Archive for the ‘USA’ category


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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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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When New Zealand is the subject of misinformation

12.07.2021

This thread echoes what a lot of us feel in New Zealand when we see intentional misinformation on Twitter, possibly from the US. I answered back to one of these parties over the weekend, as did many, to see us all branded as ‘the left’ (I suppose if your politics are eugenics-led libertarianism, everyone is ‘the left’), while another “journalist” claimed that anyone who did so were part of a government op using taxpayer dollars (to which some of us asked, ‘Where’s my cheque?’). Folks, sometimes you just have to look at the evidence—do I believe the first-hand accounts of people I know plus what I myself observe, or the one single case you’ve hand-picked or the one single out-of-context quote you’ve intentionally misrepresented?

   While this explains what the foreign agenda are, it makes you wonder why certain media talking heads in this country, usually ones who work for foreign-owned news outlets, would be just as keen to sell us out. A lack of patriotism, a lack of perspective, a lack of ethics, or just a lack of bollocks?

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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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July 2021 gallery

02.07.2021

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

 
Sources
Star Trek: 1999 reposted from Alex on NewTumbl. Didn’t Star Trek and Space: 1999 share a producer?
   Publicity shot for French actress Manon Azem, from Section de recherches.
   Charlie Chaplin got there first with this meme. Reposted from Twitter.
   I realize the history page in Lucire KSA for July 2021 suggests that you need a four-letter surname to work for Lucire.
   The 1981 Morris Ital two-door—sold only as a low-spec 1·3 for export. Reposted from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Ford Capri 1300 double-page spread, reposted from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Alexa Breit photographed by Felix Graf, reposted from Instagram.
   South America relief map, reposted from Twitter.
   From the Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei episode ‘Abflug’, to air July 29, 2021. RTL publicity photo.
   Lucire’s Festival de Cannes coverage can be found here. Photo courtesy L’Oréal Paris.
   Last of the Ford Vedette wagons, as the Simca Jangada in Brazil, for the 1967 model year. The facelift later that year saw to the wagon’s demise.
   Ford Consul advertisement in Germany, announcing the 17M’s successor. Interesting that the fastback, so often referred to as a coupé, is captioned as a two-door saloon, even though Ford did launch a “standard” two-door. More on the Consul in Autocade here. Image from the Car Factoids on Twitter.

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Cream cheese bagels make them angry

25.06.2021

When I was in NYC in the summer of 2001, I stood at a Lower Manhattan bakery trying to order a cream cheese bagel for a friend of mine. The proprietor was busy making something. After close to five minutes’ waiting the counter, I asked if I could be served. His response: ‘You want to fight me?’ My sense is that cream cheese bagels have upset Americans for decades. This is merely part of the trend.

   Note: I am not sure if the words cream and cheese mean the same thing there.

Poking around the bowels of Facebook, I found this. Apparently I had invited some contacts to join Facebook. It’s probably time to delete them, since they were smart enough not to respond.

   I’ve no desire to allow them to create shadow profiles, because of something I did in 2007–8 before I knew shadow profiles even existed. Luckily I do not have Messenger, though I believe I briefly downloaded it in 2012 before deleting it soon after. I must have been careful to not let it import any contacts.

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Putting on the breaks

20.06.2021

Being self-employed my whole adult life, I haven’t exactly been let go from actual employment, but there have been some gigs, paid and unpaid, that came to an end without me expecting it.
   I’ve never been sore about losing them, but I don’t agree with the way they were done.
   Gig 1. Did a quarterly task for these folks, which soon became a monthly one. Lasted 14 years and was either the longest-serving or second-longest-serving in that capacity. Let go in a group email.
   Gig 2. Voluntary one, told that I wouldn’t be needed because the organization was going in a new direction. I wouldn’t be replaced because of this new format. Found out later that there was no new format and I was replaced. Would it have hurt to tell the truth? After all, I replaced the previous person, and I would have been fine with them needing a fresh face. It’s not as though I made any money off them!
   Gig 3. Another voluntary one. Hadn’t heard anything but then I usually didn’t till pretty late in the game. Except this time I had to chase them up, given how late things got. When do you need me? Found out I was replaced and that the decision had been made months earlier. I was the last to know. Offered some inconsequential consolation, but no apology. Ironically this happened as my influence in this particular area grew substantially overseas, so the help I could have given them was immense, so bad luck and bad timing to that mob. Bridges burned.
   I’ve let a few people go in the past—one had so many allegations against him (theft, sexual harassment) that with hindsight I wonder why we took so long. Given the anonymous (and ineffective and illogical) letters he’s sent to some of my most loyal colleagues, I think he’s still sore. Others had to be let go when the financial winds blew against us. But I’m pretty sure they all knew why.
   The only mysterious one from our companies was one person who claimed I cut him off and stopped using his writing services. It was a complete lie—he just vanished. At one point we re-established contact. We agreed to put it down to an email glitch (although this person regularly phoned me and stopped doing so, but in the interests of moving on, I let it go). Years later, he did it again—just disappeared. He told a mutual friend of ours the same lie, that I ceased to have anything to do with him. I relayed the above story to that friend but I could see she didn’t believe me—till he did it to her a few years later!

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You can remove and turn off your off-Facebook activity

14.06.2021

I chanced upon a mention of off-Facebook activity on this page, and here’s a good page explaining what it is. (That first link has a lot of advice on what you can do to improve your privacy if you have Facebook, much of which I’ve mentioned over the years. But it’s very handy to have it all in one place.)
   Apparently, you can now edit your off-Facebook activity—of course it’s something they don’t advertise.
   If you head to www.facebook.com/off_facebook_activity you’ll see all the organizations that have sent your online interactions with them to Facebook. In my case, there were 265 who had sent them activity since the beginning of 2020. Good news: you can delete everything in there (bearing in mind this could break things that you have plugged in via Facebook), and turn off future activity.

   I am very glad to note that Lucire has never sent information to Facebook.

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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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Remember, Facebook usually says one thing, then does the opposite

05.06.2021

Don’t take what Facebook says about Trump seriously. As Christopher Wylie reminds us:

   Based on everything that I’ve covered over the years, Facebook (a.k.a. Botville) has had more form saying one thing, then doing the opposite, than it does with following through on any statement, window-dressing or otherwise. It’s part of what has turned US democracy into an anocracy, and as long as it’s around, it’ll continue to do so.

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