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Fake News

“Fake News” on Facebook is Leading to Death, Say Nigerian Police

Nigerian police say that fake news shared on Facebook is causing the deaths of many innocent people in the country.

On June 23 2018, violent, incendiary images of mutilated children, burned down homes and bloodied corpses piled in mass graves began to circulate on the popular social media site. The Facebook users who published these images reported that they were Berom Christians who were murdered by Fulani Muslims in the massacre of the Gashish district of Plateau State in Nigeria.

While a massacre did occur during this time in the Gashish district, the images and videos published were not created over the weekend of June 23, and some had, in fact, been shared months earlier. The image of a mutilated baby was shared with a call for God to “wipe out the entire generation of the killers of this innocent child”—in reference to Fulani Muslims. Elsewhere, a video in which a man’s head was cut open had not even originated from Nigeria, it was recorded in Congo-Brazzaville in 2012, six years earlier, but was used as propaganda to elicit hatred and action against the Fulani community.

Some of these circulations had accrued a violent, fatal reaction among some Berom Facebook users. Speaking with the BBC, a Berom youth leader said, “As soon as we saw those images, we wanted to just strangle any Fulani man standing next to us.”

One story that particularly stands out, is that of potato seller from Jos, Ali Alhaji Muhammed.

A mob of Berom men on the prowl for Fulani Muslims and armed with knives and machetes had blocked a road that Alhaji Muhammed was traveling back home on. They murdered Alhaji Muhammad. His body, brutally mutilated, was found three days later. The potato seller was one of 11 men pulled from cars killed on the June 24, the day following the surge of misleading information circulating Facebook about the Gashish massacre. The police and military in Plateau State believe these images fuelled the violence that occurred on June 24.

Tyopev Terna Matthias, a public relations officer for the Plateau State police said, “It was the pictures, the supposed pictures that emanated from the attack [in Gashish].

“Jos South was not under attack. But because of those images they saw, the next day, roads were blocked. People died. Vehicles were burned. So many people died.”

Matthias indicated that this content is highly misleading and dangerous, adding, “Fake news on Facebook is killing people.”

This comes amid much media scrutiny on Facebook’s policy on fake news.

For the full report, click here.

Data Poaching

Data Poaching

Facebook and Google hold an almost unfathomable amount of data—College News reveals how much of your personal information the tech giants store and how to delete it to avoid the ever-growing problem of data poaching.

It is almost 70 years since George Orwell’s prescient words, “Big Brother is watching you,” were first published in Nineteen Eighty-Four. In 2018, with our personal data so freely available, this fictitious maxim seems more relevant than ever.

Forget the Soviet Union, the Gestapo or the Spanish Inquisition. Google and Facebook know more about is than any state-sponsored organisation in history. Indeed, the information they possess would be the envy of even the most brazen surveillance states. Unconstrained by borders—accountable to many governments—the tech conglomerates seem almost untouchable.

But how sinister is the data-harvesting furore? Hw much of our data is out there? And should we be concerned? College News investigates.

What do they know?

First, we provide the lowdown on the information Google and Facebook store on you. (Be warned, this might freak you out.)

Your movements

 Google stores your location every time you switch on your cell phone. It’s been tracking where you’ve been from the very first day you started using Google Maps—it knows the time of day you were in a given location and how long it took you to travel there.

Everything you’ve ever searched—& deleted

It doesn’t matter if you delete your search or phone history on one device, Google may have stored data from other devices. This helps form your “digital footprint”—which targeted digital advertising campaigns can exploit.

Google also stores information on every app and extension you use. It knows how often you use them and who you use them to interact with.

Your advertisement profile

Your information, including gender, age, location, hobbies, careers and interests help Google to form an advertisement profile of you. This material becomes a valuable asset and can be flogged off to big data companies.

Data on all aspects of your “digital life”

Google has data on everything from the phones you’ve owned to how many steps you walk in a day, making data poaching easier than ever before. If you download all the data Google stores on you, you’ll find it includes bookmarks, emails, contacts, Google Drive files; photos you’ve taken on your phone and the products you’ve bought through Google.

Google also has data on the music you listen to, your calendar, the websites you’ve created, the Google books you’ve purchased, the phones you’ve owned, and the pages you’ve shared. Even files you’ve deleted are stored by Google.

To see your own data, go to google.com/takeout.

Facebook has stacks of data on you, too

If you were to download all your personal data from Facebook, you’d find it contained every message you’d ever sent or been sent; every file you’d ever sent or been sent; all the contacts in your phone; and all the audio messages you’d ever sent or been sent.

Facebook can access your webcam & microphone

When you agree to the Facebook’s terms of use, you (perhaps unwittingly) allow the social network to access your webcam, microphone and camera.

Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is even known to tape over his laptop webcam and microphone. And, when asked in 2016 if he covered his laptop’s webcam, former FBI director James Comey said: “Heck yeah, heck yeah; I put a piece of tape over the camera because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera.”

If you are concerned, American digital rights group EFF sells webcam stickers, which it says people “purchase regularly.”

OK, they have this data—so what?

 Most people are probably aware when they sign up for a free service like Facebook—or benefit from the wealth of information free search engines provide—there must be a catch somewhere. After all, these companies are there to make money. Their fundamental business model, which revolves around advertising, requires retention of vast amounts of customer data.

What’s more, it’s unlikely people take the time to scroll through long and convoluted terms and conditions, or trawl through their privacy settings to ensure they are protected.

The crux of the issue lays in whether we are aware the extent to which our data is being harvested. And whether we give meaningful consent for its use. To understand this, we must make the critical distinction between information we willingly share, and information Facebook or Google take without our knowledge.

Put another way, are users of Facebook or Google aware of the stakes involved when signing up to use these services?

Digitizing democracy

Since the Observer blew the lid off Facebook’s relationship with data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica, people are beginning to scrutinize the tech multinationals, more broadly, to probe both the quantity and nature of data they hold.

In many ways, tech companies like Google and Facebook have democratized information. In the spirit of idealism upon which they were founded, these companies provide an abundance of knowledge and unparalleled connectivity—at the touch of a button. With this in mind, does the fact they hold so much data on us really matter?

When it comes to constitutional issues of democracy, it does. Of that, the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal was proof. The data mining, brokerage and analysis company accrued the personal data of 87 million Facebook users, some of which purportedly influenced the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. When data influences politics, something’s got to give. And in April 2018, it did.

Following bi-partisan consensus, Mark Zuckerberg was invited to testify in Congress in an almost unprecedented event. During his testimony, Zuckerberg stated that his own data had been poached by the personality quiz, This is Your Digital Life, responsible for mass-scale misappropriation of personal data.

Importantly, when questioned by congresswoman Eshoo, Zuckerberg revealed he was not prepared to alter his business model, but admitted future regulation would be “inevitable.”

At last, it seems the tech giant is assuming responsibility and is prepared to take steps to protect its users’ privacy. Still, it’s unlikely Facebook can impede the threat our nation faces of election meddling and cyber warfare from our enemies to the east.

Orwell’s was a world of dystopian proportions—perhaps ours isn’t so different.

Avoid data poaching & delete your data—permanently

Facebook

If you want to live a Facebook-free life, it is important to understand the difference between “deletion” and “deactivation.”

  • Deactivating your account means some of your data will still be visible (like messages you’ve sent) and Facebook will store all your account information in case you reactivate.
  • Permanently deleting your Facebook account will, after a 90-day grace period, remove things you’ve posted like statuses, photos and other data stored in backup systems.
  • While they are deleting this information, Facebook say, “It is inaccessible to other people using Facebook.”
  • They add: “Keep in mind that you will not be able to reactivate your account or retrieve any of the content or information you have added.”
  • But even then, copies of some materials (like log records) may remain in Facebook’s database, but are “disassociated from personal identifiers,” according to the company.

In short, deactivating is a way to cool off for a while, whereas deleting is a permanent action to take.

Google
Google knows a lot about us. For many, this is just a fact of life. But, with the right know-how, it’s possible to control what it uses for advertising purposes.

  • Google stores all your search history. If you’d rather not have a list of (potentially embarrassing) search queries stored up, head to Google’s history page, click Menu (the three vertical dots) and then hit Advanced -> All Time -> Delete.
  • As we mentioned, Google has the (slightly creepy) habit of keeping tabs on your location. To disable this, when you visit the timeline page you can hit the settings cog in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and select delete all from there. There is also the option to pause location history by hitting the big button in bottom left-hand corner of the screen. But is one of the trickier things to get rid of entirely, because to stop it happening in future you’ll need to opt out of both location tracking and location reporting with your device—whether you are running Android or iOS.

Go ‘Off-Grid’—For good
If you’ve ever wanted to remove yourself (almost) entirely from the internet and avoid data poaching, Swedish website Deseat.me uses your Google account to help.

Using Google’s 0Auth protocol, which allows third-party users to access your other accounts without your password details, Deseat.me recalls all your online and social media accounts and allows you to delete yourself from them.

To go ‘off-grid’, visit Deseat.me and input your Gmail address. It will bring up all the online accounts linked to that address and give you the option to delete them all.

Further reading: Hundreds of YouTube Stars Paid to Urge Millions of Students to Cheat on their Assignments

Testimony to US Congress

Mark Zuckerberg’s Testimony to US Congress: What We Know so Far

In the wake of the data scandal that involved millions of people’s personal data being potentially shared with Cambridge Analytica, Mark Zuckerberg—CEO and co-founder of Facebook—faced US Congress to answer for the company’s involvement. Here’s what we know so far.

The scandal

The lid was lifted on Facebook’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica after the Observer published an account from a former worker from the firm. The academic, Aleksandr Kogan, had apparently used a personality quiz to harvest personal data from users of the social network and, through a company called Global Science Research (GSR), shared that information with Cambridge Analytica. At present, it is believed that 87 million people may have been affected (this figure includes both those who took the test as well as their friends, whose personal records the app also had access to).

In the US, Cambridge Analytica is backed by the Mercer family, whose heavy influence was thrown into championing Donald Trump during the presidential election in 2016. It is this association that has sparked allegations of election manipulation. Further revelations surfaced after Channel 4 News in the UK revealed a separate undercover investigation in which Alexander Nix, head of Cambridge Analytica, was filmed boasting of using dirty tactics in order to successfully swing elections. The incident saw Nix speak about an opportunity in Sri Lanka where he mentioned the creation of sex scandals and the use of fake news to swing votes.

Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress

This Tuesday, Zuckerberg faced US Congress for the first time since the scandal hit the headlines. Questions from the senate commerce and judiciary committees were fired at Zuckerberg on a number of pressing topics including privacy, regulations, data mining and Cambridge Analytica during the five-hour long hearing. Bombarded with cameras, Zuckerberg’s countenance was collected yet alert.

On rights to privacy

When asked in detail about user rights to privacy, Zuckerberg said the following:

“I believe it’s important to tell people exactly how the information that they share on Facebook is going to be used.

“To your broader point about the privacy policy […] long privacy policies are very confusing. And if you make it long and spell out all the detail, then you’re probably going to reduce the percent of people who read it and make it accessible to them.”

Senator Jon Tester then asked him: “You said multiple times during this hearing that I own the data. I’m going to tell you that I think that sounds good, but in practice you’re making $40 billion a year, I’m not making money on it. It feels like you own the data […] could you give me some idea on how you can honestly say it’s my data?”

Zuckerberg responded with, “When I say it’s your data, what we mean is that you have control over how it’s used on Facebook. You clearly need to give Facebook a license to use it otherwise the system doesn’t work.”

Tester countered with: “The fact is the license is very thick, maybe intentionally so.”

Cambridge Analytica

When probed on Facebook’s relationship and dealings with Cambridge Analytica, he said: “[From] what my understanding was … they were not on the platform, [they] were not an app developer or advertiser. When I went back and met with my team afterwards, they let me know that Cambridge Analytica actually did start as an advertiser later in 2015.

“So we could have in theory banned them then. We made a mistake by not doing so.

“When we heard back from Cambridge Analytica they had told us that they weren’t using the data and deleted it, we considered it a closed case. In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn’t have taken their word for it. We’ve updated our policy to make sure we don’t make that mistake again.”

Storing and selling data

“Yes, we store data… some of that content with people’s permission,” said the Facebook CEO.

When Senator Tammy Baldwin asked whether the neuroscientist Kogan had shared the data with any other users aside from Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg replied: “Yes, he did.”

Senator Cory Gardner read out parts of the terms of service offered by Facebook relating to account deletion—which mentions that backup copies of the profile may persist after an account is deleted for some amount of time—and questioned Zuckerberg about it. Zuckerberg said that he doesn’t really know how long those backup copies are kept, but generally expressed his belief that they are actually deleted.

Rules and regulations

Senator John Kennedy: “I don’t want to regulate Facebook but god help you I will […] I say this gently: your user agreement sucks. You can spot me 75 IQ points. The purpose of that user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end; it’s not to inform your users about their rights. You know that and I know that. I’m going to suggest that you go home and rewrite it.”

Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress continued: “I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not.

“We’re investigating every single app that had access to a large amount of information in the past. And if we find that someone improperly used data, we’re going to ban them from Facebook and tell everyone affected.”

Russian interference

“One of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016.

“We have kicked off an investigation … I imagine we’ll find some things,” Zuckerberg continued.

“This is an on-going arms race. As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job is it to try to interfere in elections around the world, this is going to be an on-going conflict.”

Zuckerberg’s personal privacy

When asked by Senator Dick Durbin if he would be comfortable sharing the name of the hotel he stayed in last night he said: “No. I would probably not choose to do that publicly, here.”

“I think everyone should have control over how their information is used,” he added.

Accountability

In the closing of Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress, he took responsibility for the situation, citing his position and interest in making positive changes for the future: “It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.

“It was my mistake and I’m sorry.”

Are you convinced by Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress? Do you believe regulation will improve or is this the beginning of the end for Facebook? Give us your comments below.

Further reading: Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: All You Need to Know

Market Yourself Social Media

Market Yourself on Social Media

Statistics tell us that in 2017 alone 81 percent of Americans had a social media profile—but how can you market yourself on social media professionally?

It’s amazing the way people perceive someone from a simple, yet detailed, social media website such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. The saying is true: “A picture says a thousand words.” So how do you make yourself more appealing when it comes to prospective head hunters looking for their next applicant?

To market yourself on social media, eliminate all those old photos starring you holding a beer bong or a bottle of liquor with your tongue hanging out—for starters. Sure, save them onto your computer so you can look back someday and laugh at your memories, but remove them from social media because employers will take a look at a candidate’s social media profiles. The last impression you want to make on a prospective employer is that you’re unprofessional and irresponsible. There’s a time and place for everything, and as we get older, we need to leave a lasting, positive impression for those who may help us plant seeds for long and prosperous career.

A person’s perception of you can change in an instant. All it takes is some light “Facebook stalking” to find out where you might live, who you’re currently dating and the things you enjoy doing. I, personally, have found myself reeling in shock after seeing an old friend’s social media page. It makes you wonder what kind of life they’re living and this is what potential employers will think, as well. Even though you may not be connected on social media, your profile picture is very much visible and certain information about yourself could be posted publicly. To market yourself on social media to a professional standard, hide anything that may potentially harm your reputation—such as offensive public statuses or tweets—and make a future boss reconsider adding you to the team. Instead, consider publishing your academic and professional achievements. You can also use platforms like Twitter and Facebook to build a network of like-minded professionals by making groups or forums for topical discussions. This will help future employers see that you are serious and passionate about the industry you’re applying for.

Not every profile photo of yours needs to be of you wearing professional attire or a head shot you had snapped at Sears. Just try to keep it moderately conservative and classy. Don’t be too revealing in certain areas—if you catch my drift. Men: this goes for you, too. Keep status updates to a minimum so it doesn’t appear that you spend a majority of your day with your nose in your phone. Yes, we all have our opinions on politics, children and lifestyles; to a head hunter, however, an aggressive and assertive personality could spark controversy in an office setting—this is a big turn-off for someone in search of a solid candidate. So keep those blunt thoughts between you and friends, and off of your social media accounts.

I’m not saying do not be true to who you are—by all means, be yourself. Just remember though, you’re not the only person viewing your profile. Words mean something, an image represents something, and social media portrays you. Don’t be fake, just be smart. A positive mind is the beginning to a positive life. You know that Memories notification you get on Facebook every day that displays everything you posted on that very day over the past um-teen years? Wouldn’t you love to look back at it in a year and say, “Wow, I’ve come a long way since then.” Welcome to adulthood!

Further reading: Using LinkedIn

Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: All You Need to Know

Tech giant Facebook and data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica are embroiled in a dispute over the harvesting and misappropriation of personal data.

The controversy centers on whether data was used to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

As a result, bipartisan consensus is calling on Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress about Cambridge Analytica’s use of data.

It’s a sensational story—involving allegations of sleaze, psychological manipulation and data misuse—that has provoked international outrage.

 But what is Cambridge Analytica? And why should its involvement with Facebook concern us?

College News investigates.

What is Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica, a data mining, brokerage and analysis company, uses data analysis and behavioral science with strategic communication to connect its clients with their audiences.

It has been credited with helping Donald Trump to victory.

On its website, CA describes itself as: ‘the global leader in data-driven campaigning with over 25 years of experience, supporting more than 100 campaigns in five continents.

‘Our team of PHD data scientists, expert researchers, and seasoned political operatives have produced decisive results for campaigns and initiatives throughout the world.’

Its most notable work involves the 2016 US presidential election campaign, and the Leave.EU campaign for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

CA’s involvement in both campaigns has been highly controversial and is the subject of on-going criminal investigations in both countries.

The company is partly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, an American hedge-fund manager who supports many politically conservative causes.

It maintains offices in London, New York City and Washington, D.C.

A series of undercover investigative videos, released in March 2018, showed Cambridge Analytica’s CEO Alexander Nix bragging about using prostitutes, bribery and ‘honey traps’ to discredit politicians whom it conducts opposition research on.

Mr Nix has since claimed the videos grossly misrepresent him and he was ‘deliberately trapped.’

What is Facebook’s role?

A quiz in 2014 invited Facebook users to find out their personality types.

The quiz, which took the form of a Facebook app, was deigned and developed by Dr Aleksandr Kogan, from the University of Cambridge.

Dr Kogan, who claims he is being painted as an academic ‘scapegoat’, said he developed the ‘research app’ because he wanted the data to model human behavior through social media.

The app, called ‘This is Your Digital Life’, collected data from around 270,000 users.

As was common with Facebook apps and games at the time, it was designed to harvest not only the data of the person using it, but also their friends’ data.

Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie said, as a result, the data of about 50 million people was harvested for the analysis firm.

Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica deny any wrongdoing.

And Facebook has since clamped down on the amount data developers can scrape in this way.

What investigations are under way?

A number of US senators, both Republican and Democrat, have called on Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress on how Facebook will protect users.

‘Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify under oath in public before the Judiciary Committee. He owes it to the American people who ought to be deeply disappointed by the conflicting and disparate explanations that have been offered,’ Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, told reporters Monday evening.

So far Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has not revealed what he intends to do.

Two other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Neely Kennedy, R-Louisiana, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, sent a letter on Monday to Grassley requesting a wider hearing with tech CEOs from Twitter, Facebook and Google.

The demand for greater transparency from Facebook spans multiple committees from across both chambers.

Late Monday, the chairman of the Senate Committee, John Thune, R-South Dakota, sent a letter to Zuckerberg demanding answers by March 29 about the type of user data Cambridge Analytica was able to gain access to.

The UK and European Parliament are also launching their own investigations.

How do I protect my Facebook account?

To protect your Facebook account, implement the following steps:

  • Log in to Facebook and visit the App setting page
  • Click edit button under Apps, Websites and Plugins
  • Disable platform

This will mean you won’t be able to use third-party sites on Facebook. But if that is a step too far, you can limit the personal information apps can access by:

  • Logging into Facebook’s App setting page;
  • Unclicking every category you don’t want the App to access—which includes, bio, family, religious views, posts on your timeline, activities and interests.

Other advice:

  • Never click a ‘like’ button on a product service page;
  • If you want to play games and quizzes, don’t log in through Facebook; go directly to the site.