Tag Archives: Facebook

Reporting Cyber-Abuse on Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

For as long as there has been life on the planet, there have been those who find pleasure in tormenting others or demonstrate their perceived authority by denigrating those they see as weak or vulnerable. With the advent of social media, those abusive behaviors moved from the real world to the digital world. It’s become nearly impossible for victims to escape. Through social media, the bullying follows you into the privacy of your home, making it seem like there are no safe places.

According to DoSomething.org, nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online, and 1 in 4 have experienced it more than once, yet only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse. A study by the Universities of Oxford, Swansea, and Birmingham found that youth who have been cyberbullied are twice as likely to commit self-harm or attempt suicide than their non-bullied peers. Unfortunately, when those bullies grow up, they often continue their behavior. Pew Research Center found that 73% of adults state they’ve witnessed online harassment and 40% reporting being the target themselves. It’s not just individuals being bullied. Hate groups often utilize platforms like Facebook and Twitter to disseminate their message, and as a result, online hate speech often incites real-world violence.

The message, “If you see something, say something,” is more than a catchy slogan. It’s your responsibility if you see abusive or hate-fueled messages and images online. Here’s how to report offensive content.

Twitter clearly maps out how to report abusive behavior. You can include multiple Tweets in your report which provide context and may aid in getting the content removed more quickly. If you receive a direct threat, Twitter recommends contacting local law enforcement. They can assess the validity of the threat and take the appropriate action. For tweet reports, you can get a copy of your report of a violent threat to share with law enforcement by clicking Email report on the We have received your report screen.

Facebook also have clear instructions on how to report abusive posts, photos, comments, or Messages, and how to report someone who has threatened you.  Reporting doesn’t mean the content will automatically be removed as it has to violate Facebook’s Community Standards. Offensive doesn’t necessarily equate to abusive.

You can report inappropriate  Instagram posts, comments or people that aren’t following Community Guidelines or Terms of Use.

Users can report abuse, spam or any other content that doesn’t follow TikTok’s Community Guidelines from within the app.

According to Snapchat support, they review every report, often within 24 hours.

If you or someone close to you is the victim of harassment, and bullying, you have options. If the abuse is online, submit your report as soon as you see the content. If it’s in the real world, take it to school administration, Human Resources, or the police, particularly if there is a direct threat to your safety.

Finally, if you’re having suicidal thoughts due to bullying or for any other reason, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or call 1-800-273-8255 for help.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Facebook to Monitor Anti-Vax Content

By Tracey Dowdy

According to reports published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children in the US who received no vaccine doses as well as the number of parents who have requested exemptions for their children continues to rise. While coverage for a certain vaccines “remained high and stable overall,” the number of unvaccinated kids under the age of two rose from 0.9% for those born in 2011 to 1.3% for those born in 2015. The report doesn’t address the reasons for the increase but suggests it may be due to caregivers not knowing where to access free vaccines and the shortage of pediatricians and other health care providers in many rural areas.

Another more subtle and pervasive reason may be the volume of misinformation surrounding vaccines and their – debunked – ties to autism. Two platforms at the center of the problem – Facebook and YouTube – have recently announced they will crack down on anti-vax misinformation content on their platforms. On Facebook, anti-vaccination sites promoting fake science and conspiracy theories related to vaccines appear at the top of searches when parents search for information about vaccinations. Also featured prominently is Andrew Wakefield, the discredited doctor behind the bogus science linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

Unlike Google, which filters out anti-vax sites to promote information from the World Health Organization, Facebook searches appear to be based on the most popular and active sites regardless of whether or not the information presented is based on fact or fiction. The changes will also impact Instagram, owned by Facebook.

“The consequences of publishing misleading information is a genuine risk to the public’s health – you only have to look at the widespread panic and confusion that was caused by unfounded claims [by Dr. Wakefield] linking the MMR vaccine to autism in the 1990s,” says Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs in the UK. Stokes-Lampard says she finds it “deeply concerning” that Facebook allowed posts that promoted “false and frankly dangerous ideas” about not only the MMR vaccine but other vaccination programs as well.

Ethan Lindenberger, who testified before Congress on March 5, 2019, stated that he had not been fully vaccinated because at the time he was due to be inoculated, his mother’s believed that vaccines are dangerous and could result in autism. Lindberger, who has since been vaccinated against his mother’s wishes, stated at the hearing, “For my mother, her love and affection and care as a parent was used to push an agenda to create a false distress. And these sources, which spread misinformation, should be the primary concern of the American people…My mother would turn to social media groups and not to factual sources like the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. It is with love and respect that I disagree with my mom.”

Lindberger, along with other speakers including Washington state Secretary of Health John Weisman; Dr. Jonathan McCullers of the University of Tennessee; John Boyle, president of the Immune Deficiency Foundation; and Emory University epidemiologist Dr. Saad Omer, challenged the federal government to fund vaccine safety research and launch campaigns to counter anti-vaccine messages similar to past anti-Tobacco campaigns.

YouTube (owned by Google) is also taking action. In a letter responding to a challenge by US Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Karan Bhatia, Vice President Global Public Policy and Government Affairs said it has been blocking anti-vax videos from appearing in its recommendation engine and search results. “I agree with you that anything discouraging parents from vaccinating their children against vaccine-preventable diseases is concerning,” she wrote.

Both Facebook and YouTube intend to discourage people from accepting conspiracies about vaccinations at face value and going forward will attach anti-vaccine material with educational information from authoritative medical sources.

Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy and counterterrorism said, “We are exploring ways to give people more accurate information from expert organizations about vaccines at the top of results for related searches, on Pages discussing the topic, and on invitations to join groups about the topic. We will have an update on this soon.” 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Facebook, Google and Twitter Doing Better at Removing Hate Speech 

By Tracey Dowdy

 The European Commission, the European Union‘s executive arm, recently released data from research done as part of its “code of conduct” for social media platforms. The EC’s launched an initiative back in 2016 aimed at removing hate speech including racist and xenophobic content from online platforms. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft were among the tech companies that signed on, committing to searching out and eliminating offensive content.

“Today, after two and a half years, we can say that we found the right approach and established a standard throughout Europe on how to tackle this serious issue, while fully protecting freedom of speech,” said Vera Jourova, a European commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, in a press release.

The European Commission defines “hate speech” as “the public incitement to violence or hatred directed to groups or individuals on the basis of certain characteristics, including race, color, religion, descent and national or ethnic origin.”

According to the report, Facebook removed 82% of objectionable content in 2018 – up from a mere 28% back in 2016. That’s good news for the social media giant that’s been under scrutiny and attack for the volume of fake news disseminated on the platform, particularly during the last federal election.  Just last week Facebook announced it had removed nearly 800 fake pages and accounts with ties to Iran.

Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ also showed significant improvement, though Twitter removed a mere 43% of illegal hate speech posted to the platform. That’s down from 45% for the same time frame in December 2017. Twitter’s director of public policy for Europe, Karen White, told CNBC that they’re reviewing 88% of all notifications received within 24 hours. “We’ve also enhanced our safety policies, tightened our reporting systems, increased transparency with users, and introduced over 70 changes to improve conversational health,” she said. “We’re doing this with a sense of urgency and commitment, and look forward to continued collaboration with the European Commission, Governments, civil society and industry.”

“Let me be very clear, the good results of this monitoring exercise don’t mean the companies are off the hook,” Vera Jorouva, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality warned in a press conference. “We will continue to monitor this very closely, and we can always consider additional measures if efforts slow down. It is time to balance the power and the responsibility of the platforms and social media giants.” 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Facebook Rolls Out Messenger 4

Facebook has given Messenger a Face-lift – terrible pun fully intended.

Even if you haven’t refreshed the app recently, you’re seeing the updated version, called Messenger 4. Facebook rolled the changes out server-side, meaning the move is “automatic,” and you can’t avoid it by avoiding or delaying the update.

It’s had mixed reviews, which isn’t surprising. Any time an app changes its interface, some die-hards hate it and early adopters who love it. The first thing you’ll note is the display – it’s very, well, white. They’ve removed Facebook’s signature blue bar from across the top, and they’ve de-cluttered the bar at the bottom. Now, users will see only three icons – a speech bubble for Chats; two figures for People, and a compass needle for Discover. The top of the screen displays your profile picture, the category you’re in, the camera and the conversation icons. Just below the top bar is the familiar app-wide search option, followed by Facebook’s “Stories” options and Stories from your contacts. Your most recent conversations list is in the middle, as it’s always been.

Chats hasn’t changed much – it’s still the place to carry on conversations and make audio or video calls to your contacts. What is new is the option to choose chat colors. Go to your settings to change the display colors making it easier to identify specific groups at a glance. More features are promised, though Facebook hasn’t said what exactly we can expect. The People category is where you can look for friends, view their stories, and see who’s currently active. Users can start the conversation with a “wave” by tapping the hand icon to send a hello. Discover is where you can chat with businesses, access customer support, play games, and search for news and current events.

So far the biggest complaint seems to be that the app is too bright – all that white background and negative space is hard on the eyes. In response, Facebook has announced a “Dark Mode,” but there’s no word on when users can expect it to roll out, nor do we know if it’s going to come in an update or rolled out server-side like the new design.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

Facebook or Fakebook? The Problem with Fake News

By Tracey Dowdy

Let’s play a game. How about “Two Truths and a Lie”? I’ll share three headlines from the last three months before the election and you decide which two are true and which one is a lie. Remember, all three are published news stories, but one is from a fake news site. Ready? Here we go:

A. “I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hilary Clinton”
B. “It’s Over: Hillary’s ISIS Email Just Leaked and It’s Worse Than Anyone Could Have Imagined”
C. “Trump Sees Dead People: Promises Crowd He’ll Bring Joe Paterno Back from the Grave”

So which headline is from a fake news story? It’s B – the headline from an article published by Ending the Fed, a site notorious for its completely unreliable content. In fact, Ending the Fed is responsible for four of the top ten fake election stories shared by users on Facebook.

So much fake news has been shared on Facebook that Paul Horner, the man who created an entire fake news empire on Facebook has stated, “I think Trump is in the White House because of me.” Turns out he’s not the only one that feels fake news had an impact on the election or that the amount of fake news being generated has risen exponentially in the past few months.

Brendan Nyhan, Professor of Political Science at Dartmouth College who researches political misinformation and fact-checking says, “I’m troubled that Facebook is doing so little to combat fake news…Even if they did not swing the election, the evidence is clear that bogus stories have incredible reach on the network. Facebook should be fighting misinformation, not amplifying it.”

Considering that over 60 percent of U.S. adults get at least some of their news from social media, there’s a huge amount of false information being shared and accepted at face value. “During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyper-partisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.” (Buzzfeed, 2016).

Did you catch that? Fake news did better than real news among Facebook users.

When I was a kid, papers like the National Enquirer were the gold-standard of fake news. Bat Boy, Bigfoot and alien abductions were its stock in trade. The difference was we knew it was mostly fake with the occasional fact thrown in. Today, the fake news hides in plain sight, we just aren’t looking for it nor are we pushing back against it.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has stated he thinks fake news shared on Facebook had little effect on the election but nobody seems to be buying his position. In fact, it undermines his earlier claims that Facebook as a platform is an agent of change and has been influential on the world stage. Columbia University student Karen K. Ho tweeted, “Facebook and Twitter cannot take credit for changing the world during events like the Egyptian Uprising, then downplay their influence on elections.”

In response, five Facebook employees have launched their own investigation. “It’s not a crazy idea. What’s crazy is for him (Zuckerberg) to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows,

and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season,” said one Facebook employee, who works in the social network’s engineering division.

Still, at the end of the day, Facebook is simply the vehicle. We are in the driver’s seat. If we want to stop the proliferation of fake news, it is our responsibility as news consumers to look to verifiable and legitimate sources and, for the love of all that’s good and right, don’t believe everything you read!

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

How To Clean Up Your Facebook Photos

By Tracey Dowdy

Am I the only one with Facebook albums that need to get cleaned up? My Facebook page is cluttered with photos of things that were important to me years ago but now…not so much.

Of course deleting them is an option, but what if you want to save some? For example, that sandwich from your Vegas vacation. It was pretty epic. Alternatively, you could go through and select them one by one but who has that kind of time? Plus, Facebook compresses photos when you upload, so clicking and dragging to your desktop will leave you with an image of lesser quality than the one you uploaded.

Here’s the good news: there are options and most don’t take a whole lot of time.

Download it all, and I mean all

Facebook allows users to download a copy of their entire Facebook data, including photos. Go to Settings >Download a Copy and Facebook will download everything – every status, every chat log, every photo. Downloading doesn’t take long and once you have your copy, you can sort through what’s important to you and delete the rest. Keep in mind photos won’t revert to original quality – you’re getting the compressed version.

Use the Download FB Album mod on Google Chrome.

This extension allows you to download albums and photos and, while the photo quality is not great, it is decent. Install the extension through the Google Chrome store and you’ll see the Facebook icon appear in the top right corner of your screen. Simply open a Facebook album or page, click the icon, and select “Normal.” Press Command +S (iOS) or Control +S (Windows) to save your photos.

Use an app like Fotobounce.

Fotobounce is a photo management and sharing app that allows you to quickly download and organize your pictures online or offline. Once you create an account, login and access Facebook in the panel on the left side of your screen. Login to your account and once there you’ll be able to access all your albums.

To download, highlight the photo or album and select “Download” from the Edit pane. You’ll be prompted to choose where on Fotobounce you want to store the images – either a new album or add to an existing album. You can also upload to your Flickr account by choosing “Upload to Flickr” in the edit pane. Fotobook even has face recognition capabilities, works with Mac or Windows, and fully integrates with Twitter as well as Flickr.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

College Applications and Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

Mercifully for my generation, most of our bad decisions in high school are lost to memory or stuffed in a shoe box of photos forgotten in a basement. Not so for our kids. Thanks to social media, bad decisions are more closely documented than the Korean War.

Many a social media account is littered with Red Solo cups, questionable comments or Tweets, and sketchy language. So what, they’re young. Not a big deal, right?

Not so fast. You might want to take a second look at your child’s social media presence if they’re applying for colleges or university, as more and more schools are looking at those profiles when they screen applicants. According to a study by Kaplan Test Prep, 40% of Admissions officers are scrolling through social media to see if what’s on the application matches what’s on the web.

Kids will be kids, right? Sure, but if your student is competing for placement or funding, those pictures of Spring Break 2015 could mean the difference between a scholarship and a student loan. Does that mean they have to take everything down? Not necessarily.

Help them see cleaning up social media as a transition from high school to adulthood. Part of the college experience is cultivating who you are, who you want to be, and how you want the world to perceive you. Some students shut it all down and come off social media entirely, while others choose anonymity and don’t use their real names to avoid negative attention. It’s entirely up to the individual what works best, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Used as a self-marketing tool, social media can be an asset for your student. Creative students can use platforms like Instagram to showcase their art or photography, writers can utilize blogs, and Facebook can document humanitarian or volunteer efforts.

Encourage your student to comb through their social media accounts and use these guidelines from Kaplan as a litmus test of what stays and what goes.

  • Does this make me look like college material? It’s not just party photos or controversial statements; check your spelling and grammar. Little things weigh in the balance and can make a big difference.
  • Would I say this on television? Would you say it to someone’s face? Ask yourself: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Social media gives a false sense of bravado and anonymity. Be mindful of what you say. Your social media is a mirror of your character.
  • Does this post court excessive commenting? Are you trying to take a stand or are you just trying to stir the pot and be provocative? Taking a stand for what you think is right is important but realize your opinion may be polarizing. Be prepared to accept the consequences.
  • Is it offensive? Following on the heels of “Is what you’ve posted controversial?” ask “Is it at the expense of others?” Understand sincerity doesn’t translate to high moral ground or to truth. Many people hold sincere beliefs but can still be sincerely wrong.
  • Does everyone need to read this? Kaplan suggests that if the answer is “No,” don’t post it. Social media is littered with opinions, some good, some bad, some right, some wrong. If your goal is to present your best self to admissions and scholarship committees, cull your social media presence mercilessly. Use it as a platform to showcase your accomplishments and abilities to demonstrate why you are a superior candidate.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Celebrating the Positive Side of Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

It’s not uncommon to get sucked into the vortex of Twitter and Facebook feeds, Instagram snaps and Pinterest boards and find yourself unhappy with everything from your hairstyle and gym habits to your throw pillows and non-Bento boxed school lunches.

Social media gets a bad rap and we like to blame it for society’s ills. There are those who abuse the platform – examples of online bullying, trolling, and body shaming are frequently in the news – but there’s even more examples of social media being used for good.

Back in 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge was all over social media. Everyone from Oprah and Bill Gates to people like me took part and as a result over $100 million dollars was raised for research into ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. But the story doesn’t end there. Just this year the ALS association announced a breakthrough made possible by the money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge: the discovery of a gene partly responsible for the disease.

That’s far from the only example. Photographer James Rudland created the Sleeping Bag Appeal and collected hundreds of sleeping bags for homeless people in a matter of days. Movember, created by two Australian friends and used as a vehicle to raise money for prostate cancer, has generated donations of over $556 million, with funding going to 832 men’s health programs internationally.

Social media is a powerful means of communication when tragedy or natural disasters occur. Facebook has added Safety Check to its platform so users can instantly let friends and family know they’re safe; and first responders, governments, Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations frequently utilize social media to keep us up-to-date and informed during disasters.

Social media is indispensable when news stories like the Paris bombings or Louisiana floods occur. Always, always, always be careful of charitable links set up through social media, as there are those that use tragedy as a means to personal gain, but organizations like the Red Cross and World Wildlife Fund use their Facebook pages to link families and those in need to critical resources.

Sites like Facebook and Instagram are invaluable to families and individuals going through difficult times. They provide the opportunity to share the burden and allow friends and family to show support and offer hope. With his wife Joey’s encouragement, Rory Feek blogged about their journey as Joey battled cancer. Their story was both heartbreaking and inspirational, giving hope and encouragement to others facing similar struggles.

The impact of social media is undeniable. The power is unquestionable. The key is to use that power for positive change on both a local and global level.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Facebook Leads the Way in Personalized Advertising

By Tracey Dowdy

Ever do a little online shopping then later notice the exact item you were looking at on Amazon has somehow appeared in the side bar on Facebook? Trust me, it’s happening whether you notice or not.

How do they know what ads to send you? Simple – cookies. Virtually every website you visit drops code – or “cookies” – onto your computer. So, as you browse the Internet and click on a member site, it recognizes the cookie, notifies the ad network what you’re up to, then sends you a personalized ad.

But that’s not all. Member sites collate all that information into a database so it intuitively knows your preferences. That’s why the ads are so specific. Facebook takes things one step further because it doesn’t really have to do much to figure out what you like and don’t like. You do that job for them. Every status you Like or makes you Sad is logged. Every photo you Love or news story that makes you Angry is noted. We tell advertisers exactly who we are and what interests us with every click.

You may have also seen notifications that “Dan likes Buzzfeed” or “Jill likes The Washington Post.” Facebook is using your information to target your friends and drive them to the same sites. You have become a Facebook advertiser.

Right now it is possible to opt out of the targeted ads you see but that’s about to change. To opt out, go to your Facebook Settings and select Ads from the column on the left side of your screen. A page will open that allows you to customize your settings for the following areas:

  • Ads based on my use of websites and apps
  • Ads on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies
  • Ads with my social actions
  • Ads based on my preferences

Simply choose No in the drop down menu for each of the categories. This will turn it off on all devices as the setting is Facebook – not device – specific. Keep in mind you’ll still see the same number of ads, but they won’t be customized according to your browsing history. Sites you visit can still collect information from you but they won’t be able to share it. Also, tracking is cookie-based and so is opting out. Sites drop cookies in your browser telling the site you don’t want to be tracked, so if you’re in the habit of using more than one browser you’ll have to opt on on each.

Maybe you’re one of the 26 percent of U.S. Internet users using ad blocking software. But – and it’s a big “but” – Facebook just announced they will be making it much harder to browse ad-free. Changes to the way Facebook loads ads on to it’s desktop website will make it much more difficult for the software to detect ads.

Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, vice president of Facebook’s ads and business platform, is up front about their ad policies. “Facebook is ad-supported. Ads are a part of the Facebook experience; they’re not a tack on.” Not a “tack on” indeed. This year alone, Facebook reported advertising revenue jumped a whopping 57% in the first quarter to $5.2 billion up from $3.3 billion.

These changes won’t impact mobile devices as they are less vulnerable to ad blocking software and consequently provide a whopping 84% of Facebook’s advertising revenue.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.