Tag Archives: Facebook

The Fall Of Facebook Has Only Just Begun

Their platform is broken and neither human nor machine can fix it.

Even after losing roughly a third of its market cap, it still may prove one of the great shorts of all time.

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(ZeroHedge) “There’s no mental health support. The employee suicide rate is extremely high,” one of the directors of the documentary, “The Cleaners” told CBS News last May. The film is an investigative look at the life of Facebook moderators in the Philippines. Throughout his 2018 apology tour, Mark Zuckerberg regularly referenced the staff of moderators the company had hired as one of two key solutions — along with AI — to the platform’s content evils. What he failed to disclose is that the majority of that army is subcontractors employed in the developing world.

For as long as ten hours a day, viewing as many as 25,000 images or videos per day, these low-paid workers are buried in the world’s horrors — hate speech, child pornography, rape, murder, torture, beheadings, and on and on. They are not experts in the subject matter or region they police. They rely on “guidelines” provided by Facebook — “dozens of unorganized PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets with bureaucratic titles like ‘Western Balkans Hate Orgs and Figures’ and ‘Credible Violence: Implementation standards’,” as The New York Times reported last fall. The rules are not even written in the languages the moderators speak, so many rely on Google Translate. As a recent op-ed by John Naughton in The Guardian declares bluntly in its headline, “Facebook’s burnt-out moderators are proof that it is broken.”

As we noted in last week’s issue, 41 of the 53 analysts tracked by Bloomberg currently list Facebook as a buy, with “the average price target… $187, which implies upside of nearly 36%.” That optimism springs from a basic assumption: the company’s monopolistic data dominance means it can continue extracting more from advertisers even if controversy after controversy continues to sap its user growth. Given the depth and intractability of Facebook’s problems, this is at best short-sighted.

The platform’s content ecosystem is too poisoned for human or machine moderators to cleanse. Users are fleeing in droves, especially in the company’s most valuable markets. Ad buyers are already shifting dollars to competitors’ platforms. Governments are stepping up to dramatically hinder Facebook’s data-collection capabilities, with Germany just this week banning third-party data sharing. The company is under investigation by the FTC, the Justice Department, the SEC, the FBI, and several government agencies in Europe. It has been accused by the U.N. of playing a “determining role” in Myanmar’s genocide. An executive exodus is underway at the company. And we believe, sooner or later, Facebook’s board will see no option but to remove Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg.

The market is drastically underestimating the peril the company is in. In the very short term, the user backlash may simply hinder its revenue growth. In the longer-term, however, the institutionalized failure to see and respond to the platform’s downsides may render Facebook the Digital Age’s Enron — a canonized example of how greed and corruption can fell even the mightiest.

According to data recently released by Statcounter, Facebook’s global social media market share dropped from 75.5% in December 2017 to 66.3% in December 2018. The biggest drop was in the U.S., from 76% to 52%. As Cowen survey results released this week suggest, these engagement declines will continue to depress the company’s earnings. Surveying 50 senior U.S. ad buyers controlling a combined $14 billion in digital ad budgets in 2018, 18% said they were decreasing their spend on Facebook. As a result, Cowen estimates the Facebook platform will lose 3% of its market share.

No doubt Facebook’s struggles are not just about the headline scandals. For years, one innovation priority after another has fallen flat, from VR to its video push to its laggard position in the digital-assistant race. The company’s most significant “innovation” success of the past few years was copying the innovation of a competitor — pilfering Snapchat’s ephemerality for its “moments” feature.

However, it’s the scandals that have most crippled the company’s brand and revealed the cultural rot trickling down from its senior ranks. Consider just the most-sensational revelations that emerged in 4Q18:

  • Oct. 17: The Verge reports that Facebook knew about inaccuracies in the video viewership metrics that it provided to advertisers and brands for more than a year. “The inflated video views led both advertisers and media companies to bet too much on Facebook video.”
  • Nov. 14: The New York Times publishes an investigative report that reveals Facebook hired a conservative PR firm to smear competitors and minimize the company’s role in Russia’s 2016 election meddling.
  • Dec. 5: British lawmakers release 250 pages of internal Facebook emails that show that, “the company’s executives were ruthless and unsparing in their ambition to collect more data from users, extract concessions from developers and stamp out possible competitors,” as The New York Times reported.
  • Dec. 14: Facebook reveals that a bug allowed third-party app developers to access photos people may not have shared publicly, with as many as 6.8 million users potentially affected.
  • Dec. 17: Two Senate reports reveal the shocking extent of Russia’s efforts on social media platforms during the 2016 election, including the fact thatInstagram was their biggest tool for misinformation.
  • Dec. 18: The New York Times reports that Facebook gave the world’s largest technology companies far more intrusive access to user data than previously disclosed, including the Russian search firm Yandex.
  • Dec. 20: TechCrunch reports that, “WhatsApp chat groups are being used to spread illegal child pornography, cloaked by the app’s end-to-end encryption.”
  • Dec. 27: The New York Times obtains 1,400 pages of Facebook’s moderation guidelines and discovers an indecipherable mess of confusing language, bias, and obvious errors.

Scandal after scandal, the portrait of the company is the same: Ruthlessly and blindly obsessed with growth. Overwhelmed by that growth and unwilling to take necessary steps to compensate. Willing to lie and obfuscate until the truth becomes inescapable. And all the time excusing real-world consequences and clear violations of user and client trust because of the cultish belief that global interconnectedness is an absolute good, and therefore, Facebook is absolutely good.

The scale of Facebook’s global responsibility is staggering. As Naughton writes for The Guardian:

Facebook currently has 2.27bn monthly active users worldwide. Every 60 seconds, 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated and 136,000 photos are uploaded to the platform. Instagram, which allows users to edit and share photos as well as videos and is owned by Facebook, has more than 1bn monthly active users. WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service that is also owned by Facebook, now has 1.5bn monthly active users, more than half of whom use it several times a day.

Relying on tens of thousands of moderators to anesthetize the digital commons is both inadequate, and based on the reported working conditions, unethical and exploitative. AI is not the solution either, as we explored in WILTW April 12, 2018. According to Wired, Facebook has claimed that 96% of the adult and nude images users try to upload are now automatically detected and taken down by AI. That sounds like a success until you consider that that error rate means 1.3 million such images made it to the public in the third quarter of 2018 alone (30.8 million were taken down).

In fact, the company has acknowledged that views with nudity or sexual content have nearly doubled in the 12 months ending in September. And detecting nudity is a far easier task for a rules-based algorithm than deciding the difference between real and fake news, between hate speech and satire, or between pornography and art.

Facebook has economically and culturally empowered hundreds of millions of people around the world. It cannot be blamed for every destabilized government, war, or murder in every region it operates. However, more and more, it’s clear that one profit-driven platform that connects all of the world’s people to all of the world’s information — the vision Zuckerberg has long had for his invention — is a terminally-flawed idea. It leads to too much power in the hands of too few. It allows bad actors to centralize their bad actions. And it is incompatible with a world that values privacy, ownership, and truth.

Governments are waking up to this problem. So is the public. And no doubt, so are competitive innovators looking to expand or introduce alternatives. Collectively, they will chip away at Facebook’s power and profitability. Given the company’s leaders still appear blinded by and irrevocably attached to their business model and ideals, we doubt they can stave off the onslaught coming.

Source: ZeroHedge

“Everything Is Fake”: Ex-Reddit CEO Confirms Internet Traffic Metrics Are All Bullshit

“It’s all true: Everything is fake,” tweeted Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao regarding a Wednesday New York Magazine article which reveals that internet traffic metrics from some of the largest tech companies are overstated or fabricated. In other words; they’re bullshit.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/pao1.jpg?itok=hbPEP0dDEx-Reddit CEO turned truth teller, Ellen Pao

Pao was responding to a tweet by the Washington Post‘s Aram Zucker-Schariff, quoting the following segment of the article: 

The metrics are all fake.

Take something as seemingly simple as how we measure web traffic. Metrics should be the most real thing on the internet: They are countable, trackable, and verifiable, and their existence undergirds the advertising business that drives our biggest social and search platforms. Yet not even Facebook, the world’s greatest data–gathering organization, seems able to produce genuine figures. In October, small advertisers filed suit against the social-media giant, accusing it of covering up, for a year, its significant overstatements of the time users spent watching videos on the platform (by 60 to 80 percent, Facebook says; by 150 to 900 percent, the plaintiffs say). According to an exhaustive list at MarketingLand, over the past two years Facebook has admitted to misreporting the reach of posts on Facebook Pages (in two different ways), the rate at which viewers complete ad videos, the average time spent reading its “Instant Articles,” the amount of referral traffic from Facebook to external websites, the number of views that videos received via Facebook’s mobile site, and the number of video views in Instant Articles.

Can we still trust the metrics? After the Inversion, what’s the point? Even when we put our faith in their accuracy, there’s something not quite real about them: My favorite statistic this year was Facebook’s claim that 75 million people watched at least a minute of Facebook Watch videos every day — though, as Facebook admitted, the 60 seconds in that one minute didn’t need to be watched consecutively. Real videos, real people, fake minutes. –NYMag

It’s all true: Everything is fake,” tweeted Pao, adding “Also mobile user counts are fake. No one has figured out how to count logged-out mobile users, as I learned at Reddit. Every time someone switches cell towers, it looks like another user and inflates company user metrics.” 

The New York Magazine article by Max Read goes much deeper, however, asserting; “The people are fake” , “The businesses are fake” , “The content is fake” , “Our politics are fake,” and finally “We ourselves are fake.”

Tell us how you really feel Max! 

For starters Read notes that “Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human.” Some years, “a healthy majority of it is bot.” In fact, half of all YouTube traffic in 2013 was bots according to the Times

The internet has always played host in its dark corners to schools of catfish and embassies of Nigerian princes, but that darkness now pervades its every aspect: Everything that once seemed definitively and unquestionably real now seems slightly fake; everything that once seemed slightly fake now has the power and presence of the realNYMag

Also of interest, the Times found in their August investigation that there is a flourishing business buying clicks. In fact, one can buy 5,000 video clicks in 30-second increments – for as little as $15, with the traffic typically coming from bots or “click farms.”

So what constitutes “real” traffic, Read asks? 

If a Russian troll using a Brazilian man’s photograph to masquerade as an American Trump supporter watches a video on Facebook, is that view “real”? Not only do we have bots masquerading as humans and humans masquerading as other humans, but also sometimes humans masquerading as bots, pretending to be “artificial-intelligence personal assistants,” like Facebook’s “M,” in order to help tech companies appear to possess cutting-edge AI. We even have whatever CGI Instagram influencer Lil Miquela is: a fake human with a real body, a fake face, and real influence NYMag

Read the rest here – including Max Read’s thoughts on navigating a world of deep fakes,” bullshit propaganda which purports to “redpill” people to the “truth” of everything, and how utterly fake people have become.

Source: ZeroHedge

AND There Goes Facebook Targeting… Just Like That… Thanks NAR

All it takes is one complaint to HUD? Wow! Really? 

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“HUD filed a complaint against Facebook last week. 

“HUD claimed the social network’s advertising platform allowed users to discriminate against prospective renters and buyers by being able to limit who saw their ads based on the users’ race, color, religion, sex, family status, national origin, disability, ZIP code, and other factors.” ( From REALTOR® Magazine) 

This is interesting because I don’t know even one REALTOR® who uses Facebook ads to discriminate.

Every single person I know who is a member of NAR and runs ads, runs ads to reach their niche audience, their targets- this is called advertising. This has nothing to do with discrimination. 

I doubt any of the employees of the HUD department have ever had to make a living selling  products, services, or real estate. 

My team was starting an ad campaign for an agent this week and we could not target: 

Homeowners!!! 

Homeowners have been removed. 

Tell me, HUD and NAR—- 

If you are a listing agent how in the world is it discriminating to target ONLY homeowners. After all, if we are running a home value ad, why would I want to waste our money on getting our ad in front of 20 years olds who are first time home buyers??? Or renters?  It makes no sense to offer home values on your property to those who don’t own property! 

You have to pay for impressions. This means that your ads just got a lot more expensive becuase of the ignorance of the powers that be at NAR who so quickly run to support these complaints. I highly doubt they have asked any of us what we are doing with our ads. 

Why are they jumping so fast to say they love that Facebook deleted all our targeting?? 

We are running another ad campaign for another agent — and guess what— yep! The Zipcode targeting is gone!!! 

Now, I know that some people say that zip code advertising is discriminating but then why oh why… does the U.S. own government company the United States Postal Service allow us all to target our direct mailing by zip codes?????? 

I am so tired of NAR speaking for all of us but not talking to all of us before they speak!!! 

If we have a million dollar listing we don’t want to waste money on ads going to people who only make $20,000! It is not discrimination, it is common sense marketing. We want to put our listing in front of the best possible buyers who can afford this listing. 

How did Facebook respond? 

Of course, they did not take our backs. They went back with their tail between their legs and got rid of over 5,000 targets we all use in Facebook advertising. Facebook already makes you agree that you are obeying the Fair housing laws when you run real estate ads. Why did they not just fight on this? 

I then went to the NAR website and see the title to their article about this and the title is: 

Realtors® Applaud HUD Decision to Target Online Housing Discrimination

Interesting title since there was NOTHING In the article listing ANY realtor who was applauding this decision except for the NAR President:  

‘National Association of Realtors® President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor® from Columbia, Missouri and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty, issued the following statement in support of HUD’s aggressive enforcement of the Fair Housing Act:

“In 2018, as America recognizes the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the National Association of Realtors® strongly supports a housing market free from all types of discrimination. However, as various online tools and platforms continue to transform the real estate industry in the 21st Century, our understanding of how this law is enforced and applied must continue to evolve as well. Realtors® commend the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary Ben Carson for taking decisive action to defend fair housing laws, and for working to ensure its intended consumer protections extend to wherever real estate is marketed.” ‘

So where in this article are the many realtors who are so applauding wasting money on needless impressions… and making our ad cost go up way higher! 

What needs to happen in cases like this, is for NAR to do an investigation, survey, round tables, etc. with local agents around the country and find out what kinds of ads they run on Facebook, how they target, and why. Then take that data to HUD, and explain to HUD, about marketing and advertising.

Take our backs; will you!!!! 

Because in actuality how many of those NAR presidents and committees on those higher levels are running Facebook ads daily to get listings and buyers? 

And that is my rant for the day… I am livid!!!”

Source: By virtual Services Marketer, Katerina Gasset | Active Rain

Facebook Removes Their Favorite Ad Options After HUD Complaint

Facebook is removing thousands of targeting options from its advertising platform after the Department of Housing and Urban Development accused the social media giant of discriminatory practices with its housing ads.

HUD filed a complaint last Friday against Facebook that claimed the social network’s advertising platform allowed users to discriminate against prospective renters and buyers by being able to limit who saw their ads based on the users’ race, color, religion, sex, family status, national origin, disability, ZIP code, and other factors.

“There is no place for discrimination [on our advertising platform],” Facebook stated in response to the HUD complaint. So far, they’ve removed more than 5,000 ad target options to “help prevent misuse,” according to the company. Facebook removed options such as “limiting the ability for advertisers to exclude audiences that relate to attributes such as ethnicity or religion.”

The company also announced that all advertisers in the U.S. will be required to comply with its non-discrimination policy if they wanted to advertise on Facebook.

“While these options have been used in legitimate ways to reach people interested in a certain product or service, we think minimizing the risk of abuse is more important,” Facebook said of its decision to remove the target options within its ad platform.

Facebook said it will share more updates to its targeted advertising tool over the next few months as it continues to “refine” it.

The National Association of REALTORS® released a statement this week in support of HUD’s enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and actions against Facebook. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

“As various online tools and platforms continue to transform the real estate industry in the 21st century, our understanding of how this law is enforced and applied must continue to evolve as well,” Elizabeth Mendenhall, NAR president, said in a statement. “REALTORS® commend the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary Ben Carson for taking decisive action to defend fair housing laws, and for working to ensure its intended consumer protections extend to wherever real estate is marketed.”

Source: Realtor Magazine

BOOM: HUD Files Housing Discrimination Complaint Against Facebook

Secretary-initiated complaint alleges platform allows advertisers to discriminate

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today a formal complaint against Facebook for violating the Fair Housing Act by allowing landlords and home sellers to use its advertising platform to engage in housing discrimination.

HUD claims Facebook enables advertisers to control which users receive housing-related ads based upon the recipient’s race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, disability, and/or zip code. Facebook then invites advertisers to express unlawful preferences by offering discriminatory options, allowing them to effectively limit housing options for these protected classes under the guise of ‘targeted advertising.’ Read HUD’s complaint against Facebook.

“The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination including those who might limit or deny housing options with a click of a mouse,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it’s the same as slamming the door in someone’s face.”

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing transactions including print and online advertisement on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status. HUD’s Secretary-initiated complaint follows the Department’s investigation into Facebook’s advertising platform which includes targeting tools that enable advertisers to filter prospective tenants or home buyers based on these protected classes. 

For example, HUD’s complaint alleges Facebook’s platform violates the Fair Housing Act. It enables advertisers to, among other things:

  • display housing ads either only to men or women;
  • not show ads to Facebook users interested in an “assistance dog,” “mobility scooter,” “accessibility” or “deaf culture”;   
  • not show ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in “child care” or “parenting,” or show ads only to users with children above a specified age;
  • to display/not display ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in a particular place of worship, religion or tenet, such as the “Christian Church,” “Sikhism,” “Hinduism,” or the “Bible.”
  • not show ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in “Latin America,” “Canada,” “Southeast Asia,” “China,” “Honduras,” or “Somalia.”
  • draw a red line around zip codes and then not display ads to Facebook users who live in specific zip codes.

Additionally, Facebook promotes its advertising targeting platform for housing purposes with “success stories” for finding “the perfect homeowners,” “reaching home buyers,” “attracting renters” and “personalizing property ads.”

In addition, today the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) filed a statement of interest, joined in by HUD, in U.S. District Court on behalf of a number of private litigants challenging Facebook’s advertising platform.

HUD Secretary-Initiated Complaints

The Secretary of HUD may file a fair housing complaint directly against those whom the Department believes may be in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Secretary-Initiated Complaints are appropriate in cases, among others, involving significant issues that are national in scope or when the Department is made aware of potential violations of the Act and broad public interest relief is warranted or where HUD does not know of a specific aggrieved person or injured party that is willing or able to come forward. A Fair Housing Act complaint, including a Secretary initiated complaint, is not a determination of liability.

A Secretary-Initiated Complaint will result in a formal fact-finding investigation. The party against whom the complaint is filed will be provided notice and an opportunity to respond. If HUD’s investigation results in a determination that reasonable cause exists that there has been a violation of the Fair Housing Act, a charge of discrimination may be filed. Throughout the process, HUD will seek conciliation and voluntary resolution. Charges may be resolved through settlement, through referral to the Department of Justice, or through an administrative determination.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. In commemoration, HUD, local communities, and fair housing organizations across the country have coordinated a variety of activities to enhance fair housing awareness, highlight HUD’s fair housing enforcement efforts, and end housing discrimination in the nation. For a list of activities, log onto www.hud.gov/fairhousingis50.

 

Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY).

Source: HUD.gov

Facebook Asking Major US Banks To Share User Data

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Facebook has asked several large US banks to share detailed financial information about their customers, including checking account balances and card transactions, as part of a new push to offer new services to its users, according to the Wall Street Journal

Facebook increasingly wants to be a platform where people buy and sell goods and services, besides connecting with friends. The company over the past year asked JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and U.S. Bancorp to discuss potential offerings it could host for bank customers on Facebook Messenger, said people familiar with the matter.WSJ

Facebook’s new feature would show people their checking account balances, as well as offer fraud alerts, according to the WSJ‘s sources, while the banks are apparently waffling over data privacy concerns.

The negotiations come as the social media giant has fallen under several investigations over data harvesting, including its ties to political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which was able to gain access to the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users without their consent. 

One large bank withdrew from talks due to privacy concerns, according to the Journal, however Facebook swears that they’re simply trying to enhance the user experience and won’t use any banking data for ad-targeting. 

Facebook has told banks that the additional customer information could be used to offer services that might entice users to spend more time on Messenger, a person familiar with the discussions said. The company is trying to deepen user engagement: Investors shaved more than $120 billion from its market value in one day last month after it said its growth is starting to slow.

Facebook said it wouldn’t use the bank data for ad-targeting purposes or share it with third parties. –WSJ

We don’t use purchase data from banks or credit card companies for ads,” said spokeswoman Elisabeth Diana. “We also don’t have special relationships, partnerships, or contracts with banks or credit card companies to use their customers’ purchase data for ads.” 

While banks have been under increasing pressure to build relationships with large online platforms and their billions of product-consuming users, they have struggled to gain traction in mobile payments while trying to reach more customers online. That said, they have been hesitant to hand over too much information to third-party platforms such as Facebook – preferring instead to keep customers on their own apps and websites. 

As part of the proposed deals, Facebook asked banks for information about where its users are shopping with their debit and credit cards outside of purchases they make using Facebook Messenger, the people said. Messenger has some 1.3 billion monthly active users, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said on the company’s second-quarter earnings call last month. -WSJ

Both Google and Amazon have also asked banks to join their online platforms with data-sharing agreements that would provide basic banking services on applications such as Alexa and Google Assistant, according to people familiar with the conversations.

“Like many online companies, we routinely talk to financial institutions about how we can improve people’s commerce experiences, like enabling better customer service,” said Diana. “An essential part of these efforts is keeping people’s information safe and secure.”

Facebook has beefed up privacy measures since the data harvesting scandal broke – rolling out new features such as “clear history,” allowing users to prevent the platform from collecting their browsing details off-Facebook. It’s also making greater efforts to alert users to their privacy settings. 

That said, bank executives are still concerned over the scope of information being sought by Facebook – and are willing to maintain their distance over privacy issues even if it means not being included on certain platforms that their customers use. 

JPMorgan isn’t “sharing our customers’ off-platform transaction data with these platforms, and have had to say no to some things as a result,” said spokeswoman Trish Wexler.

Banks view mobile commerce as one of their biggest opportunities, but are still running behind technology firms like PayPal Holdings Inc. and Square Inc. Customers have moved slowly too; many Americans still prefer using their cards, along with cash and checks. –WSJ

In order to crack into the world of online payments and compete with PayPal’s Venmo, several large banks have connected their smartphone apps for quick money-transfers through the Zelle network. While usage has risen, many banks still aren’t on the platform. Meanwhile, Facebook has been trying to turn their Messenger app into a hub for customer service and commerce – “in keeping with a broader trend among mobile messaging services,” reports the Journal

American Express already lets Facebook users contact their customer service department, while PayPal struck a deal with the social media giant to allow users to send money through Messenger. Furthermore, Mastercard cardholders can buy products from certain merchants via Messenger using the card company’s Masterpass digital wallet – while the company says Facebook can’t see card information. 

The initial reaction is positive in Facebook shares – up over 2.5% – but in context of the earnings collapse, Zuck has a long way to go.

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Source: ZeroHedge

Facebook Co-Founder Wants To Slap $3 Trillion Tax On Rich To Pay For Universal Basic Income

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes wants to tax anyone who makes over $250,000 to the tune of nearly $3 trillion over ten years, then use the proceeds to provide universal basic income (UBI) to every working American who makes under $50,000 a year, including those providing services such as child care and elder care.

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Hughes, 34, now devotes his time to evangelizing for higher taxes on the rich, such as himself. He’s proposing that the government give a guaranteed income of $500 a month to every working American earning less than $50,000 a year, at a total cost of $290 billion a year. This is a staggering number, but Hughes points out that it equals half the U.S. defense budget and would combat the inequality that he argues is destabilizing the nation. –Bloomberg

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Hughes, who has a related book coming out, has made tackling income inequality his top priority by partnering with the Economic Security Project – a major recipient of his philanthropic efforts. The group is focused finding solutions to provide “unconditional cash and basic income” in the United States due to the effects of “automation, globalization, and financialization” forcing the discussion. 

The plan would essentially be an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-to-moderate income individuals and families.

The Economic Security Project is a network committed to advancing the debate on unconditional cash and basic income in the United States. In a time of immense wealth, no one should live in poverty, nor should the middle class be consigned to a future of permanent stagnation or anxiety. Automation, globalization, and financialization are changing the nature of work, and these shifts require us to rethink how to create economic opportunity for all. –Economic Security Project

While Hughes notes that the annual $290 billion annual price tag is half the U.S. defense budget, he contends that income inequality is destabilizing the nation – and that there is a “very practical concern that, given that consumer spending is the biggest driver of economic growth in the United States and that median household incomes haven’t meaningfully budged in 40 years,” a Universal Basic Income is vital to maintaining economic national security.   

Cash is just the simplest and most efficient thing to eradicate poverty and stabilize the middle class,” Hughs told Bloomberg at the Economic Security Project’s New York offices at Union Square.

There are many ways to pay for a guaranteed income. However, I do think that the resources can and should come from the people who most benefited from the structure of the economy. We had tax rates at 50 percent for several decades after [World War II]. In the same period, we had record economic growth and broad-based prosperity. I’m not making the case, in the book and in general, that we just need higher taxes. It matters what our tax dollars are going to. Cash is just the simplest and most efficient thing to eradicate poverty and stabilize the middle class. –Bloomberg

You can read the rest of Bloomberg‘s interview with Hughes here.

Source: ZeroHedge

New Study Finds Facebook Page Reach has Declined 20% in 2017

It’s not just you and your Page – according to new research by BuzzSumo, the average number of engagements with Facebook posts created by brands and publishers has fallen by more than 20% since January 2017.

BuzzSumo analyzed more than 880 million Facebook posts from publisher and brand Pages over the past year, noting a clear decline in engagements since early 2017.

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That’s likely no surprise to most Facebook Page managers – organic reach on Facebook has been in decline since late 2013, according to various reports, with continual changes to the News Feed algorithm re-aligning the priority of what users see.

Indeed, in the past year, Facebook’s News Feed algorithm has seen a range of updates which could contribute to this decline:

  • In August last year, Facebook announced a News Feed update focused on improving the individual relevance of the stories shown to each user
  • In January, Facebook released a News Feed update which sought to better identify and rank authentic content
  • In May, the News Feed got another tweak, this time to reduce the reach of links to sites covered with ads
  • Also in May, Facebook released a News Feed change which aimed at reducing the reach of clickbait
  • And earlier this month, Facebook re-iterated the need for mobile optimization but announcing that links to non-mobile optimized pages would be penalized.

But then again, none of those changes individually correlates to the decline noted by BuzzSumo, which, as you can see, shifts significantly in January.

As listed above, the January News feed update focused onauthentic contentis not likely to have been the cause of this drop – that was more aimed at weeding out posts that artificially seek to game the algorithm by asking for Likes, and on pushing the reach of real-time content. Maybe Facebook’s increased focus on live, real-time material has had some impact, but it would seem unlikely that it’s the cause of that January drop.

What’s more likely is actually another News Feed update introduced in June 2016, which put increased emphasis on content posted by friends and family over Page posts. Facebook’s always looking to get people sharing more personal updates, and those updates generate more engagement, which keeps people on platform longer, while also providing Facebook with more data to fuel their ad targeting.

In terms of News Feed shifts, this one appears to be the most significant of recent times, but then again, the impacts of that would have been evident earlier in BuzzSumo’s chart. Maybe Facebook turned up the volume on this update in January? It’s obviously impossible to know, and Facebook’s doesn’t reveal much about the inner workings of their News Feed team.

 In terms of which posts, specifically, are driving engagement (or not), BuzzSumo found that:

“The biggest fall in engagement was with image posts and link posts. According to the data video posts had the smallest fall in engagement and videos now gain twice the level of engagement of other post formats on average.”

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Again, video is king – if you’re concerned about declines in your Facebook reach, then video is where you should be looking. Of course, video posts are also seeing reach declines in line with the overall shift, but they’re outperforming all others, and are likely to be your best bet in maximizing your reach on the platform.

So what can you do? However you look at it, Facebook is a huge driver of referral traffic for a great many websites, with many now having an established reliance on The Social Network to push their numbers.

For one, these figures again underline why putting too much reliance on Facebook is a strategic risk. Diversifying your traffic sources and building your own e-mail list is sometimes easier said than done, particularly given Facebook’s scale, but the figures do underline that it’s important to consider how you can maximize your opportunities outside of The Social Network.

In terms of how to improve your Facebook performance, specifically, there are no definitive answers.

Some brands have seen success in posting less often – back in May, Buffer explained that they’ve been able to triple their Facebook reach while reducing their output by 50%. Less is more is an attractive strategy, but whether that’ll work for your business, it’s impossible to say.

Others have switched to posting more often, something Facebook recommends in their own documentation on how journalists can make best use of the News Feed.

“Post frequently – Don’t worry about over-posting. The goal of News Feed is to show each person the most relevant story so not all of your posts are guaranteed to show in their Feeds.”

In fact, Facebook notes that some Pages post up to 80 times per day, which seems excessive, but when you consider both the reach restrictions (less than 5% of your audience will see each of your posts) and the fact that most people will see your content in their News Feed, as opposed to coming to your Facebook Page, the chances of you spamming fans by over-posting or re-posting are far more limited than they used to be.

If you post more often, and you get less engagement per post, that could still average out to increasing your overall numbers – though you need to watch your negative feedback measures (unfollows and unlikes).

Really, no one has the answers, because it’ll be different for each Page, each audience. The only real way to counter such declines is to experiment, to encourage engagement, to spark conversation and generate more reach through interaction. That takes more work, of course, and you then have to match that additional time investment with return.

Again, it’ll be different for every business, there’s no magic formula. But Facebook reach is clearly declining. Worth considering how that impacts your process. 

By Andrew Hutchinson | Social Media Today

It’s Over For Tech Start-ups

It’s over for tech start-ups — just look at today’s earnings reports

  • Blue Apron and Snap had disappointing earnings reports on Thursday.
  • Both companies have been targeted by one of the Big Five — Blue Apron by Amazon, Snap by Facebook.
  • Start-ups and investors should look to the margins, or prepare to face the tech giants.

Two newly public tech companies reported earnings on Thursday, and both were ugly for their investors.

Meal-kit preparer Blue Apron missed earnings expectations by a wide margin in its first earnings report since going public in late June. It reported a 47 cent per share loss instead of the expected 30 cent loss, blaming high customer acquisition costs and staffing a new distribution plant in New Jersey.

The stock dropped 17 percent and is now trading at about half its IPO price.

In its second earnings report as a public company, Snap disappointed Wall Street with its user growth numbers for the second consecutive time and fell short on earnings.

The stock dropped about 17 percent after hours. It’s now off about 33 percent from its IPO price.

Blue Apron and Snap have a lot in common. They’re consumer focused. They have devoted followers. They’re losing money hand over fist.

And both were targeted directly and aggressively by two of tech’s biggest companies.

Between the time Blue Apron filed for its intial public offering, on June 1, and when it went public, on June 28, Amazon announced that it was buying Whole Foods. The speculation that Amazon would use the purchase to improve its home delivery service sent demand for Blue Apron’s IPO down, and the company slashed its IPO range from $15-$17 down to $10-$11.

Then, reports emerged that Amazon had already launched a meal kit, which was on sale in Seattle.

In the case of Snap, it was Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg and company had been fighting to blunt Snap’s growth ever since its co-founder, Evan Spiegel, rejected his buyout offer in 2013. It began to see progress with the launch of Instagram Stories in August 2016, which duplicated Snapchat’s own Stories feature. Over the next year, it gradually copied nearly every major Snapchat feature in its own products.

Less than a year after launch, Instagram Stories has 250 million daily users and is growing at a rate of around 50 million every three months. Snap has 173 million and grew only 7 million during the quarter.

The experiences of these companies are discouraging for start-up investors and founders who dream of someday creating an Amazon or Facebook of their own.

The five big tech companies — Alphabet (Google), Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft — have attained unprecedented wealth and power, with trillions of dollars in combined market value and tens of billions of dollars in free cash flow.

They also need to satisfy Wall Street’s appetite for growth, which means they have to get new customers or earn more money from existing customers, quarter after quarter, year after year. One way to do that is to expand into new markets.

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They’ll gladly outspend their smaller competitors on product development and hiring while undercutting them on price.

That doesn’t mean curtains for Blue Apron or Snap. Both companies could come up with a leapfrog innovation that catapults them (for a while). Young nimble companies overtake older and slower companies all the time — that’s how the Big Five started. Microsoft disrupted IBM. Google and Apple disrupted Microsoft. And so on.

But companies and tech investors need to be wise about the risks of betting on upstarts that are going up against these giants.

If you hope to make money through online advertising, you’ll be challenging Google and Facebook. If you’re doing anything in e-commerce, logistics or delivery, you’ll run into Amazon. In cloud computing, get ready to see Amazon, Microsoft and Google. If you’re building hardware, Apple likely stands in the way.

It might be better to focus on the niches that the Big Five don’t yet dominate. Their health-care efforts are still in early stages, and none is playing heavily in financial tech, drones or robotics. Microsoft’s power in enterprise software is blunted to some degree by other old giants like IBM, Oracle and SAP, plus newer players like Salesforce.

It’s always been hard to build a successful start-up. With the increasing dominance of the Big Five, it’s harder than ever.

By Matt Rosoff | CNBC

 

Palo Alto Says Zuckerberg Can’t Build Compound Intended For His Family’s Privacy

Social media mogul Mark Zuckerberg’s life seems to always revolve around houses in Palo Alto.

A house in Palo Alto is where he grew Facebook from a seed harvested at Harvard into one of the defining companies of 21st century Silicon Valley. A house in Palo Alto is where Zuckerberg and his family presently call home. And four houses in Palo Alto adjacent to his own are now a perhaps rare check on the authority of the sixth richest man in the world.

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The contentious parcels. City of Palo Alto

In 2013, Zuckerberg bought the houses bordering his property, eventually revealing plans to demolish them. He was worried about his privacy. (You can all insert your own ironic “Facebook data mining privacy” joke here.)

Unfortunately, the city isn’t proving keen on his idea. We can’t imagine why they’d be a tiny bit sensitive about sacrificing perfectly good housing stock for the sake of its wealthiest resident’s desire not to live next to anyone.

To be fair, Zuckerberg also planned to build new homes on the four parcels—smaller ones that wouldn’t be able to peer into his own house. But Palo Alto’s Architectural Review Board didn’t like the looks of his proposed new homes and bounced the plan at Thursday’s meeting.

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The board is an advisory committee, and Palo Alto’s director of planning Hillary Gitelman can override their decision and approve the proposals if she wants to. But architects who work in Palo Alto tell Curbed SF that this rarely happens. Railroading unpopular projects through wouldn’t be smart politics, after all.

Zuckerberg will probably have to come up with some new designs, resign himself to keeping the houses the way they are, or just start spending most of his time crashing in one of those sleep pods at the office.

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By Adam Brinklow | Curbed San Francisco


Palo Alto Mayor Wants to ‘Meter’ ‘Reckless Job Growth’

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Palo Alto mayor Patrick Burt says: “Palo Alto’s greatest problem right now is the Bay Area’s massive job growth.” And he wants to “meter” businesses to control “reckless job growth” in the Silicon Valley suburb.

Palo Alto has long been the center of Silicon Valley’s tech start-ups, and features 14 of the world’s top 25 venture capital firms within a 10-mile radius. But in an interview with the real estate blog Curbed.com, Mayor Burt talked about how “Our community will not accept deterioration in our mobility.”

As a tech CEO that sold out for big bucks, Burt seems to want to keep out the riff-raff:

“First, we’re in a region that’s had extremely high job growth at a rate that is just not sustainable if we’re going to keep [Palo Alto] similar to what it’s been historically. Of course we know that the community is going to evolve. But we don’t want it to be a radical departure. We don’t want to turn into Manhattan.”

Burt claims it is the role of local government to avoid “reckless job growth”:

“We want metered job growth and metered housing growth, in places where it will have the least impact on things like our transit infrastructure. We look at the rates and we balance things.”

To “meter” housing growth, 97 percent of the non-commercial portion of Palo Alto is zoned R1 single family residence, while only 3 percent is zoned for multi-family apartments. The least expensive “starter home” in Palo Alto is listed at $995,000.

But according to the Planning Department, 45 percent of Palo Alto workers live in multi-unit housing, which means almost half of Palo Alto workers must commute in every day.

Mark Zuckerberg is believed to be the wealthiest resident of Palo Alto. He is a well known liberal, and made his fortune as the CEO of Facebook. The company data-mines the deepest secrets of 1.7 billion users, then sells those secrets to the highest bidder. Zuckerberg contributes heavily to liberal causes, advocates for unlimited immigration, and says he hates the wall Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wants to build along the U.S./Mexican border.

But after Mr. Zuckerberg bought the three houses bordering surrounding his own Palo Alto home, he recently built an 8-foot high privacy wall around the compound for himself, his wife and young daughter.

Zuckerberg quietly submitted architectural drawings to the Palo Alto Planning Department this summer that were expected to be favored for approval, because the plan reduced density by demolishing four houses to build a mansion and three casitas.

However, they were rejected amidst a local controversy over gentrification that erupted when Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commissioner Kate Vershov Downing announced in early September that her family is leaving Palo Alto for Santa Cruz, because they, like many other residents, can no longer afford the area.

Downing’s resignation letter bemoaned that despite splitting a house with another couple, her rent is still $6200 a month. She estimates that to buy the house and share it with children would cost $2.7 million. The monthly cost of a home mortgage, tax and insurance payment would be $12,177, or $146,127 per year. Downing laments that sum is too much for her as an attorney and her husband as a software engineer.

Downing’s resignation put unwelcome pressure on the Palo Alto’s Architectural Review Board to start being more family friendly. On September 15, the Board rejected Mr. Zuckerberg’s plans because they would seriously undermine the city’s housing stock.

The Architectural Board is only an advisory committee, and Palo Alto’s Director of Planning Hillary Gitelman can override their decision and approve the proposals. But local architects familiar with Palo Alto told the Curbed.com this rarely happens, because “railroading unpopular projects through wouldn’t be smart politics.”

It is unclear how widespread Mayor Burt’s feelings are, but there is at least some backlash.

By Chriss W. Street | Brietbart

 

The Fed Launches A Facebook Page… And The Result Is Not What It Had Expected

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While it is not exactly clear what public relations goals the privately-owned Fed (recall Bernanke’s Former Advisor: “People Would Be Stunned To Know The Extent To Which The Fed Is Privately Owned“) hoped to achieve by launching its first Facebook page last Thursday, the resultant outpouring of less than euphoric public reactions suggest this latest PR effort may have been waster at best, and at worst backfired at a magnitude that matches JPM’s infamous #AskJPM twitter gaffe.

Here are some examples of the public responses to the Fed’s original posting: they all share a certain uniformity…

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We wonder how long until the Fed pulls a “blogger Ben Bernanke”, and starts moderating, if not outright blocks, all Facebook comments.

Source: ZeroHedge

And the state where richest people live is…

A new survey lists the states with the highest number of ultra rich

               CA US Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein’s net worth estimated at over $40 million

by Quentin Fottrell

Which U.S. state has the wealthiest residents of them all? It’s the home state of Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg but not America’s richest man, Bill Gates, who lives in the state of Washington.

California is the state with the highest number of ultra wealthy individuals, according to a report from private wealth consultancy Wealth-X. There are 13,445 ultrahigh-net-worth individuals — defined as those with $30 million and above in net assets — based in the Golden State, up 6% on a year-over-year basis. They’re mostly located in San Francisco (5,460 people) and Los Angeles (5,135). In fact, California’s population of ultra wealthy individuals is larger than the ultrawealthy population in the entirety of the United Kingdom (11,510).

                       Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: Born in New York state, resides in California.

Other states are experiencing a super-rich surge. New York was No. 2 on the list, with 9,530 ultrahigh-net-worth individuals in 2014, up 6% in the last year, and — perhaps unsurprisingly — 8,655, or 91%, of them were based in New York City. The population of people with $30 million or more rose 14% on a year-over-year basis to 80 in North Dakota, which is currently experiencing an energy oil boom. Florida’s ultrahigh-net-worth population increased by more than 10%, adding almost 500 new individuals to 4,710 in 2014 due to strong growth in the state’s financial and real-estate sectors.


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