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Facebook is Asking Users Whether They Trust a News Source

Mark Zuckerberg says feedback from 2 billion users will help the platform promote ‘high quality and trusted sources.’

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Following his announcement of changes to the Facebook News Feed two weeks ago, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg announced Friday an additional change included on the platform, this time to news sources on the platform.

According to a post on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, the social media platform will “will now ask people whether they’re familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source” in its quality surveys. Zuckerberg said the effort is an attempt to help the platform promote “high quality news that builds a sense of common ground.” Users can already provide feedback on posts in their feed, with the option to report a post as a “false news story.”

Community feedback is part of an ongoing 2018 update to Facebook to “make time on Facebook well spent” by promoting active conversation and engagement.

Facebook was a major source of false news stories and Russian-backed propaganda during the 2016 election season. In October, reports suggested roughly 126 million users in the United States may have seen posts and content on the platform created by Russian-government backed trolls around Election Day. The latest news source update is likely another attempt by Facebook to solve its news problem.

Following the announcement, the idea faced criticism on various social media platforms, with many suggesting that bot and troll accounts would skew the data, or that the surveys would give users the opportunity to reconfirm the biases.

Dr. Itai Himelboim, an associate professor of advertising at the University of Georgia, studies the role of social media in news and political communication and examines information flow.

Himelboim said user feedback may be useful in the fight against fake news proliferating on social media platforms.

“On Facebook, you’re not just seeing news that you follow or like directly. You’re also seeing news articles shared by friends which may come from sources that the user themselves does not trust,” he said. “When it comes to ‘fake news,’ that’s often how fake news spreads.”

In terms of partisanship and user biases, Himelboim said the rating system may not be very effective.

“Clearly there are a lot of people that like information sources they agree with,” he said. “Even if it’s a little out there, if it doesn’t shake your political ideology or how you see the world, you’re more likely to trust it, because that makes sense to you.”

This leads to ‘selective exposure,’ he said, where people are more likely to select news sources that they already agree with.

“That also applies to friendships; you’re more likely to be friends with someone who has similar views as you,” he said. “So it’s already creating silos of information flow.”

Though social media has played a major role in selective exposure, the issue is not new, Himelboim said.

“There was a period in the 70s when most American households watched one of the three major news networks,” he said. “But as cable news and the 24-hour news cycle moved in, that’s when people had the opportunity to expose themselves to news sources they agree with.”

As a result, political discourse and cooperation has become more difficult.

In terms of Facebook’s attempt to use community feedback to decide what news shows up on a user’s feed, Himelboim said it was a slippery slope.

“On one hand, you say, let’s find find out what news sources people trust and why,” he said. “On the other hand, there’s a lot of Big Brother here deciding where the line is between fake and partial news, partial all the time and partial some of the time.”

Zuckerberg’s full announcement post is below.

Nate Harris is a senior journalism major and computer science minor at the University of Georgia, and an investigative reporter for The Red & Black Newspaper in Athens, GA. Nate has previously worked at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Flagpole Magazine as a news reporter, and continues as a freelance reporter. Though Nate primarily covers news and politics, he is also an avid technology fan and tech reporter.

MeToo

Viewpoint: There is No Problem with the #MeToo Movement

#MeToo is here to change America: Empowering survivors and giving their voice a platform.

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Recently The Atlantic posted a short video of writer Caitlin Flanagan explain what was wrong with the #MeToo Agenda.

Her first point was that it covered too much as it “descends the ladder from rape to bad dates making it a category big enough to be meaningless.” But there is an obvious difference between rape and a bad date and there is a huge gray area in between and the line is drawn with consent. I know too many men and women who are survivors of sexual violence. But I also know people who have had bad dates (myself included). A bad date is someone who’s rude or narcissistic or just not someone you’re interested in, Rape and assault are crimes. The difference is clear and no one tweets #MeToo over a bad date, they just “girl me too” to a friend.

Flanagan also mentions men who are unfairly caught in the crossfire among accusations of powerful men being brought to justice. She cites Matt Damon who said “groping someone’s butt was different than sexually molesting a child.” While Damon was correct from a legal standpoint, and that these two acts are different, both acts are acts of sexual assault or violence.

There is no excuse for assault or violence on any scale. The fact that Damon doesn’t realize this is a perfect example of how microaggressions find their way into our common media. Any act of unwanted sexual advances made by anyone is unacceptable.

To Flanagan, Damon is misinformed and part of the problem. But most of that comes from the fact that he was misinformed.

She criticizes women for thinking male power structure is part of the problem and suddenly smashing the patriarchy being added to the list of goals for the #MeToo Movement. You can only do so much good targeting individual offenders who have taken advantage of the unfair power structure stacked in their favor. Soon enough you need to address the root of the problem, and it often lies in our history of male centered power structures.

While we can’t undo history, we can work towards equal representation and allowing each individual to be able to thrive under a power structure instead of allowing the people at the top take advantage of everyone below.

Flanagan notes, “It seemed as though almost every woman had some sort of goal she wanted to add to the agenda. No problem was too small or too vague to be included–So long was a man was to blame.”

Have you stopped to think that there actually is a problem? If every woman can identify at least one time in their life where someone has made unwanted passes at them this is clearly a problem that needs to be handled.

Perpetrators needs to face justice and survivors need to heal.

This isn’t just a women’s issue: sexual violence affects everyone: More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The #MeToo movement is about bringing those guilty to justice. Not attacking men.

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Campus Crime

Student Jailed for Sexually Assaulting Sleeping Frat Brothers Shown No Leniency

The former Albright College student argued that his sentence should be reduced.

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Former Albright College student Robert Convery Jr. shown in a booking photo. (Handout)

A Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled Friday that a student who committed multiple acts of sexual assault on his fraternity brothers while they slept does not deserve a break on his sentence.

Robert Convery Jr., a former Albright College student, was sentenced to 13-to-30-years behind bars in 2016. He had argued at his trial that the sex was consensual, but a jury disagreed.

PennLive reported that the assaults were committed in 2013 and 2015:

Both of the victims were his friends as well as his Pi Kappa Phi frat brothers… Convery assaulted one of them twice, and apologized afterward.

All three assaults followed the same pattern. The victims fell asleep after drinking and awoke to find Convery performing oral sex on them.

Convery appeared in court seeking a reduction in his sentence. His attorney argued that his harsh sentence was a punishment for taking the case to trial instead of negotiating a plea deal or admitting guilt.

Judge Mary Jane Bowes found there was no evidence that Convery was punished for going to trial.

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Apps

There’s Another iOS bug Crashing iPhones, iMessage and Other Apps

Looks like we’ve got a few new bad Apples.

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A bug discovered earlier this week is capable of crashing iPhones, iMessages and various messaging apps, like Facebook messenger and WhatsApp. The news was first reported by Italian blog Mobile World,

The bug is an Indian language (Telugu) character that can be sent through messaging platforms on any Apple product that runs iOS 11 or macOS. Apple users will be unable to open their message app once the bug has been sent.

According to The Verge, the only way for users to recover their message app is to have someone send another message, try to access messages and delete the thread of messages with the special character.

This discovery comes after Apple found multiple software issues before the end of 2017. Apple plans to address the new bug with a new iOS update before the spring release of iOS 11.3. While the bug crashes iMessages with iOS11 or 11.2, those with the beta version of iOS1.3 are immune to the issue.

Apple products encountered similar problems in past experiences thanks to other special characters, links or videos. 2015 brought a small string of text that would shut an iPhone down, in 2016 there was a 5-second video that crashed iPhones and 2017 had a link that would freeze an iPhone completely.

Apple will address these issues soon with an updated version of iOS 11.2.

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