Social Media

Big Twitter Accounts See Follower Numbers Drop After Fake-User Purge

14 July 2018

From Variety:

As expected, Twitter’s elimination of “locked” users accounts from public follower counts has resulted in a decline for many users — including millions lost for the biggest celebs on the platform, like Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

One of the biggest losers seems to have been Twitter’s own primary account (@Twitter), which shed 7.5 million fake accounts to drop 12% Thursday, from 62.85 million earlier in the morning to 55.35 million as of 2:45 p.m. ET. By Friday morning, that was down to 55.1 million.

By comparison, the decline of other large accounts has been smaller. The 100 most-followed Twitter accounts saw an average drop in followers of 2% on Thursday, according to social-analytics firm Keyhole, with a median decline of 734,000 followers.

Singer Katy Perry, who has the most-followed account on Twitter, lost 2.8 million followers through Friday at 8 a.m. ET, dropping 2.6% to 106.8 million followers. Follower counts for Justin Bieber and Rihanna fell 2.5%, Ellen DeGeneres dropped 2.6%, Taylor Swift fell 2.7%, and Lady Gaga declined 3.2%.

. . . .

On Wednesday, Twitter said it was making the change in order to boost the credibility of follower-count numbers and improve transparency. The change in follower counts doesn’t affect the active user totals Twitter tracks and reports on a quarterly basis to investors, according to the company.

The majority of Twitter users will see a reduction of four followers or fewer, but those with larger follower counts will see a bigger drop, the company said. Twitter began culling locked accounts from follower figures Thursday, and as the process continues the numbers will likely decline further. All told, Twitter expects the number of followers to decline around 6% platform-wide by the time it’s completed the purge.

Link to the rest at Variety and thanks to Nate for the tip.

How Google and Facebook Are Monopolizing Ideas

5 July 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

In early May Google banned bail-bond companies from advertising on its platforms. Such companies profit from “communities of color and low income neighborhoods when they are at their most vulnerable,” it explained in a blog post. They use “opaque financing offers that can keep people in debt for months or years.”

That Google can ban ads from an industry that offends its values is not, by itself, noteworthy. Media companies have long decided what content or ads to carry for the same reason. The difference is that even after decades of consolidation, no media company enjoys a U.S. market share as dominant as Google’s in Internet search (close to 90%) or Facebook Inc.’s in social networking. Like earlier bans on payday-loan ads, Google’s bail-bond ad ban, which Facebook copied the next day, effectively kicked an entire industry out of a major advertising channel.

The debate over whether Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., and Facebook are too big usually revolves around economics: Do they suppress competition for goods and services? The bail-bond ad ban raises a different, and potentially more troubling, possibility: that they also undermine competition for values and ideas. While Google and Facebook claim to be neutral platforms connecting users, advertisers and content providers, decisions about which ads to ban and which content to delete or reclassify are inherently value-laden, even when those values are embedded in an algorithm.

Data monopolies “can actually be more dangerous than traditional monopolies,” Maurice Stucke, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville specializing in antitrust, wrote earlier this year in Harvard Business Review. “They can affect not only our wallets but our privacy, autonomy, democracy, and well-being.”

Bail bonds aren’t a sympathetic industry. For a steep fee, agents agree to pay the court’s required bail if the client doesn’t show up for a court date. They are, however, legal and, in most states, regulated. And the industry says it serves low-income and minority clients because they are caught up in the criminal-justice system without the means to post bail on their own.

Jeff Clayton, executive director of the American Bail Coalition, whose members insure bail agents, says Google gave the industry no opportunity to comment on or appeal the ban. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment. Facebook did consult with both the industry and criminal-justice-reform groups after announcing its ban, a spokesman said.

Bail-bond agents used to advertise in the yellow pages, but as the public abandoned phone books for Google, so did the industry. “There are just no other options,” Mr. Clayton said. The ban doesn’t extend to regular search results, but it makes it harder for individual companies to stand out.

Conservatives tend to see tech companies’ progressive leanings at work in what gets banned or reclassified—for example, Facebook’s labeling of videos by two prominent supporters of President Donald Trump as “unsafe.” Bail bonds and payday loans have long been targets of progressive activist groups.

But as the companies come under growing pressure to police their platforms and weed out “fake news,” a growing range of content gets banned, labeled or deleted for often opaque or arbitrary reasons. ProPublica and Reveal, both nonprofit news publications, have had content dealing with hate groups and immigrant children, respectively, deleted or rejected by Instagram or Facebook. Video artists complain of viewership and ads being restricted because their content violated YouTube’s community standards.

Unhappy users, advertisers and content providers wouldn’t have as much to complain about if Google (which bought YouTube in 2006) and Facebook (which acquired Instagram in 2012) had strong competitors to which they could switch.

Absent such competition, expect pressure for the government to regulate it. But that’s a slippery slope. Politically appointed overseers may simply replace the companies’ judgments with their own. For that reason the Federal Communications Commission long ago gave up policing the nation’s airwaves for fairness.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal 

Facebook’s New Political Ad Policy Ends Up Censoring Bookstore’s Author Event Ads

29 June 2018

From the American Booksellers Association:

Facebook’s attempts to regulate political advertisements on its social media platform have made it more difficult for bookstores to “boost” author events. Boosted posts are those which have been paid for to ensure that they reach a wider audience.

In early June, A Room of One’s Own Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin, encountered a problem when trying to advertise author events on Facebook. The bookstore’s events coordinator, Gretchen Treu, requested to boost Facebook posts to promote two author events only to find that they were rejected on the basis of what Facebook characterized as their “political nature.”

The rejected posts are an outcome of a new Facebook political ad policy. The policy, which went into effect in May and applies only to ads targeting an American audience, was established to prevent foreign individuals or groups from running Facebook ads to influence U.S. politics. In order to pay for a “political” ad, advertisers must become authorized to do so. The authorization process includes submitting a government-issued ID and providing a residential mailing address. The new policy represents Facebook’s voluntary compliance with the proposed Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ) that subjects online political advertisements to the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.

“Here, Facebook’s solution might be worse than the problem,” said David Grogan, director of the American Booksellers for Free Expression, Advocacy and Public Policy for the American Booksellers Association. “While we are sympathetic to Facebook’s attempt to filter out false news meant to influence our democratic process, attempts to regulate or control speech will usually result in unintended consequences. And in this case it has, as bookstores that are advertising important author events — critical to the free exchange of ideas — are censored indiscriminately alongside foreign actors. Facebook needs to go back to the drawing board on this policy.”

The posts in question advertised events with Ijeoma Oluo, promoting her book So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal Press), and Cecile Richards, discussing her memoir Make Trouble (Touchstone Books).

Link to the rest at the American Booksellers Association

Facebook’s Latest Problem: It Can’t Track Where Much of the Data Went

27 June 2018

Not exactly to do with book authors, but game and app developers are authors as well. Interesting issues about how your data can potentially become someone else’s intellectual property.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook Inc.’s internal probe into potential misuse of user data is hitting fundamental roadblocks: The company can’t track where much of the data went after it left the platform or figure out where it is now.

Three months after CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged to investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of Facebook data, the company is still combing its system to locate the developers behind those products and find out how they used the information between 2007 and 2015, when the company officially cut data access for all apps. Mr. Zuckerberg has said the process will cost millions of dollars.

One problem is that many of the app developers that scooped up unusually large chunks of data are out of business, according to developers and former Facebook employees. In some cases, the company says, developers contacted by Facebook aren’t responding to requests for further information.

Facebook is now trying to forensically piece together what happened to large chunks of data, and then determine whether it was used in a way that needs to be disclosed to users and regulators. In cases where the company spots red flags, Facebook said it would dispatch auditors to analyze the servers of those developers and interrogate them about their business practices.

Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships, said most developers have been “responsive” but noted that the process requires a fair bit of detective work on their end. “They have to go back and think about how these applications were built back in the day,” Mr. Archibong said.

. . . .

Facebook’s app investigation is a response to broader criticism over revelations earlier this year that data-analytics firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed and retained user data obtained from Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge. The data, which was gathered by Mr. Kogan and his associates through a personality-quiz app, was used by the Trump campaign in 2016. Facebook eventually notified around 87 million users that their data may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, though many questions remain about that incident as well.

. . . .

Some developers say they have little incentive to respond to Facebook’s requests to cooperate with the probe, either because they are out of business, have moved on to other projects or are uneasy about allowing another company to look at their servers and the way their apps are constructed. Such intellectual property is “the lifeblood” of a developer’s business, said Morgan Reed, president of ACT | The App Association, a trade group that represents more than 5,000 app makers and connected-device companies.

In addition, Facebook doesn’t have legal authority to force developers to cooperate.

“They can’t really compel these developers to hand over information,” said Ian Bogost, a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology. “This is not a federal inquiry about a crime or something. It’s a private company. What are the consequences?”

Mr. Bogost is also a game developer, and built a game for the Facebook platform called Cow Clicker. He said Facebook hasn’t contacted him about conducting a full-scale audit of Cow Clicker, which drew about 180,000 users.

. . . .

Facebook created its developer platform in 2007, giving outsiders the ability to build businesses by leveraging the Facebook data of users and their friends. Facebook tightened access in 2014 and gave pre-existing apps a one-year grace period to comply with the new rules.

Facebook engineers working on the platform didn’t always document their changes, according to one former employee. At times, apps would stop working because of some unannounced tweak by a Facebook employee and developers would have to complain to get it fixed, developers said.

Over the years, Facebook at times tried to build systems that would allow the company to track down user info gleaned from the developer platform—but those efforts failed in part for technical reasons, former employees said.

The internal investigation is a sign of what Mr. Archibong, echoing other Facebook executives, described as a massive cultural shift within Facebook to focus more on “enforcement as a key component” of its system. Previously, executives have said, the emphasis was on growth and connecting more users to one another around the world.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

The 80/20 Rule

20 June 2018

From Medium:

A few years ago, when I was single and desperate to find a boyfriend, I asked my friend Amy if she thought my blog made me undatable. She didn’t have an answer, but she did share an anecdote. After Amy and her friend Max met me at a book party in SoHo, she received an email from a friend expressing his surprise that we had become friends. “You and Max are like Statler and Waldorf, heckling from the audience,” Amy’s friend wrote to her. “Tyler Coates is like Miss Piggy, preening on the stage.”

It was not the first time I had been accused of oversharing. I have been writing about myself online in some form since graduating from high school in 2001. My first attempts at blogging were on OpenDiary.com and Diaryland.com, two sites that focused more on journaling than writing for an audience, although there were clear social aspects to both. Then there was LiveJournal in college (my friends were the only people who read that one) and, post-graduation, Blogger. After joining Tumblr at the beginning of 2008, I used it as more of a scrapbook, casually posting and reblogging pictures and songs. But a year in, I changed my pseudonymous username to my own. Suddenly, because I was writing under my own name — my first byline, really — the criticisms changed. Even though I was hardly anonymous on my earlier blogs, my Tumblr had some deliberate accountability because my name was attached.

Mixed in with the Liz Phair MP3s and pre-selfie-era selfies were brief posts about my feelings and emotions — two things that are never supposed to be put on the internet, I learned.

. . . .

The communal nature of Tumblr offered some solace and support. I made a lot of friends based on the mutual pop-culture interests we were writing about, and a lot of those people crossed the email boundary and offered me emotional support.

At the first Tumblr meetup I had ever attended, in Chicago in 2009, organized by a group of users who barely new each other offline, strangers told me how they found it inspiring that I would write about things they would never share on the internet. Oversharing never felt like the appropriate word for what I did—it really is such an overused and misunderstood phrase. To overshare means simply to share anything the reader might not share him or herself. Our personal boundaries are subjective, so the term serves to attack a writer for doing what the accuser wouldn’t: revealing something personal, something that makes the reader vulnerable. It carries with it the resentment that the person doing the revealing isn’t embarrassed, even though the reader thinks the writer should be.

. . . .

I have what I call my 80/20 Rule, a theory based entirely on presumption and not at all mathematical. (If I were good at math, I’d be in a different business.) The premise is essentially this: Everything you know about someone based on what they put on the internet represents about 20 percent of who he or she really is, while the other 80 percent is not actually present in that online persona. On the other hand, the 20 percent you put out there can be perceived as 80 percent of your inner life, maybe even more.

Link to the rest at Medium

PG suggests the possibility that, just as some people are socially awkward offline, some people are socially awkward online as well.

That said, does it really matter?

If an author is promoting his/her work online, social awkwardness could cause some problems, but there are so many different examples of successful online promotion that adapting them for an author’s business purposes is one alternative. Another alternative might be to create an online persona in the same manner an author creates an interesting character.

PG has been on the internet for over 30 years and has seen what might be an analog for community standards develop over time, then pretty much disappear as the number of online interactions increased and communities proliferated to the point where you can pretty much find any sort of community (with accompanying standards) you might like.

Social Media for Children’s and Adult Books: Who Posts Where?

17 May 2018

From Publishing Trends:

Look at some of the top authors on Twitter and you’ll see that the list is pretty evenly divided between authors of books for children and adults.  Paulo Coelho weighs in at 12.2 million, followed by JK Rowling at 11.3 million.  Then a steep fall to Anthony Bourdain (6.1) and John Green (5.33), Stephen King (3.52) and Neil Gaiman (2.62), and Chris Colfer (2.52) and Margaret Atwood (1.7).  You get the idea.

Facebook mirrors Twitter in that Coelho is still at the top, but with 20.5 million followers.  Others are closer to parity with their Twitter followers, e.g. Stephen King has five million on Facebook while John Green (who’s on every major platform) has three million-plus on Facebook. James Patterson has a healthy 3.7 million.  Lemony Snicket has a half million under A Series of Unfortunate Events and Rick Riordan has more than three million under Percy Jackson.

Beyond Twitter and Facebook, the numbers are generally much smaller and harder to track.  Still, in conversation with agents, publishers, social media gurus and writers, it’s clear that authors are generally encouraged to embrace one or more social media platform. However, what they really accomplish in promoting themselves differs depending on what their goals and expectations are their level of commitment and skill.

. . . .

Most agree that authors should engage with social media only if they are comfortable. Rachel Fershleiser, HMH Executive Director of Audience Development and Community Engagement, says she’s a “huge believer in authors setting their own boundaries,” both in terms of where to post and what to write about.  She encourages authors to try Instagram, because it’s generally the least contentious, and allows an author to express his or her personality “without the stress” of a network like Twitter. Writers HouseDigital Director Daniel Berkowitz thinks that, for many, how one interacts on social media “almost runs counter to how an author operates.” Authors want their posts to reflect the same level of writing that their books exhibit, and so are anxious about achieving that, especially on “of-the-moment” platforms like Twitter.  In her blog post, So You’re An Author Without a Social Media Presence: Now What?, Jane Friedman warns that, while engaging in social media offers “an opportunity to learn about your readership as well as better establish your platform,” it’s “not necessarily an opportunity to hard sell the book you’re about to release.”

. . . .

Optiq.ly’s Pete McCarthy believes that, done right, social media is “one of the most cost-effective ways” of marketing an author.  He believes middle-grade authors often ignore Goodreads because they forget it’s a good place to meet their readers’ parents.

Link to the rest at Publishing Trends

13 Bookstagram Accounts Every Book Lover Should Follow

15 May 2018

From Paperback Paris:

As much as I hate to admit it, a very good portion of my downtime is committed to looking at bookish things on Instagram. From images of my favorite books to shelfies, book hauls and reading books, I am constantly looking for beautiful images of books. From creative inspiration to recommendations for new books to read, Instagram is a great place to turn for all things book related thanks to the Bookstagram community.

While it’s easy to find book related images on Instagram, the bookish Instagram community is very large. Featuring a wide and varied number of Bookstagrammers, or people who have accounts dedicated to all things book related, Instagram is without a doubt one of the best places to go for book inspiration. While there are hundreds of active accounts that feature stunning book related images, here’s a list of some of the Bookstagram accounts that will appeal to book lovers from all walks of life.

. . . .

5. abookishloveaffair

Bookstagram Accounts
Instagram (@abookishloveaffair)

Fans of YA fantasy, rejoice, for @abookishloveaffair is a dream come true. Featuring simplistic themed snapshots of all of your favorites, including The Raven Cycle and Harry Potter, this Bookstagram account will have you longing to re-read your favorite books.
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6. cosyreads

Bookstagram Accounts
Instagram (@cosyreads)

@cosyreads is one of the most stunning Bookstagram accounts out there. Featuring beloved books of varying genres, these images are enhanced by the use of lights, small props, flowers and ribbons to create breathtakingly inspirational works of art.

The images found on the @cosyreads account will put you in a state of calm while you prepare to read your favorite books, as Mia’s images feature books, candles, coffee and snacks that will transport you to your favorite reading spot.

 

 

Link to the rest at Paperback Paris

 

PG will state the obvious about successful Instagram accounts – they include interesting photographs.

However, while a nice camera is a lot of fun, a cell phone camera and some free or low-cost in-phone post-processing apps can turn the most mundane of photo subjects into a unique visual presence.

PG took photos of some quite mundane features of Casa PG and spend about 10 minutes giving them a grungy look which is quite different from the frequently cute, quaint and craftsy images PG has seen on Instagram (for the record, Casa PG is not at all grungy (other than PG’s desk)).

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Agree to Facebook’s Terms or Don’t Use It

11 May 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

A pizza shop needs your address to deliver your pizza. A chat app service needs your selfie if you want to send it to friends. But do internet giants like Facebook and Google really need a list of websites you recently visited?

A battle is looming in Europe over what information Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and other companies can demand from you. It boils down to what they really need to know—a debate that could end up in courts for years with the potential to weaken either the European Union’s new data-privacy law or the business models of ad-reliant giants like Facebook and Google.

The EU’s new privacy law, which goes into effect on May 25, forbids companies from forcing users to turn over personal information as a condition of using their services. Does that mean you can simply say, “No, thanks,” to any data collection and still use Facebook? Not exactly.

. . . .

There are many exceptions in which companies can still collect data, such as when that information is necessary to fulfill a contract with you. That has set the stage in Europe for a battle over what is truly necessary, and when consent is “freely given,” regulators and privacy lawyers say.

“The crux of this argument is going to be the legitimacy of the behavioral advertising business model,” said Omer Tene, vice president and chief knowledge officer for the International Association of Privacy Professionals. “Behavioral advertising” is the name for the business, worth tens of billions of dollars a year, that allows companies to show users targeted advertising based on their internet activity.

In recent weeks, Facebook has continued work to comply with the new law—called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR—in part by asking users in the EU to opt in to being shown targeted advertising using data gathered from their activity, such as web browsing or purchasing information. But when it comes to authorizing Facebook to collect that data, the company now gives users a stark choice: agree to its new terms of service or delete their accounts.

“If you don’t accept these, you can’t continue to use Facebook,” a pop-up says of the company’s terms and conditions.

Facebook says the data it collects is necessary to fulfill its contract with users to provide “a personalized experience.” The company says it offers prominent options to control how that data is used, but that as a data-driven business, it needs to collect information about its users to function.

“There are certain elements of the service which are core to providing it and which people can’t opt out of entirely, like ads,” said Stephen Deadman, Facebook’s global deputy chief privacy officer. “There’s no point in buying a car and then saying you want it without the wheels. You can choose different kinds of wheels, but you need wheels.”

. . . .

Google, for its part, issued a new privacy policy on Friday that outlines how the company collects data about users, including location and data from other apps and sites that use Google services. The company has added new controls, such as the ability to mute an ad that is following a user across the web, and has reorganized existing controls to turn off features like personalized ads, but it isn’t possible to opt out of all data collection.

In the policy, Google justifies much of that data collection under another method in GDPR called “legitimate interest.” Companies’ use of that justification is also likely to spark legal scrutiny, lawyers and privacy experts say.

. . . .

Verizon Communications Inc.’s Oath, which includes Yahoo and AOL, says in its new European privacy policy that if users withdraw their consent to collecting their data—including web-browsing habits or location data—that they “may not have access to all (or any) of our services.”

“Processing of your information for the purposes of personalized content and ads is a necessary part of the services we provide,” the policy explains.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

As the title of the OP states, you always have the option not to use a service like Facebook if you don’t want the company to gather personal information from the information you make available to them by logging on, posting and/or clicking.

If that’s not an option, Incognito Mode on the Chrome browser provides some limited protection by preventing identifying cookies and autofill details from being saved on your computer/tablet/cell phone, but it doesn’t protect your online history from examination by your internet service provider or prevent third-party groups from tracking your online activity or knowing your geographical location.

The terms of service of browser providers are less than models of clarity. Here’s a link to those for the TOS for Google’s Chrome browser. So you’re clear, there are lots of other TOS provisions that apply to your use of Google’s various other services.

Your privacy rights while in Incognito mode are set forth in a separate document, Google Chrome Privacy Notice. Here’s what it says about Incognito:

You can limit the information Chrome stores on your system by using incognito mode or guest mode. In these modes, Chrome won’t store certain information, such as:

Basic browsing history information like URLs, cached page text, or IP addresses of pages linked from the websites you visit
Snapshots of pages that you visit
Records of your downloads, although the files you download will still be stored elsewhere on your computer or device
How Chrome handles your incognito or guest information
Cookies. Chrome won’t share existing cookies with sites you visit in incognito or guest mode. Sites may deposit new cookies on your system while you are in these modes, but they’ll only be stored and transmitted until you close the last incognito or guest window.

Browser configuration changes. When you make changes to your browser configuration, like bookmarking a web page or changing your settings, this information is saved. These changes are not affected by incognito or guest mode.

Permissions. Permissions you grant in incognito mode are not saved to your existing profile.

Profile information. In incognito mode, you will still have access to information from your existing profile, such as suggestions based on your browsing history and saved passwords, while you are browsing. In guest mode, you can browse without seeing information from any existing profiles.

Regardless of what you might have thought, your identity is definitely not cloaked for Google and others in incognito mode.

Without getting into the weeds, if you want to take a major step toward online privacy, you’ll have to use a non-standard browser and make some significant tradeoffs in the process. Tor is the best-known of these (although it has its own privacy problems and some ISP’s block Tor). Here’s a list of some others.

PG claims no extraordinary knowledge or expertise about online security. He’s happy to learn more from visitors to TPV.

 

 

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