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    Meta’s “overpriced” ad-free subscriptions make privacy a “luxury good”: EU suit / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 30 November - 18:37

Meta’s “overpriced” ad-free subscriptions make privacy a “luxury good”: EU suit

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

Backlash over Meta's ad-free subscription model in the European Union has begun just one month into its launch.

On Thursday, Europe's largest consumer group, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), filed a complaint with the network of consumer protection authorities. In a press release , BEUC alleges that Meta's subscription fees for ad-free access to Facebook and Instagram are so unreasonably high that they breach laws designed to protect user privacy as a fundamental right.

"Meta has been rolling out changes to its service in the EU in November 2023, which require Facebook and Instagram users to either consent to the processing of their data for advertising purposes by the company or pay in order not to be shown advertisements," BEUC's press release said. "The tech giant’s pay-or-consent approach is unfair and must be stopped."

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    Meta routinely ignored reports of kids under 13 on Instagram, states allege / ArsTechnica · Monday, 27 November - 18:35

In this photo illustration, the icons of WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and Facebook are displayed on an iPhone in front of a Meta logo

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Chesnot )

It has never been a big secret that underage kids use social networks like Instagram and Facebook despite the Meta-owned platforms' rule that every user be at least 13 years old. But while the company says publicly that it does what it can to remove kids' accounts, US states suing Meta say they have evidence that the company routinely ignores reports of underage users.

"Within the company, Meta's actual knowledge that millions of Instagram users are under the age of 13 is an open secret that is routinely documented, rigorously analyzed and confirmed, and zealously protected from disclosure to the public," said a newly unredacted complaint released last week.

Meta received 1.1 million reports of under-13 users on Instagram between 2019 and the first half of 2023, but "disabled only a fraction of those accounts and routinely continued to collect children's data without parental consent," the complaint said. In 2021, Meta received over 402,000 reports of under-13 Instagram users through its website and app reporting systems, but its "records show that fewer than 164,000—far fewer than half of the reported accounts—were 'disabled for potentially being under the age of 13' that year," the lawsuit said.

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    Did Facebook fuel political polarization during the 2020 election? It’s complicated. / ArsTechnica · Friday, 28 July - 14:14 · 1 minute

Did Facebook fuel political polarization during the 2020 election? It’s complicated.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Aurich Lawson)

Over the last several years, there have been growing concerns about the influence of social media on fostering political polarization in the US, with critical implications for democracy. But it's unclear whether our online "echo chambers" are the driving factor behind that polarization or whether social media merely reflects (and arguably amplifies) divisions that already exist. Several intervention strategies have been proposed to reduce polarization and the spread of misinformation on social media, but it's equally unclear how effective they would be at addressing the problem.

The US 2020 Facebook and Instagram Election Study is a joint collaboration between a group of independent external academics from several institutions and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. The project is designed to explore these and other relevant questions about the role of social media in democracy within the context of the 2020 US election. It's also a first in terms of the degree of transparency and independence that Meta has granted to academic researchers. Now we have the first results from this unusual collaboration, detailed in four separate papers—the first round of over a dozen studies stemming from the project.

Three of the papers were published in a special issue of the journal Science. The first paper investigated how exposure to political news content on Facebook was segregated ideologically. The second paper delved into the effects of a reverse chronological feed as opposed to an algorithmic one. The third paper examined the effects of exposure to reshared content on Facebook. And the fourth paper , published in Nature, explored the extent to which social media "echo chambers" contribute to increased polarization and hostility.

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    Threads attracts 30M users in 24 hours despite design flaws, privacy concerns / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 6 July - 19:47

Threads attracts 30M users in 24 hours despite design flaws, privacy concerns

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

Meta has officially launched its surprisingly popular Twitter alternative, Threads—shocking even Mark Zuckerberg as signups hit 30 million within the first 24 hours. Though a separate app, Threads is built as a convenient extension of Instagram, requiring an Instagram account to join and allowing users to port their entire Instagram following over in one click. That has clearly made Threads appealing to a huge chunk of Instagram users.

"We didn't expect tens of millions of people to sign up in one day, but supporting that is a champagne problem," Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said in a cheery update on Thursday.

With its well-timed launch coming just after Twitter announced unpopular rate limits on tweets , Threads has quickly surpassed ChatGPT as the fastest-growing consumer app, TechCrunch reported . But as signups explode, Threads is also experiencing immediate backlash from critics who have complained about how Threads was designed and about the app's seemingly ample privacy issues.

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    Twitter fails to remove, label graphic images after Texas mass shooting / ArsTechnica · Monday, 8 May, 2023 - 17:12 · 1 minute

A sign asking people to "Pray for Allen, Texas," stands at a memorial to those killed at the Allen Premium Outlets mall after the mass shooting on May 8, 2023, in Allen, Texas.

Enlarge / A sign asking people to "Pray for Allen, Texas," stands at a memorial to those killed at the Allen Premium Outlets mall after the mass shooting on May 8, 2023, in Allen, Texas. (credit: Joe Raedle / Staff | Getty Images North America )

Graphic images from a Texas mass shooting on Saturday that killed nine (including the gunman) and wounded seven are still circulating on Twitter after spreading virally all weekend. Critics told The New York Times that unlike other platforms, Twitter isn't doing enough to remove or label these "unusually graphic" images, especially in footage where dead bodies of some victims, including a young child, appear to be identifiable, Reuters reported .

Family members do "not deserve to see the dead relatives spread across Twitter for everybody to see,” photojournalist Pat Holloway told the Times. Over the weekend, Holloway joined others in tweeting directly at Twitter CEO Elon Musk to step up the platform's content moderation.

Twitter's policy on sharing content after a violent attack acknowledges that "exposure to these materials may also cause harm to those that view them." That policy is primarily focused on banning the distribution of content created by perpetrators of attacks, but it also places restrictions on "bystander-generated content" depicting "dead bodies" or "content that identifies victims."

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    Meta wants EU users to apply for permission to opt out of data collection / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 30 March, 2023 - 17:32 · 1 minute

Meta wants EU users to apply for permission to opt out of data collection

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

Meta announced that starting next Wednesday, some Facebook and Instagram users in the European Union will for the first time be able to opt out of sharing first-party data used to serve highly personalized ads, The Wall Street Journal reported . The move marks a big change from Meta's current business model, where every video and piece of content clicked on its platforms provides a data point for its online advertisers.

People “familiar with the matter” told the Journal that Facebook and Instagram users will soon be able to access a form that can be submitted to Meta to object to sweeping data collection. If those requests are approved, those users will only allow Meta to target ads based on broader categories of data collection, like age range or general location.

This is different from efforts by other major tech companies like Apple and Google, which prompt users to opt in or out of highly personalized ads with the click of a button. Instead, Meta will review objection forms to evaluate reasons provided by individual users to end such data collection before it will approve any opt-outs. It's unclear what cause Meta may have to deny requests.

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    Cops raided Afroman’s home, then sued him for using footage in music videos / ArsTechnica · Friday, 24 March, 2023 - 16:03 · 1 minute

Singer-songwriter Joseph Foreman, better known as "Afroman," clowns around poolside at an Orange County hotel.

Enlarge / Singer-songwriter Joseph Foreman, better known as "Afroman," clowns around poolside at an Orange County hotel. (credit: Don Bartletti / Contributor | Los Angeles Times )

Seven Ohio cops who raided a rapper known as Afroman’s house last summer are now suing the rapper after Afroman made music videos using footage from the raid. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office police officers allege that the rapper is profiting off unauthorized use of their likenesses, not only in the music videos but also on merchandise created after Afroman’s social media posts and music videos went viral on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Cops suing say they’ve been subjected to death threats, ridicule, reputation loss, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress, and other alleged harms and will continue to suffer unless the court forces Afroman to destroy all the merchandise and posts bearing their likenesses.

Ars couldn’t immediately reach Afroman, whose real name is Joseph Foreman, for comment, but Vice talked to him in January. Afroman told Vice that after the raid, he suffered, too, losing gigs and feeling powerless. He decided to create music videos for songs called “Lemon Pound Cake,” “Why You Disconnecting My Video Camera,” and “Will You Help Me Repair My Door” to reclaim his good name.

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    Meta threatens to restrict news in Canada if it’s forced to pay publishers / ArsTechnica · Monday, 13 March, 2023 - 16:32

Meta threatens to restrict news in Canada if it’s forced to pay publishers

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

After losing a similar battle in Australia , Meta continues to resist efforts by a growing number of countries to require the social media company to pay for news linked on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. On Saturday, Meta announced that it would end news access for Canadian Facebook and Instagram users if the country’s Online News Act is passed, Reuters reported .

A Meta spokesperson told Ars that the online advertising giant contends that laws like Canada’s proposed legislation “misrepresents” the relationship between its platforms and news publishers. According to Meta spokesperson Lisa Laventure, the company’s stance in Canada is the same as its stance protesting the United States’ Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA).

“A legislative framework that compels us to pay for links or content that we do not post, and which are not the reason the vast majority of people use our platforms, is neither sustainable nor workable,” Laventure said.

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