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05.24.17 | 1:01 pm

Now you can raise money for personal emergencies and medical bills on Facebook

Starting today, you can raise money for things like unexpected medical expenses, personal emergencies, funerals, and your local community right on Facebook. Facebook has allowed charitable organizations to get donations on the platform for quite a while, but individuals who wanted to raise funds had to use another service, such as GoFundMe, to create personal fundraisers. 

The social network currently has a short list of approved reasons for personal fundraisers: Education, Medical, Pet Medical, Crisis Relief, Personal Emergency, Funeral and Loss, Sports, Community.

Fundraisers are available on Facebook both on mobile and desktop. The social network takes 6.9% + a $0.30 fee for donations that goes towards payment processing, fundraiser vetting, and security and fraud protection. The company claims that the cost is to sustain the service and that it will not make any profit off of donations.

05.23.17 | 5:42 pm

Watch Mark Zuckerberg tell stories Live in his Harvard dorm room

Mark Zuckerberg visited Harvard today and broadcasted briefly from his old college dorm room on Facebook Live. During the broadcast, he shared a number of fun and interesting stories from his college days. You can check out the full broadcast below:

Facebook launched a few new features for Facebook Live today, including the ability to create private comment threads about Live videos for just your friends, and invite a friend to broadcast Live with you.

05.18.17 | 5:30 am

Facebook just got hit with a $122 million fine over WhatsApp

The €110 million fine was levied by the European Commission over Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014. The EC said Facebook had provided "incorrect or misleading information" when it said it wouldn't be able to link the profiles of users on WhatsApp and Facebook. However, in 2016 WhatsApp did indeed start sharing some user data with Facebook. Thus the massive fine. In a press release announcing the fine, the EC said:

"Today's decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information. And it imposes a proportionate and deterrent fine on Facebook. The Commission must be able to take decisions about mergers' effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts."

05.16.17 | 10:12 am

Facebook is still up and running in Thailand after the government threatened to shut it down

The social network is facing off against the Thai government over 131 posts deemed illegal by the country's Digital Economy and Society Ministry. Many of the posts are said to violate Thailand's strict lèse-majesté law, which makes it illegal to insult members of the monarchy. As the Bangkok Post reported, the government gave Facebook a deadline of today to remove the offending posts or risk being shut down. Well, Facebook is still up, and now the ministry is reportedly saying it's giving Facebook extra time because the company hasn't had a chance to review some of the court orders yet. Facebook is used by more than 34 million people in Thailand.

Some free-speech advocates in Thailand say the government's strong-arm attempts to clamp down on social media insults are having the exact opposite of their intended effect. Rather than squelching speech, they are, in fact, bringing more global awareness to the plight of Thai social media users who live under the fear of repercussions from the government. An op-ed in the BP yesterday cited the face-off as an example of the "Streisand Effect," describing the phenomenon whereby information spreads more quickly as a direct result of efforts to censor it. Read the full post here.

[Photo: Flickr user Anthony Quintano]

05.15.17 | 7:55 am

A man set himself on fire on Facebook Live

The latest violent incident on Facebook's live-streaming service happened on early Saturday in Memphis, reports NBC. The man reportedly live-streamed as he doused himself in kerosene and then lit himself on fire before running offscreen. He then ran to a nearby bar where his ex-girlfriend works and was taken to the hospital but died from his burns on Sunday. This latest incident is another example of why it may be time to treat Facebook like a public utility

05.10.17 | 5:22 pm

New Facebook algorithms aim to crack down on those spammy posts we all hate

No one likes those spammy posts in their Facebook news feed. But we've all had to tolerate them, even as Facebook has begun to try to address obvious problems with fake news.

Now, the company said today, it's aiming to address the problem of posts that lead "to a web page containing little substantive content and that is covered in disruptive, shocking, or malicious ads." Its new algorithms will reduce the number of posts and ads in news feeds that link to those awful web pages, it said. And ultimately, Facebook said, it hopes that this update will de-incentivize "financially motivated spammers." We can only hope.

[Source photo: Flickr user freezelight]

05.10.17 | 9:10 am

Why Facebook tolerates what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls hate groups

Facebook's vast community of users espouse a variety of beliefs, philosophies, and political leanings. Among them, according to critics at the Southern Poverty Law Center, are "hate groups" that demonize whole classes of people—including immigrants, Muslims, and whites. In researching my feature on the tech platforms that power incendiary groups, I came across 17 SPLC-designated hate groups (there are likely more) with Facebook pages or groups or with websites running Facebook's commenting service. I asked the social network if any violated its community standards against hate speech enough to be dropped from the network.

Two of them did: neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division and Invictus Books, which sells anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi products. But Facebook didn't drop other sites, including Stop the Islamization of the World, whose website features animated burning Qurans. Another group not dropped is All Eyes On Egipt [sic] Bookstore, whose jailed founder, Dwight York, has made proclamations including "White people are the devil." Bureau of Islamic American Relations, whose official description begins "ANTI iSLAM GROUP," was also allowed to stay. 

"To remove an entire group for being a hate group, we must find that the group is dedicated to promoting hatred against a protected category" of people, Facebook said by email (emphasis theirs). Those categories include race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, and sexual orientation. 

Read my feature on how tech platforms are grappling with hate groups here.

[Photo: Flickr user reynermedia]

05.09.17 | 9:31 am

Want to learn more about that Facebook rocket ship?

Now's your chance. Variety has an interview with Adam Mosseri, Facebook's head of News Feed, who explained the mysterious icon that's been appearing in the Facebook toolbar for some mobile users. As suspected, the icon is in the experimental stage, rolled out to just a small subset of users. Tap it and it takes you to an alternate news feed that shows you content from people and pages you're not already following. "People can learn about new stories from sources they are not connected to,"Mosseri told Variety. Read the full interview here.

[Image: Facebook]

05.08.17 | 6:11 am

Facebook took out ads in most major U.K. newspapers to warn about fake news before the election

The United Kingdom goes to the polls again a month from today, which has people on all sides of the political debate worried about the impact fake news could have on the election. Hence, the full-page ads in today's U.K. papers from Facebook outlining tips on how to spot fake news.

05.03.17 | 4:43 pm

Facebook’s earnings show it continues to smash expectations for user growth and revenue

Facebook released its quarterly earnings this afternoon, and the company continues to grow—both in terms of users and revenue. The social media juggernaut may be in hot water over content moderation woes, but its business doesn't seem to be hampered. 

This quarter, Facebook smashed analyst expectations, hitting $8.03 billion in revenue. User-wise, Facebook continued to see steady MAU and DAU growth. It's closing in on 2 billion monthly active users. And Facebook's ad business continues to grow and dominate. Here are the breakout numbers:

05.02.17 | 1:52 pm

At Facebook, women coders are judged by a harsher standard: Report

Women engineers at the social networking company say their code faces stricter standards than that of their male counterparts, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal. The report cites an analysis of five years worth of data by a female Facebook employee who discovered that code written by women was rejected 35% more than code written by men. The analysis generated controversy within the company, WSJ reports. In response, Facebook conducted a follow-up analysis and claimed the disparity had less to do with gender and more to do with an engineer's rank at the company. (Code from lower-ranked employees was rejected more often.) But that just brings up the question of why there aren't more higher-ranked women engineers on the team. Read the full story from WSJ here.

[Photo: Unsplash user Josh Rose]

05.02.17 | 6:09 am

A Facebook employee says “The Circle” is just like Facebook

The movie, based on the 2013 novel by Dave Eggers, is about a Facebook-type social media giant that turns evil and basically tramples over all of its users' privacies and freedoms. Sound farfetched? One current Facebook employee simply referred to as "Dan" told the Guardian the movie is "spot on":

• Some of the parallels between TruYou and Facebook hit home to Dan, a self-described "nobody" at Facebook who asked not to be identified to protect his job. The "overall vibe" of the tech company's campus, with its constant activities like doga (yoga, with dogs) and visiting Tibetan monks, was "spot on," he said, as was the general enthusiasm of employees for their employer. "They're all so happy to be there," Dan said. "It's insane."

• Just as SeeChange quickly devolved from fun and games to humiliation and death, so too has Facebook Live devolved from Chewbacca Mom to live-streamed rape, torture, suicide, and murder. "Those are the sorts of mistakes Facebook would make," Dan said of The Circle's faith in transparency and accountability through constant surveillance, "where they thought they were doing good but couldn't control it."

"As far as collecting everyone's information and monetizing it, that's already being done," Dan said. "It's not some dark, sci-fi dystopia. It's reality." 

And that's a reality that is much more interesting and troubling than the techno-Hogwarts we're treated to by The Circle. No one elected Mark Zuckerberg for anything, but he has been liked by nearly 90m on Facebook and his power is arguably greater than any head of state.

"If you control information, you can control people's minds, and Facebook is the one that decides all of this," Dan said. "[Zuckerberg] runs Facebook. Why would he want to run for president? He's already president of the world."