Facebook has responded vigorously to challenges around fake news and its community standards.
As one of the world’s biggest communication platforms, Facebook acts as a virtual space for around a quarter of the world’s population, but until now the company has been loath to police its own world. It has been vigorous on non-violent issues like nudity, but slow to respond to widely-shared content like fake news and promotion of violence.
This came to a head in Myanmar, when messages, posts and comments attacking the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group, created an atmosphere in which violence flourished.
“We were too slow to get started in Myanmar,” admitted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a statement last week.
This statement came in the wake of a report of the state of Facebook-incited violence in Myanmar released earlier this month. Facebook commissioned Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), an independent, non-profit organisation with expertise in human rights practices, to evaluate the level of Facebook’s involvement in the recent spread of violent attacks in Myanmar. The focus of the BSR’s report was on Facebook’s role in the persecution of the Rohingya, a Myanmari Muslim minority group.
A strong message throughout the report was that Facebook struggles to manage the spread of fake news, allowing an atmosphere that promotes violence. The misinformation ultimately affects the perceptions of what’s true and what’s false to Facebook users in Myanmar.
“Facebook has become a means for those seeking to spread hate and cause harm,” said BSR in its 60-page report. A long list of potential fixes has been given to Facebook for implementation. The organisation warned that, if the situation was not remedied before Myanmar’s parliamentary elections in 2020, it would be “likely to be a flashpoint for hate speech, harassment, misinformation, incitement to violence, and other actions designed to undermine the political process”.
Zuckerberg’s said that Facebook had taught him painful lessons about the way people connect: “One of the most painful lessons I’ve learned is that when you connect two billion people, you will see all the beauty and ugliness of humanity.”
According to a Facebook statement released with the BSR report, there were still challenges ahead for the platform’s remedy to the situation, because Myanmar hasn’t standardised Unicode in its digital representation of the Burmese language. Facebook claimed that this makes it difficult to detect posts which contain hate speech. As a fix, the company will be encouraging the country’s transition to Unicode, and will not allow new users to make use of non-Unicode typefaces.
Unicode is an international standard for representing languages and scripts where each letter, digit or symbol is represented by a unique number combination.
Facebook also said in a statement issued on Thursday that it realises that nuances exist in how the platform is used in different countries. In Myanmar, it is primarily used as an information source; users in Myanmar often refer to Facebook and the Internet interchangeably. This is due to Facebook’s Free Basics service, which allows users to make use of the platform without paying for data.
This highlights the power Facebook has over the South-East Asian country’s communications and level of information. For this reason, the company said, it would be launching the Facebook Journalism Project, which includes journalist safety training for Myanmar’s journalists.
While this news comes as a relief to many, many within Myanmar are less convinced. An activist who goes only by the name Zarni has called the report “a complete whitewash”. He said that Facebook was “resorting to PR” instead of taking stronger measures to stop the spread of fake news on its platform.
Read on: The effect on Facebook’s fake news situation
Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults
An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.
Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.
These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.
Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.
The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:
- The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
- The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
- The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
- The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
- The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
- The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.
The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been.
“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured. The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.
“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’.
“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves. Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).
“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”
For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.
SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees
The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.
The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.
“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”
Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler.
“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”
Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.
In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton), Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.
Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.
“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.
South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.