Washington (AFP) – Facebook acknowledged Monday that the explosion of social media poses a potential threat to democracy, pledging to tackle the problem head-on and turn its powerful platform into a force for “good.”
The comments from the world’s biggest social network were its latest response to intense criticism for failing to stop the spread of misinformation among its two billion users — most strikingly leading up to the 2016 US election.
In a blog post, Facebook civic engagement chief Samidh Chakrabarti said he was “not blind to the damage that the internet can do to even a well-functioning democracy.”
“In 2016, we at Facebook were far too slow to recognize how bad actors were abusing our platform,” he said. “We’re working diligently to neutralize these risks now.”
Seconds, minutes and hours won’t become obsolete, but the social network giant has a new kind of clock for techies.
If Facebook gets its way, maybe the next time you want your friend to hold the door for a second, you’ll say, “Hang on for 705,600,000 flicks.”
Well, OK, you probably won’t. But you could, because Facebook introduced a new unit of time on Monday called the flick. The company thinks it’ll be useful for programmers if not for talking to your pal while you run back for your keys.
Different cultures disagree about whether recipes use cups or grams or whether your car odometer counts miles or kilometers, but humanity has settled on the second as the universal unit to measure time. Facebook’s new tick-tock technique, though, is geared for people who deal in inconvenient slivers of a second.
Suppose you’re looking for a single person, somewhere in the world. (We’ll call him Waldo.) You know who he is, nearly everything about him, but you don’t know where he’s hiding. How do you find him?
The scale is just too great for anything but a computerized scan. The first chance is facial recognition — scan his face against cameras at airports or photos on social media — although you’ll be counting on Waldo walking past a friendly camera and giving it a good view. But his voice could be even better: How long could Waldo go without making a phone call on public lines? And even if he’s careful about phone calls, the world is full of microphones — how long before he gets picked up in the background while his friend talks to her Echo?
As it turns out, the NSA had roughly the same idea. In an Intercept piece on Friday, reporter Ava Kofman detailed the secret history of the NSA’s speaker recognition systems, dating back as far as 2004. One of the programs was a system known as Voice RT, which was able to match speakers to a given voiceprint (essentially solving the Waldo problem), along with generating basic transcriptions. According to classified documents, the system was deployed in 2009 to track the Pakistani army’s chief of staff, although officials expressed concern that there were too few voice clips to build a viable model. The same systems scanned voice traffic to more than 100 Iranian delegates’ phones when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited New York City in 2007.