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Facebook’s election ‘war room’ takes aim at fake information

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In an otherwise innocuous part of Facebook’s expansive Silicon Valley campus, a locked door bears a taped-on sign that reads “War Room.” Behind the door lies a nerve center the social network has set up to combat fake accounts and bogus news stories ahead of upcoming elections.

Inside the room are dozens of employees staring intently at their monitors while data streams across giant dashboards. On the walls are posters of the sort Facebook frequently uses to caution or exhort its employees. One reads, “Nothing at Facebook is somebody else’s problem.”

That motto might strike some as ironic, given that the war room was created to counter threats that almost no one at the company, least of all CEO Mark Zuckerberg, took seriously just two years ago — and which the company’s critics now believe pose a threat to democracy.

Days after President Donald Trump’s surprise victory, Zuckerberg brushed off assertions that the outcome had been influenced by fictional news stories on Facebook, calling the idea “pretty crazy .”

But Facebook’s blase attitude shifted as criticism of the company mounted in Congress and elsewhere. Later that year, it acknowledged having run thousands of ads promoting false information placed by Russian agents. Zuckerberg eventually made fixing Facebook his personal challenge for 2018.

The war room is a major part of Facebook’s ongoing repairs. Its technology draws upon the artificial intelligence system Facebook has been using to help identify “inauthentic” posts and user behavior. Facebook provided a tightly controlled glimpse at its war room to The Associated Press and other media ahead of the second round of presidential elections in Brazil on Oct. 28 and the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 6.

“There is no substitute for physical, real-world interaction,” said Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s director of elections and civic engagement. “The primary thing we have learned is just how effective it is to have people in the same room all together.”

More than 20 different teams now coordinate the efforts of more than 20,000 people — mostly contractors — devoted to blocking fake accounts and fictional news and stopping other abuses on Facebook and its other services. As part of the crackdown, Facebook also has hired fact checkers, including The Associated Press, to vet news stories posted on its social network.

Facebook credits its war room and other stepped-up patrolling efforts for booting 1.3 billion fake accounts over the past year and jettisoning hundreds of pages set up by foreign governments and other agents looking to create mischief.

But it remains unclear whether Facebook is doing enough, said Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters For America, a liberal group that monitors misinformation. He noted that the sensational themes distributed in fictional news stories can be highly effective at keeping people “engaged” on Facebook — which in turn makes it possible to sell more of the ads that generate most of Facebook’s revenue.

“What they are doing so far seems to be more about trying to prevent another public relations disaster and less so about putting in meaningful solutions to the problem,” Carusone said. “On balance, I would say they that are still way off.”

The election war room and its inner workings remain too opaque to determine whether it’s helping Facebook do a better job of keeping garbage off its service or if it’s just a “temporary conference room with a bunch of computer monitors in it,” said Molly McKew, a self-described “information warfare” researcher for New Media Frontier, which studies the flow of content on social media.

McKew believes Facebook is conflicted about blocking some content it already knows is suspect “because they keep people on their platform by sparking an emotional response, so they like they like the controversial stuff. There will always be this toeing of the line about pulling down radical, crazy content because that’s what people engage on, and that’s what they want.”

Facebook defends its war room as an effective weapon against misinformation, although its efforts are still a work in progress. Chakrabarti, for instance, acknowledged that some “bugs” prevented Facebook from taking some unspecified actions to prevent manipulation efforts in the first round of Brazil’s presidential election earlier this month. He declined to elaborate.

The war room is currently focused on Brazil’s next round of elections and upcoming U.S. midterms. Large U.S. and Brazilian flags hang on opposing walls and clocks show the time in both countries.

Facebook declined to let the media scrutinize the computer screens in front of the employees, and required reporters to refrain from mentioning some of the equipment inside the war room, calling it “proprietary information.” While on duty, war-room workers are only allowed to leave the room for short bathroom breaks or to grab food to eat at their desks.

Although no final decisions have been made, the war room is likely to become a permanent fixture at Facebook, said Katie Harbath, Facebook’s director of global politics and government outreach.

“It is a constant arms race,” she said. “This is our new normal.”

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Jojo Pasabay App rolls out services in Pampanga

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The culinary capital of the Philippines will soon have access to fast, secure and convenient same day delivery.

Starting May 15, Jojo mobile application will be available across three cities and 19 municipalities of Pampanga province.

Dubbed as “Pasabay app”, the Jojo app is a crowdshipping platform that connects its customers with Transporters who are already heading towards the drop-off location of their package. If Pampangeños need things to get delivered, they can send it through Jojo.

Jojo transporters can choose deliveries that match their way and can either transport by commuting or by driving a motorcycle. No added traffic. No added stress. Senders don’t need to clear their schedule just to send a package. The Jojo Transporters are available when and where they will be needed. As long as sender’s legal package fits a motorcycle, they can send it to anywhere in Pampanga or even to Manila and vice versa through Jojo.

This sustainable way of shipping items provide an efficient delivery alternative, while bringing back everyone’s sense of community, augmenting the income of the everyday Pinoy commuters, and minimizing carbon footprint.

Pampanga is the first market expansion of Jojo app after it was recently launched last March in Metro Manila. The company eyes to roll out its services in key cities and towns in the Philippines by end of 2019.

Shipping starts at Php49 via commuter and Php99 via motorcycle for the first 3 kilometers, and Php8 for every added kilometer.

Jojo is now available for download on Google Play and App Store. For more information, visit www.myjojo.com. (PR)

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#FacebookDown: Facebook and Instagram DOWN across the world

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Facebook and Instagram have crashed, sending thousands of users into a frenzied panic – and rediscovering Twitter.

Social media users are outraged as Facebook and Instagram remain down across the world.

Users in the south and south-east of England started experiencing the most difficulty.

But now users in the US, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and parts of Europe have also shared their fury.

Both social media sites are displaying error messages once those in these areas attempt to use them.

It reads: “Oops… Something went wrong. We’re working on getting it fixed as soon as we can.”

It’s unclear what has caused the mayhem or for how long it’ll remain.

More updates to follow.

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Dark Mode officially comes to Facebook Messenger

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Facebook confirmed Dark Mode for Messenger last October, and this past weekend, the company allowed some users to unlock the feature with a crescent moon(🌙) emoji. Now, the social media giant has officially announced the arrival of Dark Mode on its messaging app.

Dark Mode on Messenger can be currently unlocked by sending the crescent moon emoji in a chat. After that, you can head over to the Settings menu to turn it on. However, Facebook has said that this a “limited-time only experience” so you may not be able to activate Dark Mode after some days with a moon emoji.

Dark Mode is available for both Android and iOS users, and if it doesn’t unlock with a moon emoji, make sure you are using the latest version of the app.

Facebook has said that Dark Mode for Messenger will be “fully rolled out in settings in the coming weeks.”

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