Facebook still has trouble removing white supremacists, study says

Facebook's crackdown on hate speech apparently has room for improvement. As The Washington Postexplains, the non-profit watchdog Tech Transparency Project (TTP) has published a study indicating that white supremacist groups still have a significant presence on the social network. Over 80 of these racist organizations have a presence on Facebook, some of which the company has already labeled as "dangerous organizations" it normally bans. Researchers found 119 pages and 20 groups, including 24 pages Facebook auto-generated when users listed white supremacist groups as employers or interests.

Searches were also problematic, according to the watchdog. Facebook displayed ads next to searches for white supremacist groups, even when those outfits were on the social site's blocklist. Recommendations steered visitors to other hate pages, and Facebook's tactic of redirecting users to pro-tolerance groups was only effective for 14 percent out of 226 searches. Some searches for supremacists displayed ads for Black churches. This could effectively identify targets for extremists, TTP said.

In a statement to Engadget, Meta said it "immediately" began removing ads from searches linked to banned groups. It also said it was fixing the issue with a "small number" of auto-generated pages. The company further vowed to keep working with outside experts to "stay ahead" of hate and other extremist content. You can read the full statement below.

The survival of these groups on Facebook isn't completely surprising. University of Michigan associate professor Libby Hemphill told The Post that hate groups are increasingly aware of how to dodge content restrictions. Online platforms are frequently scrambling to adapt, and the TTP study suggests they're not always successful.

Even so, the findings add to Meta's headaches. They come just weeks after GLAAD accused Meta brands of doing too little to protect LGBTQ users, and relatively soon after whistleblower Frances Haugen said Facebook's algorithmic content filtering only caught a "tiny minority" of hate speech. There's plenty of pressure to ramp up anti-hate measures, and it's not yet clear how well the latest fixes will help.

"All 270 groups that Meta has designated as white supremacist organizations are banned from our platform. We invest extensively in technology, people, and research to keep our platforms safe. We immediately resolved an issue where ads were appearing in searches for terms related to banned organizations and we are also working to fix an auto generation issue, which incorrectly impacted a small number of pages. We will continue to work with outside experts and organizations in an effort to stay ahead of violent, hateful, and terrorism-related content and remove such content from our platforms."

YouTube testing ‘pinch to zoom’ feature for Premium users

YouTube has quietly introduced an experimental feature called pinch to zoom exclusively for Premium users, Android Police has reported. It lets you zoom into the video player and then pan around to look at different parts of the screen, both in portrait or full-screen landscape view, as shown below. 

If you're a Premium user, you can try it out by tapping your profile photo and hitting "Your Premium benefits," opening the "Try new features" section and enabling the zoom function. It might take a while for the feature to kick in, but once it's active you can zoom in at up to 8x. 

YouTube testing 'pinch to zoom' feature for Premium Users
YouTube

In the past, YouTube tested interesting features like picture-in-picture with random users and beta app testers. In 2020, though, it launched experimental features for Premium users, letting them try out new options before anyone else. Several experimental features have made their way to the Premium app, including easier playlist management and browser-based voice search. The new feature will be available until September 1st and is only supported on Android devices for now. 

YouTube testing ‘pinch to zoom’ feature for Premium users

YouTube has quietly introduced an experimental feature called pinch to zoom exclusively for Premium users, Android Police has reported. It lets you zoom into the video player and then pan around to look at different parts of the screen, both in portrait or full-screen landscape view, as shown below. 

If you're a Premium user, you can try it out by tapping your profile photo and hitting "Your Premium benefits," opening the "Try new features" section and enabling the zoom function. It might take a while for the feature to kick in, but once it's active you can zoom in at up to 8x. 

YouTube testing 'pinch to zoom' feature for Premium Users
YouTube

In the past, YouTube tested interesting features like picture-in-picture with random users and beta app testers. In 2020, though, it launched experimental features for Premium users, letting them try out new options before anyone else. Several experimental features have made their way to the Premium app, including easier playlist management and browser-based voice search. The new feature will be available until September 1st and is only supported on Android devices for now. 

Elon Musk accuses Twitter of fraud for hiding real number of fake accounts

Elon Musk is accusing Twitter of fraud for hiding the real number of bots on its platform, according to The New York Times. In the latest installment of the Twitter-vs-Musk saga, the Tesla chief's team claimed in a legal filing that 10 percent of the social network's daily active users who see ads are inauthentic accounts. If you'll recall, Twitter has long maintained that bots represent less than five percent of its userbase, and Musk put his planned acquisition of the social network on hold in mid-July to confirm if that's accurate. 

The Tesla and SpaceX chief, who's also a prolific Twitter user, launched an aggressive takeover of the social network in April after it became the company's largest shareholder. While Twitter quickly accepted his offer, they butted heads over the number of fake accounts on the platform shortly after that — he also accused the company of not giving him access to enough information to verify the number of bots on the website. Twitter gave him full access to its internal data in response, but in the end, Musk told the Securities and Exchange Commission that he wanted to terminate the acquisition over "false and misleading representations" made by the social network. 

Twitter sued its largest shareholder for trying to back out of its $44 billion buyout deal, telling the court that Musk is wrongfully breaking their agreement by doing so. The website accused him of backing out because Tesla's and Twitter's shares went down due to the economic downturn and the "deal he signed no longer serves his personal interests."

In this new filing, Musk's camp said its analysts found a much higher number of inauthentic accounts than Twitter claimed using Botometer. That's a machine learning algorithm designed by Indiana University that "checks the activity of Twitter accounts and gives them a score based on how likely they are to be bots." Musk's lawyers said the social network concealed its bot problem to get Musk to agree to buy the company "at an inflated price." They also said:

"Twitter was miscounting the number of false and spam accounts on its platform, as part of its scheme to mislead investors about the company’s prospects. Twitter’s disclosures have slowly unraveled, with Twitter frantically closing the gates on information in a desperate bid to prevent the Musk parties from uncovering its fraud."

Twitter fired back with its own legal filing, calling his claims "factually inaccurate, legally insufficient and commercially irrelevant." The company said the Botometer is unreliable and had once given Musk's own Twitter account a score indicating that it's "highly likely to be a bot." Twitter's lawsuit against Musk is heading to court in October.

Elon Musk accuses Twitter of fraud for hiding real number of fake accounts

Elon Musk is accusing Twitter of fraud for hiding the real number of bots on its platform, according to The New York Times. In the latest installment of the Twitter-vs-Musk saga, the Tesla chief's team claimed in a legal filing that 10 percent of the social network's daily active users who see ads are inauthentic accounts. If you'll recall, Twitter has long maintained that bots represent less than five percent of its userbase, and Musk put his planned acquisition of the social network on hold in mid-July to confirm if that's accurate. 

The Tesla and SpaceX chief, who's also a prolific Twitter user, launched an aggressive takeover of the social network in April after it became the company's largest shareholder. While Twitter quickly accepted his offer, they butted heads over the number of fake accounts on the platform shortly after that — he also accused the company of not giving him access to enough information to verify the number of bots on the website. Twitter gave him full access to its internal data in response, but in the end, Musk told the Securities and Exchange Commission that he wanted to terminate the acquisition over "false and misleading representations" made by the social network. 

Twitter sued its largest shareholder for trying to back out of its $44 billion buyout deal, telling the court that Musk is wrongfully breaking their agreement by doing so. The website accused him of backing out because Tesla's and Twitter's shares went down due to the economic downturn and the "deal he signed no longer serves his personal interests."

In this new filing, Musk's camp said its analysts found a much higher number of inauthentic accounts than Twitter claimed using Botometer. That's a machine learning algorithm designed by Indiana University that "checks the activity of Twitter accounts and gives them a score based on how likely they are to be bots." Musk's lawyers said the social network concealed its bot problem to get Musk to agree to buy the company "at an inflated price." They also said:

"Twitter was miscounting the number of false and spam accounts on its platform, as part of its scheme to mislead investors about the company’s prospects. Twitter’s disclosures have slowly unraveled, with Twitter frantically closing the gates on information in a desperate bid to prevent the Musk parties from uncovering its fraud."

Twitter fired back with its own legal filing, calling his claims "factually inaccurate, legally insufficient and commercially irrelevant." The company said the Botometer is unreliable and had once given Musk's own Twitter account a score indicating that it's "highly likely to be a bot." Twitter's lawsuit against Musk is heading to court in October.

Google made one of its best search shortcuts even more useful

Google searches with quotes just became much more useful if you're looking for the exact place words appear on a page. The internet giant has updated quote-based searches with page snippets that show exactly where you'll find the text you're looking for. You might not have to scroll through a giant document just to find the right phrase.

There are limitations. Searches with quotes might turn up results that aren't visible (such as meta description tags) or only show up in web addresses and title links. You might not see all of the mentions in a snippet if they're too far apart. You'll "generally" only see bolded mentions on desktop, and you won't see the bolding at all for specialized searches and results (such as image searches and video boxes). You may have to use your browser's on-page search feature to jump to the relevant keywords.

The company characterized the change as a response to feedback. It hesitated to make snippets for these searches in the past, as documents didn't always produce readable descriptions. This is an acknowledgment that people using quotes to search are sometimes "power users" more interested in pinpointing words than reading site descriptions.

Facebook Live Shopping is coming to an end in favor of Reels

Facebook Live Shopping events appear to be another casualty of Meta’s shift to short-form video. According to an announcement on the company’s website, live shopping events on Facebook will retire on October 1st. The little-known feature let Facebook Business owners showcase their products in live videos to their followers — sort of like a personal Home Shopping Network. Merchants could notify their Page followers of upcoming live shopping sessions and take payments through Messenger.

In lieu of such sessions, Meta is asking merchants to consider showcasing products via Reels, Reels ads and product tagging on Instagram Reels. “As consumers’ viewing behaviors are shifting to short-form video, we are shifting our focus to Reels on Facebook and Instagram, Meta’s short-form video product,” wrote Meta in its post.

It’s no surprise that Meta is pushing more merchants towards Reels and Reels ads, especially given the fact that the latter reached a $1 billion annual revenue run rate in the second quarter of this year. Much to the chagrin of users that miss seeing their friends, Instagram and increasingly Facebook has continued to emphasize in-feed ads and suggested posts on user feeds. But thanks to a recent user-led backlash, Instagram has agreed to scale back the testing of its recommendation and video-centric features — but only temporarily.

Over the past two years, TikTok’s status as the reigning app of Gen Z has led other social media platforms to make some strategic changes to cater to a younger audience. In light of Meta’s first quarterly revenue loss since going public, CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed to Reels on Facebook and Instagram as a crucial part of the company’s recovery plan. Instagram users now spend nearly 20 percent of their time on the app watching Reels, though it’s likely a significant amount of this time was spent watching reposted TikToks — leading to the platform making some algorithmic tweaks to downrank videos from its competitor.

Meanwhile, Meta is continuing to make a push for users to create more original content on Reels. In a recent video, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said more of the platform would emphasize video “over time” — despite criticism from followers who miss Instagram’s earlier focus on photos. Last month Instagram began testing automatically turning videos shared on public Instagram accounts into Reels and adding a number of templates and tools to make it easier to create Reels.

Facebook Live Shopping is coming to an end in favor of Reels

Facebook Live Shopping events appear to be another casualty of Meta’s shift to short-form video. According to an announcement on the company’s website, live shopping events on Facebook will retire on October 1st. The little-known feature let Facebook Business owners showcase their products in live videos to their followers — sort of like a personal Home Shopping Network. Merchants could notify their Page followers of upcoming live shopping sessions and take payments through Messenger.

In lieu of such sessions, Meta is asking merchants to consider showcasing products via Reels, Reels ads and product tagging on Instagram Reels. “As consumers’ viewing behaviors are shifting to short-form video, we are shifting our focus to Reels on Facebook and Instagram, Meta’s short-form video product,” wrote Meta in its post.

It’s no surprise that Meta is pushing more merchants towards Reels and Reels ads, especially given the fact that the latter reached a $1 billion annual revenue run rate in the second quarter of this year. Much to the chagrin of users that miss seeing their friends, Instagram and increasingly Facebook has continued to emphasize in-feed ads and suggested posts on user feeds. But thanks to a recent user-led backlash, Instagram has agreed to scale back the testing of its recommendation and video-centric features — but only temporarily.

Over the past two years, TikTok’s status as the reigning app of Gen Z has led other social media platforms to make some strategic changes to cater to a younger audience. In light of Meta’s first quarterly revenue loss since going public, CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed to Reels on Facebook and Instagram as a crucial part of the company’s recovery plan. Instagram users now spend nearly 20 percent of their time on the app watching Reels, though it’s likely a significant amount of this time was spent watching reposted TikToks — leading to the platform making some algorithmic tweaks to downrank videos from its competitor.

Meanwhile, Meta is continuing to make a push for users to create more original content on Reels. In a recent video, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said more of the platform would emphasize video “over time” — despite criticism from followers who miss Instagram’s earlier focus on photos. Last month Instagram began testing automatically turning videos shared on public Instagram accounts into Reels and adding a number of templates and tools to make it easier to create Reels.

Here’s what embedded tweets could look like after they’re edited

One of Twitter’s most anticipated features — the edit button — is still in development. But thanks to app researcher Jane Manchun Wong, we have an idea of how edits to embedded tweets on a website will carry over. If a tweet gets edited after it is embedded on a website (say, in a news article), the embedded tweet will still display the old text, but include a link to the newer version. Edited embedded tweets will display the text “There’s a new version of this Tweet," offering users an option to click and read the new text. Such a design seems to offer more transparency than simply displaying the new text up front, and may calm fears that giving users free rein to edit tweets will make it easier for bad actors to thrive.

But what if users decided to embed a tweet that has already been edited? Instead of displaying the original text, the embedded tweet will display the new text (in other words, it’ll read exactly the same as how you found it). But below the edited tweet, there will be a timestamp and the text “Last edited."

It’s only been a few months since Twitter confirmed that an edit button is actually in development, so it could be a while until users see the feature in action. Keep in mind that Twitter plans on testing the feature on its premium Twitter Blue subscribers first, before rolling it out to the rest of the public. Given that Twitter recently increased the Blue subscription fee by two dollars, it may be worth just waiting.

Facebook faces suspension in Kenya over ethnic-based hate speech

Kenya's National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), a government agency that aims to eradicate ethnic or racial discrimination among the country's 45 tribes, has given Facebook seven days to tackle hate speech related to next month's election on its platform. If the social media fails to do so, it faces suspension in the country. The agency's warning comes shortly after international NGO Global Witness and legal non-profit Foxglove released a report detailing how Facebook approved ads written to instigate ethnic violence in both English and Swahili.

The organizations joined forces to conduct a study testing Facebook's ability to detect hate speech and calls for ethnic-based violence ahead of the Kenyan elections. As Global Witness explained in its report, the country's politics are polarized and ethnically driven — after the 2007 elections, for instance, 1,300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands more had to flee their homes. A lot more people use social media today compared to 2007, and over 20 percent of the Kenyan population is on Facebook, where hate speech and misinformation are major issues.

The groups decided not to publish the exact ads they submitted for the test because they were highly offensive, but they used real-life examples of hate speech commonly used in Kenya. They include comparisons of specific tribal groups to animals and calls for their members' rape, slaughter and beheading. "Much to our surprise and concern," Global Witness reported, "all hate speech examples in both [English and Swahili] were approved." The NCIC said the NGOs' report corroborates its own findings. 

After the organizations asked Facebook for a comment regarding what it had discovered and hence made it aware of the study, Meta published a post that details how it is preparing for Kenya's election. In it, the company said it has built a more advanced content detection technology and has hired dedicated teams of Swahili speakers to help it "remove harmful content quickly and at scale." To see if Facebook truly has implemented changes that has improved its detection system, the organizations resubmitted its test ads. They were approved yet again. 

In a statement sent to both Global Witness and Gizmodo, Meta said it has taken "extensive steps" to "catch hate speech and inflammatory content in Kenya" and that the company is "intensifying these efforts ahead of the election." It also said, however, that there will be instances where it misses things " as both machines and people make mistakes."

Global Witness said its study's findings follow a similar pattern it previously uncovered in Myanmar, where Facebook played a role in enabling calls for ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims. It also follows a similar pattern the organization unearthed in Ethiopia wherein bad actors used the Facebook to incite violence. The organizations and Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen are now calling on Facebook to implement the "Break the Glass” package of emergency measures it took after the January 6th, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. They's also asking the social network to suspend paid digital advertisements in Kenya until the end of the elections on August 9th.