San Francisco, May 24 (AP/UNB) — Facebook removed more than 3 billion fake accounts from October to March, twice as many as the previous six months, the company said Thursday.
Nearly all of them were caught before they had a chance to become "active" users of the social network.
In a new report, Facebook said it saw a "steep increase" in the creation of abusive, fake accounts. While most of these fake accounts were blocked "within minutes" of their creation, the use of computers to generate millions of accounts at a time meant not only that Facebook caught more of the fake accounts, but that more of them slipped through.
As a result, the company estimates that 5% of its 2.4 billion monthly active users are fake accounts, or about 119 million. This is up from an estimated 3% to 4% in the previous six-month report.
The increase shows the challenges Facebook faces in removing accounts created by computers to spread spam, fake news and other objectionable material. Even as Facebook's detection tools get better, so do the efforts by the creators of these fake accounts.
The new numbers come as the company grapples with challenge after challenge, ranging from fake news to Facebook's role in elections interference, hate speech and incitement to violence in the U.S., Myanmar, India and elsewhere.
Facebook also said Thursday that it removed 7.3 million posts, photos and other material because it violated its rules against hate speech. That's up from 5.4 million in the prior six months.
The company said it found more than 65 percent of hate speech on its own, before people reported it, during the first three months of 2019. That's an improvement from 52 percent in the third quarter of 2018.
Facebook is under growing pressure to combat hate on its platform, as material continues to slip through even with recent bans of popular extremist figures such as Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan.
Facebook employs thousands of people to review posts, photos, comments and videos for violations. Some things are also detected without humans, using artificial intelligence. Both humans and AI make mistakes and Facebook has been accused of political bias as well as ham-fisted removals of posts discussing — rather than promoting — racism.
A thorny issue for Facebook is its lack of procedures for authenticating the identities of those setting up accounts. Only in instances where a user has been booted off the service and won an appeal to be reinstated does it ask to see ID documents.
While some have argued for stricter authentication on social media services, the issue is thorny. People including U.N. free expression rapporteur David Kaye say it's important to allow pseudonymous speech online for human rights activists and others whose lives could otherwise be endangered.
Dipayan Ghosh, a former Facebook employee and White House tech policy adviser who is currently a Harvard fellow, said absent greater transparency from Facebook there is no way of knowing whether its improved automated detection is doing a better job of containing the disinformation problem.
"We lack public transparency into the scale of disinformation operations on Facebook in the first place," he said.
And even if just 5 million accounts escaped through the cracks, Ghosh added, how much hate speech and disinformation are they spreading through bots "that subvert the democratic process by injecting chaos into our political discourse?"
"The only way to address this problem in the long term is for government to intervene and compel transparency into these platform operations and privacy for the end consumer," he said.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called for government regulation to decide what should be considered harmful content and on other issues. But at least in the U.S., government regulation of speech could run into First Amendment hurdles.
And what regulation might look like — and whether the companies, lawmakers, privacy and free speech advocates and others will agree on what it should look like — is not clear.
Of the 3.4 billion accounts removed in the six-month period, 1.2 billion came during the fourth quarter of 2018 and 2.2 billion during the first quarter of this year. More than 99 percent of these were disabled before someone reported them to the company. In the April-September period last year, Facebook blocked 1.5 billion accounts.
Facebook attributed the spike in the removed accounts to "automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time." The company declined to say where these attacks originated, only that they were from different parts of the world.
Starting with this report, Facebook is disclosing how it deals with the sale of "regulated goods" — that is, drugs and firearms. Facebook prohibits the purchase, sale or gifting of firearms, as well as drugs including marijuana, which is legal in some states and countries. The company said it "took action" on 1.5 million cases involving drugs and 1.4 million involving firearms. This generally means removing the material from Facebook but can also involve suspending users or adding warning screens to videos showing objectionable content.
Dhaka, May 23 (UNB)- Huawei Technologies (Bangladesh) Ltd. has donated necessary equipment to PFDA-Vocational Training Center for special children.
Zhang Zhengjun, CEO, Huawei Technologies (Bangladesh) Ltd. handed over these equipment to the school authority at a program arranged by the authority on Thursday.
Social Welfare Minister Nuruzzaman Ahmed, MP, as the chief guest, inaugurated the ceremony in the presence of Sajida Rahman Danny, Chairman of PFDA-Vocational Training Center and Huawei officials.
Through this event Huawei handed over Ultra Sound therapy (UST), Ultra red radiation (IRR), Short wave diathermy (SWD), Short wave diathermy (SWD), Electrical muscle stimulator (EMS), Traction machine (Pelvic and cervical traction) with bed and other equipment to PFDA-Vocational Training Center.
This equipment will help this institute as well as the students to take immediate physical aids in emergencies. Students will get necessary physiotherapy for their wellbeing. CCTV cameras will help the teachers as well as authority to understand not only the behavioral pattern students but also find the root cause of any sudden behavior of them. In parallel these equipment will help to avoid any kind of potential risk as well.
“To help the special children, both public and private organizations should work hand in hand. And Huawei and PFDA-Vocational Training Center today are setting a great example with that inspiration,” said the minister.
Salem, May 23 (AP/UNB) — Over the span of two years, a Chinese national in Oregon sent devices that looked like iPhones to Apple, saying they wouldn't turn on and should be replaced under warranty. He didn't just submit a couple of the devices -- he delivered in person or shipped to Apple around 3,000 of them.
Apple responded by sending almost 1,500 replacement iPhones, each with an approximate resale value of $600.
But the devices that Quan Jiang sent Apple were fake.
Jiang, 30, a former engineering student at a community college in Albany, Oregon, pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to trafficking in counterfeit goods, the U.S. Attorney's office in Portland announced.
The presence of fake iPhones and other high-tech gadgets has become an issue in global resale markets, with some counterfeit versions operating so well it's hard for users to tell the difference between them and the genuine products. But in the Oregon case, the makers of the thousands of fake phones apparently didn't even have to bother with having working operating systems.
An Apple official quoted by Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Thomas Duffy in a court document exposed a vulnerability that Jiang exploited.
"Submission of an iPhone that will not power on is critical to perpetuating iPhone warranty fraud, as the phone will not be able to be immediately examined or repaired by Apple technicians, triggering the Apple iPhone replacement process as part of its product warranty policy," Duffy wrote, quoting Apple brand protection representative Adrian Punderson.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Portland said Jiang would import the counterfeit devices from Hong Kong and submit them to Apple using various assumed names. The genuine replacement phones Jiang received would be sold in China. Jiang's associate would pay Jiang's mother, who lives in China, who then deposited the money into Jiang's bank account.
Jiang received packages containing between 20 and 30 counterfeit iPhones from associates in Hong Kong between Jan. 1, 2016, and Feb. 1, 2018, according to court documents.
Apple realized something was amiss as early as June 30, 2017, when its legal counsel sent Jiang a "cease and desist" letter to an address in Corvallis where 150 warranty claims emanated. The lawyers said the company knew he was importing counterfeit Apple products, according to Duffy's affidavit. Jiang didn't respond, so the Apple lawyers sent a second letter.
Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the case.
Apple rejected 1,576 warranty claims associated with Jiang, Duffy said. The 1,493 claims that resulted in replacement iPhones being delivered by Apple represented an $895,000 loss to the Cupertino, California-based company, Duffy wrote.
Brad Bench, who heads the Homeland Security Investigations office in Seattle, said in a statement that trafficking in counterfeit goods hurts the economy, legitimate businesses, and impact consumers directly.
Jiang faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $2 million fine or twice his proceeds, whichever is greater, when he is sentenced on Aug. 28. Under a plea agreement, the U.S. Attorney's office will recommend a prison sentence of three years, at least $200,000 in restitution to Apple.
And Jiang must forfeit his black 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 coupe.
New York, May 23 (AP/UNB) — Are the female voices behind Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa amplifying gender bias around the world?
The United Nations thinks so.
A report released Wednesday by the UN's culture and science organization raises concerns about what it describes as the "hardwired subservience" built into default female-voiced assistants operated by Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
The report is called "I'd Blush If I Could." It's a reference to an answer Apple's Siri gives after hearing sexist insults from users. It says it's a problem that millions of people are getting accustomed to commanding female-voiced assistants that are "servile, obedient and unfailingly polite," even when confronted with harassment from humans.
The agency recommends tech companies stop making digital assistants female by default and program them to discourage gender-based insults and abusive language.
New Delhi, May 22 (Xinhua/UNB) -- The Indian space research organisation (ISRO) Wednesday morning successfully launched a radar imaging earth observation satellite RISAT-2B, officials said.
The satellite was launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, off the Bay of Bengal coast located in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh at 5:30 a.m. local time.
The launch of satellite was broadcast live from the center.
Television images showed the rocket blasted off from the launch pad emitting a bright orange flame from its tail and moving upwards in the sky.
Officials said RISAT-2B was placed into an orbit of 555 km at an inclination of 37 degree.
Chairman ISRO Kailasavadivoo Sivan was monitoring the launch along with top scientists.
Following the launch, Sivan congratulated the fellow scientists and lauded their role in launching the satellite during his address at the centre.