Facebook should honor those privacy notice hoaxes

I’ve seen several friends post the new variant of the notice saying that in order to have privacy, you have to post the note that does not give Facebook permission to use your photos or status updates.

Here is the thing. Taking away that permission makes Facebook unusable as no one can see them even people you want to see them. If Facebook cannot use them, then it cannot show them to others on your behalf.

I think Facebook should start:

  1. Programmatically look to see if these statuses are posted by a user.
  2. Disable access to photos and status updates for any user who has posted it and not allow them to make new ones.
  3. Let them see the posts of others who have not posted it.
  4. Highlight to the user that no one can see their stuff due to having that post. Give them the option of deleting the post to restore access.

My guess is if Facebook did this, then these posts would disappear from Facebook pretty quickly.

Fact Check: Akon Lighting Africa

Saw a friend posted a photo claiming Akon had provided solar power to 600 million Africans, but the media was not going to tell you about it. It also questioned what is it the NGOs are doing.

This was an amazing claim, so I went looking into it. “Akon solar power” led me to his company Akon Lighting Africa. The key figures on the home page look much more modest with 100K street lamps, 1,200 micro-grids, and 102K domestic kits. The initial claim was that there were 600M without access to electricity. It does not look like it has put a dent in that number, much less the goal of 80 million people. The company was founded in 2014.

In 2015 they claimed to have provided solar power to about 8 million people (using the average household size of 8.7 people in Senegal rounded down; used average household size for Senegal as that is where Akon is from and started).

As of 2016, they claimed to have helped 1.5M lives.

Source: Twitter search for “from:AkonLighting million

Hopefully 1 million households in the first one should have been lives to make it consistent. Otherwise, in 2016 there was a huge backslide.

Let’s unpack the current numbers on the website.

  • 102K domestic kits = 887.4K lives
  • It is not clear what the micro-grid means, but the website has photos of charging stations attached to a set of solar cells. That could mean about 600K additional people counted not with power in their home, but able to visit a charging station to charge up a device to bring home.
    • My interpretation of micro-grid would be a network of homes connected to a grid. It would also power the street lamps.

Crowdsourcing Bias Identification

Zittrain’s set of tweets was interesting reading.

Lots more on it: best1, 2, 3.

There is an interesting plug-in called Media Bias/Fact Check which will help show how a news site skews. Before you rush off to use it, you should like I did review their methodology to ensure you can reasonably trust it.

My one issue with it is a crowdsourcing component where each site they review has a PollDaddy widget. PollDaddy like any other similar thing tries to prevent multiple voting, but that security relies on cookies, so if I wanted to skew the poll and say make Snopes appear extreme right, it is not all that difficult to vote, delete the cookie, vote, delete, etc. A possible example is MBFC marks Palmer Report as “left center” while the poll shows Extreme Left=76, Left=36, Left Center=44, Least Biased=26, Extreme Right=2. There appears to be some disagreement between those polled and the reviewers. The polls are not pulled into the plug-in database and instead used by humans to review whether they should revisit a prior determination. So MBFC cannot be directly manipulated through the polls.

Back around 2003 spam was really, really bad. Work had not yet devised an anti-spam solution, so I turned to an interesting client plug-in where users marked messages as spam. If enough users marked a message as spam, then the sender was blacklisted and anything from them sent to a junk folder. The dark side to this model? Some people interpreted “spam” as any email they did not want to receive. Several email lists or legitimate advertisers with easy and functional unsubscribe tools were blacklisted. It was easier for people to hit spam than do the right thing.

The wisdom of crowds has very narrow applications.

But a look at recent cases and new research suggests that open-innovation models succeed only when carefully designed for a particular task and when the incentives are tailored to attract the most effective collaborators.

So I appreciate that MBFC has a firewall between the crowdsourcing and their reviews. But, that also means their method is very, very labor intensive. Sites will be very slow to be added.

Facebook is talking about removing fake news. Some are calling for them to so something like MBFC and help users understand what they are reading. Back in May they removed their editors who were in charge of doing essentially the MBFC of thing of reviewing and ensuring what ended up in Trending was good material and writing summaries. These editors were accused of bias. When Facebook replaced them, fake news immediately started showing up in Trending. Removing fake news could help, but how they go about it could be interesting. Their editor debacle could push them in the algorithm route, but their algorithm debacle could push them back toward editors. Maybe some mix of the two?

Research BEFORE reacting

A friend posted this article on Facebook, Everything wrong with this country happened this morning on my Facebook page, which showed an image with the original erroneous claim. The reactions to it were agreement with the bogus claim. Which was extremely sad because the originator of the claim now refutes it. The whole point of the article seems to be that people seem to have lost the ability to see something, research for themselves the accuracy of the information, and make a decision about it. Instead people see things which evoke a feeling and react to the emotions instead of taking the time to verify. Even when that thing is trying to point out they are falling for stupid things corrected over a decade, but the false version resonates so strongly people perpetuate it because ideology trumps facts.

You need evidence.  You must go back somewhere in our objective world of definable objects and time frames and get EVIDENCE before you have an emotional reaction to something.  Not ONE SINGLE PERSON went and researched.  They had their opinions ready when the manufactured reality presented itself.  They gained more satisfaction from expressing their world view than searching for the truth.  This is the problem we’re having.  This is the core of the problem America is having.  If we just searched for objective truth, if we stopped our anger or our emotions for a singular second we wouldn’t have Iraq wars and Afghanistan wars and we’d have an equitable economic system that brought about prosperity to all.

I think a lot about this kind of thing. Some of my posts:

P.S. Snopes and Google are your friends.

Image Search

Mount Kazbek church, Republic of Georgia
Mount Kazbek church, Republic of Georgia

Google has a cool tool, Google Images, which can search images. Provide it text, and the images returned will have related metadata or page information to your search. Now, for the really cool part, you can search based on another image.

Click the camera icon in the search bar and another box appear. Enter a URL or click the link to upload one. It uses the image provided as the search and returns similar ones.

Some uses I have for it..

  1. Who is using your images. It is easy for someone to download any photo posted on a web site. Then they can upload it elsewhere under another attribution. Searching for your images can help locate someone who is re-using your work.
  2. Correctly attribute images. I see a photo without identifying information and desire to find the source.
    1. Painting. Maybe a painting and I want to see more of the artist’s work.
    2. Photograph. Ditto. A concrete example is I saw a background of a web page for a State of Georgia (USA) web site with a Russian-style church with mountains in the background that looked nothing like those in this state. Searching on that image turned up a Blogger page with the same photo identifying it as in the Republic of Georgia.
    3. Identification of plants, animals, etc.
    4. Locate higher resolution version.
  3. Finding similar work. Once you click into “Visually similar” photos, you have all kinds of neat controls like size, color, type, and time. Maybe a logo looks derivative, but I am not familiar enough to know. Image search can locate very similar logos and point to the original.
  4. Scams. A friend was renting an apartment in Amsterdam and wanted to know if the place was legitimate. Using the photos from the email, I was able to find multiple other listings that all used the same photos.
  5. Identify Fake Profiles. Scammers are lazy and take photos from elsewhere on the Internet. This can find the original.
  6. Debunk Social Media. People share doctored or misattributed photos on social media sites all the time. This can find the snopes or other anti-urbanlegend site’s page on the photo.

I am sure there are more.

Anyway, I use this at least once a week.

Alienating Friends Through Correcting Misinformation

Snopes is your friend. Even if you cannot remember the site, searching for a sentence of a text probably will pull up a hoax clarification site.

Facebook is the new chainletter forwarding medium. The share button allows people to very easily and simply pass along anything. Often this is before they do anything to verify the information. Before anyone I know who reads this comments, I have been guilty of it too. I like to think it rarely happens.

Almost as long as I have been online, I have fought back against this kind of misinformation. When I see factual claims, I try and verify them. My GoogleFu is strong because of researching things I read or hear to confirm, deny, or better understand. If claims were false, then I left a comment. Initially I wrote in my own words detailed explanations on why something was in error. Then as I got lazier, I quoted places like Snopes who probably wrote better explanations anyway and linked back to the source.

These days at my laziest, I just post a link to the source.

Usually, I received a comment back in thanks. Sometimes it hurt feelings for me to have sent these comments. People have even stopped talking to me over getting a comment. The interesting ones involve me being called a liar or mean. So I pull back for a while and try not to hurt feelings. Eventually, I will resume responding.

Something I really should remember is people love their biases and these shares are part of solidifying them. I probably ignore the things with which I agree. By trying to correct them, I am fighting against cognitive dissonance and am not going to win.