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Mark Zuckerberg (finally) admits huge data scandal is “a breach of trust” between Facebook and its users

But the Facebook CEO’s mea culpa is way too little and way too late. The news: Mark Zuckerberg finally broke his silence over a massive data scandal that had been festering for days. The furor was triggered by revelations that Cambridge Analytica (CA), a data-mining firm involved in the 2016 Trump election campaign, had gained unauthorized access to information about tens of millions of Facebook users.

The mea culpa: Although Zuckerberg blamed CA and Aleksandr Kogan, a researcher, for misleading the social network about whether they had deleted user data, he also admitted that the affair was “a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it.” Tip of a data iceberg: Zuckerberg said Facebook will conduct an audit of all apps that accessed large amounts of customer data before it tightened access rules in 2014, investigate those that engaged in suspicious activity, and ban them if they have broken its rules. It plans to tell customers whose data was abused.

Developer crackdown: The social network will also restrict the data developers can access when someone signs up to an app, and revoke access to data in any app that hasn’t been used for three months. Developers will also have to sign a digital contract with a user to get access to data beyond a name, profile photo, and e-mail address. Zuckerberg said Facebook also plans to let users see what apps are using their data and to control permissions directly from their News Feed.

Right now, such tools are buried more deeply in Facebook’s privacy controls. Too late and too little: There are still plenty of unanswered questions, such as why Facebook failed to report Cambridge Analytica’s failure to delete user data when it learned about if from journalists in 2015. Why weren’t the steps outlined above–and more–taken then rather than years later?

And there’s still a deeply worrying lack of transparency over exactly how Facebook–and third parties–use customers’ data to target advertising and other services.

Zuckerberg’s steps are the equivalent of applying a Band-Aid to a massive, festering wound that requires serious surgery to fix it–assuming that’s even possible given the contradictions inherent in Facebook’s surveillance-driven business model.

The end of the beginning: This isn’t by any means the beginning of the end of Facebook’s CA-related headaches, which include multiple government probes on both sides of the Atlantic, scathing criticism from former insiders, and the prospect of an avalanche of lawsuits.

The latest on Facebook’s data scandal: lawsuits, calls to quit, and whistleblowers ignored

And all the while the firm’s CEO remains hugely conspicuous by his absence. Backstory: In case you missed it, Facebook is embroiled in a huge scandal because of the way its users’ data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, a firm that provided data to the Trump election campaign in 2016. Overlooked whistleblowers: Ex-Facebook staffer Sandy Parakilas told British politicians today that his warnings about the firm’s lax data protection standards were ignored, and that some of the executives he told still work at the social network.

To this point, today’s Bloomberg Businessweek cover story makes a compelling argument: maybe we need a Data Protection Agency? The legal backlash begins: It was only a matter of time, but the first legal complaints against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have now been filed. Expect more to follow in the coming days.

#DeleteFacebook: Brian Acton, the cofounder of WhatsApp (who made billions by selling his startup to, ahem, Facebook in 2014), has been a very vocal part of a campaign urging people to quit the social network. “It is time. #deletefacebook,” he tweeted. (Or you could manipulate Facebook instead of letting it manipulate you.) Where’s Zuck? The CEO was a no-show at a staff meeting yesterday. The Daily Beast says he’s “working around the clock.” The American and British governments want him to give evidence, but he sent “mid-level staffers” to testify to Congress today.

Maybe here’s Zuck: The Verge says he’s expected to make an appearance at a company Q&A on Friday. Meanwhile Axios reports that the CEO will speak out about the scandal “in the next 24 hours.” So expect to hear from his some time this week. We guess.

Lots to lose: Media analysts say that Facebook has made a huge mess of handling the situation so far. (See: the firm’s stock price.) When Zuck does speak out, he will need to tread carefully–more mistakes could be damaging, to both reputation and bottom line.

Is it different this time? Every Facebook scandal feels like the one that’s going to bring about radical change, but it hasn’t–yet. Gadfly proposes that Facebook is bigger, and lawmakers more suspicious, than ever this time, so it could be different.

But that’s a very big “could.”

Image credit:

  • Facebook / Jamie Condliffe

Amnesty International says Twitter’s toxic culture is failing women

Amnesty International says that Twitter is failing to prevent online abuse and protect women’s rights, following a 16-month research project into women’s experiences on social media platforms.

The human rights group says that their findings show Twitter has not taken adequate steps to address and prevent toxic content directed toward women, including death threats, rape threats, and racist, transphobic, and homophobic abuse. In addition, Amnesty says that when Twitter does enforce a response to abuse, it’s inconsistent. Oftentimes, reports aren’t addressed at all, leaving the abusive content on the platform.

One UK journalist told Amnesty that out of 100 abusive tweets she reported, Twitter only removed two.

Amnesty International has been researching Twitter and online abuse toward women since December 2016. Its newest survey, which included over 1,100 British women, revealed that only 9 percent believe Twitter is doing enough to stop violence and abuse against women, and 78 percent believe they can’t express an opinion on Twitter without receiving violent threats or abuse.

It has also conducted focus groups with a total of 86 women and non-binary individuals from the UK and US who are prominent public figures online (politicians, journalists, activists, bloggers, writers, comedians, and games developers), and a qualitative survey in early 2017 on the same topic, but for female users without a large public following.

Last year, it commissioned an IPSOS MORI poll to survey women between the ages of 18 and 55 in Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and the US. Twenty-three percent of women surveyed said they had experienced online abuse or harassment at least once, and 41 percent of those respondents said that the abuse or harassment made them feel physically threatened, while 26 percent were doxxed in some form.

“It’s clear that Twitter has become a toxic place for women,” said Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International. “For far too long Twitter has been a space where women can too easily be confronted with death or rape threats, and where their genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations are under attack.”

Amnesty says that under the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Twitter has a responsibility to prevent discrimination, prevent contributing to abuses of freedom of expression, and be transparent in its efforts in addressing these concerns.

In response, Twitter has said it “cannot delete hatred and prejudice from society,” and reiterated that “abuse and hateful conduct directed at women, including direct threats of violence, and harassment, are prohibited on Twitter.” The company also said there have been 30 changes to its platform in the past 16 months to improve safety, including increasing the instances of action it takes on reported abusive tweets.

Though Amnesty acknowledges steps have been made, it still maintains that Twitter as a whole fails to let users know how it interprets and enforces policies regarding abuse and threats of violence and that enforcement is inconsistent.

In addition, it says that specific identity abuse toward women of color, women from ethnic or religious minorities, LGBTQ women, non-binary individuals, and women with disabilities threaten to drive already marginalized voices further out of the conversation.

“The trolls are currently winning, because despite repeated promises, Twitter is failing to do enough to stop them,” says Allen. “Twitter must take concrete steps to address and prevent violence and abuse against women on its platform, otherwise its claim to be on women’s side is meaningless.”

Twitter has been criticized extensively for lack of enforcement of its own rules with toxic culture and abuse toward women on its platform.

It has suspended users for simply sharing threatening messages they’ve received, and those reporting rape threats have been told the messages do not violate Twitter’s rules.

Recently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that the company has not always met user expectations and asked the public to help measure how toxic it is.

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