Technology

It’s frustrating to see the good work we do get mischaracterized

By Mark Zuckerberg

I wanted to share a note I wrote to everyone at our company.


Hey everyone: it’s been quite a week, and I wanted to share some thoughts with all of you.

First, the SEV that took down all our services yesterday was the worst outage we’ve had in years. We’ve spent the past 24 hours debriefing how we can strengthen our systems against this kind of failure. This was also a reminder of how much our work matters to people. The deeper concern with an outage like this isn’t how many people switch to competitive services or how much money we lose, but what it means for the people who rely on our services to communicate with loved ones, run their businesses, or support their communities.

Second, now that today’s testimony is over, I wanted to reflect on the public debate we’re in. I’m sure many of you have found the recent coverage hard to read because it just doesn’t reflect the company we know. We care deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health. It’s difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives. At the most basic level, I think most of us just don’t recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted.

Many of the claims don’t make any sense. If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create an industry-leading research program to understand these important issues in the first place? If we didn’t care about fighting harmful content, then why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other company in our space — even ones larger than us? If we wanted to hide our results, why would we have established an industry-leading standard for transparency and reporting on what we’re doing? And if social media were as responsible for polarizing society as some people claim, then why are we seeing polarization increase in the US while it stays flat or declines in many countries with just as heavy use of social media around the world?

At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being. That’s just not true. For example, one move that has been called into question is when we introduced the Meaningful Social Interactions change to News Feed. This change showed fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family — which we did knowing it would mean people spent less time on Facebook, but that research suggested it was the right thing for people’s well-being. Is that something a company focused on profits over people would do?

The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content. And I don’t know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed. The moral, business and product incentives all point in the opposite direction.

But of everything published, I’m particularly focused on the questions raised about our work with kids. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the kinds of experiences I want my kids and others to have online, and it’s very important to me that everything we build is safe and good for kids.

The reality is that young people use technology. Think about how many school-age kids have phones. Rather than ignoring this, technology companies should build experiences that meet their needs while also keeping them safe. We’re deeply committed to doing industry-leading work in this area. A good example of this work is Messenger Kids, which is widely recognized as better and safer than alternatives.

We’ve also worked on bringing this kind of age-appropriate experience with parental controls for Instagram too. But given all the questions about whether this would actually be better for kids, we’ve paused that project to take more time to engage with experts and make sure anything we do would be helpful.

Like many of you, I found it difficult to read the mischaracterization of the research into how Instagram affects young people. As we wrote in our Newsroom post explaining this: “The research actually demonstrated that many teens we heard from feel that using Instagram helps them when they are struggling with the kinds of hard moments and issues teenagers have always faced. In fact, in 11 of 12 areas on the slide referenced by the Journal — including serious areas like loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues — more teenage girls who said they struggled with that issue also said Instagram made those difficult times better rather than worse.”

But when it comes to young people’s health or well-being, every negative experience matters. It is incredibly sad to think of a young person in a moment of distress who, instead of being comforted, has their experience made worse. We have worked for years on industry-leading efforts to help people in these moments and I’m proud of the work we’ve done. We constantly use our research to improve this work further.

Similar to balancing other social issues, I don’t believe private companies should make all of the decisions on their own. That’s why we have advocated for updated internet regulations for several years now. I have testified in Congress multiple times and asked them to update these regulations. I’ve written op-eds outlining the areas of regulation we think are most important related to elections, harmful content, privacy, and competition.

We’re committed to doing the best work we can, but at some level the right body to assess tradeoffs between social equities is our democratically elected Congress. For example, what is the right age for teens to be able to use internet services? How should internet services verify people’s ages? And how should companies balance teens’ privacy while giving parents visibility into their activity?

If we’re going to have an informed conversation about the effects of social media on young people, it’s important to start with a full picture. We’re committed to doing more research ourselves and making more research publicly available.

That said, I’m worried about the incentives that are being set here. We have an industry-leading research program so that we can identify important issues and work on them. It’s disheartening to see that work taken out of context and used to construct a false narrative that we don’t care. If we attack organizations making an effort to study their impact on the world, we’re effectively sending the message that it’s safer not to look at all, in case you find something that could be held against you. That’s the conclusion other companies seem to have reached, and I think that leads to a place that would be far worse for society. Even though it might be easier for us to follow that path, we’re going to keep doing research because it’s the right thing to do.

I know it’s frustrating to see the good work we do get mischaracterized, especially for those of you who are making important contributions across safety, integrity, research and product. But I believe that over the long term if we keep trying to do what’s right and delivering experiences that improve people’s lives, it will be better for our community and our business. I’ve asked leaders across the company to do deep dives on our work across many areas over the next few days so you can see everything that we’re doing to get there.

When I reflect on our work, I think about the real impact we have on the world — the people who can now stay in touch with their loved ones, create opportunities to support themselves, and find community. This is why billions of people love our products. I’m proud of everything we do to keep building the best social products in the world and grateful to all of you for the work you do here every day.

Technology

The governments of the world should start acting against the Apple-Google duopoly in the smartphone market

By Pavel Durov, Telegram

The phones of 50,000 individuals, including human rights activists and journalists, have been targeted by surveillance tools that were used by numerous governments. These tools can hack any iOS and Android phone, and there is no way to protect your device from it. It doesn’t matter which apps you use, because the system is breached on a deeper level.

According to the Snowden revelations from 2013, both Apple and Google are part of the global surveillance program that implies that these companies have to, among other things, implement backdoors into their mobile operating systems. These backdoors, usually disguised as security bugs, allow US agencies to access information on any smartphone in the world.

The problem with such backdoors is that they are never exclusive to just one party. Anybody can exploit them. So if a US security agency can hack an iOS or Android phone, any other organization that uncovers these backdoors can do the same. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly what has been taking place: an Israeli company called NSO Group has been selling access to the spying tools that allowed third parties to hack tens of thousands of phones.

Since at least 2018, I have been aware that one of my phone numbers was included in a list of potential targets of such surveillance tools (although a source from the NSO Group denies it). Personally, I wasn’t worried: since 2011, when I was still living in Russia, I’ve got used to assuming that all my phones were compromised. Anyone who gains access to my private data will be utterly disappointed – they will have to go through thousands of concept designs for Telegram features and millions of messages related to our product development process. They won’t find any important information there.

However, these surveillance tools are also used against people far more prominent than me. For example, they were employed to spy on 14 heads of state. The existence of backdoors in crucial infrastructure and software creates a huge challenge for humanity. That’s why I have been calling upon the governments of the world to start acting against the Apple-Google duopoly in the smartphone market and to force them to open their closed ecosystems and allow for more competition.

So far, even though the current market monopolization increases costs and violates privacy and freedom of speech of billions, government officials have been very slow to act. I hope the news that they themselves have been targeted by these surveillance tools will prompt politicians to change their minds.

Climate Change

This is not the new normal

By Greta Thunberg

Deadly heatwaves, floods, storms, wildfires, droughts, crop failures…
This is not “the new normal”.
We’re at the very beginning of a climate and ecological emergency, and extreme weather events will only become more and more frequent.

After the catastrophic recent developments – especially in Western Europe – everyone seems to be talking about the climate emergency, and rightly so. But as soon as these tragedies are over we’ll most likely forget about it and move on like before.
Unless we treat the crisis like a crisis all the time, we will not be able to halt the climate emergency.

People in power are now trying to act responsibly, saying lots of beautiful words. Everyone seems to forget that they are the ones responsible for putting us on a pathway towards a several degrees hotter and destabilized planet.
My thoughts are with everyone affected by these events.

📸:

  1. Liège. Bruno Fathy/ Belga/AFP
  2. Bootleg fire, Oregon USA. KTVZ
  3. Walporzheim, Rhineland Palatinate. Credit unknown
Racism

We can and will do better

By Priscilla Zhan

I am trying to name my emotions right now. Relief that there may be justice for George Floyd and his family. Heaviness from the reality that justice often comes too late and is far from universal. Faith that we can and will do better.

My hope is that the outcome of this trial is a catalyst toward systemic change in the disproportionate policing of and indiscriminate violence against Black people, and all people of color.

Today, I am holding George Floyd’s family in my thoughts. Tomorrow, I’ll refocus on our work to build a more just and equitable world, together.

Rest in peace and power Mr. Floyd.

Science

Autism is not a disease

By Greta Thunberg

Today is ‪#AutismAwarenessDay‬. At the age of 12 I was diagnosed with Asperger, a form of autism. At that time I had no idea what it meant. When I and my parents told people I was autistic, they always reacted with shock since I didn’t fit into the stereotype of autistic people.
Today, so many (especially girls) remain undiagnosed. The reasons for that are often lack of awareness, prejudices and the fact that many still see autism as a “disease” or something that has to hold you back. That more people are diagnosed with autism etc isn’t because there is an “inflation” in diagnoses but since awareness is increasing and many highly sensitive people experience stress related problems in modern society which gives them reason to suspect they’re on the spectrum.

Almost everywhere there are very limited resources to give autistic people the necessary support. Without these adjustments autism can turn into a disability. But under the right circumstances it can truly be a gift and turn into something you – and society – can benefit from. Sadly, today the level of awareness is so low. So many go undiagnosed and will therefore not receive the help they need and may go their whole life believing something is wrong with them.
So let’s all join in spreading awareness. It could literally save lives. Autism is not a disease. It’s not something you ”have”. It’s definitely not ”caused” by anything like vaccine or diet. It simply means that you are a bit different from everyone else.
And in a world where everyone strives to act, think and look the same – being different is truly something to be proud of.
Thats why I’m very proud to be autistic.

#AutisticAndProud #AspiePower #ActuallyAutistic

COVID-19

New Covid vaccine profile frame that you can add to your Facebook profile pic

By Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

💉 If we’re going to stop Covid, we need everyone who’s eligible to get vaccinated. People are more likely to get vaccinated if they see friends, family and people they trust doing it too. So we’re launching new Covid vaccine profile frame that you can add to your profile pic, partnering with the CDC and US Department of Health and Human Services to launch new Covid vaccine profile frames. It lets you easily show your support and tell people that you’ve been vaccinated. And we’ll show you in News Feed your friends who have put up this profile frame.

I’ll update mine after I get vaccinated, which I plan to do as soon as I’m eligible. I hope everyone else does the same!

Racism

“Hey – why didn’t you pick up that Black guy!”

When I first moved to NYC in 1990, I was trying to hail a taxi on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. There was a Black man already standing there a hundred feet in front. As a taxi approached, it flew right by him in order to pick me up. I opened the door to the cab and asked driver, “Hey – why didn’t you pick up that Black guy!”

“Just get in the car,” he yelled at me. I held the door open and shouted out to the man who was there ahead of me, “This cab is yours! I’ll hold the door!” He ran up the street toward me. The taxi driver, furious, hit the gas – with the door still open! In that moment I was reminded that racism is everywhere, even in one of the most liberal cities in the country.

A few years later, in 1993, NBC gave me my own prime time show, “TV Nation”. I knew the first thing I wanted to film for my very first episode. I asked beloved Emmy-nominated actor Yaphet Kotto, if he would re-enact with me that first NYC experience of mine — but instead I replaced me with an actual convicted white felon and paroled murderer, Louis Bruno, to see who the cabs would pick up first.

Featuring TV Nation correspondent Rusty Cundieff plus a special guest appearance by RUN DMC.

Yaphet Kotto passed away today. Thank you my brother for being with me on that very first night. Rest In Peace.

Politics

Sabre rattling, initiating a new nuclear arms race and increasing tension with Russia and China provides no way forward for humanity

By Jeremy Corbyn

What we need is real security – my statement on today’s announcement 👇

Real security will be provided by working co-operatively internationally to tackle the major challenges of our time – from climate catastrophe to global poverty, to the international refugee crisis to health pandemics.

In contrast to this, today’s defence and security review shows Boris Johnson’s Tories are intent on an increasingly militaristic and belligerent agenda.

Lifting the cap on the number of Trident nuclear warheads the UK can stockpile by more than 40% to 260 is totally wrong. It is in conflict with our legal obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is at odds with the new UN Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons globally. It also runs counter to the example set by President Biden of renewing a nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia.

At a time when our public services are at breaking point due to a decade of austerity, the decision to spend billions more on nuclear weapons we should never use shows the Tories have the wrong priorities.

Sabre rattling, initiating a new nuclear arms race and increasing tension with Russia and China provides no way forward for humanity and will make the world more, not less, dangerous. We need to be working together internationally to solve problems not creating new ones.

The Tories have not learnt the lessons of how ill-prepared we were to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic; they should be prioritising the health service and regenerating our economy rather than ploughing vast amounts of resources into nuclear weapons and hikes in military spending.

Real security is not provided by increasing our nuclear arsenal and taking an increasingly bellicose stance in the international arena.

Nor is it provided by continuing arms exports that fuel wars and conflicts, not least the UK’s continuing sales of arms to Saudi Arabia that are used in the war on Yemen.

It is time for a change of priorities – to push for peace and to put our planet, health, lives and livelihoods first.

COVID-19

Facebook is rolling out new tools to help people get vaccinated against Covid-19

By Mark Zuckerberg

Today we’re launching a global campaign to help bring 50 million people a step closer to getting Covid-19 vaccines.

We’ve already connected over 2 billion people to authoritative Covid-19 information. Now that many countries are moving towards vaccinations for all adults, we’re working on tools to make it easier for everyone to get vaccinated as well.

First, we’re launching a tool that shows you when and where you can get vaccinated, and gives you a link to make an appointment. This will be in the Covid Information Center, which we’ll show people right in their News Feed. We’ve already seen people use Facebook to find vaccination appointments, so this should enable millions more people to do the same.

Second, we’re bringing the Covid Information Center to Instagram, and we’ll show it to people prominently there too.

Third, we’re working with health authorities and governments to expand their WhatsApp chatbots to help people register for vaccines. More than 3 billion messages related to Covid have already been sent by governments, nonprofits and international organizations to citizens through official WhatsApp chatbots, so this update will help with the vaccination effort as well.

The data shows the vaccines are safe and they work. They’re our best hope for getting past this virus and getting back to normal life. I’m looking forward to getting mine, and I hope you are too.