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Facebook leak shows inner turmoil over approach to conservative content | Engadget

Keith Chambers

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Jon Fingas



Facebook has long been accused of playing favorites on multiple sides of the political spectrum, and it’s now clear just how much of that uproar extends to the company’s ranks. A leak to The Wall Street Journal reportedly shows Facebook leaders and staff have clashed numerous times over the social network’s approach to conservative content, particularly outlets like Breitbart. Rank-and-file employees have accused Facebook of making “special exceptions” from policies for right-wing outlets, while senior-level staff warned of potential pitfalls.
Workers argued that Facebook kept Breitbart in a second tier of the News Tab, a section meant to focus on reliable news, despite very low trust and quality scores as well as misinformation violations. Facebook was not only making exceptions, one employee said, but “explicitly” endorsing outlets like this by including them as trusted partners. Staff claimed Facebook was “scared of political backlash” if it enforced policies equally, and believed the site let conservative influencers Diamond and Silk lobby fact checkers to avoid punishment for spreading misinformation.
Higher-ups countered with justifications for those decisions. They argued that booting a news outlet for trust scores would risk booting more mainstream outlets like CNN, for instance. When staff asked Facebook to intervene over Breitbart’s alleged attempts to dodge sites’ advertising blocks, a director said Facebook had to resist the urge and “rely on our principles and policies.”
Facebook repeated its familiar stance in a response to the Journal, maintaining that limited access to low-quality material to “improve people’s experiences,” not due to political leanings. A spokesperson added that Facebook studied the effects of potential changes before implementing them, and that publishers like Breitbart still met requirements for honoring rules against misinformation and hate speech.
The revelations likely won’t satisfy people on either side of the American political spectrum. Liberals may be concerned Facebook is knowingly allowing the spread of heavily spun and outright false claims, while the right wing may see it as evidence of a claimed anti-conservative bias. The insights reveal a more conflicted approach to material, though. They also underscore the importance of tools meant to automatically limit the reach of misinformation — they could minimize internal debates by curbing fake news without requiring as much human input.All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Virtual modular synth VCV Rack 2 is now available | Engadget

Keith Chambers

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Mariella Moon



VCV Rack 2 has arrived, and it could help you figure out if modular synthesis is something you can get into before blowing a fortune on it. The original app dropped in 2017, giving you access to thousands of virtual modules that let you try Eurorack for free. This upgraded app comes with a completely redesigned user interface with a dark room mode and a much better module browser than its predecessor. VCV has a library of almost 2,700 modules, and the new browser will make them easier to sort with its category filters and the capability to highlight the modules you use the most.
While the app itself is still free to download and use, there’s now a Pro version that includes a VST plugin for full integration into the digital audio workstation of your choice. That means you’ll be able to use VCV Rack within Ableton, Logic or even GarageBand. The Pro tier also comes with professional support — and the promise of more plugin formats in the future. Rack 2’s paid version will set you back $99 until 2022, though you can also get it bundled with VCV Drums and VCV Sound Stage for $209. You can get both paid and free VCV Rack 2 versions right now from its official page.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Here are 2021’s best apps and games according to Google

Keith Chambers

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C. Scott Brown



We’re slowly inching towards the end of the year. With December just a few days away, Google has announced the winners of its annual Google Play Best of awards. This year, Google’s including categories for apps and games playable on tablets, Wear OS, and Google TV, broadening the scope of possible winners.In 2020, we saw plenty of mindfulness apps make the cut, and 2021 sees a similar outcome. This year, personalized mediation app Balance takes home Google’s top app honors. As for the top game, Pokémon Unite is the company’s title of choice. Canva and Calm took home the Best for Tablets and Best for Wear titles, respectively, while Disney Plus, ESPN, and Tubi claimed “popular on Google TV” medals.

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Twitch will use machine learning to catch ban-dodging trolls | Engadget

Keith Chambers

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Igor Bonifacic



Twitch is introducing a new machine learning feature to help streamers protect their channels from people attempting to avoid bans. Dubbed “Suspicious User Detection,” the tool will automatically flag individuals it suspects may be “likely” or “possible” ban dodgers.
In cases involving the former, Twitch will prevent any messages they send from showing up in chat. It will also identify those individuals for streamers and any mods helping them with their channel. At that point, they can decide if they want to ban that person. By default, possible repeat trolls can send messages in chat, but they too will be flagged by the system. Additionally, Twitch says creators have the option to prevent them from sending any messages in the first place.
Twitch
“The tool is powered by a machine learning model that takes a number of signals into account — including, but not limited to, the user’s behavior and account characteristics — and compares that data against accounts previously banned from a Creator’s channel to assess the likelihood the account is evading a previous channel-level ban,” a Twitch spokesperson told Engadget when we asked about the signals the system uses to detect potential offenders.
While Twitch plans to turn on Suspicious User Detection for everyone, the tool won’t automatically ban users for streamers. That’s by design because it’s impossible to create a machine learning tool that is 100 percent accurate in every context. “You’re the expert when it comes to your community, and you should make the final call on who can participate,” the company said in a blog post. “The tool will learn from the actions you take and the accuracy of its predictions should improve over time as a result.”
The introduction of the tool follows a summer in which Twitch struggled to contain a phenomenon called “hate raids.” The attacks saw malicious individuals use thousands of bots to spam channels with hateful language. In many cases, they targeted creators from marginalized communities. Hate raids became such a frequent feature of the platform that some creators walked away from Twitch for a day in protest of the company’s lack of action.All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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