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Facebook plans to double women employees globally in 5 years 

The world’s largest social-media company also wants half of its US workforce to be from underrepresented groups by 2024.

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Facebook aims to double the percentage of women working at the social media giant around the world over the next five years, while simultaneously doubling the number of black and Hispanic employees in the US, setting new diversity goals for the organisation.

The world’s largest social-media company also wants half of its US workforce to be from underrepresented groups by 2024.

“We envision a company where in five years, at least fifty-per cent of our workforce is made up of women, people who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islanders, people with two or more ethnicities, people with disabilities and veterans,” Maxine Williams, Facebook’s chief diversity officer, wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

Facebook released the new targets alongside its annual diversity report, which details the ethnic and gender breakdown of its workforce.

“In doing this, we aim to double our number of women globally and Black and Hispanic employees in the US. It will be a company that reflects and better serves the people on our platforms, services and products,” she added.

In the report, the company said women currently make up 36.9 per cent of staff, up from 36.3 per cent last year and 31 per cent in 2014.

At senior leadership level, women account for 32.6 per cent of staff, up from 30 per cent last year.

Williams said the company had achieved higher representation of women in leadership by focusing on hiring and growing female leaders. In technical roles, though, women account for just 23 per cent of staff.

The proportion of black and Hispanic staff in the company stands at 3.8 and 5.2 per cent of Facebook’s workforce respectively, up from 3.5 and 4.9 per cent in 2018.

Facebook said on Tuesday it had increased the number of black women at the company twenty-five fold since 2014. For black men, this was tenfold.

Facebook has put the most effort into diversifying its technical workforce, “so there is an irony and a frustration on our part that we have not been able to grow more,” she added.

Last November, a now-former employee went public with an internal blog post saying Facebook had a “black people problem,” and that the company was not doing enough to support black employees or black users.

Business Standard

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APPS, CURRENT AFFAIRS, Latest News

Facebook plans to create global financial system based on cryptocurrency

The cryptocurrency, called Libra, will also have to overcome concern that Facebook does not effectively protect the private information of its users.

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Business Standard : Facebook unveiled an ambitious plan on Tuesday to create an alternative financial system that relies on a cryptocurrency that the company has been secretly working on for more than a year.

The effort, announced with 27 partners as diverse as Mastercard and Uber, could face immediate skepticism from people who question the usefulness of cryptocurrencies and others who are wary of the power already accumulated by the social media company.

The cryptocurrency, called Libra, will also have to overcome concern that Facebook does not effectively protect the private information of its users — a fundamental task for a bank or anyone handling financial transactions.

But if the project, which Facebook hopes to begin next year with 100 partners, should come together, it would be the most far-reaching attempt by a mainstream company to jump into the world of cryptocurrencies, which is best known for speculative investments through digital tokens like Bitcoin and outside-the-law e-commerce, like buying drugs online.

The company has sky-high hopes that Libra could become the foundation for a new financial system not controlled by today’s power brokers on Wall Street or central banks. “It feels like it is time for a better system,” David Marcus, head of Facebook’s blockchain technology research, said in an interview. “This is something that could be a profound change for the entire world.”

Marcus and other Facebook executives conducted press interviews ahead of the unveiling of their project at the historic San Francisco Mint, a nearly 150-year-old building that once housed one-third of the US gold reserve.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has discussed his fascination with cryptocurrencies in recent years. And over the last few months, he has promised to offer users better privacy on company-owned services like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

But improving the privacy of users will make it harder for Facebook to show them ads tailored to their interests. A virtual financial network, if it should work, would be a way for the company to find new revenue if ad sales should drop.

The payment system would also help Facebook and other American companies compete for financial transactions in developing countries, where WeChat, developed by the Chinese company Tencent, already offers a highly profitable payments system built into its popular messaging product.

Comapnies, CURRENT AFFAIRS

How Big Tech armed and prepared itself to push back US antitrust onslaught

As news of the federal and congressional probes roiled the companies’ shares this week, lawyers and executives working for Amazon, Facebook and Google were taking a wait-and-see approach.

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Business Standard : Investors were caught off guard by the sudden US assault on tech
giants this week, but behind the scenes, the industry’s biggest firms have been preparing for this moment of reckoning for months.

They’ve hired lawyers and built up their lobbying shops in response to antitrust investigations that have been well under way in the European Union, and which are just now getting started in Washington.

Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook all have been working publicly and behind the scenes for months to make their cases for why they help competition, rather than harm it, and already have formidable teams in place.

As news of the federal and congressional probes roiled the companies’ shares this week, lawyers and executives working for Amazon, Facebook and Google were taking a wait-and-see approach, according to people familiar with the situation.

Google hasn’t discussed with the justice department, which is set to investigate the company, details about what antitrust officials will focus on, one of the people said. The search giant, for its part, has in the past faced intense antitrust challenges in the US and elsewhere, and already has a playbook for dealing with them.

Representatives of the firms have pointed fingers at each other as being the fattest targets for the government, even after news of the probes broke.

Spokespeople for Google, Amazon and Facebook declined to comment. Apple didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The government agencies themselves haven’t said what they intend to look at. Still, the move toward formal investigations is a clear escalation from the political rhetoric of the past year. “US President Donald Trump’s pretty clearly made some comments about this,’’ said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a think-tank that lobbies against excessive tech regulation. “Over the next 18 months you’re going to see FTC and DOJ certainly be making a lot more noise.”

The firms have been staffing their in-house legal teams with numerous antitrust lawyers who served in government. Google, Amazon and Facebook set company records for lobbying spending in 2018 as scrutiny of Big Tech intensified, according to Senate disclosures. They were already coming under pressure for issues including Russian campaign meddling, data breaches, efforts to draft a tough privacy law and to make tech companies responsible for the content disseminated by their services.

APPS, CURRENT AFFAIRS, technology

FB, Google ads’ share less than 1% of overall poll campaign outlay in India

India falls way behind US and UK, whose allocations to the two tech giants are 6.5% and 10.5%, respectively.

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Business Standard : Indian political parties may have spent less than one per cent of their overall spending on Facebook and Google advertisements.

This is in contrast to elections elsewhere in the world. The United States of America saw allocations of around 6.5 per cent to the two tech giants. The United Kingdom saw around 10.5 per cent.

The analysis is based on Facebook and Google disclosures on electoral advertisements, and estimates from studies looking at political spending in various countries.

Indian political parties spent Rs 27.8 crore on Facebook advertisements during 2019. Google advertisements saw spends of Rs 27.4 crore, showed data as of May 22, the day before results were declared. New Delhi’s Centre for Media Studies estimated that Indian political parties’ 2019 election spends reached $8.7 billion (or around Rs 60,000 crore). This would mean allocations to the digital media works out to under one per cent in spends.

In comparison, the general election in the United Kingdom in 2017 saw around Rs 27 crore spent on Facebook. Google mopped up about Rs 8 crore. However, the UK elections saw significantly lower overall spending than India. The UK general elections had expenditure of only around 40 million pounds (around Rs 333 crore) across parties in the snap polls. This would mean that the two tech giants accounted for a tenth of spends.

A comparable figure to India’s spends may be the recently concluded midterm polls in America. The American midterms cost $5.7 billion (Rs 40,000 crore), according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, an organization which tracks political spending data in the US.

The total expenditure during the 2018 mid-term elections was Rs 1,976 crore on Facebook. Google spends were another Rs 626 crore. The sum works out to little over six per cent of overall spends.

The UK numbers are based on media reports and data released by that country’s Electoral Commission. The US mid-term data is as of November 2018, based on a report by Tech For Campaigns, a group of volunteer technology workers who help the Americans’ Democratic campaign. The conversion into rupees for easier comparison are based on then prevalent exchange rates.

APPS, CURRENT AFFAIRS, technology

Facebook eyes greater engagement in India by launching live game show

The social media platform is bringing its live game show Confetti to India on the Facebook Watch platform to increase engagement among users.

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Social media platform Facebook is set to launch its game show ‘Confetti’ on Facebook Watch on June 12 in an attempt to increase engagement among users. The show was first introduced in the United Stated and then taken to other countries including United Kingdom, Canada, Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Philippines.

The game show, which includes questions on pop trivia will air live on Facebook Watch, Facebook’s dedicated video platform, from Wednesdays to Sundays. The time of the live telecast will be announced on a later date, as will the show host.

Manish Chopra, Director and Head of Partnerships, Facebook India said, “We are excited to share our vision for social video and how we are building towards it by launching our global interactive gameshow Confetti, in India. Confetti combines the power of traditional entertainment formats with the social, exciting elements of video on Facebook. This is our first official show in India and we are excited to see how it will enable users to engage better and bring communities together around exceptional, interactive video experiences on Facebook.”

Facebook has tied up with producer Freemantle, the company behind shows like Indian Idol, Savdhan India, and X Factor India among others. The live game show is the social media platform’s first official show on the Facebook Watch platform, and will allow users to participate in the daily quiz in real time. The prize money, Rs 3 lakh, will be divided equally among the participants who answer all the questions correctly. In case no participant manages the feat on a given day, the prize money rolls over to the next day, adding to the total cash pot. There is no participation fee.

The platform has tied up with payment gateways to enable the transfer of the cash prize to the winning parties.

Facebook’s attempt at encouraging social viewing follows attempts by over-the-top (OTT) service providers like Hotstar, which introduced the social viewing feature for this year’s Vivo Indian Premier League. In case of Facebook, trivia-fans can play on their own, but can also involve friends and family by playing together as Confetti allows user to see what their friends are answering during gameplay. The duration of the live show will be under 30 minutes, and the platform hopes to rope anyone who owns a smartphone and uses Facebook on said phone.

Comapnies, Latest News

Alarming lessons from Facebook’s effort to stop fake news in India 

Particularly challenging for would-be fact-checkers, from Facebook Inc. to Google, is the country’s 23 official languages.

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Business Standard : The world’s largest election has become something of a test case in how technology giants handle fake news after years of scandal. It’s not working out so well.

India has as many as 900 million voters in an election that culminates this week, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition headed for apparent victory.

Particularly challenging for would-be fact-checkers, from Facebook Inc. to Google, is the country’s 23 official languages. Facebook has hired contractors to verify content in 10 of those languages, but those staffers are spread thin and posts in more than a dozen other languages — Sindhi, Odia and Kannada among them — are completely unvetted.

Mishra has seen the scale of the challenge first-hand. The manager at Vishvas News, Facebook’s largest Indian-language fact-checking contractor, spent two weeks recently talking with internet users in small cities. She found most people are so new to social media they have no clue about bogus content. They share stories indiscriminately, with stupefying speed. “Being the ‘first’ to share things in their circles gave them a rush,” she says.

Facebook, Twitter Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. are discovering the harsh reality that disinformation and hate speech are even more challenging in emerging markets than in places like the U.S. or Europe. A new category of users, recently digital, believe almost whatever they receive — especially if it comes from family or friends. Hundreds of millions read in languages the American tech giants haven’t even begun to monitor.

Disinformation is spreading like wildfire in these parallel digital universes,” said Bharat Gupta, chief executive officer of Jagran New Media, which runs Vishvas News. “It’s a dark space that nobody talks about.”

About 90% of internet users coming online today are non-English speakers, often with more trusting attitudes than experienced surfers. In one Hindi example, a phony Facebook post for job vacancies at the subway train company in the city of Jaipur asked those interested to send personal details. Within hours, about 20,000 had responded with names, emails and phone numbers.

Efforts to monitor native languages have gotten off to a slow start. Social networks, messaging apps and content aggregators have started drafting community guidelines, automated tools are being built, and in-house content moderation teams created. Facebook is the first to make a commercial commitment, getting a jump on foreign rivals.

APPS, Comapnies, CURRENT AFFAIRS, Latest News

Why breaking up Facebook is not enough to heal the underlying rot 

The overriding questions that nag at me: What problems are we trying to solve, and does a breakup really address them?

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It’s impossible to root for Facebook Inc. It’s like rooting for the New England Patriots. (Sorry, Pats fans.) Besides partisans and kooks, who could side with an organization that is successful beyond belief, skirts the rules and is led by an all-powerful boss facing serious legal questions? And unlike the sports team, Facebook wields enormous influence over how the world thinks and interacts

I don’t root for the Patriots, or Facebook. But I’m uneasy about the growing calls for Facebook to be split into pieces, including the op-ed Thursday from Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s co-founders. The overriding questions that nag at me: What problems are we trying to solve, and does a breakup really address them?

I don’t have the answers. But I worry that “break up Facebook” has become a catchall, soothing solution to the feeling that Facebook is bad and something should be done about it. A breakup may be the right approach. But I want advocates to start by uniting people around the root problems and working backward to possible fixes before we all back a Standard Oil-style dismantlement.

Here are three problems I have with Facebook, and how a breakup might affect them:

Facebook has huge treasure troves of personal information

Facebook has vast knowledge about how the world spends its time on and off its internet hangouts, and in the real world. It hasn’t always been a reliable steward of that information, and Facebook hasn’t adequately justified why it needs all of it in the first place.

Let’s say Facebook is split into multiple companies – the core Facebook social network, Instagram and WhatsApp, as Hughes suggests. Does a core Facebook with perhaps 1 billion users have less ability to harvest information such as people’s web-surfing habits and physical locations as they roam around with smartphones? No, it doesn’t.

It’s true that a stand-alone Facebook wouldn’t know what people are doing on an independent Instagram and an independent WhatsApp, just as Facebook isn’t harvesting specific information now from people’s use of YouTube and Snapchat. I don’t know, however, that those limits would blunt Facebook’s aggressive data-harvesting machine.

Business Standard