All posts filed under “Social Media

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Facebook giving China a censorship tool?

The New York Times reported this week that Facebook has ‘quitely developed’ a censorship tool, specifically for the Chinese government to suppress content on their platform. The piece writes:

“the social network quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas, according to three current and former Facebook employees, who asked for anonymity because the tool is confidential. The feature was created to help Facebook get into China, a market where the social network has been blocked, these people said. Mr. Zuckerberg has supported and defended the effort, the people added” – New York Times

The report goes on to say, that Facebook intends to grant that capability to a 3rd-party, who will “have full control to decide whether those posts should show up in users’ feeds“.

In short, they’re creating a censorship on demand for China, in exchange for access to the worlds largest market.

Censorship in an encrypted world

While Facebook have neither confirmed nor denied this, this will give China special priviledge to the platform, one that no other nation currently has. Today, most governments face an all-or-nothing approach to censorship on encrypted sites like Facebook, Google and Wikipedia. China famously censor of all Wikipedia on days leading up to the anniversary Tianamen square massacre, simply because they have no ability to censor specific pages.

If I were browsing for chicken curry recipes on Wikipedia, while you were researching political dissent on the same site, our traffic would look identical to anyone ‘sniffing’ along the line. These ‘in transit’ censorship attempts are failing, and for Governments like China, a ‘block the whole damn thing’ approach is the only alternative.

This new tool however, will grant them granular control, to block specific posts and news on the social network,because the censorship now will occur at source, rather than in-transit. It is a radical shift in the way censorship will be performed on the internet, not just in China, but across the world.

It’s also worthwhile to note, that other governments have tried these ‘all-or-nothing’ approaches as well, including Brazil who famously blocked all of Whatsapp (also owned by Facebook) for 72 hours, because a Judge was ‘unhappy’ that Whatsapp responded via email and in English. Fortunately for Brazilians, the ban didn’t last that long.

Whatsapp is a private communications tool, and Facebook is a social network–the similarity is that they both use encryption and this is problematic for governments. In the case of Whatsapp, the two ends of the encrypted channel belong to users, and Whatsapp would be unable to provide any content of communications within that channel–even if it wanted to. In the case of Facebook, since one end belongs to the company–it is able to provide some control.

But I’m digressing. Let’s get back to Facebook and censorship in China–but first let’s take a look at Facebook.

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Hate Speech is defined by private companies

FirstAmendmentYou don’t have a right to freedom of speech.

Obviously true if you’re Malaysian, but even Americans only enjoy a liberty in freedom of speech and not an absolute right.

The difference is clear, liberties are protections you have from the government, while rights are something you have from everyone.

So if someone threatened your right to live, the government is obligated to intervene and protect that right, because your right to live is a protection you have from everyone, whether it be a common criminal, abusive husband or Ayotollah Khomeini.

On the other hand you only have a liberty in freedom of speech (at least in an American context), which means that the government can’t prevent you from speaking, or penalize you for something you said.

However, the government is under no obligation to ensure your speech gets equal ‘air-time’, a newspaper may decline to publish your article, an auditorium may elect to deny you their roster, and online platforms like Facebook may choose to remove your post–all of which do not violate your freedom of speech, because freedom of speech is protection only from the government (state actors) and not from private entities.

And like all liberties and rights, freedom speech is not absolute. Under strict conditions even the US government can impose limits to what they’re citizens can say, or penalize them for things they have said.

In the case of freedom of speech, a liberty defined in their first amendment, those strict conditions are very strict indeed. In order for the government to infringe on the freedom of speech, it must demonstrate a imminent danger that will result in a serious effect.

In other words the government must be able to prove that if the speech were given freedom, there would be an imminent threat of something serious. Both the imminence and seriousness must be proven, failing which the government cannot infringe on that speech. This is indeed a very tall hurdle to climb, and based on my cursory research no case has ever reached this limit.

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Much ado over a tweet

In case you’ve missed it. The official twitter handle of the ETP, @etp_roadmap, recently made a serious blunder. In a tweet sent out at 1.00pm on the 6th of January, they tweeted “Former Prime Minister Najib Razak: Energy and Food…

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How many FAKE followers does Najib have on twitter?

A Social Media Analytics firm recently reported that nearly 50% of Justin Bieber followers on Twitter–were fake. This meant that nearly 18 million followers on Justins twitter account either belonged to no ‘real’ person or belonged to a spam account–and that dear readers is a lot of spam!

That’s like a newspaper saying its circulation was 100,000 a day, but it was only being read by 50,000 people.

Now of course, even if the first 18 million twitter followers were nothing more than spam bots, there’s still another 18 million ‘real’ followers that Justin has–and not many people have even 1 million twitter followers, let alone 18 million, so Justin still has twitter-cred.

However, that does beg the question–how many followers of our Prime Ministers twitter account–were real? For the uninitiated, the Prime Minister tweets at @NajibRazak and has nearly 1.4 Million followers, about 10 times less than Justin Bieber–but nearly 7 times more than his political rival Anwar Ibrahim (who has ‘just’ over 250 thousand followers).

So were these followers real?

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5 Lessons from Listen Listen Listen

Sharifah telling Bawani to Listen Listen Listen
For the past week or so, Malaysians have been completely engrossed by the “Listen Listen Listen” video, and barely a day went by without me hearing some lame joke about listening, speaking…and even sharks. Over the weekend however, I had some time to contemplate through the craziness and realize that underneath this viral video that took Malaysia by storm had some rather interesting lessons we could all learn from–that includes the sharks cause everyone knows sharks have got problems and Jaws really needs to shut up and listen.

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MACC says Facebook at work is Corruption

Effects of Facebook at the WorkplaceAccording to last weeks Star, MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Sutinah Sutan was reported to have said that Civil servants and staff of government-linked companies (GLCs) surfing social media or engaging in personal matters during working hours may be categorized as having committed corruption!!

The underlying logic to the argument seems plausible enough, Datuk Sutinah goes on to elaborate that:

“For instance, if a person spends three hours during his or her stipulated working hours for personal tasks, it can be deemed a form of corruption as the Government trusts and pays its employees to fully utilise the working period to complete tasks relating to the respective jobscope,”

Now while all this sounds good on paper, I think we need to delve deeper, because every time a broad statement such as this comes along it’s important to take a step back and analyze the evidence rather than rely on ‘common sense’. Common sense is after all–not so common (this reminds of the MACC lawyer who claimed the Teoh Beng Hock could strangle himself to death)

So here we have a situation where the MACC deputy chief seems to think that the social media habits of Government servants warrants a statement from such a high ranking officer and therefore logically this must be something of high consequences to the nation, much more than the RM250 Million soft-loan given to a company to sort out the nations beef issues.

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Instagram Camera: Coolest thing EVER!!

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about a cool card game based on Computer processes, in hindsight the only thing that post proved was that I’m a geek. The card game was funded through a crowdfunded initiative, and that was really what made it cool.

The instagram camera is cool on its own, and the fact that it’s currently  being crowdsourced through Indiegogo (a website similar to Kickstarter) makes the cool factor– cucumber cool.

In fact, as of now, it’s already reached $6,000 dollars from it’s $50,000 target in just one day. I’m willing to bet that this project will eventually reach it’s pretty low target of just $50,000 — easily.

There are however, some copyright concerns surrounding the camera, particularly since Facebook now own Instagram and they don’t even like wordpress developers building themes that ‘look’ like facebook, much less an entire camera that is based on a trademark they own.

If you choose to fund the project, you’re promised a discount on the final item, which the creator hopes to price at under $350 (that’s in US Dollars). However, based on the specs, that may be a bit difficult, we’re talking about a: