine giant has introduced features like Augmented Reality (AR) navigation feature and off-route alert feature on Maps as well

google, online tracking
A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

To make Maps more useful for users, Google is adding support for bike-sharing stations to let people be informed on docked bike sharing services near them.

The feature has been testing in New York City for the last year and is now expanding to 23 more cities including Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Chicago, London and Los Angeles among others, The Verge reported on Tuesday.

The new integration is made possible from data provided by Ito World, which provides information on where to find a bike-sharing station, how many bikes are available there and whether or not there’s a space waiting for you to dock your bike when you arrive at your destination.

The feature is being rolled out to Android, as well as iOS devices and even though the feature has not reached India as yet, Google plans to expand the feature to other countries shortly.

On a similar issue, on December 2018, Google Maps gained a feature to direct users towards shared Lime scooters and bikes, the report said.

google maps
Google Maps is flooded by about 11 million false listings and phone numbers that reroute to competing businesses. Pixabay

Since the beginning of 2019, Google has been testing and introducing several new features on Maps.

After running tests in the US and elsewhere, earlier in May, Google rolled out speed limits and mobile radar locations in over 40 countries, including India.

Also Read: Here’s Why Instagram Users Want to ‘Throw Away’ the App Now

In July 2019, Maps also added more than 45,000 community and public toilets as part of the Central government’s “Loo Review” campaign that covers 1,700 cities in India.

Besides, the search engine giant has introduced features like Augmented Reality (AR) navigation feature and off-route alert feature on Maps as well. (IANS)