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Last Week Online #37 – Welcome to the Facebook 'Supreme Court'

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
2 min read

What happens when tech companies build parallel court systems? Soon we'll know.

Facebooks’ privacy issues more extensive than previously thought

On Friday, Facebook revealed that it had suspended tens of thousands of apps for inappropriately absorbing users' personal information. The actions confirm that the scale of Facebooks data privacy issues was far more extensive than previously acknowledged.

Facebook says that their investigation began in March last year, after signs that Cambridge Analytica had retrieved and used people’s Facebook information without their consent. In August last year, Facebook suspended 400 apps, but in this latest raid “tens of thousands” of apps associated with about 400 developers have been suspended.

When a state court in Boston later unsealed court filings part of an investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general documents revealed that Facebook had suspended 69 000 apps. The majority of the terminated apps was due to developers not cooperating with Facebook’s investigation. However, 10 000 was potentially inappropriately using personal data from Facebook users.

Also, they’re planning to launch its own “supreme court”

Facebook has revealed its plan to create an independent “oversight” board overseeing decisions around moderating on the platform. The board will have the power to override decisions Facebook makes over contentious material, and they will influence new policy.

The Facebook “supreme court”, will launch with no less than 11 members — and will eventually involve 40 people around the world (less than the number of markets where Facebook operates). The panel will hear its first “cases” in 2020.

The initiative is mostly written off as grandstanding. Mark Zuckerberg wrote: “I don’t believe private companies like ours should be making so many important decisions about speech on our own.” But still, he keeps refusing to answer questions about his business’ impact on democracy and human rights when asked by parliaments around the world.

Most experts are also questioning the board’s independence, as well as the motivation behind the move. “Facebook’s ‘supreme court’ invokes all the pomp and circumstance of actual judicial practise without any of the responsibility to citizens,” said Bernie Hogan, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, to BBC.

YouTube rolls back changes after upsetting the creator community

YouTube announced changes to its verification system — telling a large number of high-profile YouTubers that they would no longer be verified and lose their checkmarks. In an email to some creators, YouTube wrote: “We’re writing to let you know that we’re updating the eligibility criteria for channel verification on YouTube.”

The affected creators protested so loudly to the changes that YouTube decided to roll back its decision. For a long time, any YouTube channel with more than 100,000 subscribers could apply for verification. Now, the channel proposed that only channels representing a creator, artist, public figure or company that is “widely recognised” outside YouTube should be able to get verified.

The verification badge is prestigious for any YouTuber, getting their efforts “supported” by the platform. But creators also worried that changes would affect both their view counts and their possibility to work with brands. Verification sometimes impacts where videos end up in the search results, and it’s also helpful to fans trying to identify a YouTuber’s official channel.

Tool of the week: Blogcast

Blogcast let you generate audio versions of your articles, automatically. It then gives you the raw audio and a simple embed. Then, you can add it to your webpage, create a fully-automated podcast, or use it in any other way you can think of. With more and more people leaving blogs for podcasts, using the text content you already created is probably wise.

The tool uses AI-powered text-to-speech technology to give you impressively great voice content – without a human having to record it manually. AI-powered text-to-speech doesn't sound like the crappy automated voices we are used to from a couple of years ago. It's definitely worth a try!

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.

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