Citizen Digital Foundation

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Eyeball Politics: How Facebook Gave BJP a Leg-Up

A year-long investigation by Reporters Collective found that Facebook's algorithms amplified pro-BJP content and suppressed anti-BJP content, giving the BJP an unfair advantage in the 2019 Indian general election. The investigation also found that Facebook was slow to remove fake news and hate speech from its platform. The article's findings have been met with criticism from Facebook, which has said that the investigation is "misleading" and "flawed." However, the article has also been praised by experts, who say that it provides "powerful evidence" of Facebook's role in the spread of misinformation and hate speech.

The withdrawal of the PDP Bill and the road ahead

While India has some laws to regulate sensitive data under the Information and Technology Act of 2000, no legislation has been passed so far to implement the ethos of the Puttaswamy judgment, which guaranteed Indians their right to privacy. As Indians increasingly onboard onto digital platforms, there is an urgent need to protect citizens’ personal data and make the data utilisation process transparent.

Interview: ‘Pegasus is a great example of how the government wants information on everybody but will not give information in return’

The authors of ‘The Art of Conjuring Alternate Realities’ on how what we think of as ‘reality’ is shaped and manipulated by various stakeholders — from governments to godmen to advertisers.

Facebook Did Not Block Fake Accounts Linked To BJP MP: Whistleblower

Whistleblower Sophie Zhang alleges the BJP, the Congress, and the AAP used fake accounts to influence the polls, however, only the network of accounts directly linked to a BJP MP was not removed by Facebook.

The biggest data breaches in India

Over 313,000 cybersecurity incidents were reported in 2019 alone, according to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), the government agency responsible for tracking and responding to cybersecurity threats.

Aadhaar debate: Privacy is not an elitist concern – it's the only way to secure equality

Aadhaar reflects and reproduces power imbalances and inequalities. Information asymmetries result in the data subject becoming a data object, to be manipulated, misrepresented and policed at will.

India ramps up Facial Recognition to track down individuals without any laws to keep track of how this technology is being used

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), as a part of the Project Panoptic, has written to the government asking them to address the ongoing concerns around the use of facial recognition technology and to call stakeholders and privacy experts for consultation on how this affects individual fundamental rights.

Nine-pin bowling aimed at free speech, privacy

By and large, the Information Technology Rules, 2021 go against landmark judicial precedents upholding key rights

Indian Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 vs. GDPR

This chart provides a high-level comparison between the EU General Data Protection Regulation and India’s Personal Data Protection Bill.

Aadhaar Is a Mass Surveillance Tool and There Should Be Criminal Penalty for Its Misuse, Says Edward Snowden

Snowden feels Aadhaar should be used only for social benefit from the government and not for any other service from the government as well as private players. "The biggest crime behind this system is that it is being used for things that are unrelated to what the Government is paying for.


FTC Report Shows Rise in Sophisticated Dark Patterns Designed to Trick and Trap Consumers

“Our report shows how more and more companies are using digital dark patterns to trick people into buying products and giving away their personal information,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data

A new commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable.

How big tech finally awakened to the horror of its own inventions

It took years for ex-Facebook and Google bosses to criticize what they had created – but they seem to have had a collective change of heart. Perhaps it’s because they now have children of their own.

The Dark Psychology of Social Networks

Human beings evolved to gossip, preen, manipulate, and ostracize. We are easily lured into this new gladiatorial circus, even when we know that it can make us cruel and shallow. As the Yale psychologist Molly Crockett has argued, the normal forces that might stop us from joining an outrage mob—such as time to reflect and cool off, or feelings of empathy for a person being humiliated—are attenuated when we can’t see the person’s face, and when we are asked, many times a day, to take a side by publicly “liking” the condemnation.

An MIT psychologist explains why so many tech moguls send their kids to anti-tech schools

Technology moguls like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and other high-powered entrepreneurs tend to share similar qualities: persistence, ingenuity, grit, just to name a few. But one of the more surprising traits is the philosophy that kids ought to be raised tech-free. Gates, for example, didn't let his kids use cellphones until they were 14. Jobs, the inventor of the iPad, prohibited his own kids from using the tech.


Frances Haugen takes on Facebook: the making of a modern US hero

In her explosive Senate testimony, the former employee exposed how the tech giant puts profit before the public good.

Facebook, YouTube moves against QAnon are only a first step in the battle against dangerous conspiracy theories

Facebook’s actions will do permanent damage to the presence of QAnon on the platform in the long run. Short and medium term, what we will see are pages and groups reforming and trying to game the Facebook algorithm to see if they can avoid detection.

How WhatsApp became linked to mob violence and fake news — and why it's hard to stop

"Political messaging operations use these services to spread disinformation about opponents and groups, which has led to violence," Joan Donovan, media manipulation research lead at Data & Society, an independent nonprofit that covers the social and cultural impact of technology, said in an email. "Because the messages tend to come from trusted sources ... it presents a new challenge for stopping the influence of disinformation on the public.”

Hate Speech, Polarisation

64% of the time, when people join an extremist Facebook Group, they do so because the platform recommended it – Facebook’s internal study

“Our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness,” read a slide from a 2018 (Facebook) presentation. “If left unchecked,” it warned, Facebook would feed users “more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention & increase time on the platform.”

‘Beyond Fake News’ BBC study 2018 - India

Our analysis suggests that people India are not that concerned about fake news, no matter what they say in quantitative surveys. First, the initial association with or the working definition of the term ‘fake news’ is largely limited to scams (all kinds of schemes, offers and attempted cons) that they keep coming across, or messages in the realm of the fantastical, which are just too incredible to believe.

Facebook India: Caste and Religious Hate Speech - Equality Labs

Facebook staff lacks the cultural competency needed to recognize, respect, and serve caste, religious, gender, and queer minorities. Hiring of Indian staff alone does not ensure cultural competence across India’s multitude of marginalized communities. Minorities require meaningful representation across Facebook’s staff and contractor relationships. Collaboration with civil society and greater transparency of staffing diversity strengthens hate speech mitigation mechanisms like content moderation.

Data and Privacy Breaches

Augmented reality has immense power. Users will need rights

Tony Fadell, the co-creator of the iPod and iPhone and founder of Nest Labs, has said, “I wake up in cold sweats every so often thinking what did we bring to the world? Did we bring a nuclear bomb with information that can — as we see with fake news — reprogram people? Or did we bring light to people who never had information, who can now be empowered?”

The Privacy Paradox

Whenever researchers, opinion pollsters and other busybodies ask people if they value their privacy, they invariably respond with a resounding “yes”. The paradox arises from the fact that they nevertheless continue to use the services that undermine their beloved privacy.

The Dangers of Hacking and What a Hacker Can Do to Your Computer

Anyone who uses a computer connected to the Internet is susceptible to the threats that computer hackers and online predators pose. These online villains typically use phishing scams, spam email or instant messages and bogus websites to deliver dangerous malware to your computer and compromise your computer security.

So FLoC trials are delayed in Europe thanks to GDPR. Now what?

Marketers are showing signs of strain but not panic as the initial furor over the delayed test of Google’s cookie alternative in Europe settles.

Ad tech stocks surge as Google delays killing third-party cookies until 2023

Google is pushing back its timeline to deprecate third-party tracking cookies, giving the digital advertising industry more time to iron out plans for more privacy-conscious targeted ads.

Targeting and Profiling

Amazon Puts Its Own “Brands” First

The online giant gives a leg up to hundreds of house brand and exclusive products that most people don’t know are connected to Amazon.

Targeted ads isolate and divide us even when they’re not political

We found that online targeted advertising also divides and isolates us by preventing us from collectively flagging ads we object to. We do this in the physical world (perhaps when we see an advert at a bus stop or train station) by alerting regulators to harmful content. But online consumers are isolated because the information they see is limited to what is targeted at them.

Surveillance capitalism, and the fight for a human future

The assault on behavioural data is so sweeping that it can no longer be circumscribed by the concept of privacy. This is a different kind of challenge now, one that threatens the existential and political canon of the modern liberal order defined by principles of self-determination that have been centuries, even millennia, in the making.

The adversarial persuasion machine: a conversation with James Williams

My whole digital environment seemed to be transmogrifying into some weird new kind of adversarial persuasion machine. But persuasion isn’t even the right word for it. It’s something stronger than that, something more in the direction of coercion or manipulation that I still don’t think we have a good word for.

Everybody lies: how Google search reveals our darkest secrets

What can we learn about ourselves from the things we ask online? US data scientist Seth Stephens‑Davidowitz analysed anonymous Google search results, uncovering disturbing truths about our desires, beliefs and prejudices

Apple’s moves to tighten flow of user data leave advertisers anxious

Apple’s changes, unveiled during its developer conference Monday, threaten to restrict companies’ abilities to track users’ web behavior and gather information on them from third parties such as data brokers.

Online child abuse and mental health

Teen suicides now outnumber homicides - and there's a terrifying reason why

Over the past decade, psychologists have come to see a picture in which young, developing brains are pitted against the power of brightly-colored notifications, relentless pocket vibrations, and addicting apps. The byproduct has been an increase in disorders such as depression and anxiety, which sometimes turn fatal.

Youtube girl videos wormhole 2019 - Matt Watson (video)

Over the past 48 hours I have discovered a wormhole into a soft-core pedophilia ring on Youtube. Youtube’s recommended algorithm is facilitating pedophiles’ ability to connect with each-other, trade contact info, and link to actual Child Porn in the comments.

8 in 10 users have faced online harassment, claims survey

The most common forms of online harassment were found to be abuse and insults, which was reported by 63% of respondents. This was followed by malicious gossip and rumours (59%), malicious comments/threats on a social media site (54%), trolling (50%), and attacks/abuse from a coordinated group (49%).

The Warped Self – Predictive processing and neuroscience explains online hyperstimulation

Over time, such systems build up a ‘generative model’, a structured understanding of the statistical regularities in our environment that’s used to generate predictions. This generative model is essentially a mental model of our world, including both immediate, task-specific information, as well as longer-term information that constitutes our narrative sense of self.

'We lost control of our creations': The Silicon Valley heretic on a mission to make Big Tech repent

These factors together have created a "race to the bottom of the brainstem", in which increasingly "overwhelming" and sophisticated AI tools are devoted to exploiting what Mr Raskin calls the "soft underbelly of our animal minds". They even propose something more sinister: that these AIs have learned to make us more anxious and more confused, because these qualities make us better customers (or rather, more lucrative eyeballs). That, says Mr Harris, puts us at "a civilisational moment" – a crossroads where the wrong turn could mean "the end of human agency".

How TikTok is addictive

TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform in the world! Each month TikTok has 800 MILLION active users. That is more active users than Twitter, Reddit, SnapChat, and Pinterest! Unlike these and other rival platforms, TikTok at its core recommends content.

Teen girls body image and social comparison on Instagram - WSJ

This internal study by Facebook researchers published internally in 2020, examines teenage girls' experiences with appearance comparisons on social media and how that affected their body image and mental health.

Behaviour Manipulation

How AI can affect our decision

Social media algorithms, artificial intelligence and our own genetics are among the factors influencing us beyond our awareness. This raises an ancient question: do we have control over our own lives?

AI and The Death Of Exploration

The ability to choose well is arguably the most powerful right in today’s world. Wars have occurred and millions of lives have been lost for the freedom that has ultimately given the power to each one of us to choose. The person or group that controls the choice of people controls the environment around them. So how exactly are we protecting this cardinal right in today’s world?

'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

It is revealing that many of these younger technologists are weaning themselves off their own products, sending their children to elite Silicon Valley schools where iPhones, iPads and even laptops are banned. They appear to be abiding by a Biggie Smalls lyric from their own youth about the perils of dealing crack cocaine: never get high on your own supply.

Netflix knows you better than you know yourself - A former Google data scientist explains why

As a result, Stephens-Davidowitz writes, Netflix stopped asking people to choose what they wanted to watch in the future. Instead, Netflix made recommendations based on movies that similar users had watched. "The result: customers visited Netflix more frequently and watched more movies," he adds. That's kind of creepy - and creepier when you realize that Netflix is hardly the only business making bank on people's lack of self-knowledge.

New Study Shows Impact of Technology on Relationships

* Forty-five percent consider technology a big problem in their marriage.
* More than one-third of the adults use technology in their bed every night or almost every night. Even more, 43 percent, report that their spouse/partner uses technology in bed every night or almost every night. That may be why nearly 25 percent feel like their partner’s use of technology in bed interferes with their sexual relationship.
* Fifty-five percent feel like their spouse/partner spends too much time on their cell phone, and 48 percent wish their significant other would spend less time on their cell phone and more time with their children.

Why Your Brain Needs Idle Time

Experts say idle time likely also helps develop mental processes that are far more complicated than memory storage and retrieval. “The deeper reflective states, where you make meaning of what’s going on and connect it to self and identity and integrate knowledge together into coherent narratives — these kinds of processes only happen when you’re not focused on some in-the-moment activity,”

Post-truth world

Google page ranking rigging 2016 US elections

Google has the ability to drive millions of votes to a candidate with no one the wiser.

Computational Power: Automated Use of WhatsApp in the Elections

Our study concluded that there is strong evidence of automation being used in multiple WhatsApp groups and that there is a high degree of interconnection, as evidenced by the large number of administrators and members shared by these groups among each other.

The Platform Press: How Silicon Valley reengineered journalism

There is a rapid takeover of traditional publishers’ roles by companies including Facebook, Snapchat, Google, and Twitter that shows no sign of slowing, and which raises serious questions over how the costs of journalism will be supported. These companies have evolved beyond their role as distribution channels, and now control what audiences see and who gets paid for their attention, and even what format and type of journalism flourishes.

Information Warfare

Facebook - Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Explained

“Coordinated inauthentic behavior.” If you keep up with news from Facebook, you’ve probably heard us use this term before. In recent months, we’ve removed numerous Pages and accounts for engaging in it — but what does it actually mean? And how is it different from “fake news”? I lead the team responsible for enforcing against this behavior and in this video, I’ll give you a quick rundown of what it means.

Politibots - The bots that are changing politics

Bots and their cousins—botnets, bot armies, sockpuppets, fake accounts, sybils, automated trolls, influence networks—are a dominant new force in public discourse. You may have heard that bots can be used to threaten activists, swing elections, and even engage in conversation with the President. Bots are the hip new media; Silicon Valley has marketed the chatbot as the next technological step after the app.

IBM abandons 'biased' facial recognition tech

A 2019 study conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that none of the facial recognition tools from Microsoft, Amazon and IBM were 100% accurate when it came to recognising men and women with dark skin.

Microsoft won’t sell police its facial-recognition technology

“When even the makers of face recognition refuse to sell this surveillance technology because it is so dangerous, lawmakers can no longer deny the threats to our rights and liberties,” Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties lawyer with the ACLU of Northern California.

The US is readying sanctions against Russia over the SolarWinds cyberattack. Here's a simple explanation of how the massive hack happened and why it's such a big deal

Foreign hackers, who some top US officials believe are from Russia, were able to use the hack to spy on private companies like the elite cybersecurity firm FireEye and the upper echelons of the US Government, including the Department of Homeland Security and Treasury Department.

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