Your Guide to the Facebook News Flood

*epilepsy warning*|Hatemail: Newsletter and Intel from the LaBac Hacker Collective

Why Has Facebook Been Filling Your News Feed?

Facebook Inc. always makes headlines, but the social media company has truly dominated the news cycle over the past month. This week, we’re taking a step back to give you a rundown of what Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have been up to since mid-September, including the news that you may have missed. 

Facebook Fallout Following Whistleblower Leaks and Other Scandals

Last month, the Wall Street Journal released an investigative news series based on internal Facebook documents received from then-anonymous whistleblower Frances Haugen. (Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, revealed her identity on Oct. 3 in an interview on 60 Minutes). 

The records leaked by Haugen reveal a pattern of negligence in which company leaders failed to address known detrimental effects of the platform, despite alarming internal research findings and concerns vocalized by employees. 

Among the revelations from the documents were details about a privileged list of celebrity and political users known as the XCheck program, internal company-conducted research that shows Instagram is unhealthy for teen girls, and that the company fails to address employee-flags of drug cartel and human trafficking activity on its platforms. 

More recently, on Tuesday, Haugen testified in front of the U.S. Senate’s Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection that Facebook’s products were causing harm to users and negatively shaping the culture of American democracy. Following the testimony, Facebook told employees that it was limiting access to some of its online internal company discussion groups

The leaked records, Haugen’s testimony, and the complaints that Haugen had filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have been met with serious concern. (A second whistleblower revealed last week that they had also provided documentation to a U.S. law enforcement agency but it was unclear if that agency was the SEC). Commentators note that potential further action by the SEC could really test the federal agency’s reach

Expansion of Anti-Harassment Programs and Protections

This past Sunday, Facebook Inc. announced plans for a new series of safety features for teens and children in the aftermath of Congress’ hearings which engaged how the platform’s products are harmful to young people. Then, on Tuesday, Facebook and YouTube representatives pledged to mitigate online hate speech on their respective platforms at the International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance in Malmo, Sweeden. 

On Wednesday, Reuters broke the news that the company is expanding anti-harassment protections on its platforms for users who the company considers to be “involuntary public figures,” such as journalists, celebrities, and politicians.

The protections include content bans on sexual harassment against high-profile public figures, though it is unclear if such anti-harassment policies will ever be extended to everyday users. The announcement comes at a convenient time as Facebook Inc. is under increasing scrutiny by policymakers, who would likely benefit from the increased protections themselves. 

Facebook Inc. Clearly Plans on Sticking Around

The whistleblower leak has grabbed a lot of attention, but there have been unrelated news reports that should equally raise eyebrows, including: 

  • News broke on Monday that a UK-based developer was banned from the platform for working on Unfollow Everything, a browser extension that allowed users to essentially delete their news feeds. 

  • On Tuesday, the Intercept reported details about Facebook’s “blacklist” of groups and individuals affected by restrictions that appear to have been in place a far back as 2012. 

  • The Seattle Times reported on Wednesday that a Facebook representative provided false testimony in a lawsuit regarding Washington state campaign finance laws. 

A few articles on deleting Facebook have circulated in light of all this recent news, yet the Oct. 4 Facebook outage revealed that a lot of people still feel dependent on Facebook Inc. products. For their part, Facebook appears to be looking ahead to expanding its market and services.

On Monday, VentureBeat reported that Facebook Inc. had quietly bought a New York-based artificial intelligence startup called A.I. Reverie. The startup was purchased by a Facebook Inc. holding company named Dolores Acquisition Sub, Inc., a reference to the HBO show Westworld about a theme park filled with artificially intelligent robots. 

Also on Monday: Facebook launched a new audio destination within its U.S. app, indicating some investment into audio-centered projects on the platform. 

Two days later, Mark Zuckerberg and Andrew Bosworth (CTO virtual reality lead) both posted photos of themselves wearing virtual reality headsets, drawing attention to Facebook’s “metaverse.” 

​​Hey Greg Abbot, fuck you, for real.

  • Greg Abbott has always been a pretty bad governor showing little concern for his constituents in Texas and doing the bidding of big corporations and radical Christian groups. Over the last few weeks alone, Abbott has pushed his conservative agenda to the next level — whether it was through legislation reducing minorities voting access, virtually blocking abortions under any context, or through executive orders preventing any kind of mask or vaccine mandate, even for private companies, to save Texas from federal overreach (oh the irony!) when 68,287 of his constituents have died from COVID-19; about 9.5% of total U.S. COVID-19 deaths. (It is worth pointing out that Abbott has been fully vaccinated, still caught the Delta variant of the virus and despite not showing any symptom, was treated with Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment).

    In his latest attempt to show little to no empathy for Texans, the Texas Department of Family removed resources concerning LGBTQ mental health support for the youth. How is it related to Abbott? This happened after one of his opponents in the Republican primaries for the Governor race accused him of promoting transgender sexual policies to Texas youth. The competition for the title of  ‘largest asshole’ in Texas has begun.

For LGBTQ mental health support, call the Trevor Project’s 24/7 toll-free support line at 866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text 741741 from anywhere in the country to reach a trained crisis counselor.

Security Breaches 

  • [ICIJ] The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, perhaps most famous for their publication of the Panama Papers, has released more financial evidence revealing how the world's super-rich avoid taxes. The sources of the leak have not yet been named.

  • [CNBC] Another breach in the world of cryptocurrencies and decentralized finance, this time hitting the Compound blockchain. The Compound developers say a software bug led to the accidental exposure of $162 million to blockchain participants.

  • [BleepingComputer] Apple continues to be hit with high-profile vulnerability disclosures and manages to further alienate the security research community the process.

  • [Vice] Syniverse, which provides telecom infrastructure that powers the world's biggest cellular companies, says that it appears to have been hacked for a four-year period starting in May 2016.

  • [Tom’s Guide] A detailed research paper out of Trinity College in Dublin examines how much passively collected data mobile phones collect and transmit to their respective manufacturers, with Android looking particularly suspect.

On Our Radar...

  • [ZDNet] Last week, data analysis company Palantir Technologies announced that it was awarded a contract by the U.S. Army to provide a data analytics platform.   

  • [The Guardian] [Twitter] We’ve been tracking the unfolding NSO Group story, and this Twitter thread is a great breakdown of Berkeley Research Group, a U.S.-based company that’s taken over management. 

  • [Reuters] This investigative report connects far-right media heavy hitters (such as One American News) to financial support from the communications company, AT&T Inc. 

Hate speech website: ladssociety[.]com

Who hosts: Wix

Today’s site is ladssociety[.]com. It is the homepage for the Lads Society, a far-right white-nationalist group based in Australia and New Zealand. The site was recently cited in the New Zealand government’s inquiry on the Christchurch attack as an influence of the terrorist responsible.

We have observed that Lads Society’s site resolves to an IP address hosted by Wix, a global hosting and services provider, at 185.230.63[.]171.

Trust and Abusability: Centering peoples’ safety in technology developments

Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, 1:30 PM EDT

Design Feminisms Research Group presents resources developed with the Coalition Against Stalkerware and EndTab to foster online safety, trust, and security.