Facebook changes algorithms but denies allegations of anti-conservative bias

The following article appeared in the Telegraph on 25 May, 2016

Mark-Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook on Monday said it was making changes aimed at keeping political bias out of its “trending” stories list even though an internal investigation revealed no evidence it was happening.

“Our investigation has revealed no evidence of systematic political bias in the selection or prominence of stories included in the Trending Topics feature,” Colin Stretch, Facebook general counsel, said in a letter responding to a query from John Thune, Republican US Senator, who chairs the commerce committee.

“In fact, our analysis indicated that the rates of approval of conservative and liberal topics are virtually identical in Trending Topics.”

Facebook was unable to substantiate any specific accusations of bias made in media reports, which relied on anonymous sources, Mr Stretch said in the letter, a copy of which was made available by the leading social network.

“At the same time, as you would expect with an inquiry of this nature, our investigation could not exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies,” said Mr Stretch.

“As part of our commitment to continually improve our products and to minimize risks where human judgment is involved, we are making a number of changes.”

Facebook updated terminology in its guidelines to be clearer and gave reviewers refresher training that emphasised content decisions may not be based on politics or ideology, the letter said.

The review team will be subject to more oversight and controls, and Facebook will no longer rely on lists of external websites and news outlets to assess the importance of topics in stories.

Headlines from an exclusive handful of media outlets like the New York Times will no longer be used to define newsworthiness of trends.

The company has also renamed two key tools to make it clear what they actually do: the “blacklist” tool which is used to remove certain topics from the Trending list will be called “revisit”.

The “injection” feature that allows manual insert or edit headlines will now be branded “topic correction.”

“We want people to be confident that our community welcomes all viewpoints,” Stretch said in the letter.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, said last week that conservatives were an important part of the social network after a meeting aimed at defusing concerns it was politically biased.

“We’ve built Facebook to be a platform for all ideas,” he said on his Facebook page after a meeting at the company’s California headquarters to discuss the allegations about anti-conservative bias.

“It doesn’t make sense for our mission or our business to suppress political content or prevent anyone from seeing what matters most to them.”

Mr Zuckerberg called the meeting after technology news outlet Gizmodo a week earlier reported allegations that Facebook was deliberately omitting articles with conservative viewpoints from the sidebar that lists popular stories.

Allegedly suppressed topics relate to known conservative figures such as American news aggregator the Drudge Report, politicians Mitt Romney and Rand Paul.

Millions of LinkedIn passwords and email addresses published online

Here’s a good reason why you should grab a copy of our FREE eGuide on Computer SecurityHow to protect yourself and your company.

The following article originally appeared in Smart Company.

LinkedIn Passwords and Emails Published

LinkedIn has revealed millions of its users’ email addresses and passwords have been published online from a security breach that occurred in 2012.

The leak could affect more than 100 million LinkedIn users, according to the professional networking platform.

While LinkedIn took steps back in 2012 to reset user passwords it believed were affected by the original security breach, the social media giant is now taking further steps to invalidate the most recent passwords and accounts published online.

“We will contact those members to reset their passwords,” LinkedIn said in a statement.

“We have no indication that this is as a result of a new security breach. We take the safety and security of our members’ accounts seriously.”

LinkedIn is the third most popular social media platform in Australia, with more than 6 million users.

Small business owners also regard LinkedIn as the most effective social media platform, according to research.

Social media expert Dionne Lew, who trains executives on how to get the most out of LinkedIn, told SmartCompany small business owners need to be very conscious of online security when using social media.

“That includes setting strong passwords and changing them regularly,” Lew says.

“You don’t have to be a cyber security expert to know that good digital security hygiene is vital and should be a part of everyone’s practice.

“Be aware of the amount of hacking gong on and to do what you can as a user. Use long, complex passwords with a mix of numbers, symbols and [make sure they’re] not related to any personal details. And don’t reuse the same password across sites.”

Lew points out that when it comes to social media, online security is just as important as having engaging content.

“It simply has to be part of our DNA now that we think about digital safety,” she says.

“But also, we can only do so much as the users. The platforms are mainly responsible, but we need to do our part.”

Google updates Chrome to address security flaws

Google has updated Chrome to protect users from attacks that exploit security vulnerabilities in the widely used browser. Chrome version 50.0.2661.94 includes nine security fixes for vulnerabilities affecting the browser on Windows, Mac and Linux.

You are advised to review and apply the Chrome update immediately.

Attackers can potentially exploit software vulnerabilities to take control of computer systems, and gain access to sensitive personal information, including online banking details that can then be used to steal victims’ money or identities.

The IT Guru recommends that you automatically apply security updates when they become available. Automatic updates minimise the risk of you delaying or forgetting to apply an update, and restrict the ability of attackers to gain access to your computer and sensitive personal and financial data.

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