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Last Week Online #51 – Internal memo asks Facebook employees not to sway the 2020 election

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
3 min read

Facebook seems to enjoy its lead in US elections.

Facebook won't ban, fact-check, or limit political ads in 2020

With the 2020 presidential election getting closer, Facebook reaffirmed its policy on political ads on Thursday. It won't ban them, fact-check them, or limit how they can target specific groups of the electorate. This decision came after Twitter and Spotify both decided not to allow any political ads, and Google chose to limit them across some of its properties.

At the same time, Andrew Bosworth (a longtime Facebook employee who manages the company's virtual and augmented reality division) said that he "desperately" wants Trump to lose the 2020 presidential election. But, he wrote in a memo on his internal Facebook page that the company should avoid hurting Trump's campaign. “As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear.”

Facebook's director of product management overseeing the advertising integrity division, Rob Leathern said "In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies," when commenting the decision in a blog post. He continued: "We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinised and debated in public."

Instead, Facebook declared it would give users some control over the number of political ads they see; also, they will make its online library of political ads easier to browse. These features, however, does not tackle the issue with false information about candidates spreading through the ad network.

Bonus info: Facebook Says It Will Ban ‘Deepfakes’ (New York Times)

Twitter will try a "block all replies" function, to improve the health of conversations online

This week, Twitter revealed a new plan to reduce the amount of harassment that takes place on the platform. The new feature will let users choose who can reply to their tweet by giving them four different settings for replies:

  • Global - anyone can reply
  • Group - responses from people the user follows or mentions in the tweet are allowed
  • Panel - responses from people mentioned are allowed
  • Statement - no replies are allowed

Twitter will test the new feature at the beginning of this year. According to Suzanne Xie, Twitters's director of product, the purpose is to "give authors a way to control the conversation space."

There's increasing pressure on social media companies to address so-called "cyber-bullying". In 2018, Twitter's CEO Jack Dorsey promised to improve the "health" of public conversation, and last year, Twitter began to allow users to hide specific responses to their tweets. Time will tell if the new feature will reduce the amount of abuse and trolling by users on the platform.

FBI is once again asking Apple to bypass iPhone encryption

On Tuesday, FBI said it had asked Apple to help them unlock two phones that belong to the Saudi Air Force trainee who killed three people last month at Pensacola Naval Air Station. The case might reheat the disagreement between the FBI and Apple about what digital information law enforcement should be able to access.

Apple said in a statement that "we will continue to support them with the data we have available." Apple regularly turns over information it has on its servers, such as iCloud data, to comply with court orders. However, it claims it cannot access material stored only on a locked, encrypted iPhone.

In 2014, Apple started to encrypt iPhones so that only the password could unlock the device. Not even Apple can bypass this protection. In 2016, the FBI demanded that Apple develop software that would open the iPhone used by one of two shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack that killed 14 people. Apple refused, but before the case reached the court, the FBI announced that it had unlocked the phone without Apple's help.

Tool of the week: WebCal.fi

Probably the ugliest tool I've ever recommended. But when you have installed it, you won't be able to tell. WebCal.fi makes it possible to add a lot of things to your calendar, like THE WEATHER. Such a simple concept that makes scheduling when to timebox my running sessions so much easier.

If you don't need the weather, you might want to know the best times for fishing and hunting based on moon and sun location. According to Solunar theory, wild animals are more active depending on the moon and the sun. There's a calendar for everyone.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

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


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