Facebook Can't Find Enough Local News for its Platform

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Facebook is in a bit of a dilemma when it comes to news. Back in November it launched a feature called Today In, which would give people local news in their area. But the company is having trouble filling Today In with enough news, and this is because Facebook is a big contributor to the demise of news.

Today In may be live in 400 cities, but it’s unavailable across large parts of the country that perhaps most need it, namely, those with few or no local newspapers. Of course, Facebook contributed heavily to death of so many local news outlets as a large portion of advertising spending shifted from legacy media to the web, leading to dwindling newspaper revenue. Facebook isn’t the only reason hundreds of outlets have bitten the dust. Consolidation and mergers have played a role, but the likes of Facebook and Google have certainly been key factors.

Was the Facebook Outage Linked to This Criminal Investigation?

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Conspiracy theory time. Yesterday Facebook suffered its biggest outage in its entire history. Other affiliated services like Instagram and WhatsApp were also affected. Facebook is also under a federal criminal investigation over its data sharing practices. Do you think the outage had anything to do with law enforcement seizing some of the company’s servers?

“We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions and pledged that we will continue to do so.”

Facebook vs Snapchat is Like Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates

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Facebook’s so-called “pivot to privacy” has elicited a number of reactions. One of the more incisive ones comes from Kara Swisher. In a New York Times Sunday review column, Ms. Swisher compared Facebook’s attempts to bolster private messaging, in direct competition with Snapchat, to the battle between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. In that case, Mr. Jobs’s “stunning creativity” eventually “won out.” This time, the size of Facebook may mean Mr. Zuckerberg can make a success of the Snapchat model. If he really means it.

Mr. Zuckerberg is to Bill Gates as Mr. Spiegel is to Steve Jobs. Mr. Jobs always had better ideas and vision than Mr. Gates. But Apple spent a long time in dire straits while he pushed his high-level concepts about security, privacy, and design and simplicity. Mr. Gates, on the other hand, was an unqualified genius at business models and systems, and he clearly understood the depressing truth that good enough was good enough for a lot of consumers.

That Ominous Figure in the Corner of Your Digital Living Room is Mark Zuckerberg

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Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be your “digital living room” where you can privately share your thoughts, messages, and photos of your kids that the company will use for advertising purposes. Which was a topic left out of his essay on his new “privacy-focused vision.”

I understand that many people don’t think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform — because frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we’ve historically focused on tools for more open sharing. But we’ve repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories.

Facebook Shuts Down Onavo Spyware...We Think

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Facebook is shutting down its Onavo spyware VPN and associated “research” app. That is, if you believe anything Facebook says.

To preempt any more scandals around Onavo and the Facebook Research app and avoid Google stepping in to forcibly block the apps, Facebook is now taking Onavo off the Play Store and stopping recruitment of Research testers. That’s a surprising voluntary move that perhaps shows Facebook is finally getting in tune with the public perception of its shady actions.

Eh, I wouldn’t go that far. Not with Facebook blaming users when it screws them over.

Instagram Fundraisers Want Your Credit Card Information

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Instagram Fundraisers will let you easily donate to non-profit organizations on the platform. It’s also a way for Facebook to get its hands on your credit card information.

New code and imagery dug out of Instagram’s Android app reveals how the Fundraiser stickers will allow you to search for nonprofits and add a Donate button for them to your Instagram Story. After you’ve donated to something once, Instagram could offer instant checkout on stuff you want to buy using the same payment details.

Facebook tried to get banks to give up your data, but now it will have to settle for this instead.

Facebook Lets You Search for Photos of Your Female Friends

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Matthew Hughes writes about how Facebook lets you search for photos of your female friends, but not your male friends. Not that you should creep on guys either, though.

Facebook lets you search for photos of your female friends, but refuses to play dice if you want to look up pictures of your male friends. The bizarre find was discovered this weekend by notorious Belgian white-hat hacker Inti De Ceukelaire.

Every time I ask myself, “Can Facebook get any more toxic?” The answer is YES. It’s as if Mark Zuckerberg is competing to be the Worst Person in America.

Sorry, Facebook Messenger Decryption is Secret

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Yesterday a U.S. judge ruled that a secret government effort to compel Facebook to decrypt Messenger voice conversations won’t be revealed.

Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the public’s right to know the state of the law on encryption outweighed any reason the U.S. Justice Department might have for protecting a criminal probe or law-enforcement method.

One word: PRISM.