The Download: Facebook takes a stand on misinformation

This is The Download, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

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Facebook has begun removing misinformation that contributes to violence on site, will review text & images in partnership with local organizations


Facebook has begun removing misinformation that contributes to violence, according to a statement released by the company hours after CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the rights of Holocaust deniers to post on Facebook.

“There are certain forms of misinformation that have contributed to physical harm, and we are making a policy change which will enable us to take that type of content down. We will begin implementing the policy during the coming months.”

Facebook, in a statement

Under the new policy, Facebook will begin reviewing posts that are inaccurate or misleading and are created or shared with the intent of causing violence or physical harm. The posts will be reviewed in partnership with local organizations including threat intelligence agencies, which Facebook says are in the best position to evaluate threats. Posts covered by the policy include manipulated imagery and text.

According to Facebook, partners are asked to verify that the posts in question are false and could contribute to imminent violence or harm. The company said that it would rely on reports from partners, the press, and its own public policy employees. When Facebook verifies a report, it will remove the post along with any duplicate posts that have been created.

Despite the policy being announced today, Facebook put the policy in place last month when posts falsely stating that Muslims in Sri Lanka were poisoning food given to Buddhists were removed after an investigation.

EU fines Google $5B in antitrust case for illegal practices regarding Android to strengthen Google Search


Google has been hit with a record-breaking $5 billion fine by the European Commission, which said that the company abused its Android market dominance in three key areas – bundling its search engine and Chrome into the operating system, blocking phone makers from creating devices that run forked versions of Android, and that it “made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators” to exclusively bundle the Google search app on smartphones.

The Commission wants Google to bring its “illegal conduct to an end in an effective manner within 90 days of the decision.” This means that Google will need to stop requiring manufacturers to preinstall Chrome and Google Search to offer the Play Store on handsets. Google will also need to stop preventing phone makers form using forked versions of Android, with the commission saying that Google “did not provide any credible evidence that Android forks would be affected by technical failures or fail to support apps.”

Google will appeal the decision.

“The decision ignores the fact that Android phones compete with iOS phones, something that 89 percent of respondents to the Commission’s own market survey confirmed. It also misses just how much choice Android provides to thousands of phone makers and mobile network operators who build and sell Android devices; to millions of app developers around the world who have built their businesses with Android; and billions of consumers who can now afford and use cutting-edge Android smartphones.”

Sundar Pichai; Google CEO, in a blog post

Netflix creating comedy-focused radio channel in partnership with Sirius XM, scheduled to launch in January 2019

Netflix Sirius XM

SiriusXM is adding Netflix to its satellite radio lineup, playing stand-up comedy 24/7. “Netflix is a Joke,” the channel’s working name, will also feature original programming from the network’s slate of comedians and talk shows like David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.

As it stands, the plan is to take clips from existing specials and air them on the station, much like Sirius XM’s other comedy channels.

Robocent exposes hundreds of thousands of voters’ records

Virginia-based robocalling firm Robocent left hundreds of thousands of voters’ records on an Amazon S3 bucket. Among the information left accessible were names, home addresses, gender, phone numbers, age, birth years, ethnicity, education, and language spoken along with state-provided or inferred political leanings like “weak Democrat,” “hard Republican” and “swing” voter. Nearly 2,600 files were in a cache, including audio recordings of political messages.

Kromtech Security head of communications Bob Diachenko spotted the records and notified Robocent of the leak. The data was secured shortly thereafter with company co-founder Travis Trawick telling ZDNet that the records contained in the cache are from an “old bucket from 2013-2016 that hasn’t been used in the past two years.” Robocent said that it’s looking into the leak. According to Trawick, those who were affected will be affected if Robocent is “required by law” to do so.

Reddit begins rolling out live chatrooms in beta

Reddit has begun rolling out live chatrooms in beta. These are meant as a supplement to already active subreddits rather than a standalone community.

“I was initially afraid that most people would bring out the pitchforks and… unkind words. I was pleasantly surprised to find that most people are actually quite nice. The nature of real-time, direct chat seems to be especially disarming. Even when people initially lash out in frustration or to troll, I found that if you tell to them and show them you’re a regular human like them, they almost always chill out.

“Beyond just chilling out, people who are initially harsh or skeptical of new things will actually often change their minds. Sometimes they get so excited that they start to show up in unexpected places defending the thing they once strongly opposed in a way that feels more authentic from anything I could say.”

u/thunderemoji, on the Reddit blog

Subreddit moderators add chat rooms, having the ability not to enable the feature if they feel that they can’t handle the additional moderation.

Thunderemoji added in the post that Reddit made “moderation features a major priority for our roadmap early in the process” so mods would have plenty of tools at their disposal. These tools include an opt-in process; auto-banning users from chat banned from a subreddit, “kick” tools that suspend a user for one minute, one hour, one day, or three days; the ability to lock a room and freeze all activity; rate limits; and more.

To sign up for chat rooms, a subreddit’s moderators can add their name to this list. Users interested in finding chat rooms to explore can check for a link on subreddits they already visit, poke through the sidebar of this post from Reddit’s product team or r/SubChats, a subreddit collecting active chat rooms that accompany interest and community-specific subreddits.

Amazon sold over 100M products on Prime Day despite glitches, driving record Prime sign-ups and sales

Despite Amazon having glitches in the opening hours of Prime Day that prevented shoppers from participating in the annual 36-hour sales bonanza, the company sold over 100 million products worldwide during the sale.

Amazon recorded the largest daily sales for its Echo smart speaker lineup, which was significantly discounted. The Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote and Echo Dot were the best-selling devices.

Other top-sellers from around the world included table salt in India, Coke Zero and Kleenex tissues in Singapore, and electric toothbrushes in China.

iCloud user data in China now being stored by China Telecom division

iCloud users in China are now having their data stored by a division of state-owned telecom company China Telecom.

China Telecom’s Tianyi cloud storage business has taken the reins for iCloud in China, according to a WeChat post from China Telecom. The company agreed to the deal with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD), the original partner Apple signed on with when the data was first migrated earlier this year.

The biggest positive here is that Apple users in China can opt out of local data storage by selecting a country other than China for their iCloud account.

Facebook: Users can sync Instagram contacts to Messenger

Facebook has launched a feature in Messenger that will let users pull contacts from Instagram if you opt to connect your account. The option appears in Messenger’s “People” tab, alongside the existing option to sync your phone’s contacts with Messenger.

When you tap on “Connect Instagram,” Messenger adds contacts form Instagram automatically. Your Instagram username and account also becomes visible to other people on Messenger.

eBay notifies California’s Environment Development Department that 300 jobs being eliminated in Bay Area

eBay has notified California’s Employment Development Department that nearly 300 jobs were being eliminated in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Company employment counsel Amir Vonsover told the Employment Development Department that eBay will conduct a “mass layoff.”

The jobs cuts are planned to affect 224 workers in San Jose, 41 workers in San Francisco, and  five workers in Brisbane, according to the EDD filing.

In other news…


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