Posts tagged ‘Big Tech’


My first tech post in a while: how I use my social-computing time

09.09.2021

Refreshingly, I’ve noticed that my more recent blog posts haven’t been about Big Tech as often. I haven’t changed my views: the ones I’ve stated earlier still stand, and Google and Facebook in particular continue to be a blight on democracy and even individual mental health.
   A lot of the posts were inspired by real-world usage of those websites, if you look back over the last decade. As I use them irregularly, and wish others were in the same boat, then there’s little to report, unless I come across new revelations that I might have a say about.
   Google is the search of last resort though it has a great translator; now that the news alerts don’t even work, that’s one fewer contact point with the online advertising monopolist. Facebook is good for monitoring who has breached my privacy by uploading my private data to the platform, and to delete off-Facebook activity (Facebook serves these pages at a ridiculously slow speed, you wonder if you’re on dial-up). Beyond that neither site has much utility.
   My Instagram usage is down to once every two months, which means it’s halved since 2020, though I still keep an eye on Lucire’s account, which isn’t automated.
   I stay in touch with some friends on email and there’s much to be said about a long-form composition versus a status update. It’s the difference between a home-cooked meal and a fast food snack. And, of course, I have this blog to record things that might pique my interest.
   Go back far enough—as this blog’s been around 15 years—and I shared my musings on the media and branding. My blog’s roots were an offshoot of the old Beyond Branding blog, but I wanted to branch into my own space. A lot of my views on branding haven’t changed, so I haven’t reblogged about them. Each time someone introduced another platform, be it Vox or Tumblr, I found a use for it, but ultimately came back here. Just last week I realized that the blog gallery, which came into being because NewTumbl’s moderators started believing in the Republic of Gilead, was really my substitute for Pinterest. It might even be my substitute for Instagram, if I can be bothered getting the photos off my phone.
   I must say it’s a relief to have everything on my own domain, and while it’s not “social”, I have to ask myself how much of Instagramming and social media updating ever was. Twitter, yes, to an extent. But oftentimes with Instagram I posted because I got joy from doing so, over trying to please an audience. It’s why I never got that many followers, because it wasn’t a themed account. And if doing what suits me at the time is the motive, then there’s no real detriment to doing so in my own spaces. These posts still get hundreds of viewers each, probably more than what I got on Facebook or Instagram.
   I don’t know if this is a trend, since setting up your own space takes far more time than using someone else’s. Paying for it is another burden others may wish to avoid. Nor do I have the latest stats on Facebook engagement, but when I did track it, it was heading south year on year. I do know that the average reach for an organic post continues to fall there, which is hardly a surprise with all the bots. Instagram just seems full of ads.
   But in my opinion, fewer contact points with Big Tech is a good thing, and may they get fewer still.

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The pathetic snowflakes of Big Tech

10.08.2021

We all know what will happen. This is one of two fakes who have sent me a Facebook friend request this week. The first was given the all-clear despite having spam links; and no doubt this will be judged to be perfectly acceptable by Facebook. (In the meantime, a post from Lucire that featured the latest PETA ‘would rather go naked’ campaign was instantly removed.)
   What isn’t acceptable, is, of course, criticizing them. Bob Hoffman writes (original emphases):

According to Vice, recently the Cybersecurity for Democracy project “has revealed major flaws in Facebook political ad transparency tools and highlighted how Facebook’s algorithms were amplifying (COVID vaccine) misinformation.” This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been conscious for the past few years …
   This week Facebook, in an act of abject unscrupulousness, suspended the accounts of several of the researchers from NYU who are leading the Cybersecurity for Democracy project and need to access Facebook to do their work. One of the researchers called Facebook’s action “‘disgraceful’ at a time when the disinformation around COVID-19 and vaccines is literally costing lives.”

   This is how weak and pathetic Facebook is. Instead of doing better (which they claim they try to do), they’d rather shut down criticism. A bit like a dictatorship.
   They’re not alone, of course. In the news recently were the snowflakes of Ebay, who also can’t take a bit of criticism.
   Ina and David Steiner publish a news website about ecommerce and were critical of Ebay in its latest incarnation. The CEO wasn’t happy, nor was Ebay’s head of global security, James Baugh, who began a campaign to terrorize the Steiners.
   The Steiners found their fence tagged, then Ebay’s staff began sending ordering items to be sent to them, including a fœtal pig, a mask of a bloody pig face (witnessed by a police officer), a book on surviving the death of a spouse, a package of live spiders and fly larvæ, and a sympathy wreath, among others. Then Ebay’s employees went to Boston, near where the Steiners lived, and planned to plant a tracking device on their car. The Steiners spotted the rental vehicles stalking them. Understandably, they couldn’t sleep properly, and even slept separately fearing they would be physically attacked.
   It was thanks to the Steiners’ own efforts that they managed to get the number plate of one of the vehicles tailing them, which was then referred to police, who finally managed to figure out what was going on.
   One person has been sentenced in all this mess to 18 months in prison, and there have been other arrests, though as this is the US, the CEO gets off scot free with a US$57 million golden handshake.
   This isn’t that out of the ordinary, and entirely predictable for anyone who has followed this blog. Or the news, for that matter.
   A few years ago, I blogged about how Elon Musk and Tesla tried to get one of its whistleblowing employees killed by telling the police that he was planning a mass shooting. According to Bloomberg Businessweek:

Many chief executive officers would try to ignore somebody like Tripp. Instead, as accounts from police, former employees, and documents produced by Tesla’s own internal investigation reveal, Musk set out to destroy him.

   The employee, Martin Tripp, allegedly was hacked and followed before the attempt to have him swatted.
   Former Gigafactory security manager, Sean Gouthro, said Tripp never sabotaged Tesla or hacked anything, and Musk knew this, but still wanted to damage Tripp’s reputation.
   You can read more directly at the source.
   My negative encounters with Big Tech, which I put down more to shoddy programming or incompetence than malice, are pretty tame.
   Put together, the pattern of IP theft, censorship, inciting genocide and misinformation, and targeting individuals, is very obvious. It’s part of their culture these days, since the US keeps letting these companies do what they wish with impunity, and to heck with what anyone would reasonably think the laws actually say. And it’s not just the US: when has our Blairite government or its predecessor moved against Big Tech in any meaningful way, on taxation, or on apportioning some responsibility for their part in COVID-19 misinformation?

Meanwhile, I was amused to see this under Arthur Turnure’s entry in Wikipedia:

   So Turnure starts Vogue but decides to work under an 18-year-old in another city.
   The reference linked doesn’t back this up at all.
   I know Wikipedia is full of crap that we can all go and correct, but as we’ve seen, shit sticks and on the internet, bullshit sticks, including one item that I’ve blogged about before that remained for over a decade.
   What gets me is why someone who doesn’t know a subject would deem themselves sufficiently knowledgeable to write about it. Because I just wouldn’t dare.
   As detailed before, you don’t see as many inaccuracies in the Japanese or German versions of Wikipedia, and you have to conclude, especially now with politicians doing the same thing, that the Anglosphere is increasingly an anti-intellectual place to be. ‘The fundamental problem with the English-speaking world is that ignorance is not considered a vice,’ said the brother of my friend, Prof Catherine Churchman. My earlier post from 2018 stands now more than ever.

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It feels like half of Facebook is bot

21.07.2021

Here’s a screenshot from the new members of one of my Facebook groups—actually the only public one I still have. Since Facebook lets spammers join now, we have to block them manually. Their posts don’t make it through to the group as we have safeguards there, too. But I’m not going to let them inflate, falsely, the member count, which in turn will make it harder for posts to reach group members.
   A lot of these bots—they hunt for large groups and their scripts join them—seem to hide under the guise of role-playing for the Pinoy TV series Halik, and they all chat to each other in automated fashion. As Facebook is stupid enough not to recognize the bot activity, you’d think that at least they could see the script at play here, as these accounts are often new, and they set to work joining large groups and pages.
   They don’t recognize them, or, they do recognize them and allow the bot activity to carry on with their blessing. Each one of these blocked accounts was reported, and as usual they were found to be perfectly fine.
   In this screenshot, there were five legitimate accounts. We used to keep the numbers well down because potential members had to answer basic questions, and even some legit people are too lazy to do that. Back then we would see one legit account joining after weeks or months. I think I preferred that, because it kept the spammers and bots away.
   It certainly gives the impression that bots, based on this sample (and others like it since Facebook’s pro-bot policy change arrived with this group), are running at about 50 per cent of the total, which gels with recent research that Instagram is 46 per cent fake (that is, 46 per cent of all accounts are not legit). Nevertheless, I still see far more bots than humans overall: just get yourself into the fake Halik accounts of the Smiths and Montefalcos, and now they’re branching out into other surnames like Montenegro and Buenavista. Thousands, untouched, the only consistent activity on the wasteland that is Facebook.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


Scheduling posts on Facebook and Instagram? Forget it, it’s not worth the trouble

21.07.2021

If someone who has never been authorized to have a role on a Facebook page can have full admin access to it, then it stands to reason that a legitimate owner of a Facebook page cannot do what she needs with it.
   That’s exactly what happened to my friend Holly Jahangiri, who has a Facebook page and an Instagram profile, both of which are connected. She can read her private messages. She can log into both, and she is the admin of both. Facebook has her email address and cellphone number. But she couldn’t schedule a post for either, and that’s when Facebook sent her into a loop—not unlike the one that Google sent me on in 2009, although Google’s forum person was way ruder.
   Facebook kept asking Holly to review her connection and confirm she is admin of her own page—information that they already had. Unless their databases are so shot to hell that even internally they cannot determine this.
   She would love to click ‘Confirm’ but the button was greyed out, saying, ‘You must be an admin of the associated Page’s business in Business Manager to confirm the Instagram account.’ But she is the admin.

   Even if she tried disconnecting her accounts and attempted to reconnect them, so she could review that connection that they asked for, no confirmation email ever arrived. And when she logged into both Facebook and Instagram, on desktop and mobile, the accounts were indeed linked and confirmed in their Account Center.
   It seems a small ask to be able to schedule a post on a page—mind you, Tumblr wouldn’t let me for some time, as every time we got to the scheduled moment, it would alter the day and move it forward into the future—but Holly persisted and decided to send them a message through their Business Support Center. She was lucky: she actually got a response. I never have. Or maybe she was unlucky that they responded.
   Their first piece of advice was to ask Holly to do what she had already done: disconnect and start over. She proved she did it with the screenshot they requested, and that it still didn’t work.
   Then they asked:

… in order for us to assist you better, please provide us with the following:

1. A screen recording in which illustrates the steps up to the section where the issue is showing. Please ensure that it is of the entire screen, including the URL bar at the top of the screen. For screen recordings, we recommend to upload the video on Dropbox and email the link to us. Do ensure the URL link is set to public. As in case we may need to forward your concern to the relevant team, this file will be very useful.

2. Page URL/ID where you are connecting your Instagram Account to.

   Even though Holly has the knowledge to do a screen recording, she felt this was getting ridiculous, and, like me, she wasn’t prepared to upgrade her Dropbox just to host a video for Facebook. And she had already given them (2).
   She explained things once again but that Facebook kept asking her confirm her Facebook page and Instagram connection—and providing her no means with which to do it. And that the Account Center said the two were connected.
   She did one more screenshot with URL showing. In it, Facebook is still asking her to ‘Confirm Your Facebook Page and Instagram Connection’ but giving her no means to do it.
   Facebook responded by saying they still needed a video. And Holly answered that it wasn’t going to happen.
   Then she received this:

Hello Holly,

Thank you for contacting Facebook Concierge Support. We greatly appreciate your patience while waiting for an update.
   We understand that you are unable to provide the video recording of the actual steps you are taking to show the issue being experienced.
   What we can see is that the [Holly’s page, redacted] is added on a Business Manager account where you have no role. Please be informed that if a Page is connected on a Business Manager account, the Instagram account you are trying to link on that Page must also be owned by the same Business Manager account.
   If you know who are the admins of the Business Manager account that owns the Page, please check with them if the Instagram account – [Holly’s Instagram account, redacted], is also added on that Business Manager. Also ask them to grant you admin access on that Business Manager. Once that is done, you can try again linking the Page and Instagram account.
   Feel free to get in touch with us if you need any further assistance and we will be very happy to assist you further.
   Do not hesitate to find our best support via https://www.facebook.com/business/help for future inquiries. We look forward in making your journey with Facebook a better one.
   Thank you for contacting Facebook Concierge Support. Have a nice day!

Kind regards,

Yoyo

   I would be fuming by now, because Holly is the admin of both, and there was no evidence of hacking. No one else is there as the admin.

   She wrote: ‘So who BUT me would own that business manager account? If it belongs to someone else, how do I undo that and create my own? How do I straighten this out? If it’s something I did incorrectly, then clearly I’m asking you: HOW DO I FIX IT?’
   In classic Big Tech support, it seems Yoyo never read her message. They wrote:

Hi Holly,

Thank you so much for your email.

I can perfectly understand that you are not aware on who is the Admin of the Business Manager. Therefore, what I can do for you is, I will submit and Admin appeal for you by you will need to provide me the with some information and documents as below :

1) A copy of a valid government-issued photo ID, such as a current driver’s license or a passport, of the individual signing the statement. See the different kinds of IDs we accept in the Help Center: https://www.facebook.com/help/159096464162185

2) A signed statement from a person with sufficient knowledge and authority over this matter that includes all of the following:
   a) The Facebook email address or profile URL associated with the Facebook account that you wish to have added as the new admin
   b) A description of requestor relationship to the Business (and authority to request access to the Business, as applicable);
   c) An explanation of your request, and whether there has been a termination of the employment and/or business relationship with the named person(s)/Business, as applicable;
   d) The past three invoices/billing statements on the ad account(s) that the Business owns AND the last 4 digits of the credit card(s) on the account(s);
   • If the BM does not have any ad account, please declare such information in the statement
   e) A declaration that the information you have provided is true and accurate (e.g. “I certify that the information provided is true and accurate”) – your statement must include similar language.

For any other issues, please feel free to initiate a chat support session at the following link:
https://www.facebook.com/business/help
   For any feedback regarding our features within platform, please use the link:
https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/268228883256323
   Thank you for contacting Facebook Concierge Support and have a good day ahead!

Regards,

Yoyo

   If you’ve made it this far, you’ll know why Holly shouldn’t need to provide any of the above. The first paragraph from Yoyo is completely wrong since Holly is aware of who the admin is, but Facebook seems to want to ignore that.
   At this point she was prepared to delete the lot—something I’m prepared to do, too, but haven’t. Apparently gadgets like IFTTT are tied to my account and they run things on Lucire’s Facebook page, which, based on the decision of the majority, is still being used by the team.
   She showed Yoyo another screenshot that confirmed she is the sole admin. And told them that she would not provide any additional documents.
   Their response, inter alia (and by this time, Yoyo was calling Holly ‘Yoyo’):

When it comes to data protection and privacy, Facebook does not reveal any information, the documents mentioned are mandatory since you are not the Admin of the Business Manager in which the Page is connected.
   We are not advising you to close your account for the sake of your business; rather, we are attempting to assist you.
   Please submit the mentioned documents as soon as they are ready so that we can assist you further.

   I can hear you screaming, ‘But she is the admin!’
   Any sane, reasonable person could empathize with Holly’s reply:

So, the point is, I AM admin of the business account that any of my own pages/account are connected with unless I somehow orphaned them THIS MORNING after my last email to you, and your request at this point is tantamount to phishing. I’m not playing – I will not be sending you additional ID; you have my email, phone number, address, etc. (I have sent my driver’s license to Facebook, in the past, and I now deeply regret it. I will not be doing it again; I do not believe you safeguarded it in the first place.)
   “We are not advising you to close your account for the sake of your business” – what a joke. My business has never benefited from Facebook in any way, shape, or form. I opened the Business account because Facebook led me to believe I had to have one in order to upgrade and maintain my pages. I HAD an ad account, which I deleted, this morning. Ads I ran in the past were basically sent to EXACTLY the opposite of my target demographics and never led to ONE SINGLE SALE, so that is useless to me.

  • As an individual, all purchases I have ever made from other “businesses” on Facebook or Instagram have been scams.
  • I report fake and imposter accounts and I am told that they do not violate community standards.
  • I have reported actual kiddy porn in the past, to be told that it did not violate community standards.
  • I can only conclude, at this point, that Facebook prefers bots and scammers and phishers of men, because – I guess – they don’t cause as many headaches and the numbers look GREAT to advertisers.

   I am now stuck in some sort of hellspace between your business center and your creator studio and ready to delete my personal profile as well as my pages and groups because I cannot figure out how to disconnect them from your “business center” thing.

   In fact, Holly would have added, given the chance (these are her words):

  • I have been told by Facebook to download and install their partners’ anti-malware products and run them, despite my having my own premium subscription to Norton; I refused to do so, and was punished by a suspension of indefinite length (ended up being a couple of pleasant weeks away from Facebook);
  • I have had my wrist slapped for posting factual COVID info and stats DIRECTLY from the CDC, articles I wrote on Medium.com, and most lately, a link to a Wikipedia article explaining the origins of the classic nursery rhyme, “Humpty-Dumpty”

   In other words, I’m not alone with the endless frustration this site causes. I’m still frustrated and I barely use it, because of all the basics it gets wrong, constantly. And normally I would never take a dig at someone’s name but ‘Yoyo’ describes what Holly went through.
   Holly wound up deleting all her ad and business accounts and reverted back to a personal one. When I read the above, I’d rather have the usual silence than what Facebook thinks passes for ‘support’!

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Facebook continues to give in to fake accounts, much like the UK with COVID-19

10.07.2021

At the beginning of July I noticed Facebook had changed its reporting options. Gone is the option labelled ‘Fake account’, replaced by ‘Harmful or spam’. It’s a small change that, I believe, is designed to get Facebook off the hook for failing to remove fake accounts: since you can’t report them, then you can’t say they’ve failed to take them down.

   Except, if you choose ‘Harmful or spam’, Facebook does acknowledge that your report is for a fake account:

   Of course they’re harmful. Harmful to us regular people who have to pay more and more money to reach our human supporters since the fakes command an increasing amount of fans on our pages, for instance. It isn’t harmful for Facebook’s revenue or Zuckerberg’s wealth. So it really depends how you define harmful; one would imagine that a competent court would define it from a consumer’s point of view.
   Their new group policy, where Facebook has also given up against the bot epidemic, letting fake accounts join public groups, is a disaster. As you can see, the majority of new members to one group I oversee—and where I usually get tips to new bot accounts—are fakes. They’ve used scripts to join. It’s a bit of a giveaway when there are brand-new accounts joining groups before they’ve even made friends. The legit names have been pixellated; the fakes I’ve left for you to see.

   It’s not as bad as, say, giving up on the people who elected you to run the country and letting COVID-19 do whatever it wants, killing citizens in the process. But it comes from the same dark place of putting people second and lining your pockets first—Mark Zuckerberg does it, Robert Mugabe did it, etc. Distract and plunder.
   In The Guardian:

Boris Johnson will revoke hundreds of Covid regulations and make England the most unrestricted society in Europe from 19 July despite saying new cases could soar to 50,000 a day before masks and social distancing are ditched.

   In fact, one Tweeter jokingly showed his interpretation of the UK’s COVID alert levels:

   On this, let our own Prof Michael Baker have the last word. Also in The Guardian, which I shared three days ago on Mastodon:

   Baker said public health professionals were “disturbed” by the UK’s return to allowing Covid to circulate unchecked, and that the phrase “living with it” was a “meaningless slogan” that failed to communicate the consequences of millions of infections, or the alternative options for managing the virus.
   “We often absorb a lot of our rhetoric from Europe and North America, which have really managed the pandemic very badly,” he said. “I don’t think we should necessarily follow or accept Boris Johnson and co saying: “Oh, we have to learn to live with virus.’
   “We always have to be a bit sceptical about learning lessons from countries that have failed very badly.”

   We really need to be confident of our own position on this. There are too many, especially those propelled by foreign forces with their friends in the foreign-owned media, advocating that we follow other Anglophone countries—probably because they lack either intelligence, imagination, pride, or empathy. I’ve spent a good part of my career saying, ‘Why should we follow when we can lead?’

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Facebook allows ad preference editing again

11.06.2021

I was surprised to find that I could access my Facebook advertising preferences again, after the section stopped working in January 2019. What was there was still way off, in June 2021, but it’s nice to be able to edit (read delete) them again after two-and-a-half years. Things move slowly in Menlo Park when it comes to user privacy. Frankly, they shouldn’t even be collecting preferences after you’ve opted out of preference-targeting—not even Google is stupid enough to do that (possibly as they have other nefarious means).

I was chatting to one friend who is as principled as me when it comes to Facebook bots. She screen-grabbed one who tried to send her a friend request, and we got chatting about the thousands-strong bot nets I’ve encountered.
   She noted there was some fan fiction connected to one of the surnames, and I was able to find the Filipino TV series Halik. So are these accounts, accused by me of being bots, simply role-playing ones?
   The reason I even know about them is that they attempt to join a group I oversee, usually with bot software that incorrectly answered the questions we had put up to weed out the fake accounts. (As I noted recently, Facebook has got rid of these, allowing bots to come in to every public group.) Why do they do this? They come in, hoping to hide among groups (and they also become page fans), to make themselves look legitimate. What happens instead is that we report them, and watch as Facebook does nothing about them, telling us that these automated scripts are allowed, and never mind the damage they do to pages wanting to reach their members. You’ll just have to pay more and more and more to boost the posts to reach the people you once reached for free.
   Secondly, it’s concerning that accounts marked as newly started ones on Facebook already have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends within days. These just aren’t normal patterns. They also talk to each other like nonsensical bots, responding with the same emojis or words.
   On both these counts, the fact the accounts have names from a Pinoy TV series has little bearing. Facebook doesn’t care either way.

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Facebook goes even more pro-bot with change in group policy

02.06.2021

Why are there antitrust or monopoly laws? Why is the usual interpretation of the Chicago School really, really bad for the United States? Umair Haque’s latest post spells it out pretty well, in my opinion.
   Just an idea: let’s not import any of their dangerous ideas into our society, or allow their ever-growing giants to get more of a foothold in our country (and not pay tax here either). Because we have a tendency to kiss their arses sometimes. Just ask Kim Dotcom. Things like their legal precedents are still persuasive here, and with how different their priorities are, we need to place even less weight on them. Let’s not forget the rules we play by here, and that means whomever enters this market has to play by the same.


Speaking of daft decisions on the other side of the Pacific by dishonest parties who have got too big due to what amounts to lawlessness, Facebook has removed the requirement for users to answer questions when they join a public group. These questions were our way of safeguarding the one public group I still look after there, and over 99 per cent of users (no exaggeration; if anything, an underestimate) who attempted to join were bots. I define bots as including any legitimate account running bot software, which I thought was against Facebook’s T&Cs, but not in practice. I still report a lot of them, though unlike 2014 I won’t do them all. I just can’t report thousands that I might see on a single visit.
   I can imagine why Facebook has done this. This way Facebook hides the number of bots from group moderators (as if we hadn’t known of their problems for the good part of a decade), and protects the bots as they continue their activity across the platform. This will encourage even more bots, and as I identified in an earlier post, I see more bots than humans these days on there (and I’m not even a regular user).
   I knew they were liars and shysters so I imagine this is in keeping with that. Cover up just how badly compromised the platform is by bots.
   I haven’t seen much on this change in Facebook group policy, but as changes go, this has to be the most anti-human, pro-bot move they have made in 17 years. No one ever demanded more rights for bots, but here’s Facebook giving it to them.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


June 2021 gallery

01.06.2021

Here are June 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
The Guardian letter, from Twitter.
   Ford Cortina Mk II pick-up made by Hyundai, referred by 강동우 on Twitter.
   Ikea water, reposted from Twitter.
   Alexa launch, reposted from Twitter.
   Protest Sportswear’s women’s range for spring–summer 2021. Read more at Lucire.
   Collusion between Google and Facebook, from Bob Hoffman’s The Ad Contrarian newsletter.
   Ford Falcon ESP limited edition—a familiar image to those of us who read Australian car magazines in the early 1980s. More on the Ford Falcon (XD) at Autocade.
   This was the famous advertisement for the 1965 Ford Mustang, for its début in April 1964 at the World’s Fair in New York. It was mentioned in Lee Iacocca’s autobiography, but I had not seen it till 2020.
   Dido Harding work history, shared by James O’Brien on Twitter, possibly from The Eye.

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Classic example of tech firms passing the buck

04.05.2021

Just another day dealing with US tech firms then.
   When I signed up to Anchor, there was no mention of Google Podcasts, so I was very surprised to find later that I was syndicated there. Can you remove yourself?
   Anchor: ask Google!
   Google: ask Anchor!


   All that money (Google, not Alphabet, is worth US$320 milliard) and they’re about as useful as David Seymour at a socialist workers’ conference. Actually, about as useful as David Seymour, full stop.

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Facebook whistleblower gets fired; and a workaround for Meizu Music’s inability to find your SD card

19.04.2021

This is a pretty typical story: find fault with Big Tech, try to alert the appropriate people in the firm, get fired.
   Julia Carrie Wong’s excellent article for The Guardian shows a data scientist, Sophie Zhang, find blatant attempts by governments to abuse Facebook’s platform, misleading their own people, in multiple countries. Of course Facebook denies it, but once again it’s backed up by a lot of evidence from Zhang, and we know Facebook lies. Endlessly.
   Facebook claims it has taken down over ‘100 networks of coordinated inauthentic behavior,’ but I repeat again: if a regular Joe like me can find thousands of bots really easily, and report some with Facebook doing next to nothing about them, then 100 networks is an incredibly tiny number in a sea of hundreds of millions of users. Indeed, 100 networks is tiny considering Facebook itself has claimed to have taken down milliards of bots.
   And people like me and Holly Jahangiri, who found a massive number of bots that followed the Russian misinformation techniques, have been identifying these since 2014, if not before.
   Zhang reveals how likes from pages are inflating various posts—forget the bots I’ve been talking about, people have manufactured full pages on the site.
   She uncovered one in Honduras, and then:

The next day, she filed an escalation within Facebook’s task management system to alert the threat intelligence team to a network of fake accounts supporting a political leader in Albania. In August [2019], she discovered and filed escalations for suspicious networks in Azerbaijan, Mexico, Argentina and Italy. Throughout the autumn and winter she added networks in the Philippines, Afghanistan, South Korea, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, Tunisia, Turkey, Taiwan, Paraguay, El Salvador, India, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Ukraine, Poland and Mongolia.

   Facebook was inconsistent with what it did, and its own self-interest interfered with it taking action. In other words, Facebook is harmful to democracy, and not just in the US which has received most of the occidental news coverage. On Azerbaijan, Zhang wrote in a memo:

Although we conclusively tied this network to elements of the government in early February, and have compiled extensive evidence of its violating nature, the effective decision was made not to prioritize it, effectively turning a blind eye.

   She was ultimately fired for her trouble, Facebook saying she wasn’t doing the job she had been hired for.
   So if you are going to work for Big Tech, leave your conscience at the door. That blood on your hands, just ignore it. Red’s such a fetching colour when it’s not on a balance sheet.

Little Tech can be troublesome, too. Last year, Meizu updated its Music app after a few years of letting it languish (a familiar theme with this firm), and it was a real lemon. It wouldn’t pick up anything on my SD card, at the location the old Music app itself saved the files. When I could still access the Meizu (English-language) forum, I managed to post a comment about it. Only today did I realize someone had responded, with the same issue.
   I can read enough Chinese to get the phone to do a search for local music files, and the only things it could pick up are what’s on the phone RAM itself, not the card. There’s no way to point to custom locations such as a card (even though there is a custom search, but it applies to the phone only).


Above: Meizu Music will only find music on the phone’s RAM—in this case sound files that come with the dynamic wallpaper and a couple of meeting recordings I made.

   Eventually I restored the old app through the settings, and all was well. It would occasionally forget the album cover art and I’d have to relink it (who says computers remember things?), but, by and large, Music 8.0.10 did what was expected of it.
   Until this last week. The phone insisted on upgrading to 8.2.12, another half-baked version that could never locate any SD card music.
   Sure I could just move the entire directory of 1,229 songs to the phone, but I wondered why I should.
   Restoring the app would work only for a few hours (during which I would try to relink the album cover art, ultimately to no avail). Blocking the new version the app store did nothing; blocking the entire app from updating did nothing. Blocking network access to the Music app did nothing. Essentially, the phone had a mind of its own. If anyone tells you that computing devices follow human instructions, slap them.


Above: I asked the app store to ignore all updates for Meizu Music. The phone will ignore this and do what it wants, downloading the update and installing it without any human intervention.

   I had a couple of options. The first was to make Migu Music the default—and I had used that for a while before I discovered I could restore the Music app. It’s passable, and it does everything it should, though I missed the cover art.
   The other was to find a way to make Music 8.2.12 work.
   There is one way. Play every one of the 1,229 songs one by one to have Music recognize their existence.
   Using ES File Explorer, you head to the SD card, and click on each song. It asks which app you’d like to open it. Choose Music. Repeat 1,228 times.


Above: I finally got there after doing something 1,229 times. As a non-tech person I know of no way to automate this easily. I can think of a few but developing the script is beyond my knowledge.

   Whoever said computing devices would save you time is having you on. They may have once, but there are so many systems where things are far more complicated in 2021 than they were in 2011.
   You may be asking: doesn’t ES let you select multiple files, even folders? Of course it does, but when you then ask it to play them, it ignores the fact you’ve chosen Music and plays them in its own music player.
   And even after you’ve shown Music that there are files in an SD card directory, it won’t pick up its existence.
   It’s at odds with Meizu’s Video app, which, even after many updates, will find files anywhere on your phone.
   For a music player with the same version (8) it’s vastly different, and, indeed, inferior to what has come before.
   How’s the player? Well, it connects to the car, which is where I use it. But so many features which made it appealing before are gone. Editing a song’s information is gone. Half the album cover art is unlinked (including albums legitimately downloaded through the old Meizu music service), and there’s no way of relinking it. European accented characters are mistaken for the old Big 5 Chinese character set.
   The only plus side is that some songs that I had downloaded years ago with their titles in Big 5, as opposed to Unicode, now display correctly. That accounts for a few songs (fewer than 10) of the 1,229.
   I know Meizu will do nowt, as its customer service continues to plummet. I may still file something on its Chinese BBS (the western one is inaccessible and, from what I can tell, no longer maintained by anyone from their staff), but it’s highly unlikely I’ll be brand-loyal. It’s yet another example of a newer program being far, far worse, by any objective measure, than its predecessor, giving credence to the theory that some software developers are clueless, have no idea how their apps work, have no idea how people use their apps, or are downright incompetent. It’s a shame, as Meizu’s other default and system apps are generally good.
   In the future, I’m sure someone else in China will be happy to sell me a non-Google phone when it’s time to replace this one.

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