San Francisco, Jan 26 (AP/UNB) — Facebook allowed children to rack up huge bills on digital games while the company rejected recommendations for addressing what it dubbed "friendly fraud," according to newly released court documents.
The internal Facebook memos and other records were unsealed late Thursday to comply with a judge's order in a federal court case settled in 2016.
The lawsuit, filed in San Jose, California, centered on allegations that Facebook knowingly milked teenagers by permitting them to spend hundreds of dollars buying additional features on games such as "Angry Birds" and "Barn Buddy" without their parents' consent.
The documents show Facebook considered measures to reduce the chances of kids running up charges on parents' credit cards without their knowledge. But the company didn't adopt them for fear of undercutting the revenue growth that helps boost the company's stock price — and its employees' compensation.
The internal debate about how to address the recurring problem of kids spending big bucks behind their parents' backs occurred from 2010 and 2014 — a period that included Facebook's stock market debut in 2012. After going public at $38 per share, Facebook's stock plummeted by 50 percent, intensifying the pressure on CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his management team to bring in more revenue.
None of the unsealed records, however, directly tie Facebook's tolerance of "friendly fraud" to concerns about its slumping stock price during parts of 2012 and 2013.
A Facebook statement didn't address its rejection of the recommendations. Instead, it said the company has offered refunds and changed its practices.
"We routinely examine our own practices, and in 2016 agreed to update our terms and provide dedicated resources for refund requests related to purchases made by minors on Facebook," the Menlo Park, California, company said in a statement Friday.
Facebook isn't the only prominent technology company that has been skewered for profiting from game-loving children who don't always understand how much of their parents' money they are spending while playing games in apps or websites.
Apple agreed to issue $32.5 million in refunds for allowing kids to make in-app purchases without parental consent as part of a 2014 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. That same year, Google settled a similar case for $19 million with the same agency. In 2017, Amazon resolved another case involving up to $70 million in potential refunds owed for kids' unauthorized spending on games.
But none of those companies had their dirty laundry aired quite like Facebook is now in a case that it thought it had closed a few years ago. The unflattering documents are emerging after the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting sought their release and U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman granted it.
To make matters worse for Facebook, the documents are coming out at a time when it is trying to repair the damage done to its reputation over the past 10 months from a scandal involving the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, and other debacles.
Facebook released the "friendly fraud" documents just as the Wall Street Journal was publishing an op-ed piece by Zuckerberg defending the company's integrity and business principles.
But some of the information unsealed in the court case painted a picture of a predatory company.
In a 2013 discussion between two of the company's employees, a 15-year-old Facebook user who had spent about $6,500 playing games is described as a "whale" — a term that gambling casinos use to describe people who make them a lot of money. The company decided to refuse a refund request from the teenager's parents.
The documents also disclosed that some Facebook employees had proposed requiring minors and people over 90 years old to provide the first six digits of the credit card accounts before allowing purchase as a way to reduce unauthorized spending. But Facebook management decided against requiring that additional information because it might also discourage users outside those age ranges from spending, too.
San Bruno, Jan 26 (AP/UNB) — If you believe the world is flat, don't count on YouTube recommending videos supporting your theory.
That's because YouTube is promising to stop promoting so many sensationalistic clips that revolve around scientifically proven falsehoods and other suspect information, such as conspiracy theories revolving around the U.S. government's involvement in the 9/11 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York.
YouTube, part of Google, announced its de-emphasis on misleading videos Friday. It's the latest example of a widely used digital service trying to stop the spread of misinformation as lawmakers scrutinize the role that technology companies play in distributing potentially toxic propaganda. Both Facebook and Twitter are trying to take similar steps.
The misleading videos will remain on YouTube, even after they are phased out from its recommendation list.
Dhaka, Jan 25 (UNB)- Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg once killed a goat with a stun gun and served it to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for dinner. Dorsey revealed the incident during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, reports NDTV.
The Twitter CEO was asked about his 'most memorable experience' with Facebook's founder. He also mentioned that Zuckerberg only ate what we killed for about a year.
On being asked how Zuckerberg arranged the whole thing, Dorsey elaborated that he killed the goat before dinner, and he probably uses a laser gun and a knife. It was then sent to the butcher. Dorsey later said it could be a stun gun, clarifying that they stun the animal and then kill it with a knife.
However, Twitter's CEO said he didn't actually eat the goat, adding that it was cold, even after it was cooked in an oven. He said when Zuckerberg put down the meat, it was cold, and that was memorable. Dorsey said he just ate his salad. It's still unclear when this incident actually took place. Mashable reports it was in 2011 that Zuckerberg said he would only eat animals that he kills himself.
Rolling Stone magazine also asked Dorsey about how he thought of Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Dorsey said, "I don't know of another person on the planet who's leading us off the planet because of the damage that we're inflicting to this planet."
The magazine also asked Dorsey if he was the CEO of Facebook how he'd like to do things differently. Dorsey replied to it with, "No, I've got enough on my plate."
Dorsey co-founded Twitter back in 2006 and went on to co-found Square, a mobile payments company later on. He joined Twitter again as the company's CEO in 2015.
San Francisco, Jan 19 (AP/UNB) — Facebook may be facing the biggest fine ever imposed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations involving the personal information of its 2.2 billion users.
The FTC is considering hitting Facebook with a penalty that would top its previous record fine of $22.5 million , which it dealt to Google in 2012 for bypassing the privacy controls in Apple's Safari browser, according to The Washington Post. The story published Friday cited three unidentified people familiar with the discussions.
In an automated response, the FTC said it was unable to comment, citing its closure due to the U.S. government shutdown. Facebook declined to comment.
The potential fine stems from an FTC investigation opened after revelations that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica had vacuumed up details about as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission.
The FTC has been exploring whether that massive breakdown violated a settlement that Facebook reached in 2011 after government regulators had concluded the Menlo Park, California, company had repeatedly broken its privacy promises .
The FTC decree, which runs through 2031, requires Facebook to get its users' consent to share their personal information in ways that aren't allowed by their privacy settings.
Since the Cambridge Analytica erupted 10 months ago, Facebook has vowed to do a better job corralling its users' data. Nevertheless, its controls have remained leaky. Just last month, the company acknowledged a software flaw had exposed the photos of about 7 million users to a wider audience than they had intended.
The FTC's five commissioners have discussed fining Facebook but haven't settled on the amount yet, according to the Post.
Facebook's privacy problems are also under investigation in other countries and the target of a lawsuit filed last month by Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine.
Dhaka, Dec 31 (UNB) – Internet search giant Google is celebrating New Year’s Eve with an animated playful doodle.
The animated graphic shows two purple baby elephants wearing a yellow and a green party cap each. The baby elephant on the left is seen blowing balloons while the second elephant is seen tossing popcorn into its mouth. A clock on the top is just about to hit midnight. The Google logo is also seen in the decorations.
Clicking on the doodle will take you to the places where people across countries are waiting for New Year 2019.
In many countries, New Year's Eve is celebrated at evening social gatherings, where many people dance, eat, drink alcoholic beverages, and watch or light fireworks to mark the new year.
Last year, on New Year's Eve, Google had marked the occasion with a doodle featuring a family of birds - penguins and parrots.