#AceNewsServices – UNITED STATES – October 05 – With the holiday season quickly approaching, the world’s social media heavyweights have unveiled plans that would allow users to go shopping on their sites, opening up a lucrative and largely-untapped form of e-commerce.
While most Facebook and Twitter users regularly click on options such as ‘like’ or ‘share’ from their friends’ accounts, another option is coming down the social media pipe that will give users an ability to ‘buy’ products as well.
However, given the recent controversy that Facebook created after it was revealed to be conducting secret experiments on its users, some people may be wary of the social media network venturing into on-line retail shopping.
On July 02 RT investigated how Facebook’s experiment on over half-a-million unsuspecting users has taken a new twist with the revelation that a researcher connected to a Department of Defence-funded program to use the military to quell civil unrest also participated in the study.
Social media sites exploded over the weekend after it was revealed that Facebook, no stranger to controversy of late, secretly manipulated posts being seen by nearly 700,000 users in 2012 in order to allow researchers to study how emotional states are transmitted over the platform.
Results of the week-long study conducted by researchers at Facebook, Cornell University, and the University of California appeared in the June edition of the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists’ (PNAS) under the rather insidious title, ‘Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks’.
Facebook altered the content that showed up on certain users’ news feeds to control the number of posts that contained words with positively or negatively charged emotions.
The team concluded its federally funded study by saying that “emotions spread via contagion through a network.”
When word hit the internet that Facebook was essentially conducting Orwellian thought policing, an electronic outpouring of condemnation greeted the company that Mark Zuckerberg built. One of the study’s authors, Adam Kramer, took to his own Facebook account to offer more of an explanation than an apology for the secret study.
“We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out,” Kramer said. “At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook. We didn’t clearly state our motivations in the paper.”
The attack on Facebook looks set to worsen as it was discovered that one of the authors of the platform’s mind study, Jeffrey T. Hancock of Cornell University, also received funding from the Pentagon’s so-called Minerva Research Initiative to conduct a similar study entitled ‘Modeling Discourse and Social Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes’.
The Pentagon-funded Minerva program provides cash awards to everyone from “single investigators to large multi-university consortia,” according to its website and includes “researchers from 32 academic institutions, including six non-US universities and four industry or non-profit organizations.”
The program will disperse around six million dollars in 2014 and $17 million over the next three years.
Hancock’s description page at Cornell University cites “psychological and interpersonal dynamics of social media, deception, and language” as his research and academic interests.
Hancock’s study appeared in 2009, one year before the US Army War College’s Strategic Institute warned in a different study, and in the wake of the global financial meltdown, that the United States could experience massive civil unrest from a series of crises it termed “strategic shock.”
— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) July 2, 2014
The report, which carried the Rumsfeldian title, ‘Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development’, suggested that the military may have to be called in to restore domestic order in the event of a massive social breakdown.
“Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,” the report, authored by [Ret.] Lt. Col. Nathan Freir, states.
Meanwhile, Cornell University participated in another study under the Minerva Research Initiative (and supervised by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research) that looks to predict “the dynamics of social movement mobilization and contagions.”
The project hopes to foresee “the critical mass [tipping point]“ of social unrest and upheaval by studying their “digital traces” from a number of recent events, including the 2011 Egyptian revolution and the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey.
At the same time, Twitter feeds and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilized in a social contagion and when they become mobilized.”
Coming so soon after the Snowden leaks, the idea of a researcher closely affiliated with a Pentagon study now secretly examining the behavior of Facebook users under ‘controlled conditions’ is certainly cause for alarm.
This latest scandal also speaks volumes about the disturbing frequency of US educational facilities cooperating so directly with military programs that do not appear to have the best interests of the civil society at the core of their actions.
Sources: RT – Facebook Media - Ace News Services
#AceNewsServices – ALABAMA – September 28 – A secret surveillance program has been running in an Alabama high schools after a phone call from the National Security Agency alerted the district to a ‘violent threat’.
School officials claim the system began monitoring students’ social media accounts in Huntsville City Schools 18 months ago, when the NSA tipped them off that a student was making violent threats on Facebook.
The schools began scanning Facebook and other sites for signs of gang activity, watching for photos of guns, photos of gang signs and threats of violence, as part of a program called SAFe, or Students Against Fear.
Internal documents explaining the program were obtained by AL.com, showing four different students – three males and one female – posing on Facebook with handguns.
None are on school grounds. Some of the students were already in alternative programs for skipping or drinking. Three are listed as expelled and one was referred for counseling.
Huntsville schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski told the news site that there was a ‘foreign connection’, which was why the NSA – a U.S. agency responsible for foreign intelligence – became involved.
He said the student in Huntsville had made the threats while chatting on-line with a group that included an individual in Yemen.
Mr Wardynski, a former U.S. Army colonel appointed as superintendent in Huntsville in 2011, said that about a year and a half ago the NSA called Huntsville and reported a high school student had made a threat on Facebook to injure a teacher.
Al Lankford, the city’s school security officer, told AL.com that he took the NSA phone call and that security officers went to the high school and eventually searched the boy’s car.
#AceWorldNews – GAZA CITY – July 26 – As part of Israel’s PR efforts during operation Cast Lead (2009), the IDF has established a Youtube channel to tell Israel’s side. As seen on Arutz Sheva. and supplied by israelnationalnews.com at the time it purported to have 7,000 followers and today as the screenshot shows it is down to 1,981.
Five years later, the involvement of the army in the documentation and dissemination of propaganda has increased, through YouTube videos and official accounts on Facebook and Twitter, which show a constant flow of messages.
Today’s media strategy includes dozens of infographics and visualizations that attempt to depict Israel’s rationale in a graphic and simple manner similar to that employed by the award-winning Visualizing Palestine project, which focused on visualizing the effects of occupation for Palestinians in Gaza.
One of the most viral visualizations shows how a house in Gaza becomes a target. “When is a house a home and when does it become a military target?”, the image reads, in response to accusations that Israel indiscriminately bombs houses in Gaza.
Another one compares “what Israel does to protect civilians” vs. “what Hamas does to endanger its civilians.”
An online struggle for “hearts and minds”
Israeli military operations are always accompanied by robust media reports that seem intended to mitigate their impact on international public opinion. From the sensorial “Cast Lead” in 2009 to the self-explanatory “Protective Edge” in 2014, several fronts of “hasbara” (pro-Israeli propaganda, in Hebrew) have been developed to show the world Israel’s rationale.
In 2008, just before attacks on Gaza began, the Israeli administration decided to replace traditional press conferences of war time with a wide array of initiatives based on social media. Guidelines for the campaign were developed by former army officer Yarden Vatikai, in coordination with the Ministry of Defense and the Jewish Agency.
One of the initiatives consisted of teaching new media workshops to army officers in the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
“In terms of communicating our message, the future is in new media”, Defense Forces spokesman Avi Benayahu said in February 2009. “The IDF has moved online to win hearts and minds.”
Malaysian#AceWorldNews – UKRAINE – July 17 - A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 295 people aboard was reportedly hit by a missile and crashed Thursday in Ukraine near the Russian border, according to an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry.
Anton Gerashenko, the adviser, says on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet when it was hit Thursday by a missile fired from a Buk launcher, the Associated Press reports.
A similar launcher was seen by AP journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.
It was no immediately clear who would have been in control of such a launcher in the restive area where Ukrainian forces are battling ethnic Russian separatists.
Malaysia Airlines said on Twitter that it “has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace.”
Contribution by USA Today
#AceNewsServices – DUBLIN – June 18 – An Irish judge on Wednesday rejected an attempt by campaigners to force an investigation into Facebook’s alleged sharing of data from EU users with the U.S. National Security Agency.
High Court Justice Gerard Hogan, who has jurisdiction because Facebook’s European headquarters are based in Dublin, upheld an earlier decision by the country’s data protection commissioner to refuse to investigate.
Ahead of the hearing, the campaign group europe-v-facebook indicated it planned to appeal any such decision.
(IrishExaminer) 30 April 2014 – The data protection commissioner was wrong to refuse to investigate a complaint that the Irish arm of Facebook could not permit the mass transfer of personal data to US intelligence services, it has been claimed.
Max Schrems, an Austrian law student behind a data privacy campaign group called Europe v Facebook, has brought a High Court challenge claiming Billy Hawkes wrongly interpreted and applied the law governing the mass transfer of personal data of Facebook users to the US National Security Agency when he rejected his complaint.
He is asking Mr Justice Gerard Hogan to quash that decision and refer it back to Mr Hawkes for reconsideration. He says the commissioner’s decision was irrational and wants a preliminary reference on the matter to be made to the European Court of Justice.
The commissioner, who found Facebook had acted within the terms of the EU-US data-sharing agreement called Safe Harbour, is opposing his action.
According to Safe Harbour
The European Commission’s Directive on Data Protection went into effect in October of 1998, and would prohibit the transfer of personal data to non-European Union countries that do not meet the European Union (EU) “adequacy” standard for privacy protection. While the United States and the EU share the goal of enhancing privacy protection for their citizens, the United States takes a different approach to privacy from that taken by the EU.
In order to bridge these differences in approach and provide a streamlined means for U.S. organizations to comply with the Directive, the U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the European Commission developed a “Safe Harbor” framework and this website to provide the information an organization would need to evaluate – and then join – the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor program.
The U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner of Switzerland developed a separate “Safe Harbor” framework to bridge the differences between the two countries’ approaches to privacy and provide a streamlined means for U.S. organizations to comply with Swiss data protection law.
This website also provides the information an organization would need to evaluate – and then join – the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor program.
In the next fortnight the Irish data protection commissioner will launch a wide-ranging privacy audit of the social network after complaints about how Facebook tracks its users on-line.
The Irish regulator will conduct the audit on behalf of authorities in 27 European states, including the UK.
The commissioner expects to complete the report before the end of the year, a spokeswoman for the regulator said.
- EU Progress on Data Protection: Speaking in Luxembourg this week, EU Commissioner Viviane Reding saidthat the EU Council moved forward two key data protection goals in 2014.
- First, there is “agreement on the rules that govern data transfers to third countries.” Second, “Ministers agreed on the territorial scope of the data protection regulation.
- In simple words: EU data protection law will apply to non-European companies if they do business on our territory.” Ms. Reding said the EU is on track to ensure “the completion of the Digital Single Market by 2015.
- For more information, see EPIC – EU Data Protection Directive, EPIC – Council of Europe Privacy Convention and EPIC – “23 US NGOs Support EU Data Protection Regulation.” (Jun. 9, 2014)