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TikTok and its Chinese equivalent Douyin ranked as the world’s second most downloaded app last year, but the short video platform operated by ByteDance is facing challenges from both upstart rivals and established players that are starting to embrace short-form content.

TikTok and Douyin amassed a combined 740 million downloads last year, overtaking Facebook and Messenger to become the world’s second most downloaded app behind WhatsApp, according to market analyst Sensor Tower.

One of its smaller rivals, Likee, a short video platform owned by Singapore-based Bigo, made its debut among the top 10 with over 330 million installations, half of those from India, according to Sensor Tower, whose report included worldwide downloads for iPhone, iPad and Google Play but excluded Apple apps and Google pre-installed apps.

It also did not include Android downloads from third-party stores mostly used by Chinese because Google Play is blocked in China.

“Short video has been popularised by TikTok for sure, but bigger social networking platforms like Facebook and Instagram are aware of it and are doing something about it,” said Meenakshi Tiwari, an analyst at technology market research firm Forrester, who pointed to Instagram’s TikTok-like video-music remix feature “Reels” launched in Brazil two months ago.

Another challenge for TikTok is WhatsApp, which has not yet monetised its user base but might do so this year, Tiwari said.

TikTok, owned by ByteDance, has its own monetisation challenges because most of its Beijing-based parent’s revenue is generated in China, despite the app’s rapid international expansion.

For example, Beijing-based Chenjin Culture operates an account featuring a pair of twins on both Douyin and TikTok.

The Douyin account, with nearly 5 million followers, earns between 50,000 yuan (S$9,700) and 100,000 yuan for each short video ad it produces for clients wanting to associate their product with the account, but the TikTok version has not been able to generate any income despite having more than 1.6 million followers, said Joey Wang, Chenjin’s co-founder and chief executive.

A TikTok spokeswoman did not comment on the app’s monetisation strategy.

TikTok is reportedly looking at luring advertisers by launching a new feed that would include curated content from TikTok users or original videos created by professional publishers, mimicking rival Snap that has a specific channel that supports video advertisements, according to a Financial Times report on the weekend citing sources familiar with the matter.

TikTok’s efforts may placate the concerns of brands and advertising agencies that worry their commercials could run alongside distressing or even illegal user-generated content on the platform.

TikTok was also thinking about allowing users to shop directly from links embedded in brand advertising, Blake Chandlee, head of the platform’s US ads partnership programme, told the Financial Times in December.

In a response to the report on the new monetisation plan a US TikTok spokeswoman said it was “exciting to see the creativity coming from our publisher community and the successes they’ve experienced creating custom and native content for TikTok. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with them as this community grows”.

Besides competition, another major challenge facing TikTok is the resistance shown by US lawmakers over privacy and security issues.

In response, the app has made efforts to distance the platform from politics, including implementing a ban on political ads and overhauling community guidelines, which spell out the type of content considered “misleading”.

TikTok chief executive Alex Zhu was expected to talk with US lawmakers in the second week of December to address these concerns, but the meetings were cancelled at the last minute and no new time has been scheduled.

Although TikTok is trying to be apolitical, its users in India are doing the opposite.

During ongoing protests against the country’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, related hashtags like #caa have amassed more than 47 million views, with young people using the app to express their political opinions.

In TikTok’s first ever transparency report published in late December, the app operator revealed that the most requests to remove or restrict content in the first half of 2019 came from India.

Tiwari said operating in the India market can present a big challenge for social media companies given the country’s diverse culture and religion.

In response, the TikTok spokeswoman said the app’s users “can post videos on whatever is interesting and expressive to them, aside from things like hate speech or other violations of our community guidelines”.


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Facebook Employee Commits Suicide At Company’s HQ

September 26, 2019 | News | No Comments

According to a report from CNET, a Facebook employee named Qin Chen jumped off from the fourth floor of the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California to end his life. The 38-year-old man, who was a resident of San Mateo, is currently thought to have committed suicide with no foul play involved.

When the district police and the Menlo Park Fire Protection arrived at the scene he was unresponsive, so they tried to revive him but failed. Thus, he was announced dead at the scene.

The police said that the investigation was done ethically. A spokesperson from Facebook said in a statement that, “We’re cooperating with police in their investigation and providing support to employees,” and “While the family is being notified, we have no information to share.”

However, a YouTuber known as Shyu felt there was something fishy about the case, especially since he used to work as a Facebook employee himself. He then uploaded a video to shed light on Facebook’s company culture and to perhaps help give Chen’s family and friends some closure on what might have motivated him to take his life.

He had also collected some intel from Facebook Blind, which is an internal anonymous chat app, and found out that many of the other Facebook employees suspected that Facebook was trying to cover up the suicide as just another “death at workplace”.

Shyu posted the video on Monday and explained details of Chen’s suicide that he had collected from the Blind app. However, Shyu still stresses that these are just speculations and have not been verified.

According to Shyu, based on the posts in the Blind app:

  1. Chen used to work for Facebook’s advertising group, which can also be described as “a very high-stress group.”
  2. Chen’s performance rating dropped, and the company moved him to the PIP or Performance Improvement Plan – or according to the YouTuber, “the path to you getting fired”For an employee, being put under this program will cause great embarrassment.
  3. Chen tried to make things better by requesting to be transferred to a different team before he was put in PIP.
  4. He allegedly found another team but the manager held back his transfer by convincing him to stay on his team till the end of the quarter and promised to give him a good performance rating.
  5. After the quarter ended, he received a bad rating by his manager that stopped him from moving to a different team.
  6. Chen had enough when they assigned him to do a Severe Site Event (SEV) review. He reportedly tried to delay the process but was blocked by an internal script.
  7. One hour before the review, he allegedly committed suicide.

All of these assumptions were collected by Shyu from the Blind app but the video, and he also showed a poll where 61.8% of the employees admitted that they feel stressed out.


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The social-media platform Twitter has suspended hundreds of accounts alleged to be part of a Chinese government-backed campaign to sow political discord in Hong Kong, and will no longer accept advertising from state-controlled media outlets, the company announced on Monday.

Additionally, Facebook removed seven pages, three groups and five accounts involved in what the company called “coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong”.

In all, Twitter said that 936 accounts originating from within China have been suspended for a number of violations of the company’s “platform manipulation policies,” including spam, coordinated activity, fake accounts and ban evasion.

The social media activity of the suspended accounts, which posted in both English and Chinese, were part of efforts to undermine the “legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground”, the company said.

Twitter, Facebook and most other western social media platforms are blocked in mainland China. Most of the accounts identified by Twitter as “bad faith actors” circumvented the Great Firewall – as the country’s digital barrier is known – using virtual private networks (VPNs), though some were tracked to specific, unblocked IP addresses based in mainland China.

Though most of the accounts had fewer than 100 followers, 326 accounts had more than 10,000 followers and a handful had counts close to 300,000

“Covert, manipulative behaviours have no place on our service,” Twitter said. “They violate the fundamental principles on which our company is built.”

The company said “intensive investigations” had found “reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation.”

When asked to clarify how its probe had ascertained a connection to the Chinese government, a spokeswoman for Twitter referred to the investigation’s findings that some of the accounts had been gaining access to Twitter without the use of VPNs.

Facebook’s investigation, also announced Monday, was prompted by a “tip” from Twitter, Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a statement.

“We will continue monitoring and will take action if we find additional violations,” said Gleicher, adding that Facebook had shared the findings with other industry partners and law enforcement agencies.

Examples of the “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” identified by Facebook included posts that compared protesters to cockroaches, accused journalists of corruption and of colluding with “rioters”, and claimed that protesters, not police, had been responsible for the widely reported injury of a medic who may lose the use of one eye.

The young woman was injured when she was struck by a pellet fired by police during demonstrations in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui neighbourhood earlier this month.

The moves by the two social media giants to counter misinformation about Hong Kong dovetailed with an announcement from Twitter that it would no longer accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities.

Though a Monday statement announcing the action did not single out Chinese state media, government-backed news agency Xinhua has recently utilised Twitter’s “promoted tweet” service to expand the reach of posts related to the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong.

In one such promoted tweet published over the weekend, Xinhua tweeted that “[people from] all walks of life in Hong Kong called for a brake to be put on the blatant violence and for order to be restored.”

Twitter said on Monday that affected accounts would be given a 30-day grace period to withdraw from the platform’s advertising products, after which the company would “stringently enforce these policies.”

A determination of what accounts would be affected by the ban would be made based on factors including financial ownership, control of editorial content and direct or indirect exertion of political pressure, Twitter said.

According to The Intercept online investigative magazine, Twitter’s announcement of the advertising ban came a few hours after The Intercept contacted the company for comment on its promotion of tweets by Global Times, a Chinese tabloid published under the auspices of People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Intercept found that Twitter had promoted 50 English-language tweets by Global Times between June and August, including several that sought to change public perceptions about the Chinese government’s measures in Xinjiang, where upwards of one million Uygurs and other ethnic minority groups are reported to have been forcibly detained and subject to political indoctrination.


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Facebook will add its name to WhatsApp and Instagram soon. 

The Information broke the news before a Facebook spokesperson confirmed directly that the change is indeed happening.

Instagram will soon be known as “Instagram from Facebook” and WhatsApp will be called “WhatsApp from Facebook”. The new app titles will appear in Apple’s App Store and Google Play. 

The Facebook spokesperson shared that the company wants to “be clearer about the products and services that are part of Facebook”.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it will enable cross-messaging for WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. Stamping its name on WhatsApp and Instagram seems to be the first step in the integration. 


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On Thursday afternoon at the one-floor house of Nguyễn Thị Liên’s family in Nghệ An Province’s Nghi Lộc District, things were a little more crowded than usual.

Relatives and neighbours were packed in, as this was the day a very special person would return home.

For 24 years Liên had not seen her daughter Lê Thị Lan after she had been trafficked to China.

The weather outside may have been scorching hot, but nobody was leaving. This was a special day, a day to remember.

Lan hardly had chance to get out of the car before her mother held her tight. This time, she didn’t want to let go.

“I thought that I would never see her again,” 69-year-old Liên said as tears rolled down her cheek.

“I couldn’t sleep last night because I kept thinking of the moment my daughter come back,” she said.

“My family want to express our sincere thanks to the media who have helped spread news about my daughter that lead to the reunion.”

Nguyễn Thị Thu, Liên’s neighbour, said she and other residents in the locality thought she was no longer alive.

“We couldn’t believe that Lan would return home. Everyone is very happy and congratulating Lan’s family,” she said.

Being the eldest child in a poor family of six children, when she was 19, Lan went to work as hired labour in Nghĩa Đàn (another district in Nghệ An Province) to support the family.

But she was tricked and taken to neighbouring Thanh Hóa Province before transported to China’s Guangxi Province and sold to a 65-year-old man for VNĐ7 million (S$410).

After 13 years living together with him, Lan had four children with that man, three daughters and a son.

During that time, Lan was regularly beaten and abused by her husband. She tried to flee many time but did not succeed. She even locked up in a dark room.

She was given drugs so that she gradually loss her memory.

Then, Lan was sold to another man, who she has been living for 11 years now.

This man, who is 43 years, treated her very well.

Two years ago, Lan asked her husband to allow her to return hometown in Việt Nam. Her husband accepted and even gave her some money but she was tricked out of her cash and never made it home.

Early in July, Lan met a Vietnamese woman who was living in China. This proved to be a turning point as that woman, from Hòa Bình Province, helped uploaded a video of Lan on Facebook with the hope that she could contact with her family.

The video was widely shared and seen by Đặng Thị Thảo, Lan’s sister-in-law.

Although the woman spoke Vietnamese not fluently, she still remembered the names of her parents, her hometown and expresses her desire to return to her family, Thảo recalled.

“At first I did not recognise her, but when I heard she talk about the home address, the names of parents, sisters and brothers, I knew it was my sister-in-law,” she said.

Once it was confirmed that the woman in the video was Lan, the family reached out and helped Lan recover her memory.

The family has reported the incident to the police with the hope that authorities would do their best to bring Lan back to Việt Nam as soon as possible.

“We persistently encouraged and set up a contact group between the family, the police and Lan. Gradually, Lan trusted the Vietnamese agency and the Chinese authorities.”

Only then, could we only bring Lan back home,” he said.

Nghệ An police and authorities were trying to find and support victims returning to their homeland, he said.

Regarding to Lan’s case, the provincial police department would collect documents and verify her testimony to continue the investigation.

Statistics from the criminal police division showed between 12-14 human trafficking cases occurred in the province each year. About 90 per cent of victims were trafficking to China and forced to be sex workers or told to marry foreign men.

From November 2015 to April 2018, 34 human trafficking cases were detected resulting in the arrest of 57 suspects.


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Tech giants Google and Facebook could be tracking your visits to adult sites even when you set your browser to private or incognito mode, according to the authors of a recent study on privacy standards of porn websites.

The study, titled “Tracking sex: The Implications Of Widespread Sexual Data Leakage And Tracking On Porn Websites”, analysed 22,484 pornography websites and found that 93% leaked user data to third parties.

It found that Google (and its subsidiaries) had trackers on 74% of the porn sites, Facebook on 10% and Oracle on 24%.

A Google spokeswoman told The New York Times that it does not use the information to build advertising profiles.

“We don’t allow Google Ads on websites with adult content and we prohibit personalised advertising and advertising profiles based on a user’s sexual interests or related activities online. Additionally, tags for our ad services are never allowed to transmit personally identifiable information,” said the spokeswoman.

Facebook made a similar statement, while Oracle did not respond to the NYT.

Though it is not clear what the data is being used for, the authors warned that the collection of this type of data is more dangerous and can be used against a person. For instance, the data could be used to damage the reputation of a public figure. 

“These risks are heightened for vulnerable populations whose porn usage might be classified as non-normative or contrary to their public life,” said the authors.

They added that the data presented a “unique and elevated risk” as 44.97% of porn site web addresses (or URLs) indicate the nature of the content, potentially revealing the person’s sexual preferences.

In an interview with the NYT, one of the authors, Elena Maris from Microsoft Research, said that the mechanism used for adult site tracking is similar to online stores, and it should be a huge red flag, as it’s much more specific and deeply personal.

The study could only extract the privacy policies of 3,856 sites (17% of the total) and found that they were written in an overly complex manner. It said it “might need a two-year college education to understand them”.

There are also security concerns, as hackers have previously stolen email addresses, passwords, usernames, and credit card information from some of the sites.

“Porn sites currently operate with an unethical definition of sexual consent considering the sensitive sexual data they hold. We contend the overwhelming leakiness and sexual exposure revealed in our results mean porn sites ought to better account for user security as well as adopt policies based on affirmative consent,” said the authors.

They said regulatory intervention could provide better protection, adding that the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) for online tracking more closely matches norms for sexual consent by emphasising that consent must be affirmative and freely given.

The other authors of the study are Timothy Libert from Carnegie Mellon University and Jennifer Henrichsen from the University of Pennsylvania.


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Most of us have probably seen those quizzes online where you can discover your personality, some hidden traits or even just to test your IQ – and some of us can’t resist clicking inside just for fun. Liu, a 45-year-old man in Singapore saw an ad for an IQ quiz while he was scrolling through Facebook on 9th April and got curious.

He clicked inside and started playing by answering 20 questions until he reached the end, Lianhe Zaobao reported. He was requested to fill in his personal details at the end of the quiz, so he proceeded to do so, as he thought that they would send the results over to his email address when he was done.

However, he started to feel something was wrong when the quiz asked for his credit card details. He was surprised as they did not mention that he needed to pay for the quiz, so he quickly exited the page. To his surprise, he received a letter from AG Collection Agency, saying that they have the results of his IQ quiz but he needed to pay SGD59 (RM180).Inside the letter, there was an invoice for the IQ test, instructions on how to pay using Paypal and a certificate indicating the IQ test results alongside some general information regarding the different IQ brackets.

Liu said that he replied to the email saying that he did not fill in his credit card details, and he did not want the IQ test results anymore. Nevertheless, the person who replied him insisted that he pay for it since he had already completed the quiz.

Fed up, he decided to ignore them, but they were relentless as they sent him at least four or five emails in two months, demanding that he should pay up. When he did not reply, they threatened to turn the matter over to a debt collection agency and their legal team.

On 3rd June, they emailed him again, saying that he currently owed them a total of SGD89 (RM272), which includes the aforementioned SGD59 (RM180) and “reminder fees.” In the letter, the company told him that he had five days to clear off his “debts”, otherwise they would send a lawyer letter. He also started receiving a countdown message to remind him to pay up.

As the company had his personal information, Liu was worried that they would do something malicious with these sensitive details. He decided to lodge a police report and also to warn the public about this issue. A check on the internet shows that this scam has actually been around for a few years. A few Norwegian websites have written about this scam as well, and it looks like this one is circulating in Singapore at the moment.


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Animal filters make everyone look cute, including boot-faced politicians.

Last Friday, Pakistani minister Shaukat Yousafzai and his colleagues held a press conference to address several pressing issues with the media. As with most politicians today, he used social media to increase audience reach.

But whoever was in charge of streaming the conference on Facebook forgot to turn off the cat filter and boy, these lawmakers looked absolutely adorable.

While the video was quickly deleted from the official Facebook page of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, screengrabs are still circulating online, leaving a significant milestone in Shaukat’s political career.


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Facebook Inc user data is still showing up in places it shouldn’t. 

Researchers at UpGuard, a cybersecurity firm, found troves of user information hiding in plain sight, inadvertently posted publicly on Amazon.com Inc’s cloud computing servers. The discovery shows that a year after the Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed how unsecure and widely disseminated Facebook users’ information is online, companies that control that information at every step still haven’t done enough to seal up private data. 

In one instance, Mexico City-based digital platform Cultura Colectiva, openly stored 540 million records on Facebook users, including identification numbers, comments, reactions and account names. The records were accessible and downloadable for anyone who could find them online. That database was closed on April 3 after Bloomberg alerted Facebook to the problem and Facebook contacted Amazon. Facebook shares pared their gains after the Bloomberg News report. 

Another database for a long-defunct app called At the Pool listed names, passwords and email addresses for 22,000 people. UpGuard doesn’t know how long they were exposed, as the database became inaccessible while the company was looking into it. 

Facebook shared this kind of information freely with third-party developers for years, before cracking down more recently. The problem of accidental public storage could be more extensive than those two instances. UpGuard found 100,000 open Amazon-hosted databases for various types of data, some of which it expects aren’t supposed to be public. 

“The public doesn’t realise yet that these high-level systems administrators and developers, the people that are custodians of this data, they are being either risky or lazy or cutting corners,” said Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at UpGuard. “Not enough care is being put into the security side of big data.” 

Cultura Colectiva is a digital platform that posts stories about celebrities and culture and largely targets a Latin American audience. The company’s website says it creates content through data and technology and has more than 45 million followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. 

Facebook for many years allowed anyone making an app on its site to obtain information on the people using the app, and those users’ friends. Once the data is out of Facebook’s hands, the developers can do whatever they want with it. 

About a year ago, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg was preparing to testify to Congress about a particularly egregious example: A developer who handed over data on tens of millions of people to Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm that helped Donald Trump on his presidential campaign. That one instance has led to government probes around the world, and threats of further regulation for the company. 

Last year, Facebook started an audit of thousands of apps and suspended hundreds until they could make sure they weren’t mishandling user data. Facebook now offers rewards for researchers who find problems with its third-party apps. 

A Facebook spokesperson said that the company’s policies prohibit storing Facebook information in a public database. Once it was alerted to the issue, Facebook worked with Amazon to take down the databases, the spokesperson said, adding that Facebook is committed to working with the developers on its platform to protect people’s data. 

In the Cultura Colectiva dataset, which totalled 146 gigabytes, it was difficult for researchers to know how many unique Facebook users were affected. UpGuard also had trouble working to get the database closed. The firm sent emails to Cultura Colectiva and Amazon over many months to alert them to the problem. It wasn’t until Facebook contacted Amazon that the leak was addressed. Cultura Colectiva didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment. 

This latest example shows how the data security issues can be amplified by another trend: the transition many companies have made from running operations predominantly in their own datacentres to cloud-computing services operated by Amazon, Microsoft Corp, Alphabet Inc’s Google, and others. 

Those tech giants have built multibillion-dollar businesses by making it easy for companies to run applications and store troves of data, from corporate documents to employee information, on remote servers. 

Programmes like Amazon Web Services’ Simple Storage Service, essentially an Internet-accessed hard drive, offer clients the choice of whether to make the data visible to just the person who uploaded it, other members of their company, or anyone online. Sometimes, that information is designed to be public-facing, as in the case of a cache of photos or other images stored for use on a corporate website. 

Other times, it isn’t. In recent years, information stored on several cloud services – US military data, personal information of newspaper subscribers and cell phone users – has been inadvertently shared publicly online and discovered by security researchers. 

Amazon in the last two years has beefed up protocols to keep customers from exposing sensitive materials, adding prominent warning notices, making tools for administrators to more simply turn off all public facing items, and offering for free what was formerly a paid add-on to check a customer’s account for exposed data. 

“Originally I would have put a lot of this on AWS,” said Corey Quinn, who advises businesses that use Amazon’s cloud at the Duckbill Group, a consulting firm. But since Amazon has taken steps to address the issue, companies like Cultura should be aware, he said. “With all of this in the news, and all of this continuing to come out, if you’re still opening AWS buckets [to the public], you’re not paying attention.” 

Amazon isn’t the only company that periodically gets caught up in cases of private records mistakenly made public. But it has a wide lead in the business of selling rented data storage and computing power, putting a spotlight on Seattle-based company’s practices. An Amazon Web Services spokesman declined to comment. – Bloomberg.

-The Star

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WASHINGTON: Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg called on March 30 for regulators to play a “more active role” in establishing rules that govern the Internet, as the world’s largest social media network struggles to defuse criticism.

Zuckerberg, whose company is under pressure for failing to adequately police content and protect user privacy on its platform, wrote in a Washington Post article that a “standardised approach” for removing content would help keep Internet companies “accountable”.

“By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what’s best about it – the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things – while also protecting society from broader harms,” Zuckerberg wrote.

His comments followed a Washington Post report saying the US government and Facebook were negotiating a multibillion-dollar fine settlement over the company’s privacy lapses.

Zuckerberg also called for updated legislation focused on protecting elections, including new rules aimed at online political advertising that “reflect the reality of the threats” faced by social media companies.

US intelligence and law enforcement agencies say Russian internet trolls helped spread divisive content and disinformation on Facebook in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election. – Reuters


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