Instagram may divide hashtags from captions to end overhashing

Geofenced sharing, Quiz stickers, Stories Highlight stickers, and a separate interface for adding hashtags to posts are amongst a slew of new features Instagram has prototyped or is now testing. The last one could finally #cure #the #hashtag #madness that’s infected many of Instagram’s 1 billion users, causing them desperately fill up their captions with tagged words that make the feed tough to read in hopes of scoring a few extra views or followers.

The pace of iteration at Instagram is staggering, and helping it to leave Snapchat in the dust. With Facebook’s deep pockets funding its product, design, and engineering teams, Instagram is able to keep its app full of fresh toys to play with. Here’s a look at three prototypes, one test, and one confirmed roll out from Instagram

Hashtag Selector

The feature isn’t released or even necessarily testing yet, and Instagram refused to comment on it. But frequent TechCrunch tipster and mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong was able to dig the designated hashtag selector prototype out of the Instagram Android app’s code. It shows a dedicated “Add Hashtags” option underneath the caption composer and people tagger. Similar past discoveries by Wong have led to TechCrunch scoops about the eventual release of Instagram video calling, name tags, music stickers, and more, though there’s always a chance Instagram scraps this feature before it ever launches.

Disambiguating hashtags from captions could make adding them to posts less invasive and distracting, and thereby get more users doing it. That could in turn help Instagram tune its feed algorithm to show you more posts with hashtags you seem to care about, get more users following hashtags, allow it to better sort the Explore page with its new topic channels like Sports, Beauty, and Shopping. But perhaps most importantly, it could just make Instagram less annoying. Everyone has that friend that slaps on so many hashtags that their captions become an incoherent mess.

Geofenced Posts

Wong also dug out a powerful new feature that could help social media managers, businesses, and pro creators reach the right audience. Instagram has prototyped a “Choose Locations” option for posts that lets you select from a list of countries where you want your post to be visible. Instagram declined to comment.

The geofencing feature might enable Instagrammers to design different content and captions for different countries and languages. Facebook has offered geofencing for posts for many years, and Instagram already offers ad targeting down to the zip code or mile radius. But if this location chooser launches for everyone’s posts, it could let people and professional accounts express their prismatic identity differently across the globe.

Stories Highlight Stickers

Instagram gave me a confirmation that this final find by Wong is officially in testing. It allows users to turn someone else’s Stories Highlight from their profile into a sticker to overlay on their own Story. It’s an extension of the Quote-tweet style feature Instagram started testing in March that lets you turn people’s public feed posts into Stories stickers so you can add your commentary — or dunk on someone dumb. Stories Highlight Stickers could create a new path to virality for start creators who could convince their followers to re-share their Highlights and turn their friends into fellow fans.

Quiz Stickers

This prototype discovered by WABetaInfo‘s Twitter account allows users to ask a question in their Story and designate a correct answer. The Quiz sticker functions similarly to Instagram’s recently added Poll and Question stickers, but instead of tallying the results or letting you re-post someone’s answer, they’ll immediately see whether they guessed the right answer to your test. This ties into Instagram’s strategy to crush Snapchat by making its own Stories more interactive and turning the connection between fans and followers into a two-way street.

Video Tagging

Instagram did confirm the launch of one new feature, tagging people in videos. TechCrunch spotted thIS last week and Instagram said it was testing, but upon our inquiry told us that it’s now fully rolled out. Video tagging could generate extra visits for Instagram as few people have the willpower to ignore a notification that they were named in a new piece of content. The feature could also help Instagram figure out who to show the videos too by allowing it to place them high in the feed of the best friends of people tagged.

Combined, this flurry of new and potential features proves Instagram isn’t allowing its dominance to diminish its shipping schedule. It also demonstrates that Instagram VP of product Kevin Weil’s move to Facebook’s blockchain team his replacement by former News Feed VP Adam Mosseri hasn’t disrupted the app’s brisk pace of innovation.

The jury is still out about whether Instagram’s biggest new initiatives will take off. IGTV is off to a slow start, but will need time to build a long-form video archive to rival YouTube. And we’ll have to wait and see if users grow addicted to Instagram Explore’s new Shopping channel. But constantly updating the app takes pressure off of any one feature to carry the weight of a billion people’s eyes. Who wants to build a direct competitor to something evolving this fast?

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/20/instagram-hashtags-quiz-stickers-geofencing/
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Facebook and Airbnb told to change their ToS to fix EU consumer rights issues by year’s end

Facebook has been singled out for censure by the European Commission’s head of consumer affairs who has warned she’s running out of patience and said the company needs to make additional changes to its terms of service before the end of the year to bring them into line with the bloc’s consumer rules.

The Commission also said today that Airbnb has agreed to make additional changes to its ToS by December.

The EU’s executive body has been sounding off about tech and social media platforms’ terms of service impinging on citizens’ consumer rights for almost two years.

In February it warned a raft of companies they needed to do more to respect consumer rights. In July the Commission joined with EU consumer authorities to push Airbnb to make changes.

At the same time the Commission is pushing for an update to modernise EU consumer rules — and is hoping to get the backing of the European Parliament and member states, via the European Council, which is needed to reform EU law.

“I have respect for the work of national consumer authorities but sometimes the powers they have on national level are not sufficient for companies to co-operate efficient with them,” tweeted commissioner Vera Jourova today. “Hence the #NewDealForConsumers we propose strengthening their power and having persuasive sanctions.”

Reuters reports that Twitter was also warned by the Commission today that it must make ToS changes to come into compliance with EU consumer law.

The EC’s public denouncement of tech giants inexorably has a strategic political dimension, as it seeks to garner attention for its reform cause and drum up support for reworking the rules.

Though it clearly also feels that social media giants haven’t yet done enough to comply with existing EU consumer rules.

Giving an update on its efforts “to ensure fair treatment for consumers in the EU in the online world” at a press conference today, Jourova said that Airbnb’s current terms still mislead consumers because they are not clear enough about costs, while Facebook’s terms are not clear about how user data is passed to third parties.

She warned Facebook she’s “running out of patience”, having been engaged in negotiations on the matter for almost two years now. 

On Airbnb she said the company has agreed to make additional changes before the end of the year to make it clearer to consumers what the total cost of a stay with a host will be before they hit ‘buy’.

“Following our call in July Airbnb informed us that it accepted to improve transparency of prices — so the consumers can know up front about the final price or additional costs, like cleaning fees or local taxes. Airbnb will also make changes to terms and conditions for instance to be clear that consumers can use all the legal remedies available and in particular their right to sue a host in case of personal harm or other damages,” she said. 

“EU consumers must have guaranteed the same rights in selling and purchasing offline and online,” Jourova added. “We didn’t come with a specific legislation for online selling but we always said offline rules must apply also for the online world. So this is what we are now doing with Airbnb and Facebook where we still see some gaps in their contracts which they use for providing their services to EU consumers.”

Responding to her remarks today in a statement, an Airbnb spokesperson told us: “Airbnb is a community build on trust and transparency is a key part of that. Guests have always been aware of all fees, including service charges and taxes, before booking listings, and we are pleased to work with the CPC to make this even clearer for guests.”

In Facebook’s case the Commission wants to see greater transparency in its ToS on the key characteristics of its services and relations with third parties with whom the company shares consumers’ data — saying a clearer link needs to be made between the actual provision of the service; the fact that consumers’ data constitute the consideration for receiving that service; and the commercial exploitation of the data and user generated content (by providing targeted advertising services to third parties).

It is also not happy about Facebook’s terms granting the company a perpetual licence on user generated content even after a user quits Facebook, saying this is unfair.

It also believes the rights Facebook grants itself over the content users upload is not made sufficiently prominent to consumers when they sign up.

Additionally it criticises Facebook’s terms for not being clear on its obligations to remove user generated content and/or suspend or terminate an account, saying its ToS include vague phrases and do not clarify whether the consumer will be notified in advance.

The Commission also flags the lack of an appeal option for consumers in some cases.

It’s also not happy about Facebook granting itself the power to unilaterally change its terms of service, saying this is contrary to EU consumer legislation which identifies as unfair terms that enable: “the seller or supplier to alter the terms of the contract unilaterally without a valid reason which is specified in the contract”.

Jourova said both Facebook and Airbnb have a deadline of October 18 to propose additional changes — which will then be assessed by the Commission and the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network of EU consumer rights bodies that it’s working with on this issue — with the aim of having an acceptable (“fully functional”) final implementation by December, and new compliant contracts definitely in place by January.

In further remarks about Facebook Jourova said her latest meeting with the company had been “constructive” but pointed to the Cambridge Analytica scandal as a “stark reminder that not many people have clarity on how Facebook uses personal data of its users and how it works with third parties like apps, games or quiz creators”.

“Not many people know that Facebook has made available their data to third parties or that, for instance, it holds full copyright about any picture or content you put on it even after you delete your account,” she continued, saying she had spoken to many Facebook users who were “very surprised” to learn the rights its ToS grant it over user data.

“So we want Facebook to be absolutely clear to its users about how the service operates and makes money. Facebook has almost 380M users in Europe and I expect Facebook to take more responsibility for them.”

“I expect also Facebook to be honest with those that go and try to understand all the consequences of using their services,” she added. “I will not hide that I am becoming rather impatient because we have been in dialogue with Facebook almost two years and I really want to see not a progress, it’s not enough for me, I want to see the results.”

Responding to Jourova’s remarks today, a Facebook spokesperson emailed us the following statement:

People share their most valued moments on Facebook, and we want to make our terms clear and accessible to everyone. We updated Facebook’s Terms of Service in May and included the vast majority of changes the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network and the European Commission had proposed at that point. Our terms are now much clearer on what is and what isn’t allowed on Facebook and on the options people have. We are grateful to the CPC and the Commission for their feedback and will continue our close cooperation to understand any further concerns and make appropriate updates.

At today’s press conference Jourova also raised the spectre of a regime of co-ordinated penalties for consumer rights violations coming down the pipe to strengthen enforcement, saying there’s a need for the EU to have “unified sanctions” (something it does now has for data protection violations, thanks to the GDPR).

Unified sanctions are included in the Commission’s new deal for consumers, which it adopted in April — and which is now on the table as a proposal for the other two EU institutions to consider and (the Commission hopes) support.

She said the proposal is “the package which should improve the enforcement of consumer rights in a very big scope”, adding: “I do hope that the European Parliament and the Member States will adopt the legislation or the position quickly so that we have this done as soon as possible in Spring next year.”

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/20/facebook-and-airbnb-told-to-change-their-tos-to-fix-eu-consumer-rights-issues-by-years-end/
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Inside Facebook Dating, launching today first in Colombia

Does deeper data produce perfect matches? Facebook is finally ready to find out, starting today with a country-wide test in Colombia of its Dating feature. It’s centered around an algorithm-powered homescreen of Suggested romantic matches based on everything Facebook knows about you that other apps don’t. There’s no swiping and it’s not trying to look cool, but Facebook Dating is familiar and non-threatening enough to feel accessible to Facebook’s broad array of single users.

Originally announced at F8 in May, Facebook has hammered out details like limiting users to expressing interest in a maximum of 100 people per day, spotlighting personal questions as well as photos, and defaulting to show you friends-of-friends as well as strangers unless you only want to see people with no mutual connections. If the test goes well, expect Facebook to roll Dating out to more countries shortly as the social network pushes its mission to create meaningful connections and the perception that it can be a force of good.

“The goal of the team is to make Facebook simply the best place to start a relationship online” Facebook Dating’s product manager Nathan Sharp told me during an expansive interview about the company’s strategy and how it chose to diverge from the top dating apps. For starters, it’s not trying to compete with Tinder for where you find hookups by swiping through infinite options, but instead beat eHarmony, Hinge, or OKCupid at finding you a life partner. And it’s all about privacy, from its opt-in nature to how it’s almost entirely siloed from Facebook though lives within the same app.

“We wanted to make a product that encouraged people to remember that there are people behind the profiles and the cards that they’re seeing. We wanted a system that emphasizes consideration over impulse, We want you to consider more than that person’s profile photo.”

There are no plans to monetize Facebook Dating with ads or premium subscriptions to bonus features. But as Facebook strives to stay relevant beyond the aging News Feed and combat its branding crisis, there are plenty of incentives for it to find us a significant other.

How Facebook Dating Works…

“Dating is something we’ve seen on the platform since the earliest days. We know there are 200 million people who list themselves as single” says Sharp. He’s married himself but says with a laugh that Facebook Dating “is definitely a young and single team.” Back in 2004, online dating still had a sleazy reputation. But now that over a third of U.S. marriages start online, and Facebook has had time to identify the pitfalls stumbled into by other dating apps, it’s ready to pucker up.

The basic flow is that users 18 and up (or the local ‘Adult’ equivalent) will see a notice atop their News Feed inviting them to try Facebook Dating when it comes to their country, and they’ll see a shortcut in their bookmarks menu.

They’ll opt in, verify their city using their phone’s location services, and decide whether to add details like a free-form bio, workplace, education, religion, height, and if they have children. Facebook offers non-binary genders and sexual orientations. To fill out their profile, they’ll choose up to a dozen photos they upload, are tagged in, previously posted to Facebook, or cross-posted from Instagram as well as answer up to 20 questions about their personality such as “What does your perfect day look like?”

Users can select to filter their matches by distance (up to a maximum radius of 100 kilometers), if they have children, religion, height and age. They may then browse through the homescreen’s Suggested matches list, or they can choose to ‘Unlock’ Events and Groups they’re part of to see people from those who’ve done the same. Anyone you’ve blocked on Facebook won’t show up, though unfriended exs might. To see the next person, they either have to say they’re not interested, or choose a photo or question from the person’s profile and send them a message related to it (or at least they’re supposed to), and the sender can’t see the recipient any more.

The text and emoji-only messages go through a special Facebook Dating chat section, not Messenger, and land in the recipient’s Interested tab with no read receipts. If they reply, the chat moves to both people’s Conversations tab. From there they can decide to connect elsewhere online or meet up in person.

Sharp admits that “The moment you try to control the system you may have some unexpected behaviors occur there”. Facebook thought ahead so you can’t message photos (dick pics), you’re supposed to tie your message to a piece of their content (fewer generic pick-up lines), and you can’t follow up with people who don’t respond to you (stalking). But the company plans to stay vigilant in case unexpected forms of abuse or privacy issues emerge.

…And Why

Starting today users in Colombia will be able to create a Facebook Dating profile, but the company won’t start serving matches until there are enough sign ups. Sharp tells me “we don’t expect it to take months.” But why Colombia? He says it’s because much of South America has culturally accepted online dating, it has a sizeable population of 30 million monthly active Facebook users, and the social network can track data out of a few discrete metropolitan areas.

But there are a lot of other ‘whys’ to how Facebook Dating was built. Sharp ran me through the decision making process his team undertook to turn Facebook Dating from a concept into a concrete product. Here I’ll run through its rules and features while explaining the philosophy behind them.

  1. Meaningful relationships not one-night-stands, because “meaningful” is Facebook’s new watchword as it enters the ‘Time Well Spent’ era, and Facebook has the deep biographical and interest data to find you matches you’ll want to wake up next to each day, not just go to bed with.
  2. Opt-in not automatic enrollment, because “not everyone who’s single wants to date, not everyone who wants to date wants to date online, not everyone who dates online wants to date on Facebook” says Sharp.
  3. Within Facebook not a new app, because it lowers the barrier to behavior that’s already hard enough for some people, and it can only achieve its mission if people actually use it.
  4. Friends-of-friends and strangers not friends, because many people’s biggest fear is “are my friends and family going to see this” says Sharp, and people who are already friends don’t need help meeting and may already know if they want to date each other.
  5. A new profile not your same one, because some people might want to share a different side of themselves or might not publicly disclose their sexual orientation. The only info ported into Facebook Dating is your first name and age.
  6. Message and response not both people swiped right, because since Facebook wants you to be deliberate about who you show interest in, you have to send one message and hope to hear back. There’s no infinite right-swiping and then waiting get matched or messaged. “It puts the power in the responder” Sharp says.
  7. Profiles and chat are separate not part of Facebook, because it doesn’t want to scare users about privacy slip-ups, and doesn’t want people to pollute the main Facebook experience soliciting dates
  8. Real age and location not self-described, because Facebook wants to prevent catfishing as well as users contacting matches in distant cities who they’ll never meet.
  9. Matches through Events and Groups not randos, because a photo isn’t enough for choosing a life partner, interest overlaps are key to compatability, and they give people ready-mate happenings to use as dates.

A prototype of Facebook Dating’s onboarding flow

The end result is an online dating product that maximizes convenience, both in where it’s available and how much hunting you have to do by yourself. The big question remains how far Facebook will go to making Dating a hit. The feature could live or die by how much Facebook is willing to constantly nag its single users to sign-up.

Facebook’s in a precarious time for its brand, and may have trouble getting people to trust it with an even more sensitive part of their lives. “As all the events of the past year have unfolded, it’s only underscored the importance of privacy” Sharp concludes. No one wants their dating profile ending up Cambridge Analytica’d. But if analyzing your every Like and link gives Facebook uncanny matching accuracy, word could travel fast if it’s how people find their soul-mates.

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/20/how-facebook-dating-works/
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Facebook plans voter drive, partners with Democratic/Republican Institutes

Facebook will push users to register to vote through a partnership with TurboVote, has partnered with the International Republican Institute and International Democratic Institute non-profits to monitor foreign election interference, and will publish a weekly report of trends and issues emerging from its new political ads archive. Facebook has also confirmed that its election integrity war room is up and running and the team is now ‘red teaming’ how it would react to problem scenarios such as a spike in voter suppression content.

These were the major announcements from today’s briefing call between Facebook’s election integrity team and reporters.

Facebook’s voter registration drive will also partner with TurboVote, which Instagram announced yesterday will assist it with a similar initiative

Much of the call reviewed Facebook’s past efforts, but also took time to focus on the upcoming Brazilian election. There, Facebook has engaged with over 1000 prosecutors, judges, and clerks to establish a dialog with election authorities. It’s partnered with three fact-checkers in the country and worked with them on Messenger bots like “Fátima” and “Projeto Lupe” that can help people spot fake news.

The voter registration drive mirrors Instagram’s plan announced yesterday to work with TurboVote to push users to registration info via ads. Facebook says it will also remind people to vote on election day and let them share with friends that “I voted”. One concern is that voter registration and voting efforts by Facebook could unevenly advantage one political party, for instance those with a base of middle-aged constituents who might be young enough to use Facebook but not so young that they’ve abandoned it for YouTube and Snapchat. If Facebook can’t prove the efforts are fair, the drive could turn into a talking point for congressional members eager to paint the social network as biased against their party.

The partnerships with the Institutes that don’t operate domestically are designed “to understand what they’re seeing on the ground in elections” around the world so Facebook can move faster to safeguard its systems, says Facebook’s Director of Global Politics and Government Outreach Team Katie Harbath. Here, Facebook is admitting this problem is too big to tackle on its own. Beyond working with independent fact checkers and government election commissions, it’s tasking non-profits to help be its eyes and ears on the ground.

The war room isn’t finished yet, according to a story from the New York Times published in the middle of the press call. Still under construction in a central hallway between two of Facebook’s Menlo Park HQ buildings, it will fit about 20 of Facebook’s 300 staffers working on election integrity. It will feature screens showing dashboards about information flowing through Facebook to help the team quickly identify and respond to surges in false news or fake accounts.

Overall, Facebook is trying to do its homework so it’s ready for a “heat of the moment, last day before the election scenario” and won’t get caught flat-footed, says Facebook director of product management for News Feed Greg Marra. He says Facebook is “being a lot more proactive and building systems to look for problems so they don’t become big problems on our platform.” Facebook’s director of product management for Elections and Civic Engagement Samidh Chakrabarti noted, this is “One of the biggest cross-team efforts we’ve seen.”

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/19/facebook-voter-drive/
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Telegram to replace iOS messaging app with Telegram X Swift rebuild

Telegram has announced it will be migrating iOS users of its messaging app to a rebuilt-from-scratch Swift version.

It’s been running two versions of its app in parallel on iOS and Android during 2018 — officially announcing Telegram X in January, when it billed it as an experiment and said the alternative app “may or may not eventually replace the existing official apps”.

Well, that maybe has now become a certainty — at least on iOS.

In a post on his Telegram channel, founder Pavel Durov says the company will be replacing the iOS app with the Swift rebuild “within the next week or two”.

“As a result, Telegram will become faster, slicker and more efficient,” he writes. “Since it will rely on an entirely new codebase, some minor bugs and glitches might occur, but we’ll make sure they are quickly — or should I say “swiftly” — fixed.”

“This change will make Telegram the most popular messaging app written fully in Swift. Some would say it’s a big risk, but I think somebody has to take such risks and be the first to implement new technologies, such as e2e [end-to-end] encryption — or Swift,” adds Durov.

At the time of writing, the original Telegram iOS app and the Telegram X rebuild are both currently still available for download in the App Store.

It’s not clear whether Telegram will also be entirely replacing the Android app with the Telegram X Android version (or not). Nor what the iOS switch will mean for Telegram users running the app on a version of Apple’s mobile OS that doesn’t support Swift apps (iOS 6 or earlier).

Telegram may well be calculating that only a very small few number of its iOS users are likely that far behind on iOS updates. (Whereas the Android ecosystem is far more fragmented.)

Also unclear: Whether or not Telegram plans to open source Telegram X code.

It has open sourced Telegram client-side code in the past but has also faced criticism for not immediately publishing the most recent versions and for not open sourcing server-side code. (Though in an FAQ it still makes the claim that: “All code will be released eventually.”)

We’ve reached out to the company with additional questions about the switch to Telegram X and will update this post with any response.

In the current App Store description for Telegram X the iOS app is billed as “an alternative Telegram client built in Swift, with higher speed, slicker animations, themes and more efficient battery use”.

The Swift rebuild, which has been available on the App Store since January, has a 4.0 (out of 5) star rating — with reviewers lauding its faster speed but also reporting a few bugs and/or complaining about some missing features.

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/19/telegram-to-replace-ios-messaging-app-with-telegram-x-swift-rebuild/
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Instagram will promote mid-term voting with stickers, registration info

Facebook is getting ready to purposefully influence the U.S. mid-term elections after spending two years trying to safeguard against foreign interference. Instagram plans to run ads in Stories and feed powered by TurboVote that will target all US users over 18 and point them towards information on how to get properly registered and abide by voting rules. Then when election day arrives, users will be able to add an “I Voted” sticker to their photos and videos that link to voting info like which polling place to go to.

Combined, these efforts could boost voter turnout, especially amongst Instagram’s core audience of millenials. If one political party’s base skews younger, they could receive an advantage. “Ahead of National Voter Registration Day, we are helping our community register to vote and get to the polls on November 6th” Instagram writes. “From today, Instagram will connect US voters with the information they need to get registered.”

In 2010, a non-partisan “Get out the vote” message atop the Facebook News Feed was estimated to have driven 340,000 additional votes. The study by Nature suggested that “more of the 0.6% growth in turnout between 2006 and 2010 might have been caused by a single message on Facebook”. That’s significant considering the 2000 election had a margin of just 0.1 percent of voters.

You can watch Instagram’s video ads for voting below, which feature a cartoony purple Grimace character and are clearly aimed at a younger audience. They purposefully avoid any Democrat or Republican imagery, but also stick to a polished and American style that could ensure the clips aren’t mistaken for Russian propaganda.

Earlier this year, the company admitted that 120,000 Instagram posts by the Russian military intelligence group the Internet Research Agency reached 20 million Americans in an attempt to sow discord surrounding the 2016 Presidential election. They used a variety of image memes about polarizing social issues to try to divide the country. Facebook has since doubled its security staff to 20,000, required identity verification for political advertisers, and has stepped up its effort to delete scores of fake accounts associated with election interference.

The Russian disinformation attacks could still make users weary to learn about voting from social media. But more turnout means a more democratic society, so it’s easy to see the positive impact of Instagram efforts here. The question remains whether this voter drive will end up the subject of congressional scrutiny at another enevitable hearing on social media and political bias.

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/18/instagram-vote/
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Facebook named in suit alleging job ads on its platform unlawfully discriminated against women

Facebook’s ad platform is facing charges that it has enabled gender-based discrimination against millions of women in a class action suit filed on behalf of three female workers and backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The legal action also names ten employers who are alleged to have used the social media giant’s platform to exclusively and unlawfully target job adverts at male Facebook users, thereby excluding women and non-binary users from receiving the ads.

The ACLU, law firm Outten & Golden LLP, and the Communications Workers of America have filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The ten employers and employment agency advertisers named in the suit, which the charges allege ran discriminatory jobs in “mostly” male-dominated fields, include a police department, multiple retailers, a software development firm and various installation, repair and remodelling companies. (All ten named in the suit are listed in the ACLU’s press release.)

“I’ve heard stories about when people looked for jobs in the classified ads and big bold letters read ‘help wanted-male’ or ‘help wanted-female.’ I was shocked to find that this discrimination is still happening, just online instead of in newspapers,” said Bobbi Spees, a job-seeker and lead complainant in the case, commenting in a statement.  “I shouldn’t be shut out of the chance to hear about a job opportunity just because I am a woman.”

“The internet did not erase our civil rights laws.  It violates the law if an employer uses Facebook to deny job ads to women,” added Peter Romer-Friedman, an attorney at Outten & Golden, in another supporting statement. “The last time I checked, you don’t have to be a man to be a truck driver or a police officer.  But Facebook and employers are acting like it’s the 1950s, before federal employment law banned sex discrimination.”

The charges allege that Facebook, via its platform, delivers job ads selectively based on age and sex categories that employers expressly choose, and that it earns revenue from placing job ads that exclude women and older workers from receiving the ads.

The ACLU notes that targeting job ads by sex is unlawful under federal, state, and local civil rights laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Sex segregated job advertising has historically been used to shut women out of well-paying jobs and economic opportunities,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, in another supporting statement. “We can’t let gender-based ad targeting online give new life to a form of discrimination that should have been eradicated long ago.”

While online platforms are not as heavily regulated as publishing platforms the lawsuit argues that Facebook can be held legally responsible for:

  1. creating and operating the system that allows and encourages employers to select the gender and age of the people who get their job ads, including providing employers with data on users’ gender and age for targeting purposes;
  2. delivering the gender- and age-based ads based on employers’ preferences; and
  3. acting as a recruiter connecting employers with prospective employees

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment on the lawsuit.

It’s by no means the first time the company has faced civil rights complaints related to its ad platform.

Back in 2016 ProPublica exposed how Facebook’s ad tools could be used to exclude users based on their “ethnic affinity” — including in protected categories such as housing, employment and credit opportunities which prohibit discriminatory advertising.

The company responded by saying it would build tools to prevent advertisers from applying ethnic affinity targeting in the protected categories. And also by rewording its ad policies to more clearly prohibit discrimination.

But the following year another ProPublica investigation showed it was still failing to block discriminatory ads — leaving Facebook to apologize for failing to effectively enforce its own policies (hmmm, now where else have we heard the company accused of that… ), and saying: “Our systems continue to improve but we can do better.”

Last year the company was also shown to have allowed ads that included hateful sentiments targeted at Jewish people.

Around about the same time that Facebook was facing renewed criticism over ethnic affinity targeting on its platform being used as a tool for racial discrimination, the company said it would also take a look at how advertisers are using exclusion targeting across other “sensitive segments” — such as those relating to members of the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.

It’s not clear whether Facebook included gender-based discrimination in those 2017 self reviews too. (We’ve asked and will update this post with any response.)

Either way, it appears Facebook has failed to pick up on the potential for gender-based discrimination to be carried out via its ad platform.

And given all the attention its ad tools have attracted lately as a vector for discrimination and other types of abuse that looks careless to say the least.

Facebook’s ad platform has faced additional criticism in Europe for sensitive inferences it makes about users — given the platform allows advertisers to target people based on political and religious interests, meaning Facebook’s platform is quietly making sensitive inferences about individuals.

Privacy experts argue this modus operandi entails Facebook processing the sensitive personal data of individuals without explicitly asking people for their upfront consent (as would be required under EU law when you’re processing sensitive personal data such as political or religious affiliation).

An opinion on a person is still personal data of that person, they contend.

Facebook disagrees, disputing that the inferences its ad platform makes about users (based off of its tracking and data-mining of people) constitutes personal data. But it’s yet another bone of legal contention now being lobbed at the company.

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/18/facebook-named-in-suit-alleging-job-ads-on-its-platform-unlawfully-discriminated-against-women/
via SEO & Social Media