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Facebook doubled its profit in the second quarter thanks to a massive increase in advertising revenue, especially the price of ads it delivers to its nearly 3 billion usersBy BARBARA ORTUTAY AP Technology WriterJuly 28, 2021, 9:44 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleFacebook doubled its profit in the second quarter thanks to a massive increase in advertising revenue, especially the average price of the ads it delivers to its nearly 3 billion users. But the company said it doesn’t expect revenue to continue to grow at such a breakneck pace in the second half of the year.Separately, Facebook said on Wednesday that it will make vaccines mandatory for employees in the U.S. who work in offices. Exceptions will be made for medical and other reasons. Google announced a similar policy earlier in the day.The Menlo Park, California-based company earned $10.39 billion, or $3.61 per share, in the April-June period. That’s up from $5.18 billion, or $1.80 per share, a year earlier.Revenue jumped 56% to $28.58 billion from $18.32 billion. Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings of $3.04 per share and revenue of $24.85 billion, according to a poll by FactSet.Advertising revenue growth was driven by a 47% year-over-year increase in the average price per ad and a 6% increase in the number of ads shown to people. Facebook said it expects ad prices, not the amount of ads it delivers, to continue to drive growth.The company said, as it has before, that it expects challenges in its ability to target ads this year — including regulatory pressure and Apple’s privacy changes that make it harder for companies like Facebook to track people who can opt out of that form of surveillance.Facebook had 2.9 billion monthly users as of June, up 7% from a year earlier.Shares fell $11.77, or 3.2%, to $373.28 in after-hours trading. Earlier in the day, the stock hit an all-time high of $377. 55 in anticipation of the results, so the decline wasn’t unexpected.
Twitter has posted stronger-than-expected earnings for the second quarterBy BARBARA ORTUTAY AP Technology WriterJuly 22, 2021, 8:36 PM• 1 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTwitter on Thursday posted stronger-than-expected earnings for the second quarter thanks to growing advertising demand across all geographic regions and types of ad products.The San Francisco-based company earned $65.6 million, or 8 cents per share, in the April-June quarter. That’s up from a loss of $1.38 billion, or $1.75 per share, a year earlier.Revenue jumped 74% to $1.19 billion from $683.4 million, surpassing Wall Street’s expectations. Ad revenue in the U.S. alone nearly doubled.Analysts, on average, were expecting of 7 cents per share and revenue of $1.07 billion, according to a poll by FactSet.Twitter said it expects revenue between $1.22 billion and $1.3 billion for the current quarter. Analysts are forecasting $1.17 billion.The number of daily users increased 11% to 206 million from a year earlier, in line with expectations.Twitter’s shares jumped $5.86, or 8.4%, to 75.43 in after-hours trading. The stock had closed up 7 cents at $69.57.
Twitter is disappearing its disappearing tweets, called fleets, after they didn’t catch onBy BARBARA ORTUTAY AP Technology WriterJuly 14, 2021, 8:38 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTwitter is disappearing its disappearing tweets, called fleets, after they didn’t catch on.The company began testing tweets that vanish after 24 hours last March in Brazil. Fleets were designed to allay the concerns of new users who might be turned off by the public and permanent nature of normal tweets.“However, we haven’t seen an increase in the amount of new people joining the conversation with Fleets like we hoped,” Twitter said in a statement Wednesday. “So as of August 3, Fleets will no longer be available on Twitter.”Kayvon Beykpour, head of consumer product at Twitter, stressed that this is part of how the company works.“(Big) bets are risky and speculative, so by definition a number of them won’t work,” he tweeted. “If we’re not having to wind down features every once in a while, then it would be a sign that we’re not taking big enough swings.”Fleets are reminiscent of Instagram and Facebook “stories” and Snapchat’s snaps, which let users post short-lived photos and messages. Such features are increasingly popular with social media users looking for smaller groups and and more private chats. But people use Twitter differently than Facebook, Instagram or messaging apps — it’s more of a public conversation and a way to stay up to date with what’s going on. Fleets, it turns out, did not make sense.There was also a matter of the name. Called fleets because they were fleeting, the word is also a brand name for an enema — something many people pointed out on Twitter when the feature launched.In a tweet announcing the decision, Twitter wrote “we’re sorry or you’re welcome, acknowledging mixed user reactions to the feature.
Twitter is disappearing its disappearing tweets, called fleets, after they didn’t catch onBy BARBARA ORTUTAY AP Technology WriterJuly 14, 2021, 5:52 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTwitter is disappearing its disappearing tweets, called fleets, after they didn’t catch on.The company began testing tweets that vanish after 24 hours last March in Brazil. Fleets were designed to allay the concerns of new users who might be turned off by the public and permanent nature of normal tweets.“However, we haven’t seen an increase in the amount of new people joining the conversation with Fleets like we hoped,” Twitter said in a statement Wednesday. “So as of August 3, Fleets will no longer be available on Twitter.”Kayvon Beykpour, head of consumer product at Twitter, stressed that this is part of how the company works.“(Big) bets are risky and speculative, so by definition a number of them won’t work,” he tweeted. “If we’re not having to wind down features every once in a while, then it would be a sign that we’re not taking big enough swings.”Fleets are reminiscent of Instagram and Facebook “stories” and Snapchat’s snaps, which let users post short-lived photos and messages. Such features are increasingly popular with social media users looking for smaller groups and and more private chats. But people use Twitter differently than Facebook, Instagram or messaging apps — it’s more of a public conversation and a way to stay up to date with what’s going on. Fleets, it turns out, did not make sense.There was also a matter of the name. Called fleets because they were fleeting, the word is also a brand name for an enema — something many people pointed out on Twitter when the feature launched.
On the face of it, you might think that the QAnon conspiracy has largely disappeared from big social media sites. But that’s not quite the case.True, you’re much less likely to find popular QAnon catchphrases like “great awakening,” “the storm” or “trust the plan” on Facebook these days. Facebook and Twitter have removed tens of thousands of accounts dedicated to the baseless conspiracy theory, which depicts former President Donald Trump as a hero fighting a secret battle against a sect of devil-worshipping pedophiles who dominate Hollywood, big business, the media and government.Gone are the huge “Stop the Steal” groups that spread falsehoods about the 2020 U.S. presidential elections. Trump is gone as well, banned from Twitter permanently and suspended from posting on Facebook until 2023.But QAnon is far from winding down. Federal intelligence officials recently warned that its adherents could commit more violence, like the deadly Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. At least one open supporter of QAnon has been elected to Congress. In the four years since someone calling themselves “Q” started posting enigmatic messages on fringe internet discussions boards, QAnon has grown up.That’s partly because QAnon now encompasses a variety of conspiracy theories, from evangelical or religious angles to alleged pedophilia in Hollywood and the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, said Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab who focuses on domestic extremism. “Q-specific stuff is sort of dwindling,” he said. But the worldviews and conspiracy theories that QAnon absorbed are still with us.Loosely tying these movements together is a general distrust of a powerful, often leftist elite. Among them are purveyors of anti-vaccine falsehoods, adherents of Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and believers in just about any other worldview convinced that a shadowy cabal secretly controls things.For social platforms, dealing with this faceless, shifting and increasingly popular mindset is a far more complicated challenge than they’ve dealt with in the past.These ideologies “have cemented their place and now are a part of American folklore,” said Max Rizzuto, another researcher at DFRLab. “I don’t think we’ll ever see it disappear.”Online, such groups now blend into the background. Where Facebook groups once openly referenced QAnon, you’ll now see others like “Since you missed this in the so called MSM,” a page referencing “mainstream media” that boasts more than 4,000 followers. It features links to clips of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and to articles from right-wing publications such as Newsmax and the Daily Wire.Subjects range from allegedly rampant crime to unfounded claims of widespread election fraud and an “outright war on conservatives.” Such groups aim to draw followers in deeper by directing them to further information on less-regulated sites such as Gab or Parler.When DFRLab analyzed more than 40 million appearances of QAnon catchphrases and related terms on social media this spring, it found that their presence on mainstream platforms had declined significantly in recent months. After peaks in the late summer of 2020 and briefly on Jan. 6, QAnon catchphrases have largely evaporated from mainstream sites, DFRLab found.So while your friends and relatives might not be posting wild conspiracies about Hillary Clinton drinking children’s blood, they might instead be repeating debunked claims such as that vaccines can alter your DNA.There are several reasons for dwindling Q talk — Trump losing the presidential election, for instance, and the lack of new messages from “Q.” But the single biggest factor appears to have been the QAnon crackdown on Facebook and Twitter. Despite well-documented mistakes that revealed spotty enforcement, the banishment largely appears to have worked. It is more difficult to come across blatant QAnon accounts on mainstream social media sites these days, at least from the publicly available data that does not include, for instance, hidden Facebook groups and private messages.While QAnon groups, pages and core accounts may be gone, many of their supporters remain on the big platforms — only now they’re camouflaging their language and watering down the most extreme tenets of QAnon to make them more palatable.“There was a very, very explicit effort within the QAnon community to to camouflage their language,” said Angelo Carusone, the president and CEO of Media Matters, a liberal research group that has followed QAnon’s rise. “So they stopped using a lot of the codes, the triggers, the keywords that were eliciting the kinds of enforcement actions against them.”Other dodges may have also helped. Rather than parroting Q slogans, for instance, for a while earlier this year supporters would type three asterisks next to their name to signal adherence to the conspiracy theory. (That’s a nod to former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, a three-star general).Facebook says it has removed about 3,300 pages, 10,500 groups, 510 events, 18,300 Facebook profiles and 27,300 Instagram accounts for violating its policy against QAnon. “We continue to consult with experts and improve our enforcement in response to how harm evolves, including by recidivist groups,” the company said in a statement.But the social giant will still cut individuals posting about QAnon slack, citing experts who warn that banning individual Q adherents “may lead to further social isolation and danger,” the company said. Facebook’s policies and response to QAnon continue to evolve. Since last August, the company says it has added dozens of new terms as the movement and its language has evolved.Twitter, meanwhile, says it has consistently taken action against activity that could lead to offline harm. After the Jan. 6 insurrection, the company began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that it said were “primarily dedicated” to sharing dangerous QAnon material. Twitter said it has suspended 150,000 such accounts to date. Like Facebook, the company says its response is also evolving.But the crackdown may have come too late. Carusone, for instance, noted that Facebook banned QAnon groups tied to violence six weeks before it banned QAnon more broadly. That effectively gave followers notice to regroup, camouflage and move to different platforms.“If there were ever a time for a social media company to take a stand on QAnon content, it would have been like months ago, years ago,” DFRLabs’ Rizzuto said.
John McAfee, the outlandish security software pioneer who tried to live life as a hedonistic outsider while running from a host of legal troubles, was found dead in his jail cell near Barcelona on Wednesday.His death came just hours after a Spanish court announced that it had approved his extradition to the United States to face tax charges punishable by decades in prison, authorities said.McAfee, who was among other things a cryptocurrency promoter, tax opponent, U.S. presidential candidate and fugitive, who publicly embraced drugs, guns and sex, had a history of legal woes spanning from Tennessee to Central America to the Caribbean. In 2012, he was sought for questioning in connection with the murder of his neighbor in Belize, but was never charged with a crime.McAfee’s body was discovered at the Brians 2 penitentiary in northeastern Spain. Security personnel tried to revive him, but the jail’s medical team finally certified his death, a statement from the regional Catalan government said.“A judicial delegation has arrived to investigate the causes of death,” the statement read. “Everything points to death by suicide.”McAfee’s death was confirmed after Spain’s National Court ruled in favor of extraditing McAfee, 75, who had argued in a hearing earlier this month that the charges against him by prosecutors in Tennessee were politically motivated and that he would spend the rest of his life in prison if returned to the U.S.The court’s ruling was made public on Wednesday and was open for appeal, with any final extradition order also needing to get approval from the Spanish Cabinet.McAfee was arrested last October at Barcelona’s international airport and had been in jail since then awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings. The arrest followed charges the same month in Tennessee for evading taxes after failing to report income from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consulting work, made speaking engagements and sold the rights to his life story for a documentary. The criminal charges carried a prison sentence of up to 30 years.Nishay Sanan, the Chicago-based attorney defending him on those cases, said by phone that McAfee “will always be remembered as a fighter.”“He tried to love this country but the U.S. government made his existence impossible,” Sanan said. “They tried to erase him, but they failed.”Born in England’s Gloucestershire in 1945 as John David McAfee, he moved to Virginia as a child and grew up troubled, with a father who “beat him mercilessly” and killed himself with McAfee’s shotgun when the boy was 15, said Steve Morgan, who spent time with McAfee in Alabama in 2016 to talk about his life for a biography he’d been contracted to write. Morgan is also the founder of market research firm Cybersecurity Ventures.”He told me his father never showed him an ounce of affection,” Morgan said, adding that recounting his father’s death was the only time during their long meeting that McAfee cried.While McAfee’s tech legacy may have been overshadowed in recent years by his tumultuous life, Morgan said he sees his most lasting impact as a software and security pioneer.“I think that’s how ultimately he really most like to be remembered. I think a lot of people will remember him as a very troubled soul. Some people will remember him as a criminal. It depends on your age and your exposure to him,” Morgan said.McAfee founded his eponymous company in 1987. At the time, Morgan said, he was operating a BBS, a bulletin board system that served as a precursor to the World Wide Web and working with his brother-in-law. When the first major computer virus, called “Brain,” hit in 1986, “John instantly dialed up a programmer he knew and said, there’s a big opportunity. We need to do something. You know, we want to write some code to combat this virus,” Morgan said. He called the program VirusScan and the company McAfee Associates.“He was a true pioneer, not just as a security technologist but as one of the first companies to distribute software over the internet,” Morgan said.California chipmaker Intel, which bought McAfee’s company in 2011 for $7.68 billion, for a time sought to dissociate the brand from its controversial founder by folding it into its larger cybersecurity division. But the rebranding was short-lived, and Intel in 2016 spun out the cybersecurity unit into a new company called McAfee.In the software industry, McAfee’s claim to fame was that he offered the first all-in-one virus scanner, said Vesselin Bontchev, a Bulgarian computer scientist and an early antivirus researcher. Prior to that, said Bontchev, researchers would only scan for one virus at a time. But there were only about a dozen computer viruses back then.“Technologically, as a scanner, it wasn’t anything outstanding. It was just the general idea that was good. Not the implementation,” said Bontchev, a senior researcher at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.Bontchev said McAfee was “a peculiar guy,” even back then. He said he wrote McAfee asking for a part-time job about the time the Soviet Union was breaking up so he could work on a post-doctoral dissertation in the U.S.In response, McAfee told Bontchev in a letter that the Bulgarian was believed to be a Soviet agent so “they cannot work with me,” he said. “This is a really bizarre way to say no to somebody who is asking for a job.”The two later met in the U.S. at the annual Virus Bulletin conference, said Bontchev. “I don’t think he was a typical American. He was just weird.”McAfee twice made long-shot runs for the U.S. presidency and was a participant in Libertarian Party presidential debates in 2016. He dabbled in yoga, ultralight aircraft and the production of herbal medications.In 2012 he was wanted for questioning in connection with the death of Gregory Viant Faull, who was shot to death in early November 2012 on the island in Belize where both men lived.McAfee told AP at the time that he was being persecuted by the Belizean government. Belizean police denied that, saying they were simply investigating a crime about which McAfee may have had information. Then-Prime Minister Dean Barrow expressed doubts about McAfee’s mental state, saying, “I don’t want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers.”A Florida court ordered McAfee in 2019 to pay $25 million to Faull’s estate in a wrongful death claim. He refused to pay it, writing in a statement posted on Twitter that he has “not responded to a single one of my 37 lawsuits for the past 11 years.” He claimed to have no assets, writing that the order was a “mute point” — an apparent misspelling of “moot.”In July of that year he was released from detention in the Dominican Republic after he and five others were suspected of traveling on a yacht carrying high-caliber weapons, ammunition and military-style gear.Wired Magazine reporter Joshua Davis spent six months investigating McAfee’s tumultuous life in 2012, when he was living in Belize and being sought for questioning in connection with his neighbor’s murder. He described watching as McAfee took out a pistol to illustrate a point.”‘Let’s do this one more time,’ he says, and puts it to his head,” Davies wrote. “Another round of Russian roulette. Just as before, he pulls the trigger repeatedly, the cylinder rotates, the hammer comes down, and nothing happens. ‘It is a real gun. It has a real bullet in one chamber,’ he says. And yet, he points out, my assumptions have somehow proven faulty. I’m missing something.”——Associated Press writers Aritz Parra in Madrid, Renata Brito in Barcelona, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal, Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tenn., Matt O’Brien in Providence, R.I. and Frank Bajak in Boston contributed.
Facebook’s recommendation algorithm amplifies military propaganda and other material that breaches the company’s own policies in Myanmar following a military takeover in February, a new report by the rights group Global Witness says.A month after the military seized power in Myanmar and imprisoned elected leaders, Facebook’s algorithms were still prompting users to view and “like” pro-military pages with posts that incited and threatened violence, pushed misinformation that could lead to physical harm, praised the military and glorified its abuses, Global Witness said in the report, published late Tuesday.That’s even though the social media giant vowed to remove such content following the coup, announcing it would remove Myanmar military and military-controlled pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns. It has since enacted other measures intended to reduce offline harm in the country.Facebook said Tuesday its teams “continue to closely monitor the situation in Myanmar in real-time and take action on any posts, Pages or Groups that break our rules.”Days after the Feb. 1 coup, the military temporarily blocked access to Facebook because it was being used to share anti-coup comments and organize protests. Access was later restored. In the following weeks, Facebook continued to tighten its policies against the military, banning all military entities from its platforms and saying it would remove praise or support for violence against citizens and their arrest.“Once again, Facebook shows that it’s good at making broad sweeping announcements and bad at actually enforcing them. They’ve had years to improve their work in Myanmar but once again they are still failing,” said Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist and whistleblower who found evidence of political manipulation in countries such as Honduras and Azerbaijan while she worked there.The struggle between the military regime that deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government and those opposing it has sharpened in recent months.Soldiers and police have killed hundreds of protesters. Last week, the United Nations’ office in Myanmar expressed concern about escalating human rights abuses after reports that a group opposed to the junta may have executed 25 civilians it captured and allegations that troops had burned down a village.Myanmar, also known as Burma, had over 22.3 million Facebook users in January 2020, more than 40% of its population, according to social media management platform NapoleonCat.“What happens on Facebook matters everywhere, but in Myanmar that is doubly true,” the report says. As in many countries outside the Western Hemisphere, mobile phones in Myanmar often come pre-loaded with Facebook and many businesses do not have a website, only a Facebook page. For many people in the country, Facebook effectively is the internet.On March 23, just before the peak of military violence against civilians, Global Witness said it set up a new, clean Facebook account with no history of liking or following specific topics and searched for “Tatmadaw”, the Burmese name for the armed forces. It filtered the search results to show pages, and selected the top result — a military fan page whose name translates as “a gathering of military lovers.”Older posts on this page showed sympathy for Myanmar’s soldiers and at least two advertised for young people to join the military — but none of the newer posts since the coup violated Facebook’s policies. However, when Global Witness’s account “liked” the page, Facebook began recommending related pages with material inciting violence, false claims of interference in last year’s election and support of violence against civilians.A March 1 post, for instance, includes a death threat against protesters who vandalize surveillance cameras.“Those who threaten female police officers from the traffic control office and violently destroy the glass and destroy CCTV, those who cut the cables, those who vandalize with color sprays, (we) have been given an order to shoot to kill them on the spot,” reads part of the post in translation, according to the report. “Saying this before Tatmadaw starts doing this. If you don’t believe and continue to do this, go ahead. If you are not afraid to die, keep going.”Facebook said its ban of the Tatmadaw and other measures have “made it harder for people to misuse our services to spread harm. This is a highly adversarial issue and we continue to take action on content that violates our policies to help keep people safe.”Global Witness said its findings show that Facebook fails to uphold the “very basics” of its own guidelines.“The platform operates too much like a walled garden, its algorithms are designed, trained, and tweaked without adequate oversight or regulation,” said Naomi Hirst, head of the digital threats campaign at Global Witness. “This secrecy has to end, Facebook must be made accountable.”